(Two views of marriage by 18th century painter William Hogarth)
From Fleet Street to Gretna Green: The Reform of "Clandestine Marriage" under Lord Chancellor Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1753.

A Paper By  Jennifer M. Payne
Submitted to the Southwestern Social Science Association Conference, Dallas, Texas, March 24, 1995

    In 1749, London was scandalized by the publication of the memoirs of the notorious courtesan Con Phillips. While the moralists were shocked by her detailed descriptions of liaisons with such famed Englishmen as Lord Chesterfield, several legalists were outraged at the way Con Phillips had used the system of clandestine marriage to contract four bigamous marriages in order to obtain protection from her creditors.(1) Her exposure of the ease with which clandestine marriages could be obtained publicized the long acknowledged corruption of the "Fleet Street" marriage markets. Phillip's memoirs, along with a series of pamphlets on the bigamous marriage case of Cresswell vs Cresswell(2) published the following year by Court Chaplain Henry Gally, spurred several legalists, notably Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, to address these abuses through Parliamentary action. While Hardwicke was mainly interested in reforming and streamlining English marriage law, his parliamentary opponents interpreted his proposals as an attempt by the aristocracy to further restrict the rise of the gentry within English society.(3) The ensuing debate both within and without Whitehall resulted in the polarization of public opinion and near riot.

    Clandestine marriages were legally binding unions in which the couple had not completely followed the rules set by canon law. The Anglican Church required that the prospective union be announced by either the posting of banns for three weeks before the intended ceremony or the issuance of a marriage license. The ceremony itself had to take place within the parish of one of the candidates between the hours of 8 am and noon and abide by the service listed in the Book of Common Prayer.(4) Clandestine marriages were often performed by clergymen who did not have an official position, in parishes other than those of the couple, or in such diverse locales as taverns, prisons, or even brothels.(5) So long as the couple freely consented to the marriage, the service was read out of the Book of Common Prayer, and there were no legal impediments such as consanguinity, the union was considered valid and was recognized by both the Church and the state.(6) However, because these ceremonies were very difficult to regulate, a shady subculture surrounded clandestine marriages causing objection from the Church and the legal establishment.

    Though clandestine marriages were common throughout England, London's "Fleet marriages" most blatantly flouted the law. Clergymen incarcerated for debt were allowed to earn their living within the "Rules of the Fleet," an area of several blocks surrounding the Fleet Street Prison.(7) Legalists were most concerned with the fraudulent record keeping rampant among the Fleet marriage houses. In addition to the many other services, the proprietors would insert false names into the register, backdate a ceremony to conceal a pregnancy, or provide witnesses when testimony needed to be taken.(8) The result was that clandestine marriages were hard to prove and difficult to contest in court.

    Because of the small price, the privacy it afforded to a couple, and the quick nature of the process, clandestine "Fleet Street" marriages were very popular. Indeed, the marriage trade became so lucrative that a 1755 survey estimated that every second or third house within the vicinity of the Fleet Prison was used for this purpose. During the 1730's and 40's, several prominent houses each married between two and three thousand couples a year.(9)

    While they transformed a religious ceremony into a commercial enterprise, Fleet marriages per se were not entirely condemned because they promoted lawful unions among the lower classes, kept the illegitimacy rates down, and lightened parish relief burdens.(10) However, what was allowed for the lower classes was frowned upon by the elites in their own families. The aristocracy feared that their children would elope with unsuitable mates thus placing fortunes and family names in jeopardy. They perceived clandestine marriage as a crime "against both property and patriarchy" because the family lost control over dynastic decisions.(11) Daniel Defoe succinctly voiced their opposition, "...a Gentleman might have the satisfaction of hanging a Thief that stole an old Horse from him, but could have no Justice against a rogue for stealing his Daughter."(12) With the Anglican Church unable to prevent clandestine marriages, the aristocrats turned to the law.(13) Lord Chancellor Hardwicke was fully prepared to respond to their concern.

