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according to their diguity, and begin with the highest of all; viz.
1. The high court of parliament; which is the supreme court in the kingdom, not only for the making, but also for the execution, of laws; by the trial of great and enormous offenders, whether lords or commoners, in the piethod of parliamentary impeachment. As joc aris of pai liament to attaint particular persous of treason or felony, or to inflict pains and penalties, beyond or contrary to the common law, to serve a special purpose, I speak not of them; being to all intents and purposes new laws, made pro re nata, and by no means an execution of such as are already in being. But an impeachment before the lords by the commons of Great Britain, in parliament, is a prosecution of the already known and established law, and has been frequently put in practice; being a presentment to the most high and supreme court of criminal jurisdiction by the most solemn grand inquest of the whole kingdom. A commoner cannot however be impeached before the lords for any capital offence, but only for high misdemeanors: a peer may be impeached for any crime.
a 1 Hal, P. C. *150.
b When in 4 Edw. III. the king demanded the earls, barons, and peers, to give judgment against Simon de Bereford, who had been a notorions accomplice in the treasons of Roger earl of Mortimer, they came before the king in parliament, and said all with one voice, that the said Simon was not their peer; and therefore they were not bound to judge him as a peer of the land. And when afterwards, in the same parliament, they were prevailed upon, in respect of the notoriety and heinousness of his crimes, to receive the charge and to give judgment against him, the following protest and proviso was entered in the parliament roll. "And it is assented and accorded by our lord the king, and all the great men, in full parlia
ment, that albeit the peers, as judges of the parliament, have taken upon them in the presence of our lord the king to make and render the said judgment; yet the peers who now are, or shall be in time to come, be not bound or charged to render judgment upon others than peers: nor that the peers of the land have power to do this, but thereof ought ever to be discharged and acquitted; and that the afore said judgment now rendered be not drawn to example or consequence in time to come, whereby the said peers may be charged hereafter to judge others than their peers, contrary to the laws of the land, if the like case happen, which God forbid." Rot. Parl. 4 Edw. III. n. 2 & 6. 2 Brad. Hist. 190. Selden. judic. in parl. ch. 1.
And they usually, in case of an impeachment of a peer for treason, address the crown to appoint a lord high steward for the greater dignity and regularity of their proceedings; which high steward was formerly elected by the peers themselves, though he was generally commissioned by the king; but it hath of late years been strenuously maintained, that the appointment of an high steward in such cases is not indispensably necessary, but that the house may proceed without one. The articles of impeachment are a kind of bills of indictment, found by the house of commons, and afterwards tried by the lords; who are in cases of misdemesnors considered not only as their own peers, but as the peers of the whole nation. This is a custom derived to us from the constitution of the ancient Germans; who in their great councils sometimes tried capital accusations relating to the public: "licet apud consilium accusare quoque, et discrimen capitis intendere." e And it has a peculiar propriety in the English constitution; which has much improved upon the ancient model imported hither from the continent. For, though in general the union of the legislative and judicial powers ought to be more carefully avoided, yet it may happen that a subject, intrusted with the administration of public affairs, may infringe the rights of the people, and be guilty of such crimes, as the ordinary magistrate either dares not or cannot punish. Of these the representatives of the people, or house of commons, cannot properly judge; because their constituents are the parties injured: and can therefore only impeach. But before what court shall this impeachment be tried? Not before the ordinary tribunals, which would naturally be swayed by the authority of so powerful an accuser. Reason therefore will suggest, that this branch of the legislature, which represents the people, must bring its charge before the other branch, which consists of the nobility, who have neither the same interests, nor the same passions as popular assemblies. This is a vast superiority, which the constitution of this island enjoys, over those of the Grecian or Roman republics; where the people were at the same time both judges
C 1 Hal. P. C. 350.
d Lords' Journ. 12 May 1679. Com. Joura. 15 May 1679. Fost. 142, &c,
e Tacit. de mor. Germ. 12.
and accusers. It is proper that the nobility should judge, to insure justice to the accused; as it is proper that the people should accuse, to insure justice to the commonwealth. And therefore, among other extraordinary circumstances attending the authority of this court, there is one of a very singular nature, which was insisted on by the house of commons in the case of the earl of Danby in the reign of Charles II.; and it is now enacted by statute 12 & 13 W. III. c. 2. that no pardon under the great seal shall be pleadable to an impeachment by the commons of Great Britain in parliament.
