Parliaments, Estates & Representation



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Social History, xvi (1991), 1-17.

6 The argument advanced here draws upon a wider examination of the relationship between local communities and the state in early modern Germany, France and England. The results of this Swiss National Science Foundation project will appear in Gemeinde und Staat, ed. Blickle.

7 See e.g. P. Zagorin, Rebels and Rulers 1500-1660 (2 vols., Cambridge, 1982); V. Magagna, Communities of Grain: Rural Rebellion in Comparative Perspective (London, 1991); P. Blickle, Unruhen in der ständischen Gesellschaft (Munich, 1988); A. Würgler, ‘Das Modernisierungspotential von Unruhen im 18. Jahrhundert’, Geschichte und Gesellschaft, xxi (1995), 195-217.

8 K. Demandt, Geschichte des Landes Hessen (3rd edn., Kassel, 1980), pp. 239, 240, 247-8, 288; M. Rudersdorf, ‘Hessen’, in Die Territorien des Reichs im Zeitalter der Reformation und Konfessionalisierung, ed. A. Schindling and W. Ziegler (Münster, 1992), iv. 254-88, 261-3.

9 On average once a year in the sixteenth century, but only every three years between 1650-1800: Hessische Landtagsabschiede 1526-1608, ed. G. Hollenberg (Marburg, 1994), pp. 401-2, and his ‘Die hessen-kasselischen Landstände im 18. Jahrhundert’, Hessisches Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte, xxxviii (1988), 1-22, esp. 16-22 (table); cf. F. L. Carsten, Princes and Parliaments in Germany from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1959), pp. 149-90.

10 Hessen-Kasselische Landtagsabschiede 1649-1798, ed. G. Hollenberg (Marburg, 1989), p. XXIV.

11 P. K. Taylor, Indentured to Liberty: Peasant Life and the Hessian Military State 1688-1815 (Ithaca, 1994), pp. 21-48.

12 J. P. Cooper, ‘Differences between English and Continental Government in the early seventeenth century’, in Land, Men and Beliefs: Studies in Early Modern History, ed. idem (London, 1983), pp. 106-8.

13 For in-depth studies of the workings of Tudor and Stuart parliaments see G. R. Elton, The Parliament of England 1559-81 (Cambridge, 1986) and C. Russell, ‘The nature of a Parliament in early Stuart England’, in Before the English Civil War, ed. H. Tomlinson (London, 1983), pp. 123-50.

14 This argument follows D. Hirst, The Representative of the People? Voters and Voting in England under the Early Stuarts (Cambridge, 1975), esp. p. 105. Many MPs had been ‘genuinely chosen by a substantial electorate and could not be indifferent to the effect of their doings on those who returned them’: Russell, ‘Parliament’, p. 139.

15 K. Thomas, ‘The Levellers and the franchise’, in The Interregnum: The Quest for Settlement 1646-60, ed. G. Aylmer (London, 1979), p. 60.

16 A. Fletcher, Reform in the Provinces: The Government of Stuart England (Yale, 1986); B. Kümin, ‘Parish und Local Government: Die Politisierung der englischen Kirchgemeinde 1350-1650’, in Gemeinde und Staat, ed. Blickle (forthcoming).

17 J. Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State 1688-1783 (London, 1989).

18 ‘Historians have devoted relatively little attention to the role played by petitions sent from local citizens’: Raymond Bailey, Popular Influence upon Public Policy: Petitioning in Eighteenth-Century Virginia (Westport, 1979), p. xi. In what follows, ‘petition’ (or its German equivalents Supplik, Supplikation) is used in a very wide sense for any written request addressed directly to a person or authority with appropriate powers, i.e. as an umbrella term which includes ‘complaints’ or ‘appeals’ as well as explicit ‘petitions’. For a more detailed, comparative discussion of the sources see R. Fuhrmann, B. Kümin, A. Würgler, ‘Supplizierende Gemeinden. Aspekte einer vergleichenden Quellenbetrachtung’, in Gemeinde und Staat, ed. Blickle (forthcoming).

