HL Deb 28 June 1883 vol 280 cc1653-88

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."—(The Earl of Dalhousie.)


, in rising to move, as au Amendment, that the Bill be read a third time that day six months, said, he would not have been justified in taking up the time of their Lordships, in asking their attention to the subject once more, with a view to the reconsideration of the decision arrived at on a recent occasion, were it not for the narrowness of the division on the second reading, and the nearly equally divided opinion in their Lordships' House. When the question came before them on the second reading, the arguments that were used by his noble Friend behind him (Earl Beauchamp), in opposition to the measure, were of such a forcible, exhaustive character, that he felt he would be unduly trespassing upon their Lordships' attention if he were to endeavour to recapitulate any of the arguments that had been used in opposition to the measure, or go at any great length into the subject. But it was only fair to consider what had taken place since the second reading of the Bill. The Bill had been in Committee of the Whole House, and had there been subjected to a furbishing process at the hands of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Dalhousie), and altered in a variety of ways, especially in regard to its retrospective application. While, to some extent, it had assumed a new appearance, he could not say that it was improved in its character. In fact, he considered the Bill to be in its present form a monstrosity, and he was reminded by it of the words— Ut turpiter atrum Desinat in piscem mulier formosa supernè. Perhaps, before he went into the one or two objections that he might take with reference to the Bill as it stood, he might be allowed to say a few words, as he had not yet addressed their Lordships upon the subject—he wished to say a few words on what appeared to him to be the religious aspect of the question. He must admit, to a great extent, the force of the remarks which had fallen from noble Lords opposite, to the effect that it was difficult to discover, in exact terms, any definite and express prohibition in the Scriptures against these marriages which the Bill was intended to legalize; and, although the subject had been treated in a very light and airy, and, indeed, jocose manner by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Bramwell), who always attracted the House by the pungency of his remarks, yet, at the same time, he thought it was almost a pity that they, who were opposed to the Bill, should endeavour to rest the objections to it upon grounds that, to his mind, could not be clearly proved, and to which exception might be taken. It had always appeared to him that, if a marriage of this kind was expressly prohibited by Holy Scripture, the prohibition would have been in so direct and unmistakable terms that "he who runs may read." He must admit he could not convince himself that any prohibition could be found in any such unmistakable terms. But it appeared to him, however, that there was an argument of a far higher and more weighty character that could be used, and that was this—that they knew the words that fell from the Saviour in regard to bigamy and the putting away of wives. If the law of Moses allowed practices of that character, in the same way it did not prohibit marriages of this kind. But they had arrived at a different state of things, and, with the sanction of Christianity and of the New Testament, they might say that old things had passed away, and that they had a higher law, and that a higher morality had been introduced. That was the ground on which they ought to test the religious sanction of these marriages; and that, he thought, was a far higher ground of objection than obscure passages of the Old Testament, or the mere presence or absence of an express prohibition. They had this exemplified in the law of the country. The noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Bramwell) would find it difficult to find any passage of Scripture that prohibited the plurality of wives, yet he would not deny that bigamy was a crime. He (the Duke of Marlborough) contended that, whatever might have been the Mosaic which was framed for society in an untutored state, by asking them to alter the law on the subject, they were going back on the scale of society, and asking them to adopt a lower law than that to which Christianity had raised them. When they were in Committee on this Bill he was rather surprised at the view taken by the right rev. Bench in connection with the retrospective action of the Bill. one right rev. Prelate had spoken out in a high-minded and pungent, cogent argument; and he regretted that that right rev. Prelate had been taken to task for what had been called the hard-heartedness of his arguments. It was supposed that, by not making this Bill retrospective, a class of innocent children would be injured. But how did they find that this beautiful provision with regard to innocent children had been carried out throughout the Bill? Why, he found in the 2nd clause that where a man had been sufficiently guilty to repudiate the marriage that he had contracted with his deceased wife's sister, and had married another person, in that case it would not be legal; because that would involve bigamy; and the children of such a marriage, equally innocent and unoffending, and unconscious of the acts of their parents, were kept in illegitimacy. What did they find, again, in the 3rd clause, in regard to a more substantial matter? Why, that all children born of these marriages were expressly excluded from any participation in any property or devise that might otherwise have come to them. Therefore, they came to this state of things—that if a man had married his deceased wife's sister, and had three children before the passing of this Act, and had a fourth child afterwards, and if the man happened to die intestate, those children who had been born before the passing of the Bill, although they might be regarded as legitimate, would not take the property to which, if ordinary legitimate children, they would be entitled. If these were fair provisions, then he had nothing more to say on the subject. Another difficulty was that the children of two sisters were naturally cousins; but if they happened to be the children of one father they became brothers and sisters. The Bill, it would be seen, was full of inconsistencies and full of injustice; and the relationships which would be created, if it passed, would be abnormal. He believed the noble Earl opposite had stated that the universal view in America was in favour of these marriages. Well, he alluded to that point only because it was due to a gentleman who had addressed him by letter on the subject since the second reading of the Bill. Dr. Coleman, an American clergyman, of the Diocese of Ohio, who was at present in England, said— As to the United States, will you allow me to say that there has been, for many years, among a considerable body of Churchmen, a decided and growing repugnance to such marriages; a repugnance openly expressed, and not more general only because the question has been but little discussed? Where it has been discussed, the antipathy to them has been enlarged and deepened. And he went on to say that a very strong Resolution was proposed to be adopted by both Houses of the General Convention in October next, the declaration made by the House of Bishops in 1808—namely— Resolved, that 'the old Table of Affinity and Kindred, wherein whosoever are related are forbidden in Scripture to marry together,' is now obligatory on this Church, and must re- main so, unless there should hereafter appear cause to alter it, without departing from the Word of God or endangering the peace and good order of this Church. That Resolution had been prepared by a Committee of the Church, and was about to be presented to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church of America; and a large portion of the American people looked with great interest to the vote their Lordships might give on that occasion, as bearing upon the decision which might be come to on the Resolution. But he thought their Lordships must look upon this subject from a wider and more general point of view. They had discussed the subject as if it were merely a social question, affecting the law of marriage, affecting society as it existed in this country, and their own feelings in their families. But he thought there was a wider view they must take of it; and he did not know that he would have troubled their Lordships with a few remarks on this occasion, were it not that he was anxious to present to them something of this wider and more general view. In a country like this, where we were most happily at peace with ourselves, changes were not brought about with any very great difficulty. The forces of revolution, although they might be strong and dangerous, did not come suddenly upon us as they did in countries where political passion swayed more powerfully the minds of the people; but they came with secret and insidious steps. He begged their Lordships to reflect upon this measure in a more serious view—as one of those approaches to secret, but not less sure, revolution that was coming upon this country. The other day an occurrence took place to which he wished to allude. It was an occurrence of great interest in Birmingham, where the respected and oldest Member for that town was received by his constituents with every demonstration of honour and respect. In order to celebrate that event, a dinner was afterwards held, at which a speech was delivered by a Minister of the Crown, who, speaking with a full sense of his Ministerial responsibility, uttered these words. He said he wished to draw a comparison and a contrast. He said he wished to compare the reception given to Mr. Bright at Birmingham with an occurrence—he would not say similar, but parallel—that had taken place in a neighbouring country — namely, the Coronation of the Emperor of Russia; and the words that that Minister of the Crown used were these— Pomp and circumstance were wanting; no public money was expended; no military display accompanied Mr. Bright; the brilliant uniforms, the crowds of high officials, the representatives of Royalty, were absent; and no one was sorry, for nobody missed them. That was the opinion expressed by that Minister of the Crown with regard to the Crown of a neighbouring country; and, on the same occasion, this Minister stated that the Cabinet of which he was a Member—and this was an extraordinary secret for him to divulge—was more Radical than the House of Commons; and he proceeded to illustrate that statement by its perpetuating the existence of three great anomalies, which were these—The first was the exclusion of Mr. Bradlaugh; the second was the state of the representation of the people in Parliament; and the third was the Establishment of the Church. Now, this Minister, speaking, as he (the Duke of Marlborough) supposed, with a sense of responsibility, and thinking that the Cabinet, with whose opinions he was so well acquainted, was more Radical than Parliament, spoke for his Colleagues as well as for himself, and the words he used in connection with the third anomaly were these— The connection between Church and State exists in all its force and vigour; but I will undertake to say that if to-morrow you could poll the constituencies, the vast majority of the Liberal electors in the boroughs of the United Kingdom and the great majority of Liberals in the counties would be in favour of Disestablishment; and yet, I suppose, that if a Resolution to that effect were moved to-morrow, only a small minority would be found to vote for it. ["Very small!" and laughter.] Now, let him explain how the opinions he had quoted bore upon the subject before the House, which their Lordships were now asked to pass. ["Hear, hear!"] He was quite ready to enter into the argument upon the subject. Everything that related to anything in the nature of a prognostication of a portentous kind was always received with sneers. He would ask them to consider who were the supporters of this Bill. They might be divided into two classes. First, there were those who supported it from pure and conscientious motives, such as he had no doubt induced the noble Earl opposite and most of their Lordships who voted with him, and who believed there was a grievance, and that it ought to be removed. But there was another class of persons who supported this Bill, and they were the avowed enemies of the Established Church. The great body of Dissenters throughout the country supported the Bill, and Her Majesty's Government also supported the Bill. He had no doubt they did because the Dissenters were their friends, and they would not offend them. Now, let their Lordships see what the effect of this Bill would be if passed. In the first place, it would bring in a conflict between the law of the Church and the law of the land. Now, they knew what would be the consequence of that. There was another point. It was said—"If you pass this Bill, see what safeguards you have attached to it." He had seen a great deal of safeguards in his day. He had seen, from their own side of the House, a Reform Bill brought forward which was full of safeguards, and these safeguards had disappeared, very rapidly, one by one. This Bill had also safeguards, and one of these was that these marriages were not to be performed in churches. How did any rational man think that it would be possible to maintain that provision? There was a very strong feeling in the country about being married in church. A great many people thought being married in church sanctified the operation, and that a marriage in church was more a marriage than a marriage anywhere else. And that was a very proper and legitimate feeling. But now their Lordships put a stigma on the marriages dealt with by the Bill. They said they were lawful, that there was nothing in them contrary to the laws of God or man, yet they were not to be performed in church. The very first agitation that took place after the passing of the Act would be for the performance of these marriages in church. In that case, what would happen but this—that the clergy would not solemnize these marriages, and the duty would be left to Dissenting ministers? The beautiful Marriage Service of the Church would not be used for this purpose, but would be superseded by some other form, till ultimately they would have brought about a state of things which would imperil the relation between Church and State, and bring about the common use of churches, the great object for which every Dissenter in the Kingdom had long been striving, and which every Radical in the Kingdom desired should become an accomplished fact. He had no doubt a great many noble Lords on that (the Conservative) side of the House supported the Bill for very different reasons—because they did not look beyond the present moment, and thought merely that an injustice had to be redressed and a long-standing dispute to be settled, and that if they passed this measure they would get rid of the difficulties and disputes that were connected with the question. But he appealed to noble Lords on that side of the House, and asked them, in view of the circumstances which he had explained, to pause before they gave a vote to assist in passing the Bill. They had seen the opinions that had been expressed by a Minister of the Crown. They had seen the way in which these opinions had been treated by his Colleagues. They had seen the state of feeling out-of-doors. They knew that the passing of a measure of this sort could not stop there, but that it would involve the obliteration of all the decrees of the Church with regard to affinity; that it would put a nail into the coffin of the Church; that it would seriously weaken, if not annihilate, the connection between Church and State. He appealed to noble Lords to take a wider and a more general view of this question; and, even if they did but delay it for another year, let them give the country another year's breathing-time to consider this measure. Let them see whether new thoughts and lights might not arise, and a now and better sentiment. He would implore noble Lords not to precipitate the passing of this measure by their votes or by their voices on the present occasion, as by so doing they would run the risk of destroying the Church they revered and endangering the Throne they loved. He moved that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—(The Duke of Marlborough.)


