Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (3 June 1864)

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Date: 1864-06-03
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 173-174.
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 FRIDAY, 3rd JUNE, 1864

 Benning Divorce Bill

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] handed in a copy of the contract of marriage between James Benning and Janet Mary Leslie.

The Speaker announced to the House that Counsel was at the Bar ready to be heard in support of the Bill.

Mr. Cross, of Montreal, Advocatehen presented himself, and said that it was hardly necessary for him to go into the history of the case, as the House was already in possession of all the facts. No case which had previously come before the House had been so simple as the present. The Counsel went on to recapitulate, somewhat in detail, the facts as presented in our report of yesterday, and which he need not here repeat. He took it for granted that the judgements filed were the highest and most conclusive evidence that could be adduced, but if the Hose deemed it necessary, the witnesses examined before the Superior Court could be brought to the Bar. This, however, would consume a great deal of time, and probably prevent his client from obtaining the relief which he sought during this session.

He then went on and said that the friends of Mrs. Benning were quite competent to defend her case if they thought she was aggrieved, but they had evinced no disposition to interfere. Mr. Benning had shown no inclination to act vindictively towards his erring partner, but made provision by settlement for her maintenance—not according to her rank as his wife—but sufficient to keep her in comfort. The Counsel then reviewed the judgements, and pointed out the declaratory sentences, indicating the sense of the Court that Janet Mary Leslie had been guilty of adultery as laid to her charge. He also proceeded to show the processes the law of divorce required, and contended they had all been duly observed. He went on to adduce English precedents confirmatory of his positions, and concluded by asking the granting of the bill.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] then moved, seconded by David Christie [Erie, elected 1858]

That the bill be read a third time.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] thought the bill ought not to be read a third time, unless the evidence of persons were adduced to the truth of the charge laid against the accused woman.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] was of a different opinion, and thought the highest evidence which could be adduced had been furnished.

Walter McCrea [Western, elected 1862] agreed with Hon. Mr. Currie, and said that in cases of this kind even foreign judgements had been held good evidence.

Louis Panet [Canada East, appointed 1852] said the House had really heard no evidence, and had only the word of the hon. counsel in proof of this woman’s criminality. For his part, he was not prepared to vote for the third rending on such evidence.

Other members expressed similar views.

Walter McCrea [Western, elected 1862] thought the reading of the judgements would satisfy hon. members.

Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General] said that in all previous cases evidence of guilt had been given at the Bar, and he would oppose the third reading until such evidence was furnished.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] said that in the former cases there had been no judgements of the Courts of Justice, as in the present. The evidence would be forthcoming, if necessary, and the only reason why it had not been brought forward was that it was thought the House would not desire to have such evidence presented at the bar.

After some further debate, the hon. member withdrew his motion, and moved that the third reading of the bill be postponed until Monday next.

The House then adjourned.

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