Commentaries on the Laws of England - Book the First
by William Blackstone
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[Footnote z: Co. Litt. 133.]

[Footnote a: This was also a rule in the feodal law, l. 2. t. 21. desiit esse miles seculi, qui factus est miles Christi; nec beneficium pertinet ad eum qui non debet gerere officium.]

[Footnote b: Litt. Sec. 200.]

[Footnote c: Co. Litt. 133 b.]

[Footnote d: 2 Rep. 48. Co. Litt. 132.]

THIS natural life being, as was before observed, the immediate donation of the great creator, cannot legally be disposed of or destroyed by any individual, neither by the person himself nor by any other of his fellow creatures, merely upon their own authority. Yet nevertheless it may, by the divine permission, be frequently forfeited for the breach of those laws of society, which are enforced by the sanction of capital punishments; of the nature, restrictions, expedience, and legality of which, we may hereafter more conveniently enquire in the concluding book of these commentaries. At present, I shall only observe, that whenever the constitution of a state vests in any man, or body of men, a power of destroying at pleasure, without the direction of laws, the lives or members of the subject, such constitution is in the highest degree tyrannical: and that whenever any laws direct such destruction for light and trivial causes, such laws are likewise tyrannical, though in an inferior degree; because here the subject is aware of the danger he is exposed to, and may by prudent caution provide against it. The statute law of England does therefore very seldom, and the common law does never, inflict any punishment extending to life or limb, unless upon the highest necessity: and the constitution is an utter stranger to any arbitrary power of killing or maiming the subject without the express warrant of law. "Nullus liber homo, says the great charter[e], aliquo modo destruatur, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum aut per legem terrae." Which words, "aliquo modo destruatur," according to sir Edward Coke[f], include a prohibition not only of killing, and maiming, but also of torturing (to which our laws are strangers) and of every oppression by colour of an illegal authority. And it is enacted by the statute 5 Edw. III. c. 9. that no man shall be forejudged of life or limb, contrary to the great charter and the law of the land: and again, by statute 28 Ed. III. c. 3. that no man shall be put to death, without being brought to answer by due process of law.

[Footnote e: c. 29.]

[Footnote f: 2 Inst. 48.]

3. BESIDES those limbs and members that may be necessary to man, in order to defend himself or annoy his enemy, the rest of his person or body is also entitled by the same natural right to security from the corporal insults of menaces, assaults, beating, and wounding; though such insults amount not to destruction of life or member.

4. THE preservation of a man's health from such practices as may prejudice or annoy it, and

5. THE security of his reputation or good name from the arts of detraction and slander, are rights to which every man is intitled, by reason and natural justice; since without these it is impossible to have the perfect enjoyment of any other advantage or right. But these three last articles (being of much less importance than those which have gone before, and those which are yet to come) it will suffice to have barely mentioned among the rights of persons; referring the more minute discussion of their several branches, to those parts of our commentaries which treat of the infringement of these rights, under the head of personal wrongs.

II. NEXT to personal security, the law of England regards, asserts, and preserves the personal liberty of individuals. This personal liberty consists in the power of loco-motion, of changing situation, or removing one's person to whatsoever place one's own inclination may direct; without imprisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law. Concerning which we may make the same observations as upon the preceding article; that it is a right strictly natural; that the laws of England have never abridged it without sufficient cause; and, that in this kingdom it cannot ever be abridged at the mere discretion of the magistrate, without the explicit permission of the laws. Here again the language of the great charter[g] is, that no freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, but by the lawful judgment of his equals, or by the law of the land. And many subsequent old statutes[h] expressly direct, that no man shall be taken or imprisoned by suggestion or petition to the king, or his council, unless it be by legal indictment, or the process of the common law. By the petition of right, 3 Car. I, it is enacted, that no freeman shall be imprisoned or detained without cause shewn, to which he may make answer according to law. By 16 Car. I. c. 10. if any person be restrained of his liberty by order or decree of any illegal court, or by command of the king's majesty in person, or by warrant of the council board, or of any of the privy council; he shall, upon demand of his counsel, have a writ of habeas corpus, to bring his body before the court of king's bench or common pleas; who shall determine whether the cause of his commitment be just, and thereupon do as to justice shall appertain. And by 31 Car. II. c. 2. commonly called the habeas corpus act, the methods of obtaining this writ are so plainly pointed out and enforced, that, so long as this statute remains unimpeached, no subject of England can be long detained in prison, except in those cases in which the law requires and justifies such detainer. And, lest this act should be evaded by demanding unreasonable bail, or sureties for the prisoner's appearance, it is declared by 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. that excessive bail ought not to be required.

[Footnote g: c. 29.]

[Footnote h: 5 Edw. III. c. 9. 25 Edw. III. st. 5. c. 4. and 28 Edw. III. c. 3.]

OF great importance to the public is the preservation of this personal liberty: for if once it were left in the power of any, the highest, magistrate to imprison arbitrarily whomever he or his officers thought proper, (as in France it is daily practiced by the crown) there would soon be an end of all other rights and immunities. Some have thought, that unjust attacks, even upon life, or property, at the arbitrary will of the magistrate, are less dangerous to the commonwealth, than such as are made upon the personal liberty of the subject. To bereave a man of life, or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole kingdom. But confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to gaol, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten; is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government. And yet sometimes, when the state is in real danger, even this may be a necessary measure. But the happiness of our constitution is, that it is not left to the executive power to determine when the danger of the state is so great, as to render this measure expedient. For the parliament only, or legislative power, whenever it sees proper, can authorize the crown, by suspending the habeas corpus act for a short and limited time, to imprison suspected persons without giving any reason for so doing. As the senate of Rome was wont to have recourse to a dictator, a magistrate of absolute authority, when they judged the republic in any imminent danger. The decree of the senate, which usually preceded the nomination of this magistrate, "dent operam consules, nequid respublica detrimenti capiat," was called the senatus consultum ultimae necessitatis. In like manner this experiment ought only to be tried in cases of extreme emergency; and in these the nation parts with it's liberty for a while, in order to preserve it for ever.

THE confinement of the person, in any wise, is an imprisonment. So that the keeping a man against his will in a private house, putting him in the stocks, arresting or forcibly detaining him in the street, is an imprisonment[i]. And the law so much discourages unlawful confinement, that if a man is under duress of imprisonment, which we before explained to mean a compulsion by an illegal restraint of liberty, until he seals a bond or the like; he may alledge this duress, and avoid the extorted bond. But if a man be lawfully imprisoned, and either to procure his discharge, or on any other fair account, seals a bond or a deed, this is not by duress of imprisonment, and he is not at liberty to avoid it[k]. To make imprisonment lawful, it must either be, by process from the courts of judicature, or by warrant from some legal officer, having authority to commit to prison; which warrant must be in writing, under the hand and seal of the magistrate, and express the causes of the commitment, in order to be examined into (if necessary) upon a habeas corpus. If there be no cause expressed, the goaler is not bound to detain the prisoner[l]. For the law judges in this respect, saith sir Edward Coke, like Festus the Roman governor; that it is unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not to signify withal the crimes alleged against him.

[Footnote i: 2 Inst. 589.]

[Footnote k: 2 Inst. 482.]

[Footnote l: 2 Inst. 52, 53.]

A NATURAL and regular consequence of this personal liberty, is, that every Englishman may claim a right to abide in his own country so long as he pleases; and not to be driven from it unless by the sentence of the law. The king indeed, by his royal prerogative, may issue out his writ ne exeat regnum, and prohibit any of his subjects from going into foreign parts without licence[m]. This may be necessary for the public service, and safeguard of the commonwealth. But no power on earth, except the authority of parliament, can send any subject of England out of the land against his will; no not even a criminal. For exile, or transportation, is a punishment unknown to the common law; and, wherever it is now inflicted, it is either by the choice of the criminal himself, to escape a capital punishment, or else by the express direction of some modern act of parliament. To this purpose the great charter[n] declares that no freeman shall be banished, unless by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. And by the habeas corpus act, 31 Car. II. c. 2. (that second magna carta, and stable bulwark of our liberties) it is enacted, that no subject of this realm, who is an inhabitant of England, Wales, or Berwick, shall be sent prisoner into Scotland, Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, or places beyond the seas; (where they cannot have the benefit and protection of the common law) but that all such imprisonments shall be illegal; that the person, who shall dare to commit another contrary to this law, shall be disabled from bearing any office, shall incur the penalty of a praemunire, and be incapable of receiving the king's pardon: and the party suffering shall also have his private action against the person committing, and all his aiders, advisers and abettors, and shall recover treble costs; besides his damages, which no jury shall assess at less than five hundred pounds.

[Footnote m: F.N.B. 85.]

[Footnote n: cap. 29.]

THE law is in this respect so benignly and liberally construed for the benefit of the subject, that, though within the realm the king may command the attendance and service of all his liege-men, yet he cannot send any man out of the realm, even upon the public service: he cannot even constitute a man lord deputy or lieutenant of Ireland against his will, nor make him a foreign embassador[o]. For this might in reality be no more than an honorable exile.

