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I. The first article in a wise plan of reformation, would, in our opinion, be the immediate addition of twenty Members to the House of Commons, to be chosen by the most opulent and populous of the communities which are at present without direct representation; with such varieties, in the right of suffrage, as the local circumstances of each community might suggest, but in all of them on the principle of a widely diffused franchise. In Scotland, Glasgow ought to be included; in Ireland we think there are no unrepresented communities to which the principle could be applied.

In endeavouring to show that this proposal is strictly constitutional, according to the narrowest and most cautious use of that term-that it requires only the exercise of an acknowledged right, and the revival of a practice observed for several ages, we shall abstain from those controverted questions which relate to the obscure and legendary part of our Parliamentary history. A very cursory review of the authentic annals of the House of Commons, is sufficient for the present purpose. In the writs of summons of the 11th of Edward I., the Sheriffs were directed (as they are by the present writ) to send two Members from each city and borough within their respective bailiwicks. The letter of this injunction appears, from the beginning, to have been disobeyed. The Crown was indeed desirous of a full attendance of citizens and burgesses, a class of men then subservient to the royal pleasure, and who, it was expected, would reconcile their neighbours in the provinces to the burthen of Parliamentary grants. But to many boroughs, the wages of burgesses in Parliament were a heavy and sometimes an insupportable burthen : and this struggle between the policy of the Crown and the poverty of the boroughs, occasioned great fluctuation in the towns who sent Members to the House of Commons, in the course of the 14th century. Small boroughs were often excused by the Sheriff on account of their poverty, and at other times neglected or disobeyed his order. When he persisted, petitions were presented to the King in Parliament, and perpetual or temporary charters of exemption were obtained by the petitioning boroughs. In the 1st of Edward III. the county of Northumberland, and the town of Newcastle, were exempted, on account of the devastations of the Scotch war. The boroughs in Lancashire sent no Members from the reign of Edward III. to that of Henry VI.; the Sheriff stating, in his re i turns, that there was no borougb in his bailiwick able to bear the expense. Of 184 cities and boroughs, summoned to Parliament, in the reigns of the three first Edwards, only 91 continued to send Members in the reign of Richard II. In the midst of this great irregularity in the composition of the House

of Commons, we still see a manifest, though irregular, tendency to the establishment of a constitutional principle,-viz. that deputies from all the most important communities, with palpably distinct interests, should form part of a national assembly. The separate and sometimes clashing interests of the town and the country, were not entrusted to the same guardians. The Knights of the Shire were not considered as sufficient representatives even of the rude industry and infant commerce of that age.

The dangerous discretion of the Sheriffs was taken away by the statutes for the regulation of elections, passed under the princes of the House of Lancaster. A seat in the House of Commons had now begun to be an object of general ambition, Landed gentlemen, lawyers, even courtiers, served as burgesses, instead of those traders sometimes, if we may judge from their names, of humble occupation--who filled that station in former times. Boroughs had already fallen under the influence of neighbouring proprietors; and, from a curious passage in the Paston Letters, * we find, that in the middle of the fifteenth century, the nomination of a young gentleman to serve for a borough, by the proprietos, or by a great man of the Court, was spoken of as not an unusual transaction. From this time the power of the Crown, of granting representation to new boroughs, formed a part of the regular practice of the Government, and was exercised without interruption for two hundred years. In the cases of Wales, Chester, and long after of Durham, representation was bestowed by statute, probably because it was thought that no inferior authority could have admitted Members from those territories, long subject to a distinct government, into the Parliament of England. In these ancient grants

of representation, whether made by the King or by Par

* In October 1455, Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, and John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, very openly, and in somewhat strong terms, recommended two gentlemen to be elected Members for the county of Norfolk.-Paston Letters, 1. pp. 96-99.

In 1472, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk agreed on the Members for the county of Norfolk. In that year also the Dutchess of Norfolk's steward procures the returns for Yarmouth, and recommends Sir John Paston for Malden.— Paston Letters, II. pp. 99-107.

The following short extract shows how much a seat in Parliament had become an object of ambition—what part the Court took in elections--and how they obtained seats for their adherents.

'If ye miss to be burgess of Malden, and My Lord Chamberlain • will ye may be in another place; there be a dozen towns in Eng.

land that chuse no burgess which ought to do it; ye may be set in { for one of those towns, if ye be friended.'

liament, we discover a great uniformity of principle, and an approach to the maxims of our present constitution. In Wales and Chester, as well as in England, the counties were distinguished from the towns, and the protection of their separate interests was committed to different representatives: the rights of election were diversified, according to the local interests and municipal constitution of the several towns.

In the preamble of the Chester Act, representation is stated to be the means of securing the county from the wrong which it had suffered while it was unrepresented. It was bestowed on Wales with the other parts of the laws of England, of which it was thought the necessary companion; and the exercise of popular privileges is distinctly held out as one of the means which were to quiet and civilize that principality. In the cases of Calais and Berwick, the frontier fortresses against France and Scotland, where modern politicians would have been fearful of introducing the disorders of elections, Henry the VIIIth granted the elective franchise, apparently for the purpose of strengthening the attachment, and securing the fidelity of their inhabitants.—The Knights of the shire for Northumberland were not then thought to represent Berwick sufficiently.

