§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
, on rising to move the second reading of this Bill, said, that he found himself unexpectedly placed in a position which he had not thought of occupying; but a variety of unfortunate circumstances having prevented other noble Peers from proposing the second reading, he, as a supporter of the Bill, had thought it to be his bounden duty to undertake the conduct of it rather than that it should fall through for want of a proposer. He had had no hand in the preparation of the Bill, and there were, he thought, omissions in it which it would have been well to remedy; but certainly everything had been done to render it as little distasteful as possible to its opponents. As their Lordships were aware it was a measure intended to redress a great grievance, which was complained of by a considerable number of persons, and although, from the nature of the case, that number could not be great in proportion to the population of the country, yet the sufferers did indeed constitute a very numerous class. He believed that their Lordships would gladly redress the grievance even of an individual, provided there were no reason why they should not do so; much more then would they listen to the complaints of the numbers who had petitioned upon this subject; and if their grievances remained un-redressed it could only be because their Lordships considered that there were good and sufficient reasons for refusing to relieve them. The first objection which was usually adduced against the proposition of this measure, to legalize marriage with the sister of a deceased wife was, that there existed a religious and spiritual prohibition; but when it was asked where that prohibition was to be found no one was able to refer that objection to any higher authority than a canon of the Church, and, with all the sincere respect which he professed and felt for the Church, he could not believe that a mere canon, unsupported by Scripture or reason, was a sufficient excuse for refusing relief to a great number of persons 1970 against a proved evil. This canon was supposed to be grounded upon the 18th chapter of Leviticus. The only verse in that chapter in which any mention was made of a wife's sister was the 18th; there the prohibition clearly was, not against a man's marrying the sisters of his deceased wife, but against his marrying the sister in rivalry of the living wife. Indeed it seemed to him to amount to a permission to marry the sister after the wife's death. Another argument against such a marriage was founded upon an inference which was drawn from that very obscure and unfortunate phrase of which every one had heard so much; and the 6th verse of the 18th chapter was now selected as implying a prohibition, that prohibition being dependent wholly and solely upon the one peculiar phrase to which he referred; and which it was very doubtful whether it applied to marriage at all. He denied first, that the phrase in question bore the interpretation which was sought to be placed upon it; and, secondly, that the prohibition contained therein—whatever it might be—extended to the deceased wife's sister. In all the other cases the degree of relationship was minutely specified, and it extended only to blood relations: whereas in this case it was all left open to doubt. The great mass of their Lordships probably were under the impression—as he had once been—that this was a translation of some Hebrew phrase corresponding with the Eastern phrase of unveiling the bride, loosening the zone, or some phrase of that kind. But it was nothing of the sort, for he assured their Lordships that it was neither more nor less than an awkard expression in old English, the word "nakedness" there having no other meaning than that in which it was used by Joseph, who asked his brethren if they had come into Egypt "to spy the nakedness of the land." There was no personal sense whatever—the phrase had no existence as we used it. If he were asked for his authority for this reading he should refer to the Septuagint and the Vulgate translations. He might be told that the Septuagint was considered to be very faulty, and that it could not be relied on; but those who said that would not venture to include the first six books of the Old Testament in that condemnation, for there could be no doubt that it had been made by the most learned and capable men of the day at the time when Hebrew and Greek were living languages, and when a large proportion of persons 1971 were in the familiar habit of using both. The passage was there rendered, "You shall not reveal, uncover, or expose, the foibles, &c." He was altogether at a loss to discover how this phrase could be tortured into an application to marriage. Still further, he had inquired into the practice of the Jews themselves, who might be supposed to know their own law, and he found a strong argument against any prohibition being intended by those passages on the fact that the Jews themselves never regarded them in that light, and that they rather facilitated than opposed these marriages. Again, if their Lordships really thought that there was anything in Scripture prohibitory of these marriages, and if they regarded them as utterly subversive of the morality of social life, it was difficult to conceive how they could have sanctioned such a compromise of the matter as they had done in 1835. He could only say that there was no evidence whatever of such direful consequences as some persons appeared to dread having followed the relaxation in those countries in which it had taken place—and those countries included, he believed, all Protestant Europe and America, the Catholics being able everywhere to buy dispensations. They were frequently told that this was a woman's question, and that all the women were against the Bill. That all or anything like all of them were so he denied; but as for the mass of unthinking women who in the world, that knew anything about them, would ever have expected anything else? It would be just the same if at this moment the question had been whether they should relax some ancient prohibition against the husband making a second marriage at all; for the idea of being superseded where one had loved was not very pleasant, and it required sonic philosophy to combat it. It was objected also that the deceased's wife's sister, if she had children of her own, would be much more likely than any other woman to make a bad stepmother. The odds, he thought, were the other way—the wife's sister would be more likely than any other second wife to resist the temptation, if even she felt it, to treat the children of a former marriage unkindly. No doubt there were many weak women and many bad women in the world, but they were not more numerous among wives' sisters than any other class; and the special opportunities which a widower had had of associating with his wife's sister 1972 must have made him better acquainted with her character than with that of women in general. Such fanciful objections as these ought not to be allowed to stand in the way of this Bill passing into law. The canon of the Church on which this prohibition rested was made in an age in which every species of absurd asceticism was practised and praised, and when marriage itself was treated by the compilers of the Liturgy as a mere compromise with uneradicable incontinence. This Bill was sent up from the other House, backed by an increasing majority. The question was rapidly gaining ground in the country as the argument in favour of a change became known, and their Lordships would not long be able to resist the popular voice. A recent legal decision had extended the pressure of the prohibition beyond the bounds of this country, and it had thus placed in a stronger light than ever the injustice and hardship of the present law. The noble Lord concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, the noble Viscount had treated this question on two grounds, the religious ground and the social ground. As regarded the religious view of the subject, it was impossible to deny that the texts most referred to were open to various interpretations. But when difficulties arose, they should be guided by a consideration of the consequences which would naturally flow from a lax interpretation, and refer to other parts of the Scriptures for guidance; and in this view he thought no doubt whatever existed. The real question in this case was, "What is marriage—what is the relationship thereby established?" They were distinctly told