The Influence of the Commons on Early Legislation: A Study of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries

By Howard L. Gray | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE IN THE EARLY SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

ALTHOUGH descriptions of procedure in parliament survive from the reign of Elizabeth, notably that of William Lambard, the fullest early account of the passing of bills is one written by Thomas Richardson, who became speaker of the commons in 1620.1 We have it only in an eighteenth-century transcript, which the copyist has left incomplete. The transcriber apparently was not interested in the comparison between seventeenth-century practice and earlier practice, which Richardson himself had elaborated; for he breaks off soon after copying the sentences, "And thus much concerning the passage of Bills according to the modern practice. In antient times the Course was very differing (as elsewhere shall be declared). But that ancient order, as it was nothing so curious as this, so was it not so safe for the Subject, as by comparing both together will easily appear."2 Although we are thus left without Richardson's possibly valuable comment on earlier practice, his description of the procedure which he himself administered is precise and adequate. Briefly summarized its principal features are as follows.

The treatment of bills was practically the same in both houses. "Bills originally preferred to the upper House have such proceedings in that House in all points as Bills preferred to the Lower House have there; only, when any Question is made in the upper House, the Tryal thereof is by holding up

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1
Lambard's Treatise is Add. MS. 5123 and is entitled "Some certaine notes of the Order, Proceedings, punisshments and priviledges of the lower house of Parliment." Richardson's Treatise is Add. MS. 36856. I am indebted to Professors J. E. Neale and W. E. Notstein for reference to these works.
2
Add. MS. 36856, f. 45 b.

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