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PARLEMENT (see PARLIAMENT)

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Originally appearing in Volume V20, Page 835 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PARLEMENT (see PARLIAMENT), in O. Fr. the name given to any meeting for discussion or debate (parler, to speak), a sense in which it was still used by Joinville, but from the latter half of the 13th century employed in France in a special sense to designate the sessions of the royal court (curia regis). Finally, when the Parlement of Paris had become a permanent court of justice, having the supreme authority in cases brought before it, and especially in appeals against the sentences of the baillis and seneschals, it retained this name, which was also given to the other supreme courts of the same nature which were created after its model in the provinces. The early Capetians had a custom, based upon ancient precedents, of summoning periodically to their court their principal vassals and the prelates of their kingdom. These gatherings took place on the occasion of one of the great festivals of the year, in the town in which the king was then in residence. Here they deliberated upon political matters and the vassals and prelates gave the king their advice. But the monarch also gave judgment here in those cases which were brought before him. These were few in number during the early days of the XX. 27Capetian dynasty; for though the king always maintained the principle that he was judge, and even that his competence in this respect was general and unlimited, this competence was at the same time undefined and it was not compulsory to submit cases to the king. At this period, too, appeals, strictly so called, did not exist. Nevertheless when a ' suit was brought before the king he judged it with the assistance of his prelates and vassals assembled around him, who formed his council. This was the curia regis. But in law the king was sole judge, the vassals and prelates being only advisers. During the 12th and at the beginning of the 13th centuries the curia regis continued to discharge these functions, except that its importance and actual competence continued to increase, and that we frequently find in it, in addition to the vassals and prelates who formed the council, consiliarii, who are evidently men whom the king had in his entourage, as his ordinary and professional councillors. Under the reign of St Louis (which was also the period at which the name parlement began to be applied to these judicial sessions) the aspect of affairs changed. The judicial competence of the Parlement developed and became more clearly defined; the system of appeals came into existence, and appeals against the judgments of-the baillis and seneschals were brought before it; cases concerning the royal towns, the bonnes villes, were also decided by it. Again, in the old registers of the Parlement at this period, the first Olim books, we see the names of the same councillors recurring from session to session. This suggests that a sufficient number of councillors was assured beforehand, and a list drawn up for each session; the vassals and prelates still figuring as a complementary body at the council. Next came the series of ordinances regulating the tenure of the Parlement, those of 1278, 1291, 1296 and 1308, and the institution was regularized. Not only were the persons who were to constitute each Parlement named in advance, but those who were not placed on this list, even though vassals or prelates, were excluded from judging cases. The royal baillis had to attend the Parlement, in order to answer for their judgments, and at an early date was fixed the order of the different bailliages, in which the cases coming from them were heard. The baillis, when not interested in the case, formed part of the council, but were afterwards excluded from it. Before the middle of the 14th century the personnel of the Parlement, both presidents and councillors, became fixed de facto if not de jure. Every year a list was drawn up of those who were to hold the session, and although this list was annual, it contains the same names year after year; they are as yet, however, only annual commissaries (commissaires). In 1344 they became officials (officiers) fixed but not yet irremovable. At the same time the Parlement had become permanent; the number of the sessions had diminished, but their length had increased. In the course of the 14th century it became the rule for the Parlement to sit from Martinmas (Nov. II) till the end of May; later the session was prolonged till the middle of August, the rest of the year forming the vacation. The Parlement had also become fixed at Paris, and, by a development which goes back to fairly early times, the presidents and councillors, instead of being merely the king's advisers, had acquired certain powers, though these were conferred by the monarch; they were, in fact, true magistrates. The king held his court in person less and less often, and it pronounced its decrees in his absence; we even find him pleading his cause before it as plaintiff or defendant. In the 14th century, however, we still find the Parlement referring delicate affairs to the