Page images
PDF
EPUB

and confirmed by act of the then parliament. That in
the said act there be presented the manner how the said
elections shall be made, together with the qualifications
of the electors and elected, with some other heads to
strengthen and confirm these new regulations. But only
the number to serve in parliament was now determined,
and the remainder of the report was referred to a grand
committee of the house, to take into consideration the
several heads reported, according to the number of four
hundred; and upon their debate, to prepare a bill, to
be presented to the house. Accordingly we find in the
journals that on every Wednesday following, till the dif-
ferences with Scotland broke out into a war, the house
in a grand committee fat and debated on this important
subject, and had not entirely finished it, when a period
was put to their fitting in the manner we fall soon see.

It is not to be doubted, had the parliament finished
their plan, it would have been truly excellent. As it
is, it appears capable of being rendered greatly useful,
when-ever a set of men of wisdom and fortitude shall
arise to carry it into execution. That this is not too
high an encomium on the parliament's scheme for a
new representation, will appear from that part of the
instrument of government subscribed by Cromwell, on
his assuming the protectorate, relating to the summon-
ing and electing of parliaments; which I am persuad-
ed was framed by the grand committee above-mention-
ed, though the house had not time to pass it into a
law. It is too long to be given here, but the curious (i) P. 572.
may find it in Whitlock (i), and without doubt will with It is

found also in for its revival. The rotten part of the constitution, as other wri. I think Burnet somewhere calls our small boroughs, ters. would then be incapable by their venality and corruption, of doing the mischief they sometimes have done, to themselves, their representatives, and the public.

Among the alterations requisite to be made on the British government, in order to bring it to the most • perfect model of limited monarchy, says Mr. Hume, o the plan of the republican parliament' ought to be ' restored by making the representation equal, and by allowing none to vote in the county elections, who U 3

por

is to

o be

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

acting all law (ss) proceedings to be in the

English

0) Political' pofless not an hundred a year (k).' This restriction Ellays, p. appears not at all to have entered into the thoughts of 30 • 12mo. the parliament. An estate real or personal of two hun. Ejingb. 1:52.

dred pounds in value, was the qualification for an elector, in the instrument of government above :entioned.

(ss) Their attemp's to re, orm the law, and ena Fiing all law proceedings to be in the English tongue.] The tediouincís and expensiveness of law proceedings have long been the subject of complaint, as well as that gloricus uncertainty of the law, which lias been often boasted of with high-glee by some of its profcffors. It is not to be doubted but the low and prolix process of the law sometimes preserves the unwary or unskilful from being surprized, and affords the fairer opportunity to bring truth to light, or give relief to the oppressed: but whether these advantages are not outweighed by the vexation, trouble and expence neceflarily incurred thereby, those who have been to unhappy as to be engaged in it, can best determine.--As early as the year 164", the parliament was addrefled on this subject, in the following words : " Yee know, the laws of this nation are (unworthy a free people, and deserve from first to • laft, to be considered, and serioufly debated, and re

duced to an agreement with common equity, and "right reason, which ought to be the form and life of

every government. Maria Charta itself being but a 6 beggarly thing, containing many marks of intollera

ble bondage, and the laws that have been made fince by parliaments, have in very many particulars made our government much more oppressive and intolera

ble. The Vcrm in way for ending of controversies, was ' much more abusive than the English way, yet the Con

queror, contrary to his oath, introduced the Vorom.IM • laws, and his litigious and vexatious way amongst us; ? the like he did also for punishment of maletact rs, controversies of all natures having before a quick

sand

English tongue; their seeking out, employ

ing

6 and final dispatch in every hundred. He erected a • trade of judges and lawyers, to sell justice and ina justice at his own unconscionable rate, and in what

time he pleased ; the corruption whereof is yet res maining upon us, to our continual impoverishing and ( moleftation; from which we thought you should have o delivered us *'- In the copy of a very valuable manuscript paper, formerly belonging to colonel Saunders of Derby/nire, colonel of a regiment of horse, written about the end of the year 1647 ; among many other. excellent proposals for the establiihment of a firm and, present peace, is the following. " That the huge vo. • Jumes of ftatuce laws and ordinances, with the penalties therein imposed, as well corporal as pecuniary,

be well revised; and such only left in force, as shall < be found fit for the commonwealth, especially that ( mens lives be more precious than formerly, and that • lesser punishments than death, and more useful to the s publick be found out for smaller offences: That all • laws, writs, commillion, pleadings, and records be s in the English tongue ; and that proceedings be re• duced to a more certain charge, and a more expeji

tious way than formerly: That no fees at all be exailed of the people in courts of j'fiice; but that the publick

ministers of fate be wholiy maintained cut of ihe puh. ·lick treasury.'- In the petition of the lo:d general and officers mentioned in the preceding note, we find among other things noticed, as worthy to be provided for by parliament, " The removing or reforming of 6 evils or inconveniences in the present laws, and ad< ininistrations thereof, the redreile of abuses, and fup• plying of defects therein, the putting of all the laws 6 and proceedings thereof into the Engliin tongue, the " reducing of the course of law to more brevity and less

