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his late wife, and the like.” And other admissions of the same kind have from time to time been made by equally credible witnesses. The cost of the licence, however, which varies from two to three pounds, is probably enough to protect it from much abuse that it might otherwise be exposed to. It may also perhaps be hoped that among the more harmless seekers after secret marriage there are many who would hesitate to gain their end by means of a false oath, even though they might be able to take that oath without fear of punishment. It is likely that clandestine marriages effected by means of this licence are mostly clandestine for the worst reasons.
It has already been shown how largely that ancient preface to matrimony, the publication of banns, is resorted to in this country. The 127,762 weddings mentioned as having taken place by this process in 1875 represent more than five-eightbs of the entire number solemnized in England and Wales, the total for the year being 201,212. That the majority should choose this cheap means of getting married-and cheaper probably it often is than any other—is not strange. Nor does the timehonoured practice fail to recommend itself on higher grounds. When man and maid love one another and wish to marry, it would seem in every way becoming that, in the face of the Christian congregation or congregations to which they belong, their intention should be openly announced, and any objection which might be urged against its fulfilment openly invited. If the publication be an interruption to divine service, it may well be held to be a reverential interruption—the bringing of social interests into church for consecration and blessing. But the inquiry whether banns are inherently worthy of approval is apart from the question whether the law of banns in England is adapted to the present state of society. We fear it must be owned that this law is in an unsatisfactory state, and that banns as at present published afford indeed a “railroad to clandestine matrimony."* The testimony of all
a who have had experience in the matter is here in full agreement. The weak points of the system are these :
When notice for banns is taken, it is not indispensable that either of the parties proposing to marry should give that notice personally. Nor is it necessary that they should have lived for any fixed time in the parish or parishes where publication is about to take place. No affidavit or declaration can be demanded from them as to their majority, as to the fact that consent has been obtained if either of them be a minor, or as to the existence of lawful impediment to their union. Their names, their dwellings, and the length of their residence therein having been given, the clergyman can without further questioning publish the banns of marriage. He may, indeed, if he please, delay publication for seven days, and use the delay for purposes of inquiry. But this is permissive only,
The Present Law of Banns a Railroad to Clandestine Matrimony is the title of a book by the late Rev. S. C. Wilks, Rector of Nursling, Hants. Hatchards, 1864.
not obligatory upon him. In populous parishes it is moreover extremely difficult for him to investigate the cases of those who may have taken up a nominal residence on purpose to have banns published. And this is what is often done. If a man wish to make improper use of the existing law his course is clear. He goes from his home to a neighbouring large town where he is unknown. There he takes a lodging, depositing perhaps something in the way of luggage as a token of occupation, but fulfilling no actual residence. Inquiries are made ; these are promptly met by the keeper of the lodging. The banns are published ; as a matter of course are not forbidden; and the marriage takes place. In this way foolish, improvident, and ill-assorted matches are constantly contracted by minors; and still worse alliances are of course possible, and no doubt are often effected, by the same means.
What remedy, it may be asked, can be applied to these evils? Need banns be altogether abolished? Abolition would, doubtless, have its advantages. But probably any attempt to do away with the usage at present would be as fruitless as that of the dogs in the fable, which tried to drink
up the river that they might reach the hide at the bottom of it, and which naturally enough burst in the effort. There is too copious a current of feeling in favour of banns to be easily disposed of. The late Bishop of Winchester, without counselling abolition, advised that each parish clergyman should, under certain restrictions, be empowered to issue marriage licences to his own parishioners, holding that this system would in course of time supplant that of banns. The recommendations of the Marriage Laws Commission were that the publication of banns should not be prohibited or interfered with when desired; but that it should not in any case be required by law as a condition of the lawfulness or regularity of marriage. A writer on this subject, to whom we have already referred—the Rev. S. C. Wilks-has urged that the change needed relates only to the mode of giving notice for publication. He holds that the particulars then demanded should be more explicit and comprehensive than they now are; that they should be subscribed to by both parties to the projected marriage; and that the subscription, attested by the clergyman or church officer, should be in the form of a legal declaration involving the declarant, should he make it in a wilfully false manner, in the penalties of perjury—such a declaration, in fact, essentially as we shall presently see to be necessary in cases of notice of marriage given to the civil officer.