19 Natalie Zemon Davis, Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France (Cambridge, 1987); Otto Ulbricht, ‘Supplikationen als Ego-Dokumente. Bittschriften von Leibeigenen aus der ersten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts als Beispiel’, in Ego-Dokumente: Annäherung an den Menschen in der Geschichte, ed. W. Schulze (Berlin, 1996), pp. 149-74, and Claudia Ulbrich, ‘Zeuginnen und Bittstellerinnen. Überlegungen zur Bedeutung von Ego-Dokumenten für die Erforschung weiblicher Selbstwahrnehmung in der ländlichen Gesellschaft des 18. Jahrhunderts’, ibid., pp. 207-26; ”Denn das Schreiben gehört nicht zu meiner täglichen Beschäftigung”: Der Alltag kleiner Leute in Bittschriften, Briefen und Berichten aus dem 19. Jahrhundert, ed. Siegfried Grosse et al. (Bonn, 1989).

20 O. Guérod, Enteuxeis: requêtes et plaintes adressés au roi d´Egypte au IIIe siècle avant J.-C. (Hildesheim, 1988); G. Koziol, Begging Pardon and Favor. Ritual and Political Order in Early Medieval France (Ithaca, 1992); H. Neuhaus, ‘Supplikationen als landesgeschichtliche Quellen. Das Beispiel der Landgrafschaft Hessen im 16. Jahrhundert’, Hessisches Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte, xxviii and xxix (1978 and 1979), 110-190 and 63-97; M. Knights, ‘London petitions and parliamentary politics in 1679’, Parliamentary History, xii (1993), 29-46; G. L. Freeze, From Supplication to Revolution: A Documentary Social History of Imperial Russia (Oxford, 1988).

21 For etymological information cf. H. Neuhaus, Reichstag und Supplikationsausschuß: Ein Beitrag zur Reichsverfassungsgeschichte der ersten Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1975), pp. 75-6, and W. Hülle, ‘Das Supplikationswesen in Rechtssachen’, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Germanistische Abteilung, xc (1973), 194-212. A search through the index of the Sammlung fürstlich hessischer Landes-Ordnungen und Ausschreiben, ed. C. L. Kleinschmid, C. G. Apell, K. Eggena (8 vols., Kassel, 1767-1816), suggests that the term Supplik replaced the older Supplikation in Hesse from the late seventeenth century.

22 Neuhaus, Supplikationsausschuß, pp. 79-81.

23 Illegitimität im Spätmittelalter, ed. L. Schmugge (Munich, 1994); idem, Kirche, Kinder, Karrieren: Päpstliche Dispense von der unehelichen Geburt im Spätmittelalter (Zurich, 1995); idem, P. Hersperger and B. Wiggenhauser, Die Supplikenregister der päpstlichen Pönitentiarie aus der Zeit Pius’ II. (1458-1464) (Tübingen, 1996).

24 Cf. Koziol, Begging Pardon; Neuhaus, Supplikationsausschuß, pp. 87-90, und G. Dolezalek, ‘Suppliken’, in HRG (Berlin, 1990), iv. 94-7.

25 Neuhaus, Supplikationsausschuß.

26 Idem, ´Supplikationen´; J. C. Theibault, German Villages in Crises: Rural Life in Hesse-Kassel and the Thirty Years´ War 1580-1720 (Atlantic Highlands, 1995), p. 27.

27 Cf. H.-J. Becker, ‘Recht und Gnade im Bild der Reformationszeit’, in Liber Amicorum: Professor Dr. Herbert Frost zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. M. Baldus (Köln, 1986), pp. 127-144; H. Krause, ‘Gnade’, HRG, i. 1714-19.

