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in Westminster-hall, the place where the aula regis originally sate, when the king resided in that city; and there it hath ever since continued. And the court being thus rendered fixed and stationary, the judge became so too, and a chief with other justices of the common pleas was thereupon appointed; with jurisdiction to hear and determine all pleas of land, and injuries merely civil between subject and subject. Which critical establishment of this principal court of common law, at that particular juncture and that particular place, gave rise to the inns of court in its neighbourhood; and, thereby collecting together the whole body of the common lawyers, enabled the law itself to withstand the attacks of the canonists and civilians, who laboured to extirpate and destroy it. (j) This precedent was soon after copied by king Philip the Fair in France, who about the year 1302 fixed the parliament of Paris to abide constantly in that metropolis; which before used to follow the person of the king wherever he went, and in which he himself used frequently to decide the causes that were there depending; but all were then referred to the sole cognizance of the parliament and its learned judges. (k) And thus also in 1495 the emperor Maximilian I. fixed the imperial chamber (which before always travelled with the court and household) to be constantly held at Worms, from whence it was afterwards translated to Spire. (1)

The aula regia being thus stripped of so considerable a branch of its jurisdiction, and the power of the chief justiciar being also considerably curbed by many articles in the great charter, the authority of both began to decline apace under the long and troublesome reign of [ 40 ] king Henry III. And, in farther pursuance of this example, the other several officers of the chief justiciar were under Edward the First (who new-modelled the whole frame of our judicial polity) subdivided and broken into distinct courts of judicature. A court of chivalry was erected, over which the constable and mareschal presided; as did the steward of the household over another, constituted to regulate the king's domestic servants. The high steward, with the barons of parliament, formed an august tribunal for the trial of delinquent peers; and the barons reserved to themselves in parliament the right of reviewing the sentences of other courts in the last resort. The distribution of common justice between man and man was thrown into so provident an order, that the great judicial officers were made to form a cheque upon each other: the court of chancery issuing all original writs under the great seal to the other courts; the common pleas being allowed to determine all causes between private subjects; the exchequer managing the king's revenue; and the court of king's bench retaining all the jurisdiction which was not cantoned out to other courts, and particularly the superintendence of all the rest by way of appeal; and the sole cognizance of pleas of the crown or criminal causes. For pleas or suits are regularly divided into two sorts; pleas of the crown, which comprehend all crimes and misdemeanors, wherein the king (on behalf of the public) is the plaintiff; and common pleas, which include all civil actions, depending between subject and subject. The former of these were the proper object of the jurisdiction of the court of king's bench; the latter of the court of common pleas: which is a court of record, and is styled by sir Edward Coke (m) the lock and key of the common law; for herein only can real actions, that is, actions which concern the right of freehold or the realty, be originally brought; and all other, or personal, pleas between

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man and man are likewise here determined; though in most of them the king's bench has also a concurrent authority."

The judges of this court are at present (n) four in number, one [41] chief and three puisné justices, created by the king's letters pa

tent, who sit every day in the four terms to hear and determine all matters of law arising in civil causes, whether real, personal, or mixed and compounded of both. These it takes cognizance of, as well originally, as upon removal from the inferior courts before-mentioned. 13 But a writ of error, in the nature of an appeal, lies from this court into the court of king's bench.

VI. The court of king's bench" (so called because the king used formerly to sit there in person, (o) the style of the court still being coram ipso rege) 15 is the supreme court of common law in the kingdom; consisting of a chief justice and three puisné justices, who are by their office the sovereign conservators of the peace, and supreme coroners of the land. Yet, though the king himself used to sit in this court, and still is supposed so to do; he did not, neither by law is he empowered (p) to, determine any cause or motion, but by the mouth of his judges, to whom he hath committed his whole judicial authority. (q)

This court, which (as we have said) is the remnant of the aula regia, is not, nor can be, from the very nature and constitution of it, fixed to any certain place, but may follow the king's person wherever he goes: for

n King James I. during the greater part of his reign appointed five judges in the courts of king's bench and common pleas, for the benefit of a casting voice in case of a difference in opinion, and that the circuits might at all times be fully supplied with judges of the superior courts. And, in subsequent reigns, upon the permanent indisposition of a judge, a fifth hath been sometimes appointed. Sir T. Raym. 475. (12) o 4 Inst. 73.

p See Book I. ch. 7. The king used to decide causes in person in the aula regia. "In curia domini regis ipse in propria persona jura decernit." (Dial, de Scacch, l. 1. § 4.) After its dissolution king Edward 1. frequently sat in the court of king's bench. (See the records cited 2 Burr. 851.) (16) And. in later times, James 1. is said to have sat there in person, but he was informed by his judges that he could not deliver an opinion. p 4 Inst. 71.

