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Chapter In giving judgment upon the case of Bradlaugh r. Gosset, Bradlaugh -_ Mr. Justice Stephen affirmed the principle that the House

of Commons has the exclusive power of interpreting a

statute, “ so far as the regulation of its own proceedings Se: a’so within its own walls is concerned; and that even if that Attorney : general v. interpretation should be erroneous, this court has no power

augh, to interfere with it directly or indirectly.” He moreover p. 167.

stated that “a resolution of the house, permitting Mr.
Bradlaugh to take his seat on making a statutory declara-
tion, would certainly never have been interfered with by
this court," and that “ if we had been moved to declare it
void, and to restrain Mr. Bradlaugh from taking his seat
until he had taken the oath, we should undoubtedly have
refused to do so." The judge, however, declared that “on
the other hand, if the house had resolved ever so decidedly
that Mr. Bradlaugh was entitled to make the statutory
declaration instead of taking the oath, and bad attempted
by resolution or otherwise to protect him against an action
for penalties, it would have been our duty to disregard such
a resolution, and if an action for penalties were brought, to
hear and determine it according to our own interpretation
of the statute ” 1 (see also p. 145).
With these conflicting opinions as to the limits of parlia- Judgments

* ailverse to
mentary privilege, and the jurisdiction of courts of law, if claims of
either house of Parliament insist upon precluding other"
courts from inquiring into matters which are held to be
within its own jurisdiction, the proper mode of effecting
that object, is the next point to be determined. If the
courts were willing to adopt the resolutions of the house as
their guide, the course would be clear. The authority and
adjudication of the house would be pleaded, and the courts,
acting ministerially, would at once give effect to them. But

Stockdale v. Hansard, and Howard v. Gosset, pp. 169. 174. 188; Argu. ments and Judgment, as printed by the House of Commons, 1845 (305), p. 105.

1 12 Q. B. D. 280. See also the judge's opinion upholding the juris. diction of the courts over a criminal

act committed within the walls of Parliament, ib. 283, the remarks of Lord Ellenborough in Burdett v. Abbott, East, 128, and argument in the House of Lords (1668) in case of Sir John Eliot and others, 1 Lives of the Norths, 66.

VI.

if the court regards a question of privilege as any other Chapter
point of law, and assume to define the jurisdiction of the
house,-in what manner, and at what point, can their ad-
verse judgments be prevented, overruled, or resisted ? The
several modes that have been attempted, will appear from
the following cases : but it must be premised that when a
privilege of the Commons is disputed, that house labours
under a peculiar embarrassment. If the courts admit or
deny the right of the privilege, their decisions are liable to be
reversed by the House of Lords; and thus, contrary to the
law of Parliament, one house would be constituted a judge
of the privileges claimed by the other. With these per-
plexities before them, it is not surprising that the Commons
should frequently have viewed all legal proceedings, in
derogation of their authority, as a breach of privilege and
contempt. They have restrained suitors and their counsel
by prohibition and punishment, they have imprisoned the
judges, they have coerced the sheriff: but still the law
has taken its course.

Having opened the principles of the controversy respect-
ing parliamentary jurisdiction, it is time to proceed with a
narrative of the most important cases in which the privileges

of Parliament have been called in question.
Case of Sir Sir William Williams, Speaker of the House of Commons,
W. Wil

in the reigns of Charles II. and James II., had printed and
published, by order of the house, a paper well known in the
histories of that time as Dangerfield's Narrative. This paper
contained reflections upon the Duke of York, afterwards
James II., and an information for libel was filed against the
Speaker, by the attorney-general, in 1684. He pleaded to
the jurisdiction of the court, that as the paper had been
signed by him, as Speaker, by order of the House of Com-
mons, the Court of King's Bench had no jurisdiction over
the matter. On demurrer, this plea was overruled, and a
plea in bar was afterwards made, but withdrawn; his plea,
that the order of the house was a justification, was set aside
by the court, without argument, as “an idle and insignificant
plea ;” and he was fined 10,0001. Two thousand pounds of

liams.

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Chapter this fine were remitted by the king, but the rest he was

obliged to pay. The Commons were indignant at this con-
tempt of their authority, and declared the judgment to be
an illegal judgment and against the freedom of Parlia-
ment. It was also included in the general condemnation
by the Bill of Rights, of "prosecutions in the Court of
King's Bench for matters and causes cognizable only in
Parliament.” 1

The next important case is that of Jay 1. Topham, in 1689. Jay r. Top-
After a dissolution of Parliament, an action was brought in "am.
the Court of King's Bench against John Topham, Esq.,
Serjeant-at-arms, for executing the orders of the house in
arresting certain persons. Mr. Topham pleaded to the juris-
diction of the court the said orders: but his plea was over-
ruled, and judgment given against him. The house declared
this judgment to be a breach of privilege, and committed Sir
F. Pemberton and Sir T. Jones, who had been the judges in
the cause, to the custody of the Serjeant-at-arms.

