For example, in Britain Parliament acquired rights of taxation and consultation and it became an indispensable part of the government. But assemblies were in no country democratic in any sense.
They only represented certain elements in the population; the aristocracy, landed gentry, the rich businessmen, and the higher clergy.
But these elements, observes Soltau, “were probably fairly expressive of what may be called the politically conscious elements of the community; there is no reason to think that a larger electorate would have acted differently in any important issue.”
With the end of the middle Ages and with the emergence of the nation-States, monarchy became more powerful and assemblies were either ignored altogether or they were reduced to mere formal bodies.
This was, however, not the case with the British Parliament. The struggle between Cromwell and Charles resulted in the victory of Parliament.
The Revolution of 1688 established the sovereignty of Parliament by reducing monarchy to dependence upon it, but Parliament was still very far from being a democratic Parliament.
Before 1832, there were only a few thousands of voters spread all over the country and parliamentary seats were in the grip of rich men and were bought and sold like shares on the stock exchange.
The first change in the system of representation, fixed in the middle Ages, was made in 1832 and yet it was a long way from being a people’s parliament.
At intervals after 1832 extending to 1928, there had been successive electoral reforms and now all adults over eighteen, men and women, in the country possess the right to vote and elect their representatives to the House of Commons. Parliament today is really the House of Commons.
In other countries the champions of democracy ceaselessly advocated and strove for the creation of representative assemblies, which should be the centres of political authority. The struggle became so relentless and the demand became so popular that monarchies could survive only by making concessions to the general demand for parliamentary systems.
Today, representative institutions have become the distinguishing feature of a democratic State and its indispensable instrument of government.
In fact, so strongly is entrenched the idea of popular government that even dictatorial governments have deemed it advisable to establish assemblies which they claim to be representative of the popular will. Hitler and Mussolini had their parliaments.
The erstwhile Soviet Union and other Communist States had their legislatures whose members were popularly elected, and were declared in their respective Constitutions as “the highest organs of State power.”