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triennial and septennial elections, and as has been recently done by the passing the Bills for the reform of parliament. In short, it can do every thing that is not naturally impossible; and, therefore, some have not scrupled to call its power, by a figure certainly too bold-the omnipotence of parliament. This figure of speech applies to the king alone in the exercise of his prerogative, and it is true that what the king and parliament doth, no authority on earth can undo. So that, continues Sir E. Coke, it is a matter most essential to the liberties of this kingdom, that such members be elected for this important trust, as are most eminent for their probity, their fortitude, and their knowledge, for it was a known apothegm of the great lord treasurer Burleigh, "that England could never be ruined but by a parliament;" and, as Sir Matthew Hale observes, this being the highest and greatest court, over which none other can have jurisdiction in the kingdom, if by any means a misgovernment should any ways fall upon it, the subjects of this kingdom are left without all manner of remedy.

In order to prevent the mischiefs that might arise by placing such extensive privileges in hands, that are either incapable or improper for its management, it is provided by the custom and law of parliament, that no member shall sit or vote in either house before he is twenty-one years of age. And it is enacted by statute 7th Jac. I. c. 6, that no member be permitted to enter into the house of Commons, till after he has taken the oath of allegiance before the Lord Steward, or his deputy; and by statute the 30th Car. II. and 1st Geo. I., no member shall sit or vote in either house, till he shall have taken, in the presence of the house, the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, and also subscribed and repeated the declaration against transubstantiation, invocation of saints, and the sacrifice of the mass. The declarations against these three articles, which excluded the members of the Latin church from both houses, and also the Test Act, was repealed in the year 1829, as preliminary steps towards a "breaking in upon the Constitution ;" and by act of parliament passed for that purpose, Roman Catholic gentlemen are now eligible to sit in parliament, and to hold offices in the state, with the exception of the offices of Lord Chancellor of England, and Ireland, and the Lord Lieutenant of the latter kingdom, which three offices must always be held by Protestants. Aliens, unless naturalized, were likewise incapable to serve in parliament, but by the statute 12th and 13th William and Mary, it is declared that no alien is capable of being a member of either house of parliament.

The whole of the law and custom of parliament has its origin from this one maxim, "That whatever matter ariseth concerning either house of parliament ought to be examined, discussed, and adjudged in that house to which it relates, and elsewhere." Hence, for instance, the lords will not suffer the commons to interfere in settling the election of one of the re

presentative peers of Scotland; neither will the commons allow the lords to judge of the election of a burgess or knight of the shire; nor will either house permit the subordinate courts of law to examine or discuss the merits of either case.

The privileges of parliament are most extensive, and, in fact, perfectly indefinite. They were principally established, in order to protect its members not only from being molested by their fellow subjects, but also more especially from being oppressed by the power of the crown, and the dignity and independence of both houses are in a great measure preserved by keeping their privileges indefinite, so that they can draw upon this magazine on any emergency. Henry VIII. and Elizabeth were frequently in the habit of swearing at the members of the house of commons, even striking them, imprisoning them during their own pleasure, and suffering no questions to be asked or reason given for such arbitrary proceedings. Elizabeth used to say, "That the commons ought not to deal, to judge, or to meddle with her prerogative, or with affairs of state, but to leave all such matters to those whose business it was, and who could understand them." In Townshend's collections, page 37, it is related that that redoubtable princess limited the freedom of speech of the commons to the bare voting, yea or nay, commanding them not to meddle with reforming or transforming either church or state; and the speaker was ordered "to reject such bills, if offered, until they be viewed and considered of by those whom it is fitter should consider of such things, and can better judge of them." She also so limited the privileges of the members of the house of commons, "that no man's ill-doings or non-performance of duties, should cover or protect him." And in a petition of access to her Majesty, the commons were confined to require such only in "weighty matters,' and that, too, only "when her Majesty was at leisure." But in the reign of Charles the I., when a fanatical spirit of insubordination was prevalent, it was esteemed breach of privilege, and a sufficient cause for a rebellion, when that injured monarch only desired justice against five members of the commons' house. Some of the more notorious privileges of the members of either house are,—the privilege of speech, person, their domestics, and of their lands and goods. The privilege of speech was declared by the statute 1st W. and M. to be one of the liberties of the people, “that the freedom of speech, debates, and proceedings in parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament." This freedom of speech, as likewise the other privileges of servants, lands, and goods, are particularly demanded of the king in person, by the speaker of the house of commons at the bar of the house of lords, at the opening of every new parliament. This privilege formerly included not only protection from illegal violence, but also from legal arrests and seizures by law process; and even still, violently to assault a member of either house, or his menial servant, is a high contempt of parliament, and punishable with