The remaining authorities for matrimony in England are of but late origin. They date from the year 1837, when Lord Russell's Marriage Act came into operation. Fundamentally civil rather than ecclesiastical, they may, as we shall show, be prefatory either to civil forms conjoined with religious rites, or to purely secular marriage. They consist of the certificate and licence of the Superintendent Registrar, an officer baving jurisdiction over a registration district usually co-extensive with some VOL XXXV.NO. 208.
poor-law union. There are 632 such districts and SuperintendentRegistrars in England and Wales.
Of the two documents with which we are now concerned the certificate possesses the wider applicability. It authorises marriage in those churches or chapels of the Church of England where matrimony may be solemnized after banns; in registered buildings-that is, in Roman Catholic and Dissenting chapels legally registered for marriages, of which, after deducting cancellations, the number upon the register at the present time is somewhat under 8,000; in district register offices; and in synagogues and other places, according to the usages of the Jews and Quakers. The power of this matrimonial warrant, however, is now limited by an important counter provision. No church or chapel of the Church of England, and no registered place of worship, can be used for marriage on its authority without the consent of the clergyman, priest, or other person or persons having the chief control over the building. The right of veto is seldom directly exercised. The clergy, indeed, have not unfrequently caused it to be understood that they could not consent to marry couples in their churches at the bidding of a lay permit: but their views of the matter now seem to be undergoing a change. Occasionally, perhaps, a zealous Dissenting minister thinks an intended marriage unseemly, and refuses his chapel for its solemnization. Assuredly no Roman Catholic priest would allow the certificate to be acted on within his jurisdiction in any case where banns had not previously been published according to the requirements of his church-unless, indeed, a special dispensation had been granted by his bishop. But this is well known among Roman Catholics, who are accordingly careful to comply with the ecclesiastical preliminaries together with the civil.
The Superintendent Registrar's licence is inapplicable as a warrant for marriage to take place in any church of the Church of England. But it avails with respect to all other places wherein the certificate authorises matrimony, being subject, however, to the same proviso that restricts the potency of the last-named document. It is comparatively seldom resorted to by Roman Catholics, except in cases where time is an object, when the licence may be applied for, as furnishing a shorter road to marriage than the certificate; but in such instances an episcopal dispensation for the publication of banns must be obtained at the same time, or the civil authority for the wedding will not be recognised by the priest.
Both the certificate and licence of the Superintendent-Registrar are his acknowledgments that publication of an intended marriage has been effected according to law. Hence before either can be issued notice of marriage must have been duly given to him. The conditions as to giving notice are strict and uniform. Let us suppose the case of an intended wedding by certificate. The lovers we will assume live in the same Superintendent-Registrar's district. One of them-it is immaterial which-must apply personally to the Superintendent-Registrar, or to another registration officer, in order that the notice may be attested. We
may imagine the man performing this duty, though we are sorry to say that among the lower classes it is too often ungallantly left to be discharged by the woman. The applicant will in the first place be asked if his intended wife and he have dwelt for seven days in the district. We suppose him able to answer affirmatively. He will then further be questioned as to whether he and his proposed spouse are of full age; if not, whether the minor or minors have the parental or other necessary consent to marry, and—in certain circumstances—whether that consent can be produced in writing or signified personally; also whether there is any legal impediment to the contemplated union by reason of consanguinity, affinity, or previous marriage. His replies to these queries we assume to be satisfactory. He is now given to understand that he will have solemnly to declare the truth of that which he has affirmed, and that if he declare falsely he will render himself liable to the penalties of perjury. He has no reason, we will conclude, to quail at this announcement. The particulars required for entry in the notice now have to be given. Where the humbler ranks of life are concerned—and they it is who mostly are concerned here—the difficulty of getting a correct statement of these particulars would scarcely be believed. It is only too likely that our applicant will be unable either to spell his sweetheart's surname, or to say whether she have one, two, or three Christian names. She is called Lizzie Smart or Annie Gentle; that will probably be the extent of his knowledge. If he be Irish, he will be no less in the dark with respect to his own patronymic. The registration officer presses him to say how it is spelt. His answer is—and here our case is not imaginary
