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appear before him at such a place, to make inquisition into the cause of death; and every one above the age of twelve years, is liable to serve on the jury, unless they have a reasonable excuse to the contrary. The jury when assembled are sworn, and charged by the coroner to inquire, on view of the body, how the party came by his death. If the body, either from carelessness or ignorance, should have been interred before his arrival, he must dig it up, because the body must be seen by himself and jury, and which may be done within fourteen days.

The jury being sworn, must hear evidence on oath, whether for defence or inculpation, whether the person was slain, either in any house, field, bed, tavern, or company, as also who were present; and if any one or more are found culpable, the coroner issues his writ committing the parties to jail, or into the custody of the sheriff. The coroner is also to inquire into the cause of death, when any one is found dead or drowned. Immediately after due inquisition by the coroner and his jury, the bodies whether they died a natural or a violent death, are to be buried.

By act of parliament, every coroner is obliged to certify all cases of murder to the assizes, and put the evidence into writing, and to bind over the witnesses to give evidence at the ensuing jail delivery, otherwise, on neglect, the coroner is liable to a fine at the discretion of the court. The coroner can inquire of accessories before the fact, but he is debarred from any inquiry after the fact; that belongs to the court.

It is the duty of the coroner to inquire into the death of every one who dies in prison, which shows the humanity and attention to justice of the laws of England, to act as a check on the brutality or inhumanity of jailers; for, if a prisoner comes to an untimely death through violence or unreasonable hardship of his keepers, it is counted murder in the jailer, and in consequence of the cruelty, the law implies malice. In the inquest held on prisoners dying under these circumstances, the jury is composed of six prisoners, (if there are as many in the jail at the time,) and six freeholders of the parish in which the prison is situate.

If it is ascertained that a coroner has been corrupt in taking an inquest, the law determines that a melius inquirendum shall go to special commissioners, who shall proceed on testimony and not on view, to the entire exclusion of the coroner; who, in this particular case has nothing to do with the inquest; but where the inquest has been quashed for informality only, he takes a new inquest, as if none had been taken before.

The power and duties of the coroner seem to have been considerable, for it was his duty to inquire after treasure found, both the finders and the parties suspected, also after all who lived riotously, or that haunted taverns. Besides his judicial place, he had also a ministerial authority as a sheriff, that is, where there is a just exception taken at the sheriff, judicial process is awarded to the coroner, for the due execution of the king's writs,

and in some special cases, the king's original writ is immediately directed to him. It is his duty to be present in the county court, to pronounce judgment of outlawry upon the exigent after quinto exactus, at the fifth court, if the defendant does not appear.

Formerly he had a power in certain appeals, which are now disused, as of rape and maiming, and also in cases of abjuration for felony or other offences.

By the statute of 3 Henry VII., the coroner is entitled to a fee on every inquisition, on the view of a body slain, 13s. 4d. to be levied on the goods and chattels of the murderer, if he have any, and if not, his fee is taken from the amercement of the township which suffers the murderer to escape. By the 25 Geo. II., for every inquisition (not taken upon view of a body dying in jail,) he is entitled to 20s. and besides 9d. per mile for every mile he shall be compelled to travel from his usual place of abode, to be paid by order of the justices in sessions, out of the county rates, for which order no fee can be exacted.

But no coroner of the king's household, or of the verge of the king's palaces, nor any coroner of the admiralty, or of the county palatine of Durham, nor of the city of London; and borough of Southwark, nor any franchise belonging to the said city; nor of any city, town, or franchise, not contributing to the county rates, or within which such rates have not been usually assessed, shall be entitled to any benefit by this act; but they shall have such fees and salaries as they were allowed before this act, or shall be allowed by the persons by whom they have been appointed.

A coroner neglecting his duty, is liable to severe punishment. For concealing a felony, or showing partiality to criminals, he shall be imprisoned one year and fined at the king's pleasure, (3 Edward I.) If he is remiss, and neglect to make inquisition on view of the dead body, and to certify the same to the jail delivery, he shall forfeit to the king one hundred shillings. If any coroner, not appointed by an annual election or nomination, or whose office is not annexed to any other office, shall be convicted of extortion in taking more than his lawful fees, or of wilful neglect of his duty, or of any misdemeanor in his office; the court before whom he shall be convicted, may remove him from his office, and if he has been elected by the freeholders, the court shall issue a writ for removing him and electing another in his place. If he has been appointed by the lord of any liberty and franchise, or in any other manner than by the freeholders, the person entitled to the nomination shall, after notice, nominate another person in his place.

The coroner is a judicial officer, and must execute his office in person and not by deputy, and if he acts by deputy, he is liable to the penalties just mentioned.*

Blackstone, Burn's Justice, Lyttleton's Hist. Henry II., Douglas' Peerage, Henry's Hist. of Great Britain.

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MAGNA CHARTA.

THE reign of King John will be for ever memorable in the annals of English history for the melioration of the Constitution, by his concession, however reluctantly granted, of the great charter of British liberties. And as it is the foundation, not only of English freedom, but of the liberties of the whole British dominions, we begin the history of our Constitution with some account of it, and a copy of its translation. In such a miscellany as this, it would be impossible to give a complete commentary on this famous charter, the palladium of British freedom-we shall therefore confine our observations to a brief analysis, pointing out, in as few words as possible, the grievances and hardships that were intended to be removed, with the liberties and privileges that were designed to be granted, by the great charter of King John.

Those privileges and liberties may be divided into four classes:-1. Those granted to the church and clergy; 2. To the earls, barons, knights, and others who held of the king in capite, that is, in chief; 3. To cities, towns, and merchants, for the encouragement of trade; 4. To the whole body of freemen. None of the parties concerned in this important charter ever entertained a thought of emancipating slaves or villeins, who composed in fact the great mass of the people; and therefore they are only once men

tioned, and that, not for any advantage for themselves, but entirely for their master's benefit.