said, he deeply regretted the extreme and unusual course taken by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Marlborough), in moving its rejection, on the third reading, of a Bill that had already been the subject of such exhaustive criticism and every form of Parliamentary discussion as the one under notice, and which, nevertheless, had passed safely through it. The noble Duke, at the end of his speech, had asked their Lordships to delay the measure; and that was, in truth, all that could now be asked by the opponents of the Bill. If the noble Duke, or anyone else, thought that the rejection of the Bill could bring to a close altogether the discussion, he could have understood that appeal. Or if he thought that the interest taken in the matter by Members of that House was confined to the number, however limited, of persons who, like himself (Lord Houghton), by the ordinary conditions of nature, could not expect long to exercise any part on the stage of public life, or of life at all, they might reasonably look forward to a change of opinion. But the case was all the other way. The measure had now passed into the hands of younger Members of the House, who illustrated, in a very strong way, the advantage of that hereditary condition of the House to which so many objections had been taken. It was a good thing that these men were determined, when the time came, to redress the injuries and to remedy the errors of their forefathers. As it seemed to him, the noble Duke had used arguments of a very dangerous character, and had ventured on prognostications which, if they were correct, pointed to a vital and prolonged agitation against the measure. If it was true, which he very much doubted, that the passing of the Bill would, in any degree, affect or diminish the relations between Church and State, the noble Duke could not be blind to the impetus which he had given to the large body of Nonconformists, and the additional force he had given to their arguments. His (Lord Houghton's) own belief, however, was that that would not be the result of the Bill; and he might remind the House that, considering the wrong the existing law had inflicted upon many honest men and women, nothing in the history of the 20 years' effort to pass the Bill, and the agitation consequent upon that effort, had been more remarkable than the conciliatory and moderate manner in which the proposed change had been advocated. ["Oh!"] He believed a great many years ago, when the measure was lost by the small majority of 4, there was some popular agitation; and menaces were held out to the right rev. Bishops that, if they persisted in their opposition, they would not long be Members of that House. But those who supported the Bill had tried their utmost to put a stop to that agitation, and had said that they would trust to time and reason, and that the House of Lords could not continue to sustain that outrageous Act commonly called Lord Lyndhurst's Act; and if the House now passed the Bill it would merely restore the country to the condition in which it was before the passing of that Act. He was convinced that the conviction of the truth of the Bible was just as deeply seated in the Wesleyans as among the Bishops; and the Wesleyans, they might say, had never wholly dissevered their connection with the Church of England. He, therefore, asked them to consider the effect the rejection of the Bill would have on the deepest feelings of a large number of honest men and women. The Nonconformists had declared that they were a religious Body, and that they believed that the rejection of the Bill would be an infraction of personal liberty. He left the measure in their Lordships' hands, with the earnest conviction that they would not inflict the greatest distress and dishonour on a large number of honest men and women, for a time more or less long, without the smallest chance of obliterating the memory of those debates from the heart and soul and consciences and affections of the British people. The wishes and desires of the great body of the Dissenters could not be disregarded; and the House would not, he hoped, take the unprecedented course of rejecting the Bill merely in order to delay it for another year. Practically, what they were asked by this measure to do was to repeal a law which imposed penance upon one generation for sins committed by another; and to propose its rejection at the last stage, after its principle had been affirmed on the second reading, was unprecedented and un - Constitutional.