[Footnote o: 2 Inst. 47.]

III. THE third absolute right, inherent in every Englishman, is that of property; which consists in the free use, enjoyment, and disposal of all his acquisitions, without any control or diminution, save only by the laws of the land. The original of private property is probably founded in nature, as will be more fully explained in the second book of the ensuing commentaries: but certainly the modifications under which we at present find it, the method of conserving it in the present owner, and of translating it from man to man, are entirely derived from society; and are some of those civil advantages, in exchange for which every individual has resigned a part of his natural liberty. The laws of England are therefore, in point of honor and justice, extremely watchful in ascertaining and protecting this right. Upon this principle the great charter[p] has declared that no freeman shall be disseised, or divested, of his freehold, or of his liberties, or free customs, but by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. And by a variety of antient statutes[q] it is enacted, that no man's lands or goods shall be seised into the king's hands, against the great charter, and the law of the land; and that no man shall be disinherited, nor put out of his franchises or freehold, unless he be duly brought to answer, and be forejudged by course of law; and if any thing be done to the contrary, it shall be redressed, and holden for none.

[Footnote p: c. 29.]

[Footnote q: 5 Edw. III. c. 9. 25 Edw. III. st. 5. c. 4. 28 Edw. III. c. 3.]

SO great moreover is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community. If a new road, for instance, were to be made through the grounds of a private person, it might perhaps be extensively beneficial to the public; but the law permits no man, or set of men, to do this without consent of the owner of the land. In vain may it be urged, that the good of the individual ought to yield to that of the community; for it would be dangerous to allow any private man, or even any public tribunal, to be the judge of this common good, and to decide whether it be expedient or no. Besides, the public good is in nothing more essentially interested, than in the protection of every individual's private rights, as modelled by the municipal law. In this, and similar cases the legislature alone can, and indeed frequently does, interpose, and compel the individual to acquiesce. But how does it interpose and compel? Not by absolutely stripping the subject of his property in an arbitrary manner; but by giving him a full indemnification and equivalent for the injury thereby sustained. The public is now considered as an individual, treating with an individual for an exchange. All that the legislature does is to oblige the owner to alienate his possessions for a reasonable price; and even this is an exertion of power, which the legislature indulges with caution, and which nothing but the legislature can perform.

NOR is this the only instance in which the law of the land has postponed even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property. For no subject of England can be constrained to pay any aids or taxes, even for the defence of the realm or the support of government, but such as are imposed by his own consent, or that of his representatives in parliament. By the statute 25 Edw. I. c. 5 and 6. it is provided, that the king shall not take any aids or tasks, but by the common assent of the realm. And what that common assent is, is more fully explained by 34 Edw. I. st. 4. cap. 1. which enacts, that no talliage or aid shall be taken without assent of the arch-bishops, bishops, earls, barons, knights, burgesses, and other freemen of the land[r]: and again by 14 Edw. III. st. 2. c. 1. the prelates, earls, barons, and commons, citizens, burgesses, and merchants shall not be charged to make any aid, if it be not by the common assent of the great men and commons in parliament. And as this fundamental law had been shamefully evaded under many succeeding princes, by compulsive loans, and benevolences extorted without a real and voluntary consent, it was made an article in the petition of right 3 Car. I, that no man shall be compelled to yield any gift, loan, or benevolence, tax, or such like charge, without common consent by act of parliament. And, lastly, by the statute 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. it is declared, that levying money for or to the use of the crown, by pretence of prerogative, without grant of parliament; or for longer time, or in other manner, than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal.

[Footnote r: See the historical introduction to the great charter, &c, sub anno 1297; wherein it is shewn that this statute de talliagio non concedendo, supposed to have been made in 34 Edw. I, is in reality nothing more than a sort of translation into Latin of the confirmatio cartarum, 25 Edw. I, which was originally published in the Norman language.]

IN the three preceding articles we have taken a short view of the principal absolute rights which appertain to every Englishman. But in vain would these rights be declared, ascertained, and protected by the dead letter of the laws, if the constitution had provided no other method to secure their actual enjoyment. It has therefore established certain other auxiliary subordinate rights of the subject, which serve principally as barriers to protect and maintain inviolate the three great and primary rights, of personal security, personal liberty, and private property. These are,

1. THE constitution, powers, and privileges of parliament, of which I shall treat at large in the ensuing chapter.

2. THE limitation of the king's prerogative, by bounds so certain and notorious, that it is impossible he should exceed them without the consent of the people. Of this also I shall treat in it's proper place. The former of these keeps the legislative power in due health and vigour, so as to make it improbable that laws should be enacted destructive of general liberty: the latter is a guard upon the executive power, by restraining it from acting either beyond or in contradiction to the laws, that are framed and established by the other.

3. A THIRD subordinate right of every Englishman is that of applying to the courts of justice for redress of injuries. Since the law is in England the supreme arbiter of every man's life, liberty, and property, courts of justice must at all times be open to the subject, and the law be duly administred therein. The emphatical words of magna carta[s], spoken in the person of the king, who in judgment of law (says sir Edward Coke[t]) is ever present and repeating them in all his courts, are these; "nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus, aut differemus rectum vel justitiam: and therefore every subject," continues the same learned author, "for injury done to him in bonis, in terris, vel persona, by any other subject, be he ecclesiastical or temporal without any exception, may take his remedy by the course of the law, and have justice and right for the injury done to him, freely without sale, fully without any denial, and speedily without delay." It were endless to enumerate all the affirmative acts of parliament wherein justice is directed to be done according to the law of the land: and what that law is, every subject knows; or may know if he pleases: for it depends not upon the arbitrary will of any judge; but is permanent, fixed, and unchangeable, unless by authority of parliament. I shall however just mention a few negative statutes, whereby abuses, perversions, or delays of justice, especially by the prerogative, are restrained. It is ordained by magna carta[u], that no freeman shall be outlawed, that is, put out of the protection and benefit of the laws, but according to the law of the land. By 2 Edw. III. c. 8. and 11 Ric. II. c. 10. it is enacted, that no commands or letters shall be sent under the great seal, or the little seal, the signet, or privy seal, in disturbance of the law; or to disturb or delay common right: and, though such commandments should come, the judges shall not cease to do right. And by 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. it is declared, that the pretended power of suspending, or dispensing with laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority without consent of parliament, is illegal.

[Footnote s: c. 29.]

[Footnote t: 2 Inst. 55.]

[Footnote u: c. 29.]

NOT only the substantial part, or judicial decisions, of the law, but also the formal part, or method of proceeding, cannot be altered but by parliament: for if once those outworks were demolished, there would be no inlet to all manner of innovation in the body of the law itself. The king, it is true, may erect new courts of justice; but then they must proceed according to the old established forms of the common law. For which reason it is declared in the statute 16 Car. I. c. 10. upon the dissolution of the court of starchamber, that neither his majesty, nor his privy council, have any jurisdiction, power, or authority by English bill, petition, articles, libel (which were the course of proceeding in the starchamber, borrowed from the civil law) or by any other arbitrary way whatsoever, to examine, or draw into question, determine or dispose of the lands or goods of any subjects of this kingdom; but that the same ought to be tried and determined in the ordinary courts of justice, and by course of law.

4. IF there should happen any uncommon injury, or infringement of the rights beforementioned, which the ordinary course of law is too defective to reach, there still remains a fourth subordinate right appertaining to every individual, namely, the right of petitioning the king, or either house of parliament, for the redress of grievances. In Russia we are told[w] that the czar Peter established a law, that no subject might petition the throne, till he had first petitioned two different ministers of state. In case he obtained justice from neither, he might then present a third petition to the prince; but upon pain of death, if found to be in the wrong. The consequence of which was, that no one dared to offer such third petition; and grievances seldom falling under the notice of the sovereign, he had little opportunity to redress them. The restrictions, for some there are, which are laid upon petitioning in England, are of a nature extremely different; and while they promote the spirit of peace, they are no check upon that of liberty. Care only must be taken, lest, under the pretence of petitioning, the subject be guilty of any riot or tumult; as happened in the opening of the memorable parliament in 1640: and, to prevent this, it is provided by the statute 13 Car. II. st. 1. c. 5. that no petition to the king, or either house of parliament, for any alterations in church or state, shall be signed by above twenty persons, unless the matter thereof be approved by three justices of the peace or the major part of the grand jury, in the country; and in London by the lord mayor, aldermen, and common council; nor shall any petition be presented by more than two persons at a time. But under these regulations, it is declared by the statute 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. that the subject hath a right to petition; and that all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.

[Footnote w: Montesq. Sp. L. 12. 26.]

5. THE fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. and is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.