The power and wealth of the clergy were then so great, and their grievances so few, that they had scarcely any thing to complain of or to ask; and this probably is the reason why there are so few articles in the charter respecting the church. The famous Constitutions of Clarendon (hereafter related) had been an object of execration and horror to the popes, and the clergy of their party, for more than half a century before the concession of the great charter. After a long and violent struggle, in which Thomas-à-Becket lost his life, Henry II. had been compelled to give up the greater part of these Constitutions; and it is evident, that the articles in the charter respecting the church, were intended to guard against the restoration of these detested laws, and to eradicate their remains, one of which subjected the clergy to the jurisdiction of the civil courts. It is declared in the first article, "that the English church shall be free, and have her rights entire, and her liberties unhurt." By the freedom here stipulated for the church of England, the exemption of the clergy from the jurisdiction of the civil courts, to which they had been subjected by the third Constitution of Clarendon, is most probably here to be understood. Archbishop Becket and the clergy contended as pertinaciously for

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this pernicious exemption, as if it had constituted the very essence of christianity, and the very existence of the Church itself; and after they did obtain it, they defended it with equal obstinacy. One of the rights of the church, which is particularly mentioned in the first article, is in direct contradiction to the twelfth Constitution of Clarendon. It is the right, which King John had granted by a particular charter about a year before, to monks of cathedral churches and abbeys, freely to choose their own bishops and abbots.

The twenty-second article of the charter seems very plainly to indicate, that the freedom granted to the clergy implied an exemption of their persons as clergymen, and of their benefices belonging to the church, from civil jurisdiction. For by that article it is declared, that no clergyman shall be amerced according to the value of his ecclesiastical benefice, but according to his secular estate. A clergyman, therefore, who had no secular estate, was not liable to be amerced. One reason for inserting that article seems to have been, that some clergymen, who had secular estates, had been so unreasonable as to plead, that these estates should be exempted from jurisdiction, as well as their ecclesiastical benefices.

None of the Constitutions of Clarendon were more disagreeable to the Pope and clergy than the fourth, which prohibited all bishops and clerks, that is clergymen, from going out of the kingdom without the king's leave. For, by this law, the clergy were prevented from prosecuting their appeals, and other affairs, at the court of Rome, which deprived that court of much solid power and riches. The forty-second article of the charter removed this restraint, and the clergy, as well as others, were permitted to leave the kingdom at their own pleasure.

As the earls and barons were the chief instruments in procuring this charter, there is little doubt but they would be very careful of the interests of their own order. They had suffered considerable hardships under the feudal system of tenures, and to mitigate these some of the articles were framed. The wardship of the heirs of the nobility and chief vassals was a source of great profit to the crown, which exercised great tyranny, in exacting large fines when these came of age, on their taking possession of their estates. The third article corrects this oppressive custom. Sometimes a king of England, at this period, appointed the sheriff of the county, or some other person, to manage the estate of an earl or baron, who was his ward, and to pay the profits arising from it into the Exchequer. other times he sold or granted the wardship, with all its profits, to some particular person. In both cases, the tenants on the estates of the royal wards were often most grievously oppressed, and their estates wasted, the castles, houses, mills, parks, &c. suffered to go to ruin, because the managers would not be at the expense of repairs. The fourth and fifth articles provided some partial remedies; but the unhappy people who were

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annexed to their estates were viewed by these mighty champions of liberty as their cattle or horses, and were sold and transferred in the same way.

But in addition to these grievances, to which the nobility and other military vassals of the crown were subject, they were liable to the exercise of a most intolerable tyranny, from the right which the sovereign possessed of disposing of them in marriage at his own pleasure or caprice. In consequence of this unnatural right, the heirs and heiresses of the greatest families and fortunes were frequently sold or granted in marriage to persons disagreeable to them, or unworthy of them; or, to preserve themselves from such a disagreeable calamity, they were obliged to pay exorbitant fines. The sixth article sets some bounds to this tyrannical privilege of the crown.

But this article was too general and indefinite to be an effectual remedy against so great an evil. Not only heirs and heiresses, but also widows, were subjected to great oppressions by the feudal system, and subjected to the payment of heavy fines to obtain possession of their dower, and for liberty to remain unmarried, or to marry whom they chose. In the thirtyfirst year of Henry II., Maud, Countess of Warwick, paid the king seven hundred merks, equal in value to seven thousand pounds of our present money, that she might receive her dower, and be at liberty to marry whom she pleased. Lucia, Countess of Chester, paid five hundred merks to King Stephen, that she might not be compelled to marry within five years. King John had carried this part of feudal oppression, as well as all other points of royal prerogative, to a greater extent than any of his royal predecessors; for Alicia, Countess of Warwick, paid him no less a sum than one thousand pounds, that she might not be forced to marry till she pleased.

While the kings of England acted as if they had been the sole judges both of the quantity of the feudal prestations, aids, scutages, and tallages, and of the frequency of exacting them, the property of their vassals was insecure. For when the king could take any proportion of their goods at any time he pleased, they had, in fact, nothing that they could call their own. To prevent this most dangerous abuse in the sovereign, and his granting permission to inferior feudal lords to be guilty of a like abuse over their vassals, is the intention of the twelfth and thirteenth articles of the Great Charter. But because it would be impossible to enumerate all the various tyrannical vexations to which the military vassals of the crown were subject, and to provide particular remedies for each of them, the sixteenth article provides generally, but so vaguely as to have been of very little use, "that no man shall be constrained to do more service for a knight's fee than what is due."

Such were the mitigations of seme of the greatest rigours of the feudal system obtained from king John by the barons; but neither party

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