LORDS, HOUSE OF, one of the con stituent parts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. [PARLIAMENT.] The other is the House of Commons.
The persons who sit in the House of Lords are the Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal.
The Lords Spiritual are the two arch bishops and twenty-four bishops of the English Church, and one archbishop and three bishops of the Irish Church. Be fore the Reformation, when the monastic establishments which abounded in Eng land were suppressed, the superiors of many of them, under the names of abbots and priors, sat as Lords Spiritual in this assembly. In those times the Lords Spi ritual equalled, if they did not outnumber, the Lords Temporal who sat at any given time in Parliament; though now they form only about one-thirteenth of the persons composing this assembly. Six more bishops were added when the abbots and priors were removed.
The Lords Temporal are all the peers of England, being of full age, and not in capacitated by mental imbecility ; sixteen representative peers of the Scottish peer age, and twenty-eight representatives of the Irish peerage. The number of the Scotch and Irish representative peers is fixed; but the number of peers of England by the acts of union with Scotland and Ireland iu 1707 and 1800 respectively, is perpetually varying, and depends upon the casualties of minorities, and on the will of the king, who can make any man I peer.
The component parts of this assembly may be thus classified : —1. Persons sitting there in respect of offices held by them. Such are the spiritual lords of England. 2. Persons who sit in right of inheritance of a dignity of peerage. 3. Persons who have been created peers. 4. Hereditary peers of Scotland (for there can be no creation of peers of that part of the United Kingdom) elected by the whole body of the Scottish peerage to represent them in parliament, at the beginning of every parliament. 5. Hereditary or created peers of Ireland, elected by the whole body of the Irish peerage ; they sit for life, and vacancies are supplied as they occur. And 6. Spiritual lords of
Ireland, who sit in turns according to a cycle established by 3 Wm. 1 V. c. 37. The great body of the house however consists of hereditary Lords Temporal of England. under the several denominations of dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons. Each of the individuals of these ranks has an equal vote with the rest; but they sit iu the house in classes, and according to their precedency.
The only material changes which have been made in the constitution of this as sembly in the long period of its existence have been : 1. The supposed limitation of the right of all holding lands in chief of the crown to sit therein, by King Henry III. after the battle of Evesham. 2. The removal from it of representatives of the counties, cities, and boroughs, who are supposed to have formerly sat with the lords, and the placing them in a distinct assembly, called the House of Commons. 3. The reduction in the number of the Lords Spiritual, by the suppression of the monastic establishments. 4. The intro duction of the Scottish representative peers. And 5. The introduction of the Irish bishops and the Irish representative peers.
This house may be traced to the very beginning of anything like an English constitution. It is in fact the magnum concilium of the early chronicles. The bishops are sometimes said to sit there in virtue of baronies annexed to their respec tive offices; but it is questionable whether baronies are attached to the bishoprics of the new creation by Henry VIII. ; and at best it is but a legal fiction, it being evi dent from the whole course of history that the bishops formed, as such, a con stituent part of such assemblies in the Saxon times, and were, as such, among the chief advisers of the king. One of the last acts of King Charles I., before he finally left London and disconnected himself from the Parliament, was to give the royal assent to a bill for removing the bishops from Parliament. The bishops were restored after the return of Charles II., 1660.