IN these several articles consist the rights, or, as they are frequently termed, the liberties of Englishmen: liberties more generally talked of, than thoroughly understood; and yet highly necessary to be perfectly known and considered by every man of rank or property, lest his ignorance of the points whereon it is founded should hurry him into faction and licentiousness on the one hand, or a pusillanimous indifference and criminal submission on the other. And we have seen that these rights consist, primarily, in the free enjoyment of personal security, of personal liberty, and of private property. So long as these remain inviolate, the subject is perfectly free; for every species of compulsive tyranny and oppression must act in opposition to one or other of these rights, having no other object upon which it can possibly be employed. To preserve these from violation, it is necessary that the constitution of parliaments be supported in it's full vigor; and limits certainly known, be set to the royal prerogative. And, lastly, to vindicate these rights, when actually violated or attacked, the subjects of England are entitled, in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next to the right of petitioning the king and parliament for redress of grievances; and lastly to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defence. And all these rights and liberties it is our birthright to enjoy entire; unless where the laws of our country have laid them under necessary restraints. Restraints in themselves so gentle and moderate, as will appear upon farther enquiry, that no man of sense or probity would wish to see them slackened. For all of us have it in our choice to do every thing that a good man would desire to do; and are restrained from nothing, but what would be pernicious either to ourselves or our fellow citizens. So that this review of our situation may fully justify the observation of a learned French author, who indeed generally both thought and wrote in the spirit of genuine freedom[x]; and who hath not scrupled to profess, even in the very bosom of his native country, that the English is the only nation in the world, where political or civil liberty is the direct end of it's constitution. Recommending therefore to the student in our laws a farther and more accurate search into this extensive and important title, I shall close my remarks upon it with the expiring wish of the famous father Paul to his country, "ESTO PERPETUA!"

[Footnote x: Montesq. Sp. L. 11. 5.]



WE are next to treat of the rights and duties of persons, as they are members of society, and stand in various relations to each other. These relations are either public or private: and we will first consider those that are public.

THE most universal public relation, by which men are connected together, is that of government; namely, as governors and governed, or, in other words, as magistrates and people. Of magistrates also some are supreme, in whom the sovereign power of the state resides; others are subordinate, deriving all their authority from the supreme magistrate, accountable to him for their conduct, and acting in an inferior secondary sphere.

IN all tyrannical governments the supreme magistracy, or the right both of making and of enforcing the laws, is vested in one and the same man, or one and the same body of men; and wherever these two powers are united together, there can be no public liberty. The magistrate may enact tyrannical laws, and execute them in a tyrannical manner, since he is possessed, in quality of dispenser of justice, with all the power which he as legislator thinks proper to give himself. But, where the legislative and executive authority are in distinct hands, the former will take care not to entrust the latter with so large a power, as may tend to the subversion of it's own independence, and therewith of the liberty of the subject. With us therefore in England this supreme power is divided into two branches; the one legislative, to wit, the parliament, consisting of king, lords, and commons; the other executive, consisting of the king alone. It will be the business of this chapter to consider the British parliament; in which the legislative power, and (of course) the supreme and absolute authority of the state, is vested by our constitution.

THE original or first institution of parliaments is one of those matters that lie so far hidden in the dark ages of antiquity, that the tracing of it out is a thing equally difficult and uncertain. The word, parliament, itself (or colloquium, as some of our historians translate it) is comparatively of modern date, derived from the French, and signifying the place where they met and conferred together. It was first applied to general assemblies of the states under Louis VII in France, about the middle of the twelfth century[a]. But it is certain that, long before the introduction of the Norman language into England, all matters of importance were debated and settled in the great councils of the realm. A practice, which seems to have been universal among the northern nations, particularly the Germans[b]; and carried by them into all the countries of Europe, which they overran at the dissolution of the Roman empire. Relics of which constitution, under various modifications and changes, are still to be met with in the diets of Poland, Germany, and Sweden, and the assembly of the estates in France; for what is there now called the parliament is only the supreme court of justice, composed of judges and advocates; which neither is in practice, nor is supposed to be in theory, a general council of the realm.

[Footnote a: Mod. Un. Hist. xxiii. 307.]

[Footnote b: De minoribus rebus principes consultant, de majoribus omnes. Tac. de mor. Germ. c. 11.]

WITH us in England this general council hath been held immemorially, under the several names of michel-synoth, or great council, michel-gemote or great meeting, and more frequently wittena-gemote or the meeting of wise men. It was also stiled in Latin, commune concilium regni, magnum concilium regis, curia magna, conventus magnatum vel procerum, assisa generalis, and sometimes communitas regni Angliae[c]. We have instances of it's meeting to order the affairs of the kingdom, to make new laws, and to amend the old, or, as Fleta[d] expresses it, "novis injuriis emersis nova constituere remedia," so early as the reign of Ina king of the west Saxons, Offa king of the Mercians, and Ethelbert king of Kent, in the several realms of the heptarchy. And, after their union, the mirrour[e] informs us, that king Alfred ordained for a perpetual usage, that these councils should meet twice in the year, or oftener, if need be, to treat of the government of God's people; how they should keep themselves from sin, should live in quiet, and should receive right. Our succeeding Saxon and Danish monarchs held frequent councils of this sort, as appears from their respective codes of laws; the titles whereof usually speak them to be enacted, either by the king with the advice of his wittena-gemote, or wise men, as, "haec sunt instituta, quae Edgarus rex consilio sapientum suorum instituit;" or to be enacted by those sages with the advice of the king, as, "haec sunt judicia, quae sapientes consilio regis Ethelstani instituerunt;" or lastly, to be enacted by them both together, as; "hae sunt institutiones, quas rex Edmundus et episcopi sui cum sapientibus suis instituerunt."

[Footnote c: Glanvil. l. 13 c. 32. l. 9. c. 10.—Pref. 9 Rep.—2 Inst. 526.]

[Footnote d: l. 2. c. 2.]

[Footnote e: c. 1. Sec. 3.]

THERE is also no doubt but these great councils were held regularly under the first princes of the Norman line. Glanvil, who wrote in the reign of Henry the second, speaking of the particular amount of an amercement in the sheriff's court, says, it had never yet been ascertained by the general assise, or assembly, but was left to the custom of particular counties[f]. Here the general assise is spoken of as a meeting well known, and it's statutes or decisions are put in a manifest contradistinction to customs, or the common law. And in Edward the third's time an act of parliament, made in the reign of William the conqueror, was pleaded in the case of the abbey of St Edmund's-bury, and judicially allowed by the court[g].

[Footnote f: Quanta esse debeat per nullam assisam generalem determinatum est, sed pro consuetudine singulorum comitatuum debetur. l. 9. c. 10.]

[Footnote g: Year book, 21 Edw. III. 60.]

HENCE it indisputably appears, that parliaments, or general councils, are coeval with the kingdom itself. How those parliaments were constituted and composed, is another question, which has been matter of great dispute among our learned antiquarians; and, particularly, whether the commons were summoned at all; or, if summoned, at what period they began to form a distinct assembly. But it is not my intention here to enter into controversies of this sort. I hold it sufficient that it is generally agreed, that in the main the constitution of parliament, as it now stands, was marked out so long ago as the seventeenth year of king John, A.D. 1215, in the great charter granted by that prince; wherein he promises to summon all arch-bishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons, personally; and all other tenants in chief under the crown, by the sheriff and bailiffs; to meet at a certain place, with forty days notice, to assess aids and scutages when necessary. And this constitution has subsisted in fact at least from the year 1266, 49 Hen. III: there being still extant writs of that date, to summon knights, citizens, and burgesses to parliament. I proceed therefore to enquire wherein consists this constitution of parliament, as it now stands, and has stood for the space of five hundred years. And in the prosecution of this enquiry, I shall consider, first, the manner and time of it's assembling: secondly, it's constituent parts: thirdly, the laws and customs relating to parliament, considered as one aggregate body: fourthly and fifthly, the laws and customs relating to each house, separately and distinctly taken: sixthly, the methods of proceeding, and of making statutes, in both houses: and lastly, the manner of the parliament's adjournment, prorogation, and dissolution.

I. AS to the manner and time of assembling. The parliament is regularly to be summoned by the king's writ or letter, issued out of chancery by advice of the privy council, at least forty days before it begins to sit. It is a branch of the royal prerogative, that no parliament can be convened by it's own authority, or by the authority of any, except the king alone. And this prerogative is founded upon very good reason. For, supposing it had a right to meet spontaneously, without being called together, it is impossible to conceive that all the members, and each of the houses, would agree unanimously upon the proper time and place of meeting: and if half of the members met, and half absented themselves, who shall determine which is really the legislative body, the part assembled, or that which stays away? It is therefore necessary that the parliament should be called together at a determinate time and place; and highly becoming it's dignity and independence, that it should be called together by none but one of it's own constituent parts; and, of the three constituent parts, this office can only appertain to the king; as he is a single person, whose will may be uniform and steady; the first person in the nation, being superior to both houses in dignity; and the only branch of the legislature that has a separate existence, and is capable of performing any act at a time when no parliament is in being[h]. Nor is it an exception to this rule that, by some modern statutes, on the demise of a king or queen, if there be then no parliament in being, the last parliament revives, and is to sit again for six months, unless dissolved by the successor: for this revived parliament must have been originally summoned by the crown.