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the utmost severity. No member of either house can be arrested and taken into custody, unless for some indictable offence, without a breach of the privilege of parliament.

Every peer, by license obtained from the king, may make another lord of parliament his proxy, to vote for him in his absence. "By the orders of the house, no peer can have more than two proxies, nor can proxies vote upon a question of guilty or not guilty." A privilege which a member of the other house can by no means have, as he is himself but a proxy for a multitude of other people. Each peer has also a right, by leave of the house, when a vote passes contrary to his sentiments, to enter his dissent on the journals of the house, with the reasons for such dissent, which is usually styled his protest. All bills, likewise, that may in their consequences anywise affect the rights of the peerage, are by the custom of parliament, to have their first rise and beginning in the house of peers, and to suffer no changes or amendments in the house of commons.

The law and customs peculiar to the house of commons relate principally to the raising of taxes, and the election of members to serve in parliament.

First, with regard to taxes, it is the ancient indisputable privilege and right of the house of commons, that all grants of subsidies or parliamentary aids begin in their house, and are first bestowed by them, although their grants are ineffectual, to all intents and purposes, until they have the consent of the house of lords and the sovereign. The true reason, arising from the spirit of our constitution, seems to be this, because the lords, being a permanent hereditary body created at pleasure by the king, are supposed to be more liable to the influence of the crown than the commons, who are a temporary elective body, freely nominated by the people.

Next, with regard to the election of knights, citizens, and burgesses, we may observe, that herein consists the exercise of the democratical part of our constitution; for in a democracy there can be no exercise of sovereignty but by suffrage, which is the declaration of the people's will. In all democracies, therefore, it is of the utmost importance to regulate by whom, and in what manner, the suffrages are to be given. In England, the people do not debate in a collective body, but by representation; and in the choice of representatives, the laws have very strictly guarded against usurpation or abuse by many salutary provisions, which may be reduced to these three points: 1. The qualifications of the electors. 2. The qualifications of the elected. 3. The proceedings at elections.

As to the qualifications of the electors: By several statutes it has been enacted, that the knights of the shire shall be chosen of people, whereof every man shall have freehold to the value of forty shillings by the year within the county, which is to be clear of all charges and deductions, except parliamentary and parochial taxes. The knights of the shire are the representatives of the landed interest of the kingdom; their electors must, there

fore, have estates in lands or tenements within the county represented: These estates must be freehold, that is, for term of life at least; because, when these statutes were made, beneficial leases for terms of years were not in use, and copyholders were then little better than villeins, absolutely dependent on their lords: This freehold must be of forty shillings annual value; because that sum would then, with proper industry, furnish all the necessaries of life, and render the freeholder an independent man. The other less important qualifications of the electors for counties in England and Wales may be collected from the statutes; which direct, 2. That no person under twenty-one years of age shall be capable of voting for any member. This extends to members for boroughs as well counties; as does the next also, viz. 3. That no person convicted of perjury, or subornation of perjury, shall be capable of voting in any election. 4. That no person shall vote in right of any freehold, granted to him fraudulently, to qualify him to vote, under the penalty of £40. And to guard against frauds, it is further provided, 5. That every voter shall have been in the actual possession or receipt of the profits of his freehold, for his own use, for twelve calendar months before; except it came to him by descent, marriage, marriage-settlement, will, or promotion to a benefice or office. 6. That no person shall vote in respect of an annuity or rent charge, unless registered with the clerk of the peace twelve calendar months before. 7. That in mortgaged or trust-estates, the person in possession, under the above mentioned restrictions, shall have the vote. 8. That only one person shall be admitted to vote for any one house or tenement, to prevent the splitting of freeholds. 9. That no estate shall qualify a voter, unless the estate has been assessed to some land-tax, and at least twelve months before the election. 10. That no tenant by copy of court-roll shall be permitted to vote as a freeholder.

