CHAPTER III
THE FRAMEWORK OF EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY GOVERNMENT

(i) THE LIFE OF THE COMMONS

THE framework of eighteenth-century government, erected in the main by legislation enacted in the years between 1689 and 1716, provided a qualified independence for the Commons. This was a compromise. It arrested the advance of the Commons' powers no less than the decline of the King's, and it made possible, and in a sense fostered, the growth of connections between King and Commons which kept the balance of the constitution after 1716. The first element in the framework, the life of the Commons, cut directly across the King's fundamental prerogative in relation to parliament, his right of summoning and dissolving it at will. For Parliament was the creature of the King: attendance in parliament, which had been a fedual obligation, remained a duty owed to the King, and the length of time for which parliaments lasted was a matter for the King alone. Indeed, since 'the King is indisputably invested with the right of assembling parliaments', de Lolme, in 1775, maintained that laws made 'to restrain the use of' this right were not ordinary laws but 'express and solemn conventions...or treaties with the Body of the People'. The Commons attempted to make such treaties very early in the history of parliament. The plea that parliaments should be held 'very often', first uttered at a time when parliaments sat for a few weeks and did little, echoed anachronistically in the sixteenth and seven

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