While we thus find in these ancient examples so much solicitude for an adequate representation of the separate interests of classes and districts, it is particularly worthy of remark, that we find no trace in any of them of a representation founded merely on numbers. The statute which gave representatives to Wales, was within a century of the act of Henry VI. for regulating the qualifications for the voters in counties; and, on that subject, as well as others, may be regarded as no inconsiderable evidence on the ancient state of the Constitution. Had universal suffrage prevailed till the 15th century, it seems wholly incredible, that no trace of it should be found in the numerous royal and parliamentary grants of representation, which occur in the early part of the 16th. Mere accident must have revived it in some instances; for it certainly had not then become an argument of jealousy or apprehension.

In the reigns of Edward the VIth, Mary and Elizabeth, the struggles between the Catholic and Protestant parties, occasioned a great and sudden increase of the House of Commons. Fourteen boroughs were thus privileged by the first of these Sovereigns, ten by the second, and twenty-four by Elizabeth, The choice, in the reign of Edward and Elizabeth, was chiefly in the western and southern counties, where the adherents of the Reformation were most numerous, and the towns were most


under the influence of the Crown. By this extraordinary exertion of prerogative, a permanent addition of 94 members was made to the House of Commons in little more than fifty years. James and Charles, perhaps dreading the accession of strength which a more numerous House of Commons might give to the popular cause, made a more sparing use of this power. But tlie popular party in the House of Commons, imitating the policy of the ministers of Elizabeth, began to strengthen their parliamentary influence by a similar expedient. That House had indeed no pretensions to the power of making new Parliamentary boroughs; but the same purpose was answered, by the revival of those which had long disused their privilege. Petitions were obtained from many towns well affected to the popular cause, alleging that they had, in ancient times, sent members to Parlia ment, and had not legally lost the right. These petitions were referred to the Committee of Privileges; and, on a favourable report, the Speaker was directed to issue his warrant for new writs. Six towns, of which Mr Hampden's borough of Wendover was one, were in this manner impowered to send members to Parliament in the reign of James. Two were added in 1628 by like means, and six more by the Long Parliament on the very eve of the civil war.

No further addition was made to the representation of England, except the Borough of Newark, on which Charles II., in 1672, bestowed the privilege of sending. Burgesses to the House of Commons, as a reward for the fidelity of the inhabitants to his father. The right of the first burgesses returned by this borough in 1679 was questioned,--though on what ground our scanty and confused accounts of the Parliamentary transactions of that period do not enable us to determine. The question was suspended for about three years; and at last, on the 26th day of March 1676, it was determined, by a majority of 125 against 73, that the town had a right to send burgesses: But on a second division, it was resolved, by a majority of one, that the members returned were not duly elected. And thus suddenly, and somewhat unaccountably, ceased the exercise of a prerogative which, for several centuries, had continued to augment, and, in some measure, to regulate the English representation.

Neither this, nor any other constitutional power, originated in foresight and contrivance. Occasional convenience gave rise to its first exercise; the course of time gave it a sanction of law. It was more often exercised for


of tem

* Browne Willis, Notitiæ Parlamentariæ, II. p. 102. Borlase's Hist. of Cornwall, and Whitelocke's Notes on the Writ of Summons. * 34, and 35. of Hen. VIII. c. 13.


porary policy, or of personal favour, than with any regard to the interest of the Constitution. Its entire cessation is, however, to be considered as forming an epoch in the progress of our government. However abusively it might often be exercised, its existence might be defended, on the ground that it was the constitutional means of remedying the defects of the representation. It was a tacit acknowledgment that a representative system must, from time to time, require amendment. Every constitutional reasoner must have admitted, that it was rightly exercised only in those cases where it contributed to the ends for the sake of which alone it could be justified. Its abuse consisted much more in granting the suffrage to insignificant villages, than in with holding it from large towns. The cases of the latter sort are very few, and may be imputed to accident and negligence, which would probably have been corrected in process of time. No such instance occurs with respect to any town of the first, or even of the second class. And indeed it cannot be supposed, that, before the disuse of that prerogative, four or five of the principal towns in the kingdom should have continued without representatives for more than a century. Whatever the motive might have been for granting representatives to Westminster by Edward VI., no reason could have been assigned for the grant, but the growing importance of that city. Lord Clarendon's commendation of the constitution of Cromwell's parliament, to which Manchester, Leeds and Halifax, then towns of moderate size, sent representatives, may be considered as an indication of the general opinion on this subject.

In confirmation of these remarks, we shall close this short review of the progress of representation before the Revolution, by an appeal to two legislative declarations of the principles by which it ought to be governed. The first is the Chester Act, of which the preamble is so well known as the basis of Mr Burke's plan for conciliation with America. It was used against him, to show that Parliament might legislate for unrepresented counties; but it was retorted by him, with much greater force, as a proof from experience, and an acknowledgment of the Legislature, that counties in that situation had no security against misrule. The petition of the inhabitants of Cheshire, which was adopted as the preamble of the act, complained that they had neither knight nor burgess in Parliament for the said county-palatine; and that the said inhabitants, for lack there• of, have been oftentimes touched and grieved with acts and • statutes made within the said Court.' On this recital the sta tute proceeds

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