From WikiPOBia

Jump to: navigation, search

Definition from the Era

(The information in this section is from the 1771 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Please do not make edits to this section. Content is presented in its original form as to spelling and grammar use. This is what an educated person of Aubrey and Maturin's time would have known)

Is the grand assembly of the three states of this kingdom, summoned together, by the king's authority to consult of matters relating to the public welfare, and particularly to enact and repeal laws. It consists of the king, the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons and is at once the seat of legislative authority, and the highest court of justice in Great Britain.

In the house of lords, criminal causes are tried on the impeachment of the commons; and this house has an original jurisdiction for the trial of peers upon indictments found by a grand jury; the lords likewise try such causes as come thither on appeals from the court of chancery, and all their decrees are as judgments.

The house of commons examine the right of elections; regulate disputes concerning them; may expel their own members, and commit them to prison. They are the grand inquest of the nation; and present public grievances or delinquents to the king and lords, in order to their being punished. In short they are the representatives of all the commons in the kingdom, and in them their constituents have placed the highest confidence, by investing them with the power of making laws, and entrusting them with all their liberties and privileges.

The number of the members in the house of lords is uncertain, as increasing at the king's pleasure. The members of the house of commons when full are five hundred and fifty three: ninety-two knights of the shires; fifty-two deputies for twenty-five cities, London having four; sixteen for the eight cinque-ports; two for each university; three hundred and thirty-two for an hundred and eighty boroughs; twelve for the boroughs in Wales, and forty-five members for Scotland.

All members of parliament in order that they may attend public service of their country, have to privilege for themselves of being free from arrest, attachments, imprisonments etc, for debts, trespass, etc, but not from arrests for treason, felony, and breach of the peace. (M-Z pgs 457-458)

In the Canon

General Aubrey, Jack's father, is an "old and horribly energetic...member of Parliament in the extreme Radical interest [who] seemed bent on destroying Jack's career".[1] This he did by invoking his son as an authority during his frequent criticisms of Government and Admiralty policy, rather than out of any particular malice towards his son.

When his father dies, Aubrey is given the opportunity to become an MP by his cousin Edward Norton who is the patron of a pocket-borough of Milport[2]. He tells the few electors (who are obligated to follow his advice) that they should vote for Aubrey and ensures his election.

Norton denigrates the importance of the seat, noting that, "There is not much merit in being a member of parliament, unless perhaps you represent your country; but at least a member with merit of his own is in a position to have it recognized. He can bite as well as bark."[3] The significance of this is proven, for the seat allows Aubrey's friends to arrange his reinstatement on the Navy List because of his usefulness as a supporting vote to the government. However, his parliamentary career is not smooth and he finds himself crossing the government on issues and hazarding his career.


  1. O'Brian, Patrick. The Far Side of the World. (c)1984 by William Collins Sons & Co., Ltd. Published as a Norton Paperback 1992: p.328
  2. O'Brian, Patrick. The Letter of marque. (c)1988 by William Collins Sons & Co., Ltd.: p.228
  3. O'Brian, Patrick. The Letter of Marque. (c)1988 by Patrick O'Brian. First American Edition, 1990. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York, NY: p. 228

Personal tools