Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION I: The Introduction of the Representatives of Counties and Boroughs into Parliament. - An Historical View of the English Government
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SECTION I: The Introduction of the Representatives of Counties and Boroughs into Parliament. - John Millar, An Historical View of the English Government 
An Historical View of the English Government, From the Settlement of the Saxons in Britain to the Revolution in 1688, in four volumes, edited by Mark Salber Philips and Dale R. Smith, introduction by Mark Salber Philips (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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The Introduction of the Representatives of Counties and Boroughs into Parliament.
The parliament of England, from the time of William the Conqueror, was com-<183>posed, as I formerly took notice, of all the immediate vassals of the crown, the only part of the inhabitants that, according to the feudal constitution, could be admitted into the legislative assembly. As the English nobility had accumulated extensive landed property, towards the latter part of the Anglo-Saxon government; as yet larger territories were acquired by many of those Norman barons who settled in England at the time of the conquest; and as the conversion of allodial into feudal estates, under the crown, occasioned no diminution in the possessions of individuals; the original members of parliament must have been, for the most part, men of great power, and in very opulent circumstances. Of this we can have no doubt, when it is considered that, in the reign of William the first, the vassals of the crown did not amount to more than six hundred, and that, exclusive of the royal demesne, the whole land of the kingdom, in property or superiority, was divided among so small a number of persons. To these opulent barons, attendance in parliament was a duty which they were seldom unwilling to perform, as it gave them an opportunity of<184> asserting their privileges, of courting preferment, or of displaying their influence and magnificence. But in a long course of time, the members of that assembly were subjected to great revolutions; their property was frequently dismembered, and split into smaller divisions; their number was thus greatly increased; while the consideration and rank of individuals were proportionably impaired; and many of those who had appeared in eminent stations were reduced to poverty and obscurity. These changes proceeded from the concurrence chiefly of three different causes.
1. During that continual jealousy between the king and the nobles, and that unremitting struggle for power, which arose from the nature of the English constitution, it was the constant aim of the crown, from a consciousness of inferiority in force, to employ every artifice or stratagem for undermining the influence of the aristocracy. But no measure could be more effectual for this purpose, than to divide and dismember the overgrown estates of the nobles; for the same wealth, it is evident, which became formidable in the hands of one man, would be of no significance when<185> scattered among twenty. As the frequent insurrections and disorders, which prevailed in the country, were productive of numberless forfeitures, they afforded the king opportunities of seizing the property of those barons who had become obnoxious to him, and of either annexing it to the crown, or disposing of it at pleasure. In this manner a considerable part of the land in the kingdom, during the course of a century or two, passed through the hands of the sovereign, and, being distributed in such parcels as coincided with his views of policy, gave rise to a multiplicity of petty proprietors, from whose exertions he had no reason to fear much opposition to the progress of his authority.
2. Another circumstance which contributed still more effectually, though perhaps more slowly and gradually, to diminish the estates of the crown-vassals, was the advancement of arts and manufactures.
The irruption of the Gothic nations into the Roman empire; the struggles which took place during their conquest of the different provinces; the subsequent invasions carried on by new swarms of the same people, against the <186> states erected by their predecessors; the violent convulsions which, in a great part of Europe, were thus continued through the course of many centuries, could not fail to destroy all industry, and to extinguish the mechanical as well as the liberal professions. The rude and barbarous manners of the conquerors were, at the same time, communicated to those countries which fell under their dominion, and the fruits of their former culture and civilization being gradually lost, the inhabitants were at length sunk in universal ignorance and barbarism.