in Scripture that the man and wife became "one flesh," and that being the case, the relations of the one necessarily became the relations of the other. Unless that simple principle were admitted and acted upon, society inevitably got involved in difficulties from which there was no escape, and would be driven to consequences from which every one would shrink with horror. It was argued that the prohibition referred only to blood relations; but the very same phrase was used in the clause which forbade the brother to marry his brother's wife. Whatever a man was forbidden to do in respect to his brother's wife he would also be forbidden to do in respect to his wife's sister; but there was no blood relationship in either case—merely 1973 affinity. The noble Viscount had asked, who could expect anything but objections to the Bill from women? In that view he entirely concurred. This was purely a man's Bill. The man did not come forward and propose that the woman should have the right to marry her husband's brother, but he came forward with his own lustful purposes and said, "Let me marry my wife's sister,"—the two standing in precisely the same position as regarded affinity. If this Bill passed, why should they not go further? Why should not a man be allowed to marry his step-daughter? There was no blood relationship in that case. Or why should not a step-son marry his step-mother—his father's widow? From such things as these the minds of all men naturally shrunk; and yet they might be justified on the same principle on which this Bill was justified if you once got rid of the deductions arising from the fact of man and wife being one flesh. What was a man to call his wife's sister if this Bill passed? Was he still to call her sister, or was he to call her cousin? If she were his sister during his wife's life, she was also his sister after her death—the relationship created by the marriage bond could not be got rid of. The canon which prohibited these marriages was almost as old as the Church itself, and was by no means, as it had been represented to be, an innovation of the time of the Reformation. As to the Bill of 1835, that Bill did not alter the law on the subject any further than this, that whereas before the marriage was voidable if anybody chose to object to it it was then made void from the beginning. As regarded the social grounds which formed arguments in respect to this measure, it appeared to him that the greatest possible injury would be done in families if the near and close relationship which existed between persons connected by marriage were interfered with, as it necessarily would be by this Bill. It was said that there had always been a great number of persons who had evaded the restriction, and that this was a reason for altering the law. If they were merely to consider how many persons gratified their sensual appetites without the sanction of the law, there were a number of other things to which this argument would apply. He feared that if they went amongst the narrow confined dwellings in which the lower orders were forced to herd, they would find in many quarters connections existing which no one would think of sanctioning by law. 1974 No one was ignorant of what the law had been for the last twenty-three years; yet now their Lordships were asked to sanction marriages which were positively prohibited by law, and to declare the issue legitimate. In all the attempts which had been made to alter the law difficulties had arisen from the nature of the connection between a man and his wife's sister. In the first Bill which was introduced for that purpose after the passing of the Bill of 1835, there was a clause providing that the marriage should not be allowed if there had been any adulterous connection between the parties during the lifetime of the deceased. Thus a deceased wife's sister was placed on a different footing from other women. In the present Bill, the second clause provided that a past marriage should not be valid if either of the parties to it had contracted a subsequent marriage with another person; so that if a man had by his own wicked act repudiated a marriage into which he had led his deceased wife's sister, she was not to be restored to her position by this Bill; the children of the woman who had supplanted her were to be legitimate, and her children were to be illegitimate. That was a clause which would give rise to great difficulty. The Bill confined the right to any dignity, title, or honour, to those to whom it was vested before the passing of the Act. A very curious question might arise out of that clause taken in connection with the 5th. By the latter, Ireland and Scotland were excluded from the operation of the Bill, not only as regarded dignities, titles, and honours, but also as regarded property; and as there were many Members of that House who held titles in the three kingdoms, the result might be that one set of children would be legitimate as regarded one set of titles, and another set of children as regarded another set of titles. The measure appeared to him to be both imperfect in itself and highly objectionable in principle; he believed that social evils of the gravest character would arise from the passing of it; he believed it to be contrary to the law of God; and, entertaining these views, he felt bound to move that it be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now"), and insert "this day Three Months."
§ LORD LYNDHURST
My Lords, I do not rise to address your Lordships upon the general subject under discussion, but, as my noble Friend has alluded to the Bill which passes under my name I am desirous 1975 of giving a history, in a very few words, of that measure. I believe it is now upwards of twenty years since that Bill was introduced. Several of your Lordships who are now Members of the House were not Members of it at that period, and, after so long an interval, probably what passed is not very fresh in your Lordships' recollection. My attention was called by a circumstance, to which I shall presently refer, to the state of the law with respect to voidable marriages. Marriages which were voidable might be annulled at any time during the joint lives of the two parties. The consequence of this was that the children of those marriages, as to their status, stood in an uncertain condition for a great number of years—possibly for ten, twenty, thirty, or even fifty years. A person might be brought up as heir to his parents, as a legitimate child expecting to succeed in the ordinary way to family estates under a settlement, and all at once, after he had married, after he had become the father of children, proceedings might be instituted for the purpose of annulling the marriage of his parents; he would be bastardized, and the whole property would pass in a different direction. I considered that a very inconvenient and cruel state of the law, and my object in bringing in the Bill was to correct it. The Bill which I brought in had nothing to do with annulling marriages. It was merely to protect the legitimacy of children. My proposition was this,—that if the marriages were not annulled within a certain period, as far as related to the children, their legitimacy should not be questioned; and when I brought in the Bill I proposed that, unless they marriages were annulled within a period of two years, the legitimacy of the children should never be questioned—I said nothing whatever as to annulling the marriages, or as to what should take place with respect to the parents. My proposition and my Bill were confined solely to the children. I happen to have a copy of the Bill as originally laid upon your Lordships' table, and I will read what is the nature of the Bill and its provisions. The title of the Bill runs thus:—An Act to limit the time for commencing suits in the Ecclesiastical Courts, so far as they may affect the children of parents married within prohibited degrees.The Bill related only to the children—not to the parents. It is endorsed, "Presented by Lord Lyndhurst, and ordered to 1976 be printed the 1st of June, 1835." There was but one enacting clause, which was in these terms:—Whereas the children of parents married within prohibited degrees are by law legitimate unless such marriages be declared void by sentence of the Ecclesiastical Courts during the lifetime of the parents, and it being unreasonable and unjust that the state and condition of the children born under such circumstances should remain unsettled for so long a period, be it therefore enacted that