[Footnote h: By motives somewhat similar to these the republic of Venice was actuated, when towards the end of the seventh century it abolished the tribunes of the people, who were annually chosen by the several districts of the Venetian territory, and constituted a doge in their stead; in whom the executive power of the state at present resides. For which their historians have assigned these, as the principal reasons. 1. The propriety of having the executive power a part of the legislative, or senate; to which the former annual magistrates were not admitted. 2. The necessity of having a single person to convoke the great council when separated. Mod. Un. Hist. xxvii. 15.]

IT is true, that by a statute, 16 Car. I. c. 1. it was enacted, that if the king neglected to call a parliament for three years, the peers might assemble and issue out writs for the choosing one; and, in case of neglect of the peers, the constituents might meet and elect one themselves. But this, if ever put in practice, would have been liable to all the inconveniences I have just now stated; and the act itself was esteemed so highly detrimental and injurious to the royal prerogative, that it was repealed by statute 16 Car. II. c. 1. From thence therefore no precedent can be drawn.

IT is also true, that the convention-parliament, which restored king Charles the second, met above a month before his return; the lords by their own authority, and the commons in pursuance of writs issued in the name of the keepers of the liberty of England by authority of parliament: and that the said parliament sat till the twenty ninth of December, full seven months after the restoration; and enacted many laws, several of which are still in force. But this was for the necessity of the thing, which supersedes all law; for if they had not so met, it was morally impossible that the kingdom should have been settled in peace. And the first thing done after the king's return, was to pass an act declaring this to be a good parliament, notwithstanding the defect of the king's writs[i]. So that, as the royal prerogative was chiefly wounded by their so meeting, and as the king himself, who alone had a right to object, consented to wave the objection, this cannot be drawn into an example in prejudice of the rights of the crown. Besides we should also remember, that it was at that time a great doubt among the lawyers[k], whether even this healing act made it a good parliament; and held by very many in the negative: though it seems to have been too nice a scruple.

[Footnote i: Stat. 12 Car. II. c. 1.]

[Footnote k: 1 Sid. 1.]

IT is likewise true, that at the time of the revolution, A.D. 1688, the lords and commons by their own authority, and upon the summons of the prince of Orange, (afterwards king William) met in a convention and therein disposed of the crown and kingdom. But it must be remembered, that this assembling was upon a like principle of necessity as at the restoration; that is, upon an apprehension that king James the second had abdicated the government, and that the throne was thereby vacant: which apprehension of theirs was confirmed by their concurrent resolution, when they actually came together. And in such a case as the palpable vacancy of a throne, it follows ex necessitate rei, that the form of the royal writs must be laid aside, otherwise no parliament can ever meet again. For, let us put another possible case, and suppose, for the sake of argument, that the whole royal line should at any time fail, and become extinct, which would indisputably vacate the throne: in this situation it seems reasonable to presume, that the body of the nation, consisting of lords and commons, would have a right to meet and settle the government; otherwise there must be no government at all. And upon this and no other principle did the convention in 1688 assemble. The vacancy of the throne was precedent to their meeting without any royal summons, not a consequence of it. They did not assemble without writ, and then make the throne vacant; but the throne being previously vacant by the king's abdication, they assembled without writ, as they must do if they assembled at all. Had the throne been full, their meeting would not have been regular; but, as it was really empty, such meeting became absolutely necessary. And accordingly it is declared by statute 1 W. & M. st. 1. c. 1. that this convention was really the two houses of parliament, notwithstanding the want of writs or other defects of form. So that, notwithstanding these two capital exceptions, which were justifiable only on a principle of necessity, (and each of which, by the way, induced a revolution in the government) the rule laid down is in general certain, that the king, only, can convoke a parliament.

AND this by the antient statutes of the realm[l], he is bound to do every year, or oftener, if need be. Not that he is, or ever was, obliged by these statutes to call a new parliament every year; but only to permit a parliament to sit annually for the redress of grievances, and dispatch of business, if need be. These last words are so loose and vague, that such of our monarchs as were enclined to govern without parliaments, neglected the convoking them, sometimes for a very considerable period, under pretence that there was no need of them. But, to remedy this, by the statute 16 Car. II. c. 1. it is enacted, that the sitting and holding of parliaments shall not be intermitted above three years at the most. And by the statute 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. it is declared to be one of the rights of the people, that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening, and preserving the laws, parliaments ought to be held frequently. And this indefinite frequency is again reduced to a certainty by statute 6 W. & M. c. 2. which enacts, as the statute of Charles the second had done before, that a new parliament shall be called within three years[m] after the determination of the former.

[Footnote l: 4 Edw. III. c. 14. and 36 Edw. III. c. 10.]

[Footnote m: This is the same period, that is allowed in Sweden for intermitting their general diets, or parliamentary assemblies. Mod. Un. Hist. xxxiii. 15.]

II. THE constituent parts of a parliament are the next objects of our enquiry. And these are, the king's majesty, sitting there in his royal political capacity, and the three estates of the realm; the lords spiritual, the lords temporal, (who sit, together with, the king, in one house) and the commons, who sit by themselves in another[n]. And the king and these three estates, together, form the great corporation or body politic of the kingdom, of which the king is said to be caput, principium, et finis. For upon their coming together the king meets them, either in person or by representation; without which there can be no beginning of a parliament[o]; and he also has alone the power of dissolving them.

[Footnote n: 4 Inst. 1.]

[Footnote o: 4 Inst. 6.]

IT is highly necessary for preserving the ballance of the constitution, that the executive power should be a branch, though not the whole, of the legislature. The total union of them, we have seen, would be productive of tyranny; the total disjunction of them for the present, would in the end produce the same effects, by causing that union, against which it seems to provide. The legislature would soon become tyrannical, by making continual encroachments, and gradually assuming to itself the rights of the executive power. Thus the long parliament of Charles the first, while it acted in a constitutional manner, with the royal concurrence, redressed many heavy grievances and established many salutary laws. But when the two houses assumed the power of legislation, in exclusion of the royal authority, they soon after assumed likewise the reins of administration; and, in consequence of these united powers, overturned both church and state, and established a worse oppression than any they pretended to remedy. To hinder therefore any such encroachments, the king is himself a part of the parliament: and, as this is the reason of his being so, very properly therefore the share of legislation, which the constitution has placed in the crown, consists in the power of rejecting, rathar [Transcriber's Note: rather] than resolving; this being sufficient to answer the end proposed. For we may apply to the royal negative, in this instance, what Cicero observes of the negative of the Roman tribunes, that the crown has not any power of doing wrong, but merely of preventing wrong from being done[p]. The crown cannot begin of itself any alterations in the present established law; but it may approve or disapprove of the alterations suggested and consented to by the two houses. The legislative therefore cannot abridge the executive power of any rights which it now has by law, without it's own consent; since the law must perpetually stand as it now does, unless all the powers will agree to alter it. And herein indeed consists the true excellence of the English government, that all the parts of it form a mutual check upon each other. In the legislature, the people are a check upon the nobility, and the nobility a check upon the people; by the mutual privilege of rejecting what the other has resolved: while the king is a check upon both, which preserves the executive power from encroachments. And this very executive power is again checked, and kept within due bounds by the two houses, through the privilege they have of enquiring into, impeaching, and punishing the conduct (not indeed of the king, which would destroy his constitutional independence; but, which is more beneficial to the public) of his evil and pernicious counsellors. Thus every branch of our civil polity supports and is supported, regulates and is regulated, by the rest; for the two houses naturally drawing in two directions of opposite interest, and the prerogative in another still different from them both, they mutually keep each other from exceeding their proper limits; while the whole is prevented from separation, and artificially connected together by the mixed nature of the crown, which is a part of the legislative, and the sole executive magistrate. Like three distinct powers in mechanics, they jointly impel the machine of government in a direction different from what either, acting by themselves, would have done; but at the same time in a direction partaking of each, and formed out of all; a direction which constitutes the true line of the liberty and happiness of the community.

[Footnote p: Sulla—tribunis plebis sua lege injuriae faciendae potestatem ademit, auxilii ferendi reliquit. de LL. 3. 9.]

LET us now consider these constituent parts of the sovereign power, or parliament, each in a separate view. The king's majesty will be the subject of the next, and many subsequent chapters, to which we must at present refer.

THE next in order are the spiritual lords. These consist of two arch-bishops, and twenty four bishops; and, at the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII, consisted likewise of twenty six mitred abbots, and two priors[q]: a very considerable body, and in those times equal in number to the temporal nobility[r]. All these hold, or are supposed to hold, certain antient baronies under the king: for William the conqueror thought proper to change the spiritual tenure, of frankalmoign or free alms, under which the bishops held their lands during the Saxon government, into the feodal or Norman tenure by barony; which subjected their estates to all civil charges and assessments, from which they were before exempt[s]: and, in right of succession to those baronies, the bishops obtained their seat in the house of lords[t]. But though these lords spiritual are in the eye of the law a distinct estate from the lords temporal, and are so distinguished in all our acts of parliament, yet in practice they are usually blended together under the one name of the lords; they intermix in their votes; and the majority of such intermixture binds both estates. For if a bill should pass their house, there is no doubt of it's being effectual, though every lord spiritual should vote against it; of which Selden[u], and sir Edward Coke[w], give many instances: as, on the other hand, I presume it would be equally good, if the lords temporal present were inferior to the bishops in number, and every one of those temporal lords gave his vote to reject the bill; though this sir Edward Coke seems to doubt of[x].