When these disorders had risen to a certain pitch, the countries which had so long poured out their inhabitants to disturb the peace of Europe, put a stop to their depredations. The northern hive,1 it has been said, was then exhausted. Those countries, however, were in reality so far from being drained of inhabitants, that they had increased in population. But they had become a little more civilized, and, consequently, had less inclination to roam in quest of distant settlements, or to procure subsistence by the plunder of nations who were now in a better condition to withstand them.<187>
The greater tranquillity which was thence-forward enjoyed in the states that had been formed upon the ruins of the Roman empire, gave the people more leisure and encouragement to introduce regulations for securing property, for preventing mutual injuries, and for promoting their internal prosperity. That original disposition to better their circumstances, implanted by nature in mankind, excited them to prosecute those different employments which procure the comforts of life, and gave rise to various and successive improvements. This progress was more or less accelerated in different countries, according as their situation was more favourable to navigation and commerce; the first attention of every people being usually turned to the arts most essential to subsistence, and, in proportion to the advancement of these, being followed by such as are subservient to conveniency, or to luxury and amusement. The eleventh and twelfth centuries have been marked by historians as presenting, in modern times, the first dawn of knowledge and literature to the western part of Europe; and from this period we begin to trace the rude footsteps<188> of manufactures in Italy, in France, and in the Netherlands.
The communication of the Normans with England, in the reign of Edward the Confessor, which began in 1041, and still more from that of William the Conqueror, contributed to spread, in this island, the improvements which had made a quicker progress upon the continent: the common arts of life were now more and more cultivated; tradesmen and mercantile people were gradually multiplied; foreign artificers, who had made proficiency in various branches of manufacture, came and settled in England; and particular towns upon the coasts of the sea, or of navigable rivers, or which happened to be otherwise advantageously situated, began to extend their commerce.
This alteration in the circumstances of society, which became more and more conspicuous through the reigns of the several princes of the Norman and Plantagenet race, was productive, as we may easily suppose, of a correspondent variation of manners. The proprietors of land, for whose benefit the new improvements were chiefly intended, endeavoured to render their situation more comfortable, by purchasing those<189> conveniences which were now introduced; their ancient plainness and simplicity, with respect to the accommodations of life, were more and more deserted; a mode of living more expensive, and somewhat more elegant, began to take place; and even men of smaller fortunes were tempted in this, as well as in most other particulars, to follow the example of their superiors. By an increase of their annual expence, without any addition to their annual revenue, many individuals, therefore, were laid under difficulties, found it necessary to contract debts, and being subjected to incumbrances, were at last obliged to dismember and alienate their estates.
To this general cause of alienation, we may add the epidemical madness of the crusades, by which many persons were induced to sell or mortgage their possessions, that they might put themselves in a condition for bearing a part in those unprosperous and expensive expeditions.
It may accordingly be remarked, that as, about this time, the commerce of land was rendered more frequent, it was gradually freed from those legal restraints to which it had an-<190>ciently been subjected. According to the simplicity of manners which had prevailed among the rude inhabitants of Europe, and which had kept estates invariably in the same families, no person was understood to have a right of squandering his fortune to the prejudice of his nearest relations.* The establishment of the feudal system produced an additional bar to alienation, from the circumstance that every vassal being a military servant, and having obtained his land as a consideration for services to be performed, could not transfer the property without the consent of his master. In England, upon the dawnings of improvement after the Norman conquest, persons who had acquired an estate by purchase, were permitted to dispose of it at pleasure; and in towns, the inhabitants of which became familiar with commerce, the same privilege was probably soon extended to every tenement, however acquired. When the disposition to alienate became somewhat more general over the country, the conveyance, even of estates descending by inheritance, was executed in a manner con-<191>sistent with feudal principles, by subinfeudation;2 the purchaser became the vassal of the person who sold the lands, and who still continued liable to the chief lord for all the feudal obligations. But in the reign of Edward the first a statute was made, by which an unbounded liberty was given to the alienation of landed property; and when any person sold an estate, the superior was bound to receive the purchaser as his immediate vassal.*
3. By the course of legal succession, the property of the crown vassals, or members of parliament, was also frequently broken and dismembered. The right of primogeniture,3 indeed, which, among the feudal nations, was introduced in order to shelter the individuals of every family under the protection of their own chief or leader, prevented, so far as it went, the division of estates by inheritance. But primogeniture had no place in female succession. Besides, the improvements of society, by enlarging the ideas of mankind, with rela-<192>tion to property, contributed to extend and to multiply devises,4 by which even landed possessions were bequeathed at pleasure, and, according to the situation or caprice of the owner, were liable to be split and distributed among different persons.
