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process to the King's Bench as they were directed by the writ of Error.
The privilege, enjoyed by officers of the Exchequer, Privilege of of pleading and being impleaded in the Exchequer officers '01 itself can without doubt be traced back to the reign of Henry III. in records which are still extant, and which have been cited by Madox.1 There are also some indications of it in the treatise known as the Dialogue de Scaccario,2 which is probably of an earlier date. A man of ordinary prudence, however, would not rely too much on a composition which purports to have come into existence in the twenty-third3 year of the reign of Henry II., but has a reference to matters alleged to have occurred in the twenty-fourth,4 and which is demonstrably incorrect in some of its details.5 It will be observed, too, that in the statement of the Barons, in the record above printed, there is a remarkable absence of detail and of all precise reference to records so far as the reigns between that of William the Conqueror and Henry III. are concerned. The last named King and his successors are mentioned, in all probability, because the records of their reigns are in accordance with the propositions set forth as to the privileges of the officers of the Exchequer.
This matter of privilege is of importance in relation jurisdicto the case of the Countess of Kent and the Abbot of tjonofthc Ramsey only because in the recital in the writ of Error in that case there occur the words "cum nec
1 2 Hist. Exch., chap. Tlx. § 7. And see, in particular, the passages cited in the notes at pp. 12 and 13 from rolls of the years 22, 38, and 39 Henry nr.
2 Lib. I. c. 8.
3 Lib. I., at the commencement, as it appears in the Liber Rubens (2 Madox Hist. Exch., 351).
4 Lib. I. c. 8 (2 Madox Hut. Exch., 389). Both the Liber Ru
beus and the Liber Niger (each of
6 See 1 Hist. Crime in England,
"dicta Comitissa nec praefatus Abbas ministri ejus"dem Scaccarii extitissent." The jurisdiction would have been admitted had either of the parties been an officer of the Exchequer, but was disputed, among other grounds, because neither of them was an officer. This point, however, does not appear to have been taken on the first hearing in the Exchequer.
The jurisdiction was also disputed, as appears both in the reports and in the writ of Error, on the ground that the Court of Exchequer could not have cognisance of anything touching freehold. The answer to this was two-fold—(1) that the farm or rent of a fair does not issue from any soil or freehold in certain, and that an assise does not lie for it,—(2) that the farm or rent having been assigned as dower by the King, the recovery would be, as for the King, in the Exchequer.
It is not made apparent on what precise ground the writ was held good in the first instance and the judgment affirmed after proceedings in error. But the reason, there can be little doubt, was that the subject of the action was a rent which was payable into the Exchequer1 and which the King himself had assigned to the Countess in dower. It is obvious that the farm of the fair would have been recovered by Exchequer process before the assignment in dower, and after the death of the Countess; and, as it is expressed in the reports, the Countess sued for herself and the King. The nature of the jurisdiction, therefore, appears sufficiently plain. The Court The constitution of the Court for hearing the cause in Fxchequef Error (subject to the alternative of a hearing coram errors grew nobis) was practically what it should have been Council*16 according to the record of the eleventh year of the reign above cited. It consisted, that is to say, of the
1 This might be taken for granted, hut, ex iibundanti caulela, the
words "redJendo inde per nnnum ad Scaccarium quinquaginta
originhl charter Ins been sought : " libras." Charter Roll, 4? Henrv out anil fmmd. It contains the IlI., in. 2.
Barons themselves, and other the King's lieges, among whom were included "the Justices," by which term were, no doubt, included the Justices of the two Benches. The fact that the Justices are mentioned brings us a stage nearer to the Act of 31 Edward III.
The alternative of the hearing coram nobis, as interpreted to mean before the King in Council, is not, perhaps, of so much importance as it might appear to be at first sight. The Justices were members of the Council, and so also, no doubt, would have been any other of the King's "Jideles" or lieges who might have been associated with them to constitute the Court. The power to correct the error was originally in the Sovereign —the King in his Council, or the King in his Council in his Parliament, according to a very common form; and, whether the Council acted as the whole Council or delegated its functions to certain of its own members, there was practically no difference of principle.
