Images de page
PDF
ePub

(including Westminster and Southwark) sends eight—other towns, two or one ; and of the deputies of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, each of which sends two.

Lastly, since the act of union, Scotland sends forty-five deputies ; who added to those just mentioned, make up the whole number five hundred and fifty-eight. Those deputies, though separately elected, do not solely represent the town or county that sends them, as is the case with the deputies of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, or of the Swiss Cantons; but, when they are once admitted, they represent the whole body of the nation.

The qualifications required for being a member of the house of commons are, for representing a county, to be born a subject of Great Britain, and to be possessed of a landed estate of six hundred pounds a year; and of three hundred, for representing a town or borough.

The qualifications required for being an elector in a county are, to be possessed in that county, of a freehold of forty shillings a year. *

• This freehold must have been possessed by the elector one whole year at least before the time of election, except it has devolved to him by inheritance, by marriage, by a last will, or by promotion to an office.

With regard to electors in towns or boroughs, they must be freemen of them ; a word which now signifies certain qualifications expressed in the particular charters.

When the king has determined to assemble a parliament, he sends an order for that purpose to the lord chancellor; who, after receiving the same, sends a writ, under the great seal of England, to the sheriff of every county, directing him to take the necessary steps for the election of members for the county, and the towns and boroughs contained in it. Three days after the reception of the writ, the sheriff must, in his turn, send his precept to the magistrates of the towns and boroughs, to order them to make their election within eight days after the receipt of the precept, giving four days notice of the same. And the sheriff himself must proceed to the election for the county, not sooner than ten days after the receipt of the writ, nor later than sixteen.

The principal precautions, taken by the law, to ensure the freedom of elections, are, that any candidate, who, after the date of the writ, or even after the vacancy, shall have given entertainments to the electors of a place, or to any of them, in order to his being

elected, shall be incapable of serving for that place in parliament; and that if any person gives, or promises to give, any money, employment, or reward, to a voter, in order to influence his vote, he, as well as the voter himself, shall be condemned to pay a fine of five hundred pounds, and for ever disqualified to vote, and hold any office in a corporation,the faculty, however, being reserved to both, of procuring indemnity for their own offence, by discovering some other offender of the same kind

It has been moreover established, that no lord of parliament, or lord-lieutenant of a county, has any right to interfere in the elections of members; that any officer of the excise, customs, &c. who shall presume to intermeddle in elections, by influencing any voter to give or withhold bis vote, shall forfeit one hundred pounds, and be disabled to hold any office. Lastly, all soldiers quartered in a place where an election is to be made, must move from it, at least one day before the election, to the distance of two miles or more, and return not till one day after the election is finished.

The House of Peers, or Lords, is composed of the lords spiritual, who are the archbishops of

§

Canterbury and of York, and the twenty-four bishops; and of the lords temporal, whatever may be their respective titles, such as dukes, marquisses, earls, &c.

Lastly, the King is the third constitutive part of parliament: it is even he alone who can convoke it; and he alone can dissolve or prorogue it. The effect of a dissolution is, that from that moment the parliament completely ceases to exist; the commission, given to the members by their constituents, is at an end; and, whenever a new meeting of parliament shall happen, they must be elected anew. А prorogation is an adjournment to a term appointed by the king; till which the existence of parliament is simply interrupted, and the function of the deputies suspended.

When the parliament meets, whether it be by virtue of new summons, or whether, being composed of members formerly elected, it meets again at the expiration of the terın for which it had been prorogued, the king either goes to it in person, invested with the insignia of his dignity, or appoints proper persons to represent him on that occasion, and opens the session by laying before the parliament the state of the public affairs, and inviting it to take them into consideration. This presence of the king, either real or represented, is absolutely requisite at the first meeting; it is that which gives life to the legislative bodies, and puts them in action.

The king, having concluded his declaration, withdraws. The parliament, which is then legally intrusted with the care of the national concerns, enters upon its functions, and continues to exist till it is prorogued or dissolved. The house of commons, and that of peers, assemble separately; the latter, under the presidence of the lord chancellor; the former, under that of their speaker; and both separately adjourn to such days as they respectively think proper to appoint.

As each of the two houses has a negative on the propositions made by the other, and there is, consequently, no danger of their encroaching on each other's rights, or on those of the king, who has likewise his negative upon them both, any question judged by then conducive to the public good, without exception, may be made the subject of their respective deliberations Such are, for instance, new limitations, or extensions, to be given to the authority of the king; the establishing of new laws, or making changes in those already in being. Lastly, the different

+

« PrécédentContinuer »