HOUSE OF, and PARLIAMENT.] We are now arrived at a time when the word baron acquired a sense still more restricted than that which has hitherto belonged to it. Later than the reign of Edward II. we seldom find the word boron used in the chronicles to designate the whole of that formidable body who were next in dignity to the king himself, who formed his army and his legislative assembly, and who forced the king to yield points of liberty either to them, selves as a class or to the whole com munity of Englishmen. The counts or earls, from this time, stand out more pro minently as a distinct order. There were next introduced into that assembly per, sons under the denomination of dukes, marquesses, and viscounts; to all of whom was given a precedence before those barons who had not any dignity, strictly so called, annexed to the service which they had to render in parliament. The baron became the lowest denomination in the assembly of peers, possessing the same rights of discussing and voting with any other member of the house, but remaining destitute of those honorary titles and dis tinctions the possession of which entitled others to step before him, The term also ceased to be applied to those persons who, possessing a tenancy in chief, were yet not summoned by the king to attend the parliament; and the right or duty of attendance, from the time of King Ed ward I., has been founded, not, as an ciently, upon the tenure, but on the writ which the king issued commanding their attendance.
Out of this has arisen the expression barons by writ. The king issued his writ to certain persons to attend in parliament, and the production of that writ constituted their right to sit and vote there. Copies of these writs were taken, and are entered on what is called the close roll at the Tower. The earliest are in the latter part of the reign of King Henry III., in the forty-ninth of his reign, when the king was a prisoner in the hands of Simon de Montfort, who did what he pleased in the king's name. There are many such writs existing in the copies taken of them, of the reign of Edward I., and all subse quent kings, down to the present time.. They are addressed to the archbishops and bishops, the prior of Saint John of Jerusalem, many abbots and priors, the earls and peers of the higher dignities as they were introduced into the peerage, and to a number of persons by their names only, as William de Vescy, Henry de Cobham, Ralph Fitzwilliam, William la Zouch, and the like—portions of the baronage whom the king chose to call to his councils. Upon this the question
arises, whether when a person who was a baron by tenure received the king's writ to repair to the parliament, the receipt of the writ, and obedience to it, created in him a dignity as a lord of parliament which adhered to him during his life, and was transmitted to his hear. Upon this question the received opinion un doubtedly has been that a heritable dig nity was created ; that once a baron, by sitting under authority of the king's writ, always a baron; and that the barony would endure as long as there were heirs of the body of the person to whom the king's writ had issued. Upon this, the received opinion, there have been many adjudications of claims to dignities, and yet the Lords' Committee on this subject express very strong doubts respecting the doctrine, and contend that there are per sons to whom the king's writ issued, and who took their seat accordingly, to whose heirs similar writs never went forth, though there was no bar from nonage, fatuity, or attainder. On the other hand, there is the strong fact, that we do find by the writs of summons, that they were addressed to the several members of many of the great families of England, as they rose in successive generations to be the heads of their houses: that, when it hap pened that a female heiress occurred, her issue was not infrequently set in the place in parliament which her ancestors had occupied; and that when the new mode arose in the time of Richard IL, of sweating barons by Intent, in which a right was acknowledged in the posterity of the person so created, the ancient barons who had sat by virtue of the king's them and their ancestors did not apply for any ratification of their dignity by patent, which they would have done had they not conceived that it was a heritable dignity, as secure as that granted by the king's patent.