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motives to opponents; I am saying only what they have said for themselves wherever it was politic to say it, and I am thinking of cases, not a few, in which it is the brother's widow on whom the widower's heart is set.
I am very anxious that the lovers of a quiet life, for whose happiness I am much concerned, should open their eyes to the prospect before them. They must expect a long series of demands for successive relaxations of a series of prohibitions of which the foundation will have been already destroyed. Resistance to their demands must needs grow weaker year by year, as the want of any valid argument against them is more plainly seen. But what a prospect! Year after year to have the whole question of marriage and of family life dragged into the arena of Parliamentary discussion, with jibe and sneer and vulgar detraction of all sanctions hitherto revered, is surely not an anticipation which any good or wise man can with patience entertain. We stand on the ground of solid principle now; we are entitled at least to ask what principle is to be substituted for it before we sweep it away. To calm lookers-on, indeed, it must be little less than marvellous to observe the way in which the law of marriage, with its far-reaching influences on national life, has been at the mercy of chance majorities any time these last twenty years. Half a dozen young men, hastily summoned from a racecourse to give a vote in harmony with the known wish of some distinguished personage, have been able to influence divisions on which the welfare of every family in England depended. They may have had as little desire to take a part as they have had opportunity of acquainting themselves with the merits of the question at issue ; but the Parliamentary game required their presence, and seemed to place the stakes of victory at their disposal. If any question ever demanded the careful study of skilled jurists and experienced masters of social ethics, it is this question of the Marriage Law. The results of careful study and sound historical knowledge should have been laid before Parliament by men capable of placing the whole question in its true light, with documentary evidence in support of their words. Some such speakers, indeed, have from time to time treated the subject in a worthy manner ; but when one recalls the performances of triflers who have scarcely been at the pains to digest the scraps of information supplied to them—the hurried, ill-balanced debates, and the closure dictated by the approach of the dinner-hour, when the fringe of the question had been scarcely touched--one can but be profoundly thankful that a great disaster has notwithstanding been averted for so many years.
I shall be told that what I have written is beside the point, that no one defends the Bill as logical. It claims to be nothing more than a practical proposal to get rid-with or without reason-of a practical evil, arising from the want of a second bedroom in a poor man's house. Far be it from me to extenuate the evils caused by over-crowded dwellings, or to hinder any honest effort to remedy them : they are grave evils indeed. The remedy, however, would hardly seem to lie in an arrangement by which a widower should be encouraged to marry the female who looks after his children as soon as possible after the poor wife’s death. This is not always, nor indeed often, her sister, as any one acquainted with the habits of the people can testify. At the sudden death of a young wife the natural person to care for the orphans is the kinswoman who loved her best—her own mother; she takes the little ones to her own house, or stays at their home, until some plan can be devised for their care.
Sometimes it is the man's sister in blood, sometimes the sister-in-law, who is the friend in time of need. But in a large proportion of these latter cases, the sister, or sister-in-law, is . out at service, and cannot leave her place without notice, or cannot afford to give it up to discharge a duty in her brother's house, for which he can give her no wages. In other cases the neighboursand their charity at such times is marvellous – take in one or another of the young children until the darkest days are past. The notion that a working-man's family has its store of sisters living unemployed at home in readiness to help a brother-in-law in his bereavement is a fancy picture, which is exhibited in order to divert attention from the fact that it is quite a different class from which the promoters of this Bill are drawn. Not the labourers, but their employers, signed the notorious Norfolk petition, and for reasons altogether different from those which are connected with the experiences of cottages having but a single room. It must be added that the dwelling-house argument proves too much. It would require the banns of marriage with the successor to be put up as soon as the wife's funeral was past. The case, however, is not quite so lamentable in this respect as the advocates of the Bill would have us suppose. To those of us who have often visited poor dwellings it is well known that arrangements which would distress us, if they existed in our own homes, are often quite free from moral suspicion-even in Irish cabins-among those who have been familiar with the occupation of one room by a whole family all their lives. Evils arise, no doubt, from the crowding; but the ruined characters and blasted lives, of which our penitentiaries tell a mournful tale, do not come, for the most part, from one-roomed cottages, but from the contamination of the work-room or of low places of amusement, from domestic service to depraved employers, and the manifold opportunities for corruption which money and leisure supply. Certain it is that neither the Act of 1835, nor the agitation which has since grown up, had anything to do with poor men's cottages or poor men's needs.
I have said that the argument, to which I have just referred, proves too much. As much may be said of every argument which has been urged in favour of the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill. When, for example, the laws of Prussia and other foreign countries are quoted in support of the proposed change, I ask, in reply, whether there is any country in Europe which differs from our own in this respect only, that it allows marriage with a wife's sister. After the change of our Marriage Law which this Bill, if carried, would effect, we should remain, as we now are, alone. Nor is there any such agreement between the various codes of law in force on the Continent as would give us any hope of sheltering ourselves by further changes behind the authority of some general rule. In this only they agree, that they all go beyond the point at which the Marriage Law Reform Association proposes, for the moment, to halt. Then we are told that it is our duty to follow our Colonies in their legislation on this subject. But why on this subject only? On important economical questions we have not yet shown any disposition to adopt Colonial theories or to introduce Colonial practice. In the days when slavery was part of the cherished institutions of more than one British colony, so far from holding ourselves bound to conform the laws of England to that example, we devoted millions of our money to the emancipation of the slaves, and compelled the Colonies, much as they disliked the change, to accept the legislation which set their bondsmen free. It would, indeed, be an evil day for England when we began to take the pattern of our laws from the medley of crude legislation which a score of inexperienced communities had chanced to enact. Nor should it be forgotten that in the countries inhabited by the majority of Her Majesty's subjects polygamy is an integral part of the law.