2. The court of the lord high steward of Great Britain is a court instituted for the trial of peers, indicted for treason or felony, or for misprision of either.' The office of this great magistrate is very ancient; and was formerly hereditary, or at least held for life, or dum bene se gesserit: but now it is usually, and hath been for many centuries past, granted pro hac vice only; and it hath been the constant practice, and therefore seems now to have become necessary, to grant it to a lord of parliament, else he is incapable to try such delinquent peer." When such an indictment is therefore found by a grand jury of freeholders in the king's bench, or at the assises before the justices of oyer and terminer, it is to be removed by a writ of certiorari into the court of the lord high steward, which only has power to determine it. A peer may plead a pardon before the court of king's bench, and the judges have power to allow it; in order to prevent the trouble of appointing an high steward, merely for the purpose of receiving such plea. But he may not plead, in that inferior court, any other plea; as guilty, or not guilty, of the indictment; but only in this court: because, in consequence of such plea, it is possible that judg ment of death might be awarded against him. The king
h Com. Journ. 5 May 1679. i See ch. 31.
k 4 Inst. 58. 2 Hawk. P.C. 5. 421. 2 Jon. 54.
11 Bulstr. 198. m Pryn. on 4 Inst. 46. n Quand un seigneur de parlement ferra arrein de treason ou felony, le roy par ses lettres pa
tents fera un grand et sage seigneur d'estre le grand seneschal d'Angleterre: qui doit faire un precept pur faire venir xx seigneurs, ou xviii, &c. Yearb. 13 Hen. VIII. 11. See Staundf. P. C. 152. 3 Inst. 28. 4 Inst. 59. 2 Hawk. P. C. 5. Barr. 234.
therefore, in case a peer be indicted for treason, felony, or misprision, creates a lord high steward pro hac vice by commission under the great seal; which recites the indictment so found, and gives his grace power to receive and try it secundum legem et consuetudinem Anglia. Then, when the indictment is regularly removed, by writ of certiorari, commanding the inferior court to certify it up to him, the lord high steward directs a precept to a serjeant. at arms, to summon the lords to attend and try the indicted peer. This precept was formerly issued to summon only eighteen or twenty, selected from the body of the peers: then the number came to be indefinite; and the custom was, for the lord high steward to summon as many as he thought proper, (but of late years not less than twenty-three,) and that those lords only should sit upon the trial which threw a monstrous weight of power into the hands of the crown, and this its great officer, of selecting only such peers as the then predominant party should most approve of. And accordingly, when the earl of Clarendon fell into disgrace with Charles II. there was a design formed to prorogue the parliament, in order to try him by a select number of peers; it being doubted whether the whole house could be induced to fall in with the views of the court." But now by statute 7 W. III. c. 3. upon all trials of peers for treason or misprision, all the peers who have a right to sit and vote in parliament shall be summoned, at least twenty days before such trial, to appear and vote therein; and every lord appearing shall vote in the trial of such peer, first taking the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and subscribing the declaration against popery.
During the session of parliament the trial of an indicted peer is not properly in the court of the lord high steward, but before the court last mentioned, of our lord the king in parliament. It is true, a lord high steward is always appointed in that case, to regulate and add weight to the proceedings: but he is rather in the nature of a speaker pro tempore, or chairman of the court, than the judge of it; for the collective body of the peers are therein the judges both of law and fact, and the high steward has a
vote with the rest, in right of his peerage. But in the court of the lord high steward, which is held in the recess of parliament, he is the sole judge of matters of law, as the lords triors are in matters of fact; and as they may not interfere with him in regulating the proceedings of the court, so he has no right to intermix with them in giving any vote upon the trial. Therefore, upon the conviction and attainder of a peer for murder in full parliament, it hath been holden by the judges, that in case the day appointed in the judgment for execution should lapse before execution done, a new time of execution may be appointed by either the high court of parliament during its sitting, though no high steward be existing; or, in the recess of parliament, by the court of king's bench, the record being removed into that court.
It has been a point of some controversy, whether the bishops have now a right to sit in the court of the lord high steward, to try indictments of treason and misprision. Some incline to imagine them included under the general words of the statute of king William, "all peers, who have a right to sit and vote in parliament:" but the expression had been much clearer, if it had been, "all lords,” and not, "all peers;" for though bishops, on account of the baronies annexed to their bishoprics, are clearly lords of parliament, yet, their blood not being ennobled, they are not universally allowed to be peers with the temporal nobility and perhaps this word might be inserted purposely with a view to exclude them. However, there is no instance of their sitting on trials for capital offences, even upon impeachments or indictments in full parliament, much less in the court we are now treating of; for indeed they usually withdraw voluntarily, but enter a protest declaring their right to stay. It is observable that, in the eleventh chapter of the constitutions of Clarendon, made in parliament 11 Hen. II. they are expressly excused, rather than excluded, from sitting and voting in trials, when they come to concern life or limb: " episcopi, sicut cæteri barones, debent interesse judiciis cum baronibus, quousque perveniatur ad diminutionem membrorum, vel ad mortem:" and Becket's quarrel with the king hereupon was not on account of the exception, which was agreeable s Fost. 139.
r State Trials, Vol. IV. 214. 232, 3.