The Working Constitution of the United Kingdom
Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.
Publisher: Date:8/5/2009 - General Books LLC
By: Leonard Henry Courtney Courtney
Excerpt from book: CHAPTER V CONSTITUTION OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS DOWN TO THE UNION WITH SCOTLAND Knights of T HEN the House of Commons first began to the Shire. y y suiug a definite and recognisable shape it was composed of persons sent up to speak for the counties called knights of the shire, and of others deputed as burgesses to speak for certain selected boroughs of the kingdom. Between these two classes there long remained a sharp distinction as to conditions and circumstances of their election, although for many centuries there has been no discrimination between them as respects their rights as members after they have taken their seats. There still remains some difference in the suffrages by which the two classes are chosen: but, as will be seen, this difference has in late years been much diminished. Originally members, whether for county or borough, were always elected in pairs, for the purpose, Mr. Disraeli once suggested, of protecting one another on the way. It was more probably thought that the two would, between them, speak more fully and faithfully for their neighbours. The king's writ was issued to the sheriff in each county, directing him to hold a court for the election of two knights. It 5s difficult, perhaps impossible, to determine with accuracy who were entitled to attendthese courts. Probably at first the chief tenants came alone, others who might be qualified escaping the duty: but we may take our stand as a point of departure on a statute of Henry vi., which, after reciting that elections had been of late made by excessive numbers of people 'of which the most part was people of no substance and of no value, ' provided that no one should vote who was not a resident 1 in the county and possessed of a freehold therein of the value of forty shillings. The qualification thu...