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The author 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 Ro. man 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.

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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 contined 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.


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 had when required, and people of every persuasion be allowed to observe privately, in their own temples, such forins as may be thought necessary pro salute animæ. Yet it will surprise many to be informed, possibly, from such high authority as Sir William Blackstone, that the celebration of marriage mas 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 forin 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 III., 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 beretical Albigenses, (as they were then 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 bis queen without his permis


120 Outlaw considers marriage ió no other fight iban 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 $ Com. Voli. P-433. 2 Blackstone's Com. Vol. i. p. 439.

1191 | 3.9 3 It was during these wars, in 1200, that fie established the Holy Iogulisition.


sion; and he 'excom.nunicated the King of England with as little ceremony. His severe usage of John is familiar 10 the readers of English history. By a bull, he declared the Britisha 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 republic had in four hundred years. The Senate, which had never yet been reduced to the dominion of the Church, át'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 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 should cause" confusion in the Church, it was this very Pope who instituted the Dominicans, Franciscans, and some others. He died in 1916.

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 hear 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 bave daily but too many proofs of it.

Since then experience teaches us, that the most sacred vows at the altar in Roman Catholic countries are of no avail, and that, even in our own, it too often becomes necessary for the legislature to interfere between man and wife, to break those bonds which religion had sanctified; we have surely no cause to regret that the original contract is, by our law, less binding, especially as the temporal advantages remain the same.

But with regard to non-conformists, they seem, in this case, to have a claim on the justice of the nation; and since the satisfaction which those people would receive by the change would ultimately tend to the advantage of the land, as well as render more correct the occasional enumeration of population, now so highly necessary and so much desired, it is to be wished that some attention might be paid thereto.

It cannot be denied that, since the practice of the wedded couple's signing the register of their marriage, it has secured the remembrance of it to a greater certainty ; but it not being required by law that any one should sign the entries of births' and baptisms, they are in consequence neglected by the clergy, who often trust them to their mernory from day to day, from week to week, and from month to month, till at length when they open the book for the purpose of insertion, one half are forgotten and many are misnamed. Another cause of this neglect arises from its not being usual to register the birth but the baptism; and as the clergyman is repeatedly called on to give private baptism to new-born infants whom he does not think of registering till brought to church for the public ceremony, which is too often neglected, the consequences are that the entry is not made, and posterity wonders at the omission.

In Roman Catholic countries these neglects are more tare, since it is usual to carry children to Church the very day they are born, to receive baptism, when the same is immediately entered in the parish register and duplicate in presence of the sponsors.

These glaring defects and improprieties, we trust, will induce the legislature to take the same into serious consideration.

The following is humbly offered as the outlines of a bill for directing a universal and authentic register of marriages, births, and burials, in every parish.

I. Whereas great inconveniences arise from the want of one general and authentic register for marriages, births, and burials of persons of every religious persuasion, and it is highly proper that

· These indeed are rarely inserted at all, or if inserted, it is done in such a manner as lo render the proof almost as difficult as if no such entry had been made. The Romans were obliged to set down the names of their chil- . dren in a register, in the temple of Saturn, a few days after their birth. See an allusion thereto in the 9th Satire of Juvenal, line 84, and a note thereun in Mr. Giffords translation, verse 111.

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