said, that, while there was much in the speech of the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Marlborough) from which he (the Duke of Argyll) did not wholly differ, he could not altogether concur in what his noble Friend had said, for to some of the arguments he had used he (the Duke of Argyll) did not attach any importance whatever. He chiefly, however, rose to protest against the doctrine laid down by his noble Friend (Lord Houghton), who had just affirmed that the Motion of the noble Duke was unprecedented and un - Constitutional. He (the Duke of Argyll), in contradiction to that assertion of his noble Friend, would say that it was strictly according to precedent that the opponents of a measure, who had been defeated on the second reading or in Committee, should try to rally their forces and record their votes against the measure on the third reading. Otherwise, why had Parliament provided that every measure should go through certain stages, if it were not to give to all Members of both Houses of Parliament an opportunity of debating the question on every possible occasion, and that the minority should have an opportunity of converting itself into a majority? On those grounds, he thought that nothing could be said against the course which his noble Friend the noble Duke had taken, so far as its legality or precedents were concerned. He would now pass from that to the consideration of the position in which they stood, and to the provisions of the Bill. He thought even those who opposed the Bill most bitterly would be disposed to agree that, in the hands of his noble Friend (the Earl of Dalhousie), it had been conducted, not only with marked ability, but with that good taste and that good feeling which, above all things, ought to guide their debates upon such a subject as this; and he must also do his noble Friend the justice to say that, in preparing the Bill for Report, he had faithfully carried out the promises into which he had virtually entered with various Members of the House when the Bill was in Committee. He had done his very best to remove the objections which were taken to the Bill by the noble and learned Earl (the Lord Chancellor) and by other Members of the House. But he had not succeeded, because no man could succeed, in removing all objections to the details of the Bill. The noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) had pointed out some of the anomalies which would be produced by the retrospective action of the Bill. Some children would be legitimized, and yet they would not be entitled to inherit the property of their parents. The Bill, in fact, was full of complications and difficulties that were inseparable from its principle. But he was not going to pursue this argument of detail. He found himself now called upon to say—"Am I content, or am I not content, that this Bill should pass into law?" And, feeling as he did, and thinking as he did, upon this question, he was bound to say that he could not, and he would not, say "Content." Under those circumstances, there were but two courses for a public man to take. He could absent himself from the Division, and leave other Members to vote as they pleased. He did not say there were not occasions on which a man might take that course; but, for his own part, he did not feel that this was an occasion on which he could do so. He, therefore, felt it duo to himself to come down and explain to the House why he should say "Not Content" to the third reading of the Bill. He confessed that, great as were the objections that he felt to the measure—believing, as he did, that it was opposed to sound principle—he thought the objections were still greater to some of the arguments which had been used in favour of it. He confessed he experienced something of the unpleasant feelings of nausea, of lassitude, and fatigue which came over the mind when a question so disagreeable as this, so odious in many of its aspects, was raised year after year in both Houses of Parliament; and he was convinced that the change which had come over that House had been not so much a change of conviction, as a result of mere weariness and a desire to get rid of the question. He had himself felt the temptation to say that anything was better than to hear the continual discussion of the question; let it go. But when he came to think of the arguments that had been used by many of its supporters in that House, he could not help entering his protest, not only by vote, but by speech, against them. He had heard it said, in the first place, that the Scriptural or religious argument had been abandoned; and he thought his noble Friend who had charge of the Bill had dwelt upon a speech which was made by a right rev. Prelate last year, who always spoke with great ability and eloquence—his right rev. Friend who presided over the diocese of Peterborough. What did that speech mean—that the Scriptural argument had been abandoned. No; it meant simply this—that the authority of a particular text had been given up on this particular subject. That, he understood, was the only admission made by the right rev. Prelate last year. [The Bishop of PETERBOROUGH: Hear, hear!] But suppose they went further, and said that there was no particular text of any sort or kind, in either the Old or the New Testament, which forbade these marriages—did that, he would ask, abandon the Scriptural or religious argument? Decidedly not. His noble and learned Friend behind him (Lord Bramwell), who had a remarkable speech on the second reading of the Bill—a speech marked by all that vigour of intellect that was a great addition to the debates of this House, and which, he trusted, during many future years would be of still greater value to it—his noble Friend asked whether there was any prohibition of these marriages in Scripture, and said that when God desired to prohibit anything He knew how to express it. He also said there were many things prohibited in Scripture, such as "Do not steal;" and if it was intended to prohibit these marriages, they should have had some express prohibition. At the samo time, others had said that, if there was such a prohibition in the Judaic law, we should not be bound by it. He (the Duke of Argyll) could not help thinking, when he heard these references to detailed principles, that it was not the opponents of the Bill, but its promoters who might be accused of Judaism. The latter appealed to the absence of direct prohibition. They desired to be guided always by some petty and verbal direction. That was the spirit of the Jewish Dispensation; it was not the spirit of the Christian Dispensation. "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not"—that was the language of the Jewish Dispensation. On the contrary, Christianity adopted a wholly different system. It laid down general principles, which were recognized by those who conscientiously read the sacred volume; and it left it to the conscience of the Christian world and to the wisdom of the Christian Church to give these general principles their legitimate application. He said that our whole civilization—at least, all that part of our civilization which was not concerned with mere property and civil law; all that part of our civilization which referred to moral obligations and the rules of Christian conduct—the whole of it depended on the general principles laid down by Christianity, and which had been enforced by the traditions and authority of the Christian Church. His noble Friend (the Duke of Marlborough) had reminded the House that there was in Christianity no prohibition of polygamy, and if they were determined to break down every barrier excepting "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not," they should soon come to have polygamy introduced into this Christian country. All the great Christian Churches, first the Greek Church, the Latin Churches, and all the Reformed Communions, had united in condemning this particular kind of marriage. It might be true that they had not a definite and express command in regard to it; but he would ask them this—could any man say that there was not a principle laid down in regard to this question, both in the Old and the New Testament? Was it not certain—could it be denied—that some of the prohibitions in these specific prohibitions which were contained in the Old and New Testament, and some of those denunciations which were contained in the New, rested entirely upon the analogy between affinity and consanguinity? That was so. Many of the prohibitions laid down in the chapter of Leviticus were based upon the ground that affinity was to be considered as consanguinity, and there were two allusions at least to it in the New Testament. In one passage, which had been referred to in the course of this debate, they found the Apostle Paul denouncing as a crime a union which was unnatural and incestuous solely on the ground of its being a matter of affinity. He next came to the objection of his noble and learned Friend behind him the other night, with regard to the form of words in which this doctrine had been laid down in the Christian Church, as to man and wife being one. He was sorry that the noble and learned Lord had unintentionally treated the expression "one flesh" with some ridicule and contempt, treating it as a metaphor. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not believe that his noble and learned Friend had intended to do so.