king; but in the 15th century it had acquired a jurisdiction independent in principle. As to its composition, it continued to preserve one notable feature which recalled its origin. It had originally been an assembly of lay vassals and prelates; when its composition became fixed and consisted of councillor-magistrates, a certain number of these offices were necessarily occupied by laymen, and others by ecclesiastics, the conseillers lais and the canseillers clercs. The Parlement was at the same time the court of peers (tour des pairs). This had as its origin the old principle according Ti to which every vassal had the right to be tried by his peers, i.e. by the vassals holding fiefs from the same lord, who sat in judgment with that lord as their president. This, it is well known, resulted in the formation of the ancient college of the peers of France, which consisted of six laymen and six ecclesiastics. But although in strict logic the feudal causes concerning them should have been judged by them alone, they could not maintain this right in the curia regis; the other persons sitting in it could also take part in judging causes which concerned the peers. Finally the peers of France, the number of whom was increased in course of time by fresh royal creations of peerages, became ex officio members of the Parlement; they were the hereditary councillors, taking the oath as official magistrates, and, if they wished, sitting and having a deliberative function in the Parlement. In suits brought against them personally or involving the rights of their peerage they had the right of being judged by the Parlement, the other peers being present, or having been duly summoned. While maintaining its unity, the Parlement had been sub-divided into several chambres or sections. In the first place there was the Grand Chambre, which represented the primitive Parlement. To it was reserved the judgment in certain important cases, and in it a peculiar procedure was followed, known as oral, though it admitted certain written documents. Even after the offices of the Parlement had become legally saleable the councillors could only pass from the other chambers into the Grand Chambre by order of seniority. The Chambres des enquetes and des requeetes originated at the time when it became customary to draw up lists for each session of the Parlement. The enqueteurs or auditeurs of the Parlement had at first been an auxiliary staff of clerks to whom were entrusted the inquests ordered by the Parlement. But later, when the institution of the appeal was fully developed, and the procedure before the carious jurisdictions became a highly technical matter, above all when it admitted written evidence, the documents connected with other inquests also came before the Parlement. A new form of appeal grew up side by side with the older form, which had been mainly an oral procedure, namely the appeal by writing (appel par ecrit). In order to judge these new appeals the Parlement had above all to study written documents, the inquests which had been made and written down under the jurisdiction of the court of first instance. The duty of the enqueteurs was to make an abstract of the written documents and report on them. Later the reporters (rapporteurs) were admitted to judge these questions together with a certain number of members of the Parlement, and from 1316 onwards these two kinds of member formed together a chambre des enquetes. As yet, no doubt, the rapporteur only gave his opinion on the case which he had prepared, but after 1336 all those who formed part of the chamber were put on the same footing, taking it in turn to report and giving judgment as a whole. For a long time, however, the Grand Chambre received all cases, then sent them to the Chambre des enquetes with directions; before it too were argued questions arising out of the inquiry made by the Chambre des enquetes, to the decisions of which it gave effect and which it had the power to revise. But one by one it lost all these rights, and in the 16th century they are no longer heard of. Several Chambres des enquetes were created after the first one, and it was they who had the greater part of the work. The Chambre des requeles was of an entirely different nature. At the beginning of the 14th century a certain number of tl ose who were to hold the session of the Parlement were set apart to receive and judge the petitions (requeetes) on judicial questions which had been presented to the king and not yet dealt with. This eventually led to the formation of a chamber, in the strict sense of the word, the Requeetes du palais. But this became purely a jurisdiction for privileged persons; before it (or before the Requetes de l'hotel, as the case might be) were brought the civil suits of those who enjoyed the right of Committimus. The Chambre des requetes had not supreme jurisdiction, but appeals from its decisions could be made to the Parlement proper. The Parlement had also a criminal chamber, that of La Tournelle, which was not legally created until the 16th century, but was active long before then. It had no definite member-ship, but the conseillers lais served in it in turn. Originally there was only one Parlement, that of Paris, as was indeed