28 In the run up to the English Revolution of 1649, MPs complained that they could not possibly concentrate on important business ‘while the drums beat, or the people tumultuate’ in support of petitions: ‘A Declaration of some Proceedings’ (1648), in The Leveller Tracts 1647-53, ed. W. Haller and Davies (Gloucester, Mass., 1964), p. 115. For evidence of similar popular pressure see M. Knights, Politics and Opinion in Crisis 1678-81 (Cambridge, 1994), p. 239, and G. Dolezalek, ‘Suppliken’, HRG, iv. 93-7.

29 Figures for 1594 in Neuhaus, ‘Supplikationen’, i. 120-1; those for 1787 are an estimate based on the evidence of a two-month sample (January/February): StAM, Protokolle II, Kassel Cc 7 Vol. 2a (1787). The archive of the House of Lords, to provide a further quantitative clue, contains some 4,812 folio volumes of appeals: M. Bond, Guide to the Records of Parliament (London, 1971), p. 117.

30 StAM 17e Marburg 420, f. 1 (26.XI.1526); cf. the instruction by Landgrave Philipp of 1 Jan. 1539 in F. Gundlach, Die Hessischen Zentralbehörden (3 vols., Marburg, 1930-32), ii. 74-5.

31 Fuhrmann, Kümin, Würgler, ‘Supplizierende Gemeinden’, ch. 3.2. (Württemberg); Neuhaus, ‘Supplikationen’, ii. 71-73 (Bavaria, Lower Austria).

32 Neuhaus, Supplikationsausschuß, pp. 308, 310.

33 Fuhrmann, Kümin, Würgler, ‘Supplizierende Gemeinden’, ch. 4.1.

34 In 1702, for example, the inhabitants of Downham in the Isle of Ely ‘humbly sheweth that whereas [their] Cart-bridge is now in great decay ... we humbly implore [you] to repair it so we may safely pass’: CRO, S/B/SP, bundle 3, no. 227.

35 CRO, Audit Book of St Mary’s, P30/4/2, p. 64; Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds, Black Book of Long Melford, FL 509/1/15, f. 27v (‘for a byll of complaynte & oder charges for commysshon in Syr William Druryes & Master Kanyelles handes’; 1547-48).

36 In 1443, for instance, the vicar of Barton Stacey (diocese of Winchester) asked Eugene IV to rebuke the inhabitants of Newton, a township of just nine households, who expected him to celebrate mass in their own chapel, even though the mother church was hardly a mile away: Calendar of Papal Letters, ed. J. Twemlow (London, 1912), ix. 335.

37 ‘Extracts from Lincoln episcopal visitations’, ed. E. Peacock, Archaeologia, xlviii (1885), 249-50.

38 Lambeth Palace Library, London, Carte Miscellanee, vol. vii, no. 83.

39 Hülle, ‘Supplikationswesen’, p. 194; Neuhaus, ‘Supplikationen’, i. 121.

40 Cf. H. Maier, Die ältere deutsche Staats- und Verwaltungslehre (2nd edn., Munich, 1980); M. Raeff, The Well-Ordered Police State: Social and Institutional Change through Law in the Germanies and Russia 1600-1800 (New Haven, 1983); Stolleis, Policey.

41 Cited in H. Mohnhaupt, ‘Die Mitwirkung der Landstände an der Gesetzgebung. Argumente und Argumentationsweise in der Literatur des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts’, in Die Bedeutung der Wörter. Studien zur europäischen Rechtsgeschichte, ed. M. Stolleis et al. (Munich, 1991), pp. 249-64, on p. 252; see also idem, ‘Potestas legislatoria und Gesetzesbegriff im Ancien Régime’, Ius commune, iv (1972), 188-239, esp. 190, 200-1.

