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CHAP. II.

THE STATUTE LAW.

[See 1 Bl. Com. p. 85—92, and ch. 2; 2 Steph. Com. p. 348—415.]

Having disposed in the preceding chapter of the unwritten law, or lex non scripta, we have in the present chapter to consider the subject of the lex scripta, or written law. This is denominated the statute law.

It will be convenient in this place to consider the subject of Parliament, as that is the body by which statutes are made.

The reason of the statute laws or acts of Parliament being styled leges scriptæ is, because they are originally reduced into writing before they are enacted, or receive any binding power; every such law being in the first instance formally drawn up writing, and made as it were a tripartite indenture between the King, the Lords, and the Commons; for without the concurrent consent of all these three parts of the Legislature, no such law is or can be made; and if such a law appears only to have been made without this threefold concurrence, it is void (a).

Originally, what begun in the Commons was only termed a petition (for they had no power to

in ORIGIN OF PARLIAMENT, ETC.

13 ordain), and what begun in the Lords was styled an ordinance. Actus Parliamenti was an act made by the Lords and Commons, and it became statutum when it received the King's assent.

Origin of Parliament.]— The original or first institution of Parliaments, is one of those matters which lie so far hidden in the dark ages of antiquity, that the tracing of it out is a thing equally difficult and uncertain. In England this general council hath been held immemorially, under the several names of michel-synoth, or great council; michelgemote, or great meeting; and more frequently wittena-gemote, or the meeting of wise men. The Parliament of England, as it now stands, was marked out so long ago as the reign of King John, A.D. 1215, in the Great Charter granted by that prince, wherein he promises to summon all archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons, personally, and all other tenants in chief under the Crown, by the sheriffs and bailiffs, to meet in a certain place with forty days' notice, to assess aids and scutages when necessary; and this constitution has subsisted in fact, at least from the year 1266, 49 Hen. 3, there being still extant writs of that date to summon knights, citizens, and burgesses to Parliament (6).

Time and manner of assembling the Parliament.] — The Parliament, as it is at present constituted, is regularly to be summoned by the King's writ or letter issued out of Chancery, by the advice of his privy council, at least forty days before it begins to sit; and it is a branch of the royal prerogative, that no Parliament can be convened by its own authority, or by the authority of any except the King's alone. It was enacted by the 16 Car. 2,

c. 1, that the sitting and holding of Parliament shall not be intermitted above three years at most; and by the 6 Will. and Mary, c. 2, this matter is reduced to greater certainty by enacting that a new Parliament shall be called within three years after the determination of the former.

The constituent parts of Parliament.]—The constituent parts of a Parliament are, the King's majesty, sitting there in his royal political capacity, and the three estates of the realm; the lords spiritual, the lords temporal (who sit together with the King in one house), and the Commons, who sit by them. selves in another (c).

The King and these three estates together form the great corporation or body politic of the kingdom, of which the King is said to be caput, principium, et finis. For upon their coming together the King meets them, either in person or by representation ; without which there can be no beginning of a Parliament, and he alone has the power of dissolving them.

The spiritual lords consist of three archbishops and twenty-seven bishops. The lords temporal consist of all the peers of the realm (the bishops not being in strictness held to be such, but merely lords of Parliament), by whatever title of nobility distinguished, dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts, or barons. Some of these sit by descent, as do all ancient peers; some by creation, as do all new-made ones; others by election, which is the case of the sixteen peers who represent the body of the Scotch nobility, and the twenty-eight who are elected from among the Irish peers. Their number is indefinite, and may be increased at will by the power of the Crown. The Commons consist of all such men of any property in the kingdom as have not seats in

POWER OF PARLIAMENT, ETC. 15 the House of Lords; every one of which has a voice in Parliament, either personally or by his representatives. The number of English representatives is five hundred (from which, however, two must be deducted on account of one borough, Sudbury, having been disfranchised); of Scotch fifty-three, of Irish one hundred and five, in all (when complete) six hundred and fifty-eight (d).

Power of Parliament.--The power and jurisdiction of Parliament is so transcendent and absolute, that it cannot be confined, either for causes or persons, within any bounds. It hath sovereign and uncontrolable authority in making, confirnıing, enlarging, restraining, abrogating, repealing, reviving, and expounding 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 somewhere, is entrusted by the constitution of these kingdoms. All mischiefs and grievances, operations, and remedies, that transcend the ordinary course of the laws, are within the reach of this extraordinary tribunal.

Speaker.]—For the dispatch of business, each House of Parliament has its speaker. The Speaker of the House of Lords, whose office it is to preside there, and manage the formality of business, is the Lord Chancellor, or keeper of the King's great seal, or any other appointed by the King's commission; and, if none be so appointed, the House of Lords, it is said, may elect. The Speaker of the House of Commons is chosen by the House, but must be approved by the King (e).

Qualifications of members.]—As to who may or not sit in the House of Commons as members, it may be observed that no peer (except Irish peers not sitting in the Lords) or person under twenty-one years of age, clergyman, judge, metropolitan police magistrate, pensioner under the Crown, Government contractor, person holding any new office or place of profit under the Crown created since 1705, alien, or person attainted of treason or felony, or outlawed on criminal prosecution, is admissible (f); with these exceptions every person (even Roman Catholics) may be returned and sit as a member of the House of Commons, provided, in case of a county member, that the party have an estate of the clear yearly value of £600 in lands, &c., and in the case of a member for a city or borough, that he have lands of the value of £300. This qualification is not required for the members of the universities, or for the eldest son or heir apparent of a peer, or of any person qualified to serve for a county.

Qualifications of electors for counties.]-We can only shortly notice the subject of the qualifications of persons claiming to be voters at elections. And first of electors for knights of the shires. The elector must have an estate of freehold or copyhold for life at the least, or a leasehold, as after mentioned, or be an occupying tenant of a certain amount. A trustee or mortgagee, if in actual possession, may vote, otherwise the right is in the mortgagor or cestui que trust (9).

We will now consider the value of the estate which an elector for a county must have. As to freeholds : With respect to all freeholders of inheritance, and also with respect to all freeholders for life, provided these last shall be in actual and bonâ fide occupation, or shall have acquired their

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