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year to comply with its demands; but such was the backwardness to
matrimony, and perversity of the Roman knights, and others, that every
possible method was taken to evade the penalty inflicted upon them, and
some of them even married children in the cradle for that purpose; thus
fulfilling the letter, they avoided the spirit of the law, and though
actually married, had no restraint upon their licentiousness, nor any
incumbrance by the expense of a family.
POWER OF MARRYING.
Among nations which had shaken off the authority of the church of Rome,
the priests still retained almost an exclusive power of joining men and
women together in marriage. This appears rather, however, to have been
by the tacit consent of the civil power, than from any defect in its
right and authority; for in the time of Oliver Cromwell, marriages were
solemnized frequently by the justices of the peace; and the clergy
neither attempted to invalidate them, nor make the children proceeding
from them illegitimate; and when the province of New England was first
settled, one of the earliest laws of the colony was, that the power of
marrying should belong to the magistrates. How different was the case
with the first French settlers in Canada! For many years a priest had
not been seen in the country, and a magistrate could not marry: the
consequence was natural; men and woman joined themselves together as
husband and wife, trusting to the vows and promises of each other.
Father Charlevoix, a Jesuit, at last travelled into those wild regions,
found many of the simple, innocent inhabitants living in that manner;
with all of whom he found much fault, enjoined them to do penance, and
afterwards married them. After the Restoration, the power of marrying
again reverted to the clergy. The magistrate, however, had not entirely
resigned his right to that power; but it was by a late act of parliament
entirely surrendered to them, and a penalty annexed to the solemnization
of it by any other person whatever.
CELIBACY OF THE CLERGY.
At a synod held at Winchester under St. Dunstan, the monks averred, that
so highly criminal was it for a priest to marry, that even a wooden
cross had audibly declared against the horrid practice. Others place the
first attempt of this kind, to the account of Aelfrick, archbishop of
Canterbury, about the beginning of the eleventh century; however this
may be, we have among the canons a decree of the archbishops of
Canterbury, and York, ordaining, That all ministers of God, especially
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