    If his numerous biographers are to be believed, Lord Chancellor Hardwicke was no egalitarian. His career of several decades as he served in the capacity of Attorney General, Chief Justice, and Lord Chancellor, "was marked by a contempt for the rabble, severity in handling rioters and rebels,...and for the liberty of the press." (14) He blamed the "degeneracy of human nature" for what was perceived to be an increasing depravity of the common people and legislated with this contempt in mind.(15) Imperious and aristocratic, Hardwicke handed down law so successfully that, according to Lord Campbell's 1849 history of the Lord Chancellors, only three of his decrees were ever appealed against and none were ever reversed.(16) Hardwicke was well aware of the abuses of clandestine marriages for he had heard several cases involving these secret ceremonies. As early as 1741, Hardwicke had voiced his intention to reform the laws pertaining to clandestine marriages: "These are mischiefs that want the correction of the legislature as much as any case whatsoever, and I believe it will very shortly come under consideration of Parliament."(17)

    By mid-century, Parliament was divided into factions whose rivalries were deepened because of political patronism among the MPs and their leaders. Lord Chancellor Hardwicke had strong political alliances with the powerful Duke of Newcastle and Newcastle's brother, Henry Pelham, who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer.(18) Though the Hardwicke/Newcastle/Pelham faction had friends within the Commons, most of their assured influence was within the House of Lords for they had the support of the legalists and the bishops. In the Commons, cabinet rivalries between this faction in power and Henry Fox, Minister of War sometimes carried over to Parliament. This proved especially true during the debates over the Clandestine Marriage Bill.

    Hardwicke's bill addressed the worst abuses of the clandestine marriage system. It proposed to void any marriage which was not enacted publicly by a clergyman in a church or chapel during the hours proscribed by canon law.(19) In order to appease the aristocracy, individuals under the age of twenty-one needed parental consent to marry.(20) All verbal or written contract marriages were rendered null and void as were any marriages not recorded in a parish register with the signatures of both the bride and groom and at least two witnesses. Furthermore, the bill reinforced a seventeenth century ordinance which required that a copy of each register be sent annually to the bishop for safekeeping.(21) Hardwick's proposal quickly received the approval of a majority of peers and bishops within the House of Lords following its presentation in January 1753.(22)

    When the bill reached the Commons in May, 1753, it was summarily denounced by a group of MPs on a variety of grounds.(23) M.P. Charles Townshend did not believe that such a drastic measure was necessary for he maintained that the majority of clandestine marriages, in and of themselves, were not detrimental to society, "only those...called scandalous and infamous [are]...a public evil...But how rarely do such infamous marriages happen, especially with respect to those that are under age?"(24) Townshend pointed out that most of the problems addressed by the bill would be resolved simply by a reform of the records keeping. A stricter and more centralized regulation of marriage registers, he asserted, would achieve the same end as the excessive proposals in the bill.(25)

    Irish magnate Robert Nugent objected to the bill because it undermined the contract of marriage, the "most religious and sacred engagement amongst mortals." He predicted that forced separations and divorces would result if "the legislative authority could declare null and void a marriage vow."(26) Expounding the necessity of marrying upon short notice in order to keep the illigitimacy rates down, Nugent warned that the bill would restrict the rights of all Englishmen. However, Nugent's strongest objection stemmed from his belief that the bill was an attempt by the aristocracy to excluded commoners from their ranks:

Nugent's thought reflected a growing fear that the elites were garnering political power through arranged marriages. Though these arguments would be taken up later, no one spoke in Nugent's favor at the bill's introduction.(28) When the vote was taken, the measure was approved 116 to 55 and was sent to committee.

    Despite an almost two to one majority, Hansard's Parliamentary History reported that the bill was the subject of "many long debates" over six days, with one debate lasting until three in the morning.(29) According to Horace Walpole, it was during these sessions that Henry Fox, "the real enemy [of the proposal] came forth, who neither spared the bill nor the author of it."(30) His vindictive attacks against Hardwicke incurred the wrath of the chancellor's son and Fox was obliged later to apologize publicly.(31) He opposed the bill on the basis that it gave "unheard of power, in the first resort to parents and guardians"(32) and that it would enable the nobility to marry only among themselves to the exclusion of everyone else and thus control the political destiny of England.

