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PRECEDENCE.

The primogenitive and due of birth,

Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
But by degree stand in authentic place ;
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows !”

Troilus and Cressida, act i. sc. 3.

PRECEDENCE is not regulated by mere conventional arrangements ; it is no fluctuating practice of fashionable life, no result of voluntary compacts in society, no usurpation of one class over others ; but, on the contrary, is “ part and parcel of the law of England ;" subsisting under the authority of acts of parliament, solemn decisions in courts of justice, or public instruments proceeding from the Crown. The earliest statute on the subject of precedence is the 31st of Henry VIII. cap. 10. The next public documents relating to this subject are the decreees of James I. issued in 1612 and 1616 : then the 1st of William and Mary, cap. 21; the 10th of Anne, cap. 4; the 5th of Anne, cap. 8; the 39th of George III. cap. 67 ; with many other acts determining individual precedence, besides royal ordinances, decrees, warrants, letters patent, and statutes of knightly orders.

The progress of civilization and the distribution of wealth have led to the establishment in British society of a vast number of artificial distinctions, which have naturally and gradually interwoven tbem. selves with the feudal institutions of our ancestors. A great body of complicated machinery, legislative, judicial, executive, diplomatic, ecclesiastical, naval, and military, must of course be called into active operation for the government of so highly civilized a country as England ; a country affected by so many and such intricate foreign relations, holding colonies so numerous and so distant, maintaining a commercial and manufacturing system unparalleled in the previous history of mankind, and having preserved a social edifice as ancient, yet more frequently repaired than any other in Europe. A full understanding of the combined effects of these several causes may be somewhat aided by the outlines now offered, as introductory to a subject with which most people have some acquaintance, and but few possess clear and complete information.

At all periods of our history, but especially during the last 150 years, the aristocratic spirit of British society has presented a well-defined and ascertained character. From this source have sprung a variety of arrangements connected with court ceremonial as well as with the intercourse of private society, which are mingled with, but in some respects quite distinct from, the duties, privileges, and powers of those who are engaged in the public service. For example, though each rank in the peerage commands accord. ing to a certain graduated scale the respect of society, while it gratifies the ambition of its possessor and his family, yet no one member of the House of Lords possesses in his political or judicial capacity any greater amount of power than his brethren; the vote of a duke reckons for no more than the vote of a viscount or baron.

The reader need scarcely be reminded, that in professions unconnected with the state, the esteem in which the members of them are held depends partly upon professional success, and partly upon personal character ; not so, however, with the professions which are devoted to the maintenance of religion, the administration of justice, and the defence of the realm ; we therefore find that in the Church and in the law, in the civil and military service of the country, rank and precedence generally, but not always, accompany power. The consideration of the several ranks, and of the principal public functionaries, in order of precedence, form the subject of this article, while for their privileges, duties, and other particulars, the reader is referred to the separate heads under which that branch of the subject is more especially noticed.

It is to be observed, that primogeniture and seniority are amongst the leading principles of our system of precedence. Priority of birth, and dates of patents and commissions, determine the precedence which individuals of the same rank take amongst each other, and thus the station and degree of each are ascertained by means which rarely admit of controversy or doubt.

In England all rank and honours are either hereditary, official, or personal. The order of baronets, the five ranks of the peerage, and the sovereignty of

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The progress of civilization and the distribution of wealth have led to the establishment in British society of a vast number of artificial distinctions, which have naturally and gradually interwoven them. selves with the feudal institutions of our ancestors. A great body of complicated machinery, legislative, judicial, executive, diplomatic, ecclesiastical, vaval, and military, must of course be called into active operation for the government of so highly civilized a country as England; a country affected by so many and such intricate foreign relations, holding colonies so numerous and so distant, maintaining a commercial and manufacturing system unparalleled in the previous history of mankind, and having preserved a social edifice as ancient, yet more frequently repaired than any other in Europe. A full understanding of the combined effects of these several causes may be somewhat aided by the outlines now offered, as introductory to a subject with which most people have some acquaintance, and but few possess clear and complete information.

At all periods of our history, but especially during the last 150 years, the aristocratic spirit of British society has presented a well-defined and ascertained character. From this source have sprung a variety of arrangements connected with court ceremonial as well as with the intercourse of private society, which are mingled with, but in some respects quite distinct from, the duties, privileges, and powers of those who are engaged in the public service. For example, though each rank in the peerage commands accord. ing to a certain graduated scale the respect of society, while it gratifies the ambition of its possessor and his family, yet no one member of the House of Lords possesses in his political or judicial capacity any greater amount of power than his brethren ; the vote of a duke reckons for no more than the vote of a viscount or baron.

The reader need scarcely be reminded, that in professions unconnected with the state, the esteem in which the members of them are held depends partly upon professional success, and partly upon personal character ; not so, however, with the professions which are devoted to the maintenance of religion, the administration of justice, and the defence of the realm; we therefore find that in the Church and in the law, in the civil and military service of the country, rank and precedence generally, but not always, accompany power. The consideration of the several ranks, and of the principal public functionaries, in order of precedence, form the subject of this article, while for their privileges, duties, and other particulars, the reader is referred to the separate heads under which that branch of the subject is more especially noticed.

It is to be observed, that primogeniture and seniority are amongst the leading principles of our system of precedence. Priority of birth, and dates of patents and commissions, determine the precedence which individuals of the same rank take amongst each other, and thus the station and degree of each are ascertained by means which rarely admit of controversy or doubt.

In England all rank and honours are either hereditary, official, or personal. The order of baronets, the five ranks of the peerage, and the sovereignty of

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