The electors of citizens and burgesses are supposed to be the mercantile or trading interest of the kingdom. Such freemen only of any city or borough as claim by birth, marriage, or servitude, shall be entitled to vote therein, unless he has been admitted to his freedom twelve calendar months before.

Some of the qualifications of persons to be elected members of the house of Commons depend upon the law and custom of parliament, declared by the house of Commons, others upon certain statutes. From which it appears, 1. That they must not be aliens born, or minors. 2. That they must not be any of the twelve judges, because they sit in the House of Lords; nor of the clergy, for they sit in the convocation persons attainted of treason or felony, for they are unfit to sit any where. 3. That sheriffs of counties, and mayors and bailiffs of boroughs, are not eligible in their respective jurisdictions, as being returning officers; but that sheriffs of one county are eligible to be knights of another. 4. That in

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strictness, all members ought to have been inhabitants of the places for which they are chosen: But this having been long disregarded, was at length entirely repealed by statute 14th Geo. III. 5. That no persons concerned in the management of any duties or taxes created since 1692, except the commissioners of the treasury, nor any of the officers following, viz. commissioners of prizes, transports, sick and wounded, wine licences, navy and victualling; secretaries or receivers of prizes; comptrollers of the army accounts; agents for regiments; governors of plantations and their deputies; officers of Minorca or Gibraltar; officers of the excise and customs; clerks or deputies in the several offices of the treasury, exchequer, army, victualling, admiralty, pay of the army or navy, secretaries of state, seal, stamps, appeals, wine licences, hackney coaches, hawkers and pedlars; nor any persons that hold any new office under the crown, created since 1705, are capable of being elected or sitting as members. 6. That no person having a pension under the crown during pleasure, or for any term of years, is capable of being elected or sitting. 7. That if any member accepts an office under the crown, except an officer in the army or navy, accepting a new commission, his seat is void, but such member is capable of being re-elected. 8. That all knights of the shire shall be actual knights, or such notable esquires and gentlemen as have estates sufficient to be knights, and by no means of the degree of yeomen. This is reduced to a still greater certainty, by ordaining, 9. That every knight of a shire shall have a clear estate of freehold or copy hold to the value of £600 per annum, and every citizen and burgess to the value of £300 : except the eldest sons of peers, and of persons qualified to be knights of shires, and except the members for the two universities; which somewhat balances the ascendant which the boroughs have gained over the counties, by obliging the trading interest to make choice of landed men; and of this qualification the member must make oath, and give in the particulars in writing, at the time of his taking his seat. But subject to these standing restrictions and qualifications, every subject of this realm is eligible of common right.

Elections are also regulated by the law of parliament, and several sta


As soon as parliament is summoned, the Lord Chancellor (or, if a vacancy happens during the sitting of parliament, the speaker, by order of the house, and without such order, if a vacancy happens by death, or the member's becoming a peer in the time of a recess for twenty days) sends his warrant to the clerk of the crown in chancery, who thereupon issues out writs to the sheriff of every county, for the election of all the members to serve for that county, and every city and borough therein. Within three days after the receipt of this writ, the sheriff is to send his precept, under his seal, to the proper returning officers of the cities and boroughs,

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