    In order to protect the intent of "respectable" eloping couples, during these sessions, Fox successfully added a loophole in which, if a couple gave a false statement of place of residence on a marriage license, their union was not rendered void. This "Lord Holland Clause" allowed the "upper middling sort" a modicum of privacy for it was they who most took advantage of marriage by license.(33) Other minor amendments included the changing of the date of effect from January 1 to March 25, "Lady Day," and a clause advocating the protection of priests from ecclesiastical censure for marrying underage candidates.(34)

    The general public soon became embroiled into this controversy. The argument against the aristocracy, used by Fox, Nugent, and Townshend, found credence with the populace. The popular Gentleman's Magazine kept up with the debate by printing letters from readers both favoring and opposing the bill.(35) Opinion was not expressed on paper alone for according to one source, during the three weeks in which the bill was debated in the Commons, "there was fear of general riot...[for] the mobs...followed Henry Fox to and fro between his residence and the House of Commons, cheering him madly...[whereas] Lord Hardwicke could not leave his mansion without facing a mob of angry men and women whose groans and curses followed his coach."(36)

    Upon its emergence from committee, Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Bill was hotly contested before the third and final reading in the Commons on June 4, 1753.(37) With the vocal support of many of the urban lower classes, Henry Fox continued to embellish his stance that the bill would force young people into marriages of convenience according to the dictates of their parents thus excluding new blood (and new money) into the higher orders of English society. In arguing against the delay caused by mandatory posting of banns, Fox gave lurid images of young rogues leaving their intendeds at the altar "after having prevailed upon the incredulous wench to admit him to her bed in view of the future marriage."(38) Finally, Fox questioned the authority of the state to undermine unions recognized by the church: "...if the marriage be a good and a valid marriage both by the divine and the moral law, I do not think it is in our power to declare it void, because of some of those ceremonies were not observed which we had thought fit to prescribe."(39) Although the debate was dominated by this florid speech, and was concluded with entreaties by William Beckford in favor of sailors who wished to marry on shore leave, the opposition convinced no one to change their stance. When the issue was put to a vote, the bill passed 125 to 56.

    On June 6, the upper house considered the bill in its final form as amended by the Commons. For its return to the House of Lords, the bill was retitled, "An Act for the better preventing of Clandestine Marriages." Only one peer, the Duke of Bedford, spoke against the measure claiming that he "had all along opposed the bill before it was sent down to the other house."(40) He accused Hardwicke of having "crammed down and forced through two houses" the marriage bill. The Lord Chancellor "expressed surprise" at the duke's complaint for the bill had "lain five weeks before the Commons...and was last introduced, not by a single lord, but by the whole house."(41) Hardwicke must have ultimately overcome Bedford's opposition or else the duke declined to cast a ballot for when the issue was voted upon, Hardwicke's Marriage Act (26 George II, c. 33) passed without any division in June 1753.

    While the church was pleased with the measure and many clergy were looking forward to a boom in the marriage business, this act was the first major attempt at the secularization of marriage by the civil authorities. Hardwicke simply used the church as an established base for the registration system required by the act rather than a moralizing force behind the bill.(42) The church, which kept track of vital statistics anyway, already had in place a system for records keeping and through the bishops and dioceses, had a centralized network.

    Because the 1753 Marriage Act did not take effect until Lady Day (March 25) of 1754, the marriage shops within the Fleet experienced an unprecedented boom. The Gentleman's Magazine reported that on March 24th, in one chapel alone, "before 11o'clock 45 couple [sic] were married..., and when they ceas'd, near 100 pair had been join'd together; two men being constantly and closely employed in filling up licenses for that purpose."(43) Yet even the strictures of the act did not put a complete stop to clandestine marriages as people found loopholes in other ways around the law. One clergyman, who worked at the Savoy Chapel, claimed legal immunity because it was under the patronage of the king. Although he successfully performed over 1,190 marriages in 1755 after the act came into effect in the following year he and another clergyman were tried and convicted for conducting clandestine marriages. The two were sentenced to fourteen years transportation to America.(44)