the children of parents, married as aforesaid, shall be and continue legitimate unless a suit be duly instituted for annulling the marriage of their parents within two years.Such was the provision of that Bill. The circumstance to which I alluded which led me to introduce this Bill was the marriage of a noble Lord of high rank in this House. My attention was drawn to the position of the children, to the succession of the eldest son to a seat in this House, and the result was, as happens in many other cases, that a particular instance of hardship led to a general alleviation in the state of the law. The Bill was read a first time without opposition; it was generally approved by your Lordships; but between the first and second readings of the Bill a right rev. Prelate, for whose memory I entertain the greatest possible respect, who possessed great authority, great influence, and great weight in your Lordships' House from his position, his talents, and his masterly eloquence, consulted me and a noble and learned Friend of mine who was interested in the question, and said, "I disapprove of the Bill. I agree with you entirely as to the mischief of voidable marriages. Parties knowing they are breaking the law break it with their eyes open, imagining they can do so with impunity. I think that voidable marriages ought to be declared void, that the parties may see at once the consequence of their act, and if they commit the offence with their eyes open they must take the consequence." The consequence was, that in Committee the whole character of the Bill was entirely changed. I have got the Bill as it passed through Committee. The history of the measure is quite curious. I listened with great respect to the arguments of the right rev. Prelate. I knew his influence in this House. By whom the Amendments were moved I do not recollect; but the Bill was entirely changed, and took this shape. First, with respect to the title, the new title of the Bill was, "An Act to render certain marriages valid, and to alter the law with respect to certain voidable 1977 marriages." The preamble was retained. Then, it went on thus:—And it is fitting that all marriages which may hereafter be celebrated between persons within such prohibited degrees shall be de facto void and not voidable.And with respect to past marriages, it was declared that, unless proceedings were instituted for the purpose of annulling such marriages before the passing of the Bill, no proceedings should afterwards be instituted. It does not in point of fact declare those marriages valid, but, as to suits to annul them, instead of during the lives of the parties the period is curtailed within which they must be instituted. That is the history of the Bill. Your Lordships are aware of its original form. I have told your Lordships of the consultation which led to the change—consultation with the right rev. Prelate of great talents, extraordinary influence, great eloquence—and whether the Amendments were moved by the right rev. Prelate or by myself I do not recollect, and I have no means of ascertaining. I said in rising that it was not my intention to enter into the general discussion, and I mean to abstain from doing so. My Lords, I am acquainted with a circumstance that has some bearing on this question, and I will state it. I am intimately acquainted with the state of society in a district in New England. I refer to the state of Massachusetts, of which Boston is the capital. I have several very near connections there, and I will undertake to say that in no civilized part of the world is there to be found a more moral and intelligent people, especially in regard to the intercourse of the sexes, than are the people of that State; and yet, my Lords, in that State the marriages which my noble Friend condemns are consistent with the law. They are not only legal, but they are of constant occurrence. I do not mean to say that a law which has no ill effects in one State of society may not produce a contrary result in another state of society in which different habits and manners prevail; but I state as a witness the facts to which I have referred, and leave it to noble Lords who may take part in this debate to draw an inference from that which I have stated. I hope your Lordships will think I have not done amiss in directing your attention to the circumstances attending the passing of this Bill, which, considering the material part taken in it by the right rev. Prelate, who was, in fact, the author of the Bill, ought to have great weight with 1978 your Lordships in the discussion of this measure.
said, he could not allow the arguments of the noble Viscount (Viscount Gage) to pass without observation. He thought it was impossible for any one, who had studied the 18th chapter of the Book of Leviticus, not to see that the whole of our prohibited degrees were defined by the rules there laid down and the analogies to be derived from them. Besides, it was clear that the rules there laid down pertained to the moral and not to the Levitical law, because it was said that these were the views of the Egyptians and Canaanites, who had made the land to stink in the sight of God. If their Lordships looked into the matter, they would see that, if they were not prepared to read Scripture by reference to analogy, they would err in its construction and fall into great absurdities. For instance, there was no law against a father marrying his own daughter, although there was a law against a son marrying his mother. Again, if they did not read Scripture by analogy, the Tenth Commandment, which said a man should not covet his neighbour's wife, would not prevent a woman coveting her neighbour's husband. The question in this case depended, in a great measure, upon whether our Bible was a correct translation of the original in Hebrew; and they knew Hebrew scholars differed very much as to the true construction of the original. With regard to the Roman Catholics, it suited many of that body in this country to throw over the opinions of the early Church, and to say that these marriages were not contrary to God's law. Protestant Germany had gone much further than the Roman Catholics, and having once departed from the only true standing ground, had made many other relaxations. But what their Lordships had to consider was, how far the Old Testament was to be interpreted by the New, without any reference to what the Jews might say. As to the social ground, he agreed with the promoters of the Bill, that so far there could not be a better person to look after a deceased wife's children than her sister. But at what time would she be most required and be most useful? Why, during the first few months after the death of her sister—the very period when her assistance would be forbidden by the new law. As to the moral ground, it only came to this—that there were many persons living a life of wickedness, and it was desirable that the law 1979 should be altered that they might be purged of that wickedness. He did not believe this Bill was what it was represented to be—a poor man's question, but one more applicable to the middle classes; and this was borne out by statements which he had received from persons of great experience. It was a Bill in fact, to legitimatize children that were now illegitimate; and the lower classes having very little property, cared very little about the matter. He would not be a party to increase the severity of the laws of the Church, but he would ask whether it was not worth while to consider this fact—that if they neglected the only standard of truth which they had, they would be left to the individual opinions of those persons who would be anxious to satisfy them that their own views of marriage were best, and were based upon Scripture; and the Mormons and other sects might say that upon social, moral, and religious grounds they ought to have the benefit of every relaxation, and that every style of living which they pleased to adopt was founded upon Scripture. It was a serious question to consider whether sufficient grounds had been shown for altering the present law. An agitation had been got up by a clique—a few people who had spent much money to carry out this object. Of the religious bodies, the Baptists were the only persuasion who petitioned in any numbers in favour of the Bill; the Presbyterians of Scotland and of Ireland, and the Roman Catholics of the latter country, were so opposed to it, that they were exempted from its operation. He hoped their Lordships would reject the measure.
