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MARRIAGE OF DECEASED WIFE'S SISTER. The Bill which seeks to make marriage with a de- ceased wife's sister legal, was read a second time on Wednesday. In our brief notice of the measure, on Thursday, we urged the advisability of passing the Bill, and we gladly supplement the remarks then made by a full report of the speech delivered on the occasion by Mr. Henry Richard, in the belief that it will prove in- teresting to the public at large, and to his constituents in particular. The hon. gentleman said :-1 have listened with great attention and interest to three de- bates on this subject since I have had the honour of a seat in this House, and my impression is that therh is scarcely any question brought before us in respect to which justice, and reason, and the interests of morality are so entirely on the one side; while.on the other side it seems to me there is little but prejudice and sen- timent, no doubt very sincerely entertained, and therefore entitled to every respect. This is not the place to deal with the theological or religious aspects of the case. We cannot here enter upon dis- cussions as to the meaning and force of Hebrew words and nice points of scriptural exegesis. I will, therefore, make only this one remark on that part of the question, that while I am aware, of course, that there is a differ- ence of opinion as to the interpretation of the Levitical law, as, unhappily, there is in reference to almost every passage within the coveis of the Bible, around which any controversy has raged, my conviction is, after a careful study of the subject, that there is an enormous preponderance of evidence, both as respects argument and authority in favour of those who maintain that these marriages are not prohibited by the Divine law but that, on the contrary, they are, by clear implica- tion and inference, allowed (hear, hear). The hon. member for West Kent has attempted to found an argu- ment on this expression, They twain shall be one flesh." But that is so obviously a mere figure of speech, and any attempt to apply in its literalness, would lead to such gross absurdities, that I can hardly think the hon. gentleman could have been serious when he brought it forward. Mr. TALBOT said it was the Bishop of Peterborough's argument, not his. Mr. RICHARD But the hon. gentleman, I suppose, adopted the Bishop's argument, otherwise he would not have submitted it to the house. But if the divine law does not prohibit these marriages, what right have we to import the prohibition into English law ? (hear, hear.) But what are the other auguments em- ployed by hon. gentlemen who oppose the Bill of my hon. and learned friend? Well, really they oan hardly be called arguments, for they consist of a large array of those wild, vague, extravagant prophecies and appre- hensions of the consequences that are to follow from a change of the law, in which hon. gentlemen opposite are accustomed to indulge in resisting every proposed reform, whether in Church or State, (hear, hear). We are told that it will be in- jurious to our social and domestic morality, and pictures are drawn of what is likely to take place in our family life, which are certainly not complimentary to the honour of Englishmen or the purity of English women. But who are the parties likely to have the deepest interest in, and to feel the most anxious solici- tude for the social and domestic morality of the people of this country ? Are they not the religious bodies who have, as it were, special charge of the morals of the people ? But are they opposed to this change in the law which we advocate ? Nothing of the kind (hear, hear). There is no doubt a section of the clergy of the Church of England who are opposed to it. But there is another large section, not lesh entitled to re spect, who are strongly in favour of it (hear, hear). And there is no body of Nonconformists in England who have not protested against the law as it stands, some by resolutions passed or petitions presented to this House, and others in a manner if possible still more significant, by refusing to pass any ecclesiastical censure or disap- proval on those who transgress the law (cheers). I say, further that this law has not the support of public opinion, the best proof of which is that those who vio- late it are not regarded as having committed an immoral act, and do not lose their place in society. I listened as I always listen with interest to the hon. member for the University of Cambridge. It is impos- sible not to admire the gallant spirit with which he always rushes into the front, to oppose every reform that is proposed in this House, especially on subjects that have any canonical or ecclesiastical tone about them (cheers and laughter). If I may be forgiven a pun, I should say that he deserves to be called the for- lorn" Hope" of Ecclesiastical Toryism (laughter). But to-day he has done manifest injustice to the statement of the hon. member for Hull, as to that remarkable testimony given by women in favour of this Bill. He said that it was a political meeting called to pat the number on the back, and to endorse whatever he said. But the hon. member for Hull distinctly pre- faced his remarks by saying that the meeting in ques- tion was not a political meeting. I will not trespass furfher on the attention of the House. Believing as I do, that the prohibition we are anxious to remove has no warrant in any law of nature or of God, that it is not sustained by the opinion of the best and most reli- gious portion of the people of this country, that it inflicts cruel hardship upon a large and most honour- able and worthy people, and especially that it is pro- ductive of great misery and social evil to the lower classes of the community, I shall on this occasion, as I have on former occasions, without hesitation and with the utmost confidence give my vote in favour of the second reading of this Bill (cheers).



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