Hardwicke's marriage act put a definite halt to the Fleet trade, but it did not end clandestine marriages. Couples only had to cross the border to evade the law because the Marriage Act did not include Scotland. Though the English Parliament tried to induce the Scots to pass a similar law in 1755 to prevent such occurrences, the bill was dropped after the first reading because the Scots feared that it would interfere with their religious autonomy. Border towns such as the famous Gretna Green became the destination for eloping couples. Indeed, some of the disenfranchised "marriage brokers" from the Fleet simply took their business northward. One enterprising parson is said to have paid his debts and "advertised his removal to Gretna Green" soon after the Marriage Act was passed.(45) The poor who could not afford to travel to Scotland simply went to crowded urban parishes and asked that the banns be announced. However the majority of Englishmen followed the precepts of Hardwicke's Marriage Act by getting married through the proper channels.

In his analysis of the clandestine marriage controversy, Lawrence Stone concluded that though the act contained some loopholes such as Scotland, most of the fears expressed by the opposition within parliament proved to be specious. Despite the warnings of Fox, Nugent, and Townshend, "there had been no striking concentration of wealth in the aristocracy, nor any gigantic explosion (so far as we can tell) of fornication and concubinage."(46) The opposition still clinged to their belief for in both 1765 and 1781, the Duke of Bedford and Henry Fox introduced bills which would have eradicated the parental veto clause thus granting relative marital freedom to couples. Neither bill received enough support to pass into law.(47) Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act remained the prime legal statement on clandestine marriages and the marriage law until the legal reforms instigated by Lord Brogham in the 1840s and 1850s.

1. Lawrence Stone, Uncertain Unions: Marriage in England, 1660-1753 (London: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 236-274.

2. An heiress, Miss Warneford had married Cresswell in good faith and had born him several children but another woman, a Miss Scrope sued on the grounds of bigamy claiming a prior Fleet marriage. Scrope sucessfull, the Cresswell-Warneford marriage was declared null and void and the children were bastardized. However, another search through the Fleet records revealed a third marriage that antedated the others thus Cresswells last two marriages were bigamous. (Lawrence Stone, The Road to Divorce: England, 1530-1987 [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990], p. 119.)

3. English Common Law, by the eighteenth century, represented over a thousand years of legal custom and precedent. Though the interpretation and application of Common Law was always changing, legal historian Theodore Plucknett, in his legal history of England, maintains that in the eighteenth century, English Common Law took on a "distinctly modern character" because of the social and economic changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution. (Theodore F. T. Plucknett, A Concise History of Common Law [Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1956], p. 68.) Indeed, the eighteenth century witnessed the fruition of legal reforms in several areas, including the laws pertaining to marriage and family, that precluded the great legal reforms of the nineteenth century. Similarly to several of the later marriage, divorce, and property law reforms, the 1753 Marriage Act ( 26 George II, c.33) began within the House of Lords. From within the upper house, the Law Lords addressed the reform of archaic, obsolete, or overly complicated aspects of the Common Law in regard to matrimony by appealing to the legal sensibilities of the House of Commons.

4. Roger Lee Brown, "The Rise and Fall of the Fleet Marriages," in Marriage and Society: Studies in the Social History of Marriage (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1981), p. 118.

5. Lawrence Stone, The Road to Divorce: England, 1530-1987 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 96.

6. Brown, "Rise and Fall of the Fleet Marriages," p. 118.

7. According to Lawrence Stone, because these men were already in prison, they could not be suspended again from the performance of their clerical duties. Thus, they were virtually immune from punishment. (Stone, Road to Divorce, p. 111.)

8. Stone, Road to Divorce, p. 112.

9. Brown, "Rise and Fall of Fleet Marriages," p. 127, 123.

10. Christopher Lasch believes that clandestine marriage became popular among the poor because by the middle of the eighteenth century, betrothal had lost its "binding character" through the disruption of village life, the growth of mobile laborers, and the increased amount of casual sexual activity. Within the city, quick, cheap marriages allowed couples to marry quietly in cases where illegitimate births would have otherwise resulted. (Christopher Lasch, "The Suppression Clandestine Marriage in England: The Marriage Act of 1753," Salmagundi 26 [Spring 1974]: 107.)

