A legal decision was given yesterday which will create no
small dismay in the Presbyterian North of Ireland. The Judges attended in the House of Lords, and gave their unanimous opinion on the subject of Presbyterian marriages, referred to them on a technical point taken in the case of the Queen versus Mellis, a man charged with bigamy. An Irish Protestant married a Protestant Dissenting woman, per verba de preisenti, in the house of a Presbyterian minister. He afterwards came to England and married another woman ; the first still alive.
Prosecuted for bigamy, his counsel objected that the former ceremony was no marriage. The Judges now decided that the contract per verba de prcesenti is only a contract for marriage (down to the Marriage Act of 1827 indissoluble between the parties, though not since); but it is not a marriage, in order to which the contract must take place in the presence of a priest in orders : the Presbyterian minister was not a priest in orders ; therefore the former ceremony was not a marriage. To allay the alarm which this decision would create in Ireland, Lord Brougham declared that it did not follow that the House of Lords would affirm it, or that the Legislature would refuse to pass an act to provide for the emergency by an ex post facto law. On the motion of the Lord Chancellor, the further consideration of the subject was deferred; Lord Campbell reserving all expression of opinion.