Article 1, Section 2, Clause 2

Document 1

William Blackstone, Commentaries 1:169--70


2. Our second point is the qualification of persons to be elected members of the house of commons. This depends upon the law and custom of parliaments, and the statutes referred to in the margin.1 And from these it appears, 1. That they must not be aliens born, or minors. 2. That they must not be any of the twelve judges, because they sit in the lords' house; nor of the clergy, for they sit in the convocation; nor persons attainted of treason or felony, for they are unfit to sit anywhere. 3. That sheriffs of counties, and mayors and bailiffs of boroughs, are not eligible in their respective jurisdictions, as being returning officers; but that sheriffs of one county are eligible to be knights of another. 4. That, in strictness, all members ought to be inhabitants of the places for which they are chosen: but this is intirely disregarded. 5. That no persons concerned in the management of any duties or taxes created since 1692, except the commissioners of the treasury, nor any of the officers following, (viz. commissioners of prizes, transports, sick and wounded, wine licences, navy, and victualling; secretaries or receivers of prizes; comptrollers of the army accounts; agents for regiments; governors of plantations and their deputies; officers of Minorca or Gibraltar; officers of the excise and customs; clerks or deputies in the several offices of the treasury, exchequer, navy, victualling, admiralty, pay of the army or navy, secretaries of state, salt, stamps, appeals, wine licences, hackney coaches, hawkers and pedlars) nor any persons that hold any new office under the crown created since 1705, are capable of being elected members. 6. That no person having a pension under the crown during pleasure, or for any term of years, is capable of being elected. 7. That if any member accepts an office under the crown, except an officer in the army or navy accepting a new commission, his seat is void; but such member is capable of being reelected. 8. That all knights of the shire shall be actual knights, or such notable esquires and gentlemen, as have estates sufficient to be knights, and by no means of the degree of yeomen. This is reduced to a still greater certainty, by ordaining, 9. That every knight of a shire shall have a clear estate of freehold or copyhold to the value of six hundred pounds per annum, and every citizen and burgess to the value of three hundred pounds; except the eldest sons of peers, and of persons qualified to be knights of shires, and except the members for the two universities: which somewhat ballances the ascendant which the boroughs have gained over the counties, by obliging the trading interest to make choice of landed men: and of this qualification the member must make oath, and give in the particulars in writing, at the time of his taking his seat. But, subject to these restrictions and disqualifications, every subject of the realm is eligible of common right. It was therefore an unconstitutional prohibition, which was inserted in the king's writs, for the parliament holden at Coventry, 6 Hen. IV, that no apprentice or other man of the law should be elected a knight of the shire therein: in return for which, our law books and historians have branded this parliament with the name of parliamentum indoctum, or the lack-learning parliament; and sir Edward Coke observes with some spleen, that there was never a good law made thereat.

  1. 1 Hen. V. c. 1. 23 Hen. VI. c. 15. 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2. 5 & 6 W. & M. c. 7. 11 & 12 W. III. c. 2. 12 & 13 W. III. c. 10. 6 Ann. c. 7. 9 Ann. c. 5. 1 Geo. I. c. 56. 15 Geo. II. c. 22. 33 Geo. II. c. 20.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 2, Clause 2, Document 1
The University of Chicago Press

Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765--1769. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

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