§ Viscount Melbourne
presented a petition from the Ministers and other Members of the Presbyteries of Antrim and Mayo to settle the Marriage-law in Ireland. He understood that it was the intention of her Majesty's Ministers to bring in a bill to give relief to the petitioners, and he thought that nothing was more necessary or proper than to apply an immediate remedy.
agreed it was essential that a remedy should be applied as soon as possible, but, at the same time, it was desirable first to ascertain what the law really was, for he might, with all respect for the learned Lords who had given a recent decision, doubt whether marriages by dissenting clergymen in Ireland between members of the Established Church and dissenters were void. If there was no statute to the contrary, the canon law would be in force, which constituted an open avowal of marriage followed by cohabitation, a legal marriage for all purposes. Certain marriages by Roman Catholic clergymen and degraded priests were made void by statute; but he was not aware of any statute which applied to the marriage of a member of the Church of England and a Dissenter by a Presbyterian parson; and he believed that the farmer decision of the Irish judges, under 316 which men, who had contracted such marriages, had been convicted of bigamy, and were now undergoing the punishment of transportation, was more to be respected than the more recent decision.
The Lord Chancellor
, in consequence of the observations of his noble Friend the other evening, had sent to Ireland to learn the precise facts of the case, and the terms of the decision. He had not yet received an answer, but the moment he received the reply, he would take the advice of the law officers of the Crown, and bring in a bill either declaring what the law is, or enacting what it shall be.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
hoped that no time would be unnecessarily lost, for he was afraid that evils were even now arising in consequence of the decision.