“How can such a scholar as yer honour put such a question to the like of me?” In the end Patrick most likely trudges off to consult “His Riverence” Father Rafferty, who of course may or may not have included family nomenclature among his studies, but whose decision as to the orthography of Patrick's surname is nevertheless accepted with cheerful and unhesitating faith. If Patrick's affianced be a widow, a new difficulty is likely to present itself, for that sprightly Keltic dame is nearly sure to have abandoned the family denomination of her defunct husband, and to have resumed the surname of her maidenhood. She has probably not disclosed the former to her second lover, and would greatly object to be married, as she says, “in the name of a dead man." This reticence and this superstition have to be overcome, and the truth to be ascertained. We imagine these and other kindred difficulties at length surmounted. The notice having been filled up, is signed and attested. It is then copied into a folio volume kept at the district Register Office for public inspection, and is itself exhibited in that office during twentyone clear days afterwards. If in the course of this time no objection to the marriage be made by certain persons empowered to forbid it-in the event of whose prohibition signified in due form all proceedings upon the notice will be void; and if, further, no caveat be legally entered against the issue of the certificate-in case of which entry the issue must be
suspended until the caveat be either withdrawn or shown to have been entered on frivolous grounds; if neither obstacle present itself, the certificate may issue on the twenty-second day after the day of entry, that is, on the 23rd of the month, if the notice were entered on the 1st, and the marriage may forthwith take place. When the intended husband and wife live in different districts, a notice of marriage must be given to, and a certificate issued by, the Superintendent-Registrar of each district; but under certain conditions both notices can be given by the same person. The place for the solemnization of the marriage will usually be within the district or one of the districts of residence; although there are special circumstances in which it may be beyond these limits.
When a marriage is proposed to take place by Superintendent-Registrar's licence, the length of abode which must have been fulfilled prior to the giving of notice, in the district where notice is given, amounts to fifteen days. That term of residence, however, needs to have been accomplished by only one of the parties to the intended marriage ; and this rule holds good whether at the time of giving notice they live in the same district or not. In the latter case the only special limitations are that notice must be given to the Superintendent-Registrar of that district in which the fifteen days' residence has been fulfilled, and that the licence must be subsequently granted by the same officer. The declaration necessary when notice of marriage by licence is given is identical with that required for a certificate marriage; the penalties incurred by making it falsely are similar. The notice, too, has to be entered in the noticebook, but the document itself is not displayed to the vulgar gaze. When one clear day after the day of entry has elapsed the licence for marriage may be granted, i.e., the notice having been entered on the 1st of the month, the licence may be granted on the 3rd, supposing that in the interval no valid objection to the marriage in either of the forms above mentioned has been advanced. The mode of marriage by the Superintendent Registrar's licence, therefore, is a far more privileged mode than that of marriage by his certificate. It is easier, more speedy, and more private. But it is also much more expensive. The cost of a licence marriage altogether is 21. 148. 6d.; that of a marriage by certificate may amount to no more than seven shillings, and reaches nine, only when the parties live in different districts.
But without going further into the details of these provisions, let us look at the civil system broadly with the object of learning its probable relation to the question of clandestine marriage. Objectors exclaim at the outset that publication of intended matrimony is often imperfectly effected at the Register Office, which may or may not be a place of much public resort. It ought to be conceded to such critics that nothing more than potential publicity is aimed at. Be the Register Office where it may, the public can demand admittance to it at all reasonable hours for the purpose of examining the notices and the notice-book.
This being secured, it is doubtful whether good would result from attempting more.