logical, considering that the Parlement was simply a continuation of the curia regis, which, like the king, could only be one. But the exigencies of the administration of justice led to the successive creation of a certain number of provincial parlements. Their creation, moreover, was generally dictated by political circumstances, after the incorporation of a province in the domain of the Crown. Sometimes it was a question of a province which, before its annexation, possessed a superior and sovereign jurisdiction of its own, and to which it was desired to preserve this advantage. Or else it might be a province forming part of feudal France, which before the annexation had had a superior jurisdiction from which the Crown had endeavoured to institute an appeal to the Parlement of Paris, but for which after the annexation it was no longer necessary to maintain this appeal, so that the province might now be given a supreme court, a parlement. Sometimes an intermediate regime was set up between the annexation of the province and the creation of its provincial patlement, under which delegates from the Parlement of Paris went and held assizes there. Thus were created successively the parlements of Toulouse, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Dijon, Rouen, Aix, Rennes, Pau, Metz, Douai, Besancon and Nancy. From 1762 to 1771 there was even a parlement for the principality of Dombes. The provincial parlements reproduced in a smaller scale the organization of that of Paris; but they did not combine the functions of a court of peers. They each claimed to possess equal powers within their own province. There were also great judicial bodies exercising the same functions as the parlements, though without bearing the name, such as the Conseil souverain of Alsace at Colmar, the Conseil superieur of Roussillon at Perpignan; the provincial council of Artois had not the supreme jurisdiction in all respects. The parlements, besides their judicial functions, also possessed political lights; they claimed a share in the higher policy of the realm, and the position of guardians of its fundamental laws. In general the laws did not come into effect within their province until they had been registered by the parlements. This was the method of promulgation admitted by the ancient law of France, but the parlements verified the laws before registering them, i.e. they examined them to see whether they were in conformity with the principles of law and justice) and with the interests of the king and his subjects; if they considered that this was not the case they refused their registration and addressed remonstrances (remontrances) to the king. In acting thus they were merely conforming to the duty of counselling (devoir de conseil) which all the superior authorities had towards the king, and the text of the ordinances (ordonnances) had often invited them to do so. It was natural, however, that in the end the royal will should seek to impose itself. In order to enforce the registration of edicts the king would send lettres de cachet, known as lettres de jussion, which were not, however, always obeyed. Or he could come in person to hold the parlement, and have the law registered in his presence in a lit de justice. This was explained in theory by the principle that if the king himself held his court, it lost, by the fact of his presence, all the authority which he had delegated to it; for the moment the only authority existing in it was that of the king, just as in the ancient curia regis there was the principle that apparente rege cessat magistratus. But, principally in the 18th century, the parlements maintained that only a voluntary registration, by the consent of the parlement, was valid. The parlements had also a wide power of administration. They could make regulations (pouvoir reglementaire) having the force of law within their province, upon all points not settled by law, when the matter with which they dealt fell within their judicial competence, and for this it was only necessary that their interference in the matter was not forbidden by law. These were what were called arrete de reglemenl. 835 election of its own members, and their right to sit and vote in parliament. This right, however, has been greatly abridged, as, in 1868, the trial of controverted elections was transferred to the courts of law; but its jurisdiction in matters of election, not otherwise provided for by statute, is still retained intact. As part of this jurisdiction the house directs the Speaker to issue warrants to the clerk of the Crown to make out new writs for the election of members to fill up such vacancies as occur during the sitting of parliament. Privileges of Parliament.