It is a metaphor.


said, he agreed entirely with his noble and learned Friend. Of course it was; and what were metaphors? They were often the best expressions of the very highest form of truth. But a metaphor must not be pushed too far, for it might end in absurdity; and if the noble and learned Lord objected to that expression because it was a metaphor, he (the Duke of Argyll) supposed they should find him in a few years coming down and objecting to another metaphor—"The marriage tie." Perhaps he would come down and tell them there was no tie at all—that man and wife were perfectly free, that one party might be in one country, and the other in another country, and, therefore, there was no real tie, and that it was only a metaphor, so that they could loose their relations as soon as they pleased. Thus, from this argument against metaphor, they might slide into those doctrines about the facility of divorce which were so opposed to the doctrine and practice of the Christian Church, and which were the chief danger to the existence of marriage relations. For his own part, he maintained that, although the words that a man and his wife were one might be a metaphor, it was a metaphor expressive of a truth on which modern society was based—and that was, the sacredness of the union between man and wife. And he said that the further application of that principle was the principle of Christian jurisprudence, that a man should not marry a relation nearer to his wife than he could marry a relation of his own. That was a fair and legitimate application of the general principle for the regulation of Christian society. That was the view he took. It was not driving the metaphor to an absurdity at all; but it laid down a convenient rule and principle for the regulation of human society. Not holding the doctrines of his noble and learned Friend as to the absurdity of theology, or as to the necessity of not studying theology, he must say he was wholly opposed to changing the law against the united doctrines of all branches of the Christian Church from the very earliest times. He had never met yet one Member of that House, or one Member of the other House of Parliament, or any- body out-of-doors, who was in favour of this measure, who, when asked the question, did not frankly confess that he was willing to destroy all the degrees of affinity altogether, and got rid of them, and to rest the law on the degrees of consanguinity, these being reduced very much below the extent to which they were now kept. He would ask, was it not quite certain that, when they had pared down the prohibition against this particular degree of affinity, they would soon be asked to go further? Look at the consequences which would arise. Marriages would be demanded which, as they now stood, were disgusting to all of them. They might say that they were not likely, some of them, often to happen. He was not at all sure of that. Their Lordships might know cases in which a man was married to a woman with grown-up daughters, with regard to whom there was no enormous disparity of age. Would it not be thought entirely monstrous that such a man should marry his own stepdaughter? He believed his noble and learned Friend would himself recoil against such a union. Perhaps it might be said—"Oh! these unions are so unnatural that you may trust to the instinct and to the reason of mankind to prevent them." In his judgment, however, they could not trust to the reason and to the instinct of mankind. They could trust to the instincts of the lower animals, for they hardly over went astray; but they could not trust to the instincts of man, for the very reason that he had reason, and that his nature had become corrupted. But, perhaps, when he mentioned the corruption of human nature, his noble and learned Friend would say—"Oh! that is theology; and I care and know no more about theology than I do about astrology." But the corruption of human nature—was that a doctrine of theology? It was more. It was also a fact in natural history. They had heard a great deal lately of Jupiter and Saturn, and of the principle which was regulating those planets. But supposing a naturalist coming from Jupiter or Saturn, and describing the inhabitants of this earth. Of man alone, and not of the lower animals, could he say that he had instincts and energies which were constantly leading him to a course of action injurious and prejudicial to himself, and to the family and race to which he belonged. Theologians gave a reason for that corruption. That would be a question of theology; but the fact of it was a question of natural history; and he said that, in the light of that fact, they could not trust, on this subject of the relation of the sexes, to the reason and instincts of mankind. He thought if these horrible unions to which he had referred, and which would disgust even his noble and learned Friend, appeared horrible to them now, it was because their feelings of horror, their sentiments, and their opinions as to the moral obligations of men had been built upon the doctrines and teachings of the Christian Church. But his belief was that when those were abandoned the horror would gradually disappear, and that, year after year, we should sink to a lower depth on this great subject of marriage. Feeling strongly on this matter — thinking nothing of any of the arguments which he had heard in favour of the measure, seeing their utter fallacy in point of argument, and their inapplicability to the condition of man, as he knew it to be, he should most heartily, over and over again, say "Not Content" to the third reading of this Bill.


said, he had little expected that what he said to their Lord.ships the other night would attract so much attention, or be thought worthy of so much notice by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll). He should have a word or two to say as to the fault which the noble Duke had found with him; but, before doing so, he desired to address himself to one argument which had been used, and which might be put into this shape —"Where are you to stop? Where are you to draw the line if you permit marriage with a deceased wife's sister?" He hoped their Lordships would consider what an argument that was. What did it mean? It simply meant this—"You may be right, but we will not do what is right, or discuss it with you, although it is right, because, should it be allowed, at some future time we may be asked to do something which is not right, and we shall not have the sense and courage to resist it." Let them see how that argument worked. If there were a Divine prohibition of these marriages, either in direct words, or to be inferred, then there was an end of the matter, and they need not consider what might happen afterwards. They ought to say at once—"No; it shall not be done." If, as he firmly believed, there was no Divine command against these marriages; and if they had to consider whether the allowance of such marriages was desirable for the happiness and morality of the community, he maintained that they must consider the question independently of what would be said hereafter. If that was the question, they must consider it by what was to be adduced on its own merits, and those merits were entirely in favour of the proposal of the noble Earl beneath him (the Earl of Dalhousie). They were not there to provide a Code of Marriage Laws; but they were there to correct what he believed was a most grievous social mischief. It led to misconduct, which many people were actually driven to through the circumstances of their position in the world, as they had not got a second room in which to put the woman who was necessary to take care of their children. Their Lordships were called upon to redress that mischief. As for the people who were better off, he frankly admitted that they ought not to have contracted these marriages; and, therefore, he had less sympathy with them than he had for those who had been driven into marriages of this kind. He agreed that the well-to-do classes ought never to have contracted such marriages; but there was a wide difference between such unions and marriages which were repugnant to one's feelings altogether. The other night he advisedly used an expression which had been called coarse. It was, however, proper to apply that expression to a passion which was hateful and loathsome, and which no law could render otherwise even if it permitted its indulgence. But with regard to the people who had contracted marriage with a deceased wife's sister, he maintained that their passion—which was the right word to use in this case—was one to which there was no objection, except that the law made its gratification unlawful. On the last occasion on which he had spoken he had been charged with joking, and of not treating the matter with sufficient seriousness; but he was far too much in earnest on the subject to joke. What he had done was to lay bare certain arguments which had been used before their Lordships, and when he had done that it seemed laugh- able, and some noble Lords laughed. Was that his fault? Was an argument to pass unnoticed because it was ridiculous? Then he had been brought to task by the noble Duke about what he had said on the subject of theology—that he had spoken slightingly of theologians. Well, he adhered to that remark. Without wishing to say anything that might appear to be unpleasant, he would remind their Lordships that, in theology, a variety of doctrines were laid down—he did not say whether they were true or false, intelligible or unintelligible—some might think them unintelligible, but which had nothing, in the world to do with our daily conduct in life towards God or our neighbour, and which the world would have gone on just as well without, of which also he might say that they had been the cause of more misery and unhappiness to man than anything that existed. That was why he had said that he had no admiration of theology. It was said that Professors of Law and Medicine were necessary, and, therefore, why not in religion? But law and medicine were human, while religion claimed a Divine origin. He sincerely hoped that their Lordships would now read the Bill a third time, and thus get rid of what he firmly believed bad been productive of nothing but immorality and misery.


