The thirteenth century in English history foreshadowed the seventeenth. The great movement, which in the former century, wrested the Magna Charta from John, at Runnymede, supported Simon de Montfort in his resistance to Henry Third, and produced the evolution of the English Parliament out of the Curia Regis, bears a very strong resemblance to that movement which, four centuries later sent one of the Stuart kings to the block and another into exile, and secured for the English people the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act, and the Bill of Rights.

1 For complete text of Magna Charta see Appendix C.

The reformers of the thirteenth century, however, were men whose political ideas were far ahead of their times, with the result that the immediate effect of most of their work was only transient, and its greatest importance lies in the example which it furnished for the future. The attempted reforms of Simon de Montfort, if they could have received the support of England at this time, would have very largely anticipated the work of the seventeenth century; as it is the brief period of the rule of Simon de Montfort is the brightest spot in the history of English liberty prior to the days of the Long Parliament. De Montfort and his followers, it is true, claimed to proclaim no new political principles, nor to demand any innovation or new grants of liberties from the king. In this they resembled the English reformers of preceding and succeeding generations. From the time when the Anglo-Saxons, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries cried for the restoration of the good old laws of Ead-ward the Confessor to the time when English liberties were finally secured by the Bill of Rights, all proposed reforms in the English Government have been defended by their advocates, as being merely as a return to the old liberties of their forefathers.

What the English people demanded of Henry III was his observance of the principles as laid down in the Magna Charta, an observance which he often promised but seldom fulfilled. The liberties of England seemed to perish with the fall of De Montfort at the battle of Eversham, but this struggle was not to be without its effect upon the future of England and most prominent among the results which can be traced back to this great contest was the impetus which it had given to the development of the English Parliament.

While in theory all the powers of the old Saxon Witenagemote passed to the Curia Regis of the Norman kings, in reality its legislative powers were soon reduced to a mere shadow. The principle duties of the Curia Regis during the reigns of the Norman kings were to assist the King in his judicial and administrative work. Its legislative functions, however, while at this time slight, represented the entire share which either nobility or commonalty had in the making of English laws. In its constitution the Curia Regis of the Norman kings was a court of the King's feudal vassals, which each tenant in chief of the King had the right to attend. In practice this attendance soon became limited to the greater barons, the higher ecclesiastics, and the officials of the King. The thirteenth century saw the introduction of the elective system in the determination of the membership of the Curia Regis; it was the extension of this system which was to turn the Curia Regis into the English Parliament; to play a leading part in the preservation of English liberties, and to finally result in the development of that system of representative government which has been the greatest political contribution made to the world by the Anglo-Saxon race.

The elective method was occasionally used as early as the reign of King John for the purpose of choosing representatives of the royal desmesnes and of the lesser barons. It is not, however, until the time of De Montfort and the Parliament of 1265 that the principle was used for the purpose of securing representation to the cities and boroughs, the centers of the intellectual and commercial life of England and the backbone of the power of English commerce. With the overthrow of De Montfort this representative system seemed to have been destroyed. Edward I, however, had learned, and was willing to learn, more from De Montfort than military tactics, and we see the Parliament of 1295 created upon the same basis as De Montfort's famous parliament of thirty years before.

Edward I's Parliament of 1295, stands as a landmark in the constitutional and political history of England. The great work of his reign, however, leaving out of consideration his military campaigns, was along the line of the development of English private law; it is his work which has earned for him the title of the English Justinian.

The reign of Edward I is one of definition, of development, of the settlement of details; the work of his reign may be said to have been a finishing and polishing of the work which had been rough-hewn by his predecessors. We find in it no such great work as the reorganizing of the judicial system by Henry II; no great charter of liberties like the Magna Charta; no such brilliant political innovation as that contained in the Parliament of Simon de Montfort, but all of these needed the work of an Edward I for their completion. The judicial system of Henry II was developed into a higher degree of efficiency than it ever attained in the reign of the first Plantagenet King. The Magna Charta was reaffirmed, and in the main followed.

The revolutionary expedient of Simon de Montfort was made part of the regular law of the land.