said, he could not give a silent vote on this occasion, for he believed that the effect of passing this Bill would be to destroy the peace of families, by sowing distrust where confidence and affection now prevailed. At the present moment the sister of a deceased wife frequently lived in the house of her widowed brother-in-law and took the charge of the children till he might again marry. This she could now do with every regard to her reputation; but if the class of marriages dealt with in this Bill were legalized that would be no longer possible. He ought to mention to their Lordships that he had had the honour of presenting two petitions against the Bill, signed chiefly by females, who knew that if the present Act were repealed it would cause great misery and heartburning in England. Surely the female sex was more especially interested in such a matter. 1980 He was not prepared to say that marriages of this description were directly prohibited in Scripture; he took it up in a social point of view, and he repeated his belief that if such marriages were legalized the peace of many a happy home in England would be destroyed. He hoped, therefore, their Lordships would reject the Bill. He hoped they would hear something from the right rev. Bench on this very important subject. It ill behoved the Bishops of England to record a silent vote upon such a question, one which so deeply affected our social interests. He could not believe that the right rev. Prelate who presided over the diocese of Oxford, and who had so ably opposed this measure in a former year, would not raise his powerful voice against it on the present occasion. That right rev. Prelate, he well remembered, had called upon their Lordships to reject this measure in the name of God; he had called upon them to do so in the name of the unity of our Church; he had called upon them to do so in the name and for the sake of those ten thousand happy homes of England, the barriers to whose peace and domestic comfort would be annihilated by the passing of a measure like this. Would he now record a silent vote? Surely not. He called upon their Lordships to reject a measure which could not fail, if passed into a law, to prove detrimental to our best and dearest interests in social life.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I had only intended to give a silent vote upon a subject on which I have frequently declared my opinion, but after the appeal of the noble Viscount who has just sat down (Viscount Dungannon) I feel it necessary to trouble your Lordships with a very few words. I must adhere to the opinion which I have formerly expressed in this House that the marriage which it is the purpose of this Bill to legalize is forbidden in Scripture. The noble Viscount who opened the debate (Viscount Gage) made no allusion to the passage which is clear upon that point. The brother is there prohibited from approaching his brother's widow. She is his sister in law. It must surely follow that the sister cannot marry her sister's widower. He is her brother in law. In the long list of prohibitions, which, it should be remembered, is the only rule of divine authority on the subject of marriage, one sex is almost uniformly specified, while the other is included. My Lords, it appears to me that this prohibition bears evidence in itself of 1981 the source from which it emanates. For, in connections of this kind, there would be an end to all confidence if parties were led to suppose that there could ever be any union between them closer and more tender than that of affinity. Thrown together as they necessarily are in social life, it is essential to all domestic comfort that they should regard each other as sisters and brothers. And, no doubt, it is from a feeling of this kind that we uniformly find the women of England most averse to the passing of this Bill. Their sentiments have been underrated by the noble Viscount; but they are sensitive upon matters which so greatly affect the interests of their own sex, and if their suffrages could be generally taken I believe that they would be found unanimous in the opinion that the comfort of the married life, as well as the consolation of the widower whose married life had been unhappily interrupted, mainly depends upon the maintenance of the existing law. This has been strongly represented to me in a letter which I have received from a Dissenting minister of much respectability, and long known to me, who begins by expressing his regret that this "should be made by some a Dissenting question." He believes "that there are many Dissenters who think with himself that the restriction is one of social importance." And he adduces his own case:—"In very early life I was left," he says, "a widower with three young children, the youngest not a fortnight old. My deceased wife had single sisters who were amiable and kind, and who came to my relief in turn as they could. Now, had not the law placed them in the position of sisters—and I regarded them as my own sisters—how could I have asked them or they have consented to live in my house? The protection of the law afforded me their invaluable consolation and care of my babes without suspicion. I therefore plead for the widower and his children in wishing the law to stand." My Lords, I trust that this protection of the law will be continued to the people of this land, and on the double ground of what I believe to be the purport of Scripture and what I believe to be desirable for the social welfare of the community I must adhere to the vote which I have formerly given, and I trust the proposition will receive no better support than on former occasions in your Lordships' House.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
wished to state very briefly, and at the same time very temperately, the grounds on which he had 1982 arrived at the conclusion that this measure, if adopted, would be mischievous in its effects. On the religious branch of the subject he had not sufficient confidence in his own judgment to express any opinion; he would, therefore, regard the question as if it were one on which Scripture was wholly silent, and which must be determined by considerations of social convenience alone. Looking to the class of society to which their Lordships belonged, surely there was nothing in married life which ought to be more carefully cultivated than the freest intercourse between the wife's relations and her husband's domestic circle. The husband was necessarily often withdrawn from home, and it was of the utmost importance to the social and domestic happiness of the wife that her sisters should be her most familiar companions. But if the suspicion were allowed to cross her mind that she was encouraging those who in the event of her death might supply her place in her husband's affections, it would be impossible for her, disguise it as she might, to receive them with the same cordiality and freedom as heretofore. It had been said that no one would make so good a stepmother to the children as the sister of the deceased wife. He might doubt that, but if this Bill passed how was the sister to take charge of the children without creating suspicion and giving occasion to remark? Whether he looked to the interests of society before or after the wife's death, he thought this measure would tend to impair those interests. But it was said that what might be a desirable state of the law for the higher ranks of society might be very unsuited to the comfort of the lower. If that were really so, it would be their Lordships' duty to strike as fair a balance as they could, and then decide impartially according to the preponderance of good or evil incident to either side of the question; and in making such an estimate they ought to be specially on their guard that they did not legislate for that class of society to which they themselves belonged. To his judgment, however, it was very difficult to discover any sufficient ground for believing that the interests and feelings of the lower classes on this subject differed in any material degree from those above them in the social scale. The fact that Scotland and Ireland were excepted from this Bill disproved the existence, even among the humbler classes, of any general, not to say universal, sentiment in its favour. It was notorious also that in the rural dis- 1983 tricts of England such a measure was not desired; and though, indeed, it was alleged that it was demanded by persons in the populous towns and manufacturing districts it would be found that in those localities, where the poor had contracted relationships to which it was now proposed to give legislative sanction, bigamy itself was almost of daily occurrence, and it would be hard to show that the arguments used for legalizing marriage with a deceased wife's sister would not equally apply to the legalization of bigamy. He had no doubt that his noble and learned Friend had truly described the state of morals in Massachussets; but whatever might be the state of society on the other side of the Atlantic, where a law like that now under discussion was in operation, there was little doubt that in passing this measure their Lordships would do violence to the feelings of the great mass of the English community. For these reasons he must oppose the second reading of the Bill.
said, that some of the speakers who had taken part in the debate had based their argument on social grounds, and others on religious grounds. The noble and learned Lord who spoke last had rested his opposition solely on the social part of the question. He (Lord Wodehouse) confessed he had no confidence in his own interpretation of the obscure passages in Scripture upon which the opponents to the Bill originally based their principal opposition; but he might be allowed to remark that the passage in the text of Leviticus was not the ground upon which they now chiefly relied—he meant the passage prohibiting a man from taking his wife's sister in her lifetime to vex her. The most rev. Prelate opposite (the Archbishop of Canterbury) had, however, taken another ground. He said that there was a prohibition of two brothers marrying the same woman, and that, therefore, by analogy, it might be inferred that two sisters ought not to marry the same man. The plausibility of that argument he was not disposed to deny; but it could be met thus—if it were true that the marriage of a woman with the brother of her deceased husband was prohibited by the Levitical law in such a manner as to render it incestuous, how was it that in certain cases a man was strictly enjoined by that law to marry the widow of his deceased brother? It was monstrous to suppose that the Divine Lawgiver could give a positive order to do that in special cases which in general 1984 cases would make a marriage incestuous. With regard to the social ground on which this Bill was on the one side opposed and on the other supported, he admitted that every man had a right to his own opinion. Some persons might think these marriages undesirable; but he agreed with the noble Lord (Viscount Gage) that, looking to all the facts, it was better the law should be relaxed. What were the facts connected with the question in this and in other countries? These marriages, as their Lordships had already heard, were frequent in Boston, and yet they were not attended with any of those horrible consequences to which a noble Lord had referred. In most of the countries of Europe they were permitted, either directly or indirectly—as in Catholic countries through dispensation—and they were contracted by the Protestant communities of Germany. Now, a great deal of stress had been laid on the argument that to relax the law here would lead in many cases to domestic unhappiness; he could only say that if the Utopian felicity which had been described really existed, it would be a strong argument in favour of not interfering. It did not, however, exist; and it was impossible to deny that the law, as it now stood, affected injuriously very many persons who had already contracted marriages of the kind, or who, as amongst the lower classes, did what was worse, by living without marriage with their deceased wife's sister. Upon all the grounds he had stated, he would therefore support the proposed alteration in the state of the law.