said, that the noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell) had parried with, and had speedily disposed of, the question of whether there was in the Bible any Levitical or religious prohibition of these marriages at all. He (the Bishop of Winchester) was not going to inflict a theological argument on the House; and he would endeavour to confine himself to history and common sense. For several years, and especially this and the last year, it had been triumphantly stated that the religious argument had been abandoned. This statement, indeed, the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) had eloquently brushed away. But he (the Bishop of Winchester) wished emphatically to state that the Bishops and clergy of the Church of England rested the case almost entirely on religious grounds. If the case did not rest on religious grounds, he, for one, should not so earnestly have opposed the Bill. In the first place, every orthodox Church and every tolerably orthodox sect in Christendom held the doctrine that the moral law of the Old Testament was binding upon Christians, and that the New Testament was the development of the Old. There was a famous saying accepted in the Primitive Church — Novum Testamentum latet in Veteri Testamento, Vetus Testamentum patet in Novo. Then came the question, whether there was any moral law in the Old Testament concerning incest and marriages of affinity. It would be very strange if no prohibition of incest was to be found. If it was to be found anywhere, it was certainly in Leviticus XVIII. It had been held universally in the Church, from the 1st to the 17th century, that the Levitical Code contained in that chapter was a code of moral law and moral obligation, and one that was binding upon Christians. The noble and learned Lord had said that there was not in the Levitical Code any clear prohibition of marriage with a deceased wife's sister, such as would surely be found if it were contrary to God's will. In that case the noble and learned Lord maintained that it would be clear as when it said—"Thou shalt do no murder." Would he apply such an argument to the laws of England? If nothing was law in England but such as was expressed in terms so clear as that, there would probably be no need of that noble Profession of which the noble and learned Lord had been so distinguished a member; probably there would not even be need of the Judges of the land. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), who had just spoken so eloquently, had truly pointed out that in morals we must have recourse to general principles. And in Leviticus XVIII. general principles as to marriages of consanguinity and affinity were clearly laid down, and examples were given for the application of those principles. "Thou shalt not approach to any that is near of kin to thee" was the great principle. Then three degrees of consanguinity were named as forbidden—namely, parent with child, brother with sister, uncle or aunt with niece on nephew. Next, exactly the same three degrees of affinity were specified and illustrated. Every example was not given because it was not necessary. If it were said that "wife's sister" was not expressly named, but only inferred from "brother's wife," it must be remembered that there was no distinct prohibition of a man's marrying his own daughter; it was inferred from and implied in a man's not marrying his mother. This 18th chapter (from v. 6 to v. 17) hedged round the whole circle of the home and the family within these three degrees of consanguinity and affinity, and made all within it sacred and pure. There were only two arguments of any weight against all this. One was that "they were not Jews." In one sense, no doubt, they were not, as the noble Duke had pointed out; but in another they were. A very distinguished statesman, who, not long since, had led that House—the late Earl of Beaconsfield—had said of himself that he was a "developed Jew." So, truly, they were all developed Jews. All the privileges and all the moral obligations of the Jewish Fathers still were theirs, only expanded and intensified. The other argument was based on the famous 18th verse of the same chapter—a verse which it was the fashion to quote as if it simply repealed, as regarded this particular degree of affinity, the whole of the principle first laid down in the preceding verses. Now, that 18th verse was an extremely difficult and most ambiguous verse. It seemed difficult to fit it in to the rest of the chapter, and it was capable of at least four different interpretations. He protested against the argument that a clear and complete code of law could be repealed and annulled by one difficult, doubtful, and ambiguous sentence. Then, the Bill was extremely illogical, and was sure to lead to further consequences. It was illogical to permit marriage with a sister-in-law, and to retain the prohibition of marriage with one further removed—a niece-in-law or an aunt-in-law. As to the view which Christians had taken of this law, it was not too much to say that all Christendom, for the first 15 centuries, was unanimous in its belief that these marriages were forbidden by the law of God. They had proof of this in very early days. Some of the very earliest Canons and Councils forbade them. They possessed the testimony of a very eminent man—St. Basil—theologian though he was, in the 4th century, that it had been held from the first that such marriages were to be forbidden and detested. As soon as the Roman Empire became Christian under Constantine, the laws of the Empire were conformed to those of the Church, and these marriages were strictly prohibited. The Latin Church forbade them from the first. The Greek Church forbade them, and still forbids them, permitting no dispensation. The history of dispensations was that, in mediæval times, the Church had added now restrictions, such as the prohibition of the marriages of cousins, and even of god-father with godchild; so that the burden of such prohibitions became intolerable. Dispensations against these new restraints became inevitable; and, at length, in the 15th century, Alexander VI., the greatest monster that ever sat on the Papal Throne, and, perhaps, on any Throne, gave a dispensation to a Prince to marry his sister-in-law. But it would be said that all this was ancient and superstitious, and that the relaxing of these restrictions came in with Protestantism and the Reformation. No; it was not Protestant. Luther, the special Protestant, who was very lax in his notions of marriage, and even permitted bigamy, he and Melanchthon and other Lutherans opposed and rejected these marriages. So did Calvin and Beza, and all the Calvinist Reformers. So, he need not say, did the Anglican Reformers, to whom they owed the Table of Affinities affixed to their Prayer Book, and hung up in their churches. No; it was not at the time of the Reformation; it was in the 17th century, in the most corrupt age of German morality, that these marriages were first permitted in Germany, and then in other Continental Protestant countries. They had been permitted in Germany, in Holland, in America, and elsewhere. In those countries marriages in almost all degrees of affinity were permitted, and even in some degrees of consanguinity, as between uncle and niece. Those marriages, it had been said, gave great satisfaction in those lands. The noble Duke who moved the rejection of the Bill (the Duke of Marlborough) had shown that that was not true of thoughtful Americans. He (the Bishop of Winchester) had had similar letters and books sent him from America, and knew how much many Americans deplored the state of their Marriage Law. As to Germans, in evidence before the Commission which sat on this subject some 35 years ago, Dr. Pusey said that he had asked a German Doctor of Philosophy about these marriages of affinity and other Marriage Laws in his country, and the answer was—"It makes a German cover his face in his hands for shame." The change now imminent in the law which had governed England for 1,200 years and the Christian Church for 1,800 years was fraught with peril to society and religion, to the Church and to the nation. Noble Lords would, perhaps, say that such an augury now came only from theologians. Then he would refer to one who, not long since, was much honoured in that House, who then occupied the place so worthily filled by the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack. He was a very good man, a very wise man, and he was a very advanced Liberal; and he said that if this Bill for Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister ever became law, the decadence of England was inevitable. Lord Hatherley said that; he wrote it, he printed it, he often repeated it. Surely they ought to pause before making such a change. If once the change was made, it must be remembered that the step would be irrevocable; it could never be retraced. Facilis descensus Averni, sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras, hoc opus, hic labor est. Nay! it was hopeless, it would be impossible. If they once "put out the light," the light of Christian truth, the light of the law of God, they knew not where was that Promethean fire which could its former light relume. He trusted that, even late as it now was, they would refuse a third reading to the Bill.


said, he hoped the House would allow him to say a few words upon the Bill, as he happened to have had charge more than once of a similar Bill. He, therefore, had the advantage of remembering the variety of conflicting arguments used against the measure. Not the least remarkable of that singular conflict of opinion was to be found in the eloquent speech of the noble Duke behind him (the Duke of Argyll) and the speech of the right rev. Prelate who had just addressed the House (the Bishop of Winchester). The noble Duke had taunted them with entertaining feelings of Judaism. He had thrown to the winds the argument from the whole Old Testament, and said he went upon some broader principle of his own.


said, his noble Friend had entirely mistaken his argument.


