Imágenes de páginas

backs to the house, making three obeisances, which the lords commissioners return, remaining seated.

The words La reine le veut, or, in the case of a private bill, Soit fait comme il est desire", declare the royal assent. When a bill of supply is presented to the queen, or to her lords commissioners, by the speaker of the House of Commons, the royal assent is thus expressed, La reine remercie ses loyal siijets, accepte leur benevolence, et aussi le veut. In the case of an act of grace, which originally proceeds from the crown, the clerk of the parliament thus expresses the gratitude of the nation : Lesprelats seigneurs et commons, en ce present parliament assembles, au nam de touts vos autres sujets, renter cient tres humblement votre majeste, et prient Dieu vous donner en sante bonne vie et longue. From the moment that the royal assent is given, the bill becomes an act of parliament.

Blackstone informs us that a statute needs no formal promulgation to give it the force of law, as was necessary with regard to imperial constitutions in the civil law, because every man in England is, in judgment of law, party to the making of an act of parliament, being present thereat by his representatives. But he adds, that formerly the acts of each session were sent to all the sheriffs of counties, with the king's writ, requiring them to proclaim those statutes in several places within their counties; and that this usage continued until the reign of king Henry VII. The reason given by Blackstone is, indeed, very insufficient; but it is still more unreasonable that a bill receiving the royal assent should immediately have force of law in the most distant provinces of the British empire to which its provisions apply. Thus, an act may have force of law in India six months before its provisions are known there. The civil law is far more rational, in which constitutions take effect in each province only from the moment that they are promulgated and made known there.1

VI. There remains only to take a cursory view of the manner in which parliament may be adjourned, prorogued, and dissolved.

An adjournment is no more than a continuance of the session from one day to another, as the word itself signifies, and this is done by the authority of each house separately every day ; and sometimes for a fortnight or a month together, as at Christmas, or Easter, or on other particular occasions.2 Blackstone observes, that it has been usual, when the crown has signified its pleasure that both or either of the houses should adjourn themselves to a certain day, to obey the king's pleasure so signified, and to adjourn accordingly. Besides that a refusal would be indecorous, a prorogation would assuredly follow.

A prorogation is defined by Blackstone to be a continuance of parliament from one session to another, as an adjournment is the continuation of the session from day to day. It can be done only by royal authority, expressed by the lord chancellor in her majesty's presence, or by lords commissioners appointed by letters patent under the great seal for that purpose, or by royal proclamation. Both houses are prorogued together, because it is not a prorogation of one house, but of the parliament. The

1 L. xii. Cod. de jur. et fact, ignor. Nov. i. Nov. lxvi. c . i. Vinnius ad Inst . t. de Legib. And see Bacon's Aphorisms, viii. The French law acknowledges the principle, that the laws become obligatory upon the persons for whom they are enacted only from the moment that they have become known to those persons. Therefore they are executory in each department, or province, from the time when their promulgation may have become known there. Code Civ. art. i. Ordonnance 27, Novembre 1816. Toullier, Droit Civ. Francais, t. prelim, no. 74, &c.

2 Blackst. Com. b. i. c. ii. p. 185. 4 Inst. 28.

parliament are to meet on the day to which they are prorogued; but the queen may, if she thinks fit, summon them before that time by proclamation, declaring that they are to meet at the expiration of fourteen days from the date thereof.1

The effects of an adjournment and that of a prorogation, on the business of parliament, are very different. The former does not prevent the resumption of the proceedings of the house precisely where they were left off: but by the latter an end is put to the session; and Buch bills as have not become laws cannot be resumed at the stage in which they were at the time of the prorogation, but must be begun again from the beginning. Judicial proceedings, however, such as writs of error, and appeals in the House of Lords, and impeachments, are not put an end to by a prorogation, but may be resumed where they stood. This was finally settled in Warren Hastings' case.

A dissolution is described by Blackstone to be the civil death of the parliament; and this may be effected in three ways: 1st, by the queen's will; 2d, by the demise of the crown; and, 3d, by length of time.

1. Parliament may be dissolved by the queen's will, expressed either in person or by her representatives. It is very necessary that the power of dissolving the parliament should be vested in the executive, because otherwise there would be a danger of its becoming permanent, and encroaching on the royal authority, so as to destroy the balance of the constitution. Of this danger we see an example in the instance of the Long Parliament, as it is called, to which Charles I. conceded (by giving his assent to a bill for that purpose), that it should not be dissolved until such time as it should please to dissolve itself. If the houses of parliament encroach upon the executive

1 Stat. 37 Geo. III. c. cxxvii.; and 39 and 40 Geo III. c. xiv.

power, or otherwise act either factiously or injudiciously, the crown may, by a dissolution, put an end to their proceedings, and send the members of the House of Commons to give an account of their conduct to their constituents; thus appealing to the people against the acts of their representatives. The most usual method is, for the sovereign to prorogue parliament and dissolve it immediately afterwards by proclamation.

2. A parliament may be dissolved by the demise of the crown. By the common law, the king being the head of the parliament (caput, principium, et finis), his death dissolved that assembly immediately. But the calling a new parliament directly on the successor taking possession of the throne having been found inconvenient, it was enacted, by the statutes 7 and 8 Wm. III. c. xv. and 6 Anne, c. vii., that the parliament in being shall continue for six months after the death of any king or queen, unless sooner prorogued or dissolved by the successor; that if the parliament be at the time of the king's death separated by adjournment or prorogation, it shall notwithstanding assemble immediately; and that if no parliament is then in being, the members of the last parliament shall assemble, and be again a parliament. It is also enacted, by the stat. 37 Geo. III. c. cxxvii., that in case of the demise of the crown on or after the day appointed by writs of summons previously issued for assembling a new parliament, and before it shall have actually met, such new parliament shall immediately convene, and sit for six months, unless sooner prorogued or dissolved by the successor.

3. A parliament may be dissolved or expire by lapse of time. "If," says Blackstone, "either the legislative body were perpetual, or might last for the life of the prince who convened them, as formerly, and were so to be supplied by occasionally filling the vacancies with new representatives,—in these cases, if it were once corrupted, the evil would be past all remedy; but, when different bodies succeed each other, if the people see cause to disapprove of the present, they may rectify its faults in the next." By stat. 6 W. & M. c. ii., the utmost duration of parliament was three years; but the stat. 1 Geo. I. stat. 2, c. xxxviii., commonly called the septennial act, extended that period to seven years: so that the parliament must expire or die a natural death at the end of every seventh year, if not sooner dissolved by the royal prerogative.

It is difficult to determine what should be the precise duration of parliaments. On the one hand, there is danger that the members of the House of Commons may forget or cast aside their representative character, if they are allowed to continue too long without being sent back to their constituents; but, on the other hand, a frequent recurrence of general elections would not only impose upon members a most ruinous expense, which must be prejudicial to the commonwealth, but the turmoil and agitation occasioned by those struggles could not fail to promote factiousness and divisions in the state. Besides, members would be naturally led to consider principally the feelings and particular interests of their constituents, neglecting the general welfare of the realm, for the whole of which they serve. The consequence would be, that little else would be attended to in the House of Commons but partyquestions, and matters affecting electioneering interests. It should also be considered, that it is exceedingly important to choose a fit and proper time to dissolve parliament, with reference to a number of circumstances; and that the crown should, therefore, have some sufficient space of time within which to exercise a sound discretion in continuing or dissolving that assembly. Under this point of view, it would seem expedient that parliament

« AnteriorContinuar »