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The Peerage divides itself primarily into the two classes of Lords Spiritual and Temporal. Secondly, into such as in virtue of their peerages, have seats and votes in the Lords, or Upper House of Parliament; and those in whom the right of so sitting and voting is inherent, but is called into operation through the election of a certain number by their colleagues.
Thus the temporal and spiritual Peers of the realm of England all sit by virtue of their creation or consecration. The temporal Peers of Scotland have each a vote in the election of sixteen members of their body, to represent the whole during the continuance of each distinct parliament The temporal Peers of Ireland, immediately after the passing of the Act of Union, elected under its authority, in the same manner, but for life, twenty-eight representatives; and the right of election has subsequently been exercised to supply, from time to time, the deficiency created in the representation by death. The spiritual Peers of Ireland are represented in parliament, not by election, but by rotation; the two Archbishops sitting alternate years, and three Bishops in annual rotation.
Since the completion of the Imperial Parliament by these two Acts of Union, every newly-created Peer (except the new Peers of Ireland, of whom one is created under the Act on the extinction of three Irish Peerages) has been denouainated a Peer of the United Kingdom, and has the right of sitting inherent from his creation. Also the Peers of Great Britain created Subsequently to the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707, and prior to that between Great Britain and Ireland, in 1800, take their seats in the House of Lords in right of their creation. The several distinctions—namely, of the Peerage of England, of Great Britain, of the United Kingdom, of Scotland, and of Ireland— are noticed in this Work in describing the titles of each Peer, and also whether the present possessor of a Scotch or Irish Peerage is a representative in Parliament of his class.
The Imperial Peerage of Great Britain is hereditary, and in the nature of its inheritance follows the same mode of descent with the Crown, from which, as the fountain of all honour within the Empire, it emanates; but with this difference, that whereas, in the descent of the Crown, the rule of primogeniture obtains in both sexes, in that of a Peerage the heirship in females of the same degree is co-equal. But as the power which gives has also the unalienable right of limiting the gift, such course of inheritance prevails only where the grant of the Peerage is without limit, as in those titles which originate in a summons to Parliament without a patent of creation. But in modern times it is usual for the Crown, in granting this high honour, to do so by letterspatent under the Great Seal; which instrument of creation also points out the line of inheritance, and most commonly in the male heirs of the body of the first Grantee.
The following is the ceremony in use in admitting a Peer into the House of Lords. After the Peers have taken their seats, the Lord Chancellor being on the woolsack, Garter King at Arms, attired in his tabard, and bare-headed, comes into the House of Lords bearing the Patent, (if there be one,) and writ of summons of the Peer to be introduced; who tnen follows between two Peers of his own rank, attired in their Robes of Estate, and is led by them up to tne Lord Chancellor, to whom he makes obeisance; Garter then
presents the Patent and writ of summons to the Lord Chancellor, who directs the same to be read; this being done, the oaths are administered to the new Peer, and the Chancellor dismisses him to take his seat, to which he is directed by the two noblemen who introduce him, Garter leading the way. The writ is then delivered by the Lord Chancellor to the Clerk of the House, to be laid up. The new Peer forthwith rises from his seat and returns to the Lord Chancellor, who congratulates him on becoming a member of the House of Peers, or on his elevation to the dignity of the Peerage, as the case may be.
The Peers, by their privileges as a body, cannot be arrested and taken into custody, unless for an indictable offence; this being a privilege of Parliament, they hold it in common with the members of the Lower House, except that the privilege of a Commoner ceases within a limited period after the dissolution of Parliament, while that of a Peer is perpetual. Also to assault by violence a member of either House, or his menial servant, is a high contempt of Parliament, and would there be punished with severity.
Peers are not subject to make answer to questions from the Lower House of Parliament. As Peers of Parliament, they are entitled to vote by proxy; the proxy being always given to a Lord of Parliament, styled the Procurator, for his Principal; which Procurator must be a spiritual for a spiritual, a temporal for a temporal Lord. Each Peer may also, with leave of the House, enter his protest upon the journals, expressing his dissent from any vote that has passed the House, with his reasons for such dissent. All bills that may in their consequences any way affect the right of Peerage, are, by the custom of Parliament, to have their first rise and beginning in the House of Lords, and to suffer no changes or amendments in the House of Commons.
Another very ancient privilege of the Peerage, which now appears to have fallen into disuse, is declared by the Charter of the Forest, confirmed in Parliament, 9th Henry HI.; namely, that every Lord spiritual or temporal summoned to Parliament, and passing through the King's forests, may, both in going and returning, kill one or two of the King's deer without warrant, in view of the forester if he be present, or on blowing a horn if he be absent; that he may not seem to take the King's venison by stealth.
The very important privilege of franking letters, which till lately the Peers possessed in common with the members of the Lower House of Parliament, all have magnanimously abandoned, on behalf of the great boon conceded to the community at large by the New Postage Act.
The privileges above enumerated belong to the Peers in their capacity of Members of Parliament, they also possess others attached to their personal dignity.
In common with all the subjects of the realm, they can be tried only by their Peers; thus a Commoner is tried by a jury of Commoners, but a Lord of Parliament, when criminally arraigned—that is, in cases of felony, treason, or misprision of treason—has this especial privilege, that all his Peers are summoned to the trial, and he is acquitted or condemned by the verdict of the majority; which is given, not upon oath, as in the case of legal juries, but in the form, "Guilty—or, Not guilty—upon my honour;" pronounced by each Peer in his place, in answer to the question severally put by the Lord Steward, who presides in the Court, beginning with the youngest Baron, and proceeding to the first Duke or senior Prince of the Blood Royal. A Peer also answers to bills in Chancery upon his honour, and not upon his oath; but when he is examined as a witness cither in civil or criminal cases, or in the High Court of Parliament, he must be sworn. On all charges of misdemeanor, however, as libels, riots, perjury, conspiracy, &c, a Peer is tried, like a commoner, by a jury. But he cannot be bound over to keep the peace in any other place than the Courts of Queen's Bench and Chancery. And the honour of Peers is so highly tendered by the law, that it is much more penal to spread false reports of them, and certain other great