HL Deb 02 July 1857 vol 146 cc758-62

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said that, its object was to remove the objection which had been taken to one of the Amendments moved during the recent discussion of the Divorce Bill, that it would be unjust to require an injured husband or wife to be married before a registrar, or on the other hand, that the clergy of the Church of England should be called on to perform the marriage service in the case of parties who had been divorced. Remedies were proposed in various shapes, which were opposed, but not on any objection to the principle, and by the present Bill he sought to meet the various grounds on which the remedies had been rejected. The first objection was, that it would be an injustice to the innocent parties to a divorce suit, that they should be obliged to have recourse to a marriage before the registrar. He proposed to remove that objection by confining such marriages to the guilty parties. He simply proposed to enact that the marriage of persons who had been divorced on account of their own adultery should take place at a registry-office. The effect of this would be that the parties could, if they pleased, have the religious ceremony performed afterwards, but it would not be compulsory upon any clergyman to celebrate their marriage. They must find some person who had no objection to perform such a ceremony, and whose conscience, therefore, would not be violated by its performance. He did not think that this would impose hardship upon any one; on the contrary, it would afford great relief to those to whom other wise a great injury would be done. It had been said that hitherto no clergyman had objected to marry divorced persons; but no great weight was to be given to this objection, because the cases in which such marriages had taken place were but few, and it was only during the discussion of the measure now before Parliament that this question had taken a deep hold of the public mind. Under these circumstances, he moved that the Bill should be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.


said, he thought there were a great many reasons why their Lordships should not agree to the Motion of his noble Friend, but surely it was an all-sufficient reason that he was now proposing for the fourth time that which had, within the last two or three weeks, been three times rejected by their Lordships. A proposal of precisely the same effect was made while the Divorce Bill was under their Lordships' consideration. Indeed, that proposal had the advantage of this measure, because it was more consistent, and met the whole case. This Bill only went half-way. It was said that a great number of clergymen considered marriage indissoluble, and therefore ought not to be called upon to re-marry any person who had been divorced, whether innocent or guilty. The Amendment moved by the noble Earl to his left (Earl Nelson) went to that extent, and therefore, if assented to, would have removed the whole of this, as he believed, imaginary grievance. It was three times decided by their Lordships that it was not right to interfere in such a case, and that he thought, was of itself a sufficient reason why this Bill should not be read a second time. There were, however, other reasons which would, he hoped, induce their Lordships to pause before assenting to anything which would establish so strange a precedent as that involved in this Bill. His noble Friend proposed that a certain form of marriage should be adopted for persons who had been divorced. Suppose the Bill now before the House of Parliament did not pass into a law, the consequence would be that, as the only divorced persons known to the law were those divorced by the ecclesiastical courts, all such persons might go before the registrar and marry, and if they were indicted for bigamy might justify their marriage under the provisions of this Bill. It was true that that objection might be removed by altering the wording of the measure; but how would this Bill apply to marriages dissolved by special Acts of Parliament which allowed divorced persons to marry again without specifying any form of marriage? The matter would, he admitted, be open to argument, but he believed that the effect of this Bill would be to alter the provisions of all previous Acts which had authorized marriage in any mode. If the Bill now before the other House did not pass, this measure would have no effect upon subsequent Acts of Parliament dissolving marriages, because when such an Act said that it should be lawful for the parties to marry again, that would mean as other persons could. In fact, this enactment would not operate on any known status, except marriages dissolved by the Ecclesiastical Court, and it was in fact, a clause or "rider" on the other Bill, the enactment of which had been already negatived three times. Under these circumstances he hoped their Lordships would refuse to give a second reading to this Bill.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and insert ("this Day Six Months.")


thought the proposal of the noble Lord wholly unparliamentary and unprecedented. A Bill which embraced the whole of this subject, and from which this provision had been excluded, had been agreed to by their Lordships and sent down to the other House, and was about to be taken into consideration there. If the other House thought this particular provision a fair and just one they would no doubt insert it in the Bill; but it would be a very extraordinary mode of procedure to send down a rider to that Bill in the shape of a proposition which their Lordships had already rejected two or three times. He was very much surprised that his noble Friend, the great Lord of order in their Lordships' House, to whom they all looked up in matters of procedure, should have made such a proposition.