When the alienation of estates, together with those divisions of landed property which arose from female succession, or from devise, had proceeded so far as to threaten the destruction of great families, the nobility took the alarm, and had recourse to the artifice of entails for preserving their opulence and dignity. In the reign of Edward the first, they are said to have extorted from the king a remarkable statute, by which the privilege of entailing5 was greatly extended; from which it may be inferred that there had appeared, about this time, a strong disposition to alienate and dismember estates; since, in order to check the progress of the evil, this extraordinary remedy was thought requisite.* <193>
These changes in the state of landed property had necessarily an extensive influence upon the government, and more especially upon the interest and political views of those persons who composed the national council. Many of the crown-vassals were now, from the smallness of their fortune, unable to bear the expence of a regular attendance in parliament; at the same time that they were discouraged from appearing in that assembly; where, instead of gratifying their ambition, they were more likely to meet with situations to mortify their vanity, by exposing the insignificance into which they had fallen. They were no longer in a condition to view the extensions of the royal prerogative with an eye of jealous apprehension; but had commonly more cause of complaint against the great barons, who lived in their neighbourhood, and by whom they were frequently oppressed, than against the sovereign, whose power, being more distant, and operating in a higher sphere, gave them less disturbance.
But while, from these considerations, the small barons were disposed, in many cases, to withdraw themselves from the meetings of parliament, the king had commonly an in-<194>terest in requiring their punctual attendance; because he found it no difficult matter to attach them to his party, and by their assistance was enabled to counterbalance the weight of the aristocracy. On every occasion, therefore, where any measure of public importance was to be agitated, the king was usually solicitous that many of the poorer members of parliament should be present; and a great part of these, on the other hand, were continually excusing themselves from so burdensome a service. The longer the causes which I have mentioned had continued to operate, in dividing and dismembering landed estates, the number of crown-vassals, desirous of procuring an exemption from this duty, became so much the greater.
Comparing the condition of the different landholders of the kingdom, towards the latter part of the Anglo-Saxon government, and for some time after the Norman conquest, we may observe a similar distinction among them, proceeding from opposite causes. In the former period, when people of small fortune were unable to subsist without the protection of their superiors, the property of many allodial<195> proprietors was gradually accumulated in the hands of a few, and those who possessed a landed territory of a certain extent, acquiring suitable consideration and rank, were distinguished by the title of proceres, or chief nobility. Under the first Norman princes, when the dependence of the lower ranks had produced its full effect in the completion of the feudal system, the owners of small estates were almost entirely annihilated; and in the condition of those opulent barons among whom the kingdom came to be divided, no difference was probably acknowledged. But when the revival of arts, and the progress of the people towards independence, had begun to dismember estates, and to multiply the vassals of the crown, the disproportion between the property of individuals became, once more, conspicuous; and the former distinction between the great and small barons excited the attention of the legislature.
The prior accumulation, and the subsequent dissipation, of wealth, had in this respect a similar effect. In amassing great fortunes some of the barons were necessarily more successful than others, which rendered estates extremely<196> unequal. In that state of society which tempted men to spend, or promoted the division of their estates, some proprietors proceeded likewise in this career with greater rapidity, by which the same inequality was produced.
In the great charter of king John it is ordained, that the archbishops, bishops, earls, and greater barons, shall be summoned to the meetings of parliament, by particular letters from the king; and that all other persons, holding immediately of the crown, shall receive a general citation from the king’s bailiffs or sheriffs. But, although the more opulent vassals of the crown are thus clearly exalted above those of inferior wealth, and dignified with particular marks of respect, it is difficult to ascertain the extent of property by which those two orders of men were separated from each other. That the statute has a reference to some known boundary between them, can hardly be doubted; but whether, in order to obtain the rank and title of a great baron, an estate amounting to forty hides of land was requisite, agreeable to the distinction of the chief nobility in the reign of Edward the Confessor, or whether the qualification in<197> point of property had been varied according to the alteration of times and circumstances, no account can be given.
