Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (8 June 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 183.
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WEDNESDAY, 8th JUNE, 1864
Benning’s Divorce Bill
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] moved the third reading of the bill.
Billa Flint [Trent, elected 1863] said that as it might be thought strange that he should have voted against the second reading of the bill, he deemed it proper to give some reasons for that vote and for that which he was about to give. He regarded the marriage covenant not only as a civil contract—as which only it had been characterized by the mover and seconder of the bill—but as a most solemn ordinance, and though not viewing it, like the hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché], as a sacrament, be very much coincided with him in his views of the sacredness of the obligations it involved. The hon. member went on to plead for leniency towards the errors of women, and said no one in the House had a better right to speak of the wrongs women were exposed to that himself, but he could not further allude to this matter; there were, however, members in the House who would understand him. The law always gave the accused the benefit of the doubt, and if there was room for doubt in this case, mercy should prevail. Women were often the subjects of conspiracies to ruin their honor, and if they were seen to go into suspicious houses it was enough to blast their reputation, whereas men might commit any amount of fornication or adultery, with no evil result to themselves. In the case before the House, it was quite possible that the unfortunate woman might have been entrapped in snares purposely set for her. In listening to the evidence, he had failed to come to the conclusion that it was sufficient to convince him. The hon. member proceeded at considerable length to argue against the conclusiveness of the evidence.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] said that the best testimony of which the case was susceptible had not been produced. The hon. member gave in French the substance of what the preceding speaker had said in English. The hon. member spoke a long time, and was heard with much attention.
Marc-Pascal Laterrière [Laurentides, elected 1864] said I shall again register my name against so immoral a farce and comedy, and one so compromising to the dignity of this House, and I will avail myself of the opportunity of this divorce question to say, that if I could be in favor of one divorce bill, the only one I would support would be the divorce of the two Provinces. That unfortunate marriage has been for 25 years, and still is the cause (allegorically speaking) of illegitimate and adulterous political pursuits, as well as of our interminable political agitations. The sooner it is repudiated the better for the harmony and welfare of both Provinces. No coalition of parties—of which we have had experiments—will remove the increasing causes of antagonism proceeding from this unfortunate union, and awaiting the realization of the divorce of the two Provinces, I shall vote against the third reading of the Benning Bill.
Louis Panet [Canada East, appointed 1852] said some people were difficult to please in the way of proof. In his mind the evidence in the case before the House was perfectly conclusive. There were persons who were deaf and cold to truth, but quite alive to romance and fiction. Now he took the judgements rendered in Montreal as perfectly satisfactory. The offending woman had been summoned to appear at the bar, but had not come, and moreover she was said to have consented to a separation, and accepted an allowance from her husband. He had made up his mind not to take anything less than positive evidence before he gave his final vote, and he would say the evidence had satisfied him. The hon. member proceeded and said that in the case of divorce the Church had yielded, and he proceeded to show that there was an important concession in administering the sacrament of marriage to Protestants. Divorce was admitted in the German States and in Poland, for, thought the Church theoretically opposed the practice, it had passed such things over quietly. He thought hon. member should be less exclusive and more open to conviction.
Some Hon. Members—“Question!” “question!”
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863] wished to move a short amendment in respect of settlement, to the effect that such subsistence should be valid notwithstanding the passing of the Act.
The Speaker said that it was not usual to make amendments in bills of divorce except in Committee of the whole House.
On motion of John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863], the House then resolved itself into a Committee, when the amendment proposed was adopted. The Committee rose and reported the bills as amended.
The House having resumed, the Report was adopted, and the bill as amended was read a third time—35 contents to 18 non-contents.
The motion for the passage of the bill was then put and carried—34 contents to 18 non-contents.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] then moved that a message he sent to the Legislative Assembly, with a copy of the [illegible] of evidence in the case.—