said, he was at a loss to imagine what his noble Friend could mean when he spoke about Judaism; he was, in fact, far more mystified by his noble Friend's explanation than by his speech. He believed that there were some who now abandoned the arguments derived from Leviticus; but the time was when that was the principal argument brought against the Bill year after year. The right rev. Prelate the late Dr. Wilberforce always argued on that ground with great force and power, and they were now brought back to the same contention by the right rev. Prelate who had last spoken. He (the Earl of Kimberley) wished to know, if these marriages were to be treated, as many people did treat them, as tantamount to incestuous marriages, forbidden upon some general principle of affinity by the Divine law, upon what possible principle they could justify the direct command contained in Leviticus, that under certain circumstances a second brother should marry his deceased brother's widow? If that was a Divine precept, what became of their argument about Leviticus; what became of the doctrine of affinity? If it were not, then what right was there to say that they were bound by the spirit of the doctrine in Leviticus? He thought it was far better that they should abandon that line of argument, which was derogatory to their respect for Divine law. The noble Duke behind him said he had never found anyone who supported this Bill who was not prepared to admit, if they passed the Bill, that they must do away altogether with the prohibition of marriages of affinity. The noble Duke might now say that he had found one, for he (the Earl of Kimberley) had no hesitation in saying that, though he was in favour of the Bill, he did not in the slightest degree admit that, in consequence, his action was to be construed as being in favour of all marriages of affinity. Was he to be told that, because he supported this Bill, he was bound to support the marriage of a man with his stepdaughter? He utterly repudiated any such notion. His noble Friend first elevated the principle of affinity into a Divine doctrine, and then turned round and said—"You all admit my principle of affinity, so you must follow it into every step and entirely enforce it." With that proposition he could not in the least degree concur. He denied the general doctrine, and he denied its application. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Marlborough) taunted the Government, and asserted that they supported this Bill because it was a Nonconformist's Bill. When they were told that there were vast bodies of Nonconformists in the country in favour of the Bill, could they believe that this Bill was one which no Christians and no Christian Church would support? Were the Nonconformist Bodies not entitled to be considered as Christians and as Christian Churches? His noble Friend behind him (the Duke of Argyll) had alluded to the "marriage tie" as a metaphor. But it should be recollected that the "marriage tie" was one from which a man could not unloose himself when once tied by any legal process except divorce. What the noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell) meant was that it was extremely unsafe to make logical deductions from a metaphor; and if it were done, it would inevitably lead to ridiculous results. He therefore hoped that the House would assent to the third reading of the Bill.


said, that having, unfortunately, the unenviable distinction of precedence of old age over almost all his right rev. Brethren, 22 in number, who were present at the second reading of the Bill, he then felt prompted, however disqualified by infirmity, to trespass on their Lordships' patience. He, however, was deterred from doing so; but now, perhaps, he might crave their indulgence for a very short time. The noble Earl who moved the second reading of the Bill (the Earl of Dalhousie) referred with courtesy, but with censure, to the action of the Bishops with regard to this measure. He brought two charges against them. His first complaint was that the Bill was prevented from becoming law a year age by their votes. The second complaint was that some Bishops had stirred up agitation against it in their dioceses. He (the Bishop of Lincoln) did not venture to claim for the Bishops a right to intervene in purely political questions; but he presumed to think that there were other matters even of greater importance than political questions. These were questions of Divine law, which were of the highest concern to a State, because the welfare of a State depended on the Divine blessing, which was promised to obedience to that law. On such questions as these it was the duty of the Bishops to speak; and foremost among such questions were those which concerned marriage. The opinions of the Episcopate on such matters were, he conceived, entitled to respectful consideration. He ventured to claim it, as a merit for the Episcopate, that they had averted, even for a single year, what he feared would prove a great national calamity. To his mind, among the most cheering circumstances of the Division on the second reading of the Bill were these—first, that it was opposed by the highest judicial authorities in the Realm—the noble and learned. Earl on the Woolsack (the Lord Chancellor), whose admirable speeches delivered on former occasions would be fresh in their Lordships' memories, and the noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns), whose magnificent oration, in moving the rejection of this measure, must have excited the admiration of even those who dissented from its conclusion, and that of the noble and learned Lord the Chief Justice of England. And the next subject for congratulation was that at the second reading of the Bill not a single Bishop voted for it, and 22 Bishops were united in voting against it. With regard to the other complaint that bad been made by the noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie), he owned to have felt rather uneasy. The charge was that some Bishops had stirred up agitation in their dioceses against this measure. He confessed to having been a heinous culprit, a flagrant offender, in this respect. At every one of the five triennial visitations of his diocese he had never failed to warn the clergy and laity against this measure as contravening the law of God revealed in Scripture, and interpreted and maintained by the Christian Church for 1,500 years. Why had he done this? Because he had pledged himself solemnly at his consecration to banish and drive away erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word, and because he would not have been true to that pledge unless he had done so. He confessed, also, to having been guilty of delivering an address of warning against the mea- sure at the Lincoln Diocesan Conference, which had, he believed, been widely circulated. He acknowledged, also, to have been guilty of putting forth a special form of prayer in that diocese for the maintenance of the Divine Law of Marriage. If this was to be called factious agitation he must be content to be branded and denounced as a factious and incorrigible agitator, for, with the help of God, he did not intend to desist from such agitation, so that in order that, if this Bill should become law, its bad effects might be neutralized by the moral and religious practice of society, raised above the level of the law. Hitherto the Divine Law of Marriage, which was grounded on Holy Scripture, and maintained by the Christian Church, but which had been unhappily banished by the secular Powers of Germany and America, and some of our Colonies, had found a refuge and asylum in England and a shelter in their Lordships' House; and if their Lordships had conferred no other benefit than that on society and Christendom, they would be entitled to immortal honour and gratitude on that account. Now, however, it was to be feared that England, as represented by their Lordships, would be content to surrender her noble prerogative, and to descend from her high pre-eminence among the nations of Christendom, and to sit down as a learner at the feet of Germany and America, which had made terrible havoc in the Divine Law of Marriage, and were reaping a miserable harvest from their own acts. What would be the result? A double disruption—first, a breach in the Law of Marriage, and no one could say how far that breach might extend; and, secondly, a conflict between the law of the State and the law of God as received by the Church—in other words, a disruption of Church and State. That would affect our other national institutions; its results might be felt even in their Lordships' House, and by the Monarchy itself. For more than a quarter of a century he had given careful attention to this subject, and he was firmly convinced that the Bill was an infraction of the Divine law; and as he was sure that violations of the Divine law were always followed by visitations of Divine punishment, he had felt it to be his duty to raise his voice, in the Divine name, against the Bill.


said, that, consistently with the views he had entertained, and the action he had taken on the subject for the last 40 years, he should support the Bill, as he had always done, mainly on religious grounds; and he should have done so equally had he thought, which he did not, that the balance of argument was with those who believed these marriages to be prohibited by Scripture. It was unquestionable that many pious and learned divines had taken the opposite view, and that such marriages were celebrated with the sanction of the greater number of Christian Churches at the present day. Of course, any person contracting such a marriage, when forbidden by the laws of his country, committed a sin. But the Legislature had no right in such a case thus to make that a sin which need not be a sin, and incurred a fearful responsibility in doing so, when they remembered Whose were the Divine lips that said—"Woe unto them through whom offences," or, more correctly, "creations of stumbling, shall come!"


