No. 609.
Mr. Curry to Mr. Bayard.

No. 152.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose a copy and a translation of a royal decree of November 12, 1886, relating to marriage, which has been issued to the provinces of Cuba and Porto Rico. The law of civil marriage [Page 980] of June 18, 1870, established for the peninsula during the regency of Marshal Serrano, declared the civil marriage to be the only legal and binding ceremony.

On the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty, however, and at the beginning of the reign of Alfonso XII, a royal decree of February 9, 1875, a copy of which was sent to the Department in Mr. Cushing’s No. 285, endowed the ecclesiastical marriage with its former validity by giving it the benefit of all the laws that had existed in regard to it previous to the introduction of the above-mentioned law of 1870. The latter, however, was, by article 6 of this decree, left applicable to those persons who chose to avail themselves of the civil form only.

The decree of 1875, therefore, while it reaffirmed the validity of the ecclesiastical did not in any way impair the binding force of the civil marriage. In Spain both forms are legal, and the object of the annexed royal decree is to place the provinces upon the same footing as the peninsula, or, in other words, to give to the civil marriage in the Antilles the validity heretofore exclusively possessed by the church ceremony.

I have, etc.,

J. L. M. Curry.
[Inclosure in No. 152.—Translation.]

Ministry of ultramar.—Decree relative to marriage in Cuba and Porto Rico.


Madam: The law of civil marriage of June 18, 1870, and the royal decree of February 9, 1875, which modified it/had for their object the development of the precept of the constitution of the state in what concerns this substantial point of liberty of conscience.

None of these regulations were applied to the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico, perhaps for the reason that the fundamental law was not expressly in force there; but from the moment that by the royal decree of April 7, 1881, and of January 8, 1884, respectively, the constitution of the Spanish Monarchy and the law of civil registration were explicitly ordered to be promulgated in those provinces, the aforesaid application was the logical and inflexible consequence, as a development of article 11 of the constitution, in order that no Spaniard or foreigner residing in the Antilles, whatever the religion he professes, may be deprived of the right of contracting marriage and rearing a family under the protection of the law.

Individual complaints, deliberations of authorities, and public and solemn appeals in Parliament have proven this necessity, to which the Government of your Majesty is, therefore, obliged to attend in order to avoid the social and legal conflicts which immediately and still more in the future will surely result from such an exception, entirely indefensible because it involves a flagrant contradiction to admit the inhabitants of the aforesaid islands to the same rights as those of the peninsula and at the same time to deprive them of the legal means for their exercise. This contradiction can and ought to be perfectly avoided by doing nothing more than applying in the Antilles the legislation existing on the subject in the peninsula, that is to say, the law of civil marriage, with the modifications afterwards introduced by the royal decree of February 9, 1875, by using in effect the authority granted to your Majesty’s Government by article 89 of the constitution of the Monarchy. In this way the just aspirations of public opinion will be satisfied without contending against any of those ideas Or feelings which, from every point of view, merit consideration and respect, and without prejudices to applying at the proper time the reforms for the improvement of the legislation in regard to marriage which the Government has under consideration and thinks of presenting to the Cortes.

On the other hand, madam, it is no new thing to adopt for the provinces of ultra-mar regulations in the sense of the present, as is proven by the royal instruction order of December 16, 1792, by which a form of civil marriage, with its corresponding register, was established for marriages contracted in the Territory of Louisiana and Florida, at that time Spanish possessions, by persons professing Protestantism, and for mixed marriages of Protestants and Catholics, because the glorious predecessors [Page 981] of your Majesty, with a lofty appreciation of the duties of Government desired and attempted to heed true social necessities in all the length and breadth of the nation. In view of the reasons above given, the undersigned minister, in accord with the council of ministers, has the honor to submit to the approbation of your Majesty the annexed project of decree.

Madam, at your Majesty’s royal feet.

Victor Balaguer.

royal decree.

Having taken into consideration the reasons given by the minister of ultramar, in accord with the council of ministers, and using the authority granted to my Government by article 89 of the constitution of the monarchy, in the name of my august son, King Alfonso XIII, and as Queen Regent of the Kingdom, I decree as follows:

Article 1. The provisional law of civil marriage of June 18, 1870, as well as the royal decree modifying it of February 9, 1875, is hereby extended to the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico.

Article 2. The minister of ultramar will issue the regulations necessary for the accomplishment of this decree, of which he shall give an account to the Cortes.

Maria Cristina.

The minister of ultramar.

Victor Balaguer.