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Chiltern Hundreds

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CHILTERN HUNDREDS. A portion of the high land of Buckinghamshire is known by the name of the Chiltern Hills. "Formerly these hills abounded in timber, especially beech, and afforded shelter to numerous banditti. To put these down, and to protect the inhabitants of the neighbouring parts from their depreda tions, an officer was appointed under the crown, called the steward of the Chiltern Hundreds." (Geog. of Great Britain, by the Society for the Diffusion of Use ful Knowledge.) The duties have long since ceased, but the nominal office is retained to serve a particular purpose. A member of the House of Commons, who is not in any respect disqualified, cannot resign his seat. A member there fore who wishes to resign, accomplishes his object by applying for the steward ship of the Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough, and Bodenham, which, being held to be a place of honour and profit under the crown, vacates the seat, and a new writ is in consequence ordered. This nominal place is in the gift of the chancellor of the exchequer. As soon as the office is obtained it is resigned, that it may serve the same purpose again. Another office which is applied for under similar circumstances, is the stewardship of the manors of East Hendred, North stead, and Hempholme. The offices which have been held to vacate seats may be collected from the several General Journal Indexes, tit. " Elections." In the session of 1842 a committee of the House of Commons was appointed " to inquire whether certain corrupt com promises had been entered into in speci fied boroughs, for the purpose of avoid ing investigation into gross bribery, alleged to have been practised in them ;" and a member for one of these boroughs (Reading) having applied to the chan cellor of the exchequer, requesting that the stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds might be conferred on him, the chancellor of the exchequer, who anticipated similar applications from members of some of the other boroughs implicated, decided upon refusing the appointment. The

reasons he alleged for this refusal, in a letter addressed to the member for Reading, were as follows :—" Under or dinary circumstances I should not feel justified in availing myself of the dis cretion vested in me in order to refuse or delay the appointment for which you have applied, when sought for with a view to the resignation of a seat in par liament. But after the disclosures which have taken place with respect to certain boroughs, of which Reading is one, and after the admission of the facts by the parties interested, I consider that by lending my assistance to the fulfilment of ' any engagement which may have been entered into as arising out of any such compromise, I should, in some sort, make myself a party to transactions which I do not approve, and of which the House of Commons has implied its condemnation. I feel, moreover, that by a refusal on my part of the means by which alone such engagements can be fulfilled, I afford the most effectual discouragement to the entering into similar compromises in future, and thus promote, so far as is in my power, the intentions of the House of Commons."