Matrimony has been instituted among all enlightened nations., for the wisest of purposes; and, as the contract continues in force for life, such partner ought to be chosen with the utmost circumspection.—. if this circumstance were always duly weighed, there would certainly be fewer of those unnatural marriages, in which blooming youth is united to the aged orde crepid.
One of the most important points that merits constant attention, is the healthiness of the parties.-Those who are the obvious victims of hereditary disease, ought, in conformity to every principle of justice and of reason to be suspended from the connubial rites. Similar limitations should be observed with respect to the union of deformed persons, especially females, for whom a state of celibacy is doubtless more eligible; unle appear from proper inquiry, that, not withstanding their external deformity, they are fully competent to discharge the dignified maternal duties. Farther, an equality in point of natural disposition, temporal fortune, and of age, in both parties, should, as far as possible, regulate the choice.—In the latter respect, the most proper period in general appears to be (in temperate climates) between the age of lb and 20 in the female, and from 22 to 24 in the male sex.
Marriage is considered by the English law wholly as a civil con-tract, the sanctity of the matrimonial state being left to the Ecclesiastical Court, which is empowered to punish or annul incestuous or other unscriptural marriages. It admits all as good and valid, provided the parties, at the time of concluding the contract, were not legally. disqualified from performthe same, and have executed it JO due form of law.
The disabilities of contracting marriage are of two kinds, viz. 1, Canonical, that is, those which are void or voidable in the Ecclesiastical Law, such as consanguinity, or ion by blood, an i affinity, or relation by marriage ; together with some bodily infirmities. 2. Legal, that is such as are created or enforced by the municipal laws; for instance, a prior marriage ; lunacy; want of consent either of parents or guardians; and minority. Thus, in the last mentioned case, if a boy under 14, or a girl under 12 years of age, marry, they may, on attaining the age of consent, declare the marriage void, without any divorce in the Ecclesiastical Court.
There are various other regulations, made by different statutes, with a view to secure the happiness of subjects in tins most important state, but our limits will not permit us to detail them. Hence we shall only observe, that several acts impose a penalty of 1001. on every clergyman who marries a couple, either without publication of the bauns, or without a licence And, .if any woman, under the age of 16 years, be married without her parents' or guardians' consent, the clergyman performing the ceremony is, by the 4ih and 5th of Phil and Mary, c 8. liable to a fine, or five years imprisonment; and lie woman's estate is to be enjoyed during her husband's life, by the next heir.—Farther, no marriage is valid, unless solemnized in a church, or other place where banns are usually published; except if a special license be obtained for the purpose.
By the 20th Geo. II. c. 33, every person knowingly offending and acting to the contrary, is guilty of felony, and liable to be transported for fourteen years ; provided the prosecution be commenced within three years after such illegal solemnization of marriage.