—Both houses are in the enjoyment of certain privileges, designed to maintain their authority, independence and dignity. These privileges are founded mainly upon the law and custom of parliament, while some have been confirmed, and others abridged or abrogated by statute. The Lords rely entirely upon their inherent right, as having " a place and voice in parliament ": but, by a custom dating from the 6th Henry VIII., the Commons lay claim, by humble petition to the Crown at the commencement of every parliament, " to their ancient and undoubted rights and privileges." Each house has its separate rights and jurisdictions; but privileges properly so-called, being founded upon the law and custom of parliament, are common to both houses. Each house adjddges whether any breach of privilege has been committed, and punishes offenders by censure or commitment. This right of commitment is incontestably established, and it extends to the protection of officers of the house, lawfully and properly executing its orders, who are also empowered to call in the assistance of the civil power. The causes of such commitments cannot be inquired into by courts of law, nor can prisoners be admitted to bail. Breaches of privilege may be summarized as disobedience to any orders or rules of the house, indignities offered to its character or proceedings, assaults, insults, or libels upon members, or interference with officers of the house in discharge of their duty, or tampering with witnesses. Such offences are dealt with as ccntempts, according to the circumstances of the respective cases, of which numerous precedents are to be found in the journals of both houses. The Lords may imprison for a fixed period, and impose fines; the Commons can only imprison generally, the commitment being concluded by the prorogation, and have long discontinued the imposition of fines. Freedom of speech has been one of the most cherished privileges of parliament from early times. Constantly asserted, and often violated, it was finally declared by the Bill of Rights " that the freedom of speech, and debates and proceedings in parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament." Such a privilege is essential to the independence of parliament, and to the protection of members in discharge of their duties. But, while it protects members from molestation else-where, it leaves them open to censure or other punishment by the house itself, whenever they abuse their privilege and transgress the rules of orderly debate. Freedom from arrest is a privilege of the highest antiquity. It was formerly of extended scope, but has been reduced, by later legislation, within very narrow limits. Formerly not only the persons of members but their goods were protected, and their privilege extended to their servants. At present members are themselves free from arrest, but otherwise they are liable to all the processes of the courts. If arrested, they will be immediately discharged, upon motion in the court whence the process issued. Peers and peeresses are, by the privilege of peerage, free from arrest at all times. Members of the House of Commons are free only for forty days after prorogation and forty days before the next appointed meeting; but prorogations are so arranged as to ensure a continuance of the privilege. Formerly, even suits against, members were stayed, but this offensive privilege has been abolished by statute. Exemption from attending as witnesses upon subpoena, once an acknowledged privilege, is no longer insisted upon; but immunity from service upon juries is at once an ancient privilege and a statutory right. The privilege of freedom from arrest is limited to civil causes, and has not been suffered to exempt members from the operation of the criminal law, nor even from commitments for contempt by other courts. But, whenever the freedom of a member is so interfered with, the courts are required immediately to inform the house of the causes of his commitment. Witnesses, suitors, counsel and agents in attendance upon parliament are protected from arrest and molestation, and from the consequences of statements made by them, or other proceedings in the conduct of their cases. As both houses, in enforcing their privileges, are obliged to commit offenders or otherwise interfere with the liberty of the subject, the exercise of these privileges has naturally been called in question before the courts. Each house is the sole judge of its own privileges; but the courts are bound to administer the law, and, where law and privilege have seemed to be at variance, a conflict of jurisdiction has arisen between parliament and the courts. Many interesting controversies have arisen upon such occasions; but of late years privilege has been carefully restrained within the TATION); but the term has long been used for the deputies them- proper limits of the law, and the courts have amply recognized selves collectively. the authority of parliament. By this means the parlements took part in the administration, except in matters the cognisance of which was attributed to another supreme court as that of taxation was to the tours des aides, They could also, within the same limits, address injunctions (injunctions) to officials and individuals. See La Roche-Flavin, Treize limes des parlements de France (1617); Felix Aubert, Histoire du parlement de Paris, des origines a Francois I. (2 vols., 1894) ; Ch. V. Langlois, Textes relatifs a l'histoire du parlement depuis les origins jusqu'en 1314 (1888) ; Guilhiermoz, Enquetes et peaces (1892) ; Glasson, Le Parlement de Paris, son role politique depuis le regne de Charles VII. .usqu'a la revolution (2 vols., 19o1). (J. P. E.)
End of Article: PARLEMENT (see PARLIAMENT)
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