The effect of a regulation for summoning the small barons to parliament, by a general citation only, was to place them in greater obscurity, and to encourage their desertion, by giving them reason to hope that it would pass without observation. In such a situation, however, where a complete and regular attendance was not to be expected, and where each individual was endeavouring to excuse himself, and to throw as much as possible the burden upon his neighbours, an agreement would naturally be suggested to the inhabitants of particular districts, that they should relieve and succeed each other by turns, in the performance of this duty, and thus contribute to their mutual ease and advantage, by sharing among them an inconvenience which they could not entirely avoid. Of these joint measures, it was an obvious improvement, that, instead of a vague and uncertain rotation, particular persons, who appeared the best qualified for the task, and were most willing to undertake it, should be regularly elected, and<198> sent, at the common expence, to represent their constituents in parliament. Nor can it be doubted that the king would be highly pleased with such an expedient, by which he secured a proportion of the small barons in the ordinary meetings of the national council, and which did not hinder him from convening a greater number on extraordinary occasions.
In this manner the knights of shires6 appear to have been first introduced into parliament. The date of this remarkable event cannot be fixed with precision; but it was undoubtedly as early as the reign of Henry the third.* The division of counties produced a separate association among the crown vassals, in each of<199> those districts, for electing their own representatives. The number of these appears to have been originally precarious, and probably was varied in different emergencies. On different occasions we meet with four knights called from each county; but they were gradually reduced to two, the smallest number capable of consulting together for the interest of their constituents.†
The same changes in the state of the nation, which contributed principally to the rise of the knights of shires, introduced likewise the burgesses7 into parliament.
By the advancement of agriculture, the peasants, in many parts of Europe, had been gradually emancipated from slavery, and been exalted successively to the condition of farmers, of tenants for life, and of hereditary proprietors. In consequence of the freedom attained by this inferior class of men, a great proportion of them had engaged in mechanical employ-<200>ments; and, being collected in towns, where the arts were most conveniently cultivated, had, in many cases, become manufacturers and merchants. The situation of these manufacturing and trading people enabled them, after the disorders which prevailed in Europe had in some measure subsided, to make a rapid progress in improving their circumstances, and in acquiring various immunities and privileges. By mutual emulation, and by the influence of example, the inhabitants of the same town were excited to greater industry, and to the continued exertion of their talents; at the same time that they were in a capacity of uniting readily for mutual defence, and in supporting their common interest. Being originally the tenants or dependents, either of the king or of some particular nobleman, upon whose demesne they resided, the superior exacted from them, not only a rent for the lands which they possessed, but various tolls and duties for the goods which they exchanged with their neighbours. These exactions, which had been at first precarious, were gradually ascertained and fixed, either by long custom, or by express regulations. But, as many artifices had, no<201> doubt, been frequently practised, in order to elude the payment of those duties, and as, on the other hand, the persons employed in levying them were often guilty of oppression, the inhabitants of particular towns, upon their increasing in wealth, were induced to make a bargain with the superior, by which they undertook to pay a certain yearly rent, in room of all his occasional demands: and these pecuniary compositions, being found expedient for both parties, were gradually extended to a longer period, and at last rendered perpetual.
An agreement of this kind appears to have suggested the first idea of a borough, considered as a corporation. Some of the principal inhabitants of the town undertook to pay the superior’s yearly rent, in consideration of which they were permitted to levy the old duties, and became responsible for the funds committed to their care. As managers for the community, therefore, they were bound to fulfil its obligations to the superior; and, by a natural extension of the same principle, it came to be understood that they might be prosecuted for all its debts; as, on the other hand, they obtained, of course, a right of pro-<202>secuting all its debtors. The society was thus viewed in the light of a body politic, or fictitious person, capable of legal deeds, and executing every sort of transaction by means of certain trustees or guardians.
This alteration in the state of towns was accompanied with many other improvements. They were now generally in a condition to dispense with the protection of their superior; and took upon themselves the burden of keeping a guard, to defend them against a foreign enemy, and to secure their internal tranquillity. Upon this account, beside the appointment of their own administrators, they obtained the privilege of electing magistrates, for distributing justice among them. They became, in a word, a species of soccage tenants, with this remarkable peculiarity in their favour, that by remaining in the state of a corporation from one generation to another, they were not liable to the incidents belonging to a superior, upon the transmission of lands to the heirs of a vassal.
