Hyde v Hyde and Woodmansee

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Probate

Mormon Marriage - Polygamy.

Marriage as understood in Christendom is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

A marriage contracted in a country where polygamy is lawful, between a man and a woman who profess a faith which allows polygamy, is not a marriage as understood in Christendom; and although it is a valid marriage by the lex loci, and at the time when it was contracted both the man and the woman were single and competent to contract marriage, the English Matrimonial Court will not recognise it as a valid marriage in a suit instituted by one of the parties against the other for the purpose of enforcing matrimonial duties, or obtaining relief for a breach of matrimonial obligations.

THIS was a petition by a husband for a dissolution of marriage on the ground of adultery. There was no appearance by the respondent or the co-respondent. The cause was heard by the Judge Ordinary on the 20th of January, 1866.

The following facts were proved. The petitioner was an Englishman by birth, and in 1847, when he was about sixteen years of age, he joined a congregation of Mormons in London, and was soon afterwards ordained a priest of that faith. He made the acquaintance of the respondent, then Miss Hawkins, and her family, all of whom were Mormons, and they became engaged to each other. In 1850, Miss Hawkins and her mother went to the Salt Lake City, in the territory of Utah, in the United States; and in 1853 the petitioner, who had in the meantime been employed on a French mission, joined them at that place. The marriage took place at Salt Lake City in April, 1853, and it was celebrated by Brigham Young, the president of the Mormon church, and the governor of the territory, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Mormons. They cohabited as man and wife at Salt Lake City until 1856, and had children. In 1856, the petitioner went on a mission to the Sandwich Islands, leaving the respondent in Utah. On his arrival at the Sandwich Islands, he renounced the Mormon faith and preached against it. A sentence of excommunication was pronounced against him in Utah in December, 1856, and his wife was declared free to marry again. In 1857 a correspondence passed between the petitioner and his wife, who continued to live in Utah. In his letters he urged her to leave the Mormon territory, and abandon the Mormon faith, and to join him. In her letters she expressed the greatest affection for him, but refused to change her faith, or to follow him out of the Mormon territory. He did not return to Utah, and one of the witnesses was of opinion that he could not have done so after he had left the Mormon church without danger to his life. In 1857 he resumed his domicile in England, where he has ever since resided, and for several years he has been the minister of a dissenting chapel at Derby. In 1859 or 1860, the respondent contracted a marriage according to the Mormon form at Salt Lake City with the co-respondent, and she has since cohabited with him as his wife, and has had children by him.

At the time when the marriage between the petitioner and the respondent was celebrated, polygamy was a part of the Mormon doctrine, and was the common custom in Utah. The petitioner and the respondent were both single, and the petitioner had never taken a second wife. A counsellor of the Supreme Court of the United States proved that a marriage by Brigham Young in Utah, if valid in Utah, would be recognised as valid by the Supreme Court of the United States, provided that the parties were both unmarried at the time when it was contracted, and that they were both capable of contracting marriage. The Supreme Court, however, had no appellate jurisdiction over the courts of other States in matrimonial matters; and the matrimonial court of each State had exclusive jurisdiction within its own limits. Utah was a territory not within any State. There was a matrimonial court, having primary jurisdiction, in that territory, and the judge was nominated by the President of the United States, with the consent of the Senate. The judge was bound to recognise the laws which the people of Utah made for themselves, as long as they did not conflict with the laws of the United States. No evidence was given as to the law of that court respecting Mormon marriages.

Dr. Spinks, for the petitioner...

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60 cases
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