(11) The jurisdiction of each court is so well established, that at this day the court of king's bench cannot be authorized to determine a mere real action; so neither can the court of common pleas, to inquire of felony or treason. Hawk. b. 2. ch. 1. s. 4. Bac. Ab. Courts, A.

(12) The number of the judges varied considerably in ancient times. Edward VI. increased the number of judges of the court of common pleas from three to six, and afterwards to seven. Edward III. raised it to nine. Richard the Second appointed five. Henry VI. changed the number four times. Edward IV. reduced it to four. See Dugd. Orig. Jurid. ch. 18. As to the offi cers of the common pleas, and their powers and duties, see Tidd's Prac. 8 ed. 40, &c.

(18) But a writ of error does not lie from an inferior court to this court. Finch, 480. Cro. Eliz. 26. post, 411.

(14) See in general, Com. Dig. Courts, B.; Bac. Ab. Court of King's Bench.; Sel. Prac. appendix, A.; 2 H. Bla. 271. 299, 300.; Tidd's Prac. 8 ed. 34, &c. post, 109.

(15) This court is called the queen's bench in the reign of a queen, and during the protectorate of Cromwell it was styled the upper bench.

(16) Lord Mansfield, in 2 Burr. 851. does not mean to say, nor do the records there cited warrant the conclusion, that Edw. I. actually sat in the king's bench. Dr. Henry, in his very accurate History of Great Britain, informs trs, that he has found no instance of any of our kings sitting in a court of justice before Edw. IV. "And Edw. IV. (he says) in the second year of his reign, sat three days together, during Michaelmas term, in the court of king's bench; but it is not said that he interfered in the business of the court; and as he was then a very young man, it is probable that it was bis intention to learn in what manner justice was administered, rather than to act the part of a judge.” 5 vol. 382. 4to. edit. Lord Coke says, that the words in magna charta, c. 29. nec super eum ibimus nec super eum mittemus nisi, &c. signify that we shall not sit in judgment ourselves, nor send our commissioners a judges to try him. 2 Inst. 46. But that this is an erroneous construction of these words, appears from a charter granted by king John in the 16th year of his reign, which is thus expressed: nec super eos per vim vel per arma ibimus nisi per legem regni nostri vel per judicium parium suorum. See Int. to Bl. Mag. Ch. p. xiii. Statutes and charters in pari materiâ must be construed by a reference to each other, and in the more ancient charter the meaning is clear, that the king will not proceed with violence against his subjects, unless justified by the law of his kingdom, or by a judgment of their peers.-Mr. Christian's note.

which reason all process issuing out of this court in the king's name is returnable“ ubicunque fuerimus in Anglia." It hath indeed, for [ 42 ] some centuries past, usually sate at Westminster, being an ancient palace of the crown; but might remove with the king to York or Exeter, if he thought proper to command it. And we find that, after Edward I. had conquered Scotland, it actually sate at Roxburgh. (r) And this moveable quality, as well as its dignity and power, are fully expressed by Bracton, when he says that the justices of this court are "capitales, generales, "perpetui, et majores; a latere regis residentes, qui omnium aliorum corri"gere, tenentur injurias et errores." (s) And it is moreover especially provided in the articuli super cartas, (t) that the king's chancellor, and the justices of his bench, shall follow him, so that he may have at all times near unto him some that be learned in the laws.

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The jurisdiction of this court is very high and transcendent. It keeps all inferior jurisdictions within the bounds of their authority, and may either remove their proceedings to be determined here, or prohibit their progress below. It superintends all civil corporations in the kingdom. It commands magistrates and others to do what their duty requires, in every case where there is no other specific remedy. It protects the liberty of the subject, by speedy and summary interposition. It takes cognizance both of criminal and civil causes; the former is what is called the crown-side or crown-office; the latter in the plea-side of the court. The jurisdiction of the crown-side it is not our present business to consider; that will be more properly discussed in the ensuing volume." But on the plea-side, or civil branch, it hath an original jurisdiction and cognizance of all actions of trespass, or other injury alleged to be committed vi et armis; of actions for forgery of deeds, maintenance, conspiracy, deceit, and actions on the case which allege any falsity or fraud: all of which savour of a criminal nature, although the action is brought for a civil remedy; and make the defendant liable in strict. ness to pay a fine to the king, as well as damages to the injured party. (u) The same doctrine is also now extended to all actions on [43] the case whatsoever: (w) but no action of debt or detinue or other mere civil action, can by the common law be prosecuted by any subject in this court, by original writ out of chancery; (x) 18 though an action of debt, given by statute, may be brought in the king's bench as well as in the common pleas. (y) And yet this court might always have held plea of any civil action (other than actions real) provided the defendant was an officer of the court; or in the custody of the marshal, or prison-keeper, of this court; for a breach of the peace or any other offence. (z) And, in process of time, it began by a fiction to hold plea of all personal actions whatsoever, and has continued to do so for ages: (a) it being surmised that the defendant is arrested for a supposed trespass, which he never has in reality committed; and, being thus in the custody of the marshal of the court, the plaintiff is at liberty to proceed against him for any other personal injury: which surmise, of being in the marshal's custody, the defendant is not at liberty to dispute. (b) And these fictions of law, though