The precise period of the first incorporation of boroughs, in the different kingdoms of Europe, is not easily determined; because the<203> privileges arising from the payment of a fixed rent to the superior, in the room of his casual emoluments, and the consequences which resulted from placing the revenue of a town under permanent administrators, were slowly and gradually unfolded and brought into the view of the public. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, we may trace the progress, if not the first formation, of those communities, in Italy and in Germany, which corresponds with the advancement of trade and manufactures in those countries.* The towns in France are said by Father Daniel8 to have been first incorporated in the reign of Lewis the Gross; but it appears that they had then acquired considerable privileges, were intrusted with their own government, and the inhabi-<204>tants were formed into a militia for the service of the crown.†
In the reign of Henry the first of England, the cotemporary of Lewis the Gross, the inhabitants of London had begun to farm their tolls and duties, and obtained a royal charter for that purpose.† Their example was followed by the other trading towns, and from this time forward, the existence of English boroughs becomes more and more conspicuous.
When the towns, under the immediate protection of the king had been incorporated, and, of course, exalted into the rank of crown-vassals, it was agreeable to the general system of the feudal policy, that they should have a voice in the national council; and more especially, when extraordinary aids, beside their constant yearly rent, were demanded from them, as well as from the other tenants in capite, that they should have an opportunity of refusing or consenting to these demands. Their attendance in that assembly was, at the same<205> time, of advantage to the sovereign, and even more so than that of the small barons; for the trading people of all the inferior part of the nation were the most liable to be insulted and oppressed by the nobles, and were of consequence proportionably attached to the monarch, who had found his account in protecting and supporting them.
It was impossible, however, that all the members of every royal borough should assemble in order to deliberate upon the business of the nation; and in this, as well as in the separate concerns of each respective community, it was natural for them to commit the administration to particular commissioners or representatives. In England, accordingly, it appears, that after the boroughs had been incorporated, and had been raised, by their trade, to a degree of consideration and independence, they began to send representatives into parliament. The records of parliament, as has been before remarked, during several reigns after the Norman conquest have not been preserved; so that it is no less uncertain at what precise time the burgesses, than at what time the knights of shires, made their first ap-<206>pearance in that assembly; but as those two events proceeded from the same cause, the advancement of commerce and manufactures, it is probable that they were nearly coeval.*
In the great charter of king John, it is expressly ordained, that aids shall not be imposed upon the boroughs without the consent of parliament; from which it may be inferred, that those communities had then acquired the rank of soccage tenants, and that matters were at last ripened and prepared for their introduction into the councils of the nation. The first instance upon record of the burgesses attending in parliament, occurs in the forty-ninth year of the reign of Henry the third; when they are said to have been called by the famous earl of Leicester, in order to support his ambitious views: but this is not mentioned by any historian as a late innovation; neither is it probable that this nobleman, at the very time when he was endeavouring to screen himself from the resentment of the nation,<207> would have ventured to open a new source of discontent, by making a sudden and violent change in the constitution. It is likely that some of the burgesses had been present in former parliaments; as we find that they afterwards were, upon two different occasions, in the early part of the reign of Edward the first: but the number of them was not fixed; nor were they accustomed to give a regular attendance.
The policy of Edward the first led him to take hold of the circumstances, which have been mentioned, for promoting the interest of the crown. In the twenty-third year of his reign, directions were given to summon regularly the knights of the shires, together with the burgesses; of which, after the example of the former, two were generally sent by each borough; and from that period, both these classes of representatives continued to be constant members of the legislature.
