Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/240

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such consent, shall forfeit to the State one hundred dollars; and any person who shall join any persons in marriage without having received such certificate shall forfeit a like sum of one hundred dollars. Every person who shall join any persons in marriage shall certify upon the license certificate the fact, time, and place of such marriage, and return it to the register of the town where it was issued, before or during the first week of the month next succeeding such marriage, and upon failure thereof shall forfeit ten dollars. The certificate shall be prima facie evidence of such marriage. All judges, justices of the peace, and ordained or licensed clergymen while in the ministry, may join persons in marriage, and all marriages attempted to be celebrated by any other person shall be void; but all marriages which shall be solemnized according to the forms and usages of any religious denomination in the State shall be valid.

While the laws of these three States differ—and, perhaps, no two States in the Union agree as to who are competent to contract marriage—the provisions of the statutes of each regulating its solemnization would seem to be sufficient to protect society against hasty and indiscriminate alliances, to guard either party against fraud, and to furnish record evidence in any case where proof of marriage might be required. And yet, upon the provisions of the statutes defining who may solemnize marriages, the greatest confusion prevails throughout the Union between the courts and the law. In Connecticut, we have seen that "all marriages attempted to be celebrated by any other person" (than those named) "shall be void." In Ohio and New York, and in many other States, where no words of nullity are expressed in the statutes, such marriages are held valid.

But in Massachusetts, and in several other States, it has been held, where no words of nullity are expressed, that such marriages are not valid. And yet, it is generally accepted as the law, on principle, notwithstanding the marriage is celebrated without license, and the ceremony performed by an unauthorized person, that if the parties simply by mutual consent agree to marry, and live together as man and wife, such consent and cohabitation are valid and binding between the parties, and the issue thereof are entitled to all the rights of legitimate children. To reverse this common-law doctrine by general statutory provisions might work hardship in some individual cases; but its existence works more harm to society and bastardizes more children than would the enactment of stringent marriage laws, for parties would then be more careful and not enter into such relation without proof of marriage. Marriage is not a contract to be entered into in haste and repented of at leisure. It is of more importance to the parties, and far more to society, than the acquirement of a good title to a piece of real estate. Yet no one would think it a hardship to comply with the law for the proper execution and registration of a deed of conveyance, and no court would hold, as a general rule, that a valid title passed,