r M. 20. 21 Edw. 1. Hale Hist. G. L. 200.

s l. 3. c. 10. t 28 Edw. I. c. 5. u Finch. L. 198. 2 Inst. 23. Dyversité de courtes c. bank le roy. F. N. B. 86. 92. 1 Lilly. Pract. Reg. 503. x 4 Inst. 76. Trye's Jus. Filizar. 101. y Carth. 234. z 4 Inst. 71. a Ibid. 72. b Thus too in the civil law; contra fictionem non admittitur probatio; quid enim efficeret probatio veritatis, ubi fictio adversus veritatem fingit? Nam fictio nihil aliud est, quam legis adversus veritatem in re possibili ez justa causa dispositio. (Gothofred. in Ff. l. 22. t. 3.)

(17) See post, 4 Book, 265.

(18) This is not the present practice, R. T. Hardw. $17. Tidd's Prac. 8 ed. 97.

at first they may startle the student, he will find upon further consideration to be highly beneficial and useful; especially as this maxim is ever invariably observed, that no fiction shall extend to work an injury; its proper operation being to prevent a mischief, or remedy an inconvenience, that might result from the general rule of law. (c) So true it is, that in fictione juris semper subsistit aequitas. (d) In the present case, it gives the suitor his choice of more than one tribunal, before which he may institute [44] his action; and prevents the circuity and delay of justice, by allowing that suit to be originally, and in the first instance, commenced in this court, which after a determination in another, might ultimately be brought before it on a writ of error.19

For this court is likewise a court of appeal, into which may be removed by a writ of error all determinations of the court of common pleas, and of all inferior courts of record in England; " and to which a writ of error lies also from the court of king's bench in Ireland. Yet even this so high and honourable court is not the dernier resort of the subject: for, if he be not satisfied with any determination here, he may remove it by writ of error into the house of lords, or the court of exchequer chamber, as the case may happen, according to the nature of the suit, and the manner in which it has been prosecuted."


VII. The court of exchequer is inferior in rank not only to the court of king's bench, but to the common pleas also: but I have chosen to consider it in this order, on account of its double capacity, as a court of law and a court of equity also. It is a very ancient court of record, set up by William the Conqueror, (e) as a part of the aula regia, (ƒ) though regulated and reduced to its present order by king Edward I.; (g) and intended principally to order the revenues of the crown, and to recover the king's debts and duties. (h) It is called the exchequer, scaccharium, from the checqued cloth, resembling a chess-board, which covers the table there and on which, when certain of the king's accounts are made up, the sums are marked and scored with counters. It consists of two divisions: the receipt of the exchequer, which manages the royal revenue, and with which these commentaries have no concern; and the court or judicial part of it, which is again subdivided into a court of equity, and a court of common law.*

c3 Rep. 30. 2 Roll. Rep, 502

e Lamb. Archeion, 24.

g Spelm, Guil. I. in cod. leg. vet, apud Wilkins.

d 11 Rep. 51. Co. Litt. 150.

(19) See further as to the jurisdiction of this court, post 109.

f Madox hist. exch. 109.
h 4 Inst. 103-116.

(20) Except in London, 2 Burr. 777. and some other places; and no writ of error lies from the cinque ports, 4 Inst. 224. or from the court of stannaries. 3 Buls. 183.

(21) This was altered by the 23 Geo. III. c. 28. ; and now by the act of union, 39 & 40 Geo. III. c. 67. art. 8., writs of error and appeals on judgments in Ireland, can only be to the house of lords of the united kingdom. Ante, 1 Book, 104. n.

(22) When a suit may be so removed, see Tidd, 8 ed. 1193, 4.