The same circumstances, according as they existed more or less completely, in the other countries of Europe, were productive of similar changes in the constitution of their national councils.<208>
In Scotland, a country whose government and laws bore a great analogy to those of England, not only from the common circumstances which operated upon all the feudal nations, but also from that vicinity which produced an intercourse and imitation between the two countries, the parliament, as far back as we can trace the records of Scottish history, appears to have been composed of the greater thanes, or independent proprietors of land. The representatives of boroughs are supposed by historians to have been first introduced into its meetings during the reign of Robert Bruce, which corresponds to that of Edward the second; but satisfactory evidence has lately been produced, that this event must have happened at an earlier period.* From the slow progress, however, of trade in Scotland, the number of burgesses in her national council was for a long time inconsiderable; and their appearance was limited to a few extraordinary cases.
The representatives of counties became con-<209>stituent members of the Scottish parliament by the authority of a statute, which, being still preserved, affords great light with respect to the origin of this establishment both in Scotland and in England. By that statute it is provided, that the smaller vassals of the crown should be excused from personal attendance in parliament, upon condition of their sending representatives, and maintaining them at the common expence. This regulation was introduced by James the first,9 who, as he had resided for many years in England, and was a prince of learning and discernment, had probably been induced to copy this branch of policy from the institutions of a people, among whom the monarchy had made greater advances than in his own country. But the Scottish barons, whose poverty had given occasion to this regulation, laid hold of the dispensation which it bestowed upon them, without fulfilling the conditions which it required; and it was not until the reign of James the sixth,10 that their obligation to send representatives into parliament was regularly enforced.* <210>
In France, the representatives of boroughs, according to the most probable account, were first introduced into the national assembly in the reign of Philip the Fair, by whom they are said to have been called for the purpose chiefly of consenting to taxes.† It is remarkable, however, that in the French convention of estates,11 no set of men, corresponding<211> to the knights of shires in England, was ever admitted. The improvement of arts, in France as well as in England, contributed not only to raise the trading people, but also to dismember the estates of many proprietors of land; but the king does not seem to have availed himself of that situation for obliging the small barons to send representatives into the national council. The greater authority possessed, about this period, by the French monarch, was probably the cause of his not resorting to the same shifts, that were practised in England, to counterbalance the power of the aristocracy. That a sovereign should court the lower part of his subjects, and raise them to consideration, with a view of deriving support from them, is none of the most agreeable expedients; and nothing, we may suppose, but some very urgent necessity, could make him think of submitting to it.
The circumstance now mentioned, created a most essential difference between the national council in France and in England; the latter comprehending the representatives of counties as well as of boroughs, and consequently a large proportion of the people; whereas the former<212> admitted no other representatives but those of boroughs, the number of which, in either country, was for a long time inconsiderable.
The free cities of Germany had, in the thirteenth century, acquired such opulence as enabled them to form that famous Hanseatick league,12 which not only secured their independence, but rendered them formidable to all the military powers in their neighbourhood. From these circumstances they rose to political power, and obtained a seat in the diet of the empire. But in Germany, the representatives of the small barons were not admitted into that assembly, from an opposite reason, it should seem, to that which prevented their admission into the French convention of estates. At the time when the rise of commerce had led the way to such a regulation, the nobility, and the free states of the empire, had so firmly established their independence, and the emperors had so far declined in authority, that it was vain to expect, by any artifice or exertion, to stop the progress of the aristocracy. The great exaltation of the German states had indeed produced a wide difference in the power and dignity of the different nobles; and those<213> of inferior rank, instead of maintaining an equal voice with their superiors, were at length associated in different classes; each of which, having only a single vote in the diet, were, in fact, reduced to a worse condition than if they had acted by representatives.
In Flanders, in the several principalities which afterwards composed the Spanish monarchy, and, in general, in all the feudal governments of Europe, we may observe, that whenever the towns became free and opulent, and where they continued members of a larger community, they obtained a seat in the legislative assembly. But with respect to the representatives of the small barons, or inferior nobles, their introduction into the legislature is to be regarded as a more singular regulation, which, depending upon a nice balance between the crown and the nobility, has been adopted in some countries, and in others neglected, according as it happened to suit the interest and policy of the sovereign, or the peculiar circumstances of the people.* <214>
In Italy, a country which had been broken into small principalities, under princes possessed of little power, or residing at such a distance as to have little capacity of exerting it over the inhabitants, the principal towns, whose prosperity in trade, if we except the territories belonging to the Moors in Spain, was prior to that of the other parts of Europe, became separate and independent states; and fell under such modes of republican government as were agreeable to the situation of their respective societies.