THE BISHOP OF OXFORD
My Lords, having already been most indulgently listened to by your Lordships on a former occasion, when I ventured at considerable length to argue what I considered was the true view of this question, I had no thought of troubling your Lordships with any remarks of mine to-night, further than such as I might make in endeavouring to answer any new objections that might be urged by any noble Lord, to what I believe to be the true view of this subject. One or two remarks of the noble Lord who has just sat down seem to me to come under that category, and I think I should be doing wrong if I did not answer them. But I will not enter again into the whole width of this subject, having already done so. Adhering entirely to the opinions I then ventured to express, and to the arguments I then ventured to use, I will not weary your Lordships by going into the 1985 whole matter again; but there are one or two points which, if left unanswered, out of doors at least, if not in this House, great injury would, in my opinion, be done to the cause of truth on this subject. The noble Lord who has just sat down has drawn an argument in favour of this Bill from a particular injunction under certain given circumstances to a brother to marry the widow of his deceased brother. Now, in the first place that argument is really worth nothing—but if it be worth anything, it seems to me to prove too much—too much for this reason. No one urges that it could be consistent with the purity of Christian life, that a man should marry the widow of his own brother. That is not advanced by any one—that is not asked for—it is admitted that the common moral sense of Christendom would regard such a marriage as intolerable. That argument, therefore, proves too much. To give a clear answer to the noble Lord would take us upon delicate ground upon which I had rather not enter; but I think it is necessary to answer the noble Lord's argument. The noble Lord said, that marriage with a deceased wife's sister could not be incestuous, else you would make the Great Author of mankind Himself, under certain circumstances, prescribe incest. Incest itself, my Lords, you must remember, is not a sin against nature, but is a sin against a positive enactment. By the Divine appointment itself, the origin of the human race was the fruit of a marriage which we should now regard with horror as the worst form of incest—the marriage of brother and sister. Therefore you must see that incest is not a thing like a sin against nature, which is written broad as evil by the hand of God upon the nature of the thing itself; but that it is a prohibition of His wisdom and of His love to the race of man, in order to draw through this prohibition blessings upon the race at large, which except for this prohibition would not be drawn. Well, then, if that is the real view which we ought to form of incest, this at once follows from it—that it is in the power of the Supreme Lawgiver for any sufficient advantage, at any particular time, to enact that which is contrary to His ordinary loving enactment for the race, in order to produce at that particular time some particular result which he sees to be for the good of the race. The noble Lord made a slight but important error in speaking of this being an enactment of the Book of Leviticus. It is an enactment of the 1986 Book of Deuteronomy, and at the closing part of that book, to make a special provision for the special transmission of the property and name of a race which was essential for the Divine purposes—for the very object for which the Jewish race was separated from all others—the keeping clear the pedigree from which the Messiah was to be born. And, so far from this special enactment admitting the principle that a man might ordinarily marry the widow of his deceased brother—so far from its being the national law which was laid down by that special enactment—it provided that the brother who, in this way, contracted what was called a prescribed inviolate marriage should represent, as it were, his deceased brother, and should upon his marriage with the widow succeed, not to his own inheritance, but to the inheritance of his deceased brother. It was a special enactment to raise up seed to the dead brother. Therefore this special enactment was a supercession by the Supreme Lawgiver, for certain manifest purposes, of the general law which He was pleased to lay down for the general welfare of His creatures. The noble Lord further stated that it seemed to be a very general opinion among the opponents of this Bill that the religious argument was very uncertain. I am bound to say, so far as I am concerned—and I believe I may say the same on behalf of my right rev. Friends on this bench—that there is no uncertainty whatever. We do heartily and ex animo take the declaration of our Church that such marriages as these are contrary to God's law, incestuous, and therefore void from the beginning; and we ground this not only upon that chapter of the Book of Leviticus which has been so often referred to, but we ground it also upon the New Testament legislation on this subject. My noble Friend said, that the opponents of this measure mainly relied upon the 18th verse of the 18th chapter of Leviticus; but so far as I remember the debates in this House, that verse has always been used by the advocates for a change in the law, as being a text which shook the rest of the Scriptural argument. The main Scriptural argument, so far as the Old Testament was concerned, was always made by the opponents of the Bill to rest exclusively upon the early part of that chapter—from the 6th to the 17th verses. The noble Viscount who moved the second reading attempted to answer that argument by stating that it was very doubtful whether 1987 there was any allusion in all those verses to marriage or the mixture of the sexes at all. He thought that it referred to vexing or disturbing the temper of the wife, and he grounded that view upon the interpretation of one word in the Vulgate and the Septuagint. Now, I appeal to your Lordships whether the best way of ascertaining the meaning of this passage in the Vulgate is not to ask the interpretation which those commentators of the Church who drew up the Vulgate placed upon it? There is not one of them who puts upon it the sense that the noble Viscount does. Universally the interpretation put upon it by them was, that this was a prohibition of marriage, and of intercourse between those who were closely connected by the ties of blood and affinity. The Septuagint version also uses a word which has always been taken in the Eastern Church to mean the mixture of those who either by blood or marriage were connected in close relationship. But we may go from the Septuagint and the Vulgate up to a higher authority—the Hebrew text; and there is not the slightest shadow of a doubt as to the word there used, the English translation being the most direct and literal and positive that could by possibility be given of it—"Thou shalt not draw near to the nakedness of those of kin; God bath said it." This being so, the argument remains as it was urged by the noble Earl (Earl Nelson), that whether related by blood or by parallel degrees of affinity these marriages were distinctly forbidden to the Jews by the Old Testament. But it seems to me, that we argue the matter on far too narrow a basis when we thus wrangle over particular texts in which the law was laid down for the people of God of old. Can any reasonable man doubt that the whole course of God's legislation on this subject has been to introduce new measures of strictness instead of new relaxations in dealing with the married life? Just so far as He has intended to raise a people in the scale of civilization and morality, just so far as He has increased to them His religious gifts and assistance, just so far as He strengthened the law in those things which have reference to the intercourse between the sexes. Every one can see a reasonable ground for this—it is in order that there may be increased and multiplied such a state of society as He desires shall exist in His Christian Church—that men and women may meet together with a degree 1988 of freedom and safety, and mutual affection, which could only be secured by the strengthening of those laws which restrain direct sexual intercourse. Every one of us sees that it must be so; but in Egypt of old, where the detestable doctrine of the worshippers of Isis prevailed, that brother and sister might, without any degradation or stain, contract these marriages, could any family, when the brother and sister reached the age of puberty, allow that free and social intercourse which is allowed in every family in every Christian land, because that most beneficial restraint of the law of God has substituted a higher family affection for that lower animal affection which is to bind