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Speech and Prorogation.

H0 USE of Lords, June 3.—

The Marquis of Lansdown rose to move the second reading of the unitarian marriage bill. He reminded their lordships, that last year he had the honour to propose to them a bill to the same effect as the present, which had this session been brought up from the commons. That bill had been thrown out on the second reading; but now a bill for the same object had not only been agreed to by the other house of parliament, but had passed that house without a division on any of its stages. The present bill differed in some respects from that which he had introduced last session. Much pains had been taken to improve it. Ministers of the established church had given their advice, and lent their assistance in framing it. He did not state this fact with the view of thereby obtaining any improper influence over the minds of their lordships, but to induce

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those who were disposed to object to it to consider the subject well before they opposed a measure which came before them under such a sanction, and which was fortified by the approbation of the house of commons. The bill related to a grievance not very difficult of remedy, but not the less felt by those whom it affected. The object of the measure was to remove the difficulties which stood in the way of the performance of the marriage ceremony with regard to certain individuals. That ceremony should be open to persons of all opinions; but from the manner in which it had been hi. therto treated, it would appear that giving the means of marriage was regarded as a boon. Eve individual, however, whatever his opinions might be, was entitled to have all obstacles removed which tended to prevent him from celebrating, in what he considered the most solemn manner, that H h ceremony ceremony which formed the most sacred of all ties. Every unnecessary restriction and regulation which affected particular classes of persons in regard to such an object as marriage, ought surely to be done way without delay; and on this subject it was their lordships' duty to give every relief which was consistent with the safety of the state. Only those regulations which 'appeared to be called for by necessity ought to be maintained. The different regulations adopted in this and other countries resolved themselves into two kinds—namely, civil and religious. With regard to the former, in as far as related to matters of police, the object of the bill was to maintain every civil right. The persons for whose benefit it was introduced were ready to submit to any civil regulation on the subject of marriage which their lordships might think fit to impose. The religious part of the question, their lordships would perceive, was totally distinct from the civil; and all that the bill proposed to do, was to provide against the depreciation of the sacred ceremony of marriage by regulations to which unitarians could not conscientiously submit. To make the legality of so solemn a tie as marriage depend upon declaring what the parties did not believe to be truth, was to invite them to do that which their lordships, who were sensible of the sacredness of the obligation entered into, must regard as highly improper. According to the former bill, the marriage ceremony was to be celebrated by the clergy of the established church. That mode had, however, been thought ob

jectionable, and it was therefore provided by the present bill that the ceremony should be carried into effect by the unitarian ministers in their own congregations. When it was considered that the ceremony of marriage was intended for the benefit of the whole community, it would be proper to perform it, as far as possible, in the same manner for all classes; but as conscientious scruples about performing the ceremony to unitarians were known to exist in the minds of many ministers of the church, this mode had been abandoned. In the same way some of the ministers of the established church had objected to registering the marriages of persons who were united by a ceremony inconsistent with the princiciples of the church; and to obviate this difficulty, the unitarians also took upon themselves the trouble of registering their own marriages. In fact, the bill professed to do, and did nothing more than afford relief from regulations inconsistent with the conscientious scruples of individuals. None of their lordships would say that the opinions of the persons whom the bill proposed to relieve were not tolerated by law; and being so, the law ought to protect them, and faciliate to them the means of duly forming the most sacred of all the relations of society. It would, perhaps, be asked, why the persons for whose benefit the bill was framed were so scrupulous ! Some, he was aware, might make a compromise with conscience, and be able to satisfy themselves of the propriety of every opinion that was consistent with their temporal interests: but their lordships surely

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surely would not encourage a species of reasoning which led to a disregard of the truth of the most solemn declarations. Their lordships ought not to discountenance or despise scruples which were opposed to a practice inconsistent with morality and religion. Persons ought not to be forced to enter the temple of God with equivocation on their tongues, nor made to subscribe to what they did not believe to be true. Wherever sincere and conscientious scruples existed, they ought to be met halfway. On these grounds, he proposed to their lordships the second reading of this bill. The Archbishop of Canterbury had voted for the bill of last session, and intended to give his support to the present, because its tendency was equally to relieve unitarians and ministers of the established church. The scruples of the unitarians he believed to be sincere; but he was chiefly anxious to remove, by this bill or some other, the difficulties in which ministers of the church were involved by unitarian marriages, The bill, he thought, might be amended; and for that purpose he would propose some clauses in the committee. By this or some other measure, he wished to do away with that unhallowed equivocation which, sanctioned by law, now took place at the altar. The Bishop of Bath and Wells, having stated his sentiments at some length upon this subject when it was before the house last year, would trouble their lordships with very few observations upon it at present. He felt himself bound, however, to state as briefly as possible the reasons which impelled him to oppose this bill. His

