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A FEW YEARS AGO the compilation of a satisfactory history of Antient Parliamentary Elections would have been almost impracticable. Some of the most important documents relating to the subject were but little known, and others entirely unknown. For example, when the elaborate "Report on the Dignity of a Peer’ was published in 1820, the writers, though they were officially assisted by the keepers of the Public Records, and could command the services of the whole of that department, were not acquainted with the returns for the very first regularly constituted and complete House of Commons ever convened in this country—that which sat in the twenty-third year of the reign of Edward I. Those returns have since been published in the magnificent collection of Parliamentary Writs, edited by Sir Francis Palgrave. The publication of that, and of the other great works issued by the Record Commission, marks a new era in the study of Constitutional History. But the very magnitude and number of the volumes, and the obscurity of the language in which they are written, render them inaccessible to all but the most diligent and determined inquirers. In another branch of the subject discussed in the following pages—the Saxon polity-most important additions to our means of knowledge have been made within the last few years.
In order to investigate accurately the original suffrage, either in counties or