together man and wife? But, when our Lord lays down the principle that man and wife become one flesh, He solves all those difficult questions as to whether this or that particular thing is prohibited; and taking that in conjunction with the general declaration of the old law, that the God of purity would not have those who were near akin to join in marriage, we have in our blessed Lord's interpretation, and in the application of it, a law which at once and for ever settles this question for those who receive His revelation. This is that which the whole of Christendom, down to this time, has adopted. This is that which the Church in the East and the Church in the West have ever held. And do not let me be told that the Roman Catholic Church allows dispensations for these marriages. What, I ask, does she not allow dispensations for? The noble Viscount spoke rather slightingly of the canons of the Church, and stated that they were the composition of Pharisaical minds. My Lords, on behalf of that Reformed Church of England to which it is my happiness and glory to belong, I must declare that such were not the notions of marriage which were held by the Reformers of the English Church. It is one of our great blessings that we were brought back by them from a system of dispensations and of casuistry to what had been held in primitive times as the undoubted word of the Lord our God. They rested that prohibition on the declaration that that was God's word, as it had been always understood in the primitive time. And who was the particular Roman Pontiff that introduced the change? Was there that virtue, was there that wisdom, was there that authority in things sacred about him that—though he was a Pope—we should be disposed to accept his 1989 dictates? It was the infamous Borgia—the man who, himself under vows of celibacy and sanctity, was more than suspected to have been living in the most shameless incest—who granted that dispensation under the most colourable pretext, claiming for the first time for the Roman See a power which it had never claimed before, of dispensing in this matter with the law of God. I think, therefore, that the argument of dispensation goes for nothing. We have, then, I say, the voice of the Western Church; we have the voice of the Eastern Church; we have the unbroken witness of the early Church, that this is the true interpretation of the word of God and that the word of God prohibits these mixtures. Therefore I must declare to your Lordships that it is with no hesitating voice that I, and those who think with me, assert the religious and scriptural argument that these marriages are incestuous, and contrary to the law of God. Much has been said as to the social question. I will not trouble your Lordships at length. The noble Viscount has admitted that the great body of educated women are opposed to this change, endeavouring to account for their feeling on the ground of what he called the "constitutional jealousy" of the female mind. As I rejected the imputation which he cast upon the English Reformers, I must reject also this imputation against English women. I deny that they are constitutionally jealous; and, so far from its being true that women have a horror of their husbands contracting second marriages, I believe that that is a rare feeling among Christian women in England, and that they desire, if their husband be left a widower, that he should provide himself with a suitable helpmate, and his offspring with a fitting protector. I believe that just where there is the strongest affection there is the strongest objection to this measure on the part of women. I hold in my hand a letter from a lady whose name would immediately command the respect and attention of your Lordships if I were to mention it to you, in which she says:—A friend of mine in Parliament said to me that he thought the objection to such marriages did not exist where family affection was comparatively weak; that my sisters and I might abhor the idea, but that was because we are very closely bound together in love. Perhaps so; but what an admission: What a testimony to the value of the objection—to the title to consideration of the objectors!Yes, my Lords; so far from its being any constitutional jealousy in English women, 1990 I believe that the real reason is this:—God has given to the two sexes different intellectual powers and qualities—to us, the sterner and harder power of arriving at the truth chiefly by argument, by induction, and the like; while to her He has given that which, after all, is a higher attribute—the power of intuition, of perceiving what is true, what is pure, and what is noble, and without the tardy process of a long considered logic, of coming by that power with which He has endowed her heart at the truest and the best conclusion. Therefore, so far from thinking that the general feeling of the women of England can be set aside, I consider it to be a great argument against any measure affecting social and married life when the advocates of it admit that the great mass of the educated women of England are unanimously opposed to it. I come next to the argument that this alteration is desired by the poorer classes. I deny that altogether. I once took the trouble to get all the clergymen in the three counties which form my diocese to make me a report of the number of cases in which these marriages had taken place among the poorer classes. There were but three cases in the whole of those three counties. Where the evil existed it was in the middle classes, where the argument of the poverty of the widower could not for a moment apply. I grieve to say that I believe if you lower down the standard of your marriage law to the requirements of those who have offended against God's law you must go much below this Bill. Keep, therefore, I beseech you, the purity of your English home. Make it well understood that you never will, on moral grounds, relax this prohibition. It has been said that the present law is cruel to those who desire to contract these marriages; but are there no others to whom such an alteration of the law as is now asked for would be cruel? Would it not be cruel to the sisters who, in many cases, are enabled to live with their married sisters solely by reason of the impossibility of these alliances? Would it not be cruel to the widower, whose sister-in-law can now come to his house at the moment of his bereavement to take charge of his motherless children, whose whole domestic happiness for the future depends on the impossibility of any such alliance as this being possible? Are we to sweep away from this man that which God's ordinance has made the alleviation of his grief, in order to gratify the lawless desires of those who wish to take 1991 to themselves this particular forbidden Woman? On the mere ground of humanity, therefore, I ask your Lordships to reject this Bill. If there be the slightest shadow of a doubt as to whether God's blessing will rest on these unions, is it not the part of wisdom and humanity, as well as of faith, for us as legislators to refuse to sanction them? Before sitting down, my Lords, I feel it right to admit the good feeling of those who have framed this Bill in such a shape as not to violate the principles of the Church of England. As the Bill stands, this marriage is not in any sense one which members of the Church of England can have recourse to. If it had been possible for me as a legislator to give my assent to making the law of the land and the law of God differ on this matter of incest I would gladly have met the promoters of this Bill half way. But God's law is positive, and those who take God's law for a guide can have no hesitation in saying to the advocates of these marriages, "We refuse you a fatal privilege, which may bring down God's curse upon you."
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I think the noble Lord behind me (Lord Wodehouse) may find a precedent in the speech of my noble and learned Friend (Lord Cranworth) for the line of argument he has taken, and which has been so severely commented upon by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford). As the right rev. Prelate has spoken strongly on this point, there is one thing I should like to know—whether, if it be true, as the right rev. Prelate says, that incest be a sin, not against nature, but against positive enactment, I should like him to explain how it was that the Canaanites were punished for doing that which was not a sin against nature, but condemned by the Book of Leviticus—a command which could not possibly be known to them? Or, if it be so clearly opposed to the law of God, I ask how your Lordships could consent, by a previous Act, to legalize all existing marriages of this description? I must take leave to doubt, too, that the right rev. Prelate speaks in this matter the united voice of the Episcopal Bench.
