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"Mr. Attorney, and with one consent do hold the "same to be contrary to law, and such as we could "not yield to the same by our oath, assuredly per"suading ourselves that your majesty being truly in"formed, that it standeth not with your royal and just
pleasure to give way to them: and knowing your "majesty's zeal to justice to be most renowned, there"fore we have, according to our oaths and duties, at "the very day prefixed the last term, proceeded, and thereof certified your majesty; and shall ever pray to the Almighty for your majesty in all honour, "health and happiness long to reign over us."
Edw. Coke, Henry Hobart, Laur. Tan-
Serjeants-Inn, 25 April, 1616:
His majesty having considered of this letter, by his princely letters returned answer, reporting himself to their own knowledge and experience, what princely eare he hath ever had since his coming to the crown, to have justice duly administered to his subjects, with all possible expedition; and how far he was from crossing or delaying of justice, when the interest of any private person was questioned but on the other side expressing himself, that where the case concerned the high powers and prerogatives of the crown, he would not endure to have them wounded through the sides of a private person; admonishing them also, lastly, of a custom lately entertained, of a greater boldness to dispute the high points of his majesty's prerogative in a popular and unlawful liberty of argument more than in former times and making them perceive also how weak and impertinent the pretence of allegation of their oath was in a case of this nature, and how well it might have been spared; with many other weighty points in the said letter contained: which letter also by his majesty's appointment and commandment was publicly read in hæc verba
..." TRUSTY and well-beloved counsellors, and trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well. We perceive by your letter, that you conceive the commandment given you by our attorney-general in our name to have proceeded upon wrong information: but if you "list to remember what princely care we have ever "had, since our coming to this crown, to see justice duly administered to our subjects, with all possible “expedition; and how far we have ever been from urging the delay thereof in any sort, you may safely persuade yourselves that it was no small reason that moved us to send you that direction. You might 4" very well have spared your labour in informing us of "the nature of your oath; for although we never "studied the common law of England, yet are we not "ignorant of any points which belong to a King to "know: we are therefore to inform you hereby, that "we are far from crossing or delaying any thing which may belong to the interest of any private party in "this case; but we cannot be contented to suffer the prerogative royal of our crown to be wounded through "the sides of a private person: we have no care at all "which of the parties shall win this process in this
case, so that right prevail, and that justice be truly "administered. But on the other side, we have reason "to foresee that nothing be done in this case which may wound our prerogative in general; and there"fore so that we may be sure that nothing shall be "debated amongst you which may concern our gene"ral power of giving Commendams, we desire not the "parties to have one hour's delay of justice: but that "our prerogative should not be wounded in that regard "for all times hereafter, upon pretext of private persons interest, we sent you that direction; which we ff account as well to be wounded if it be publicly disputed upon, as if any sentence were given against "it: we are therefore to admonish you, that since the "prerogative of our crown hath been more boldly dealt withal in Westminster-Hall, during the time
of our reign, than ever it was before in the reigns of "divers princes immediately preceding us, that we will ve no longer endure that popular and unlawful liberty; and therefore we were justly moved to send you that direction to forbear to meddle in a cause of so tender * a nature, till we had farther thought upon it. We have cause indeed to rejoice of your zeal for your speedy execution of justice; but we would be glad that all our subjects might so find the fruits thereof, as that no pleas before you were of older date than this is. But as to your argument, which you found upon your oath, you give our predecessors, who first founded the oath, a very charitable meaning, in per verting their intention and zeal to justice, to make "a a weapon of it to use against their successors; for 1 although your oath be, that you shall not delay justice between any private persons or parties, yet was it not meant that the king should thereby receive harm, before he be forewarned thereof; neither can you deny, but that every term you will out of ❝ your own discretions, for reasons known unto you, put off either the hearing or determining of any or"dinary cause betwixt private persons till the next term following. Our pleasure therefore is, who are the head and fountain of justice under God in our "dominions, and we out of our absolute power and "authority royal do command you, that you forbear
to meddle any farther in this plea till our coming to "town, and that out of our own mouth you hear our pleasure in this business; which we do out of the care we have, that our prerogative may not receive an unwitting and indirect blow, and not to hinder "justice to be administered to any private parties, which no importunities shall persuade us to move you "in. Like as, only for the avoiding of the unreason"able importunity of suitors in their own particular, that oath was by our predecessors ordained to be "ministered unto you: so we wish you heartily well "to fare.
Postscript. You shall upon the receipt of this letter call our attorney-general unto you, who will
"inform you of the particular points which we are "unwilling to be disputed of in this case.".
This letter being read, his majesty resolved to take into his consideration the parts of the judges letter and other their proceedings in that cause, and the errors therein contained and committed; which errors his majesty did set forth to be both in matter and manner: in matter, as well by way of omission as commission; for omission, that it was a fault in the judges, that when they heard a counsellor at the bar presume to argue against his majesty's prerogative, which in this case was in effect his supremacy, they did not interrupt and reprove sharply that base and bold course of defaming or impeaching things of so high a nature by discourse; especially since his majesty hath observed, that ever since his coming to the crown, the popular sort of lawyers have been the men, that most affrontedly in all parliaments have trodden upon his prerogative: which being most contrary to their vocation of any men, since the law or lawyers can never be respected, if the king be not reverenced; it doth therefore best become the judges of any, to check and bridle such impudent lawyers, and in their several benches to disgrace them that bear so little respect to their king's authority and prerogative: that his majesty had a double prerogative, whereof the one was ordinary and had relation to his private interest, which might be, and was every day, disputed in WestminsterHall; the other was of an higher nature, referring to his supreme and imperial power and sovereignty, which ought not to be disputed or handled in vulgar argument; but that of late the courts of the common law are grown so vast and transcendent, as they did both meddle with the king's prerogative, and had incroached upon all other courts of justice; as the high commission, the councils established in Wales and at York, the court of requests.
Concerning that which might be termed commission, his majesty took exception at the judges letter both in matter and form: for matter, his majesty plainly demonstrated, that whereas it was contained
in the judges letter, that the signification of his ma jesty's letter as aforesaid was contrary to law, and not agreeable to the oath of a judge; that could not, be: first, for that the putting off any hearing or proceeding upon any just or necessary cause, is no denying or delaying of justice, but wisdom and maturity of pro ceeding; and that there cannot be a more just and necessary cause of stay, than the consulting with the king, where the cause concerns the crown; and that the judges did daily put off causes upon lighter occa sions; and likewise his majesty did desire to know of the judges, how his calling them to consult with him was contrary to law, which they could never answer
Secondly, That it was no bare supposition or surmise, that this cause concerned the king's prerogative; for that it had been directly and plainly disputed at the bar; and the very disputing thereof in a public audience is both dangerous and dishonourable to his majesty.
Thirdly, That the manner of the putting off that which the king required, was not infinite nor long time, but grounded upon his majesty's weighty occasions, which were notorious; by reason whereof he could not speak with the judges before the argument; and that there was a certain expectation of his majesty's return at Whitsuntide: and likewise that the cause had been so lately handled and argued, and would not receive judgment by the Easter term next, as the judges themselves afterwards confessed.
And afterwards, because there was another just cause of absence for the two chief justices, for that they ought to have assisted the lord chancellor the same day in a great cause of the king's followed by the lord Hunsdon against the lord William Howard in chancery; which cause of the king's, especially be ing so worthy, ought to have had precedency before any cause betwixt party and party. Also whereas it was contained in the judges letter that the cause of Commendams was but a cause of private interest between party and party, his majesty shewed plainly the