« ForrigeFortsett »
Navy,' has been generally overlooked. It would be strange indeed were these the only instances during a period of fifty years when minutes of the kind were made. Now a search among the archives of the Public Record Office reveals that there is an abundance of such material, not only of earlier date than anyone has stated, but also of later times, which have not been utilized. In view of their bearing upon the history of the council, it seems useful to give an account of these newly found manuscripts. They are of various kinds, corresponding to the different proceedings of the council.
The earliest and simplest form of record made by the council was in connection with the petitions, of which thousands were received. It is well known how suitors addressed petitions to the king and council seeking remedies which they could not obtain from the ordinary courts. The responses were made regularly upon the backs of the same strips of parchment, in words as few as possible. As the council did not usually try cases, the endorsements consisted of brief directions to the suitors, the judges, or the chancellor: to the effect that the parties should sue at common law, or in the chancery, that writs should be issued, that judgment be rendered, and the like. The response assumed greater length when a point of law had to be explained. Not that all of the numberless responses were actually made by the council, for there were hearers and triers of petitions appointed to do much of the work. But it is plain that even too much of the council's time was spent in the hearing of private petitions.
The function of the council in the way of receiving and answering petitions has been adequately described by the ablest writers. This much, however, it is necessary to recall as furnishing a clue to the council's proceedings in other matters, for the process of petition and response was followed in all kinds of business, public as well as private. It was in a manner analogous to that followed with the small private petitions, that the council was accustomed to deal with state questions submitted to it. The usual form in which matters for the consideration of the council were stated, consisted of a series of articles, each article being a distinct petition or proposition. A characteristic title upon one document of this kind reads, fait a remembrer des choses a monstreres au conseil nostre seigneur le Roi.' Such a document constituted a kind of agenda, which could be considered point by point. Upon the wide margins and between the paragraphs of such a parchment could be written the responses or decisions of the council to each point. In case the articles were accepted in their entirety the inscription was a simple matter.
· Nicolas, History of the Royal Navy, II, 188-192.
2 See Hale, Jurisdiction of the House of Lords ; Maitland, Memoranda of the Parliament of 1305; and Stubbs, Constitutional History, II. 275.
3 Parliamentary Proceedings, Chancery, file VII, no. The collection under this title in the Public Record Office is newly compiled, and contains much material, relating both to Parliament and to the council, which has not been available before.
It will illustrate a whole class of documents to describe one which belongs to the second year of Edward III. In this John Darcy lays before the council a series of petitions in sixteen articles, stating the conditions upon which he is willing to go to Ireland as chief justice. He asks that certain men whom he names be placed in office as his associates; that the chief justice have powers of supervision over other officers; that he have the power to pardon for felony; that no grants in Ireland be made without consulting the justice and others of the council there; that it be granted by statute that all Irishmen wishing to use English laws be permitted to do so without having to buy charters for the privilege. The answers of the council are inserted between the lines and in the margins in a handwriting clearly different from the former. Most of the propositions were accepted with some modification. Some of the names suggested were scratched out and others substituted. As to the granting of pardons, it was answered that it seemed better that the power should not be exercised without consulting the king. As to the Irish freely enjoying English law, the justice was to get the opinion of the next Irish parliament. Other items were accepted with a simple fiat. The decisions thus reached were put into execution on the authority of “king and council,” according to the attestations upon the letters of great seal that were forth with issued.
There is a document of the year 1311 which was one of a number coming from Gascony, perhaps having been drawn up in the king's council there, as others were. It consists of a series of articles, punctuated with the words, item intimandum est, item consilium est, etc., written in a provincial Latin strange to England. Most likely it was considered at the small council summoned at York for February 27, 1312, to confer on affairs of Aquitaine. The items in detail specify that the mayor and jurati of Bordeaux are increasing the taxes, that many officers commit excesses while the country is distracted by war, that commissioners with plenary powers should be appointed, that the castles of Bordeaux need repair, that in the law-cases pending in the court of the king of France subjects of the king of England should be treated fairly, and that for use in these cases evidence should be diligently sought for in the king's treasury. The responses of the council are written in a small cramped hand between the several paragraphs. Many of the questions were referred to the seneschal of Gascony, who was to act with the advice of the king's council of that part. Some of the answers are made with the additional confirmation,“ placet regi," while in some instances it was required, “ informetur rex.” As in other cases of the kind, the responses were the basis for executive orders, the appointment of a commission to Paris being upon the close roll of the same year in accordance with the Gascon petition.
i Upon one of the documents occurs the following marginal note in an unclerkly hand: ceux articles sont lues devant le Roi et le conseil et sont acordes en tous pointz. Parliamentary Proceedings, VII. 24.
2 Parliamentary Proceedings, VI. 10.
3 Calendar of Patent Rolls, 2 Edw. III., p. 316; Calendar of Close Rolls, p. 312.
* Diplomatic Documents, Chancery, p. 114. This is another file into which many of the council documents have fallen.