THE BISHOP OF OXFORD
What I said was, that I and my right rev. Brethren who agree with me on this question are unanimous in thinking that there was no doubt whatever on the Scriptural part of the argument.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I thought there 1992 must have been some mistake, because, having consulted the Bishop of my own diocese (the Bishop of Lichfield), he wrote to me a day or two ago, stating in the most distinct manner that he was quite convinced, as far as the Scriptural part of the argument went, that it all rested on one text, which, in his opinion, was more in favour of our view than the other. It has been said, and with great truth, that this House ought not to be guided in this matter by the feeling of the society in which we move, but that we ought to look to what was desired by the community at large. I do not think it necessary to enter into any minute details as to the feeling of the upper classes of society with respect to this change—there are many circumstances connected with the question which make it undesirable to do so—but I have no hesitation in admitting that the feeling of that particular class is against this Bill. With regard, however, to the middle and lower classes, I have no doubt whatever that public opinion is in favour of the change. I deny altogether, too, that the feeling of the women of this country is against the Bill. I have conversed myself with many who had a very strong feeling the other way. I believe that in the middle classes, even in religious society, there is no unwillingness shown to receive and mix with persons who have contracted these illegal marriages, and that of itself is a strong proof of the feeling of the middle classes on the matter. I received a letter the other day from a gentleman in Yorkshire, in which he mentions that the head of a girls' school in his neighbour—hood had married the widower of her sister, and that not a single scholar had been taken away from her school in consequence of that act. With regard to the poorer classes we know that in towns these marriages do take place among them. Mr. Denham, the rector of a parish in the Strand, stated that the cases were most numerous, that the marriages had an immense moral effect upon the poorer classes, and that he had never seen any disadvantage from connections of the sort. The question has been so often debated that I will not weary your Lordships by going over it again. It is sufficient to say that none of the difficulties which are anticipated from a change of the law obtained in the United States, where these marriages are permitted; that these marriages hold good in all the Protestant communities in Europe; and, as has been 1993 already said, that if the Roman Catholics are much stricter they possess a power of dispensation which relaxes the general principle. When the noble Lord (Lord Redesdale) refers to the ancient Apostolical canon he forgets that there is also a canon which forbids the marriage of priests altogether. It is clearly inapplicable to the state of the law of which we now complain, and which has only held good since the year 1835. In conclusion, I will only express my sincere and ardent wish that your Lordships will on this occasion gratify the conscientious desire of immense classes of the community by giving a second reading to this measure.
THE BISHOP OF RIPON
claimed to say a few words, because he happened to differ from many, though he was happy to say, not from all, of his right rev. Brethren. In the first place he thought there was no direct Scriptural prohibition of the marriage of a man with his diseased wife's sister. If there were any direct Scriptural prohibition it was almost unnecessary for him to observe that no consideration should ever induce him to advocate an enactment which would have the effect of making such marriages legal. The arguments attempted to be drawn from Scripture by the opponents of the measure were arguments by inferences; and, considering the conflict of opinion among eminent divines of this and other Christian communities on this subject, and that at best arguments by inference were of a doubtful character, he thought they might well leave the resolution of the doubt to the conscience of each individual. But, believing as he did, that Scripture, so far from prohibiting, sanctioned these marriages, it was a grievance of which the people might justly complain that the law of the land was out of harmony with the revealed law of God. These were the considerations which influenced him, so far as the Scriptural argument was concerned. As regarded the social part of the question, he believed that great evils were connected with the existing state of the law; and when it was said that this measure would lead to the social evils which had been described, he asked why those evils had not been produced in those countries where marriage with a deceased wife's sister was the law of the land? It was said that the feeling of this country was against these marriages; but he believed facts did not bear out that state- 1994 ment. The petitions presented to the other House against the Bill were 300, signed by 10,000 persons, and the petitions in its favour were 1,047, having 125,539 signatures, and no one denied that marriages of this description were very numerous throughout the country. It had been found impossible to enforce the law as it at present stood, and believing that Scripture sanctioned these marriages he should cordially support the second reading.
THE BISHOP OF EXETER
said, the right rev. Prelate who had just sat down had almost overpowered him, and rendered it scarcely possible for him to address their Lordships. The right rev. Prelate said that Scripture expressly sanctioned these marriages. Up to the last few minutes he would not have believed it possible that a Bishop of the Church of England could have made such a declaration. Did their Lordships recollect that the Church which had the right rev. Prelate for one of its Bishops declared, in one of its most solemn canons, that a marriage of this kind was incestuous, that it was contrary to the law of God, that it should be dissolved from the first, that it should be utterly null and void? That was the law of the Church. The right rev. Prelate spurned the law of the Church. The right rev. Prelate said, "I care not for your Church of England, and what the Church of England declares to be forbidden by the law of God I declare to be sanctioned by the law of God." That was what they had heard to-night. He was amazed. If any clergyman in any place which was not privileged dared to say what the right rev. Prelate had said he would, if he were in the diocese of a faithful Bishop, be brought to account for his words. But it was said that the canon was drawn up in ancient and ascetic times. It was the time of James I., and if he were to look back to any age for a state of profligacy and anything but asceticism on the part of the clergy it would be to that very period. They were told that these canons were drawn up also in very early times, when they were all ignorant of these things. But that was the very reason that they were of force. The Church of England claimed it to be its law and doctrine, because it was the law of the early Church. If it were not so, the Church of England would not be what it was; it would not be a Catholic Church, and it would not have its own Bishops sitting there, except the 1995 right rev. Prelate who claimed to be a Bishop of the Church of England. The right rev. Prelate claimed to be a Bishop of the Catholic Church, purified from the corruptions of Rome, and yet declared that her canons were to be of none effect. The Bill to which the right rev. Prelate gave his very extraordinary support distinctly said, "provided that nothing herein contained shall invalidate, alter, or affect any canon or constitution ecclesiastical of the United Church of England and Ireland now in force." Did the right rev. Prelate mean then to say that the passing of this Bill would not affect the canons of the Church of England? And to show the absurdity and ludicrous inconsistency of the Bill it would come to this, that should the Bill pass—a supposition which he could not insult the common sense of their Lordships by suggesting as possible—the law of the land, in the same statute, would declare that a person might contract legally a marriage before a registrar, and yet might have that marriage declared contrary to God's law, and therefore null and void from the beginning, by the canon which was not to be affected by the Act. So far as the Bill was concerned a marriage of this kind would carry with it all the effect of a legal marriage; but, although these persons might marry under this Bill, they could never be admitted to the Holy Communion by a faithful minister, for he would be bound to tell them that they were living in a state of sin, that they were offending the congregation by living in a state of sin, and that he could not and would not violate his functions by administering to them that sacrament, which, as a faithful minister of Christ, he would at the same time be bound to tell them was necessary to salvation. All the blessings, all the promises, of that sacrament must be abandoned by those who, if this wretched Bill passed, should contract these marriages.
