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Bills of Grace.
Bills of Grace and Pardon (a) originate with the Crown, and are first signed by the King and then transmitted to Parliament. They are passed on their first reading, without amendment, “because,” says Hakewell, “the subject must take it as the King will give it, without “any alteration.”
At the reading of the bill the Speaker does not open it (i. e. declare its contents), but merely reads the title, the members sitting uncovered.
The Royal Assent is not given to it, because it is origi. nally the King's free gift; no other circumstance is required than that its thankful acceptance be expressed by Parliament, which is done in these words. “ Les Prelats, “ Seigneurs et Communes en le present Parliament assem“bleès, au nom de tous voz autres sujets, remercient tres “humblement votre Majestie, et prient à Dieu qu'il vous “donne, et sante, bonne vie et longue.” “The Prelates, “Lords and Commons, in this present Parliament assem“ bled, in the name of all your other subjects, most humbly " thank your Majesty and pray to God to grant you in • health and wealth long to live.”
(a) D'Ewes, 20, 73. C. J. 17 June, 1747.
It is truly observed by Blackstone (a), that it is the in- Right of Petiherent right of every Englishman to petition* Parliament tion. for the redress of all grievances, beyond the power of a court of law to relieve (3); but it is also the undoubted right and privilege of both Houses of Parliament, to adjudge and determine touching the nature and matter of such petitions, how far they are fit or unfit to be received (c). Accordingly the rules to be observed, and the forms to be made use of by the subject, in the exercise of this right, will form the subject for consideration in the pre. sent chapter.
During the times immediately preceding the rebellion Tumultuous of 1640, the freedum of Parliament was frequently men- Þe aced by riolous and tumultuous petitioning, led on by the fiery agitators of those times as an end for the furtherance of their evil designs. Accordingly, when the nation had in some measure recovered from the shock of that rebellion, which the unrestrained exercise of this right had materially assisted to produce, the statute of Charles was
(a) 1 BI. Com. 142.
(6) L. J. 9 Sept. 1614. (c) See 1 Grey, 209.
* Petitions may be transmitted by the post to Members of Parliament for presentation, free of postage. This privilege was confirmed by a Treasury Minute of the 26 Dec. 1839, under the authority of the “ Penny Postage Act.”
By a Standing Order of the House of Assembly in this Province (vide M.S.S. Journals, 1835, p. 97), the postage of packels containing Petitions to the House, and documents relating thereto, shall be charged in the account for Contingent Expenses of the Legislature, upon production of such packet to the Clerk of the House, without any limitation as to weight.
Act for its pre. vention.
enacted, to prevent as far as possible, by legislative interference, the abuse of a privilege which, when exercised with discretion and forbearance, is one of the greatest bulwarks of British liberty.
By this act (13 Car. II. stat. 1. ch. 5.) it was provided that no petition to the King, or either House of Parliament, for the alteration of matters established by law, shall be signed by more than twenty persons, unless the matter thereof be approved by three Justices of the Peace, or the major part of the Grand Jury at Assizes or Quarter Sessions, in the country--and in London, by the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Common Council; nor shall any petition be presented by inore than ten persons at a time-under penalty, in either case, of a sum not exceeding £100, and three months imprisonment. But, under these regulations, it is declared by the Bill of Rights (d) that the subject hath a right to petition, and that all commitments and prosecu
tions for such petitioning are illegal. Not observed by Both Houses of Parliament, however, are now in the
constant habit of receiving petitions, signed by hundreds of persons, for alterations in the established law, though they be not prepared according to the statate of Charles, but this is a practice of very modern introduction,* and we have a judicial decision (e) on the subject which declares,
that this act is not in any degree affected by the Bill of But can be called Rights, and that, though not in present operation, it can
re- be called forth when any emergency may require it.
If a Petition on its presentation appear to contain any informality or irregularity it must be withdrawn, or it will be rejected.
into action if required.