5 Parliamentary Writs, II. 71.
That the procedure which has been illustrated in the foregoing examples was followed in much the same way by the king's council of Gascony, there is evidence in a large document of the year 1320.2 It contains certain petitions from Agen and other towns asking for various franchises and for reforms in the Agenais. The articles from the towns having been first submitted to the seneschal and council of Gascony, received certain amendments at their hands, which are incorporated in the manuscript. In this form they were sent to England, where they were submitted to the council, the responses being inscribed in the usual manner. All the petitions were accepted but one, about which there was to be further deliberation.*
Considering the documents as respects their form, the result was different when at greater length responses to petitions were rendered upon separate parchments. Of the year 1334 there is a voluminous petition coming from the seneschal and council of Gascony to the king and council in England, consisting of twenty-nine articles relating to the aggressions of the king of France. A short inscription on one of the pages describes how the answers of the council were returned in a roll. “As touz les points q touchent les articles desuzditz est respondu en le point entre en un roule sur lordenance faite par le conseil sur les ditz articles et articles suauntz.” In this case, as in most others when the same method was followed, petitions and responses have been irrecoverably separated.'
* Calendar of Close Rolls, 6 Edw. II., p. 488. Chancery Miscellaneous Rolls, 5/16.
3 How the petitions were treated is told in the document itself. (Articulos) quos dominus Guillelmus de Monte Acuto quondam senescallus Vasconie una cum responsionibus dictorum articulorum et avisationibus per ipsum et vestrum consilium illarum partium inde factis vobis remisit, et quos post modum vos remisistis sub pede sigilli vestri senescallo Vasconie et mandastis observari nuper responses eis factas, etc.
* Postmodum exhibitis dictis articulis et diligenter examinatis visum est consilio quod poterunt confirmari salvo jure Regis excepto XX mo de quo deliberaretur.
5 Chancery Miscellaneous Rolls, 5/22.
Sometimes, in a way that was followed also with the private petitions, transcripts were made from the original membranes considered by the council. The distinguishing feature of the transcript is that both petitions and responses are in the same handwriting. While the original responses were often written in an irregular, unclerkly hand, the copies were made by a professional scribe. In these cases the entire manuscript is made by the council or by its direction. A good example of a state paper of this kind is one, dated March 24, 1318, which embodies a report from the bishop of Worcester which was sent to the council for its consideration. In a number of articles in the usual form it gives an account of certain judicial processes which were being drawn into the court of France, involving ministers and other subjects of the king of England in Aquitaine. Some of the recommendations of the bishop, who had been one of the king's proctors at the court of France regarding these cases, were that an effort should be made to have a joint commission appointed by the king of England and by the king of France to deal with the cases in dispute; that penalties imposed on the appellants should not be exacted provided they would withdraw their appeals; that in regard to certain cases request should be made for delay in the hope of a permanent peace.
Throughout the period under review the method described, of petition and response, was the most usual mode in council proceedings. In some ways it is the most satisfactory kind of record, for. it reveals more clearly than any other the steps by which the council came to its decisions. Better than any other does it distinguish the council from Parliament, for the process is totally different from anything shown in the records of Parliament. The document of petitions when completed with the responses was considered to be fully binding as an expression of the will of the king and council.
? There is a noteworthy set of responses sent to Gascony about the year 1314, bearing the endorsement, avisamenta consilii Regis super quibus petitur tangens Regi. (Diplomatic Documents, Chancery, p. 398.) There is a series of recommendations as to problems of Ireland, which contains no responses. (Parliamentary Proceedings, VII. 19.)
? It describes itself as follows. Dominus T. dei gratia Wigornensis episcopus liveravit Elie de Jonestone infrascriptos articulos portendos dicto domino Regi, cancellario, et thesaurario suis et ceteris de consilio ad quos pertinet super hiis consulere et remedia adhibere. Diplomatic Documents, Chancery, 250.
This was expressed with regard to a series of petitions received in the sixteenth year of Edward III. from the prelates and barons of Ireland. “The king ordained that these should be diligently examined by the council and answer made, to be written after each petition, and then the king commanded that the answers with the articles should have full force with the penalties contained therein."1 The petitions, with the answers and ordinances made thereupon, were then sent back to Ireland to be observed.2
The method of petition and response, however, was not the only method of council proceedings. A different, though not necessarily a more mature, form was observed when the things agreed to were recorded in the shape of minutes or resolutions, without reference to any petition or address. Such minutes containing recommendations, ordinances, or drafts of ordinances, were written always upon single and detached membranes, usually in a series of brief articles, as in the previous examples, with a preference for the less formal French language rather than the Latin, and are indicated by phrases like fait a remembrer que, accorde fust par le conseil, or avis est de conseil. In some cases the appearance of the writing suggests that the articles were put down at different times, as the decisions were made, and sometimes space is left for more.
It is remarkable that some of the earliest records of the council should be of this kind. Thus there is an ordinance, apparently of the ninth year of Edward I.—accorde est par le Roi e par sun conseil-protecting from legal liabilities those who were going on service to Wales. 3 Of the year 1299 there is a very clear record of an act, stated to be ordinatum per Regem et consilium suum, awarding sums of money to various Gascons who had lost their lands in the king's service. The document is remarkable in that it gives the names of the councillors, six in number, who were responsible for the measure. Of the same general form is an ordinance by the council, of the twenty-fourth year of Edward I., called "de statu religiosorum de potestate regis Franciae," which relates to alien priories, forbidding them to exist within thirteen miles of the sea or other navigable waters.5
In the first and second years of Edward II. there are some notable ordinances relating to the government of Scotland, directing appointments to offices, salaries, military equipment, and like matters. A
* Calendar of Close Rolls, 16 Edw. III., 508.