42 Mohnhaupt, ‘Mitwirkung’, p. 258. V. L. von Seckendorff, Teutscher Fürsten Stat (1665), ed. L. Fertig (Glashütten i.T., 1976), 2/8. 210 assures us ‘daß die Macht und Befugnis solcher Ordnungen auffzurichten/ allein einem Landes-Herrn und Regenten zukomme’.

43 Quotes in H. Krause, ‘Gesetzgebung’, HRG, i. 1617, and D. Willoweit, Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte (Munich, 1990), p. 183. A contrasting opinion in M. Stolleis, Geschichte des öffentlichen Rechts in Deutschland (Munich, 1988), i. 131.

44 Seckendorff, Fürsten Stat, 2/4. 78.

45 H. Dreitzel, ‘Vom reichspatriotischen Konstitutionalismus zum nationalen Liberalismus. Zur Diskussion der landständischen Verfassung in der deutschen Aufklärung’, in Aufklärung/Lumières und Politik, ed. H. E. Bödeker and E. François (Leipzig, 1996), pp. 399-432.

46 Seckendorff, Fürsten Stat, 2/4. 78.

47 Even the most recent studies look at legislation from a theoretical-normative perspective, rather than its making in practice: cf. N. Bulst, ‘Rulers, representative institutions and their members as power elites: rivals or partners?’, in Power Elites and State Building, ed. W. Reinhard (Oxford, 1996), pp. 41-58, esp. 53-4.

48 Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1649-1798, p. XVI.

49 Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1526-1608, pp. 256-60 (LTA 1567), 339-46 (LTA 1754).

50 Ibid., pp. 25-6 (from 1586).

51 K. Demandt, ‘Die hessischen Landstände im Zeitalter des Frühabsolutismus’, Hessisches Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte, xv (1965), 38-108, esp. 50-7; Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1649-1798, pp. 56-66 (1655).

52 Cf. ibid., LTA 1731.

53 See B. Hodler, ‘Doléances, Requêtes und Ordonnances. Kommunale Einflußnahme auf den Staat in Frankreich im 16. Jahrhundert’, in Gemeinde und Staat, ed. Blickle (forthcoming).

54 Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1526-1608, p. 26, sees ‘die Beschwerdetätigkeit nur sehr indirekt als Mitwirkung an der Gesetzgebung’.

55 Cited in Siebeck, Landständische Verfassung Hessens, p. 150; further examples for 1500-98 ibid., pp. 149-55, 166.

56 B. W. Pfeiffer, Geschichte der landständischen Verfassung in Kurhessen (Kassel, 1834), pp. 67, 71; further ‘Gutachten’ by the estates in 1533, 1573, 1576, 1581 and 1584: see e.g. Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1526-1608, p. 3 (LO, i. 358).

57 Ibid., LTA 10 March 1591 [§ 3].

58 Pfeiffer, Geschichte, pp. 110-1 (1643).

59 Siebeck, Landständische Verfassung Hessens, pp. 150-1 (1650s); A. Würgler, ‘Desideria und Landesordnungen. Kommunaler und landständischer Einfluß auf die fürstliche Gesetzgebung in Hessen-Kassel 1650-1800’, in Gemeinde und Staat, ed. Blickle (forthcoming), ch. 4.2.

60 Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1649-1798, p. XXIV n. 48 (until 1654).

61 As elsewhere: K. Bosl, Die Geschichte der Repräsentation in Bayern (Munich, 1974), pp. 82, 86-8, 208-9; A. von Stieglitz, Landesherr und Stände zwischen Konfrontation und Kooperation: Die Innenpolitik Herzog Johann Friedrichs im Fürstentum Calenberg 1665-1679 (Hannover, 1994), pp. 203-38.

62 Siebeck, Landständische Verfassung Hessens, p. 156.

63 Five Desideria Generalia of all estates, seven Desideria Communia of prelates and knights and three Desideria Communia of all towns concerning labour services, taxes, Jews, sumptuary legislation etc.; detailed references in Würgler, ‘Desideria’, ch. 4.1.2. and 4.1.3.

