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The number of members admitted to the House of Com- Chapter 1. of the
os mons has varied considerably at different periods. In adat different dition to those boroughs which appear from the first to have
returned burgesses to Parliament, many others had that
privilege conferred upon them by charter, or by statute,
in succeeding reigns; while some were omitted by the
negligence or corruption of sheriffs, and others were dis-
charged from wbat they considered a heavy burthen—the Wages of expense of maintaining their members. In the time of members.
Edward III. 48. a day were allowed to a knight of the shire,
and 2s. to a citizen or burgess; and this charge was, in the
case of poor and small communities, too great an evil to be
compensated by the possible benefit of representation. In
the reign of Henry VI., there were not more than 300
members of the House of Commons, being about 25 more
than in the reign of Edward I., and 50 more than in the
reign of Edward III. The legislature added 27 for Wales, 2
and four for the county and city of Chester, 3 in the reign of
Henry VIII., and four for the county and city of Durham,
in the reign of Charles II. ;4 while 180 new members were
added by royal charter between the reigns of Henry VIII.
and Charles II.5
Union of Forty-five members were assigned to Scotland, as her pro- y
portion of members in the British Parliament, on the union
of that kingdom with England; and one hundred to Ireland
at the commencement of the nineteenth century, when her
Parliament became incorporated with that of the United
Kingdom. By these successive additions the number was
increased to 658; and notwithstanding the changes effected
in the distribution of the elective franchise by the Reform
Acts in 1832, that number continued unaltered, except by
the disfranchisement of certain cities and boroughs for cor-
ruption, until the year 1885, when the number of the house
was raised to 670 by the operation of the Redistribution of
Seats Act, 1885 (see p. 24).
Chapter I. The object of the English Reform Act of 1832, as stated the reprein the preamble, was to correct divers abuses that had long se
o thothed long sentation
prevailed in the choice of members. The right of returning and Wales.
members was taken from many inconsiderable places, and
granted to large, populous, and wealthy towns. The number
of knights of the shire was increased, and the elective fran-
chise was considerably extended. To effect these changes, 56
boroughs in England and Wales were entirely disfranchised,
and 30, which had previously returned two members, were
restricted to one member ; while 42 new boroughs were
created, of which 22 were each to return two members, and
20 a single member. Several small boroughs in Wales
were united for the purpose of contributing to return a
The result of these and other local arrangements, which
it is not necessary to describe, was that the two universities
and the several cities and boroughs contributed 341 citizens.
and burgesses for England and Wales.
By the Reform Act of 1867, the boroughs of Totnes,
Reigate, Yarmouth, and Lancaster were disfranchised; 38
boroughs previously returning two members were reduced to
one. Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Leeds each
received a third member; Merthyr Tydfil and Salford each
a second member; the Tower Hamlets were divided into
two boroughs, each returning two members; 10 new
boroughs were created, of which Chelsea returned two
members, and every other borough one only. By these
arrangements the representatives for boroughs were reduced
by 26; and the University of London became entitled to
return one member. But before this Act came into opera-
tion, seven English boroughs, viz. Arundel, Ashburton,
Dartmouth, Honiton, Lyme Regis, Thetford, and Wells,
were disfranchised by the Scotch Reform Act of 1868, and
the seats added to Scotland. Several of the counties were
divided, by the Reform Act of 1832, into electoral districts
or divisions, by which the number of knights of the shire
was increased to 162; and by the Act of 1867, 13 counties
were further divided, and received an addition of 25
members. By the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, the Chapter I.
representation of England and Wales was subjected to
the following rearrangement : 53 counties, in 253 divisions,
return 253 members; 143 cities and boroughs, in 215
divisions, return 237 members; 3 universities return 5
members ; making a total number of 495 for England and
The number of members for Scotland was increased by
the Scotch Reform Act of 18321 from 45 to 53; 30 of whom
were commissioners of shires, and 23 commissioners of
burghs, representing towns, burghs, or districts of small
burghs. By the Reform Act of 1868, the number of
members for Scotland was increased to 60 ; three new
members being given to shires, two to the universities, and
two to cities and burghs; and under the Act of 1885 Scot-
land returns for 34 counties, in 39 divisions, 39 members;
for 7 cities and towns, 18 members ; for 13 districts of
burghs, 13 members; for 4 universities, 2 members ; making
a total number of 72 members for Scotland.
