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Committees

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COMMITTEES.

by the commons is a proceeding of great im portance, involving the exercise of the highest judicial powers by parliament, and though in modern times it has rarely been resorted to, in former periods of our history it was of frequent occurrence. The earliest instance of impeachment by the commons at the bar of the house of lords was in the reign of Edward III. (1376). Before that time the lords ap pear to have tried both peers and com moners for great public offences, but not upon complaints addressed to them by the commons. During the next four reigns, cases of regular impeachment were frequent, but no instances occurred in the reigns of Edward IV., Henry VII., Henry VIII., Edward VI., Queen Mary, or Queen Elizabeth. The institution " had fallen into disuse," says Mr. Hallam, "partly from the loss of that control which the commons had obtained under Richard II and the Lancastrian kings, and partly from the preference the Tudor princes had given to bills of attainder or of pains and penalties, when they wished to turn the arm of parliament against an obnoxious subject." Prosecutions also in the Star-chamber during that time were perpetually resorted to by the crown for the punishment of state offenders. In the reign of James I. the practice of im peachment was revived, and was used with great energy by the commons, both as an instrument of popular power and for the furtherance of public justice. Between the year 1620, when Sir Giles Montressor and Lord Bacon were im peached, and the Revolution in 1688, there are about 40 cases of impeachment. In the reigns of William III., Anne, and George I. there were 15, and in George II. only one (that of Lord Lovat, in 1746, for high treason). The last memorable cases are those of Warren Hastings, in 1788, and Lord Melville, in 1805.

An outline of the forms observed in the conduct of impeachments may be briefly given. A member of the house of commons charges the accused of cer tain high crimes and misdemeanors, and moves that he be impeached. If the house agree to it, the member is ordered to go to the lords, and at their bar, in the name of the house of commons and of all the commons of the United Kingdom, to impeach the accused. A committee is then ordered to draw up articles of im peachment, which are reported to the house, and having been discussed and agreed upon, are engrossed and delivered to the lords. Further articles may be delivered from time to time. In the case of Warren Hastings the articles had been prepared before his impeachment at the bar of the house of lords. The accused sends answers to each article, which are communicated to the commons by the lords ; to these, replications are returned if necessary. After these pre liminaries, the lords appoint a day for the trial. The commons desire the lords to summon the witnesses required to prove their charges and appoint mana gers to conduct the proceedings. West minster Hall has been usually fitted up as the court, which is presided over by the lord high steward. The commons attend with the managers as a committee of the whole house. The accused re

mains in the custody of the usher of the black rod, to whom he is delivered, if a commoner, by the serjeant-at-arms aP tending the house of commons. The managers should confine themselves to charges contained in the articles of im peachment. Mr. Warren Hastings com plained of matters having been introduced which had not been originally laid to his charge, and the house resolved that cer tain words ought not to have been spoken by Mr. Burke. Persons impeached of high treason are entitled, by statute 20 Geo. IL c. 30, to make their full defence by counsel, a privilege which is not denied to persons charged with high crimes and misdemeanors.

When the managers have made their charges and adduced evidence in support of them, the accused answers them, and the managers have a right to reply. The lords then proceed to judgment in this manner :—The lord high steward puts to each peer, beginning with the junior baron, the question upon the first article, whether the accused be guilty of the orimes charged therein. The peers in succession rise in their places when the question is put, and standing uncovered, and laying their right bands upon their breast, answer " guilty," or " not guilty," as the case may be, "upon my honour." Each article is proceeded with separately in the same manner, the lord high steward giving his own opinion the last. The numbers are then cast up, and being as certained, are declared by the lord high steward to the lords, and the accused is acquainted with the result.

(Coke's Fourth Institute, cap. 1; The Soveraigne Power of Parliaments, by W. Prynne, 1643 ; Parliamentary Writs, by W. Prynne, in four parts, 1659-1664; Privileges of the Baronage of England when they sit in Parliament, by John Selden, 12mo., 1642; Modes tenendi Parliamentum, by W. Hakewel, 1660; Lex Parliamentaria, by G. P., Esq., 12mo. 1690; Constitution of Parliaments in England, deduced from the time of King Edward the Second, by Sir John Pettus, 1680; Original Institution, Power, and Jurisdiction of Parliaments, by Sir M. Hale, 1707; republished by Hargrave, with preface, 1776 ; Antient Right of the Commons of England, by William Petyt, 1680; Parliamentary and Political Traets, written by Sir Robert Atkins, 2nd edit., 1741; History of the High Court of Parliament, by T. Gordon, 1731 ; Manner of holding Parliaments in England, by Henry Elsynge, Cler. Part., 1768 ; Free Parliaments, by Roger Acher ley, 1731 ; Blackstone's Comm., book 1st ; D'Ewes's Journal ; Lords' Journals; Commons' Journals • General Indexes and Calendars to Lords' Journals, 1509 1819; General Indexes to Commons' Journals, 1547-1837 ; Thal of Henri Lord Viscount Melville, published by order of the House of Lords, fol., 1806; State Trials ; Parliamentary History ; Wynn's Argument upon the Jurisdiction of the Commons to commit, 1810; Hat sell's Precedents, new edit., 1818 ; A Treatise upon the Law, Privileyes, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, by Thomas Erskine May, Esq., Barrister at Law, Assistant Librarian of the House of Commons. May 2nd, 1844.)