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of the Spanish cortes, will show the importance of this ancient Spanish senate.
It is not generally known, but it is a fact of great consequence, and highly honourable to the intelligence and spirit of the Spanish nation, that the representatives of the commons formed a constituent part in the supreme assemblies of that kingdom a century before they were admitted to that rank in the other European nations. Zurita mentions a convention of the cortes in the year 1133, at which the procuradores de las cindades y villas were present.
The cortes was composed of the nobility, the clergy, and the representatives of the cities. They were the depositaries of the legislative government, the executive being confided to the king, under the inspection, however, in some provinces at least, of the justiza, or supreme judge, who, like, the ephori with the Lacedemonians, was the protector of the people, and the controler of the prince.
From Gil Gonzales de Avila, who gives the writ of summons to the town of Abula, in 1390, we learn that bishops, dukes, marquisses, the masters of the three military orders, as Condes and Ricos Hombres, were required to attend the cortes. The cities sending members on that occasion were 48 in number, and their representatives 125. These places commissioned more or fewer members to discharge their important functions in that assembly, according to their rank and dignity, which appears to have been nearly in proportion to their population.
There was one regulation which, in modern times at least, would be extremely embarrassing: no law could pass without the assent of every individual of the cortes. Its powers were prodigiously extensive; without its permission no tax could be imposed, no money could be coined, and no war could either be commenced or terminated. It governed all the inferior courts, redressed all grievances, and inspected every department of public administration. The King could neither prorogue nor dissolve is, and its session continued during forty days. For several centuries prior to the 14th it met anually, but subsequently to that period biennially. Those who applied for relief to the cortes did not approach that assembly as lowly supplicants and humble petitioners, but they demanded its assistance as the birthright of freemen.
It is well known that until the time of Ferdinand and Isabella at the close of the fifteenth century, the kingdoms of Leon, Cas
tile, and Arragon, were not united. From the silence of the historians of the two former, as to the powers and duties of the cortes, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, we are under the necessity of resorting to the anpals of Arragon to supply the deficiency, but it is probable that we shall commit no material error in supposing that these contemporaneous establishments were simi. lạr in the extent of their powers and privileges.
The cortes of Arragon not only opposed the attempts of their kings to increase their revenues and extend their prerogatives, but they claimed and exercised for some time the extraordinary power of appointing the officers of his household, as well as the member of the council. The cortes looked with a jealous eye upon the military authority, and in order to control it raised troops under its own immediate orders, and nominated persons who were to command them. In the year 1503, an act of the cortes is on record, conceding to the king permission to appoint officers for a body of troops destined to be employed in Italy.
We are told that the cortes of Arragon were violently attenlive to all the ceremonies sanctioned by, antiquity, in their proceedings, and the following remarkable fact is stated in support of the allegation :-“ According to the the established laws and customs of Arragon no foreigner had liberty to enter the hall in which the cortes assembled. Ferdinand, in the year 1481, appointed his Queen, Isabella, regent of the kingdom, while he was absent du. ring the course of the campaign. The laws required that a regent should take the oath of fidelity in presence of the cortes; but as Isabella was a foreigner, before she could be admitted the cortes through it necessary to pass an act, authorising the serjeant-porter to open the door of the hall to allow her to enter."
Political Review. FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
At the election of officers for the ensuing year, the following persons were chosen:
Egbert Benson, President.
The following persons were elected Honorary Members of the society :
George Clinton, Vice President of the United States.
This society was instituted in 1805, and incorporated in 1809. It consists at present of about sixty members, and has made considerable progress in the establishment of a library and cabinet, which are deposited in an apartment of the Government House of the suite of rooms occupied by the Academy of Arts, appropriated to their use.
The objects of this highly useful and laudable society are more particularly detailed in the following address:
The address of the New-York Historical Society.
Having formed an association, which has since been incorporated, for the purpose of discovering, procuring and preserving whatever may relate to the natural, civil, literary, and ecclesiastical history of our country, and particularly of the state of New-York, we solicit the aid of the liberal, patriotic and learned, to promote the objects of our institution.
The utility of societies for the advancement of science, has been so fully proved by the experience of the most enlightened nations of Europe, and by that of our own country, that there can be no need, at this time, of any formal arguments in support of their claim to public patronage. But it may be observed, that, in this state, if we except the Agricultural Society, there is no association for the purposes of general knowledge; and the want of regular, minute, and authentic history of New-York, renders the combined efforts of individuals for that object more peculiarly necessary.
It is well known that many valuable manuscripts and papers relative to the history of our country remain in the possession of those who, though unwilling to entrust them to a single person, yet would cheerfully confide them to a public institution, in whose custody they would be preserved for the general benefit of society. To rescue from the dust and obscurity of private repositories such important documents, as are liable to be lost or destroyed, by the indifference or neglect of those into whose hands they may have fallen, will be a primary object of our attention.
The paucity of materials, and the extreme difficulty of procuring such as relate to the first settlement and colonial transactions of this state, can be fully perceived by those only who have meditated on the design of erecting an historical monument of those events, and have calculated the nature and amount of their resources: for without the aid of original records and authentic documents, history will be nothing more than a well-combined series of ingenious conjectures and amusing fables. The cause of truth is interesting to all men, and those who possess the means, however small, of preventing error, or of elucidating obscure facts, will confer a benefit on mankind by communicating them to the world.
Not aspiring to the higher walks of general science, we shall confine the range of our exertions to the humble task of collecting and preserving whatever may be useful to others in the different branches of historical inquiry. We feel encouraged to follow this path by the honourable example of the Massachusetts Society, whose labours will
abridge those of the future historian, and furnish a thousand lights to guide him through the dubious track of unrecorded time. Without aiming to be rivals, we shall be happy to cooperate with that laudable institution in pursuing the objects of our common researches; satisfied if, in the end, our efforts shall be attended with equal success.
Our inquires are not limited to a single state, or district, but extend to the whole continent; and it will be our business to diffuse the information we may collect in such manner as will best conduce to general instruction. As soon as our collection shall be sufficient to form a volume, and the funds of the society will admit, we shall commence publication, that we may better secure our treasures by means of the press, from the corrosions of time and the power of accident.
That this object may be sooner and more effectually attained, we request that all who feel disposed to encourage our design will transmit, as soon as convenient, to the Society
Manuscripts, records, pamphlets, and books relative, to the history of this country, and particularly to the points of inquiry subjoined.
Orations, sermons, essays, discourses, poems and tracts; delivered, written, or published on any public occasion, or which concern any public transaction, or remarkable character or event.
Laws, journals, copies of records, and proceedings of congresses, legislatures, general assemblies, conventions, committees of safety, secret committes for general objects, treaties and negotiations with any Indian tribes, or with any state or nation.
Proceedings of ecclesiastical conventions, synods, general assemblies, presbyteries, and societies of all denominations of christians.
Narratives of missionaries, and proceedings of missionary societies.
Narratives of Indian wars, battles and exploits; of the adventures and sufferings of captives, voyagers and travellers.
Minutes and proceedings of societies for the abolition of slavery, and the transactions of societies for political, literary, and scientific purposes.
Accounts of universities, colleges, academies, and schools; their origin, progress, and present state.
Topographical descriptions of cities, towns, counties and districts, at various periods, with maps, and whatever relates to the progressive geography of the country.
Statistical tables-tables of diseases, births and deaths, and of population; of meteorological observations and facts relating to climate.
Accounts of exports and imports at various periods, and of the progress of manufactures and commerce.
Magazines, reviews, newspapers, and other periodical publications, particularly such as appeared antecedent to the year 1783.