11. Gillis, For Better, For Worse, p. 140.

12. Daniel Defoe, Conjugal Lewdness; or, Matrimonial Whoredom. A treatise concerning the use and abuse of the matrimonial bed, 1727, quoted in Lasch, "The Suppression of Clandestine Marriage in England," p. 97.

13. Under the Tudors and the early Stuarts, some attempts at controlling clandestine marriages had succeeded, but these advancements were wiped out by Cromwell. With their re-emergence after 1660, the nobility made new inroads into the curtailment of clandestine marriages. On several occasions throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the House of Lords had tried to pass laws restricting clandestine marriages and thus stave off such dynastic calamities. As early as 1677, a bill, was introduced which would have punished minors who married without parental consent by forcing them to forfeit their inheritance. Furthermore, any officiant who falsified the marriage license or performed a clandestine ceremony was to be punished by death. Neither the Lords nor the Bishops, however, were willing to concede the power to control property or allow non-ecclesiastical courts to condemn to death a member of the clergy. This bill and later ones like it had difficulty passing through the legislative process for the House of Commons consistently sided with "the freedom to protect under-age heiresses to choose their own husbands--preferably themselves--despite the cost in corruption, fraud, bigamy, doubtful marriages, and children of uncertain legitimacy." (Stone, Road to Divorce, p. 108.) Subsequent bills in 1685, 1689, 1691, 1695, 1711, and 1735 had begun successfully in the Lords but had failed in the Commons. (Martin Ingram, "Spousals Litigation in the English Ecclesiastical Courts, c. 1350-1640," in Marriage and Society: Studies in the Social History of Marriage [New York: St. Martin's Press, 1981], p. 41. ) Thus, though clandestine marriages remained legal, there was a growing opposition within the landed classes.

14. E.P. Thompson, Whigs and Hunters: The Origins of the Black Act (London: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1975), p. 208.

15. Douglas Hay, et al., Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth Century England (London: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1975), p. 20.

Hardwicke seems to have been the quintessential party-patronage politician. Stephen Parker in his study of marriage law reform characterized Lord Chancellor Hardwicke as the "new breed of ruler...[who] through bribery and patronage skillfully acquired both a fortune and a reputation for probity." (Stephen Parker, Informal Marriage, Cohabitation and the Law, 1750-1989 [London: The MacMillan Press, 1990], p. 39.) Indeed, Hardwicke could be ruthless in his methods. According to Lawrence Stone, in order to mastermind his marriage bill through both houses of Parliament, Hardwicke used "rhetoric, logic, cajolery, behind-the scenes threats, deals, and lobbying...when all else failed, he made it clear that any opponent of the bill would be punished by being excluded from the lord chancellor's extensive patronage." (Stone, Road to Divorce, p. 122-23.)

16. Lord John Campbell, The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of England: From the Earliest Times Till the Reign of King George IV (London: John Murray, 1849), p. 50.

17. P.C. Hardwicke, Life and Correspondence of Philip Yorke, Earl of Hardwicke vol. II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1913), p. 447, quoted in Brown, "The Rise and Fall of the Fleet Marriages," p. 135.

18. P.M. Henry Pelham had filled the leadership vacuum left by Robert Walpole at the outbreak of the continental wars in 1739. Throughout the late 1730's and 40's, both the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Chancellor Hardwicke dominated the House of Lords. (John W. Wilkes, A Whig in Power: The Political Career of Henry Pelham [Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1964], p. 12.) These men coalesced into a triumvirate opposed by other factions. Political alliances and conflicts from the decade before influenced the relationships between these men and the cabinet. All of the ministers had used the Hannoverian predilection of father-son enmity to form opposing coalitions around the monarch and the heir. Thus the government often had at least two sets of interests to comply with.