objection lay to the principle of the measure. He did not see on what grounds marriage, according to the church of England, was to be considered a grievance to the unitarians. First, what were they called upon to subscribe’ Merely the parties' names. He admitted, however, that they were obliged to make a declaration “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” but these very words were used in their own printed form of prayer. The words used by the unitarians in their ceremony of baptism were these– “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” They therefore could not justly object to their own form of prayer, He also admitted that the clergyman who performed the ceremony of marriage gave to the parties benediction, by praying to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, to bless them, Now, if they did not think that they were the better for this, surely they could not feel themselves the worse for it. He defended the ministers of the church of England from the charge of equivocation in the performance of this ceremony for the unitarians. There was no ground whatever for such a charge, for the word equivocation implied saying one thing and meaning another, for the purpose of deception. Now there was no deception here, because the minister knew beforehand the opinions of the unitarian, and the unitarian knew those of the minister, so that neither party was deceiving or deceived. He therefore repelled with indignation the charge brought against the ministers of the church; they were neither guilty of equivocation nor pious fraud. He denied H H 2 that

that the unitarians had any just grounds for saying that their consciences were violated. Occasions were continually occurring when points of doctrine laid down by ministers of the church were disapproved of by some individuals, who said that they would not again go to church' to hear them; but that was no reason why the church of England should not lay down the pure doctrines of christianity. If the minister of the gospel did not propound the true principles of faith in Christ Jesus, how else was the gainsayer to be converted? He contended that if this privilege were ceded to the unitarians, it must also be granted to every other sect and community, howevererroneous their opinions might be. The doctrine of the unitarians gave them no right to be looked upon as a favoured sect; yet this concession would be calculated to give a spread to the opinions of that sect; although by denying the divinity of Christ, they laid the axe to the root of the tree of christianity itself. For these reasons he moved, as an amendment, that the bill be read a second time that day three months. The Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry considered the opinions of the unitarians as utterly destitute of any foundation; and grossly erroneous as they were, he must believe them to affect their conduct; but still he looked upon their present complaint as founded on fair grounds, and he conceived the bill entitled to their lordships' support, as being calculated to deliver the church of England from the scandalous profanation of a compromise at the altar. He was a general friend to toleration; although he did not wish to give any

encouragement to those sectaries; but he did not conceive that the present bill would operate as any encouragement to them. His lordship concluded by supporting the original motion. The Lord Chancellor would be very glad if any noble lord would inform him what he meant by the word “unitarian:” for if a unitarian were a person who denied the divinity of Christ, their lordships, before they could pass this bill, must first pass an act rendering it lawful for him so to do. His lordship then referred to the act of William to show that the denial of the divinity of our Saviour was declared to be a heinous crime, which subjected the party guilty of it to severe punishment. The act of toleration did not repeal the law as it had stood before ; it only excepted the parties in some cases from the consequences of those crimes which were crimes at common law before the passing of that act. No man who should propose to repeal that law, could feel as an Englishman or a christian: but if it was a crime at common law to deny the divinity of Christ, their lordships must begin with repealing the common law, and not with an act of parliament in the teeth of it. The Jews and the quakers had marriage ceremonies of their own, and he should not be sorry to see a bill introduced, declaring their marriages to be valid; for although they were excepted in Lord Hardwicke's act, yet in a case which had lately come before him, con: siderable doubts had been raised as to the validity of the quakers' marriages. He considered the doctrines of the unitarians as calculated to work an essential mischief in this country, and he called upon the house not to sanction that which the judges of Westminster-hall must deny in judgment. The Earl of Liverpool felt great pain in differing from his noble and learned friend on the woolsack, particularly on such a question as this ; but, entertaining a strong opinion upon the subject, he should not be discharging his duty if he did not state the grounds of that opinion. His noble and learned friend had stated at some length the principles of the common law as respected this subject, and said, that notwithstanding the act of toleration, the common law was still in force. But the noble and learned lord, towards the conclusion of his speech, furnished an argument against himself; for what did he admit : An understanding that jews and quakers might lawfully marry according to the rights of their own communions; for they were excepted in Lord Hardwicke's act. Now, could any man assert that the doctrines of the unitarians were more at variance with the principles of christianity than those of the jews were ? The unitarians denied the divinity of Christ; but the jews denied the truth of christianity altogether—they blasphemed and crucified him whom we adored. The same argument would apply to mahometans and various other persuasions, if the members of them were sufficiently numerous in this country. But how did the law stand at present? In some cases, marriage according to the rites of the church of England was not necessary even amongst members of the church of England itself: for they might go to France

and be married by a Roman-catholic, or to Scotland and be married by a presbyterian, and in both cases the marriage was good and binding. He believed that if, in a country where a priest could not be had, a marriage was performed by a civil person, that marriage was also valid by law; and the reason was, that every possible facility might be given to marriage, in order to prevent immorality. He would now advert to the ground of expediency. The strongest argument which he had heard against the bill, was that which had been urged by a right reverend prelate, who said, if the concession were to be made to the unitarians, why not extend it to every other sect ' The answer was, because it was impracticable. When a bill had been brought in for that purpose by a noble lord, he (Lord Liverpool) voted for it; but he afterwards stated, that he could not give it his support in the committee, having been convinced, by the speech of a noble friend of his, that it would be impossible to frame a general act to meet the object in view. They had an example for the present measure in the case of the quakers. He thought, that where there was a sincere and conscientious objection entertained, it ought to be respected. A jew could not, a quaker could not, a unitarian could not, submit to have the ceremony performed by the church of England; or, if he could, it was only by casting a slur on that church; for their lordships constantly saw in the papers statements of protests which must have filled them with disgust. The church had a right, and it was her duty, to compel marriage according to her

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