CONSTITUTION, POWERS, AND PRIVILEGES
TMeof THB CONSTITUENT PARTS OF PARLIAMENT.
JuctionT The present constitution of Parliament has been tbe growth introduc-
of many centuries. Its origin and early history, though bilks'
obscured by the remoteness of tbe times, and the imperfect
records of a dark period in the annals of Europe, have been
traced back to tbe free councils of our Saxon ancestors.
The popular character of these institutions was subverted,
for a time, by the Norman Conquest: but the people of
^England were still Saxons by birth, in language, and in
spirit, and gradually recovered their ancient share in the
councils of the State. Step by step the Legislature has
assumed its present form and character; and after many
changes, its constitution is now defined by—
"The clear and written law,—the deep-trod footmarks
Of ancient custom."
No historical inquiry has greater attractions than that which
follows the progress of the British Constitution from the
earliest times, and notes its successive changes and develop-
ment: but the immediate object of this work is to display
Parliament in its present form, and to describe its various
operations under existing laws and custom. For Ibis
purpose the history of the past will be adverted to: but
more for the explanation of modern usage than on account
of the interest of the inquiry itself. Apart from the im-
mediate functions of Parliament, the general constitution of
the British Government is not within the design of this