Reply of the House of Commons to King James I

Chapter 20


Most Gracious Sovereign:
With all humble and due respect to your Majesty, our sovereign lord and head, against these misinformations we most truly avouch, first, that our privileges and liberties are our right and due inheritance, no less than our very lands and goods. Secondly, that they cannot be withheld from us, denied, or impaired, but with apparent wrong to the whole state of the realm. Thirdly, that our making of request in the entrance of parliament to enjoy our privilege is an act only of manners, and doth weaken our right no more than our suing to the king for our lands by petition, which form, though new and more decent than the old by praecipe, yet the subject's right is no less than of old. Fourthly, we avouch also that our House is a court of record, and so ever esteemed. Fifthly, that there is not the highest standing court in this land that ought to enter into competency either for dignity or authority with this high court of parliament, which with your Majesty's royal assent gives laws to other courts, but from other courts receives neither laws or orders.

Sixthly, and lastly, we avouch that the House of Commons is the sole proper judge of return of all such writs, and of the election of all such members as belong unto it, without which the freedom of election were not entire; and that the chancery, though a standing court under your majesty, be to send out those writs and receive the returns and to preserve them, yet the same is done only for the use of the parliament; over which neither the chancery nor any other court ever had or ought to have any manner of jurisdiction.

The rights and liberties of the Commons of England consisteth chiefly of these three things: first, that the shires, cities, and boroughs of England, by representation to be present, have free choice of such persons as they shall put in trust to represent them; secondly, that the persons chosen, during the time of the parliament, as also of their access and recess, be free from restraint, arrest and imprisonment; thirdly, that in parliament they may speak freely their consciences without check and controlment, doing the same with due reverence to the sovereign court of parliament, that is, to your Majesty and both the Houses, who all in this case make but one politic body, whereof your Highness is the head . . . . From Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. I, 1547-1629).

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