64 LO, vi. 400-402 (10.III.1767).

65 Cf. StAM 17b Fach 8 no. 4 and LO, vi. 153-4 (19.IX.1764), 167 (30.X.1764), 172 (8.I.1765), 396 (7.II.1767), 403-13 (17.III.1767), 422-32 (27.IV.1767), 464 (3.XII.1767).

66 E.g. ordinances on prices (17.XII.1764: LO, vi. 169-70), the Lizent tax (15.II.1766: ibid., 351-2), bancruptcies (1767: StAM 17b Fach 8 no. 4).

67 Landständische Verfassung, pp. 157-8.

68 Ibid., p. 158.

69 StAM 17 II no. 1299, f. 487-90 (government proposal for an ‘Edict wegen der Juden’: 7.II.1732); Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1649-1798, p. 270 n. 29; ‘Edikt wegen der Juden’ (27.V.1735: LO, iv. 288); ‘Juden-Ordnung’ (12.VIII.1739: LO, iv. 586-99).

70 Examples in C. W. Ingrao, The Hessian Mercenary State: Ideas, Institutions, and Reform under Frederick II, 1760-1785 (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 45, 81.

71 The project was tackled, but never completed: Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1526-1608, LTA 16.II.1581, § 3; LTA 10.III.1591 [§3]. Vgl. Siebeck, Landständische Verfassung Hessens, pp. 169-70.

72 Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1649-1798, LTA 1731, § 19b (initiative by the towns); ibid., pp. 344-5 n. 15 (1754); StAM 5 no. 14717, f. 39 (‘Desiderium generale’ 2; 1764) and 5 no. 14686, fos. 329-37 (‘Vorschläge zum Gemeinen Besten’ 1).

73 StAM 5 no. 14686, f. 332 (‘Vorschläge zum Gemeinen Besten’ 4; 1731); StAM 73 no. 117, vol. 4, no. 160; 5 no. 14717 (Desideria; 1764); Ingrao, Mercenary State, pp. 48, 63, 66; Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1649-1798, p. 433 n. 19; Ingrao, Mercenary State, p. 103 (feast days; 1770s); StAM 63 no. 1313 Anlage 54 (‘Allgemeines Desiderium’ 6; 28.XI.1785); LO, vii. 18 (extract from the minutes of the secret council; 23.XII.1785: rejection); StAM 17b Fach 8 no. 10 (1797); A. Lichtner, Landesherr und Stände in Hessen-Kassel 1797-1821 (Göttingen, 1913), p. 54. For the calls for more ‘open government’ see also A. Würgler, Unruhen und Öffentlichkeit: Städtische und ländliche Protestbewegungen im 18. Jahrhundert (Tübingen, 1995).

74 StAM 5 no. 14686, f. 337 (‘Vorschläge zum gemeinen Besten’ 12; 1731); for the insurance fund see LO, vi. 422-432 (27.IV.1767). Cf. Hollenberg, Landtagsabschiede 1649-1798, pp. 433 n. 19, 509-10 n. 11. For its success: ibid., LTA 1798, § 3. Taylor, in contrast, sees it as another government ploy to plunder peasant resources (Military State, p. 42).

75 J. Pauser, ‘Gravamina and Policey: the influence of estate-complaints on the practice of legislation in the Lower Austrian lands 1521-64’ (Paper delivered to the 46th Conference of ICHRPI, Vienna, 5 September 1996); T. Robisheaux, Rural Society and the Search for Order in Early Modern Germany (Cambridge, 1989) (Hohenlohe); R. Fuhrmann, ‘Amtsbeschwerden, Landtagsgravamina und Supplikationen in Württemberg zwischen 1550 und 1629’, in Gemeinde und Staat, ed. Blickle (forthcoming); Hodler, ‘Doléances’.