said, he felt bound in conscience to speak on the subject, and he would not detain their Lordships many minutes. If anyone would look over the whole of the controversy, which had now gone on for many years, and observe the course of the debates in that House, he would feel struck by this fact—that, whatever arguments were adduced in favour of the Bill, never, on any single occasion, had there been any clear statement by its supporters of the principles upon which the restraints on marriage, so far as they were still maintained, were henceforth to rest, and were henceforth to be defended. They could not find on what ground they were to stand. The noble and learned Lord who had lately spoken (Lord Bramwell) urged that they ought not to look to future legislation as following upon the present, but that they should consider whether this thing was right or wrong in itself. But he (the Bishop of Exeter) would warn their Lordships that it must be observed that this Bill went, and from the nature of the case must go, far beyond deciding whether or not this kind of marriage was right in itself; it necessarily touched the principle upon which all marriage relations were based. It was impossible, if they struck down that rule in one par- ticular instance, to maintain the general principles upon which all others had hitherto been defended. And, therefore, it was absolutely necessary to take into account not only the particular things which this Bill would sanction, but how it would affect the general Law of Marriage. In all cases they must take into account not only the direct, but the collateral consequences sure to follow on their legislation. They must look over the whole field, and consider whether, in doing something that was good, they might not do something that was evil, and they must regard all that came out of their legislation. But, in the present ease, as he had said, this Bill took away from them the ground upon which they stood. Though this question had been discussed so long, perhaps their Lordships would allow him to state the principle on which this Marriage Law depended. The principle began with the consecration of the family; the purpose was to defend and guard the household, to consecrate the circle within which there should be the warmest, the strongest, the deepest affection, but not the very slightest touch or breath of passion, within which they should live as the angels in Heaven. It was to be a circle within which they should neither marry nor be given in marriage. That was what had consecrated all those restraints. And then it followed immediately that when one of this consecrated circle married, he brought his wife under the same consecration. She was to come there, and to find in her husband's father and mother a new father and mother, and in her husband's brothers and sisters new brothers and sisters. And she, too, should be consecrated in their eyes, and there should be the deepest and warmest affection between them, which should never be touched by the breath of passion. So, too, when the wife married, she brought her husband within the same consecration. Part of her joy and delight was that she was giving her mother a new son, her brothers and sisters a new brother, to be hallowed and blessed by this consecration proceeding from the Divine law. Here was a principle which they know they could defend, and limits so clear that they found them in the Bible plainly set forth—on the one hand, the doctrine that the husband brought the wife under the shield of this law, clearly stated in the Old Testament—and on the other, by words to which it was impossible to give any other meaning, the words of Our Lord Himself, that whatever might have been the case in the past, thenceforward man and woman, in accordance with the original consecration in regard of this matter of marriage, were to be precisely on the same level. If any man was not content with these two intimations of the Divine purpose, he did not see how it was possible that such a man could use the Bible at all. He did not deny that, 20 years age, if he had been asked for an opinion on this subject, he should have said that though he could not bring himself to approve these marriages, he did not quite clearly see why it was that they were forbidden. But every successive year of study had always wrought the conviction deeper and deeper in his mind what was the Divine purpose in the matter. He felt the force of what had been said by the noble Earl who spoke just now (Earl Fortescue), that they had no right to make that a sin which was not a sin. But it was not only clear to him (the Bishop of Exeter) that the Christian Church was justified by the Bible in forbidding those marriages, but the reason was clear why they were forbidden. They were now asked to break in upon this principle, and to substitute what? Their natural instincts. He was thankful that we had such instincts—they were of the highest value. There was no question that those Marriage Laws would long since have passed away if these instincts were not in the human mind. But it was preposterous to expect that all these instincts should be of equal strength. With regard to marriage between a man and his mother, the instinct was in the fulness of its power — everyone admitted its force. But as they went further and further away from what was the centre of the consecrated domestic circle, it was only natural that these instincts should become weaker and weaker. It was unmistakable that they varied from age to age and from nation to nation. Most of us looked upon marriage between an uncle and niece with exceeding horror; but there were people who did not regard it with horror at all. They had been just told that the marriage of a man with his stepdaughter would be looked upon with very great horror. But there were not a few who would say—"What is the woman to him? She is not of his blood. Why should he not marry her?" They must look elsewhere for the foundation of the law—in the Word of God. It was as clear as anything could be that if they were to have a definition of the line within which those restraints were to operate, it must be the line adopted by the Church from the beginning. That was the only line that they could draw. Now, he did take the very deepest interest in this matter, because he believed that there was nothing in the world which touched upon the purity of family life so closely as legislation of this kind in regard to it. He believed that, sooner or later, it must inevitably follow, if this measure became law, that there would be attacks upon the sanctity of marriage, and that they should be asked to grant facilities of divorce to a far greater degree than were granted now. He noticed, at any rate, that in the countries where such marriages were allowed, those facilities of divorce were also allowed. Whether, indeed, the mischief began at one end or the other did not much matter; but, at ally rate, they might be quite sure that before they passed a law of this sort, they should attempt to lay down the principle on which it was to rest, because the passing of the Bill would not finally settle it, but there would be a series of attacks upon the sanctity of marriage and upon its limitations, and they could not foresee to what lengths all this might go. He was looking, only a little while ago, at a Message of a Governor of one of the States of the American Union to the Legislature of the State. There was a proposition before the Legislature for dealing in a particular manner with the property of divorced persons, and the Governor remarked that already things had come to such a point that marriages were contracted almost with the expectation that they might very soon be dissolved, and his objection to the proposition was that it would make the dissolution of marriages so easy that marriage would cease to be a permanent contract. The sanctity of marriage was preserved and upheld by the sense that the institution itself was something Divine and above human law; that by it men and women were united by a power that had its sanctions on earth, but rested on a higher authority. The greatest caution, therefore, was needed in touching such legislation as this, lest by-and-bye it should be found that the remedy for the evils of which the noble and learned Lord had spoken were dearly purchased by the degradation of religion and morality. In those countries where there had been any relaxation of this kind, they would find that, even if the surface were smooth enough to the eye to enable them to say that morality and decency were the rule, yet the solemn and holy bond of matrimony was not looked upon as it should be, and was no longer what it had been and ought to be. He had always advocated what had been called measures of progress, and he believed in the progress of the people, and that in their progress they would find true elevation; but all depended on its being true progress, consistent with pure morality; and it was the duty of everyone who held that the morality of the people was now in danger to protest with all his strength, as he did, against the passing of this Bill.


My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships for more than a very few minutes from the Division which will now take place; but, having on many former occasions in "another place," and once in this House, expressed my opinion on this subject, and this being possibly the last opportunity which I may ever have of doing so, I cannot reconcile it to my conscience not to add my voice to the voices of protest which have been addressed to your Lordships against this Bill. My noble and learned Friend (Lord Bramwell), with whom I am always sorry to differ, and with whom I am always glad to agree, said that your Lordships were not here on this occasion to construct a Code of Marriage Law. That is perfectly true. We are not asked to construct a Code of Marriage Law, but we are asked to destroy one. The present Code of Marriage Law is, as my right rev. Friend (the Bishop of Exeter) has said, consistent with itself, and rests on an intelligible principle. If you pass this measure, you abandon its principle, and you destroy its consistency. And, my Lords, it is not merely an idle argument as to imaginary dangers and consequences, which those use who try, and try in vain, to bring the advocates of this measure to state what is the principle on which, in their judgment, the law rests, or ought to rest; it is not any mere cavil which leads us to say that we, at least, can find no principle, no resting ground for the sole of our feet, between this measure and the total abolition of all prohibitions in cases of affinity. I have always felt that the social, the moral, and the religious considerations bearing on this question are inseparably connected with each other; and the moment you attempt, for the purpose of facilitating any one single kind of marriage, to sever those considerations, and to deny that religious or moral considerations affect it, to my mind it is an inevitable consequence that you will be unable to maintain them as applicable in other cases, in which other civilized communities have dispensed with other prohibitions which, for the present, you propose to maintain. I will not, however, rely only on my own apprehensions in this case; that they are amply justified will be at once seen by the House when I have read part of an article which appeared in an extremely able, consistent, and advanced journal—The Pall Mall Gazette—on the day after the second reading of the Bill, of which it approves. On June 12, The Pall Mall Gazette said— There is no doubt that a movement is going on all over the world for the relaxation of the strictness of the conjugal tie. Protestant countries have always had a tendency to be later with regard to it than Catholic countries; but no Protestant country in time past has gone such lengths as some States in America now do, and some of our Colonies seem inclined to do. … That there is a critical issue before the civilized world in relation to the sanctity of marriage is very probable. I should not like to have it on my conscience that I had accelerated the progress of that movement in this country. As for the consequences of this kind of legislation in the future, the same journal, a few days later, printed the letter of a clear-sighted and intelligent correspondent, who thus wrote— The only legal preventive to love and barrier to marriage is, or ought to be, consanguinity. No Act of Parliament can make a sister-in-law into a real sister. Consequently, a man has no right to be more intimate during marriage with his wife's sister, than with his wife's cousin, friend, or young lady visitor. Thus it is not only those who oppose the Bill, but those who support it, who foretell the breaking up of these, which to so many in all classes, and to myself among the number, are among the dearest, the most sacred, and most intimate domestic relations. I, for one, am not willing to renounce, or to have taken from me, the right to be more intimate with my wife's sister, than with her cousin, or friend, or lady visitor. Having said this much, which I felt I could not avoid saying, I must necessarily give my vote against the Bill.