[Footnote q: Seld. tit. hon. 2. 5. 27.]

[Footnote r: Co. Litt. 97.]

[Footnote s: Gilb. Hist. Exch. 55. Spelm. W.I. 291.]

[Footnote t: Glanv. 7. 1. Co. Litt. 97. Seld. tit. hon. 2. 5. 19.]

[Footnote u: Baronage. p. 1. c. 6.]

[Footnote w: 2 Inst. 585, 6, 7.]

[Footnote x: 4 Inst. 25.]

THE lords temporal consist of all the peers of the realm (the bishops not being in strictness held to be such, but merely lords of parliament[y]) by whatever title of nobility distinguished; dukes, marquisses, earls, viscounts, or barons; of which dignities we shall speak more hereafter. Some of these sit by descent, as do all antient peers; some by creation, as do all new-made ones; others, since the union with Scotland, by election, which is the case of the sixteen peers, who represent the body of the Scots nobility. Their number is indefinite, and may be encreased at will by the power of the crown: and once, in the reign of queen Anne, there was an instance of creating no less than twelve together; in contemplation of which, in the reign of king George the first, a bill passed the house of lords, and was countenanced by the then ministry, for limiting the number of the peerage. This was thought by some to promise a great acquisition to the constitution, by restraining the prerogative from gaining the ascendant in that august assembly, by pouring in at pleasure an unlimited number of new created lords. But the bill was ill-relished and miscarried in the house of commons, whose leading members were then desirous to keep the avenues to the other house as open and easy as possible.

[Footnote y: Staunford. P.C. 153.]

THE distinction of rank and honours is necessary in every well-governed state; in order to reward such as are eminent for their services to the public, in a manner the most desirable to individuals, and yet without burthen to the community; exciting thereby an ambitious yet laudable ardor, and generous emulation in others. And emulation, or virtuous ambition, is a spring of action which, however dangerous or invidious in a mere republic or under a despotic sway, will certainly be attended with good effects under a free monarchy; where, without destroying it's existence, it's excesses may be continually restrained by that superior power, from which all honour is derived. Such a spirit, when nationally diffused, gives life and vigour to the community; it sets all the wheels of government in motion, which under a wise regulator, may be directed to any beneficial purpose; and thereby every individual may be made subservient to the public good, while he principally means to promote his own particular views. A body of nobility is also more peculiarly necessary in our mixed and compounded constitution, in order to support the rights of both the crown and the people, by forming a barrier to withstand the encroachments of both. It creates and preserves that gradual scale of dignity, which proceeds from the peasant to the prince; rising like a pyramid from a broad foundation, and diminishing to a point as it rises. It is this ascending and contracting proportion that adds stability to any government; for when the departure is sudden from one extreme to another, we may pronounce that state to be precarious. The nobility therefore are the pillars, which are reared from among the people, more immediately to support the throne; and if that falls, they must also be buried under it's ruins. Accordingly, when in the last century the commons had determined to extirpate monarchy, they also voted the house of lords to be useless and dangerous. And since titles of nobility are thus expedient in the state, it is also expedient that their owners should form an independent and separate branch of the legislature. If they were confounded with the mass of the people, and like them had only a vote in electing representatives, their privileges would soon be borne down and overwhelmed by the popular torrent, which would effectually level all distinctions. It is therefore highly necessary that the body of nobles should have a distinct assembly, distinct deliberations, and distinct powers from the commons.

THE commons consist of all such men of any property in the kingdom as have not seats in the house of lords; every one of which has a voice in parliament, either personally, or by his representatives. In a free state, every man, who is supposed a free agent, ought to be, in some measure, his own governor; and therefore a branch at least of the legislative power should reside in the whole body of the people. And this power, when the territories of the state are small and it's citizens easily known, should be exercised by the people in their aggregate or collective capacity, as was wisely ordained in the petty republics of Greece, and the first rudiments of the Roman state. But this will be highly inconvenient, when the public territory is extended to any considerable degree, and the number of citizens is encreased. Thus when, after the social war, all the burghers of Italy were admitted free citizens of Rome, and each had a vote in the public assemblies, it became impossible to distinguish the spurious from the real voter, and from that time all elections and popular deliberations grew tumultuous and disorderly; which paved the way for Marius and Sylla, Pompey and Caesar, to trample on the liberties of their country, and at last to dissolve the commonwealth. In so large a state as ours it is therefore very wisely contrived, that the people should do that by their representatives, which it is impracticable to perform in person: representatives, chosen by a number of minute and separate districts, wherein all the voters are, or easily may be, distinguished. The counties are therefore represented by knights, elected by the proprietors of lands; the cities and boroughs are represented by citizens and burgesses, chosen by the mercantile part or supposed trading interest of the nation; much in the same manner as the burghers in the diet of Sweden are chosen by the corporate towns, Stockholm sending four, as London does with us, other cities two, and some only one[z]. The number of English representatives is 513, and of Scots 45; in all 558. And every member, though chosen by one particular district, when elected and returned serves for the whole realm. For the end of his coming thither is not particular, but general; not barely to advantage his constituents, but the common wealth; to advise his majesty (as appears from the writ of summons[a]) "de communi consilio super negotiis quibusdam arduis et urgentibus, regem, statum et defensionem regni Angliae et ecclesiae Anglicanae concernentibus." And therefore he is not bound, like a deputy in the united provinces, to consult with, or take the advice, of his constituents upon any particular point, unless he himself thinks it proper or prudent so to do.

[Footnote z: Mod. Un. Hist. xxxiii. 18.]

[Footnote a: 4 Inst. 14.]

THESE are the constituent parts of a parliament, the king, the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons. Parts, of which each is so necessary, that the consent of all three is required to make any new law that shall bind the subject. Whatever is enacted for law by one, or by two only, of the three is no statute; and to it no regard is due, unless in matters relating to their own privileges. For though, in the times of madness and anarchy, the commons once passed a vote[b], "that whatever is enacted or declared for law by the commons in parliament assembled hath the force of law; and all the people of this nation are concluded thereby, although the consent and concurrence of the king or house of peers be not had thereto;" yet, when the constitution was restored in all it's forms, it was particularly enacted by statute 13 Car. II. c. 1. that if any person shall maliciously or advisedly affirm, that both or either of the houses of parliament have any legislative authority without the king, such person shall incur all the penalties of a praemunire.

[Footnote b: 4 Jan. 1648.]

III. WE are next to examine the laws and customs relating to parliament, thus united together and considered as one aggregate body.

THE power and jurisdiction of parliament, says sir Edward Coke[c], is so transcendent and absolute, that it cannot be confined, either for causes or persons, within any bounds. And of this high court he adds, it may be truly said "si antiquitatem spectes, est vetustissima; si dignitatem, est honoratissima; si juridictionem, est capacissima." It hath sovereign and uncontrolable authority in making, confirming, enlarging, restraining, abrogating, repealing, reviving, and expounding of laws, concerning matters of all possible denominations, ecclesiastical, or temporal, civil, military, maritime, or criminal: this being the place where that absolute despotic power, which must in all governments reside somewhere, is entrusted by the constitution of these kingdoms. All mischiefs and grievances, operations and remedies, that transcend the ordinary course of the laws, are within the reach of this extraordinary tribunal. It can regulate or new model the succession to the crown; as was done in the reign of Henry VIII and William III. It can alter the established religion of the land; as was done in a variety of instances, in the reigns of king Henry VIII and his three children. It can change and create afresh even the constitution of the kingdom and of parliaments themselves; as was done by the act of union, and the several statutes for triennial and septennial elections. It can, in short, do every thing that is not naturally impossible; and therefore some have not scrupled to call it's power, by a figure rather too bold, the omnipotence of parliament. True it is, that what they do, no authority upon earth can undo. So that it is a matter most essential to the liberties of this kingdom, that such members be delegated to this important trust, as are most eminent for their probity, their fortitude, and their knowlege; 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[d], 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 way fall upon it, the subjects of this kingdom are left without all manner of remedy. To the same purpose the president Montesquieu, though I trust too hastily, presages[e]; that as Rome, Sparta, and Carthage have lost their liberty and perished, so the constitution of England will in time lose it's liberty, will perish: it will perish, whenever the legislative power shall become more corrupt than the executive.

[Footnote c: 4 Inst. 36.]

[Footnote d: of parliaments, 49.]

[Footnote e: Sp. L. 11. 6.]

