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of the prelates, earls, barons, and commonalty of the realm, as hath been accustomed."

It was in a Parliament with functions so acknowledged and defined that, in the fourth year of Edward the Third's reign, “it was accorded' (statutes being then the king's accordance with petitions presented to him) " that a Parliament should be holden every year one, and more often if need be.” It was, however, always acknowledged to be the king's prerogative both to summon and dissolve the Parliament; and King Edward III., though he certainly did call Parliaments frequently, and often convoked the estates of the realm two or three times in one year, did at times suffer more than a year to elapse without calling a Parliament. Such remissness on the part of the sovereign was too readily forgiven. The people began to find the

. expense, then devolving upon them, of maintaining their members in Parliament somewhat burdensome. The knight of the shire, too,

THE LAWS OF EDWARD III.

9

would occasionally grumble at leaving his sports to attend the king in parliament. Yet, in the thirty-sixth year of Edward's reign, that monarch was reminded of the constitution he had infringed, and it was enacted “that, for maintenance of the articles of that Parliament, and statutes, and redress of diverse mischiefs and grievances which daily happened, a Parliament should be holden every year, as at another time has been ordained by another statute.” Again, in the last year of the reign, previous statutes were confirmed :

" Item prie la commune, que pleise establir par estatute en cest present Parlement que chescun an soit tenus un Parlement de faire corrections en Roialme des errors et fauxities si uuls y sont trovez.

Respons :— En droit du Parlement chescun an il y a eut estatutz et ordinances faits les queux soient duement gardes et tenus."

When Richard II. went to Eltham to mark

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his displeasure at the determination of the Commons to impeach his Lord Chancellor, Sir Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, there arose an occasion for teaching the monarch his true position in regard to his Parliament. Richard sent them a message to proceed to the business for which they were summoned. He would not for them or at their instance, said he, remove the meanest scullion in his kitchen. The Commons, on their part, had refused point blank to do the veriest trifle till the King should show himself and remove his Lord Chancellor. In the course of this pretty quarrel a remonstrance was made to the King by two lords and a bishop, deputed on behalf of Lords and Commons to “humbly salute him and deliver the sense of both Houses to him.” A part of that communication of the sense of the House concerns the subject of this chapter. “We have it settled and confirmed," said this address, “in our ancient constitution, from a laudable and ap

KINGS AND CORRUPT PRACTICES.

II

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proved custom which none can gainsay, that the King ought to assemble the lords, nobles, and commons of the kingdom once a year unto his Parliament, as the highest court of the realm in which all equity ought to shine bright without any spot clear as the sun.” The Parliament conquered, but by this time there was already some knowledge of an evil practice, to the rise of which we may not unreasonably attribute an important share in the gradual decrease of the power of Parliament and the proportionate exaltation of the kingly prerogative; while to its continuance we may certainly ascribe the failure of modern attempts to recover short Parliaments. The evil custom was that of packing Parliaments by corrupt practices. Professor Stubbs (“Constitutional History," chap. xx.) points out that a petition to Edward III. that the knights might be chosen by common election of the better folk of the shire, and not merely nominated by the sheriff without due election, seems to have been considered as a warning to the Crown not to tamper with the elections. Richard's council at Nottingham, wishing some time after the incident already mentioned to upset a commission appointed to regulate the affairs of the kingdom, ordered the sheriffs to suffer none to be returned to the next Parliament but the nominees of the King and his Council. An emphatic answer was given to this request. The sheriffs said “the people would be very hardly deprived of their antient privilege of chusing their own members of Parliament; and that, if there was a true freedom observed in chusing, it would be almost impossible to impose any person against the people's liking, especially since they would easily guess at the design and stand the more resolutely upon their right.” The King's attempts to issue writs ordering the sheriffs to return those persons "most indifferent to the disputes between him and his lords," were about this time defeated.

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