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qualification required to elect representatives of the commons in England and Wales. The electors of knights of the shires consist of four classes: namely, freeholders, copyholders and tenants in ancient demesne, leaseholders, and tenants or occupiers of land.
I. All freeholders, that is to say, persons holding land for their own life, or the life of another person, or for an estate of inheritance, are entitled to vote for the county in which their freehold is situate, provided it is worth not less than forty shillings by the year, clear of all deductions and charges except parliamentary and parochial taxes.1 But persons holding freeholds for life (unless they had or might acquire the right of voting previous to the passing of the stat. 2 and 3 Wm. IV. c. xlv., and remain seised of the land,) are not now entitled to vote either in counties, or in cities that are counties, except the land be of the yearly value of 10/., or the tenancy came to them by marriage, marriage-settlement, devise, or promotion to office.2
II. The holders of copyholds, or land of any other tenure that is not freehold, for life, or any greater estate, of the value of not less than 10/. clear yearly value, are entitled to vote.3
III. A right of voting also belongs to leaseholders, entitled to any term originally created for sixty years (whether determinable on lives or not), where the lands are worth 10/. a year; or for any term originally created for twenty years (whether determinable on lives or not), of the yearly value of 50/. A sub-lessee, or assignee, of
1 Stat. 8 Hen. VI. c. vii.; 10 Hen. VI. c. ii.; amended by 14 Geo. III. c. lviii. Before those statutes a freehold was required to constitute a county elector. Ashby v. White, per Lord Holt . Lord Raymond, 950.
1 2 and 3 Wm. IV. c. xlv. § 18, 21. Id. § 19.
such terms of sixty and twenty years, may vote, provided he is in actual occupation of the premises.1
IV. Persons occupying lands, for which they pay a bond fide rent of not less than 50/. a year, are also entitled to vote for counties. Other important qualifications of the franchise of the electors for counties in England and Wales, may be gathered from a variety of statutes ;2 which direct (according to Blackstone), that no person under twenty-one years of age shall be capable of voting for any member. This extends to all members, as well for boroughs and counties; as does also the next—namely, that no person convicted of perjury, or subornation of perjury, shall be capable of voting. That no person shall vote in right of any freehold not held bond fide by him, but conveyed to him fraudulently to qualify him to vote.3
The voters for cities and boroughs are—1st, The owners, or tenants in the actual occupation of houses or other
1 2 and 3 Wm IV. c. xlv. $ 19.
» 7 and 8 Wm. III. c. xxiii.; 2 Geo. II. c. xxiv.; 18 Geo. II. c. xvlii; 19 Geo. II. c xxviii.; 31 Geo. II. c. xiv.; 3 Geo. III. c. xxiv.; 10 Anne, c. xxiii.; 20 Geo. III. c. rvii.; and 30 Geo. III. c. xxv.
9 To guard the better against these frauds, it is further provided, that every voter shall have been in actual possession, or receipt of the profits of his freehold to his own use, above twelve calendar months before, except it came to him by descent, marriage, marriage-settlement, will, or promotion to a benefice or office. That no person shall vote in respect of an annuity or rent-charge, unless registered with the clerk of the peace two calendar months before, except where it came to him by descent, marriage, marriage-settlement, devise, presentation to a benefice, or promotion to an office, in all which cases a certificate on oath must be entered in the same manner before the first day of the election. That in mortgaged or trust estates, the person in possession, under the above-mentioned restrictions, shall have the vote. That only one person shall be admitted to vote for any one house or tenement, to prevent the splitting of freeholds. Blackst. Com. b. i. c. ii. p. 172, n. Coleridge.
