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stances, which created the expediency, or called forth the necessity of making them. If the present system of representation be compared with the practices and usages in chusing and returning members of parliament, from the first traces of a national convention, even down to the last century, it will appear to be a system of the most complete liberty and reedom.
I have before shewn, that the persons summoned to the ancient Saxon wittenagemotes partook rather more of the nature of our present peers, than of our present members of the house of commons. But in order to reconcile our minds more to the present fystem, or state of representation in parliament, we should coolly and impartially compare the customs, usages, and forms of chusing and returning the representatives or delegates of the nation to parliament, in the days of our ancestors, even with the most barefaced venality or systematic corruption of some modern boroughs; and we shall necessarily conclude, that the freedom, with which the nation now returns their delegates or trustees to parliament, will bear no degree of comparison with the ancient modes and usages, of electing the representatives of the commons in parliament.
mons to the
. In the first place, the very commission,
or purpose of the delegation of the com
moners, was formerly widely different from Different fum- what it now is. *“ When the compeers and to the mons were regularly called to parliament commoners.
by Edw. I. the summons to them was only ad audiendum, & faciendum, & confentiendum; whereas the summons to bishops and barons was, de arduis negotiis regni tractaturi & confilium impenfuri. The commons were not consulted in ftate affairs, about peace or war, or making of laws; their business being only to consent to laws made by the kings and barons, and to confent to aids and fubfidies, and such like, ad babendum commune confilium regni de auxiliis assidendis. The first part of the writ to the commons is to consent to such ordinances as the peers shall make; the next part of the writ is to hear and do what the king shall further require of them; this is the substance of the ancient writs.” So that +“ the balance and measure of power in the government was in Edward the First's time in the king, church, and nobility, to the propor
* Gurdon, vol. i. p. 211. who quotes, Parl. Antiq. 24. 84. Parl. Sun. 7. 4. Inftit. 10. Parl, Sum. Preface. Rel. Spelm. 64. Filmer, 127. 136. Journal, 18. James, 195 + Gurdon, vol. č. 278.
tion of above two thirds of the landed in-, terest, and not one-third in the commons, down to Henry the Seventh's time. The strength and power of the nation before lay in the aristocratical part.” For even in the very same century it appears, that the commoners had no part nor share in passing that law, which confirmed or acknowledged their own rights and liberties. For in the great charter of king John it is said, * « Imprimis conceffe Deo & hâc presenti chartâ nostra confirmalje pro nobis & beredibus in perpetuum, &c. And, ifta funt capitula, que barones petünt & dominus rex concedit, fignata figillo Jobannis regis. From which it appears, that The commons
had anciently the commons, or democratical part of the no fare in
paffing laws. nation, had no part nor share in passing this famous charter. And in more ancient times, the lords of the great feignories were properly the only constituent members of the parliaments, or national conventions of those days. 7." The lowest degree of members of the Confesor's parliament were fuch, as had knights dependent on them in their friburgh, soke, or feignory, and these great men represented themselves, and also the
• Wilkins, 356, 367. Brady's Appendix, 126. Tit. Hon. 702. f Gurdon, vol.i. 210.
knights and freemen of their seignories. The
the individuals of the community. The progressive It is curious to observe and attend to the consequence of
progression of consequence and importance, which the commoners acquired in the state. · *". In the seventeenth of king John, A. D. 1215, the barons obtained a confirmation of ancient liberties, and new privileges, and for the more firm establishing them, it was conceded by the king, that the barons should choose twenty-five of their own body to have power over all judges, justices, and ministers, to see the great charters observed; but as yet no
* Gurdon, vol. i. 214, who quotes Rel. Spel. 63, 64. Brady, 617. Rot. Paten. 42 H. III. Somner's Dica tionary, voce Unnan. Parlm. Sum. 3. Brady, 649. Parl. Sum. 7.
. representatives of the generality of the com: mons in parliament.
“ By king John's charter the great barons were to have particular fummons, and the rest of the tenants in capite were to be fumy moned in general by the sheriffs; so many small tenancies being made by king Stephen and king John, that the tenants in capite made the parliament too tumultuous and numerous; wherefore the sheriffs returned proxies for them, but not for the freeholders in general; for such as held freely of the great barons Formerly the were by them represented, they taking care fented by the of their tenants interest in parliament. The common people were represented in parliament by their chief lords, of whom they held. ..“ In the thirty-second of Henry III. anno Dom. 1258, in the parliament of Oxford it was agreed, that twelve persons should be chosen to represent the commons in parliament; but those elected were bishops, great barons, and tenants in capite, as were the patrons of the Roman plebeians chosen out of the patricians. These representatives of the commons were chosen by virtue of the conftitutions of Oxford, which both king and barons swore to observe; but these constitutions were soon dropt. " This king in consideration of subsidies