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Proclamation

proclamations, crown, law, king, realm and prerogative

PROCLAMATION. By the consti tution of England, the king possesses the prerogative of issuing proclamations; for although this authority is exercised by the lord mayor in the city of London, and by the heads of some other corpo rations in other cities, for certain limited purposes, it is always founded upon custom or charter, and consequently only exists by delegation from the crown.

The nature and objects of royal proclamations are various. In some in stances they are merely a promulgation of matters of state or of acts of the exe cutive government which it is necessary that allpersons should know, and upon notice of which, as presumed to be con veyed by a public proclamation, certain duties attach to subjects. Proclamations of the accession of a new king or a demise of the crown, and proclamations for reprisals upon a declaration of war with a foreign state, and for rendering coin current within the realm, are ex amples of this kind. Another class of ' proclamations consists of those which de clare the intention of the crown to ex ercise some prerogative or enforce the execution of some law which may have been for a time dormant or suspended, but which a change of circumstances renders it necessary to call into opera tion. Thus the king might, by procla mation in the time of war, lay an embargo upon shipping, and order the ports to be shut, by virtue of his ancient preroga tive of prohibiting any of his subjects from leaving the realm. [NE EZEAT REGNO.] A breach of the duty imposed or declared by a proclamation of this kind would be punishable, either as a contempt, or as a misdemeanor at com mon law. Another and the most useful class of proclamations issued by the crown consists of formal declarations of existing laws and penalties, and of the intention of government to enforce them, designed as some the early books term it, quota 'terrorem populi, and merely as admonitory notice for the prevention of offences. A familiar instance of this kind of declaration is the proclamation against vice and immorality appointed to be read at the opening of all courts of quarter-sessions.

At present the royal prerogative does not authorise the creation of an offence by proclamation which is not a crime by the law of the land ; in the language of Sir Edward Coke (3 Inst., 162), " Pro clamations have only a binding force when they are grounded upon and en force the laws of the realm." In early periods of our history after the Norman conquest, the power of the crown in this respect appears to have been much more extensive, and instances of procla mations may be found in Rymer's Fcedera,' and elsewhere, which imply an assumption of almost despotic power by the crown. In the reign of Henry VIII. it was enacted by the statute 31 Henry VIII. c. 8, that the king, with the advice of his council, might set forth proclamations under such penalties and pains as to them might seem necessary, which should be observed as if they were made by Act of Parliament ; but this statute contained an express declara tion that proclamations should not alter the law, statutes, or customs of the realm (Coke's Reports, part 12, p. 75), and was repealed about five years afterwards by the stat. 1 Edw. VI. c. 12. A strenuous attempt was made in the reign of James I. to strengthen the crown by increasing the prerogative of making proclamations, which, though encouraged and promoted by the lord chancellor Ellesmere and Bacon, was resisted by Coke, and occa sioned great alarm and dissatisfaction among the people. The encroachments which had been made and attempted in this respect are enumerated and com plained of in the Petition of Griev ances' by the Commons, in 1610 (Howell's State Trials, vol. ii. p. 524) ; and in the same year it was expressly resolved by the judges (of whom Sir Edward Coke was one) that the king could not by his proclamation create an offence, which was not an offence before ; ' for if so, he might alter the law of the land by his proclamation.' (Coke's Re ports, part 12, p. 76.)