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ment, at the request of the Commons. Assuming then that Magna Charta was generally observed from the time of the statute of Articuli super Chartas, 28 Edw. I., it occupied, from its grant by King John in 1215, eighty-five years of incessant contest and struggle to establish it as settled law; and when it is considered that Magna Charta was itself the issue of struggles for charters carried on with every successive Norman king, from the Conqueror to John, we have a period of no less than two hundred and thirty-four years occupied in the parturition and operative establishment of the code of Magna Charta.
Revenue and independent state of the Monarchs.-Rise of Representation.—Greater and Lesser Barons.—Knights.-Provisions of Oxford. –Leicester's Parliament.—Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses summoned.—First Instance.—Their Wages.—Representation discontinued—Edward I.-Statutes passed by his Council and Barons.— Knights again Summoned.—Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses.—Representation of the Commons established.
THE relation between the king and the people in the days of the Plantagenets did not produce that community of interest which now exists. The king possessed the kingdom like a private estate. He derived a large revenue from the royal lands or demesnes; and besides these, by the feudal laws, he received pecuniary aids and other contributions from the estates of his barons; and in some instances, such as wardship and escheat, their entire incomes. He also received scutage or escuage, a pecuniary commutation for military service, which being levied on every knight's-fee' produced a large return ; and on the royal towns he levied toll or tallage, or, where these had been commuted, a fee-farm rent. He levied customs upon merchandise imported and exported, especially on wool exported; and he took the prisage of wine, or two casks out of every
'The number of Knights-Fees established at the Conquest was 60,215. ship. The money so derived passed into his treasury; and he spent it according to his own uncontrolled pleasure, or as his necessities required,—in the expenses of his government, in his own household, in peace or in war. When this revenue was sufficient, the people were spared and were content; but when the king found it necessary to require an extraordinary aid or subsidy from his subjects, he then had to assemble his great council, and to obtain their o The executive power was entirely in his hands; and the legislative power was also exercised by him as the originator of all the laws, subject only to the assent, oftentimes probably merely formal, of the prelates and barons, as the great men of the realm. But in the reign of Henry III. circumstances occurred which were destined to bring about an important change in the legislative element of the government, to remove from the king, and to a great extent from the lords, the power of taxation, and to place it in other hands. The development of the great principle of the REPRESENTATION of THE PEoPLE in Parliament is here referred to, which has given to the English constitution its peculiar excellence and distinction; and which has contributed, as a main cause, to establish the eminence which the Anglo-Saxon race has attained in freedom, commerce, wealth, public spirit, and power. It is not unlikely that the principle of representation may have been put in action in ancient times, when large bodies . of men found themselves opposed to each other, on questions of public interest. Convenience would naturally suggest the selection of representatives; and in ecclesiastical councils, the various churches were represented by members who attended as delegates or representatives. There are even instances, in our early history, of the selection of knights to assess the proportion of an aid or subsidy to be borne by the respective counties of the kingdom. But popular representation, as a principle and constituent part of government, it is generally admitted, had its birth in the circumstances about to be related." But it originated in no premeditated * The representative government of this nation (England) is the only
1265.] GREATER AND SMALLER BARONS. 71
design to found a system of representative government; and it was slow in attaining its present proportion and dignity. Its spring and rise, first as regards the representation of counties, and next of cities and boroughs, will now be briefly traced. By the feudal system, as has been explained, large estates were granted to the Norman barons on condition of military service and suit in the king's court; and these barons, with the prelates, the latter in right of their baronies, formed the great council of the king. The councils were summoned by the king at his pleasure and by his writ, the common mode of communicating his commands to all ranks of persons and public bodies. The councils, after the Conquest, were often called Parliaments; a name which was applied to assemblies of various kinds; to the Aula Regis, and to the convention from which the Great Charter issued, which was called Parliamentum Runnymeda. In progress of time, as the original baronies escheated and returned into the hands of the Crown, it became the policy of the king to divide them into smaller baronies, and thus to provide adherents against the power of the greater barons. But the new grants were made to the new grantees as tenants in capite, and they thus became of the same order as the greater barons; but not being possessed of the same wealth and power, they came to be distinguished as the lesser or smaller barons. They were equally entitled with the great barons to be summoned to, and to sit in, the great council." But although they possessed that right, and regarded it as a high privilege and distinction attached to their order, attendance at the council was a burden; and they were satisfied to be exempt from it, or with only an occasional attendance. representative government which, until our days, has existed with full vitality in Europe. (Guizot's ‘History of Representative Government in Europe.") 'The charter implies some distinction between those styled “Majores Barones” and the rest of the tenants in capite of the Crown; but it also implies that all the tenants in capite, or at least all the military tenants is capite, had an equal right to be summoned. (Peers' Report, vol. i. p. 67.) The great numbers of the military tenants of the Crown, whether called lesser barons or knights (for both were tenants in capite of the king, and any distinction between them soon merged in their common knighthood), would have made it difficult for the king to summon them individually and personally by his writ or letter, like the great barons. Magna Charta solved the difficulty by providing that, “for holding the general council of the kingdom to assess aids, and for the assessing of scutages, we shall cause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and great barons (majores barones) of the realm, singly by our letters; and furthermore, we will cause to be summoned in general by our sheriffs and bailiffs, all others who hold of us in capite.” This separation of the baronage into two classes, those summoned by writs, directed to each individually, and those summoned by sheriffs under the direction of writs addressed to them,-laid the foundation of the distinction which afterwards arose between the ranks of nobility and gentry.
The next step towards the representation of the inferior class, arose from the necessity of consulting the convenience as well of the king and council, as of the knights themselves. The knights were a numerous class in each county. All persons holding land under the Crown as tenants-in-chief, of the yearly value of twenty pounds, were compellable to receive knighthood. The attendance of so large a body, even if it were practicable, would have rendered deliberation impossible. Attendance by representatives must, therefore, when it was desired to act upon the provision of Magna Charta, have suggested itself as the natural mode of giving effect to the general, but impracticable, right; and thus representation of the counties arose. An election of representative knights took place at the county-court, before the sheriff; the choosers (as the electors are called in the ancient statutes) being the knights themselves, but whether with or without the freeholders, is a question much
* See Magna Charta, ante, p. 58.