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writs to replevy their cattle distrained and impounded by others, and there try the cause of the distress; and by a writ called justicies, a man may sue for any sum; and in this court the sheriff, by the King's writ called an exigent, doth proclaim men sued in courts above to render their bodies, or else they be outlawed.
The sheriff doth serve all the King's writs of process, be they summons or attachments, to compel men to appear to answer the law; and all writs of execution of the law according to judgments of superior courts, for taking of men's goods, lands, or bodies, as the case requireth.
1 Of these hundred courts there is a jurisdiction known and certain; and that is, first, to deal in such things as the sheriff in his Turn might do. And they be in common speech called Law-days or Leets, to be kept twice a year. But the content, precinct, and limit of the court is uncertain, for that all hundreds be not equal nor guided by any certain rule of content, but long since allotted out and by use to this day well known in their bounds, some containing in them divers villages, some fewer.
The hundred courts were most of them granted to religious men, noblemen, and others of great place. And also many men of good quality have obtained by charter, and some by usage, within manors of their own, the liberty of keeping Law-days, and to use there the justice appertaining to a Law-day.
Whosoever is lord of the hundred courts is to appoint the two high constables of the hundred, and also. is to appoint in every village a petty constable, with a tithing man to attend in his absence, and to be at
1 This is not in the printed text, and does not seem well fitted in.
his command when he is present, in all services of his office, for his assistance.
There have been by use and statute law, besides surveying pledges of freemen, and giving the oath of allegiance, and making constables, many additions of power and authority given to the stewards of Leets and Law-days to be put in ure in their courts. As for example, they may punish innkeepers, victuallers, bakers, brewers, butchers, poulterers, fishmongers, and tradesmen of all sorts, selling at under weight or measure, or at excessive prices, or things unwholesome, or ill made, in deceit of the people. They may punish those that stop, straiten, or annoy the highways, or do not, according to the provision enacted, repair or amend them, or divert water courses, or destroy fry of fish, or use engines or nets to take deer, conies, pheasants, fowl, or partridges, or build pigeon houses (not being lord of the manor, nor parson of the church). They may also take presentment upon oath of the twelve sworn jury before them of all manner of felonies, but they cannot try the malefactors; only they must by indenture deliver over these presentments of felony to the judges, when they come their circuits into that
All these things before mentioned are in use and exercised as law at this day, concerning the sheriffs' Lawdays and Leets, and the offices of high constables, petty constables, and tithing men; howbeit, with some further additions by statute laws, laying charge upon them of collecting taxation for the poor, for soldiers, and the like, and dealing without corruption, and the like.
Conservators of the peace in ancient times were certain which the King in every county did assign to
see the peace maintained; and they were called to the office by the King's writ, to continue for term of their lives, [or at the King's pleasure.]1
For this service, choice was made of the best men of calling in the country, and but few in a shire.
They might bind any man to keep the peace, and to good behaviour, by recognizance to the King with sureties; and might by warrant send for the party, directing their warrant to the sheriff or constable as they please, to arrest the party and bring him before them. This they used to do when complaint was made by any man that stood in fear of another, and so took his oath; or else, where the conservator did himself, without complaint, see the disposition of any man inclined to quarrel and breach of the peace, or to misbehave himself in some outrageous course of force or fraud, there by his own discretion he might send for such a fellow, and make him find sureties of the peace or good behaviour, as he should see cause; or else commit him to the gaol if he refused.
The judges of the King's Bench 2 at Westminster, barons of the Exchequer, master of the rolls, and justices in eyre and assizes in their circuits, were all, without writ, conservators of the peace by their office in all shires of England, and so do continue to this day. But now conservators of the peace by writ are out of use; for that in lieu of them there are ordained justices of peace, assigned by the King's commission in every county, which are removeable at the King's pleasure ; and the power of placing and displacing justices of the
1 This is omitted in Sloane MS.
2 The printed text and Sloane MS. have "either bench." It will be observed that the institution of the Common Pleas is described as subsequent.
peace is by use delegated from the King to the Chancellor.
That there should be justices of peace by commission, it was first enacted by a statute made 1 Edward III. and their authority augmented by many statutes since made in every King's reign.
They are appointed to keep four sessions every year; that is to say, every quarter one. This session is a sitting time to assemble and dispatch the affairs of their commission. They have power to hear and determine in their sessions all felonies, breaches of the peace, contempts, and trespasses, so far as to fine the offender to the crown, but not to award recompence to the party grieved. They are to suppress riots and tumults; to restore possessions forcibly taken away, to examine all felons apprehended and brought before them; to see impotent poor people or maimed soldiers provided for according to the laws; and rogues, vagabonds, and beggars punished. They are to [license and1] suppress alehouses, badgers 2 of corn and victuals, and to punish forestallers, regrators, and engrossers.
Through these, in effect, run all the county services to the crown; as taxation of subsidies, mustering men, arming them, and levying forces by commission or precept from the King. Any of these justices, upon oath taken by a man that he standeth in fear that another will beat him, or kill him, or burn his house, are to send for the party by warrant of attachment directed to the sheriff or constable, and they are to bind the
1 Harl. MS. has "to cease and suppress: " Sloane MS. omits the part in brackets. The licensing was not at common law but introduced by statute 5 and 6 Ed. VI. c. 25.
2 Stat. 5 Eliz. c. 12.
party with sureties by recognizance to the King to keep the peace, and also to appear at the next sessions of the peace. At which next sessions, when every justice of peace hath there delivered in all his recognizances so taken, then the parties are called and the cause of binding to the peace examined; and both parties being heard, the whole bench is to determine as they see cause, either to continue the party still bound, or to discharge him.
These justices at the sessions are attended with the constables and bailiffs of all hundreds and liberties within the county, and with the sheriff or his deputy, to be employed as occasion shall serve in executing the precepts and directions of the court. They proceed in this sort: the sheriff doth summon twenty-four discreet men, freeholders of the county; whereof some sixteen are selected and sworn, and have their charge to serve as the grand jury, to enquire and present all offences which the justices can deal in: to whom all persons grieved prefer Bills of Indictment; and they being found and presented by the grand jury, the party indicted is to traverse the indictment, which is to deny it to be true, or else to confess it, and so submit himself to be fined as the court shall think meet, regard had to the offence, except the punishment be certainly appointed, as often it is, by special Acts of Parliament.
The justices of peace are many in every county. And to them are brought all traitors, felons, and other malefactors of any sort upon their first apprehension in the county; and that justice to whom they are brought examineth them, and heareth their accusation, but judgeth not upon it; only if he find the suspicion but light, then he taketh bond with sureties of the accused to ap