« ZurückWeiter »
1346.] COMPLAINT OF GRIEWANCES. 93
pensating the king for the loss of the privileges of heirship. “Ceux de la commune” gave their answer in writing, describing themselves as “Les Gentz q sount cy a Parlement pur la Commune,” that they dared not give their assent to so great an aid as was required, till they had consulted and advised with the commons of their countries (their constituents); and they desired another parliament to be summoned at a future day; and in the meantime they would return to their countries, and do their utmost to obtain for the king a proper aid. They also complained of several grievances; and made a request that the most esteemed knights of counties should be elected, not being a sheriff or other officer. It was agreed that a new parliament should be assembled, and that two knights, girt with swords, from every county should be elected." Various instances occur in subsequent parliaments of separate grants by the peers and commons; by the latter especially, made upon condition of some concessions. In 1346 (20 Edward III.) the commons granted a fifteenth, but presented a petition of grievances, complaining of commissions issued to array gentlemen-at-arms, hobelers (light cavalry), and archers, according to the value of the lands, or to pay a composition in lieu of such array; of victuals and subsistence for the king's horses, required of them without payment; and of a custom of forty “souldz” for every sack of wool; all which were levied without assent or grant in parliament.” At a parliament held in 13 Edward III., the Peers being advised that it was necessary to borrow immediately a large sum of money for the navy, for the defence of the kingdom, they demanded of the commons how they would avoid the danger to which the country was exposed. After long treaty the commons answered that they would vouch to the king for 2,500 sacks of wool, whereon to borrow money immediately; and that if the conditions they had proposed were
* Rot. Parl, Edward III., p. 103. Peers' Report, vol. i. pp. 308–309. * Rot. Parl Edward III., p. 160. Peers' Report, vol. i. p. 318.
agreed to by the king, they would raise the grant to 30,000 sacks."
At a parliament held in 1340 (14 Edward III.), persons were assigned to despatch the petitions, and form them into statutes. These consisted of prelates and barons, with several judges (not barons), and twelves knights of counties whom the commons selected; and it was agreed that six citizens and burgesses should be associated with them to despatch the business. This seems to have been an innovation, and a gradual advance in power by the commons.”
In 1348 (22 Edward III.), upon application for an aid, the commons complained of the various charges put upon them by the king's council without their assent. But they granted to the king a fifteenth, to be levied in three years, upon condition that “thenceforth no imposition, tallage, or charge by way of loan, nor in any other manner, should be put by the Privy Council of the king, without the grant and assent of the commons in parliament; and they required these conditions, and the manner of the grant, expressed in letters-patent under the great seal, to be sent to all the counties of England, without fee.”
In a parliament held at Westminster, in 1348 (22 Edward III.), the commons prayed that the petitions delivered by them in the last parliament, and jointly answered and assented to by the king and peers, should be kept; and that by no bill delivered in this parliament in name of the commons and others, the answer before granted should be changed, for the commons avowed no such bill, if any should have been delivered in parliament. This is a complaint that the bills founded on their petitions were not in correspondence with what had been originally arranged,—proof that the commons' authority, when they had left the parliament, was sometimes superseded.”
1 Rot. Parl., Edward III. Peers' Report, vol. i. p. 311. * Rot. Parl., Edward III., p. 112. Peers' Report, vol. i. p. 311. * Rot. Parl, Edward III., vol. ii. p. 200. Peers' Report, vol. i. p. 320. * Rot. Parl., Edward III., vol. ii. p. 200. Peers' Report, vol. i. p. 320.
1350.] OF Irer EGULARITIES. 95
In 1350 (25 Edward III.) the commons seem to have increased in importance, and to have undertaken a larger scope of inquiry and jurisdiction. They complained of the distress of the country, the dearness of corn, and the want of cultivation of the land, and that commissions had issued to take corn and other victuals; and they assert the principle, that no such charges ought to be made without the assent of parliament, against the statute for that purpose; and prayed that such charges and commissions should be recalled. The commons also complained of a levy of forty shillings on every sack of wool exported. And here they show some rudimentary knowledge of political economy; for they say, that, although granted and paid by the merchants, it really was a burden on the people.'