(23) See in general, Com. Dig. Courts, D.; Bac. Ab. Court of Exchequer; see Madox's History of the Exchequer; Tidd Prac. 8 ed. 35.; Manning's Exchequer Practice. As to the conusance of this court and when it will interfere, see post 436. In the Exchequer there are seven courts, 1. The court of Pleas. 2. The Court of Accounts. 3. The Court of Receipt. 4. The Court of Exchequer Chamber, being the assembly of all the judges of England for matters of law. 5. The Court of Exchequer Chamber, for errors in the Court of Exchequer. 6. The Court of Exchequer Chamber for errors in the King's Bench. 7. The Court of Equity in the Exchequer Chamber. Bac. Ab. Court of Exchequer, A.

(24) Though this court is inferior in rank as well to the court of common pleas as the king's bench, and though in general a subject has a right to resort to either of the superior courts for the redress of a civil inquiry, yet this court, having an original, and in many cases an exclusive, jurisdiction in fiscal matters, will not permit questions, in the decision of which the king's reve Due or his officers are interested, to be discussed before any other tribunal; and therefore, if an


The court of equity is held in the exchequer chamber before the [ 45 ] lord treasurer, the chancellor of the exchequer, the chief baron, and three puisné ones." These Mr. Selden conjectures (i) to have been anciently made out of such as were barons of the kingdom, or parliamentary barons; and thence to have derived their name; which conjecture receives great strength from Bracton's explanation of magna carta, c. 14. which directs that the earls and barons be amerced by their peers; that is, says he, by the barons of the exchequer. (k) The primary and original business of this court is to call the king's debtors to account, by bill filed by the attor. ney-general; and to recover any lands, tenements, or hereditaments, any goods, chattels, or other profits or benefits, belonging to the crown. So that by their original constitution the jurisdiction of the court of common pleas, king's bench, and exchequer, was entirely separate and distinct: the common pleas being intended to decide all controversies between subject and subject; the king's bench to correct all crimes and misdemesnors that amount to a breach of the peace, the king being then plaintiff, as such offences are in open derogation of the jura regalia of his crown; and the exchequer to adjust and recover his revenue, wherein the king also is plaintiff, as the withholding and non-payment thereof is an injury to his jura fiscalia. But, as by a fiction almost all sorts of civil actions are now allowed to be brought in the king's bench, in like manner by another fiction all kinds of personal suits may be prosecuted in the court of exchequer. For as all the officers and ministers of this court have, like those of other superior courts, the privilege of suing and being sued only in their own court: so also the king's debtors and farmers, and all accomptants of the exchequer, are privi. leged to sue and implead all manner of persons in the same court of equi. ty, that they themselves are called into." They have likewise privilege to sue and implead one another, or any stranger, in the same kind of common law actions (where the personalty only is concerned) as are prosecuted in the court of common pleas.

This gives original to the common law part of their jurisdiction, [ 46 ] which was established merely for the benefit of the king's accomptants, and is exercised by the barons only of the exchequer, and not the treasurer or chancellor. The writ upon which all proceedings here are ground

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action of trespass against a revenue officer for his conduct in the execution of his office, be brought in the court of C. P. or K. B., it may be removed into the office of pleas of this court of exchequer. 1 Anstr. 205. Hardr. 176. Parker, 143. 1 Price, 206. 8 Price, 584. Manning's Exchequer Prac. 181. 164. n. On such occasions the court interposes on motion, by ordering the proceeding to be removed into the office of pleas, which order operates by way of injunction. The usual order in cases of this nature is, that the action be removed out of the king's bench or common pleas, or other court in which it is depending, into the office of pleas, and that it shall be there in the same forwardness as in the court out of which the action is removed. This order, however, does not operate as a certiorari to remove the proceedings, but as a personal order on the party to stay them there, and of course calls on the defendant in the action to appear, accept a declaration, and put the plaintiff in the same state of forwardness in the office of pleas as he was in the other court. Per Eyre, Ch. B. 1 Anstr. 205. in notes. Chitty.

(25) By the stat. 57 Geo. III. c. 18. the lord chief baron is empowered to hear and determine alone all causes, matters, and things at any time depending in the court of exchequer as a court of equity; and if he should, from illness, &c. be prevented from setting for those purposes, the king may, from time to time, appoint by warrant under sign manuel, any other of the barons to hear and determine the same. This enactment has greatly facilitated the dispatch of equity proceedings in this court. Chitty. (26) A clerk of exchequer has no privilege to be sued in that court only, Cary Rep. 67.; or lord treasurer's man. Id. 96.

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