« PreviousContinue »
the original intention.
Almost every city and borough has its peculiar qualification for voting. Every voter must be of full age, a
natural-born subject, and rectus in curia. Qualifications
These three last qualifications are also reof the elected.
quired in every person to be elected. No clergyman, judge, nor sheriff can be elected; nor indeed, generally speaking, can any perfon be elected, who holds a place or pension under the crown, by which the freedom of his conduct may be supposed to be biassed. And if any member of parliament accepts an office under the crown, he thereby vacates his feat, and must return to his constituents, if he wish to be re-elected, that they may have the liberty of rejecting him, if they think, that the acceptance of such office will affect the freedom of his parliamentary conduct. A knight of the shire must have a qualification of 6ool. per ann. bona fide freehold landed property; and every citizen and burgess at least 300l. per ann, of like bona
fide freehold landed property. Means of pre The great and constant attention, which serving the free dom of the elec- the constitution shews to the freedom of elec
tions appears through every stage of the process. After issuing the writs for chusing the members, every precaution is taken, that human foresight can suggest, to remove even
the possibility of any undue influence-over the freedom of the electors; all soldiers are removed from the place of election; the interference 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 fay 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 adminiftering it only to the electors.”_
Conftitutional 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 soever; 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 fincerely endeavour to defend their just rights and liberties against all invasions whatsoever.”
Appendix to Lex Parliamentaria, p. 433.
Shall now present my readers, with a ge
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. ment,” says Sir Edward Coke, “ is so tran- parliamento scendent and absolute, that it cannot be confined, either for causes or persons, within any bounds. And of this high court he adds, it may be truly said, “Si antiquitatem Spektes, est vetuftifima; si dignitatem, est honoratilfima; fi jurisdictionem, 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 reside
* Blak. Com. b. i. c. 2. c. 160.
ti. e. concerning the civil Establishment of Religion, not upon the doctrine or points of revelation.
somewhere, is entrusted by the constitution
as was done in a variety of instances, in the
i. c. the civil Establishment of it.