Page images

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, as well he that takes as 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 offences. 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 for which he was chosen 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'. 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.

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 administering 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

• In like manner the Julian law de ed another offender, he was restored sa ambitu inflicted fines and infamy upon his credit again. Ff. 48. 14. 1. all who were guilty of corruption at elec. 14 Inft. 23. Hale of parl 112. Com. tions; but, if the person guilty convict- journ. 10 & 11 May 1571.

the 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 401; 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 fhall also forfeit 300l. But the members returned by him are the fitting members, until the house of commons, upon petition, shall adjudge the return to be false and illegal. The form and manner of proceeding upon such petition are now regulated by statute 1o Geo. III. c. 16. (amended by II Geo, III. c. 42. and made perpetual by 14 Geo. III. c. 15.) (a) which directs the method of chusing by lot a select committee of fifteen members, who are sworn well and truly to try the fame, and a true judgment to give according to the evidence. And this abstract of the proceedings at elections of knights, citizens, and burgefles, concludes our inquiries into the laws and customs more peculiarly relative to the house of commons.

VI. I PROCEED now, fixthly, 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 its speaker. The speaker of the house of lords, whose office it is to preside there, and manage the formality of business, is the lord chancellor, or keeper of the king's great seal, or any other appointed by the king's commission: and, if none be so appointed, the house of lords (it is said) may elect. 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, if a lord of parliament, may. In each house the act of the majority binds (a) and further regulated by 28 Geo. III. c. 52. M 3


the whole; and this majority is declared by votes openly and publicly 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 fhould be openly submitted to their inspection.

To bring a bill into the house, if the relief fought by it is of a private nature, it is first neceffary to prefer a petition ; which must be presented by a member, and usually fets forth the grievance desired to be remedied. This petition (when founded on facts that may be in their nature disputed) is referred to a committee of members, who examine the matter alleged, and accordingly report it to the house; and then (or, otherwise, upon the mere petition) leave is given to bring in the bill. In public matters the bill is brought in upon motion made to the house, without any petition at all. Formerly, all bills were drawn in the form of petitions, which were entered upon the parliament rolls, with the king's answer thereunto subjoined; not in any settled form of words, but as the circumstances of the case required': and at the end of each parliament the judges drew them into the form of a statute, which was entered on the fiatute rolls. In the reign of Henry V, to prevent mistakes and abuses, the statutes were drawn up by the judges before the end of the parliament; and, in the reign of Henry VI, bills in the form of acts, according to the modern custom, were first introduced.

The persons directed to bring in the bill, present it in a competent time to the house, drawn out on paper, with a multitude of blanks, or void spaces, where any thing occurs that is dubious, or necessary to be settled by the parliament itself; (such, especially, as the precise date of times, the nature and quantity of penalties, or of any sums of money to be raised) being indeed only the sceleton of the bill. In the house of lords, if the bill begins there, it is (when of a private nature) referred to two of the judges, to examine and report the state of the facts alleged, to see that all necessary

See, among numberless other instances, the articuli cleri, 9 Edw. II.

parties parties consent, and to settle all points of technical propriety. This is read a first time, and at a convenient distance a fécond time; and after each reading the speaker opens to the house the substance of the bill, and puts the question, whether it shall proceed any farther. The introduction of the bill may be originally opposed, as the bill itself may at either of the readings; and, if the opposition succeeds, the bill must be dropped for that session : as it must also, if opposed with success in any of the subsequent stages.

AFTER the second reading it is committed, that is, referred to a committee; which is either selected by the house in matters of small importance, or else, upon a bill of consequence, the house resolves itself into a committee of the whole house. A committee of the whole house is composed of every member; and, to form it, the speaker quits the chair, (another member being appointed chairman) and may fit and debate as a private member. In these committees the bill is debated clause by clause, amendments made, the blanks filled up, and sometimes the bill entirely new modelled. After it has gone through the committee, the chairman reports it to the house with such amendments as the committee have made; and then the house reconsiders the whole bill again, and the question is repeatedly put upon every clause and amendment. When the house hath agreed or disagreed to the amendments of the committee, and sometimes added new amendments of it's own, the bill is then ordered to be engrossed, or written in a strong gross hand, on one or more long rolls (or presses) of parchment sewed together. When this is finished, it is read a third time, and amendments are sometimes then made to it; and if a new clause be added, it is done by tacking a separate piece of parchment on the bill, which is called a ryder". The speaker then again opens the contents; and, holding it up in his hands, puts the question, whether the bill shall pass. If this is agreed to, the title to it is then settled; which used to be a general one for all the acts pafled in the session, till in the first year of Henry VIII distinct titles were introduced for each chapter. After this, one of the members is directed to carry it to the lords, and desire their u Noy. 84.

concurrence ;



concurrence; who, attended by several more, carries it to the bar of the house of peers, and there delivers it to their speaker, who comes down from his woolfack to receive it.

IT there passes through the same forms as in the other house, (except engrossing, which is already done) and, if rejected, no more notice is taken, but it passes fub filentio, to prevent unbecoming altercations. But if it is agreed to, the lords send a message by two masters in chancery (or upon matters of high dignity or importance, by two of the judges) that they have agreed to the fame: and the bill remains with the lords, if they have made no amendment to it. But if any amendments are made, such amendments are sent down with the bill to receive the concurrence of the commons. If the commons disagree to the amendments, a conference usually follows between members deputed from each house; who for the most part settle and adjust the difference: but, if both houses "remain inflexible, the bill is dropped. If the commons agree to the amendments, the bill is fent back to the lords by one of the members, with a message to acquaint them therewith. The same forms are observed, mutatis mutandis, when the bill begins in the house of lords. But, when an act of grace or pardon is passed, it is first signed by his majesty, and then read once only in each of the houses, without any new engrossing or amendment ". And when both houses have done with any bill, it always is deposited in the house of peers, to wait the royal affent; except in the case of a bill of supply, which after receiving the concurrence of the lords is sent back to the house of commons *.

The royal aflent may be given two ways : 1. In person; when the king comes to the house of peers, in his crown and royal robes, and sending for the commons to the bar, the titles of all the bills that have passed both houses are read; and the king's answer is declared by the clerk of the parliament in Norman-French: a badge, it must be owned, (now the only one remaining) of conqueft; and which one could wish to see fallinto total oblivion, unless it be reserved as a folemn memento to remind us that our liberties are mortal, having once been de

w D'ewes journ. 20.73 Com. journ. Com. journ. 24 Jul. 1660. 17 June 1747.


« PreviousContinue »