IT must be owned that Mr Locke[f], and other theoretical writers, have held, that "there remains still inherent in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative, when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them: for when such trust is abused, it is thereby forfeited, and devolves to those who gave it." But however just this conclusion may be in theory, we cannot adopt it, nor argue from it, under any dispensation of government at present actually existing. For this devolution of power, to the people at large, includes in it a dissolution of the whole form of government established by that people, reduces all the members to their original state of equality, and by annihilating the sovereign power repeals all positive laws whatsoever before enacted. No human laws will therefore suppose a case, which at once must destroy all law, and compel men to build afresh upon a new foundation; nor will they make provision for so desperate an event, as must render all legal provisions ineffectual. So long therefore as the English constitution lasts, we may venture to affirm, that the power of parliament is absolute and without control.

[Footnote f: on Gov. p. 2. Sec. 149, 227.]

IN order to prevent the mischiefs that might arise, by placing this extensive authority in hands that are either incapable, or else improper, to manage it, it is provided that no one shall sit or vote in either house of parliament, unless he be twenty one years of age. This is expressly declared by statute 7 & 8 W. III. c. 25. with regard to the house of commons; though a minor was incapacitated before from sitting in either house, by the law and custom of parliament[g]. To prevent crude innovations in religion and government, it is enacted by statute 30 Car. II. st. 2. and 1 Geo. I. c. 13. that no member shall vote or sit in either house, till he hath in the presence of the house taken the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, and subscribed and repeated the declaration against transubstantiation, and invocation of saints, and the sacrifice of the mass. To prevent dangers that may arise to the kingdom from foreign attachments, connexions, or dependencies, it is enacted by the 12 & 13 W. III. c. 2. that no alien, born out of the dominions of the crown of Great Britain, even though he be naturalized, shall be capable of being a member of either house of parliament.

[Footnote g: 4 Inst. 47.]

FARTHER: as every court of justice hath laws and customs for it's direction, some the civil and canon, some the common law, others their own peculiar laws and customs, so the high court of parliament hath also it's own peculiar law, called the lex et consuetudo parliamenti; a law which sir Edward Coke[h] observes, is "ab omnibus quaerenda, a multis ignorata, a paucis cognita." It will not therefore be expected that we should enter into the examination of this law, with any degree of minuteness; since, as the same learned author assures us[i], it is much better to be learned out of the rolls of parliament, and other records, and by precedents, and continual experience, than can be expressed by any one man. It will be sufficient to observe, that the whole of the law and custom of parliament has it's original from this one maxim; "that whatever matter arises concerning either house of parliament, ought to be examined, discussed, and adjudged in that house to which it relates, and not elsewhere." Hence, for instance, the lords will not suffer the commons to interfere in settling a claim of peerage; the commons will not allow the lords to judge of the election of a burgess; nor will either house permit the courts of law to examine the merits of either case. But the maxims upon which they proceed, together with their method of proceeding, rest entirely in the breast of the parliament itself; and are not defined and ascertained by any particular stated laws.

[Footnote h: 1 Inst. 11.]

[Footnote i: 4 Inst. 50.]

THE privileges of parliament are likewise very large and indefinite; which has occasioned an observation, that the principal privilege of parliament consisted in this, that it's privileges were not certainly known to any but the parliament itself. And therefore when in 31 Hen. VI the house of lords propounded a question to the judges touching the privilege of parliament, the chief justice, in the name of his brethren, declared, "that they ought not to make answer to that question; for it hath not been used aforetime that the justices should in any wise determine the privileges of the high court of parliament; for it is so high and mighty in his nature, that it may make law; and that which is law, it may make no law; and the determination and knowlege of that privilege belongs to the lords of parliament, and not to the justices[k]." [Transcriber's Note: missing end quotation mark added] Privilege of parliament was principally established, in order to protect it's members not only from being molested by their fellow-subjects, but also more especially from being oppressed by the power of the crown. If therefore all the privileges of parliament were once to be set down and ascertained, and no privilege to be allowed but what was so defined and determined, it were easy for the executive power to devise some new case, not within the line of privilege, and under pretence thereof to harass any refractory member and violate the freedom of parliament. The dignity and independence of the two houses are therefore in great measure preserved by keeping their privileges indefinite. Some however of the more notorious privileges of the members of either house are, privilege of speech, of person, of their domestics, and of their lands and goods. As to the first, privilege of speech, it is declared by the statute 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. as one of the liberties of the people, "that the freedom of speech, and debates, and proceedings in parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament." And this freedom of speech is particularly demanded of the king in person, by the speaker of the house of commons, at the opening of every new parliament. So likewise are the other privileges, of person, servants, lands and goods; which are immunities as antient as Edward the confessor, in whose laws[l] we find this precept. "Ad synodos venientibus, sive summoniti sint, sive per se quid agendum habuerint, sit summa pax:" and so too, in the old Gothic constitutions, "extenditur haec pax et securitas ad quatuordecim dies, convocato regni senatu[m]." This includes not only privilege from illegal violence, but also from legal arrests, and seisures by process from the courts of law. To assault by violence a member of either house, or his menial servants, is a high contempt of parliament, and there punished with the utmost severity. It has likewise peculiar penalties annexed to it in the courts of law, by the statutes 5 Hen. IV. c. 6. and 11 Hen. VI. c. 11. Neither can any member of either house be arrested and taken into custody, nor served with any process of the courts of law; nor can his menial servants be arrested; nor can any entry be made on his lands; nor can his goods be distrained or seised; without a breach of the privilege of parliament. These privileges however, which derogate from the common law, being only indulged to prevent the member's being diverted from the public business, endure no longer than the session of parliament, save only as to the freedom of his person: which in a peer is for ever sacred and inviolable; and in a commoner for forty days after every prorogation, and forty days before the next appointed meeting[n]; which is now in effect as long as the parliament subsists, it seldom being prorogued for more than fourscore days at a time. But this privilege of person does not hold in crimes of such public malignity as treason, felony, or breach of the peace[o]; or rather perhaps in such crimes for which surety of the peace may be required. As to all other privileges which obstruct the ordinary course of justice, they cease by the statutes 12 W. III. c. 3. and 11 Geo. II. c. 24. immediately after the dissolution or prorogation of the parliament, or adjournment of the houses for above a fortnight; and during these recesses a peer, or member of the house of commons, may be sued like an ordinary subject, and in consequence of such suits may be dispossessed of his lands and goods. In these cases the king has also his prerogative: he may sue for his debts, though not arrest the person of a member, during the sitting of parliament; and by statute 2 & 3 Ann. c. 18. a member may be sued during the sitting of parliament for any misdemesnor or breach of trust in a public office. Likewise, for the benefit of commerce, it is provided by statute 4 Geo. III. c. 33, that any trader, having privilege of parliament, may be served with legal process for any just debt, (to the amount of 100l.) and unless he makes satisfaction within two months, it shall be deemed an act of bankruptcy; and that commissions of bankrupt may be issued against such privileged traders, in like manner as against any other.

[Footnote k: Seld. Baronage. part. 1. c. 4.]

[Footnote l: cap. 3.]

[Footnote m: Stiernh. de jure Goth. l. 3. c. 3.]

[Footnote n: 2 Lev. 72.]

[Footnote o: 4 Inst. 25.]

THESE are the general heads of the laws and customs relating to parliament, considered as one aggregate body. We will next proceed to

IV. THE laws and customs relating to the house of lords in particular. These, if we exclude their judicial capacity, which will be more properly treated of in the third and fourth books of these commentaries, will take up but little of our time.

ONE very antient privilege is that declared by the charter of the forest[p], confirmed in parliament 9 Hen. III; viz. that every lord spiritual or temporal summoned to parliament, and passing through the king's forests, may, both in going and returning, kill one or two of the king's deer without warrant; in view of the forester, if he be present; or on blowing a horn if he be absent, that he may not seem to take the king's venison by stealth.

[Footnote p: cap. 11.]

IN the next place they have a right to be attended, and constantly are, by the judges of the court of king's bench and commonpleas, and such of the barons of the exchequer as are of the degree of the coif, or have been made serjeants at law; as likewise by the masters of the court of chancery; for their advice in point of law, and for the greater dignity of their proceedings. The secretaries of state, the attorney and solicitor general, and the rest of the king's learned counsel being serjeants, were also used to attend the house of peers, and have to this day their regular writs of summons issued out at the beginning of every parliament[q]: but, as many of them have of late years been members of the house of commons, their attendance is fallen into disuse.

[Footnote q: Stat. 31 Hen. VIII. c. 10. Smith's commonw. b. 2. c. 3. Moor. 551. 4 Inst. 4. Hale of parl. 140.]

ANOTHER privilege is, that every peer, by licence obtained from the king, may make another lord of parliament his proxy, to vote for him in his absence[r]. 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[s].

[Footnote r: Seld. baronage. p. 1. c. 1.]

[Footnote s: 4 Inst. 12.]

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 stiled his protest.

ALL bills likewise, that may in their consequences any way 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.

THERE is also one statute peculiarly relative to the house of lords; 6 Ann. c. 23. which regulates the election of the sixteen representative peers of North Britain, in consequence of the twenty second and twenty third articles of the union: and for that purpose prescribes the oaths, &c, to be taken by the electors; directs the mode of balloting; prohibits the peers electing from being attended in an unusual manner; and expressly provides, that no other matter shall be treated of in that assembly, save only the election, on pain of incurring a praemunire.

