« EelmineJätka »
If any one paffage can be produced from this Effay, containing a fummary of the Author's thoughts of the marriage-act, the following may be accepted as fuch:
And now let us confider, candidly and impartially, what good, or what hurt, this law against clandeftine marriages has done it effectually deftroys all contracts made fince the enforcement of the law: it punishes a clergyman for folemnizing marriage in an irregular manner, but it does not punifh the perfon principally offending at all; and experience has fhewn, that it doth not prevent clandeftine marriages; for where the principal offender is not punished, there will always be a way to elude the law.
'On the other fide, let us fee what hurt this law has done. It interrupts the worship of Almighty God, by ordering the banns to be published in an improper part of the fervice; it weakens the force of contracts; not but that it may be allowed, where one of the parties is under age, a contract may be fet afide, if it has gone no farther than a contract, because that perfon is not fui juris; but where the contract has actually been confummated, and the marriage celebrated, the cafe is very different: It must be owned that perfons under the age of one and twenty, may be fenfible of the obligations of an oath, and able to confummate a marriage, and then the reverence that is due to an oath, and the divine ordinance of marriage, fhould make the tie indiffoluble; the effentials are performed, and a want of form and ceremony cannot difannul it: if in any thing a child ought to have its own choice, it is in an engagement which is to continue for life, and on which its happiness fo manifeftly depends. Let what reftraints the law thinks proper be laid upon the difpofal of the fortune of the injured party; but let not an oath, and a divine ordinance be fuperfeded for the want of form.'
The Reader, in the course of these Effays, will find the writer to be a notable cafuift; what follows will prove him no enemy to penal laws, even of the moft fevere kind, by which crimes and punishments may be multiplied, fo as to render the whole buman race culpable.
By the law of Mofes, if a man seduced a woman, it was in her father's power, either to force him to marry her, or give her fuch a dower, as he would have done, if he had married her; but this was at a time when polygamy and divorces were allowed, which are not now. And it may very juftly be queftioned, whether a father has, or ought to have power to difannul a marriage actually confummated, though it may be very right to put the life of the feducer, when he is legally convicted, into the father's power, and leave him to determine whether he should live or die.'
Not to infift on the incongruity of punishing the contractors in a contract, which is at the fame time efteemed too facred to be annulled; is it fafe or reasonable to veft an incensed parent with fuch a power as is here pointed out, when the Writer admits, p. 40. quoted above, that If in any thing a child ought to have its own choice, it is in an engagement which is to continue for life, and on which its happiness fo manifeftly depends.'
While a child lives under the tutorage of a parent, it continues accountable for all its actions; but the moment a matrimonial engagement is entered into, whether difcreetly or not, the child becomes a principal; and who shall prefume to interfere authoritatively between the man and his wife? If parents claim wifdom fuperior to their children, their right to the attribu.e will be manifefted by their subsequent conduct toward them.
It may not be foreign from the subject to analyse this atrocious crime, which is thought to require legal feverities to fupprefs it.
What are the motives to a clandeftine marriage? Certainly that one person of little or no property may mend his or her circumftances by an advantageous connection, and that the other may marry the person of their choice: and this latter motive is as likely to actuate both, as in any other marriage; it being feldom that intereft does not influence one party or the other, even among those of maturer years. When the bargain is ftruck by the parents on both fides, inclination indeed may be totally out of the question, and the principals left to take each other, literally, for better or worse.
What is the injury done by fuch a marriage? This is a complex queftion, and the reply to it ought to include two confiderations, firft, what private injury is done, and next, what injury is fuftained by the public.
Refpecting the parties connected, by an unequal match, we do not fuppofe that fuch indifcretions are wholly, and in all cafes, juftifiable; but it is not fair arguing to conclude, that fuch imprudences whenever they take place, are neceffarily productive of infelicity: for the inferior party, though low in ftation, ⚫ and deficient in polite education, is not therefore inferior in the virtues of the mind. Even our Effayift may be fubponed as evidence here, who says, p. 22. If one of the parties is of vulgar extraction, their blood may be untainted with difeafe, and may be of more benefit to the health of their offspring, than the contaminated with difeafe, though noble blood, of the other: if ignorant of the forms and ceremonies ufual among the polite world, that knowledge may foon be acquired, by a little acquaintance with it.'--This is a conceffion not to be overlooked, confidering whence it comes: but to proceed :
The qualities of the mind may indeed have fuffered for want of the gifts of fortune; but when these are fupplied, the mind will unfold and expand itself; and, conformably to this known and experienced truth, as well as to the foregoing conceffion of our Ellayift, fentiments, though debased and vitiated by poverty of fituation, may be refined and elevated by the perfon's advancement. • May!'-fays an advocate for the marriage-act, that is a poor chance to trust to in fo important a concern; what if this may not happen? The obvious reply is, that all married perfons must abide by the choice they have made, and that marriages, the refult of mature and fyftematic prudence, are by no means diftinguished by the future happinefs or profperity of the parties, even in the most exalted stations. Parental authority may be willing to infer this, but experience will not confirm it.
The injury done to families, is the next private confideration. There is a family on each fide, affected by an unequal marriage. The rich or noble family is affronted by the ignoble connection: the avaricious or aggrandizing fchemes of a parent, already dead to the tender fympathies of youth, are broken; the malevolent qualities of the mind which remain, awake and exert themselves under the disappointment, in making the young couple feel the determined refentment of cold-blooded age: and because the views of pride or avarice are fruftrated, the young people, unless affection and good fenfe prevail, are to be configned to ruin in reality. But who is in fault, where fuch unnatural determinations are fuffered to ftop the effufions of paternal tenderness ?