From a connected view of the different countries of Europe, during the period now under examination, it seems hardly possible to entertain a doubt, that the representatives in the English parliament were introduced in the manner, and from the causes, which have been<215> specified. It appears, at the same time, surprising, and may perhaps be considered as an objection to the account which has been given, that there is a profound silence, among all cotemporary writers, concerning this important event. The historians of that age, it is true, were neither philosophers nor politicians; they were narrow-minded and bigotted ecclesiastics, who saw nothing of importance in the history of England, but what was immediately connected with those religious institutions to which they were devoted. But still it may be said, that if the commons were unknown in the early assemblies of the nation, the introduction of that order of men into parliament, would have been such a novelty, as could hardly fail to strike the imagination, and to be mentioned in some of the writings of those times.
It is necessary, however, to remark, that this alteration was produced in a gradual manner, and without any appearance of innovation. When the knights of shires began to attend the meetings of parliament, they were no other than barons formerly entitled to that privilege. Their being sent at the common expence of the small barons be-<216>longing to a district, was a circumstance that would excite little attention; as it probably arose from the private contribution of the parties concerned, not from any public regulation. The burgesses, in like manner, were not admitted into parliament all at once, or by any general law of the kingdom; but when particular towns, by their incorporation, and by the privileges bestowed upon them, had acquired the rank of crown-vassals, their obtaining a share in the legislature, by means of representatives named for that purpose, was a natural consequence of their advancement. This privilege, so far from being regarded as new or uncommon, had regularly been acquired by such of the churles, or peasantry, as were exalted to the condition of soccage tenants; and was in reality a consequence of vassalage, interwoven in the system of that feudal government, with which the people of that age were familiarly acquainted. Neither was it likely that the appearance, from time to time, of a few of these inferior persons, along with the greater lords of parliaments, would have an apparent tendency to vary the deliberations of that assembly; and the practice had, in all pro-<217>bability, been long continued, and greatly extended, before the effects of it were of such magnitude as to attract the notice of the public.
[1. ]A reference to the migrations of the northern or Gothic nations who eventually destroyed the Roman Empire. The phrase is used by a variety of authors, including Sir William Temple (1628–99), Montesquieu (1689–1755), and Edward Gibbon (1737–94).
[* ]Vide L. L. Aelfred, c. 37.
[2. ]The granting of lands by a feudatory to an inferior.
[* ]The famous statute quia emptores [[Forasmuch as purchasers. For a modern edition of the statute, see Select Charters and Other Illustrations of English Constitutional History from the Earliest Times to the Reign of Edward the First, ed. William Stubbs, 9th ed., rev. H. W. C. Davis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921; 1960), 473–74., passed in the 18th of Edward I. This law was farther extended, or at least received a more liberal interpretation, in the reign of Edward III.]]
[3. ]The right of the firstborn to inherit the entire estate.
[4. ]A gift by will of freehold land is called a devise. A gift by will of personal property is called a bequest.
[5. ]The settlement of the succession of a landed estate in a secured inheritance, so that it cannot be bequeathed at pleasure by any one possessor.
[* ]This was the statute of Westminster de donis conditionalibus [[Concerning gifts with conditions attached. See Select Charters, 463., 13 Edward I c. 1. By which it was provided, that an estate left to a person, and the heirs of his body, should in all cases go to the issue, if there was any; if not, should revert to the donor.]]
[6. ]An obsolete term for the separate class of knights which was employed in the administration of English counties and shires. Burgesses were broadly defined as residents of a borough, and toward the end of the medieval period the term was more likely to be used to distinguish one group of privileged townsmen from a less privileged group. Millar’s note cites Thomas Carte, A General History of England, 4 vols. (London, 1747–55). More specifically, see vol. 2, bk. 7 (on Henry III), 60. On Carte, see p. 307, note 14, in the present volume.
