The House of Lords, 1603-1649: Structure, Procedure, and the Nature of Its Business

By Elizabeth Read Foster | Go to book overview
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10
LEGISLATION

Unlike the procedure in judicial matters that developed significantly during the early Stuart period, the Lords' procedure in legislation had been well established and generally accepted by the end of Elizabeth's reign. The basic features of this procedure, already indicated in chapters concerning the clerk and the committees, remained unchanged. However, certain points came under discussion in the Stuart period and the variety of material concerning legislation makes it possible to examine the process in greater detail than in former times.

Bills came to parliament by various routes and from various hands. Neither James nor Charles presented a well-defined program of legislation. James, indeed, tended to play down the importance of the legislative function. In his first parliament, he warned members against making too many laws and was particularly critical of private acts that comprised a substantial portion of the docket of any session. He was concerned not so much for the enactment of new legislation as for the execution of existing laws, "farre more profitable in a Common-wealth."1 He saw the need also for a review and codification of laws, especially penal laws.2 The crown's legislative activity was therefore not extensive. James's chief early project was the union of Scotland and England. In 1604 he sent the draft of a bill for union, which he had himself "conceived" and dictated, to the House of Lords.3 In 1607 the bill for hostile laws, part of the same endeavor, was said to have been drafted by his solicitor general.4 James followed in some detail other legislation that affected the crown or his own particular interests. He suggested changes in the draft of the preamble to a bill concerning entail.5 He urged parliament in 1610 to enact legislation for the preservation of woodlands and the protection of game, an interest that continued throughout his life.6 In 1624 Cranfield planned to introduce into the upper House a bill for protecting wildfowl in Leicestershire, knowing that he would please the king.7

Bills affecting the royal family were officially sponsored: bills advanc

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