The family, on the other fide, reaps a proportionable share of comfort and fatisfaction at the happy event; and, if things take their natural course, which we muft fuppofe all along, the younger branches of it will receive fome affiftance in their advances and establishment in life, and the elder, fome alleviation of their neceffities: that is, fuppofing as great an inequality to take place, as can well happen, which feldom occurs to fuch an extreme. Here then is the total eftimate in a private view; the young couple please themselves, one family is hurt in opinion, the other is benefited in eflentials: the refult is obvi.us.
The next enquiry is, How unequal marriages affect the pub
Where parents form avaricious fchemes, they tend to the accumulation of enormous property in the hands of few individuals; and fach very unequal diftributions of the public stock of wealth, is pregnant with the greatest evils fociety can experience. As often as the paffions of the young operate in connecting those who are poffeff d of great property, with those who have little or none, fo often do they tend to reduce overgrown
eftates, to render the diftribution of property more general, and to raise up useful and induftrious members of the community.
After a difcuffion of this nature, the expediency of a law to prevent unequal marriages, may be inveftigated with propriety : when it will appear, whether education, common fenfe, and parental influence, are not the most reasonable fecurities againft youthful indifcretions; and whether legal remedies are not more grievous than the diforders they are defigned to prevent. We now proceed to the fecond of the Effays.
The guilt and danger of contracting debts might be clearly difplayed in a fmall compafs; but the fubject is here rendered intricate and confufed, by too laborious an elucidation, and wire-drawing it into a number of fubtile distinctions.
The Effay on a prifon is divided into two parts. The first contains many loofe hints for the better fecurity of creditors; but it may admit of a queftion, whether it would not be more political, and it would certainly be more humane, to restrain exceffive credit by increafing the hazards of it, rather than to enlarge and ftrengthen the power of creditors over the unfortu nate this would operate alike to check folly and knavery. The fecond part of this Effay offers fome obvious and good hints, for the better regulation of prifons; but they appear in a very defultory and unconnected manner. As a fpecimen of the Author's abrupt tranfitions, we may inftance the concluding paragraph of this Effay.
A good furgeon and careful nurfes fhould be provided for the fick. If the county allowance will not be fufficient for these purposes, fuppofe a double tax fhould be paid at all turnpikes by thofe that travel on the Lord's day: indeed it is much to be wifhed, that all travelling upon that day was forbidden, except in cafes of abfolute neceffity. But this age will not admit of fo strict a regulation. Men do not attend to the wisdom and benevolence of this divine inftitution; which is defigned as a day of refreshment to the poor, of inftruction to the ignorant, and of recollection to all.'
As to the appointment of chaplains to all jails, which is recommended, it may be obferved, that fuch appointment would not be the most defirable fpecies of ecclefiaftical preferment, and that therefore none but men the leaft proper for fuch cures, would perhaps be found to undertake them. But if the due performance of religious duties in thefe places, could be fettled upon a plan of rotation among the neighbouring clergy, the odium would be thus taken away, the charge of course be accepted with lefs reluctance, and be more carefully executed.
The Effay on the dearnefs of provifions contains nothing new on the fubject, but comprehends a digreffion on the balance of power
power in England, and the balance of power in Europe and concludes with a propofal for inclofing land in every parish, for the endowment of charity-fchools, and the augmentation of poor church-livings.
A free Addrefs to Proteftant Diffenters, as fuch. By a Diffenter, Price 1 s. 6d. Pearch, 1769.
HE Author of this fenfible and spirited performance defires to lie concealed, but, if we mistake not, he is already pretty well known in the world by feveral publications. Should a reafon be required for witholding his name, he [in his preface] frankly acknowledges, that it was not because he was apprehenfive of making himself obnoxious to the members of the church of England. If they underftand him right, they will perceive that his intentions towards them are far from being unfriendly; and if they understand him wrong, and put an unfair and uncandid conftruction upon what he has written, he trufts that with a good meaning, and a good caufe, he will never be over-awed by the fear of any thing that men may think of him or do to him. Neither was it because he was apprehenfive of giving offence, either to the minifters, or to the people among the diffenters, because he has fpoken with equal freedom to both; but, in reality, because he was unwilling to leffen the weight of his obfervations and advice, by any reflec tions that might be made on the perfon from whom they come. An anonymous Author is like the abstract idea of a man, which may be conceived to be as perfect as the imagination of the reader can make it.
This Writer confiders the diffenting intereft first in a religious view, and then as it refpects civil policy. With regard to the former, he thinks it of the utmost importance, even to the cause of christianity in general, as the only means of freeing it from thofe corruptions which have been introduced, and with which all the establishments in Europe are more or lefs attended. With regard to the latter, he confiders the diffenting caufe as moft favourable to it, fince, fays he, fo long as men continue diffenters, it is hardly poffible they fhould be other than friends to the civil liberty, and all the effential interests of their fellow-citizens.' His remarks upon each of these topics, together with the judicious and feasonable admonitions contained in the following chapters to minifters and people, are well worthy of an attentive perufal; efpecially by thofe to whom they are immediately addreffed but we will lay an extract or two before our readers, to give them fome view of the Author's fentiments and manner.