[* ]The records of parliament, for several reigns after the Norman conquest, are in a great measure lost, having probably, during the barons wars, been destroyed alternately by each prevailing party, who found them unfavourable to their interest. [Prynne’s preface to Cotton’s Abridgment of Records in the Tower.] This circumstance accounts for the great obscurity in which, after all the labour of antiquaries, the origin of so great a change in the constitution of that assembly still remains. The first introduction of representatives of counties may, with some probability, be traced as far back as the reign of king John. See Carte’s Hist. reign of Edward I.
[† ]In the eleventh year of Edward I. four knights were summoned for each county. [Brady’s Hist. of England.] In the reign of John, there had been a writ issued to the sheriff of Oxfordshire, to return four knights for that county. Carte, in the reign of Edward I.
[7. ]One possessing full municipal rights as a citizen or freeman of a borough, a town possessing municipal organization.
[* ]With respect to the rise of the cities of Italy, see Muratori Antiq. Ital. Med. Aevi, tom. iv. The advancement of the German free cities appears to have been rather posterior to that of the Italian; their chief privileges having been acquired under the princes of the Swabian family. They attained their highest pitch of grandeur in consequence of the famous Hanseatick confederacy, which began in the year 1241. See Abrégé de l’histoire et du droit public d’Allemagne, par M. Pfeffel.
[8. ]Gabriel Daniel (1649–1728), French Jesuit and royal historian, author of the Histoire de France depuis l’éstablissement de la monarchie françoise de la Gaules (1713) and Histoire de la milice françoise (1721). Louis VI, the Gross (r. 1081–1137).
[† ]M. Pfeffel’s History of the reign of Lewis VII.
[† ]Hume’s History of England.
[* ]Sir Henry Spelman declares, that, from the most careful examination, he could find no traces of the representatives of boroughs in parliament, before the latter part of the reign of Henry III. Glossar. v. Parliamentum.
[* ]See Dr. Stuart’s acute researches into the ancient government of Scotland. [[On the introduction of borough representatives by Mary, Queen of Scots, see Gilbert Stuart, The History of Scotland, from the Establishment of the Reformation, till the Death of Queen Mary, 2 vols. (London, 1782), 1:66.]]
[9. ]James I, king of Scotland (r. 1406–37).
[10. ]James VI, king of Scotland (r. 1567–1625) and England (r. 1603–25).
[* ]In the reign of James the first, we meet with two statutes upon this subject. By act 1425, c. 52. it is required, that all the freeholders shall give personal attendance in parliament, and not by a procurator; unless they can prove a lawful cause of their absence. Afterwards, by a statute 1427, c. 102. it is enacted, “that the small barons and free tenants need not come to parliaments, provided that, at the head court of every sheriffdom, two or more wise men be chosen, according to the extent of the shire, who shall have power to hear, treat, and finally to determine all causes laid before parliament; and to chuse a speaker, who shall propone all and sundry needs and causes pertaining to the commons in parliament.”
[† ]This happened about the year 1300. See Pasquier Recherches de la France.
[11. ]The Estates General, first summoned in Paris in 1302.
[12. ]The Hanseatic League was a late medieval federation of north European, especially German, towns, including Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck. The Hansa facilitated trade among towns and dominated trade in the north Atlantic and the Baltic Sea. At its height, it encompassed two hundred towns.
[* ]The boroughs are said to have been introduced into the cortes of the different petty kingdoms of Spain, about the same time as in the other nations of Europe. In each of those kingdoms the cortes came to be composed of the nobility, of the dignified ecclesiastics, and the representatives of the cities. But in none of them do we find that the representatives of the small proprietors of land were admitted into those assemblies; though, in the kingdom of Arragon, it appears that the nobility were distinguished into those of the first, and those of the second rank. See Dr. Robertson’s History of Charles V. [[Millar cites William Robertson’s discussion of the cortes in Spain. See the introduction to the History of Charles V, published in a modern edition: The Progress of Society in Europe: A Historical Outline from the Subversion of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century, ed. Felix Gilbert (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972), 114–20.]]