Page images
PDF
EPUB

ON

PARISH REGISTERS

AND THE

MARRIAGE OF NON-CONFORMISTS;

WITH THE

OUTLINES OF A BILL

(IIUMBLY PROPOSED)

FOR ESTABLISHING A MORE CERTAIN AND GENERAL REGISTER OF MARRIAGES, BIRTHS, AND DEATHS IN EACH

PARISH,

TO WHICH IS ADDED THE

CELEBRATED EDICT

OF

LOUIS XVI.

KING OF FRANCE,

IN 1787,

FOR THE VERIFICATION OF THE MARRIAGES, BIRTHS,

AND DEATHS, OF THE NON-CATHOLICS.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

ADVERTISEMENT.

The anthor of the following pages was at Paris when the cele brated Edict of Lewis XVI. concerning the registering of the marriages, births, and deaths, of those who do not profess the Roman Catholic faith, came out, which received universal attention, and the approbation of all, not blinded by bigotry. The plan now humbly offered was drawn up soon after, founded thereon. Whatever may be its demerits, the translation of Lewis's Edict, it is presumed, will be perused with satisfaction.

ON

PARISH REGISTERS.

Every plan for facilitating the means of verifying marriages, births, and deaths, it is humbly presumed, may have some little claim to attention, especially when the inaccuracy of our present parish registers is so often and so justly complained of.

In a country where the mild laws of religious toleration are so much approved and so thoroughly established, it is surprising that the marriage ceremony should be confined wholly to the Established Church, except in two instances, viz. Quakers and Jews. Yet it cannot be denied surely that other dissenting congregations have an equal claim to similar indulgence.

However, it is much to be wished that, whatever ceremonies may be thought necessary by the contracting parties and their particular friends to render this union complete, there should be one form in law so simple in its structure and so easy of verification, as to be perfectly unobjectionable to every religious persuasion. The wise edict of the unfortunate Louis XVI. dated at Versailles in the month of November, 1787, and registered in the parliament of Paris the 29th of January following, was of this description, and gave universal joy throughout his dominions. His non-catholic subjects were thereby enabled to contract legal marriage without conforming to the established worship, and to have their births and deaths regularly verified. Yet the defect of this edict seems to be the want of one general register; for, while some declarations of marriage, birth, or death, were made before one court, others before another, and some before a third, it must render the verification more difficult to posterity than if there were but one register in each parish, to be referred to.

As things now are, if a couple happen to marry in the Quakers' Meeting, and afterward change their religion, (a circumstance far 'from uncommon,) their posterity, in few generations, VOL. XV.

Pam.
NO. XXIX.

O

entirely forget that their ancestors were of that society; and when it becomes necessary to make out a pedigree, in order to succeed to the estate or effects of a distant relation, they are astonished at not being able to prove some marriage, and the consequence is the loss of the whole property.

But since it is admitted,' that marriage, by the common law, is merely a civil contract, it is to be presumed that the most zealous Churchman would have no objection to its being solemnised between non-conformists without the intervention of a priest, at least in his sacerdotal character, particularly as the religious ceremony may still be bad when required, and people of every persuasion be allowed to observe privately, in their own temples, such formis as may be thought necessary pro sulute animæ. Yet it will surprise many to be informed, possibly, from such high authority as Sir William Blackstone, that the celebration of marriage was not introduced into the Church before the Pontificate of Innocent Ill. ; and that, prior thereto, religion constituted no part of the ceremony.

It seems then that, during the twelve hundred years which elapsed before the spiritual reign of this Pontiff, the Christian Church, had no concern in the marriage contract. However, that we may the better be enabled to form a judgment of the motives which induced this Pope to make it one of the seven sacraments, (which it still continues to be in the Roman Catholic faith,) it will not be amiss at this time to have a short account of his life.

Innocent III. was born at Anagni, in the Campania di Romania ; his name was Lotharius Conti, of the family of the counts of Segni. His learning and abilities are said to have gained him a cardinal's hat; and in 1198, upon the death of Celestin LEI., he was raised to the Papal Chair.

His first attention was directed to unite the Christian princes in a crusade to the Holy Land, and against the heretical Albigenges, (as they were theu termed,) who were laying Languedoc waste. Princes, by him, were treated with no more respect then their subjects ; he put the kingdom of France under an interdict, because Philip II. had presumed to divorce his queen without his permis

3

16 Our law considers marriage in no other light than as a civil contract. The holiness of the matrimonial state is left entirely to the matrimonial law: the temporal courts not having jurisdiction to consider unlawful marriage as a sin, but merely as a civil inconvenience.” BLACKSTONE's Com. Vol. i.

2 BLACKSTONE's Com. Vol. i. p. 439. 3 It was during these wars, in 1200, that he established the Holy Inquisi.

P. 433.

tion

sion; and he excommunicated the King of England with as little ceremony. His severe usage

of John is familiar to the readers of English history. By a bull, he declared the British monarch deposed, and his subjects absolved from their oaths of allegiance. Raymund, the heretical Count of Thoulouse, was treated in the same manner. The temporal power of the Pope was by him erected on a solid foundation. He reduced several provinces under his sovereignty; and made more conquests in a short period, than the Roman republie had in four hundred years. The Senate, which had never yet been reduced to the dominion of the Church, at length submitted to this imperious priest. The office of consul was abolished ; and Innocent took upon himself to invest the Prefect of Rome with his charge, which prior thereto had been received only from the Emperors.

It was under this Pope that the Roman Pontiffs commenced their temporal reign, and began to take advantage of their religious character to elevate themselves above the sovereigns of the earth, whom they presently made crouch before them.

It was Innocent III. who convoked the general council of Latran in 1215, which is reckoned the thirtieth by the Canonists; and the decrees then passed have been the foundation of the future discipline of the Roman Church.

But notwithstanding it was declared by the thirteenth canon of this council, that no new religious order should be established, lest the too great variety of habits and diversity of regulations shonld cause confusion in the Church, it was this very Pope who instituted the Dominicans, Franciscans, and some others. He died in 1216.

Innocent III. was undoubtedly a man of abilities, and well versed in the learning of the times; but his ambition was unbounded, his pride insufferable, and his government tyrannical. It is but doing him strict justice, however, to observe that, where his own particular advantages were not concerned, he was impartial. He would sit and lear causes in the public consistories himself, the practice of which he restored ; and the credit of his superior penetration brought many celebrated trials to Rome. His works have been printed :-at Cologne, in folio, in 1575; and at Venice, in 1578.

It is sufficient to be acquainted with this sketch of the life of Innocent to judge of the motives which induced him to introduce the matrimonial tie into the Church, since it the better enabled him to subjugate mankind to his nod. But, however indissoluble the knot may be rendered by the Law or the Church, the human will remains still unrestrained, and we have daily but too many proofs of it.

Since then experience teaches us, that the most sacred vows at

« PreviousContinue »