buildings, either separately or jointly with land, of the clear yearly value of 10/., situated within such cities or boroughs.1 2dly, Burgesses and freemen who have resided within the city or borough for six months previous to the month of July iu the year when the election takes place; but no burgess or freeman is entitled to vote who has become a burgess or freeman after the 1st of March, 1831, otherwise than by birth or servitude; and those claiming by birth must derive their title from persons admitted, or entitled to be admitted, burgesses or freemen previous to that day, or becoming so since that time in respect of servitude. 3dly, The inhabitants of cities and boroughs paying scot and lot, sometimes called potwalloppers, who are qualified and entitled by the usages of such cities and boroughs to vote, and who were entitled to vote before the passing of the act 2 and 3Wm. IV. c. xlv.: thus that species of qualification will expire with the present possessors. 4thly, The freeholders and burgage tenants in cities and boroughs which are not counties within themselves; but such freeholders and burgage tenants are not entitled to vote in respect of property acquired after the 1st of March, 1831, unless it came to them between that day and the passing of the act 2 and 3 Wm. IV. c. xlv., that is to say, the 7th of June, 1832, by descent, succession, marriage, marriage-settlement, devise, or promotion to an office or benefice.
We must now proceed to chalk out the chief features of the parliamentary franchise in Scotland.2
The persons entitled to vote for counties are—1st, Freeholders, the owners in possession of land, houses, or other heritable property, of the clear yearly value of 10/.,
1 2 and 3 Wm. IV. o. ilv.
1 Erskine, Inst. (ed. Macallan), b. i. tit. iii. § 8. note. 2 and 3 Wm IV. c. Uv.
within the county; and the freeholders who were on the roll of any shire, or who were entitled to be put on such roll, at the passing of the act 2 and 3 Wm. IV. c. lxv., that is to say, the 1st day of March, 1831, and who retain their qualifications. 2dly, Tenants holding under leases for not less than fifty-seven years, at the option of the landlord, or for their lifetimes, where their interest is of the clear yearly value, after paying the rent, of not less than 10/.; or holding under leases for not less than thirteen years, where the clear yearly value is not less than 50/.; or who have been for twelve months before the last day of July in each year in the actual personal occupancy of any such subject, where the yearly rent is not less than 50/.; and tenants, whatever the rent may be, who have paid for their interest in the subject a price, grassum, or consideration of not less than 300/.
The town-voters are—Persons in the occupancy, either as proprietors, tenants, or life-renters, of houses or other buildings, with or without land, of the yearly value of 10/., within the city, borough, or town, provided they have paid assessed taxes on or before the last day of July, in which they claim to exercise their franchise.
In Ireland the county members are elected1 by freeholders of 10/. a year (the forty-shilling freeholders having been disfranchised, and the qualification raised to that amount by the 10 Geo. IV. c. viii.); by copyholders of 10/. a year; and by leaseholders of terms originally for sixty years (whether determinable on lives or no), of the yearly value of 10/.; or for fourteen years, in like manner, of the yearly value of 20/.; or for twenty years, having a beneficial interest of the clear yearly value of 10/.
The Irish constituency for cities and boroughs are— occupiers as tenants or owners of houses, or other build1 See 2 and 3 Wm. IV. c. bucxviii.
ings, with or without land, within the city or borough, of the clear yearly value of 10/.; in cities and towns of counties, forty-shilling freeholders entitled to register at the passing of the stat. 3 and 4 Wm. IV. c. lxxxviii., that is to say, on the 7th of August, 1832, so long as they retain the same qualification; freemen of cities, or towns, or boroughs, provided they be resident in the city, town, or borough, or within seven miles of it, and are not mere honorary freemen.
In England, Scotland, and Ireland, no person receiving parochial relief is capable of voting; and all votes must be registered. The acts already referred to contain minute regulations for their registration, for their revision, and the adjudication of new claims to vote. Those provisions form an important qualification to the right of voting.
Such are the chief features of the franchise in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
It remains for us to examine what are the qualifications of persons to be elected members of the House of Commons.
Some of these depend upon the law and custom of parliament, declared by the House of Commons; others upon certain statutes.1
And first of those persons whom the law has disqualified,—1st, because they are held unfit or incapable of exercising so important a trust; or, 2dly, not sufficiently independent of the crown to execute it with safety to the liberties of the people; or, 3dly, because they are invested with some office or character which precludes them from exercising the functions of representatives of the commons.
Of the first class are aliens born, minors, and persons
1 Blackst. Com. b. i. c. ii. p. 175. (Coke) 4 Inst. 47, 48.