By the Irish Reform Act of 1832,2 the number of representatives for Ireland in the Imperial Parliament was increased from 100 to 105 ; 64 being for counties, 39 for cities and boroughs, and two for the University of Dublin. By the Irish Reform Act of 1868, no change was made in the number of members representing that part of the United Kingdom, nor in the distribution of seats : but the two disfranchised boroughs of Sligo and Cashel were left without representation; and under the Act of 1885 Ireland returns for 32 counties, 85 members; for 9 cities and boroughs, 16 members; for 1 university, 2 members ; making a total number of 103 members for Ireland.
The classes of persons by whom these representatives are elected may be described, generally, in few words, if the legal questions connected with the franchise, which are both numerous and intricate, be avoided. To begin with the English counties. Before the 8th Henry VI. all freeholders or suitors present at the county courts had a right
Chapter I. to vote (or, as is affirmed by some, all freemen): but by a
statute passed in that year (c. 7), the right was limited to
“people dwelling and resident in the same counties, whereof
every one of them shall have free land or tenement to the
value of 40s. by the year, at the least, above all charges."
By the Reform Act of 1832 this franchise of a 40s, freehold
of inheritance was not disturbed : but limitations were
imposed upon freehold tenures for life. No person, if not
seised at the passing of the Act, was entitled to vote in
respect of such tenures, unless he was in bonâ fide occupa-
tion of lands and tenements, or unless they came to him by
marriage, marriage-settlement, devise, or promotion to any
benefice or office, or unless they were of the clear yearly
value of 101., which value was reduced to 51. by the Reform
Act of 1867. Copyholders having an estate of 101. a year;
leaseholders of land of that value whose leases were origin-
ally granted for 60 years; leaseholders of 501., with 20 years'
leases; and tenants-at-will occupying lands or tenements
paying a rent of not less than 501. a year, had the right of
voting conferred upon them by the Reform Act of 1832;
and the Act of 1867 reduced the franchise of copyholders
and leaseholders from 101. to 51., and the occupation fran-
chise from 501. to 121.
In cities and boroughs the right of voting formerly varied Of cities
according to the ancient custom prevailing in each. With boroughs.
certain modifications, some of these ancient rights were re-
tained by the Reform Act of 1832, as that of freemen, and
other corporate qualifications : but all occupiers of houses of
the clear yearly value of 101. were enfranchised by that Act.
The Reform Act of 1867 extended the borough franchise to
all occupiers of dwelling-houses? who have resided for
twelve months on the 31st July, in any year, and have been
rated to the poor rates as ordinary occupiers, and have, on
or before the 20th July, paid such rates up to the preceding
5th January,” and to lodgers who have occupied, for the
" Dwelling - house defined and (House Occupiers' Disqualification,
15th July substituted for 31st July England and Scotland).
by 41 & 42 Vict. c. 26, ss. 5. 7; ? 30 & 31 Vict. c. 102, s. 3.
and see 41 & 42 Vict. cc. 3 & 5
same period, lodgings of the annual value, unfurnished, Chapter I.
of 101. By the 32 & 33 Vict. c. 41, owners may pay the
rates upon houses under 201., without disqualifying the
occupier; and vestries may rate the owner instead of the
In Scot- The Scotch Reform Act of 1832 reserved the rights of
all persons then on the roll of freeholders of any shire, or
who were entitled to be put upon it, and extended the
franchise to all owners of property of the clear yearly value
of 101., and to certain classes of leaseholders. In cities,
towns, and burghs, the Act substituted a 101. household
franchise for the system of electing members by the town
councils, which had previously existed. By the Scotch
Reform Act of 1868, the county franchise was extended to
owners of land and heritages of 51. yearly value, and to
occupiers of the rateable value of 141.; and the borough
franchise to all occupiers of dwelling-houses paying their
rates; and to tenants of lodgings of 101. clear annual value,
In Ireland. In Ireland various classes of freeholders and leaseholders
were invested with the county franchise, by the Reform
Act of 1832, to whom were added, by the 13 & 14 Vict.
c. 69, occupiers of land, rated for the poor rate at a net
annual value of 121. ; and persons entitled to estates in fee,
or in tail, or for life, of the rated value of 5l. And by the
latter Act, in addition to the borough constituency under
the Reform Act, the occupiers of lands or premises rated at
81. were entitled to vote for cities and boroughs. By the
Irish Reform Act of 1868, the borough franchise was
extended to occupiers of houses rated at 41., and of lodgings
of the annual value of 101. unfurnished. No change was
made in the qualification of county voters.
By the Representation of the People Act, 1884, 48 Vict.
c. 3, a uniform household franchise, and a uniform lodger
franchise are established in all counties and boroughs
throughout the United Kingdom. The franchise is also
extended to those who inhabit dwelling-houses by virtue
· Lodgings more fully defined by 41 & 42 Vict. c. 26, ss. 5. 6.