Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

the possibility of any undue influence over

the freedom of the electors; all soldiers are · removed from the place of election; the intera

ference of peers and certain officers of the , crown is most strictly prohibited; the offer

or promise of any money, entertainment, profit, promotion, or advantage, in order to the election induces the inability to be elected; and passive and active bribery is punished with the heaviest forfeitures and disabilities.

* « 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."

* Blak. Com. b. i. c. 2.

Gg :

.

'I will

Constitutional freedom of the house of commons.

I will close this subject with the words of an author, who has taken much pains to collect the rights and duties of the house of commons.

* “ There is nothing ought to be so dear to the commons of Great Britain as a free parliament; that is, a house of commons every way free and independent either of the lords or ministry, &c. free in their persons; free in their estates ; free in their elections ; free in their returns; free in their assembling; free in their speeches, debates, and determinations ; free to complain of offenders; free in their prosecutions for offences; and therein free from the fear or influence of others, how great foever ; free to guard against the incroachments of arbitrary power; free to preserve the liberties and properties of the subject; and yet free to part with a share of those properties, when necessary, for the service of the public; nor can he be justly esteemed a representative of the people of Britain, who does not sincerely endeavour to defend their just rights and liberties against all invasions whatfoever.” · * Appendix to Lex Parliamentaria, p. 433..

C H A P.

CHA P. XV.

OF THE COLLECTIVE LEGISLATIVE BODY.

Shall now present my readers with a ge1 neral outline of the nature, laws, and customs of parliament, united together in one

aggregate body. - * “ The power and jurisdiction of parlia- Power and ju

risdiction of ment,” says Sir Edward Coke, “is fo tran- parliamento scendent and absolute, that it cannot be cons fined, either for causes or persons, within any bounds. And of this high court he adds, it may be truly said, Si antiquitatem Spectes, est vetustissima ; si dignitatem, eft bonoratissima; fi jurisdi&tionem, est capacissima. It hath sovereign and uncontroulable authority in making, confirming, enlarging, restraining, abrogating, repealing, reviving, and expounding of laws, concerning matters of all possible denominations, † ecclesiastical, or temporal, civil, military, maritime, or criminal; this being the place, where that absolute despotic power, which must in all governments refide

* Blak. Com. b. i. c. 2. C. 160.

ti. e, concerning the civil Establishment of Religion, not upon the doctrine or points of revelation.'

Gg2 somewhere,

somewhere, is entrusted by the constitution of these kingdoms. All mischiefs and grievances, operations and remedies, that tranfcend the ordinary course of the laws, are within the reach of this extraordinary tribunal. It can regulate or new model the súcceffion to the crown; as was done in the reign of Henry VIII. and William III. It can alter the established religion of the land; * as was done in a variety of instances, in the reigns of king Henry VIII. and his three children. It can change and create afresh even the conftitution of the kingdom, and of parliaments themselves; as was done by the act of.union, and the several statutes for triennial and feptennial elections. It can in short do every thing, that is not naturally impossible; and therefore some have not fcrupled to call its power by a figure rather too bold, the omnipotence of parliament. True ir is, that what the parliament doth, no authority upon earth can undo. So that it is a matter most essential to the liberties of this kingdom, that such members be delegated to this important trust, as are most eminent for their probity, their fortitude, and their knowledge.

Omnipotence

of parliament.

* i. c. the civil Establishment of it.

fit in either

Oat

In order to prevent the mischiefs, that might No minors to arise by placing this extensive authority in house." hands, that are either incapable, or else improper to manage it, it is provided by the custom and law of parliament, that no one shall fit or vote in either house, unless he be twenty-one years of age. This is also expressly declared by statute 7 & 8 W. III. c. 25, with regard to the house of commons; doubts having arisen from some contradictory adjudications, whether or no a minor was incapacitated from sitting in that house. It is also enacted by statute 7 Jac. I. c. 6. that no member be permitted to to quali

Lo members to enter the house of commons, till he hath taken take their seats. the oath of allegiance before the lord steward, or his deputy ; and by 30 Car. II. st. 2. and i Geo. I. c. 13, that no member shall vote or sit in either house, till he hath, in the presence of the house, taken the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, and subscribed, and repeated the declaration against transubftantiation, and invocation of saints, and the facrifice of the mass. Aliens, unless natura- ai lized, were likewise by the law of parliament incapable to serve therein; and now it is enacted, by statute 12 & 13 W. III. c. 2. that no alien, even though he be naturalized, fhall be capable of being a member of either house of parliament. And there are not only

these

Exclusion of aliens.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Gg3

« PreviousContinue »