Britannia, by William Camden

COURTS of Justice.

The Parliament.
* Now made one with the Parliament of England, by the Union.
Small T THE * Supream Court, as well in dignity as authority, † Is, Camd. in whom this and the next Paragraph run in the present tense.was the Assembly of the States of the Kingdom, which was called a Parliament, by the same name as it is in England; and had the same absolute Authority. It consisted of three Estates; of the Lords Spiritual, that is, the Bishops, Abbots, and Priors; of the Lords Temporal viz. Dukes, Marquisses, Earls, Viscounts, and Barons; and the Commissioners for the Cities and Buroughs.

To whom were joyned, * * So said, ann. 1607.not long since, for every County, two † Delegati.Commissioners; ⌈and in the reign of King William the third, by act of Parliament, certain Shires, and the Stewartie of Kirkcudbright, were allowed an additional Representation of Commissioners in Parliament; whereby, of the greater Shires, some were allow’d four, some three, according to the largeness and extent of the Lands.⌉

It was called by the King at pleasure, allowing a certain time for notice before it was to sit. When they were convened, and the causes of their meeting were declar’d by the King and the Chancellour, the Lords Spiritual retired apart, and chose eight of the Lords Temporal; and the Lords Temporal, likewise, as many out of the Lords Spiritual. Then, all these together nominated eight of the Knights of the Shires, and as many of the Burgesses; which, in all made thirty two, and were called Lords of the Articles; and, with the Chancellour, Treasurer, Privy-Seal, the King’s Secretary, &c. admitted or rejected such matters as were offer’d to be propos’d to the States, after they had been first communicated to the King. Being approved by the whole Assembly of the States, they were throughly examined; and such as pass’d by a majority of Votes, were presented to the King, who by touching them with his Scepter signified the confirming or vacating of them. But if the King disliked any thing, it was first razed out.

⌈This was the ancient method of proposing and finishing the Affairs of Parliament; but in the reign of William the third, the Committee of Parliament was abrogated by a particular Law, and the Parliament was empower’d to appoint Committees of what number they pleas’d, and equally of Noblemen, Barons, or Burgesses, to be chosen out of each Estate by it self, for preparing all motions and overtures first made in the House; with a power in the Parliament to alter the Committees so appointed, and (if they thought fit) to conclude such Business as should be proposed, without appointing any Committees.⌉

Next to the Parliament ⌈(which is now made one with the Parliament of England,)⌉ is the College of Justice,The College of Justice. or as they call it, the Session, which King James the fifth instituted, An. 1532. after the manner of the Parliament at Paris; consisting of a President, fourteen Senators, seven of the Clergy, and as many of the Laity (to whom was afterwards added the Chancellor, who * * Takes, C.took place first, and three or four other Senators,) with three principal Clerks, and as many Advocates as the Senators † † Think, C.thought convenient. ⌈Thus stood the Session in it’s original Institution; but now, the distinction of half Spiritual half Temporal is laid aside, and the Lords are all of the Temporalty; and in the reign of King James the seventh, an Act of Parliament pass’d, allowing two persons to be conjoyned in each of the three Offices of Ordinary Clerks of Session; so that now there are six Clerks. The proper Title of those who compose the Session, is Lord; and by an Act of Parliament in the year 1661. the President is declared to have Precedency of the Lord Register and Advocate.⌉

The Session administers Justice (not according to the rigour of the Law, but according to reason and equity) every day except Sunday and Monday, ⌈anciently⌉ from the first of November to the fifteenth of March, and from Trinity Sunday to the first of August. ⌈But as Law and Custom have now settl’d it, the Session sitteth from the first of November to the last of February (the Yule-Vacance excepted,Stat. 10 Ann. c.13. viz. from Dec. 20. to Jan. 10.) and from the first of June to the last of July inclusive.⌉ All the space between, as being the times of sowing and harvest, is Vacation, or an intermission of Suits and Matters of Law. They give judgment according to Acts of Parliament ⌈and the Municipal-Laws;⌉ and where they are defective, according to the Civil Law.

Inferior Courts. There are besides in every County, inferiour Civil Courts, wherein the Sheriff or his deputy decides controversies amongst the Inhabitants, about Ejectments, Intrusions, Damages, Debts, &c. from whom, upon suspicion of hardship, partiality or alliance, they appeal sometimes to the Session. These Sheriffs are for the most part hereditary. For the Kings of Scotland as well as England, to bind the better sort of Gentlemen more closely to them by their favours, did in old time make these Sheriffs hereditary and perpetual. But the Kings of England, soon perceiving the inconveniencies happening thereupon, changed them into annual. There are Civil Courts held also in the several Regalities, by their respective Baillies, to whom the King graciously granted Royal privileges; as they are also held in free Boroughs and Cities, by their Magistrates.

There are likewise Judicatories, that are called The Commissariat,Commissariat. the highest of which is kept at Edenborough: wherein, before four Judges, Actions are pleaded concerning matters which relate to Wills, Advowsons, Tythes, Divorces, &c. and other Ecclesiastical Causes of like nature. But in almost all the other parts of the Kingdom, there sits but one Judge on these Causes.

In Criminal Causes, the King’s Chief Justice holds his Courts generally at Edenborough;Court at Edenborough. which Office * * Hath, for some time, been, C.was heretofore executed by the Earls of Argyle, who deputed two or three Lawyers to take cognisance of Actions of life and death, loss of limbs, or of goods and chattels. ⌈But by an Act of Parliament in the reign of King Charles the second, concerning the Justice-Court, it is now made to consist of the Lord Justice General, and the Lord Justice Clerk (both of the King’s nomination;) to whom are added five of the Lords of the Session, who are supply’d from time to time by the King, and are called Lords of the Justiciary.⌉ In this Court, the Defendant is permitted, even in case of High-Treason, to retain an Advocate to plead for him.

Special Commissions. Moreover, in criminal Matters, Justices are sometimes appointed by the King’s Commission, for deciding this or that particular cause. ⌈And,Stat. 6 Ann’. c.23. since the late Union of the two Kingdoms, special Provision hath been made by Parliament, for the trying of Peers in North-Britain, for Treason, Murder and Felony, by Commission under the Great Seal of Great Britain, and in such manner as is usual upon Indictments taken before the Justices of Oyer and Terminer in South-Britain.⌉

Also, the SheriffsSheriffs. in their territories, and Magistrates in some Boroughs, may sit in judgment of Man-slaughter, in case the Man-slayer be apprehended in the space of 24 hours; and having found him guilty by a Jury, may put him to death. But if that time be laps’d, the cause is referred to the King’s Justice, or his Deputies. The same privilege also some of the Nobility and Gentry enjoy against Thieves, taken within their own Jurisdictions. There are those likewise, who have such Royalties, that in criminal Causes they exercise Jurisdiction within their own limits, and in some cases call those who dwell within their own Liberties, from before the King’s Justice; with this proviso, that they Judge according to Law.

These Matters (as having had but a transient view of them) I have just touched upon. What manner of Country Scotland is, and what Men it breedsPomponius Mela. (as of old that excellent Geographer writ of Britain) will in a little time more certainly and evidently be shown, since the * * K. James 1.greatest of Princes hath opened a passage to it, which had been so long shut up. In the mean time, I will proceed to the Places; which is a subject that I am more immediately concern’d in.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52