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THE

BOOK OF THE CONSTITUTION

OF

GREAT BRITAIN:

CONTAINING

A FULL ACCOUNT OF THE RISE, PROGRESS, AND PRESENT CONSTRUCTION

OF THE

THREE ESTATES OF THE REALM,

Ring, Lords, and Commons;

OF THE VARIOUS COURTS OF JURISDICTION;

AND

OF THOSE ACTS BY WHICH THE LIBERTIES OR RIGHTS OF

THE SUBJECT ARE AFFECTED.

BY THOMAS STEPHEN,

AUTHOR OF "THE HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION IN SCOTLAND," &c.

GLASGOW:
BLACKIE & SON, 8, EAST CLYDE STREET,

AND 5, SOUTH COLLEGE STREET, EDINBURGH;
W. CURRY, JUN., & co., DUBLIN; AND SIMPKIN & MARSHALL, LONDON.

MDCCCXXXV.

1

GLASGOW: PRINTED BY GEORGE BROOKMAN.

PREFACE.

The present work is intended to convey to the reader an account of the various fundamental laws, usages, offices, and institutions, which have arisen in this country in the course of ages, and which form what is called THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION. This " timehonoured” fabric has been more frequently the theme of admiration than of exposition. It was therefore conceived that a work intended to explain, in a full and candid manner, the essential parts of its construction, would have many claims on the attention of the public, both in point of interest and utility. The mixed character of the British constitution renders a proper understanding of it more difficult than that of any other government. In its composition, monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy are blended; and it differs from other governments in two important points; first, that much of the power which usually centres in the crown, in Britain remains in the hands of the nation; and, secondly, that the disposition of the executive officers to encroach on the rights of the people, is checked by the constitutional responsibility of each officer. To foreigners, it has long been an object of admiration: and a reflection on its many excellencies, so far as the rights and personal liberties of the subject are concerned, cannot fail, in this country, to excite a feeling of honourable pride.

The British constitution has grown out of occasions and emergency. It has gradually accommodated itself to change of circumstances and of national sentiment; to the fluctuating policy of different ages, and to the contentions and interests of various orders and parties in the state. “ By the constitution of a country,” says archdeacon Paley, “is meant so much of its law as relates to the

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