It is not surprising that Lord Bramwell should treat cursorily what he mentions as the ecclesiastical' objection, or that he somewhat misapprehends its bearing. It is true that most clergymen would think it a grievous wrong to be compelled to solemnise such marriages. Lord Bramwell would give them liberty to refuse. But he fails to see that the Church of England, as a religious society, would be sorely aggrieved if her clergy were even allowed to celebrate in her churches unions which for centuries her courts, her canons, and her Prayer Book have declared to be unlawful. Still the charge in the Marriage Service would remain, bidding the parties to confess any impediment, and solemnly reminding them that " many as are coupled together otherwise than God's Word doth allow are not joined together by God, neither is their matrimony lawful. Still the table of kindred and affinity would be the only answer given by the Church to those who wish to know what persons, how related, are forbidden in Scripture to marry together. Few will contend that what Scripture has been held for centuries to forbid, ceases to be forbidden in Scripture because a narrow Parliamentary majority, created, it may be, by the votes of members who
deny the authority of the Bible, is of that opinion. The Table of Degrees would still be read on the walls of our churches, placed there as the canon directs. Preachers might still expound the law of God as forbidding such unions even in the presence of those who had contracted them, and parish priests might refuse—as the Bishop of Fredericton has bidden his clergy to refuse-Communion to the offenders. In all this the Church of England would not go beyond the Westminster Confession of Faith (which is the law of Presbyterian Scotland), declaring that Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden in the Word; nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man, or consent of parties, so as these persons may live together as man and wife. The man may not marry any of his wife's kindred nearer in blood than he may of his own, nor the woman of her husband's kindred nearer in blood than of her own.
*Very uncharitable language, whoever uses it,' say the advocates of the Bill. "Two thoroughly well-conducted persons'- so Lord Bramwell describes all pairs of attached brothers and sisters-in-lawought not to be treated with disrespect. The feeling, which he has more than once expressed, of sympathy with an agreeable and affectionate young couple, of like age and condition in life, apparently formed for each other's happiness, appeals to a universal sentiment. Astrologically they would petition, under his guidance, against the law which forbids their nuptials :
Utrumque nostrum incredibili modo
Consentit astrum : and, so pleading, they would enlist—as they have enlisted—in their favour many a friend to whom fathers and councils, theology and law, are equally unknown. But, then, it must be remembered that the same engaging portrait may be painted with a variety of kinsfolk for the sitters; it does not apply to sisters-in-law and brothers alone. While I write, a case comes to me, in which a man has gone through the form of marriage with his half-brother's daughter, in spite of serious, but ineffectual, remonstrance, less than three months after his wife's decease. Reports of incestuous unions in contradiction to almost every probibition in the Table of Degrees reach me from time to time--sometimes condemned by the better feeling of the community, sometimes, alas! condoned or defended, when personal popularity or a long purse blinds the neighbours to the grossness of the sin. For all these unions—so far at least as relations by affinity are concerned—the offenders will have the authority of statute law to plead if ever this unhappy Bill should pass. They will all have a claim on the sympathy wbich is now lavished on a single case.
I have admitted that there is a natural sympathy with young persons deeply attached to one another, who are prevented from marrying. But here again, when we try to translate the feeling VOL. XX.-No. 117.
into solid reason, we find that the argument proves too much. «The course of true love never did run smooth'; and infinitely various are the obstacles to marriage which youthful affections must be content to endure. The very man who has been declaiming against the table of prohibited degrees, will go home and threaten to turn his son or daughter out of doors if an imprudent courtship is not immediately broken off. And this parental sternness may have its justification too. A thoughtless young couple may be saved from lifelong trouble by the unwelcome intervention of wiser and more experienced counsellors. Or, on the other hand, that intervention may nip in the bud affections which might have blossomed into happy married life. Either way, however, it is part of the condition of things in which we live that young persons' madly in love, as the phrase is, must often be disappointed; it is not only widowers in love with their wives' sisters who have to bear their fate. If it is cruel to debar from marriage those who are sincerely in love, the Court of Chancery has more wanton cruelty to repent of than all the defenders of the Christian law of marriage. Has it never occurred to Lord Bramwell to turn a glance of pity on the sorrows of its wards? The maintenance of the Levitical prohibitions has at least the general good for its object; the hard-hearted guardian has nothing better than the preservation or augmentation of an estate in view. After all, the happiness of the community and the purity of social life must outweigh the particular grievances of which disappointed lovers naturally complain. So it is in many another case familiar to us all. It is a hardship, for instance, to our Jewish fellow-subjects to lose their trade on the Lord's Day when they have already kept their own Sabbath on the day before. But we could not preserve our national Sunday from the invasion of secular business if we made an exception in their favour; and, for the general advantage, they must bear the loss. We may pity the lovers whose sad case Lord Bramwell deplores; but they have really no right to the special aureole with which he would invest them.
The question is often asked, “May I not marry my sister-inlaw?' The real question is, whether I may still have a sisterin-law' at all. If the law which forbids us to marry is abolished, in what does the relation of sister between us consist? Thenceforward she is no more to her sister's husband than
other female friend. He must be content to see her welcomed by his wife with tenderest affection, caressed by his children with devoted love, but she is nothing to bim ; sister, either in law or in feeling, she cannot be. His wife's sister, his children's aunt, their best-loved kinswoman, is to be but an acquaintance to him. A sharp line of division is drawn through the midst of the family ; the father, with his group of kinsfolk; the mother, with her's— two sets of kindred in one home. It will be hard, no doubt, for