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of some small sum, such as 75. 6d.,* should be legally demanded on the completion of the civil ceremony. The clergy, proper ministers, and Registrar should be entitled to retain 4s. out of this as a reimbursement for time and expenses, if the parties are married before the clergyman, minister, or Registrar, who granted the certificate of notice. If the parties are married by some other clergyman, minister, or Registrar, he should be entitled to demand a fee of 2s. 6d. ; this would act as a kind of penalty for marrying out of their parish or district. The balance of 3s. 6d. is to be accounted for to the Registrar-General by the clergyman, minister, or Registrar issuing the certificate. When a religious ceremony is added, no fees are to be taken by the celebrant. We think that, while the RegistrarGeneral and his subordinates are now paid out of the Consolidated Fund for all their work, the fees arising from the number of marriages, some 200,000 pe annum, would go a long way to pay for and support the extra machinery and labour necessary to carry out our plan.
The Superintendent Registrar would, as now, keep his office for the carrying on of his duties; but the incumbent of a parish, or other authorised minister of religion, would have to set apart some room, perhaps his vestry would be the best, for carrying on his new duties. The nature of the room should be described outside. Here parties applying for a certificate would come; and in it must they first be civilly married. In this room should be kept the books of record, in which are to be inscribed the application for the certificate, with all necessary information for the notice, and any objections that may be made against the issue of such certificate. All churches, chapels, and meeting-houses,
This may be divided as follows:25. 6d. for entering the notice; 5s. on the grant of the certificate. The fees of paupers might be provided for out of the rates, or a reduced fee taken, or the fee altogether remitted; but we should advise that such remission should only be temporary, and always a debt due from the persons in whose favour it was made.
for the ministers of which it may be desired to obtain the power and privilege of solemnizing marriages, ought to be properly certified by the Registrar-General for that purpose.
By this means, those who wished altogether to do without a religious ceremony, could resort, as now, to the Registrar, and be married before him. Those who were minded to be married as well according to the rites and ceremonies of their own denominations, would not be forced to go out of their own fold to contract their union, and be spared the irritation and unpleasantness of going to such a purely secular officer as the Registrar; but would have recourse to their spiritual pastor, and so be never out of his direction; but before him civilly as well as spiritually would they declare their consent to become man and wife. Those who minister in holy things, while checked by their responsibility to the State, would yet be able to preach and enforce chastity and morality, and preserve their influence over the solemn and holy act of matrimony unimpaired.
The more important preliminaries which we should recommend to be enforced before the grant of the certificate of marriage are the following. It must, however, be borne in mind that this is only a very short and rough sketch of what ought really to be done.
The Registrar, clergyman, or minister should be able to satisfy himself that the party applying for a certificate has resided for at least the four preceding weeks in his parish or district, or attended his chapel, or meeting-house. It is the shortness of the period of residence, and the difficulty, nay almost impossibility, in some portions of the United Kingdom of ascertaining whether there has really been any residence in that place in which the parties say they have dwelt, that encourage frauds, falsehoods, and secret and improvident unions.
They should also be empowered to ask for answers on oath to questions such as these : (i.) If either party is a widow or widower, when the former husband or wife died ?
(ii.) Whether either party is in any and what manner related to the other party, or to any former husband or wife, of the other party ? (iii.) When the residence of the party giving the notice in the parish or district where it is given first began; and, if within six months before the date of the notice, what was previously his for her) usual place of residence ? (iv.) If either party is a minor, alleging consent of a parent or guardian, what is the place of residence and address of such parent or guardian ? (v.) If both parties do not give notice to the same clergyman, minister, or Registrar, to whom, and at what place, is the notice of the other party given ?
The answers to all or some of these questions (as the case may be) should be incorporated in the notice, and entered in the notice book, which must be open to inspection at all reasonable times.
As there is no reason why persons intending to marry should be married at any particular place, but there is good ground for those interested in the projected match having every opportunity of knowing what is going on, and preventing what they might consider a harmful and improvi. dent marriage, there ought to be established in England, Scotland, and Ireland, a central office, called the “ Marriage Notice Office." In it every intended marriage must be recorded for a certain time, which cannot become a valid marriage until a certificate that the notice has been filed the proper length of time, and no opposition to the marriage has been made, issues from this office to the proper officer who has originally filed it.
When a clergyman, minister, or Registrar has entered a notice for a certificate, he should at once transmit to the
central” office a true copy of it, which should at once be entered in the books of the “ central ” office, and there remain for a period of not less than fifteen days; on the expiry of which a certificate, to the effect that the notice has been filed the proper number of days, and that no
opposition has been communicated at the “central” office to the intended marriage, should be sent back to the clergyman, minister, or Registrar who communicated it. When any notice shall have forbidden" written against it, whether in the “central” or “branch" office, all proceedings depending upon it should at once become null and void. The fact of its being recorded against the notice at one office should be immediately transmitted to the other.
On the following day after the receipt of this certificate from the “central" office at the“ branch" office, the parties may apply for it, and be married then and there in such “branch ” office, at any convenient hour of the day, with open doors, and in the presence of at least two witnesses, besides the officiating minister or officer. A duplicate copy of the certificate of marriage should be given to the parties and the other retained by the officiating clergyman, minister, or Registrar, and filed; and a quarterly return of such certificates should be made by them to the RegistrarGeneral.
The parties when about to be married must produce to the officiating clergyman, &c., the certificate countersigned by the clergyman, &c., to whom application was first made for it, that the notice has been filed the proper period, without any objection appearing on it; and this certificate should only be valid for three months from the date of its grant.
At some part of the civil ceremony, the parties must declare in the presence of the proper persons, “I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, A. B., may not be joined in matrimony to C. D.;" and shall say to each other, “I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, A. B., do take thee, C. D., to be my lawful wedded wife [or husband).” Those who wish now to add the religious ceremony can repair to their church or meeting-house, and be there married according to the forms of their communion or society ; but before the religious ceremony is performed the parties must produce their cer
tificate from the clergyman, &c., that they have been civilly married. The clergy of the Established Church, or the ministers of other denominations, shall not be bound to keep an official record of such marriages.
Under this system there need not be any such publicity as would offend the most sensitive, and considerably less than under the publication of banns, for which there would no longer be any reason, or under the Registrar's certificate. The presence of the marriage Registrar at the different marriage ceremonies would now be dispensed with. There would be no need for the suspension of the application for the certificate either in the " central ” or “branch" office. An inquiry and search by the interested parties, who would know where to look, in the books of either of the offices, would be sufficient to inform them as to what they wished to know, and enable them, if they thought proper, to prevent the intended marriage.
In cases of urgent need it should be permitted to the heads of the clergy, and the chiefs of the different denominational bodies, and the Superintendent Registrar of districts to dispense, for good cause shown, with some of the preliminaries in cases where they might advantageously be omitted. As clergymen are now, so they in the future, and all those who minister in holy things, may safely be trusted to perform this duty of a witness to marriage in strict integrity and uprightness: nay, their bias, if any, would be to strictness in seeing that fraud and secrecy were defeated. If they felt disposed to forget their duty, the sense of responsibility, and liability to a heavy fine, would deter them from carrying out such intentions.
We have now laid before the reader some of the material facts which in the space allotted to us we are enabled to marshall in support of the contention that our marriage laws should be codified, and in the place of the numberless methods of contracting valid marriages, one uniform legal method should be adopted, which, owing to circumstances,