Page images
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

quently by proclamation. Both houses are necessarily prorogued at the same time, it not being a prorogation of either house, but of the whole parliament. The session is never understood to be at an end until a prorogation ; though, unless some act be passed or judgment given in parliament, it is in truth no session at all. And if at the time of an actual rebellion, or imminent danger of invasion, the parliament shall be separated by adjournment or prorogation, the king can call them together by proclamation, with fourteen days' notice of the time appointed for their reassembling.

A dissolution is the civil death of a parliament, and this may be effected in three ways:-1. By the king's will, expressed either in person or by representation; for, as the king has the sole right of convening the parliament, so also it is a branch of the royal prerogative, that he may (whenever he pleases) prorogue the parliament for a time, or put a final period to its existence.

2. A parliament is dissolved by the demise of the crown. This dissolution formerly happened immediately upon the death of the reigning sovereign, for he, being the head of the parliament, (caput, principium, et finis,) that failing, the whole body was held to be extinct. It was enacted by statutes 7th and 8th W. III. and 6th Anne, that the parliament in being shall continue for six months after the death of any king or queen, unless sooner prorogued or dissolved by the successor. That if the parliament be at the time of the king's death separated by adjournment or prorogation, it shall notwithstanding assemble immediately, and take the oaths to the new sovereign : and that if no parliament is then in being, the members of the last parliament shall re-assemble, and be again a parliament.

3. Lastly, A parliament may be dissolved, or expire by length of time; so that, as our constitution now stands, the parliament must expire, or die a natural death, at the end of every seventh year, if not sooner dissolved by royal prerogative.

When the king comes down, he sits at the upper end of the house of Lords, on a throne or chair of state ; having a cloth of state over his head, under which none but the Royal Family stand.

He is always present, either in person or represented by commission, at the opening of a new Parliament, and at the passing of bills ; some kings, but especially queen Anne, have been present at solemn debates, but it is not customary, being a restraint on the freedom of speech absolutely necessary in parliamentary proceedings. On the king's right hand, is a seat for the prince of Wales, and on the left, one for the duke of York. On the right of the throne and next the wall, are placed on a bench, the two archbishops ; below these, the bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester ; then upon other benches on the same

take !

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

side, all the rest of the bishops, according to the priority of their consecration.

On the left of the throne, the lord Chancellor, President of the council and lord privy seal, sit ; if they are barons, above all dukes except those of the royal family. The dukes, marquisses, and earls sit on the same side, according to the date of their creations. On the first bench across the house, below the woolsacks sit the viscounts; and upon the next bench, the barons sit all in order.-- The Great chamberlain, the Constable, the Marshall, the lord high Admiral, the lord Steward ; and the king's chamberlain by act of parliament, are entitled to sit above all other of the same degree of nobility with themselves. If the chief secretary be a baron, he sits above all barons not having any of the above offices. The rest of the peers sit according to the order of their creation.

When the king is present, the lord Chancellor stands behind the throne ; but at other times he sits on the first woolsack, his great seal and mace before hand: he is the speaker of the house of lords. The judges, the king's council at law, and the masters in chancery sit on other woolsacks , these sit in parliament, to give their advice when asked, but not being Peers have no suffrage. Formerly, on the lowermost woolsack were placed the clerk of the crown, and the clerk of parliament ; the former being concerned in all writs of parliament and pardons; the latter records the transactions of parliament, and keeps its records. This clerk, has also two clerks under him, who used to kneel behind the same woolsack, and write upon it; but they now sit at a table. Without the bar sits the first gentleman usher, called the “ black rod," from a black staff which he carries in his hand, under whom is a yeoman usher that waits at the door within, a crier without, and a sergeant at mace always attending the lord Chancellor.

When the king is present with the crown on his head, the lords are all uncovered. The judges stand till the king gives them leave to sit. When the king is not present, the lords at their entrance do reverence to the throne; the judges may then sit, but must not be covered till the lord Chancellor signify to them the leave of the house. The king's council and masters in chancery sit also, but may not be covered at all.

In the house of Commons, the members sit promiscuously : the speaker's chair is fixed in the middle of the house towards its upper end ; and the clerk with his assistant sits near him at the table, just below the speaker's chair. The commons do not wear robes as the lords do, except the speaker and clerks, who always in the house wear gowns, and the former a wig, sometimes lawyers also in term time wear their gowns, the four members that used to represent the city of London wore scarlet gowns on the first day of a new parliament, and sat altogether on the right hand of the chair, next the speaker.


Upon the day fixed in the writ of summons, the sovereign comes in person or by commission to open parliament. On the king's arrival at the house of Peers, twenty-one great guns are discharged on the opposite side of the Thames ; which salute is repeated when the king retires. In a room called the prince's chamber, the king puts on his crown and robes, and from thence the lord Chamberlain conducts him into the house of lords : and, taking his seat on the throne, he summons the Commons by the gentleman usher of the black rod. He knocks at the door of the house of Commons, which is immediately opened by the sergeant at arms; at the bar of the house the usher makes a bow, and advancing a few steps, a second, and a third, saying. 6 Gentlemen of the house of Commons, the king commands this honourable house to attend him immediately, in the house of peers :" he then retires backwards, bowing, and withdraws. The Commons forthwith attend his majesty in the house of Lords, and are in the king's name commanded by the lord Chancellor to choose a speaker. On their return to their own house, they elect one of their own members, whom on another appointed day they present to the king sitting on the throne, or to his commissioners, who having approved of their choice, the new speaker then petitions his majesty that during their sitting the commons may have free access to his majesty, freedom of speech in their own house—and freedom from arrests. After which the king reads his speech, the whole house of Commons being presumed to be present at the bar of the house of Lords.