These frequent complaints seem to have produced their effect, for at another parliament held in 1350 (25 Edward III.), the chief justice, in opening the parliament, addressed himself principally to the commons, to obtain aids for the king's necessities. He proposed that twenty-four or thirty of their body should go to the king in the Painted Chamber, and that the king would send some “des grantz’ to confer with them ; that the rest should assemble in the Chapter House, where their fellows should report to them. The commons did not assent to this, but the whole body came before the prince (the king's son), and ‘autres grantz,' on a subsequent day. The state of affairs of France was submitted to them, and they were desired to advise the king what should be done; and if they had any petition of grievances, or for amendment of laws, to offer them.
The commons presented the king a roll, granting an aid, accompanied by their conditions, which were that the commons' petitions should be granted, confirmed, and sealed before the departure of the parliament; that no persons should be required to make loans against their will; for that was against reason and the franchise of the land; and that restitution of such loans should be made. These and
'Rot. Parl., Edward III, vol.ii. p.225. Peers' Report, vol. i. p. 321.
some other conditions relating to the feudal tenure, were acceded to by the king." In 1353 (27 Edward III.) a great council assembled, to which the ordinance of the staple was promulgated. It was attended by one knight from each county, and citizens and burgesses. The commons stated, that inasmuch as the assembly was not a parliament, and its decrees merely ordinances, the latter required confirmation, or, as it was termed, to be rehearsed in parliament, and to be entered on its rolls. That was accordingly done at a parliament held in the following year, at which the chief justice, in the presence of the king, stated what had occurred in the council; and that the king had summoned the parliament, that the ordinances, if approved, might be made a perpetual statute. The commons having considered the ordinances, approved of them, and desired that they should be made into a statute.” At the close of the parliament in 1362 (36 Edward III.), is an entry that the king, having been blessed with several sons, would increase their names and honours; and he created his son Lionel, Duke of Clarence, his son John, Duke of Lancaster, and his son Edward, Earl of Cambridge; and he gave to each of them a charter.” At the close of the same parliament, the mischief arising from the use of the French language in the statutes and law proceedings was acknowledged; and the king, with the assent of the lords and commons, willed that all proceedings should be in the English language." In 1372 (46 Edward III.) we find proof that the principle of the concurrence of both houses in legislation was not yet acknowledged as invariable. Leave was given to the knights of counties to depart, and sue their writs for expenses, and
| Rot. Parl, Edward III., p. 227. Peers' Report, vol. i. pp. 321,322. * Rot. Parl., 28 Edward III., p. 254. Peers' Report, vol. i. p.325. * Rot. Parl., 36 Edward III., p. 273. Peers' Report, vol. i. p. 236. The title of Duke was first conferred by Edward III. upon his son Ed. ward the Black Prince, whom he created Duke of Cornwall. * Rot. Parl, Edward III., p. 310. Peers' Report, vol. i. p. 329.
1376.] IMPEACHMENT BY THE COMMONS. 97
they departed accordingly. But the citizens and burgesses were ordered to remain; and they were prevailed upon to grant to the king a continuation, for a year, of an aid granted in a former year, arising from a duty on wines and merchandise imported. This duty being payable by merchants, —inhabitants of cities and towns,—was, it would seem, assumed to affect that portion of the community only; the knights and their county constituents not being concerned in it." The rolls of a parliament held in 1376 (50 Edward III.) show that the commons had now begun to feel their importance. They had for several parliaments sat separately from the lords in the chapter-house of Westminster Abbey. The king had called this parliament to take order for the maintenance of the war with France. The commons refer to their readiness to assist the king; yet if he had always had about him loyal counsellors, he would not now have needed to have charged his subjects. They said also that the realm had been impoverished for the profit of persons about the king; and if he would do justice on them, he might be so rich as to be able to maintain his wars without any great charge to the commons. They framed articles of impeachment against Richard Lyon, a merchant of London, and farmer of the king's subsidy, and the Lord Latimer (one of the king's councillors), his confederate, for certain abuses; one of which was, bargaining with the king's debtors for their debts, and procuring the king to pay them in full. They were imprisoned and disfranchised, and rendered incapable of bearing any office under the king, or to approach his council or court, suffering also forfeiture of their goods and chattels. This is the first instance of impeachment by the commons.” On the rolls of the parliament of 1377 (51 Edward III.) is found the first entry of a Speaker, expressly named as
Rot. Parl, Edward III, vol. ii. p. 310. Peers' Report, vol. *
p. 329. * Rot. Parl, Edward III., vol. ii. pp. 321–330.