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Love her !-let no harsh cold word,
Love her still !
Love her !-let her feel your love-
Love her still!
Gather round her, weep and pray-
LOVE HER STILL.
A HISTORY FOR YOUNG ENGLAND.*
6. The juilyments of (ion are for ever unchangeable : neither is He wearied by the long process of Time, and won to give His blessing in one age to that which lle hath cursed in another."—WALTER RALEIGH,
CHAPTER TIE FOURTEENTII.
TIIE MAD PARLIAMENT.
The year 1258 opened with evil promise for the king. His profligate court had again reduced him to poverty, and he looked round upon a suffering and discontented people. Weather of unexampled severity had destroyed the harvest of 1257 ; wheat rose to the unprecedented price of nine and ten shillings the quarter; scarcity became famine, in which even the flesh of horses and the bark of trees were resorted to as food; and the people, ripe for revolt, saw less of the unavoidable visitation of Ileaven than of the assailable incapacity of their rulers, in the misery which surrounded them. The barons acted at once, as though they had but waited for this time.
The first memorable incident of the year arose on a question of purveyance. The king's brother, Richard, was now in Germany, completing his acceptance of the Roman crown ; and from that country, hearing of the scarcity in England, he sent forty vessels laden with corn. These the royal officers seized on their arrival, in assertion of the king's prerogative ; but the citizens of London (now an important body, among whom the rank of “baron’ was of no infrequent occurrence) resisted the claim with such effect as a breach of their charters, and received such unexpected support, that the king was obliged to submit to the arbitrament of law, and, surrendering his ill-gotten prize, to enter the market on the same footing as his subjects, saving only a nominal advantage conceded to the crown of an almost imperceptible diminution in the market price. Such was the hope of royalty in relation to any unjust or unpopular claim, when the king, stripped of all other resource, summoned a Great Council to meet at Westminster on the 2nd of May.
What had been the gradual growth of the constitution of
the Great Council (now unquestionably also styled a parliament) I have on various occasions throughout this history endeavoured to show. That in respect of legislative power, what was called the Great Council shared with even the earliest Norman kings; and that, like the Saxon Witan, it was in its character representative; I have formerly pointed out. А baron claimed his summons as a proprietor : and from these baronial tenures our larger parliamentary system arose. Through all the differences and dissensions of the
learned persons by whom these matters have been discussed, and without touching the rexed questions which their learning has left still unsolved, it seems tolerably clear that, whether or not tenure by knight's service in chief was originally distinct from tenure by barony, they had become so separated sometime before the reign of John. Tenants in chief appear, in the first instance, to have only comprised the king's immediate vassals ; but as time wore on, they could not so be restricted. Many of the greater baronics split up and became divided ; while the name of baron, no matter the number of fees it represented, or for the feudal service of how few or how many knights it may have been been responsible, was still retained.
But this led to a natural jealousy on the part of the greater proprietors; and in time to a broad distinction, in name at least, between the more important of those barons who lield by their honours or baronies, and the lesser proprietors wliom grants of escheated honours might have newly created, or whose ancient rights had been reduced by escheat or decay. A tenant in chief was now not necessarily å baron ; or he might be a baron of inferior gradle. It is more difficult to determine what regulated the issue of writs of summons; but it seems probable that the same jealousy to which I have adverted, induced the distinction which is first observable in John's reign, between the greater baron summoned by his special writ, and the inferior tenants in chief called together by a summons directed to their sheriff. It is clear also, that, though all were entitled to summons, the mere right of tenure could not dispense with its forms ; and an unsummoned tenant, without resorting to such remedies as might compe! the issue of the writ, could not take his place in the council.
l'p to this point, it will be observed, the principle is distinctly that of Feudal representation. The immediate vassals of the crown, representing certain land, possess the personal right to be
present in parliament. They are the liegemen of the sovereign ; and, by the universal feudal compact, though aid could be asked of the liegeman, the man's consent was necessary to legalise the aid; while this relation, implying protection from the lord, conveyed a further right to insist upon guarantees for that protection. In this view, the presence of both larger and lesser tenants was necessary, and even exacted by the crown as needful to the authority and . execution of a law. But as the inferior tenants increased, the tax for parliamentary attendance on men of smaller fortunes became intolerable ; and their consent and attendance came to be implied in that of the greater barons. Still, they were supposed be in the council ; and it seems to me that we may trace to the mere form and legal fiction thus resorted to, the gradual transition from a mere feudal to a more real representation. It is wonderful with what silent power, happily unknown to those who might otherwise strive to control it, a growing and enlarging society of men will adapt and modify old institutions to new necessities, at once Widening and strengthening their foundations.
As the inferior tenants in chief gradually withdrew from the council, its component members became restricted to the bishops and abbots, the earls and barons, the ministers and judges, and neighbouring knights holling of the crown. But the language of the writs continued to imply a much larger attendance. When, for example, the Great (harter was confirmed in the ninth year of the present reign, the roll informs us that at the same time a fifteenth liad been granted in return by the bishops, carls, barons, knights, free tenants, and all of the kingilom (poro liac donatione et concessione ......archiepiscopi, opisempi, comites, burones, milites, ct liberè tenentes, et omnes de regno nostro Angliæ, spontanea voluntate sua concesserunt nobis efficax auxilium): and when, seven years later, a fortieth was granted, we find the strange and ominous combination of • bishops, earls, barons, knights, freemen, and villeins,' put forth as having concurred in the grant. This was a fiction with an expanding germ of truth. The consent of particular classes was to be understood, as a matter of course, to be included in that of others. But the emptiest acknowledgment of a right is precious. The right itself waits only its due occasion to assume the substance and importance of reality.
Nor had the English freeman, even under his earliest Norman kings, been wholly without the means of knowing what representation meant.
When the Conqueror or his sons had any special
reason to make inquiry into their own rights; when particular wrongs of the people reached them, or peculations were charged against their barons or officers ; nothing was more common than a commission of knights in cach shire, not simply named by the sovereign (as when the Conqueror issued his inquiry into the details of the Saxon law) but as frequently elected in the county court, whose business it was to proceed from hundred to hundred, to make investigation upon oath, and to lay the result before the king either in council or parliament. The Great Charter contained a provision for the election of twelve knights in the next court of each county, to inquire into forest abuses. In the seventh year of the present reign every sheriff was ordered to inquire, by means of twelve lawful and discreet knights, what special privileges existed in his shire on the day of the first outbreak between John and his barons. And in the very year to which I have brought this history, a commission of four knights in each county received it in charge to inquire into certain excesses committed by men in authority. So also in relation to the levy of subsidies. As far back as half a century before this date, the most ancient instance of a subsidy on record (that of 1207) we find to have been collected by the itinerant judges; but only thirteen years later (1220) we discover the office of collection deputed to the sheriff, in conjunction with two knights to be chosen in a full court of the county with the consent of all the suitors.
Was it not obvious that such usage as this must grow as the people grew
? Was not the collection of taxes and the report of grievances, the manifest step to a power over the money collected, and to a right of petition against the grievances exposed ? Do we not discern, throughout these efforts of Norman royalty to check the excess of its ministers and obtain the co-operation of its people,
formation of that authority and house of the Commons, which has proved more formidable than either of the power's called into existence to control ?
A writ has been discovered of the date of two years before the Great Charter, which makes the first distinct transition to this vast and memorable change. It combines a summons for military service, with an order that four discreet kuights of the county (quatuor discretos milites de comituin tuo) should be sent to Oxford without arms to treat with the king concerning the affairs of the kingdom (al loquendum nobiscun de negotiis regni nostri.) This was a summons to parliament. Its terms are the same as