The following is the manner of choosing the speaker, any member of the house standing up in his place, and making a short introductory speech, moves that such a member of the house as he then names, may take the chair, and being seconded in that motion by some other member, if the election is not contested, they lead the member so named from his seat to the bar of the house, from whence they conduct him, bowing three times, up the house to the chair, where being placed, he stands up, and returns thanks to the house for the honour they have done him, and modestly acknowledges his inability to perform such a trust, desires the house would make choice of some more able person, which being of course disallowed, he submits to their pleasure: and, after receiving the directions of the house about the usual requests to be made to the king, adjourns it to the day appointed. On which occasion, the usher of the black rod being again sent to summon the Commons, he alters his stile and addresses himself to the speaker. But if there is a contest, some other person being proposed and seconded as before, it is determined by a question, as in a committee of the whole house, by changing sides; the clerk of the house putting the question, he being a patent officer for life, and is always present on such occasions, to whom during the contest all speeches or motions are directed,

and from courtesy, the persons nominated for speaker, always vote for each other.

Before they can proceed to business, even before the choice of a speaker, the members must take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, in the presence of the lord Steward of his majesty's household. After the choice of the speaker, they take the said oaths again at the table, and formerly declared and subscribed their opinions against the doctrine of transubstantiation, invocation, and adoration of saints, and the sacrifice of the mass: but in 1829 the statute enforcing the subscription against these doctrines was repealed, and the oaths only remain.

Any member of parliament may move for leave to bring in a bill ; when the question is put and agreed to by the house, the person making the motion, and those who second it, are then ordered to prepare and bring in the bill ; which when ready, the inorer presents ; reading the order at the side bar, and desires leave to bring it to the table, which being agreed to, the bill is sometimes immediately read for the first time, if not, it may be read at any other time, by the clerk at the table, which the house agrees to ; after which the speaker taking the bill in his hands reads the preamble, and after the debate, if any, he puts the question whether it shall be read a second time, and when : after the second reading, the question is put whether it shall be committed, which if the bill is of great importance is usually to a committee of the whole house, if it is of inferior moment to a private committee, any member at pleasure naming the persons to be on the committee, whose names being read by the clerk at the table, they are ordered to meet in the speaker's chamber, and report their opinion to the house. When the Committee meets they choose a chairman, and either adjourn to some future time or immediately proceed to consider the bill: the chairman first causes a clerk attending the committee to read the bill, then he reads it himself paragraph by paragraph, putting every clause to the question, filling up the blanks, and making amendments according to the opinion of the majority of the committee, of whom there must be eight of the persons named to proceed regularly, though five may adjourn. When the Committee, have gone through the bill, the chairman by directions of the committee makes his report at the side bar of the house, reading all the additions and alterations made by the committee, and how any of these amendments have changed the scope of the bill, and what connexion they have with it, the clerk having at the committee written down in what folio and line of the bill those amendments are to be found ; and if it has been thought fit by the committee to add any clause, they are marked alphabetically and read by the chairman, who then moves to have leave to bring up the report to the table; which being agreed to, he does, and delivers it to the clerk, who reads all the amendments, and clauses, the speaker putting

the question whether they shall be read a second time; and if agreed to, reads them himself; and as many of them as the house agrees to, the question is put whether the bill so amended shall be engrossed, that is to say, written fair in parchment, and read the third time some other day: and then the speaker, holding the bill in his hand, puts the question whether the bill should pass : if the majority is in its favour, then the clerk writes on it Soit baille aux Seigneurs ; but if the bill passes through the house of peers, then it is Soit baille aux Communes. When an engrossed bill is read, and any clauses are offered to be added to it, they must be engrossed in parchment like the bill, which are then called Riders, and if agreed to are then added to the bill.

Petitions are offered in the same manner as bills at the bar of the house, brought up by the member who presents them, and are delivered at the table. All messages from the lords, as likewise all persons appearing at the bar of the house, are introduced by the sergeant in attendance with his mace on his shoulder.

While the speaker is in the chair the mace is always laid upon the table, except when sent upon any extraordinary occasion into Westminster Hall and Court of Requests to summon the members to attend. But when the house resolves itself into a committee of the whole house, the mace is laid under the table, and the chairman to that committee takes the chair where the clerk of the house usually sits. To make a house in the Commons, forty members are requisite, and eight for a committee; the house generally begins by reading some uncompleted bill from last session.

After the speaker and members have taken the oaths, the standing orders of the house are read, and grand committees appointed to sit on usual days. When any member stands up to speak, he must be uncovered, but in strictness and regularity he ought to sit with his hat on. When the speaker finds several bills prepared to be put to the question, he gives notice the day before, that to-morrow he intends to put such bills to the third reading, and desires the special attendance of all the members. And if a bill is rejected it cannot be again proposed during the same session. One mode of rejecting a bill, is by moving, that it be read that day six months, which if carried puts an extinguisher upon it.

i When a Bill is sent up by the commons to the peers, it is usual for a certain number of the members to attend, to show their respect, and as they approach the bar of the upper house, the member who presents the bill makes three profound reverences, saying, “ The commons have passed an act entitled, &c., to which they desire your lordships' concurrence :" The lord chancellor walks down to the bar and receives it.

When the lords send down a bill to the commons, it is delivered by one of the masters in chancery, or other person whose place is on the woolsacks, who approaches the speaker, and, bowing three times, delivers the

« PreviousContinue »