They had protested, in their examination, that they had not questioned the legality of the orders of the house, but had overruled, on technical grounds, the plea to the jurisdiction. They averred also, that if there had been a plea in bar, the defendant would have been entitled to a judgment. Assuming the truth of their statements, it has been generally acknowledged that these proceedings against thejudges were liable to great objection. Lord Ellenborough said, that it was surprising “how a judge should have been questioned, and committed to prison by the House of Commons, for having given a judgment which no other judge who ever sat in his place could have differed from." And Lord Denman, in Stockdale v. Hansard, said that this judgment was righteous, and that the judges“ vindicated their conduct by unanswerable reasoning;” and again, in Howard v. Gosset, he called the commitment of these judges "a flagrant abuse of privilege:" but, on the other hand, Lord Campbell has pointed out that there had been a plea in bar, which had

1 12th July, 1689, 10 C. J. 146. 177. 205. 215; 2 Shower, 471 ; 13

Howell, St. Tr. 1370.

VI

White.

been overruled, as stated in the petition of Topham to the Chapter House of Commons, and that the authority of that house

had, in fact, been questioned by the judges.
Ashby and The remarkable cases of Ashby and White, and the Ayles-

bury men, in 1704, are next worthy of a passing notice.
They have been already mentioned (p. 52), with reference
to the right of determining elections : but they must again
be cited, to point out the course adopted by the Commons
to stay actions derogatory to their privileges. Enraged by
a judgment of the House of Lords, which held that electors
had a right to bring actions against returning officers, touch-
ing their right of voting, the Commons declared that who-
ever shall presume to commence or to prosecute such an
action, was guilty of a breach of privilege. In spite of this
declaration, five burgesses of Aylesbury, commonly known
as “the Aylesbury men," commenced actions against the
constables of their borough, for not allowing their votes.
The House of Commons obtained copies of the declarations,
and resolved that the parties were "guilty of commencing
and prosecuting actions ... in breach of the known privi-
leges of this house :” for which offence, the parties and
their attorney were committed to Newgate. Thence they
endeavoured to obtain their release by writs of habeas corpus,
but without success; and the counsel who had pleaded for
the prisoners, on the return of the writs, were committed to
the custody of the Serjeant-at-arms. The Lords took part
with the Aylesbury men against the Commons; and after a
tumultuous session, occupied with addresses, conferences,
and resolutions upon privilege, the queen prorogucd the
Parliament.

At a later period a series of cases arose, in which the
authority of the House of Commons, and the acts of its
officers, were questioned. They have caused so much con-
troversy, and have been so fully debated and canvassed,
that nothing is needed but a succinct statement of the

? 10 C. J. 104. 227 ; 12 Howell, 76. 149; 2 Lives of the Ch. Justices,
St. Tr. 829. 831; Stockdale 1. 57; 2 Nelson's Abridg. 1248.
Hansard, Proceedings as printed by ? 11 C. J. 444. 445. 552.
the House of Commons, 1839 (283),

VI

. Hunsard.

Chapter proceedings, and a commentary upon the present position

of parliamentary privilege and jurisdiction.
Messrs. Hansard, the printers of the House of Commons, Printed

papers;
had printed, by order of that house, the reports of the in- Stockdale
spectors of prisons, in one of which a book published by'
John Joseph Stockdale was described in a manner which
he conceived to be libellous. He brought an action against
Messrs. Hansard, during the recess in 1836, who pleaded
the general issue, and proved the order of the house to print
the report. This order, however, was held to be no defence
to the action : but Stockdale had a verdict against him upon
a plea of justification, as the jury considered the description
of the work in question to be accurate. On that occasion
Lord Chief Justice Denman, who tried the cause, made a
declaration adverse to the privileges of the house, which
Messrs. Hansard had set up as part of their defence. In his
direction to the jury, his lordship said “ that the fact of the
House of Commons having directed Messrs. Hansard to
publish all their parliamentary reports is no justification for
them, or for any bookseller who publishes a parliamentary
report containing a libel against any man.” In consequence
of these proceedings, a committee was appointed, in 1837,
to ascertain the law and practice of Parliament in reference
to the publication of papers, printed by order of the house.
The result of these inquiries was the passing of resolutions
by the house, declaring that the publication of parliamentary
reports, votes, and proceedings was an essential incident to
the constitutional functions of Parliament; that the house
Lad sole and exclusive jurisdiction to determine upon the
existence and extent of its privileges; that to dispute those
privileges by legal proceedings was a breach of privilege ;
and that for any court to assume to decide upon matters of
privilege inconsistent with the determination of either
house of Parliament was contrary to the law of Parliament.

Stockdale, however, immediately commenced another action, and the house, instead of acting upon its resolutions, directed Messrs. Hansard to plead, and the attorney-general

1 92 C. J. 418.

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