(d) 1 Wm. & Mary, stat. 2, ch. 2.
e) Lord Mansgeld, iu Lord George Gordov's case, A. D. 1780.-Doug. Reports, 571.
* See a valuable historical note on this subject, in Hallam's Constitutional Hist. of England, v. 3, p. 362-364.
* See the 57 Geo. III. ch. 19, s. 23, regulating the place of public meetings in Westminster, for preparing Petitions to Parliament, and other purposes.
Petitions should be withdrawn.
The following have been deemed causes for withdraw- Cases in whiek ing petitions :
That there were several interlineations and erasures (f) or alterations (g), in the Petition : That it was not signed (): That it had no signatures on the same paper (i): That the petitions of Commissioners were signed only by their Chairman (k): That the signatures were all in the same handwriting (1): That the petition was against a tax bill then pending (m): That it was not in the English language (n): That it was informal (o), or not worded in a respectful manner (p): That it used disrespectful language towards the other House (q). Sometimes petitions have been withdrawn without any reason being entered on the Journals (r).
The following have been deemed causes for rejecting Cases where they Petitions :—That the petition takes notice of what pas-jected. sed in a debate in the House (s) : That it reflects on the conduct of the Judges (t): That it is printed (v): That it indicates a disposition to resist the law by force (w): or that it contains matter offensive to the House (2).*
The causes cited above apply equally to both Houses of Parliament.
No member should knowingly present an informal petition, but if he do so, and no other member take notice of the irregularity, it is the duty of the Clerk who reads it to state the fact, and the petition will be rejected ; but if the Peti
Cases where they have been re
(f) C. J. v. 64, p. 184; Of H. White. (8) C. J. v. 74, p. 286; J. Couch. (h) C. J. 15 Feb. 1750.
(i) C. J. v. 72, p, 155. (k) C. J. 27 Mar. 1789.
(1) C. J. v. 64, p. 374. Pm) C. J. 20 June, 1816.
(n) C. J. 16 Mar. 1821. (0) C. J. v. 70, p. 259.
(P) L. J. v. 52, p. 635. (9) C. J. v. 93, p. 236. (r) C. J. v. 71, p. 494. General Index, 1820, p. 706. (8) C J. 7 Mar. 1821.
(t) C. J. v. 71, p. 379. fo) C. J. 23 Sept. 1656. G. I. 1820, p. 766. (w) C. J. 2 Aug. 1832.
(x) C. J. 2 Aug. 1832. *For a variety of other reasons assigned for rejecting Petitions, see the General Index to the Lords' and Commons' Journals (Petitions),
Form of Peti. tions.
tion has once been received, no informality can afterwards be noticed (y) except it be of a nature which would affect its correctness or legality. This appears to be the practice of the House because they may sometimes feel disposed to relax' the rule in favour of some important measure, as, during the last session of the Imperial Parliament, many printed petitions were received by the House of Commons in favour of the “ Penny Postage” scheme, no notice being taken at the time of their inforınality. But where the informality is of such a nature as to affect or call in question the correctness of the Petition—as, that it has not been signed by the Petitioner (2), or not signed at all (a), in that case, notice being afterwards taken of the same, the Petition must be withdrawn.
It is irregular to enter too minutely into the provisions prayed for, or to prescribe to the House the mode of relief (6). A Petition praying relief should not, in point of form, either prescribe the quantum, or mention the fund out of which it is to be granted.
· Neither House of Parliament will receive any Petition Tax Bills of that against a bill pending for imposing a tax or duty (c), or
against a tax imposed in the same session (d). But this does not extend to prevent receiving petitions praying for the repeal or alteration of taxes or duties imposed in any former session; nor to Petitions against the Trade Regue lations in tax bills (e), if it be seen that they are so clearly and explicitly worded as not to infringe upon the rule; nor to petitions from the Corporation of the city of London, in Common Council assembled, as the forms permitted by the indulgence of the House in receiving their Petitions,
Not to be received against
(y) See Sherwood on Private Bills, p. 35, note.
(a) L. J. v, 51, p. 510.