* Remanfrancs of many thousand citizens and other freshorn per le of England to their own house of commons, occafioned by tie impune ment of John Liburn, 4to. uitloit nane or place.

? charge.

U

4

ing and rewarding the best pens for writ

ing

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

(1) p. 28.

o charge (?). These persons seem not to have con.
curred in judgment with Lord Coke, who tells us, " The
• law is the perfection of reason;' That the law is
( nothing else but reason; and that if all the reason
" that is dispersed into fo many several heads were united
• into one, yet could he not make such a law as the

law of England is, because by many succession of
« ages it hath been fined and refined by an infinite num-
< ber of grave and learned men, and by long experi-
«ence grown to such a perfection, for the government
6 of this realm, as the old rule may be truly verified of

"it, Neminem oportet elle fapientiorem legibus : No man (m) On Lit. 6 (out of his own private reason) ought to be wiser than tleton, .the law, which is the perfection of reason (m).' 98. 2d. Edit.

However this may be, the parliament being urged by
seeming considerations of public utility, on January 20,
1651, appointed ' A committee to take into conside-
" ration what inconveniences were in the law, how the

mischief that grows from delays, the chargeableness
' and irregularities in the proceedings of the law may
• be prevented, and the speediest way to prevent the
( fame.' No great matters however followed from this
committee, by reason of the hurry of the times, and
the opposition of the lawyers, who were full of Lord
Coke's opinion concerning the perfection of the laws of
England, as gentlemen of that profession, for the most
part, will always be; for as they then and now stand,
they are the means of procuring preferments, ticles, and
ministerial estates. Can we wonder then they have vin-
dicators, admirers and applauders ? - A little before
the parliament paffed an adt, " That all the books of the
« law should be put into English; and that all writs,
5 process, and returns thereof, and all patents, com-
( missions, indi&tments, judgnients, records, and all
• rules and proceedings in courts of justice should be in
" the English tongue. It was morecver enacted, that
• they ihould be written in an ordinary, usual and legi-

ing (TT) in behalf of liberty, civil and re

ligious;

6 ble hand and character, and not in any hand com(monly called court hand.' This act does great honor to the parliament, and is an argument of their good sense, and concern for the welfare of the people. It is amazing so good a law should not have been continued by proper authority after the restoration! But it was generally a sufficient reason then to disuse a thing, though ever so good in itself, that it had been enacted by an usurped power. Of such fatal confequences are prejudices ! But thanks be to God! we have seen the time when this most exccllent ordinance has been again revived, and received the sanction of the whole legislature. It has indeed been questioned, · Whether a noble dead language, which has suf

fered no variation in it for above these thousand years - last palt, is not better to preserve records in than so (n) Parlia.

flux a one as English (n).'---For my own part, I mentary should think not: unless the uncertain good of very

y xix. p. 439. distant pofterity, is to be preferred to our own present real advantage, which I imagine few will say. But to go on How much were it to be wilhed, that a

committee of wise and prudent persons were once more employed to revise, amend and abridge our laws!

That we might know ourselves how to act, and not • be necessitated to make use of those, who (we are sen

fible) live on our spoils.--But much is it to be feared, " that our adversaries will be too hard for us, and that " we shall be obliged, for a time at least, to submit to • their yoke. But whenever the spirit of true patrio.

tism Dhall generally possess the minds of our senators,

I doubt not, but they will apply themselves to our de• liverance in good earnest, and bring it to perfection, (c) Hisori• (as it was long ago done in Denmark, and more lately cal and Crie « in Prulia) inasmuch as the happiness of the commu-count of

?tical ACv nity absolutely depends thereon (6).

Hugh Pe. (tt) Their feeking out, and rewarding the belt pens, ters, note

c(M), 8vo. &c.] There have been few governments destitute of Lond. 17

wri.

« PreviousContinue »