V. THE peculiar laws and customs of the house of commons relate principally to the raising of taxes, and the elections of members to serve in parliament.

FIRST, with regard to taxes: it is the antient indisputable privilege and right of the house of commons, that all grants of subsidies or parliamentary aids do begin in their house, and are first bestowed by them[t]; although their grants are not effectual to all intents and purposes, until they have the assent of the other two branches of the legislature. The general reason, given for this exclusive privilege of the house of commons, is, that the supplies are raised upon the body of the people, and therefore it is proper that they alone should have the right of taxing themselves. This reason would be unanswerable, if the commons taxed none but themselves: but it is notorious, that a very large share of property is in the possession of the house of lords; that this property is equally taxable, and taxed, as the property of the commons; and therefore the commons not being the sole persons taxed, this cannot be the reason of their having the sole right of raising and modelling the supply. The true reason, arising from the spirit of our constitution, seems to be this. The lords being a permanent hereditary body, created at pleasure by the king, are supposed more liable to be influenced by the crown, and when once influenced to continue so, than the commons, who are a temporary elective body, freely nominated by the people. It would therefore be extremely dangerous, to give them any power of framing new taxes for the subject: it is sufficient, that they have a power of rejecting, if they think the commons too lavish or improvident in their grants. But so reasonably jealous are the commons of this valuable privilege, that herein they will not suffer the other house to exert any power but that of rejecting; they will not permit the least alteration or amendment to be made by the lords to the mode of taxing the people by a money bill; under which appellation are included all bills, by which money is directed to be raised upon the subject, for any purpose or in any shape whatsoever; either for the exigencies of government, and collected from the kingdom in general, as the land tax; or for private benefit, and collected in any particular district; as by turnpikes, parish rates, and the like. Yet sir Matthew Hale[u] mentions one case, founded on the practice of parliament in the reign of Henry VI[w], wherein he thinks the lords may alter a money bill; and that is, if the commons grant a tax, as that of tonnage and poundage, for four years; and the lords alter it to a less time, as for two years; here, he says, the bill need not be sent back to the commons for their concurrence, but may receive the royal assent without farther ceremony; for the alteration of the lords is consistent with the grant of the commons. But such an experiment will hardly be repeated by the lords, under the present improved idea of the privilege of the house of commons: and, in any case where a money bill is remanded to the commons, all amendments in the mode of taxation are sure to be rejected.

[Footnote t: 4 Inst. 29.]

[Footnote u: on parliaments, 65, 66.]

[Footnote w: Year book, 33 Hen. VI. 17.]

NEXT, with regard to the elections 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. And the Athenians were so justly jealous of this prerogative, that a stranger, who interfered in the assemblies of the people, was punished by their laws with death: because such a man was esteemed guilty of high treason, by usurping those rights of sovereignty, to which he had no title. In England, where the people do not debate in a collective body but by representation, the exercise of this sovereignty consists in the choice of representatives. The laws have therefore very strictly guarded against usurpation or abuse of this power, 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.

1. AS to the qualifications of the electors. The true reason of requiring any qualification, with regard to property, in voters, is to exclude such persons as are in so mean a situation that they are esteemed to have no will of their own. If these persons had votes, they would be tempted to dispose of them under some undue influence or other. This would give a great, an artful, or a wealthy man, a larger share in elections than is consistent with general liberty. If it were probable that every man would give his vote freely, and without influence of any kind, then, upon the true theory and genuine principles of liberty, every member of the community, however poor, should have a vote in electing those delegates, to whose charge is committed the disposal of his property, his liberty, and his life. But, since that can hardly be expected in persons of indigent fortunes, or such as are under the immediate dominion of others, all popular states have been obliged to establish certain qualifications; whereby some, who are suspected to have no will of their own, are excluded from voting, in order to set other individuals, whose wills may be supposed independent, more thoroughly upon a level with each other.

AND this constitution of suffrages is framed upon a wiser principle than either of the methods of voting, by centuries, or by tribes, among the Romans. In the method by centuries, instituted by Servius Tullius, it was principally property, and not numbers that turned the scale: in the method by tribes, gradually introduced by the tribunes of the people, numbers only were regarded and property entirely overlooked. Hence the laws passed by the former method had usually too great a tendency to aggrandize the patricians or rich nobles; and those by the latter had too much of a levelling principle. Our constitution steers between the two extremes. Only such as are entirely excluded, as can have no will of their own: there is hardly a free agent to be found, but what is entitled to a vote in some place or other in the kingdom. Nor is comparative wealth, or property, entirely disregarded in elections; for though the richest man has only one vote at one place, yet if his property be at all diffused, he has probably a right to vote at more places than one, and therefore has many representatives. This is the spirit of our constitution: not that I assert it is in fact quite so perfect as I have here endeavoured to describe it; for, if any alteration might be wished or suggested in the present frame of parliaments, it should be in favour of a more complete representation of the people.

BUT to return to our qualifications; and first those of electors for knights of the shire. 1. By statute 8 Hen. VI. c. 7. and 10 Hen. VI. c. 2. The knights of the shires shall be chosen of people dwelling in the same counties; whereof every man shall have freehold to the value of forty shillings by the year within the county; which by subsequent statutes is to be clear of all charges and deductions, except parliamentary and parochial taxes. The knights of shires are the representatives of the landholders, or landed interest, of the kingdom: their electors must therefore have estates in lands or tenements, within the county represented: these estates must be freehold, that is, for term of life at least; because beneficial leases for long terms of years were not in use at the making of these statutes, and copyholders were then little better than villeins, absolutely dependent upon their lord: 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, if he pleased, an independent man. For bishop Fleetwood, in his chronicon pretiosum written about sixty years since, has fully proved forty shillings in the reign of Henry VI to have been equal to twelve pounds per annum in the reign of queen Anne; and, as the value of money is very considerably lowered since the bishop wrote, I think we may fairly conclude, from this and other circumstances, that what was equivalent to twelve pounds in his days is equivalent to twenty at present. The other less important qualifications of the electors for counties in England and Wales may be collected from the statutes cited in the margin[x]; which direct, 2. That no person under twenty one years of age shall be capable of voting for any member. This extends to all sorts of members, as well for boroughs as counties; as does also the next, 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. Fraudulent grants are such as contain an agreement to reconvey, or to defeat the estate granted; which agreements are made void, and the estate is absolutely vested in the person to whom it is so granted. And, to guard the better against such frauds, it is farther provided, 5. That every voter shall have been in the actual possession, or receipt of the profits, of his freehold to 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 rentcharge, 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 abovementioned 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 aid, at least twelve months before the election. 10. That no tenant by copy of court roll shall be permitted to vote as a freeholder. Thus much for the electors in counties.

[Footnote x: 7 & 8 W. III. c. 25. 10 Ann. c. 23. 2 Geo. II. c. 21. 18 Geo. II. c. 18. 31 Geo. II. c. 14. 3 Geo. III. c. 24.]

AS for the electors of citizens and burgesses, these are supposed to be the mercantile part or trading interest of this kingdom. But as trade is of a fluctuating nature, and seldom long fixed in a place, it was formerly left to the crown to summon, pro re nata, the most flourishing towns to send representatives to parliament. So that as towns encreased in trade, and grew populous, they were admitted to a share in the legislature. But the misfortune is, that the deserted boroughs continued to be summoned, as well as those to whom their trade and inhabitants were transferred; except a few which petitioned to be eased of the expence, then usual, of maintaining their members: four shillings a day being allowed for a knight of the shire, and two shillings for a citizen or burgess; which was the rate of wages established in the reign of Edward III[y]. Hence the members for boroughs now bear above a quadruple proportion to those for counties, and the number of parliament men is increased since Fortescue's time, in the reign of Henry the sixth, from 300 to upwards of 500, exclusive of those for Scotland. The universities were in general not empowered to send burgesses to parliament; though once, in 28 Edw. I. when a parliament was summoned to consider of the king's right to Scotland, there were issued writs, which required the university of Oxford to send up four or five, and that of Cambridge two or three, of their most discreet and learned lawyers for that purpose[z]. But it was king James the first, who indulged them with the permanent privilege to send constantly two of their own body; to serve for those students who, though useful members of the community, were neither concerned in the landed nor the trading interest; and to protect in the legislature the rights of the republic of letters. The right of election in boroughs is various, depending intirely on the several charters, customs, and constitutions of the respective places, which has occasioned infinite disputes; though now by statute 2 Geo. II. c. 24. the right of voting for the future shall be allowed according to the last determination of the house of commons concerning it. And by statute 3 Geo. III. c. 15. no freeman of any city or borough (other than such as claim by birth, marriage, or servitude) shall be intitled to vote therein unless he hath been admitted to his freedom twelve calendar months before.

[Footnote y: 4 Inst. 16.]

[Footnote z: Prynne parl. writs. I. 345.]