§ LORD OVERSTONE
said, he had heard what had fallen from the right rev. Prelate with the greatest dismay, for if every supporter of this measure was to be debarred from the sacrament of holy communion, he himself stood before their Lordships as a man who could not by a faithful minister of Christ be admitted to that solemn rite.
THE BISHOP OF EXETER
interposed by saying that the noble Lord had misunderstood what he had said. He did not say that persons who supported this Bill 1996 would be excluded, but that it would be the duty of a faithful minister to exclude those who might contract marriages under it.
§ LORD OVERSTONE
said, he was glad he had misunderstood the right rev. Prelate, the tone of whose speech, however, still remained subject to just and very grave censure. He thought that if no right rev. Prelate essayed the task, it was the duty of some of the lay members of their Lordships' House to endeavour to do justice between the right rev. Prelates who had spoken, and to allay the somewhat unseemly asperity which has been displayed. He could not help thinking that the remarks of the right rev. Prelate who had last spoken were unreasonable and unjust. He had condemned another right. rev. Prelate in the strongest terms for stating that, in his opinion, Holy Scriptures did not condemn, but sanctioned, these marriages. But what had been the explanation offered to the House that night by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst)? That a right rev. Prelate of great authority, who was not now a Member of their Lordships' House, was responsible for the passing of an Act which put an end to the power of voiding these marriages. ["No!"] As he understood the Act, the power of making previous marriages void had ceased under this Bill, unless proceedings were taken before a certain time. An Act though indirectly countenancing those marriages could not have received the countenance of Prelates who hold those to be condemned by the express word of God. Their Lordships had been told that these marriages were directly incestuous and contrary to the law of God. Now, among the vast number of petitions which he had presented in favour of this Bill, there was one signed by 500 clergymen. He had also divided with right rev. Prelates in favour of a similar measure. He had presented petitions in favour of the Bill signed by the municipal authorities and by all classes in the City of London. On that evening he had presented a petition in favour of the measure signed by nineteen out of twenty-six Aldermen, by Directors of the East India Company and the Bank of England, by Bankers of the City of London, by merchants and solicitors. In the manufacturing districts the opinion in favour of this Bill was almost universal. A similar measure had been repeatedly sent up to their Lordships from the other House, which was 1997 supposed more especially to represent the feelings and the deliberate judgment of the people, and although the Members who had voted in favour of these Bills had been sent back to their constituents, they had been again returned, and had sent up subsequent Bills by increasing majorities. He had not given his support to this measure lightly and unadvisedly. The condemnation of these marriages, if intended by the will of God, would have been written with the finger of fire and not have been left as a doubtful and forced inference from such dark and ambiguous passages as had been quoted. He thought that any legislation was unwarrantable which interfered with man's free agency in a matter so important as that of marriage. He believed also that the present state of the law caused the most serious moral evils, and he feared that, if they rejected this Bill, their Lordships would inflict upon the community an act of injustice, and would greatly disturb the harmony and morality of society. He could not help regretting the violent and uncharitable language which had fallen from the episcopal bench, which was in his opinion, injudicious, unwise, and not sanctioned by the letter or spirit of that Holy Scripture to which they appealed.
THE BISHOP OF LINCOLN
said, he very much regretted that the noble and learned Lord who had so lucidly explained the history of his Marriage Bill to their Lordships had left the House; but what had fallen from that noble and learned Lord might, he thought, bear this interpretation. At the time when the House was asked to legislate on this subject, these marriages were not void, but voidable; the children were not illegitimate, but they might be made so. In this very inconvenient and unjust state of things the noble and learned Lord introduced a Bill enacting that, unless a suit were instituted in the Ecclesiastical Court within two years, the children should be legitimate. The right rev. Prelate, now no more (Bishop Blomfield) here interposed, and at his suggestion it was enacted that voidable marriages should be thenceforth void ab initio; and inasmuch as this would be obviously unjust to the children of existing marriages of this kind, their legitimacy was not to be questioned. He contended that it was impossible to draw from this the authority of the right rev. Prelate, now departed, in favour of this Bill. He (the Bishop of Lincoln) would say nothing whatever as to 1998 the religious aspect of this Bill. He must say he regretted to find a member of the episcopal bench saying that he believed these marriages were not only not forbidden, but were sanctioned by the law of God. The right rev. Prelate was alone in his opinion; but he was at least to be commended for his boldness in stating his opinion. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Overstone) had laid great stress on the fact that there had been a large number of petitions in favour of this Bill; but from his own experience, both of a large metropolitan parish and of the agricultural districts of England, he doubted whether the majority of the people were in its favour. The number of petitions presented on this subject showed the low state of public morality on this question; but it was not to be wondered at, if when the people saw a number of noblemen and gentlemen, year by year, advocating this measure, and bringing it forward in Parliament, they should think perhaps they were mistaken as to its character, and that there was no great harm in it after all. Suppose polygamy were advocated through the country by an active body of men, and discussed in pamphlets and in newspapers, and that a Bill were yearly introduced into either House by a gentleman or nobleman of influence for the purpose of legalising it, would not many be found to petition for a repeal of the law, and some be encouraged to infringe it? It would be the same in that case as it was in this. He denied that the opinions of the women of this country generally were in favour of this measure; on the contrary, their instinctive feelings, which were a far better guide on such a subject as this than the reasoning of men, made them dread the passing of this Bill. It was, therefore, in their behalf and in that of the peace and happiness of the countless homes in this country, and in the name of purity of their families, that he entreated their Lordships not to read this Bill a second time.
§ On Question that ("now") stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:—Contents 22; Not-Contents 46:—Majority 24.1999
|Cleveland, D.||Saint Germans, E.|
|Essex, E.||Torrington, V.|
|Leven and Melville, E.|
|Minto, E.||Belper, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Ebury, L.|
|Farnham, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Foley, L. [Teller.]||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Woodehouse, L.|
|Glenelg, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
|Canterbury, Archbp.||Dungannon, V.|
|Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Melville, V.|
|Bath, M. [Teller.]|
|Salisbury, M.||Exeter, Bp.|
|Amherst, E.||Lincoln, Bp.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Oxford, Bp.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Rochester, Bp.|
|De La Warr, E.||Salisbury, Bp.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. of Buccleuch & Queensberry.)||Brodrick, L. (V. Middleton.)|
|Effingham, E.||Cranworth, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Crofton, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Dinevor, L.|
|Harrington, E.||Dunsandle and Clanconal, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Romney, E.||Lovell and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)|
|Shrewsbury and Talbot, E.||Melros, L. (E. Haddington.)|
|Stradbroke, E.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Redesdale, L. [Teller.]|
|Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)||Wynford, L.|
§ Resolved in the Negative.
§ Ordered that the said Bill be read a Second Time on this Day Three Months.