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that the right of receiving appeals, and superintending all other jurisdictions, still remained in that noble assembly, from which every other great court was derived. They are therefore in all causes the last resort, from whose judgment no farther appeal is permitted; but every subordinate tribunal must conform to their determinations; the law reposing an entire confidence in the honour and conscience of the noble persons, who compose this important assembly, that they will make themselves masters of those questions, upon which they undertake to decide ; since upon their decision all property must finally depend.” .
This jurisdiction of the house of peers is more clearly represented by Mr. Erskine, in his argument upon the rights of juries, in the case of the Dean of St. Asaph: *« This po- The peers were pular judicature was not confined to particu- rors in the lar districts, or to inferior suits and misdemeanors, but pervaded the whole legal constitution; for when the Conqueror, to increase the infuence of his crown, erected that
* Page 128, 129. This ingenious and instructive argument will serve as a correct constitutional chart for juries to direct their course by in determining the fates of their countrymen, against any fuperior awe or collateral bias. Cc3
great superintending court of justice in his own palace, to receive appeals criminal and civil from every court in the kingdom, and placed at the head of it the capitalis justiciarius totius Angliæ, of whose original authority the chief justice of this court is but a partial and feeble emanation, even that great magistrate was in the aula regis merely ministerial; every one of the king's tenants, who owed him service in right of a barony had a feat and a voice in that high tribunal; and the office of justiciar was but to record and to enforce their judgments.
« In the reign of king Edward the First, when this great office was abolished, and the present courts' at Westminster established by a distribution of its powers, the barons preserved that supreme superintending jurisdiction, which never belonged to the justiciar, but to themselves only, as the jurors in the king's court; a jurisdiction which, when nobility, from being territorial and feodal, became personal and honorary, was assumed and exercised by the peers of England, who without any delegation of judicial authority from the crown, form to this day the supreme and final court of English law, judging in the last resort for the whole kingdom, and sitting upon the lives of the peerage, in
The house of
their ancient and genuine character, as the
peers is the fupreme court in the kingdom for the trial of preme court for
parliamentary great and enormous offenders, whether lords impeachments. or commons, in the method of parliamentary impeachment; for an impeachment before the lords by the commons of Great Britain is a presentment to the most high and supreme court of criminal jurisdiction, by the most solemn grand inquest of the whole kingdom. * A commoner cannot however be impeached before the lords for any capital offence, but only for high misdemeanors ; a peer may be impeached for any crime. And The office of a they usually in case of the impeachment of a steward. peer for treason) address the crown to appoint” a lord high steward for the greater dignity and regularity of their proceedings. The articles of impeachment are a kind of bills of indictment found by the house of : . commons, and afterwards tried by the lords ; who are in cases of misdemeanors considered not oniy as their own peers, but as the peersof the whole nation,
* Black. Com. b. iv. c. xix. and Hale's Pl. Cor. Pt. ü. 150.
C 64. « The
* « The execution of all our laws hath been long since distributed by parliament out of inferior courts in such fort, as the subjects were directed where to complain, and the justices how to redress wrongs, and punish offences; and this may be the reason of the · judges opinion in Thorp's case, 31 Henry VI. num. 37.
" That actions at common law are not determined in this high court of parliament, yet complaints have ever been received in parliaments, as well of private wrongs as public offences. And according to the quality of the person, and nature of the offence, they have been retained or referred to the com
mon law. They were not « Touching the quality of the person, the
lords of the parliament did not anciently try their peer. any offenders, how great soever the offence
was, unless he were their peer. As by that of 4 Edward III. num. 2. where when the king commanded the lords to give judgment on Simon de Bereford and divers others also, who were not their peers, for the murther of Edward II. and the destruction of the earl of Kent son of Edward the First, a proviso and agreement was made and recorded in
der who was not
• Selden's Judic. in Parliament, p. 1. & feq.
these words; Et eft affenfu & accord. &c. and it is assented and accorded by our lord the king, and all the grandees in full parliament, that albeit the peers as judges of the parliament have took upon them and rendred the said judgment, &c. that yet the faid peers, who now are or shall be in time to come, be not bound or charged to render judg. ments upon others than peers; nor that the Their right and
obligation to peers of the land have power to do this, byt try offenders
ascertained. thereof ever to be discharged and acquitted;
and that the aforesaid judgment rendered be · not drawn to example or consequence in
time to come, whereby the said peers shall do contrary to the laws of the land, if the like case happen, which God forbid. 4 Edward III. num. 6. This proviso and agreement was made by the lords and commons, and it had these respects : First, to satisfy the commons, that the lords by these judgments intended not to alter the course of the common-law, and therefore they disclaimed, that they had power to do this, and confess it was contrary to the law of the land.
“ Secondly, To preserve their own right In judging on to judge none but the peers in case of life death of their and death. For then the king's steward is to high steward fit in the chancellor's place, and the lords are chancellor and
the life and
fits for the