The principle, however, which is clearly brought out Popular in all the documents relating to the matter is that ^ "hTM110" judgments in the Exchequer were not judgments at "Common common law. The natural corollary was that whenLawerror was alleged these judgments could not be either affirmed or reversed in the same manner as judgments at common law. In other. words, the King's Bench might correct a judgment of .various courts of record, including the Court of Common Pleas, but could not correct a judgment of the Court of Exchequer. The principle was admitted equally by the Barons and officers of the Exchequer, who wished to maintain their own privileges, and by the rest of the population, of whom a large number had a superstitious veneration for the common law, which they did not understand, and a dislike for the Exchequer, which they regarded as the protector or instigator of the Sheriffs in all real or supposed extortions.
The Courts It would be difficult to find a more self-contradictory Sheriffs, state of mind than that which displays itself in an expressed reverence for the " common law" on the one hand, and an obstinate hatred of the Sheriffs' Courts on the other. If there was any jurisdiction which could claim extreme antiquity in England it was that of the Sheriffs, and if there was any law specially entitled to be considered common law it was that which was administered by them. Their judicial authority had been gradually curtailed after the Conquest, but at the time of the reports printed in this volume they still retained enough to increase the dislike which they incurred in the execution of writs. Complaints The Sheriff's Turn lost most of its power after the sherifls passing of the Act 1 Edward IV. c. 2, by which the recited in arraignment and delivery of persons presented in the Turn were transferred to Justices of the Peace. According to the preamble of that Statute the Court was regarded as an instrument of oppression and injustice. Complaints against the Sheriffs and their Turns, however, were not then heard for the first time. In the Act 28 Edward III. c. 9, it is stated that the people of the realm had suffered many ills and mischiefs, in that Sheriffs had at their own suit obtained commissions and general writs for their own profit at the expense of the people, and by virtue of such commissions and writs had taken Inquests so as to have persons indicted at their own will, from whom they had taken fines and ransoms, to their own use, and whom they had then delivered without any arraignment before the King's Justices. It was therefore enacted that all such commissions and writs already made should be revoked and that none should be issued in future. The specific grievance here appears to have been that although the Sheriffs had no authority to hear and determine Pleas of the Crown,1 the taking of
1 9 Hen. III. (Magna Charta), c. 17.
the indictment and the issuing of process afforded them the means of extorting money from innocent persons on the one hand, and of shielding the guilty for a consideration on the other hand. A similar complaint appears in the preamble of a Statute of the reign of Edward I.1
Popular feeling, too, is very well illustrated by con- Also the temporaneous popular ballads and songs. These teem of with complaints against the Sheriffs in Latin, French, and English. There is, in particular, one written in English in a MS. of the early part of the reign of Edward III., in which the misdeeds of the " Shirreves" of the preceding reign are unsparingly denounced.2
It may be useful to remember these facts in relation A presentto a case in the present volume (No. 45 in Trinity Term) ^°^he which relates to a presentment in the Sheriff's Turn. Turn as to The report, which has been found in only one MS., abridge, appears also in Fitzherbert's Abridgment, very incor- and distress rectly printed, under the head Barre (276). It seems to have found its way under this title through a misreading, the word * chartre" (as abbreviated) being substituted for the words "en Chauncellerie" (as abbreviated). A party is thus represented as showing a charter in the Court of King's Bench, instead of showing cause in Chancery for the issue of a particular writ. There was in fact no charter and no bar in question.
The report itself, as it exists in MS., is very brief, and not fully intelligible without the assistance of the record. It contains, however, one statement which is not established by the record. This fact is that a writ issued to the Sheriff of Middlesex to enquire what persons ought to make the bridge of Hanworth and to distrain them to repair. The proceeding would apparently have been in accordance with the law of the period, as there is a writ
1 13 Ed. I. (Westm. 2), c. 13. I Ed. Wright (Camden Society), - Political Songs of England. | pp. 33C-338.