Page images
PDF
EPUB

English settlers, it was better to have a few good laws than many bad ones.

The patient ability of Mr. Morrin, in his interesting preface to the Calendar of the Patent and Close Rolls of Chancery in Ireland, from the 18th to the 45th of Queen Elizabeth, points out the as yet unexplored sources whence much additional light might be cast on the Irish Parliaments of the Pale. The fact I believe to be, as Sir John Davis states in his historical tract upon the Causes why no permanent impression was produced in Ireland by the invasion of Henry II., that King Henry, although possessed of abilities, had not time to accomplish his great undertaking. Sir J. Davis says :“But let us see the success of King Henry II. Doubtless his expedition was such as he might have said, with Cæsar, Veni, vidi, vici ; for upon his first arrival, his very presence, without drawing his sword, prevailed so much, as all the petty kings or great lords, within Leinster, Connaught, and Munster, submitted themselves unto him, promised to pay him tribute, and acknowledged him their sovereign lord.” And so well pleased was he with this title of the lordship of Ireland, “That he placed it, in his royal style, before the duchies of Normandy and Aquitaine ; and so, being advertised of some stirs raised by his unnatural sons in England, within five months after his first arrival he departed out of Ireland, without striking one blow, or building one castle, or planting one garrison among the Irish.' And this is that conquest of King Henry II., so much spoken of by so many writers, which, though it was in no other manner than before expressed, yet is the entire conquest of Ireland attributed unto him.'

This criticism reduces our ideas of the grandeur of the conquest of Ireland to a low estimate. The Norman king bestowed upon Ireland the common law of England. The great charter of King John was in the most formal manner confirmed to Ireland, by our Magna Charta, in the time of King Henry III. A king's letter accompanied this charter to Ireland, a copy of which is still preserved in the Record Office of the Tower of London. It runs thus :

The King to the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Earls, Barons,

Knights, and to all his faithful subjects throughout Ireland,

Greeting :“Commending your faith in the Lord, which ye have always shown unto the lord our father, and are this day exhibiting unto us and ours, we will give, in token of your fidelity so manifest and so famous, to our kingdom of Ireland, the liberties of our kingdom of England, granted by our father and ourself out of our grace,

that
you
and

your heirs may perpetually rejoice: which liberties, distinctly reduced to writing by the Common Council of all our realm, we send to you, our faithful subjects.

* • Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, aut dissaisiatur, aut utla getur, aut exuleter, aut aliquo modo destruetur, nec super eum ibimus, nec super eum mittemus, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum, vel per legem terræ.'

"No freeman shall be seized, or imprisoned, or outlawed, or banished, or in any way destroyed ; nor will we condemn him, nor will we imprison him, excepting by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the laws of the land.””

Thus we have proof conclusive of the spirit of liberty which from early times breathed through the laws of England; personal freedom was secured-arbitrary punishments prevented-public tribunals of justice and trial by jury were established, in conformity with a well-known and even then ancient common law.

As we had no Parliament for one hundred and forty years

in Ireland, in what manner were our forefathers governed ? That

may be answered by a sentence from the famous speech of Sir John Davis, Speaker in the Parliament of Ireland, in the reign of James I. (p. 292):" And as there is now but one common law, so for the space of one hundred and forty years after King Henry II. had taken possession of the lordship of Ireland, there was but one Parliament for both kingdoms. But the laws made in the Parliaments of England were, from time to time, transmitted hither under the great seal of that kingdom, to be proclaimed, enrolled, and executed as laws of this realm.”

We see this opinion practically shown to be correct by Lord Coke in his chapter on Ireland, in the Fourth Institute, where he states, p. 350—“ Sometimes the king of England called his nobles of Ireland to come to his Parliament of England, and by special words the Parliament of England may bind the subjects of Ireland ;” and then, with characteristic precision, sets out the entry on the Parliament roll, reciting the writ in form by which the Irish nobles were summoned to Westminster :-“10 Octobris.—Rex affectans pacificum statum terræ Hiberniæ, mandavit Ricardo de Burgo, Com. Ulton., et aliis Nobilibus terræ prædictæ, quod sint ad Parliamentum suum quod summoneri fecit apud West". in Octobris Hillarii prox., ad tractand. ibid. cum Proceribus, &c., regni sui super statu terræ prædictæ."

This is exceedingly curious; for it shows how well our forefathers understood that legislation should depend on representation, and that if England made laws for Ireland, it should be with her assent; and, above all, it proves that for a considerable period at the beginning of their connexion, the two kingdoms were practically ruled by one and the same Parliament.

These unquestionable facts tend to disturb the theory of parliamentary representation in Ireland from the beginning, and to prove that we began with Union--securing identity of laws by identity of legislation in a single Parliament, in which Ireland was represented. And further, that when we got the local Parliament, we verged towards separation, from which we were preserved by the enactment of a stringent law in the reign of Henry VII., hereafter to be noticed. The first Parliament held in Ireland was in the ninth

year of the reign of Edward II., summoned in consequence of the invasion of Edward Bruce, and in order to redress the grievances under which the people laboured as tenants and vassals. Five Acts of Parliament appear in the record of this session, three of which relate to provisions against those exactions, and two to the establishment of proper remedies in the king's courts of law. Sir John Davis states that Parliaments were held in the succeeding reign, and probably in those of Richard II., and of Henry IV. and V.; yet there are no laws cited by him, nor do we find any Acts of Parliament passed in those sessions upon the statute book printed in 1762 under the authority of the Lord Chancellor and Judges ; before which time the Irish statutes were collected, as the statutes have been in England, by private lawyers, the first Irish collection being made in 1621, by Sir Richard Bolton, afterwards Lord Chancellor. From the reign of Edward II. till the reign of Henry VI., there are no Acts of Parliament recorded in the statute-book. But it appears from those books that Parliaments were held in the seventh, eighth, tenth, and twenty-fifth years of his reign, under three different chief governors; and from the twenty-eighth year of his reign they were summoned almost every year under the Duke of York, who was, for ten years and more, Lord Lieutenant; and eight Parliaments were summoned during the reign of Edward IV., which would be nearly one for every second

C

year during that period. Of the Acts which passed during these last periods, that law which enjoins the residence of the clergy under the penalty of forfeiture of their benefices for a year's absence, and takes away the benefit of the king's license, and an Act which prohibits appeals to England, seem to be the most remarkable. And this, it is to be supposed, gave rise to that famous law of Sir Edward Poynings, in the tenth

year of King Henry VII., to which we must now pay particular attention.

That able sovereign, Henry VII., despatched to Ireland, as his deputy, Sir E.Poynings, a vigorous and efficient Lieutenant, who proceeded to fix the parliamentary constitution in the manner we shall now explain. The 10th of Henry VII. is to be noted as a constitutional epoch in the history of Ireland. And here we ought to pause to review the former history of our Parliament; to estimate and ascertain what were to be the powers of that Parliament in future. We may observe, that the first Acts in the English language were passed in this Parliament, and amongst them the celebrated law, 10 Henry VII.“Whereby it is enacted that all statutes late made within the realm of England, concerning or belonging to the common or public weal of the same, from henceforth be deemed good and effectual in the law, and over that be accepted, used, and executed within the land of Ireland, in all points, at all times requisite according to the tenor of the same. statute or statutes have been made within the said land heretofore to the contrary, that they and every of them be made void and of none effect in the law.”

Now it will be observed that by this comprehensive and summary enactment, all the general fundamental laws previously in existence in England, and which had been obtained in that country at such cost and difficulty, were transferred, without argument or opposition, exactly as they

And if any

« PreviousContinue »