76 Elton, Parliament, p. 61; the quote from Journals of the House of Commons, v. 375 (1647). From a European perspective, it is striking that this was not a nineteenth-century innovation - as in many Continental countries - or a result of the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 - as is sometimes asserted (J. H. Kumpf, ‘Petition’, HRG, iv. 1639-46), but a right dating back to the thirteenth century: N. Wilding and P. Laundy, An Encyclopaedia of Parliament (4th edn., London, 1972), p. 561.

77 Statutes of the Realm (vol. IV/2, London, 1819; reprinted 1963), 43 Eliz. I, c. 16 (‘An Acte for the reedifienge repairinge and maintayninge of Two Bridges over the Ryver of Eden’; 1601); 1. Jac. I, c. 30 (‘An Acte for the Erectinge of the Parishe Churche of Radipoll, and for the makinge the oulde Churche of Radipoll a Chappell belonginge to the same’; 1603-04); 4. Jac. I, c. 7 (‘An Acte for the foundinge and incorporatinge of a Free Grammer Schoole in the Town of Northleech’; 1606-07).

78 For examples of MPs promoting the case of their constituents see e.g. Journal of the House of Lords, i. 600 (a bill introduced on behalf of the City of Exeter; 1563), and A. Fletcher, ‘National and local awareness in the county communities’, in Before the English Civil War, ed. Tomlinson, pp. 168-9 (the newly chosen Northamptonshire MPs, John Crewe and Sir Gilbert Pickering, are presented with a petition to bring before Parliament; 1640).

79 Elton, Parliament, pp. 62, 86.

80 A Calendar of the White and Black Books of the Cinque Ports 1432-1955, ed. F. Hull (London, 1966), p. 250.

81 27 Elizabeth, c. 13; the Queen received hundreds of petitions every year: J. S. Hart, Justice upon Petition (London, 1991), p. 33.

82 A. Fletcher, The Outbreak of the English Civil War (London, 1981), pp. 191-6.

83 Wilding and Laundy, Parliament , p. 562; for the ‘Supplication’ cf. C. Haigh, English Reformations (Oxford, 1993), pp. 111-12; the ‘Great Remonstrance with the Petition accompanying it’ (1641), in The Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution 1625-60, ed. S. R. Gardiner (3rd edn., Oxford, 1906), pp. 202-32.

84 One example from the Elizabethan period, calling for improvements at the port of Rye in Sussex, in Elton, Parliament of England, p. 52.

85 For procedural details see ibid., passim, Bond, Parliament, pp. 172-3, and Hart, Justice, pp. 35-7.

86 Hart, Justice, Table 1.3; the minutes of 23 January 1702 record that ‘the Lords Spiritual and Temporal ... upon reading the Petition of the Inhabitants of Bawtry, in the County of York’ decided that the petitioners should be heard ‘as desired, on Monday next, at Eleven a Clock’: Journal of the House of Lords, xvii. 255.

87 Elton, Parliament of England, p. 17.

88 Including refined formal requirements, the setting up of committees etc.: Bond, Parliament, pp. 240-1.

89 Elton, Parliament of England, pp. 76 (quote), 273 (the importance of local influence). In the 1560s, for instance, Guildford successfully petitioned for the establishment of a grammar school: 5 Eliz. I, OA 33.

90 13 Eliz. I, c. 18.

91 For a summary see D. Hirst, Authority and Conflict: England 1603-58 (London, 1986); an introduction to the complex historiography in R. C. Richardson, The Debate on the English Revolution Revisited (2nd edn., London, 1988).

92 Figures calculated from The Journals of the House of Commons, vol. v; D. Zaret, ‘Petitions and the ”invention” of public opinion in the English Revolution 1640-60’, American Journal of Sociology, ci (1996), 1497-1555.‘Petitioning had become the most potent weapon in the provincial armoury’: Fletcher, Outbreak, p. 191.

93 A further example is the ‘Humble Petition of the Committee and Inhabitants of the County of Middlesex’:
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