said, that if on any point of order, as had been stated by the noble and learned Lords, there were a constitutional objection to the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, it would, of course, be unnecessary and improper to urge it upon their Lordships: but he must express his earnest hope that, in this or some other mode, either in this or in the other House, some relief might be afforded to the clergy, who were seriously affected by the matter to which it referred. There was nothing in the principle of the Bill in question which compromised their Lordships or interfered with what they had already determined—nothing which was inconsistent with their conduct on other occasions. It was now twenty years since some of those who dissented from the Church made a loud and earnest complaint that they were forced to celebrate their marriages according to a service which differed from their religious opinions; Parliament judged the complaint to be reasonable, and gave a remedy—a remedy which completely altered the whole law of marriage. The clergy of the Church now complain that they might be obliged by law to perform a service which they believed to be inconsistent with the Divine command. He would not now discuss the question whether they give a right interpretation to the Scripture; but he maintained that, as long as the same words remained in Scripture, there would always be many who would so interpret them. Surely it was not unreasonable to require that persons contracting marriage under the circumstances contemplated in the Divorce Bill now before the Commons House should be satisfied with a civil contract, content with the privilege of a legal marriage and a legitimate issue. The case became much stronger by the nature of the marriage service. He was unwilling to allude more particularly to that service; indeed, it could hardly be done in connection with this subject without the appearance of profaneness. But their Lordships would remember that the service assumed, in solemn terms, the Divine approval of the marriage, even that it was divinely ordered. It was true that charity hopeth all things; but it passed the bounds of charity to pronounce, ex cathedrâ, the Divine approval of a marriage which had its origin in a guilty passion, and was brought about by a heinous crime. For these reasons he trusted that a new obligation might not be imposed upon the clergy which they could not fulfil without doing violence to their conscience; but that, either through this present Bill, or in some future clause of the Marriage and Divorce Bill, a remedy would be found.


said, it was not denied that there was a great grievance in compelling the performance of the marriage service by the clergy in these cases, and there could be no such hardship if this Bill passed. It would act as a relief to those who entertained conscientious objections on the subject, and would prevent that wantonness of tyranny which would compel the clergy to perform these marriages against their conscience. Under these circumstances he felt it his duty to take the sense of the House upon the measure.

On Question, that "now" stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:—Contents 23; Not-Contents 62: Majority 39.

Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to be read 2ª on this Day Six Months.

Canterbury, Archbp. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)
Manchester, D. Melville, V.
Bath, M. [Teller.] Chichester, Bp.
Salisbury, M. Durham, Bp.
Kilmore, &c., Bp.
Belmore, E. London, Bp.
Carnarvon, E. Oxford, Bp.
Nelson, E.
Powis, E. Congleton, L.
Selkirk, E. Crewe, L.
Talbot, E. Downes, L.
Ravensworth, L.
Doneraile, V. Redesdale, L. [Teller.]
Cranworth, L. (L. Chancellor.) Campbell, L.
Churchill, L.
Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)
Cleveland, D.
Somerset, D. Colchester, L.
Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne.)
Breadalbane, M.
Exeter, M. Digby, L.
Lansdowne, M. Foley, L. [Teller.]
Townshend, M. Granard, L,. (E. Granard.)
Abingdon, E. Hatherton, L.
Airlie, E. Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.)
Burlington, E.
Clarendon, E. Leigh, L.
Denbigh, E. Lyndhurst, L.
Derby, E. Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)
Essex, E.
Fortescue, E. Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)
Granville, E. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Malmesbury, E.
Munster, E. Panmure, L.
Spencer, E. (L. Steward.) Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.) [Teller.]
Stanhope, E.
Zetland, E. Raglan, L.
Rivers, L.
Combermere, V. Saye and Sele, L.
Falmouth, V. Sefton, L. (E. Sefton.)
Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.) Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Hardinge, V. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Sydney, V. Saint Leonards, L.
Stuart de Decies, L.
Ardrossan, L. (E. Eglintoun.) Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Aveland, L. Talbot de Malahide, L.
Berners, L. Truro, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Wensleydale, L.
Calthorpe, L. Wycombe, L. (E. Shelburne.)
Camoys, L.