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. that being in all ancient times, and so late as Henry VII.'s time looked upon to be the province of the king and lords, for at that time citizens and burgesses were resient of cities and boroughs, and not country gen. tlemen of great landed interest. .
“In Henry VII.'s time and Henry VIII.'s, ministers of state, officers of the revenue, and other courtiers, found an account in creeping through boroughs into the house of commons, and to make room for them, the boroughs from one hundred and twentyfix (the number in the latter end of Henry VIII.'s time) is near doubled, by reviving dormant rights and privileges claimed by ancient boroughs after they had been obfolete for some centuries.”
The members for many ancient boroughs were both chosen and returned by the lords, and sometimes by the ladies of the manors or boroughs; which was certainly a grosser de. viation from the freedom of election, than any usage or custom, under which returns are at this day made for the most corrupt boroughs. * Thus in the 14th and 18th of queen Eliz. Dame Mary Packington, the
* Brady. Burg. App 5.
widow of Sir John Packington, made return of burgesses in these words, viz. “ Know ye, that I Mary Packington, &c. have chosen, named, and appointed my trusty and wellbeloved Thomas Lichfield and George Burden, esqrs. to be my burgesses for my said borough of Aylesbury, &c."?
It was anciently the practice for the crown to fummon pro re nata, the most flourishing towns to fend representatives to parliament; but this discretionary prerogative of the crown has been long since disused. As fome towns however formerly encreased in trade and grew populous, they were admitted to the right of fending deputies or representatives to parliament; thus the number of the house of commons encreased, as I have already specified; but the deserted boroughs continued
the privilege or right of sending members to
is parliament, though some of them finding it lost their privilege of Tend- burthenfome to maintain their members, as
was the usage of those days, by their own petition were eased of the expence, and at the same time lost their right of sending representatives or members to parliament. For various reasons the number of the house of commons has been encreased from three hundred, about which number it was sup
. posed to be in Fortescue's time *, to more than five hundred, exclusive of the members of Scotland. From the change in the policy, manners, and customs of the kingdom, the
* Fort. de Laud. Leg. Ang. c. xviii. p. 35. This great man says, “ 'The statutes of England are produced quite in another manner, not enacted by the sole will of the prince, but with the concurrent consent of the whole kingdom by their representatives in parliament. So that it is morally impossible, but that they are and must be calculated for the good of the people, and they must needs be full of wisdom and prudence, since they are the result not of one man's wisdom only, or an hundred, but such an assembly as the Roman fenate was of old, more than three hundred select persons.” Under correction, I beg leave to suggest, that Judge Blakiston and most other writers upon the rights of the commons, as Prynne, Petit, Selden, &c. have mistaken and misrepresented this pas, fage of Fortescue; the error may have proceeded from attending to the English version of this respectable au. thor, which I have copied above. The bare statement of the original words, dum nedum principis voluntate, fed & totius regni asenfu ipsa conduntur, will, I think, sufficiently prove, that in mentioning the number three hundred, he included the lords spiritual and temporal, as well as the commons, without whose consent no act of parliament could then pass, any more than at present. ' His affimilation of them also to the Roman senators, who were not the chosen delegates or representatives of the people, trengthens my suggestion; and the assertion of Mr. Gurdon, that learned investigator of the old parliamentary inftitutions, that the number of the house of commons was but one hundred and twenty-six at the latter end of Hen. VIII.'s reign, seems to place the matter out of all doubt.
Whence the idea of property in boroughs
right or duty of sending representatives to parliament is no longer felt as a grievance or hardship, but valued as an inestimable right, liberty, and benefit; and the appraisement of its value is now settled by the paucity of the voters, in whom the right of election for the borough is vested. Hence arose the idea of property in boroughs; for where the right of election remained by the decay or decrease of population in the borough vested in few individuals, it often happened, that these few voters were tenants or dependents of some wealthy or powerful man of property in the neighbourhood. The influence and power of the opulent over their tenants and dependents, or, as they formerly often were their vassals, feudatories, or bondsmen, were in ancient times very different from what they now are. At present I do not conceive a possible case, in which, if the right of voting for a borough were vested but in one single individual, how that individual should be constrained or obliged to give his vote for one person in preference to another. In proportion to the certainty, with which a small number of electors could return the member they chose, was this ideal borough-right supposed to be vested either in the electing individuals of the borough, or in those, who
had had an interest in or influence over the electors.
In process of time, this certainty of return- . ing their own man came to be looked upon as a species of property, and as that idea gained ground, so did the legislature become tender of invading it, upon the true constitutional principle of holding and preserving all private property facred and inviolable. There could not in reality be a grosser violation of the freedom of election, than to prevent the electors from chusing those, whom benevolence, affection, and gratitude should suggest or point out as the most agreeable persons to represent them in parliament. Upon the pre
Persons impro. fumptive force of such motives are indivi- perly said to
command the duals very frequently, though very impro- votes of a boperly, said to command the votes of a borough; for no physical nor moral, much tess any legal or constitutional restraint or obligation of voting for a particular person, can by possibility exist; and our acts of parliament have gone almost to the utmost extent of human jurisdiction, in order to obviate and prevent the effects of any undue influence, bribery, and corruption upon the electors.
It is truly wonderful to consider the delicate, and at the same time effectual remedy, which our admirable conftitution applies to