A HISTORY OF SURREY national government was quite as much of an obligation as a right. Indeed the burden usually outweighed the privilege. The elections were held in the next regularly recurring County Court after the receipt of the writ, and the statute of Marlborough, 1 267, had released nearly all important people from the duty of attendance at the ordinary meetings of the County Court. Of the practice of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries we can say little, but in 1406 the sheriffs were ordered by Parliament to make proclamation in all the market towns of their counties of the day and place of election fifteen days beforehand. The order was not always observed nor enforced, and the sheriff might in practice give notice to whom he chose or none at all. At all events in 1406 it was enacted that the election should be made by ' all that be there present, as well suitors duly summoned for the same cause as others.' l This might include persons attending as suitors in small actions for debt with no other qualification. In fact people were not often keen to be represented at all. County members had to be paid four shillings a day and their expenses. The tenants-in-chief of the Crown and ecclesiastics were represented in the House of Lords and in Convocation. It was only by degrees that the smaller landed gentry who furnished the knights of the shire attained a position of sufficient independence of the Crown and great men to make their position in Parliament very valuable. In the same County Court, irregularly attended and often casually composed, took place the formal return of the names of the borough members. Persons from Southwark, Reigate, Blechingley, Kingston and Farnham would give the sheriff the names selected by their town's meeting or in fact nominated by their overlord. How easily the wrong name might be substituted, or how difficult it must have been to prevent the p/enus comitatus, the rabble of the county, from having a voice in naming the Guildford borough members, we can easily conceive. Irregularities in returns are so common that the practice of indentures was introduced in 1406, whereby the persons electing affixed their names and seals to an indenture con- taining the names of the persons chosen which was returned with the writ. Plures alii, cum multis a/iis, in plena comitatu are expressions which are added to the actual names on the indentures, but those named and sealing are probably the real electors speaking for or assuming the con- sent of the rest. Nineteen persons so elected for Surrey in 1414, thirty in 1447.* Yet an Act of Parliament in 1430 regulated the elections owing to the disorderly crowd which attended the County Court and established the forty shilling freeholder as the county elector. It is really possible that it may have been in practice an extension of the franchise, not a restriction ; that the forty shilling freeholders would really vote themselves, while the previously existing irregular crowd had been obliged to delegate their powers. i 7 Hen. IV. c. 15. a See Prynne's Registers of Parliamentary Writs, . 128-32 for lists of the electors sealing the indentures. In 1447 John Basket and Robert Wynteshull and twenty-eight others named on the indentures but unnamed by Prynne returned the Surrey knights of the shire. 352
Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/420
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