2. OUR second point is the qualification of persons to be elected members of the house of commons. This depends upon the law and custom of parliaments[a], and the statutes referred to in the margin[b]. And from these 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 lords' house; nor of the clergy, for they sit in the convocation; nor persons attainted of treason or felony, for they are unfit to sit any where[c]. 3. That sheriffs of counties, and mayors and bailiffs of boroughs, are not eligible in their respective jurisdictions, as being returning officers[d]; but that sheriffs of one county are eligible to be knights of another[e]. 4. That, in strictness, all members ought to be inhabitants of the places for which they are chosen: but this is intirely disregarded. 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, navy, victualling, admiralty, pay of the army or navy, secretaries of state, salt, 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 members. 6. That no person having a pension under the crown during pleasure, or for any term of years, is capable of being elected. 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 copyhold to the value of six hundred pounds per annum, and every citizen and burgess to the value of three hundred pounds; 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 ballances 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 restrictions and disqualifications, every subject of the realm is eligible of common right. It was therefore an unconstitutional prohibition, which was inserted in the king's writs, for the parliament holden at Coventry, 6 Hen. IV, that no apprentice or other man of the law should be elected a knight of the shire therein[f]: in return for which, our law books and historians[g] have branded this parliament with the name of parliamentum indoctum, or the lack-learning parliament; and sir Edward Coke observes with some spleen[h], that there was never a good law made thereat.

[Footnote a: 4 Inst. 47.]

[Footnote b: 1 Hen. V. c. 1. 23 Hen. VI. c. 15. 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. 5 & 6 W. & M. c. 7. 11 & 12 W. III. c. 2. 12 & 13 W. III. c. 10. 6 Ann. c. 7. 9 Ann. c. 5. 1 Geo. I. c. 56. 15 Geo. II. c. 22. 33 Geo. II. c. 20.]

[Footnote c: 4 Inst. 47.]

[Footnote d: Hale of parl. 114.]

[Footnote e: 4 Inst. 48.]

[Footnote f: Pryn. on 4 Inst. 13.]

[Footnote g: Walsingh. A.D. 1405.]

[Footnote h: 4 Inst. 48.]

3. THE third point regarding elections, is the method of proceeding therein. This is also regulated by the law of parliament, and the several statutes referred to in the margin[i]; all which I shall endeavour to blend together, and extract out of them a summary account of the method of proceeding to elections.

[Footnote i: 7 Hen. IV. c. 15. 8 Hen. VI. c. 7. 23 Hen. VI. c. 15. 1 W. & M. st. 1. c. 2. 2 W. & M. st. 1. c. 7. 5 & 6 W. & M. c. 20. 7 W. III. c. 4. 7 & 8 W. III. c. 7. and c. 25. 10 & 11 W. III. c. 7. 12 & 13 W. III. c. 10. 6 Ann. c. 23. 9 Ann. c. 5. 10 Ann. c. 19. and c. 23. 2 Geo. II. c. 24. 8 Geo. II. c. 30. 18 Geo. II. c. 18. 19 Geo. II. c. 28.]

AS soon as the parliament is summoned, the lord chancellor, (or if a vacancy happens during parliament, the speaker, by order of the house) 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, commanding them to elect their members; and the said returning officers are to proceed to election within eight days from the receipt of the precept, giving four days notice of the same; and to return the persons chosen, together with the precept, to the sheriff.

BUT elections of knights of the shire must be proceeded to by the sheriffs themselves in person, at the next county court that shall happen after the delivery of the writ. The county court is a court held every month or oftener by the sheriff, intended to try little causes not exceeding the value of forty shillings, in what part of the county he pleases to appoint for that purpose: but for the election of knights of the shire, it must be held at the most usual place. If the county court falls upon the day of delivering the writ, or within six days after, the sheriff may adjourn the court and election to some other convenient time, not longer than sixteen days, nor shorter than ten; but he cannot alter the place, without the consent of all the candidates; and in all such cases ten days public notice must be given of the time and place of the election.

AND, as it is essential to the very being of parliament that elections should be absolutely free, therefore all undue influences upon the electors are illegal, and strongly prohibited. For Mr Locke[k] ranks it among those breaches of trust in the executive magistrate, which according to his notions amount to a dissolution of the government, "if he employs the force, treasure, and offices of the society to corrupt the representatives, or openly to preingage the electors, and prescribe what manner of persons shall be chosen. For thus to regulate candidates and electors, and new model the ways of election, what is it, says he, but to cut up the government by the roots, and poison the very fountain of public security?" As soon therefore as the time and place of election, either in counties or boroughs, are fixed, all soldiers quartered in the place are to remove, at least one day before the election, to the distance of two miles or more; and not return till one day after the poll is ended. Riots likewise have been frequently determined to make an election void. By vote also of the house of commons, to whom alone belongs the power of determining contested elections, no lord of parliament, or lord lieutenant of a county, hath any right to interfere in the election of commoners; and, by statute, the lord warden of the cinque ports shall not recommend any members there. If any officer of the excise, customs, stamps, or certain other branches of the revenue, presumes to intermeddle in elections, by persuading any voter or dissuading him, he forfeits 100l, and is disabled to hold any office.

[Footnote k: on Gov. part. 2. Sec. 222.]

THUS are the electors of one branch of the legislature secured from any undue influence from either of the other two, and from all external violence and compulsion. But the greatest danger is that in which themselves co-operate, by the infamous practice of bribery and corruption. To prevent which it is enacted that no candidate shall, after the date (usually called the teste) of the writs, or after the vacancy, give any money or entertainment to his electors, or promise to give any, either to particular persons, or to the place in general, in order to his being elected; on pain of being incapable to serve for that place in parliament. And if any money, gift, office, employment, or reward be given or promised to be given to any voter, at any time, in order to influence him to give or withhold his vote, both he that takes and he that offers such bribe forfeits 500l, and is for ever disabled from voting and holding any office in any corporation; unless, before conviction, he will discover some other offender of the same kind, and then he is indemnified for his own offence[l]. The first instance that occurs of election bribery, was so early as 13 Eliz. when one Thomas Longe (being a simple man and of small capacity to serve in parliament) acknowleged that he had given the returning officer and others of the borough of Westbury four pounds to be returned member, and was for that premium elected. But for this offence the borough was amerced, the member was removed, and the officer fined and imprisoned[m]. But, as this practice hath since taken much deeper and more universal root, it hath occasioned the making of these wholesome statutes; to complete the efficacy of which, there is nothing wanting but resolution and integrity to put them in strict execution.

[Footnote l: In like manner the Julian law de ambitu inflicts fines and infamy upon all who were guilty of corruption at elections; but, if the person guilty convicted another offender, he was restored to his credit again. Ff. 48. 14. 1.]

[Footnote m: 4 Inst. 23. Hale of parl. 112. Com. Journ. 10 & 11 May 1571.]

UNDUE influence being thus (I wish the depravity of mankind would permit me to say, effectually) guarded against, the election is to be proceeded to on the day appointed; the sheriff or other returning officer first taking an oath against bribery, and for the due execution of his office. The candidates likewise, if required, must swear to their qualification; and the electors in counties to theirs; and the electors both in counties and boroughs are also compellable to take the oath of abjuration and that against bribery and corruption. And it might not be amiss, if the members elected were bound to take the latter oath, as well as the former; which in all probability would be much more effectual, than administring it only to the electors.

THE election being closed, the returning officer in boroughs returns his precept to the sheriff, with the persons elected by the majority: and the sheriff returns the whole, together with the writ for the county and the knights elected thereupon, to the clerk of the crown in chancery; before the day of meeting, if it be a new parliament, or within fourteen days after the election, if it be an occasional vacancy; and this under penalty of 500l. If the sheriff does not return such knights only as are duly elected, he forfeits, by the old statutes of Henry VI, 100l; and the returning officer in boroughs for a like false return 40l; and they are besides liable to an action, in which double damages shall be recovered, by the later statutes of king William: and any person bribing the returning officer shall alio forfeit 300l. But the members returned by him are the sitting members, until the house of commons, upon petition, shall adjudge the return to be false and illegal. And this abstract of the proceedings at elections of knights, citizens, and burgesses, concludes our enquiries into the laws and customs more peculiarly relative to the house of commons.

VI. I PROCEED now, sixthly, to the method of making laws; which is much the same in both houses: and I shall touch it very briefly, beginning in the house of commons. But first I must premise, that for dispatch of business each house of parliament has it's speaker. The speaker of the house of lords is the lord chancellor, or keeper of the king's great seal; whose office it is to preside there, and manage the formality of business. The speaker of the house of commons is chosen by the house; but must be approved by the king. And herein the usage of the two houses differs, that the speaker of the house of commons cannot give his opinion or argue any question in the house; but the speaker of the house of lords may. In each house the act of the majority binds the whole; and this majority is declared by votes openly and publickly given: not as at Venice, and many other senatorial assemblies, privately or by ballot. This latter method may be serviceable, to prevent intrigues and unconstitutional combinations: but is impossible to be practiced with us; at least in the house of commons, where every member's conduct is subject to the future censure of his constituents, and therefore should be openly submitted to their inspection.

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