The House of Assembly had been occupied during the session of 1820 to 1821 in revising and settling the fees of public officers. During the invest.igation the House summoned several of the officers to produce their dockets of fees. Anlong others, Robert B. Clarke, Esq. was desired to attend on the 17th of April 1821 at the bar, and to produce the bills of costs of the prothonotar)"s office; to which he replied that, as they were records of his office, he did not conceive himself justified under his oath of office to produce them. His refusal led to lengthened debates, as to whether the House possessed any right to cOlnmit 1\11'. Clarke to the COlnlnon jail for contempt. It was contested that the House had no right to summon the prothonotary before it. In the latter end of the seventeenth century the Colonial Assembly made great struggles for power; the Governlncnt at home kept careful watch over their proceedings, and at last thought it necessary to interfere, and to pass the 7th and 8th of William III. chap. 22, in which, among other things, it is declared" that all laws, bye-laws, usages and customs, which shall be in practice in any of the plantations, repugnant to any law made or to be made in this kingdom, shall be utterly void and of none effect." Two years after this, on the 9th of August 1698, the Colonial Act was passed to settle the rights and power of the General ~\.ssembly, in which it is enacted that it shall be la\\,ful for the House to send for officers' papers and records 1. This act only remained in force nine Dlonths; it was repealed in l\lay 1699, in conseqnence of the King's refusing to confirm it. During Governor
Grenville's adnlinistration ~o. 204 of ' IIall's La\vs' \vas passed, gIvIng po\vcr to the COlnnlittee of the Ilouse, then sitting for the revi8ion and publication of the la\vs of the island, the right to senu for officers' records, &c. It ,,'as thercfore contended that, did thc 110use possess such an inherent right, there \vould have been no necessity to pass a special la\v for that purpose. These objcction8 ,,"cre ho\,"ever renloved by an appeal to precedents; and aillong others it \vas stated that a COlllmittee had been appointed in ~Iay 17~t5 to inquire into the condition of Charles Fott, ",ho \vere ClllpO\Vered to send for per80ns, papers, and records: and in i\pril 1746 the IIouse canle to the follo\ving resolutions :-
From this and other precedents, it ,,,as considered that the flonse did possess such a right, \vhich it ,,'as no\v solenluly called upon to protect, and to hold inviolate the privileges of the people.