Early in this career, Harwicke had allied himself with the powerful Duke of Newcastle. In the 1720's Hardwick sat in the Commons as an MP for Lewes (Thomas Turner's district) and was always returned at Newcastle's expense. Throughout his career, Hardwick remained loyal to Newcastle to the extent that Walpole grudgingly allowed, "the best thing that can be remembered of the chancellor is his fidelity to his patron; for, let the Duke of Newcastle betray whom he would, the Chancellor always stuck to him in his perfidy, and was only not false to the falsest of mankind." (Campbell, The Lives of the Lord Chancellors, p.29)

Though Robert Walpole and Henry Pelham had parted on civil, even friendly terms, Walpole's diarist son, Horace Walpole, continued to hold grudges against Pelham, Newcastle, and Hardwicke which permeate his political writings and commentaries. Because of the enmity between Walpole and Hardwicke and his allies, Walpole's writings provide an interesting contrast to those of Hardwicke. Furthermore, because Walpole's memoirs constitute most of the available information about the debates and controversies surrounding Hardwicke's Marriage Bill, many histories, notably Hansard's Parliamentary History, rely on them to fill in gaps of information. Hence, though the bill was unquestionably debated hotly, individual sources give rather biased perceptions of the controversy.

19. Any clergyman who disregarded the law would be guilty of a felony with the option of execution, but transportation came to replace capital punishment. (Stone, Road to Divorce, p. 123.)

20. Gillis, For Better, For Worse, p. 140.

21. Stone, Road to Divorce, p. 123-4.

This last clause was especially important for it made great inroads against fraudulent records keeping which was one of the greatest abuses which needed to be addressed. Though the bill was fairly compact and well planned, it had two weak clauses which would be endlessly debated. Hardwicke's proposal, in its original form, did not make any provisions for the marriage of illegitimate children who, by definition, had no parents who could give consent. The bill also required that Dissenters, Roman Catholics, and "others who might have serious scruples of conscience" to marry according to the rites of the Established Church, or else not marry at all. (Campbell, Lives of the Lord Chancellors, p. 125.)

22. With the exception of the Duke of Bedford and his followers who were staunch political rivals of the Newcastle/Pelham/Hardwicke faction, Hardwicke's bill garnered a mass of support from a Hardwicke and Newcastle dominated and dynastically motivated peerage. (Wilkes, A Whig in Power, p. 185.) The measure passed through the House of Lords by a vote of 100 to 11. (Stone, Road to Divorce, p. 127.) Though the parliamentary debates as recorded in vol. XV of Hansard's Parliamentary History of England are not entirely inclusive of the debates in the Commons and do not include the debates held within the Lords, many of those men who rose to speak about the bill had past records of alliances and animosities among each other.

23. Attorney General Ryder, a legal ally of the Lord Chancellor, had opened the debates with his support for the measure. Ryder emphasizing how patriarchal power would be preserved within the family. Parents could curb the "selfish desires" of wayward children and protect hapless daughters from "infamous sharpers." (T.C. Hansard, The Parliamentary History of England From the Earliest Period to the Year 1803 , vol. XV (London: T.C. Hansard, 1813), c.2-3.)

24. Hansard, Parliamentary History, c. 52-53.

In his recent study of the 1753 Marriage Act, Stephen Parker suggests that Townshend reflected the suspicion of many Englishmen of the time that the aristocracy was deliberately trying to block the rise of the middle classes. When Townshend asked "Are new shackles to be forged to keep young men of abilities from rising to a new level of their elder brothers?" Parker believes that he was reflecting a belief that "seduction was the alternative open to younger sons." Within a year of this act, Townshend wooed and won the hand of the Countess of Dalkeith--a wealthy dowager from the prominent house of Buccleuth. (Parker, Informal Marriage, p. 42.)

25. Hansard, Parliamentary History, c. 52-53.

26. T.C. Hansard, The Parliamentary History of England From the Earliest Period to the Year 1803 , vol. XV (London: T.C. Hansard, 1813), c. 12-13.

