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though denied to bishops (not being ennobled in blood), is extended to all peeresses, whether so in their own right or by marriage; a peeress by marriage, however, loses by a second alliance all nobility derived from the first. Peers cannot be outlawed in any civil action, nor can they be arrested; they are exempt from attending courts leet or the posse comitatus. In courts of justice, and at conferences with the lower house, peers enjoy the right to sit covered. When examined as a witness in civil or criminal cases, either before the high court of Parliament or elsewhere, every peer must be sworn, and his testimony delivered upon oath ; but when answering bills in chancery, and when sitting in judgment, the reply is made or the verdict returned only “upon honour.”
The honour of peers then, like the affirmation of Quakers and Moravians, being on so many occasions received as their oath, is especially protected by the laws of the realm, for to spread false reports respecting peers and certain great officers of the state is called scandalum magnatum, and is subject to severe punishment under several statutes.
An ordinary magistrate cannot require sureties to keep the peace from any peer or peeress; nor can any moble be bound over in any other place than the courts of Queen's Bench and Chancery.
The term, “benefit of peerage,” is applied to a privilege of the nobility which it is necessary to mention before concluding this summary of the immunities attaching to peers. It is essentially of the same character as “benefit of clergy,” which is a freedom capital punishments, granted upon pleading that the offender can read and write; when therefore a statute imposes a penalty without benefit of clergy, it means that this privilege shall not be pleaded in arrest of execution. That modification of the privilege entitled “benefit of peerage,” grants to all peers of the realm having place and voice in parlia -ment a free discharge from accusations where benefit of clergy would be allowed to a commoner without the branding, fine, whipping, imprisonment, or transportation, which the court might impose when the latter claimed the privilege. Peeresses are equally entitled with peers to the “ benefit of peerage,” as was evinced by the unanimous opinion of the judges on the trial of the Duchess of Kingston for bigamy.
This order of hereditary dignities was founded by James I. in May 1611, for the purpose of raising a sum of money to be appropriated to the civilization and settlement of Ireland. The whole province of Ulster having become vested in the Crown by the attainder of its previous owners, James I. conferred grants of lands upon all who would undertake to
and fifty, that at any other decennial interval; it is also worthy of remark, that the numbers living at the succeeding and the preceding decennial intervals of age are nearly equal, each for each. That is to say, that forty-five years being the mean, the gradations are equal in the ascending to those in the descending direction.
When the calculation is restricted to that portion of the peerage who have seats in the house of Lords, and that the ages of all now alive are classified into decennial gradations, the following is the result:
From 1 to 21 years there are 10 peers.
The mean in this calculation is evidently about sixty, and the individuals on whom it is founded have not lived to the full limit of their lives. The discrepancy between the last and the preceding table arises from two causes. First, the number of ages taken into account is much smaller in the latter, than in the former instance, and it is a well known fact in statistics, that in proportion to the number of observations included in each calculation, is the reliance which can be placed upon the general result. The
second reason for a discrepancy arises from the additions which are occasionally made to the peerage. These being founded either on political grounds or on services done to the state, it naturally follows, that the majority of those who have lived long enough to deserve and obtain peerages, must be considerably above the mean age of the general population; and they are more frequently added to that portion of the peerage who enjoy seats in the house of Lords, than to the Irish or Scotch nobles, for the purpose, either of enhancing the value of the title, or extending the limits of political influence, or on account of the restrictions placed by the acts of Union, on the further creation of Scottish and Irish peers.
The mortality among peers under the age of sixtyfive increases at the rate of fifty per cent. for every ten years that they advance. This is a much higher rate of increase than has been observed outside the peerage; the average being thirty-four per cent., except in London and other large towns. At all ages above sixty-five years, the mortality in the peerage agrees very closely with that of the general population.
Although the average period during which each peer enjoys his title is 26} years, yet that result is only obtained when the average age at which each succeeds to his peerage (304) is made the basis of the calculation ; for by the following table it will appear, that the age at which each enters on the possession of his peerage, and the enjoyment of his estates, exercises a very material influence on the probable duration of that enjoyment.
Age at succeeding to
of life. 10 to 19 or a mean of 14 years. 38.29 20 to 29
27.03 30 to 39
23:87 10 to 39
29.60 40 to 59
15.99 Thus it is evident that the mean duration of the life of those peers who succeed to their titles between the ages of twenty and thirty years, is four years less (and those between thirty and forty, two years less), than would be presumed upon a view of the average deduced from those who succeed earlier or later.
CLAIMS TO PEERAGES.
Pope. The first instance in which a claim to a peerage was discussed by the house of Lords appears to have been in the eleventh of Henry VI. ; but the right to such titles as were not annexed to manorial or other possessions, was formerly determined before the lord high constable, and earl marshal, not by the rules of common law, but by the regulations and customs of chivalry; from the decisions of these two officers, an appeal could be made to the Crown as a dernier ressort. After the abolition of the office of high constable, it became very much the practice to submit the claims at once to the Crown for decision, and this course was first followed about the time of Henry VIII. In the reign of Elizabeth, commissioners who exercised