On Question (leave being given to The Lord MIDDLETON and The Lord MOSTYN to vote in the House)?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 140; Not-Contents 145: Majority 5.

Wales, H.R.H. the Prince of Yarborough, E.
Zetland, E.
Albany, H.R.H. D.
Beaufort, D. Bolingbroke and St. John, V.
Manchester, D. Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)
Portland, D.
Saint Albans, D. Halifax, V.
Sutherland, D. Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)
Abergavenny, M. Lifford, V.
Ailesbury, M. Powerscourt, V.
Lansdowne, M. Sherbrooke, V.
Northampton, M. Torrington, V.
Ashburnham, E. Abercromby, L.
Bandon, E. Aberdare, L.
Bathurst, E. Abinger, L.
Camperdown, E. Alcester, L.
Cathcart, E. Alington, L.
Cawdor, E. Ampthill, L.
Chichester, E. Auckland, L.
Clarendon, E. Barrogill, L. (E. Caithness.)
Clonmell, E.
Cowper, E. Belper, L.
Derby, E. Blantyre, L.
Ducie, E. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Dufferin, E.
Ellesmere, E. Brabourne, L.
Fitzwilliam, E. Bramwell, L.
Fortescue, E. Braye, L.
Granville, E. Breadalbane, L. (E. Breadalbane.)
Guilford, E.
Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.) Calthorpe L.
Camoys, L.
Kimberley, E. Carlingford, L.
Leven and Melville, E. Carrington, L.
Minto, E. Chesham, L.
Morley, E. Churchill, L.
Northbrook, E. Churston, L.
Onslow, E. Clermont, L.
Orford, E. Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Saint Germans, E.
Sandwich, E. Cloncurry, L.
Strafford, E. Conyers, L.
Strange, E. (D. Athol.) Cottesloe, L.
Suffolk and Berkshire, E. De L'Isle and Dudley, L.
Sydney, E. De Mauley, L.
Wharncliffe, E. Derwent, L.
Dorchester, L. Rodney, L.
Dormer, L. Romilly, L.
Elphinstone, L. Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)
Erskine, L.
Fitzgerald, L. Sandhurst, L.
Greville, L. Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)
Haldon, L.
Hare, L. (E. Listowel.) Skene, L. (E. Fife.)
Harris, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Hastings, L.
Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.) Stanley of Alderley, L.
Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.) Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Hothfield, L. Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Houghton, L. [Teller.]
Howard de Walden, L. Sudeley, L.
Suffield, L.
Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.) Teynham, L.
Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.) Thurlow, L.
Lawrence, L. Tollemache, L.
Leigh, L. Tredegar, L.
Loftus, L. (M. Ely.) Truro, L.
Londesborough, L. Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)
Methuen, L.
Monson, L. Tweedmouth, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L. Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)
Mostyn, L. Walsingham, L.
Ormathwaite, L. Wentworth, L.
Poltimore, L. Westbury, L.
Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.) [Teller.] Wolverton, L.
Reay, L. Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.)
Ribblesdale, L. Wrottesley, L.
Canterbury, L. Archp. Haddington, E.
Selborne, E. (L. Chancellor.) Hardwicke, E.
Harewood, E.
Jersey, E.
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Lanesborough, E.
Lucan, E.
Grafton, D. Macclesfield, E.
Leeds, D. Manvers, E.
Marlborough, D. [Teller.] Mar and Kellie, E.
Milltown, E.
Northumberland, D. Mount Cashell, E.
Richmond, D. Mount Edgcumbe, E.
Somerset, D. Nelson, E.
Poulett, E.
Bath, M. Powis, E.
Bristol, M. Radnor, E.
Exeter, M. Ravensworth, E.
Hertford, M. Redesdale, E.
Salisbury, M. Rosse, E.
Winchester, M. Selkirk, E.
Shaftesbury, E.
Amherst, E. Sondes, E.
Annesley, E. Stanhope, E.
Beauchamp, E. [Teller.] Strathmore and Kinghorn, E.
Brownlow, E.
Cairns, E. Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)
Carnarvon, E.
Coventry, E. Waldegrave, E.
Dartmouth, E.
Denbigh, E. Cranbrook, V.
Devon, E. Eversley, V.
Doncaster, E. (D. Bucclench and Queensberry.) Exmouth, V.
Hardinge, V.
Hawardon, V.
Dundonald, E. Hill, V.
Effingham, E. Melville, V.
Gainsborough, E. Strathallan, V.
Templetown, V. Douglas, L. (E. Home.)
Ellenborough, L.
Bangor, L. Bp. Forbes, L.
Bath and Wells, L. Bp. Forester, L.
Carlisle, L. Bp. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Chichester, L. Bp.
Durham, L. Bp. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Ely, L. Bp. Gerard, L.
Exeter, L. Bp. Hammond, L.
Gloucester and Bristol, L. Bp. Harlech, L.
Lincoln, L. Bp. Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
London, L. Bp. Hawke, L.
Manchester, L. Bp. Heytesbury, L.
Oxford, L. Bp. Keane, L.
Peterborough, L. Bp. Kenlis, L.(M. Headfort.)
Rochester, L. Bp. Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)
St. Albans, L. Bp. Lamington, L.
St. Asaph, L. Bp. Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Winchester, L. Bp.
Lyveden, L,
Amherst, L.(V. Holmesdale.) Massy, L.
Middleton, L.
Balfour of Burleigh, L. Minster, L.(M. Conyngham.)
Beaumont, L.
Bolton, L, Moncreiff, L.
Boston, L. Mowbray, L.
Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.) O'Neill, L.
Oranmore and Browne, L.
Braybrooke, L.
Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.) Penrhyn, L.
Raglan, L.
Carysfort, L. (E Carysfort.) Rayleigh, L.
Ross, L. (E. Glasgow.)
Chaworth, L. (E.Meath.) Rowton, L.
Chelmsford, L. Saltoun, L.
Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.) Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Clinton, L. Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Colchester, L.
Coleridge, L. Trevor, L.
Congleton, L. Wigan, L. (E. Crawford and Balcarres.)
Crewe, L.
De Freyne, L. Windsor, L.
Denman, L. Winmarleigh, L.
De Saumarez, L. Wynford, L.
Digby, L. Zouche of Haryng-worth, L.
Dinevor, L.
Donington, L.

Resolved in the negative; and Bill to be read 3a on this day six months.