27. Hansard, Parliamentary History, c. 15.

28. Indeed, the only other person who rose was Lord Barrington who had a history of opposing Nugent during the Mutiny Act debates of 1750. (Nugent, Memoir of Robert, Earl Nugent, p. 41.) Lord Barrington now backed Hardwicke's proposal by re-iterating the need for stricter registration of marriages and by pointing out that marriage vows, "when administered by one who has no authority to do so, should have no legal effects, nor be deemed a marriage." (Hansard, Parliamentary History, vol. XV, c. 27.)

29. Hansard, Parliamentary History, vol. XV, c. 32.

30. Horace Walpole, Horace Walpole, Memoirs of George II, vol. I, ed. by John Brooke (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), p. 228.

31. Harris, Life of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, p. 486.

32. Fox also had personal motivations for his opposition for he himself was the partaker of a clandestine marriage with Lady Caroline Lennox. (Walpole, Horace Walpole, p. 299).

33. Stone, Road to Divorce, p. 129.

34. Hansard, Parliamentary History, vol. XV, c. 35.

35. Gentleman's Magazine, XXIV (March 1754): 106-107.

Though he made no remarks at the time of the controversy, ten years later, Thomas Turner recorded in his diary feelings held by many in the middle-class, "in my own private opinion, I think instead of making laws to restrain marriage it would be more to the advantage of the nation to give encouragement to it." (Thomas Turner, The Diary of Thomas Turner, 1754-65, ed. by David Vaisey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 309.)

36. John Cordy Jeaffreson, Brides and Bridals, vol. II (London: Hurst & Blacknett, Publishers, 1872), p. 187.

37. Colonel George Haldane opened the debate by reneging his earlier support for the bill because he feared, like Henry Fox, that "the other House should become the absolute disposers of most of the seats in this [House]." (Hansard, Parliamentary History, vol. XV, c. 35.) Haldane believed that the publishing of banns would curtail marriage among the poor and that the purchasing of licenses, an expensive option for the well to do, would only "put money into the pockets of clergymen."(Hansard, Parliamentary History, vol. XV, c. 41.)

38. Hansard, Parliamentary History, c. 70.

39. Ibid., c. 72.

40. Harris, Life of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, p. 488.

Though these speeches are not included in Cobbett's Parliamentary History, Horace Walpole's diary and a letter from a Dr. Birch to Lord Chancellor Hardwicke's son Philip Yorke give amusing, contrasting views of what took place during this final debate. Apparently, the Duke of Bedford, attempted to repudiate the bill as a whole "as he had all along opposed the bill before it was sent down to the other house." (Harris, Life of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, p. 488.) Walpole maintained that Bedford was "obstructed by the Chancellor, who would have confined him to mere amendments." (Walpole, Horace Walpole, p. 222.) Birch's letter states that the Duke of Bedford "was reminded by my Lord Chancellor that the regular course was to state his objections...during the third reading of them. This shortened the train of the Duke's eloquence." Summarily silenced, Bedford only replied to Lord Bath's contention that all the opposition resulted from factions within the party by saying that his "opposition had arisen from conscience." (Harris, Life of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, p. 488.) When the Duke of Bedford accused Hardwicke of having "crammed down and forced through two houses" the marriage bill, the Chancellor "expressed surprise" at this complaint for the bill had "lain five weeks before the Commons...and was last introduced, not by a single lord, but by the whole house." (Harris, Life of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, p.., 489.) Walpole sardonically commented that Hardwicke made these remarks "with all the acrimony of wounded pride, of detected ambition, and insolent authority...He seemed only to have methodized his malice." (Walpole, Horace Walpole, p. 232.)

41. Harris, Life of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, p.., 489.

42. Parker, Informal Marriage, p. 47.

43. Gentleman's Quarterly, XXIV (March 1754): 141.

44. Jeaffreson, Brides and Bridals, pp. 195-196.

45. T.C. Smout, "Scottish Marriage, Regular and Irregular, 1500-1940." in Marriage and Society: Studies in the Social History of Marriage (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1981), p. 208.

46. Stone, Road to Divorce, p. 131.

47. Stone, Road to Divorce, p. 132.


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