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THE

DECREE OF THE STAR-CHAMBER

AGAINST

DUELS.

ÎN CAMERA STELLATA CORAM CONCILIO IBIDEM, 26 JANUARII, 11 JAC. REGIS.

PRESENT,

George Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.
Thomas Lord Ellesmere, Lord Chancellor of England.
Henry Earl of Northampton, Lord Privy Seal.
Charles Earl of Nottingham, Lord High Admiral of
England.

Thomas E. of Suffolk, Lord Chamberlain.
John Lord Bishop of London.
Edward Lord Zouch.

THIS day was heard and debated at large the several matters of informations here exhibited by Sir Francis Bacon, knight, his majesty's attorneygeneral, the one against William Priest, gentleman, for writing and sending a letter of challenge, together with a stick, which should be the length of the weapon: and the other against Richard Wright, esquire, for carrying and delivering the said letter and stick unto the party challenged, and for other contemptuous and insolent behaviour used before the justices of the peace in Surry at their sessions, before whom he was convented. Upon the opening of which cause, his highness's said attorney-general did first give his reason to the court, why, in a case which he intended should be a leading case for the repressing of so great a mischief in the commonwealth, and concerning an offence which reigneth chiefly amongst persons of honour and quality, he should begin with a cause which had passed between so mean persons as the defendants seemed to be; which he said was done, because he found this cause ready published; and in so growing an evil, he thought good to lose no time; whereunto he added, that it was not amiss sometimes to beat the dog before the lion; saying farther, that he thought it would be some motive for persons of high birth and countenance to leave it, when they saw it was taken up by base and mechanical fellows; but concluded, that he resolved to proceed without respect of persons for the time to come, and for the present to supply the meanness of this particular case by insisting the longer upon the general point.

Wherein he did first express unto the court at large, the greatness and dangerous consequence of this presumptuous offence, which extorted revenge out of the magistrate's hands, and gave boldness to private men to be lawgivers to them

William Lord Knolles, Treasurer of the Household.
Edward Lord Wotton, Comptroller.

John Lord Stanhope, Vice-chamberlain.
Sir Edward Coke, Knight, Lord Chief Justice of Eng-
land.

Sir Henry Hobart, Knight, Lord Chief Justice of the
Common Pleas.

Sir Julius Cæsar, Knight, Chancellor of the Exchequer. selves; the rather because it is an offence that doth justify itself against the law, and plainly gives the law an affront; describing also the miserable effect which it draweth upon private families, by cutting off young men, otherwise of good hope; and chiefly the loss of the king and the commonwealth, by the casting away of much good blood, which, being spent in the field upon occasion of service, were able to continue the renown which this kingdom hath obtained in all ages, of being esteemed victorious.

Secondly, his majesty's said attorney-general did discourse touching the causes and remedies of this mischief, that prevailed so in these times; showing the ground thereof to be a false and erroneous imagination of honour and credit, according to the term which was given to those duels by a former proclamation of his majesty's, which called them bewitching duels, for that it was no better than a kind of sorcery, which enchanteth the spirits of young men, which bear great minds, with a show of honour in that which is no honour indeed; being against religion, law, moral virtue, and against the precedents and examples of the best times, and valiantest nations of the world; which, though they excelled for prowess and military virtue in a public quarrel, yet know not what these private duels meant ; saying, farther, that there was too much way and countenance given unto these duels, by the course that is held by noblemen and gentlemen in com pounding of quarrels, who use to stand too punctually upon conceits of satisfactions and distinctions, what is beforehand, and what is behindhand, which do but feed the humour: adding, likewise, that it was no fortitude to show valour in a quarrel, except there were a just and worthy ground of the quarrel; but, that it was weakness

to set a man's life at so mean a rate as to bestow | as a high misdemeanor, although they never it upon trifling occasions, which ought to be were performed. And, therefore, that practice to rather offered up and sacrificed to honourable ser- empoison, though it took no effect, and the like, vices, public merits, good causes, and noble adventures. And, as concerning the remedies, he concluded, that the only way was, that the state would declare a constant and settled resolution to master, and put down this presumption in private men, of whatsoever degree, of righting their own wrongs, and this to do at once; for, that then every particular man would think himself acquitted in his reputation, when that he shall see that the state takes his honour into their own hands, and standeth between him and any interest or prejudice, which he might receive in his reputation for obeying: whereunto he added, likewise, that the wisest and mildest way to suppress these duels, was rather to punish in this court all the acts of preparation, which did in any wise tend to the duels, as this of challenges, and the like, and so to prevent the capital punishment, and to vex the root in the branches, than to suffer them to run on to the execution, and then to punish them capitally, after the manner of France: where, of late times, gentlemen of great quality that had killed others in duel, were carried to the gibbet with their wounds bleeding, lest a natural death should keep them from the example of justice.

have been punished in this court; and cited the precedent in Garnon's case, wherein a crime of a much inferior nature, the suborning and preparing of witnesses, though they never were deposed, or deposed nothing material, was censured in this court: whereupon he concluded, that forasmuch as every appointment of the field is in law but a combination of plotting of a murder, howsoever men might gild it; that, therefore, it was a case fit for the censure of this court; and therein he vouched a precedent in the very point, that in a case between Wharton, plaintiff, and Ellekar and Acklam, defendants; Acklam, being a follower of Ellekar, had carried a challenge unto Wharton; and although it were by word of mouth, and not by writing, yet it was severely censured by the court; the decree having words that such challenges do tend to the subversion of government. And, therefore, his majesty's attorney willed the standers by to take notice that it was no innovation that he brought in, but a proceeding according to former precedents of the court, although he purposed to follow it more thoroughly than had been done ever heretofore, because the times did more and more require it. Lastly, his majesty's Thirdly, His majesty's said attorney-general said attorney-general did declare and publish to did, by many reasons which he brought and the court in several articles, his purpose and resoalleged, free the law of England from certain lution in what cases he did intend to prosecute vain and childish exceptions, which are taken by offences of that nature in this court; that is to these duellists the one, because the law makes say, that if any man shall appoint the field, alno difference in punishment between an insidious though the fight be not acted or performed; if any and foul murder, and the killing a man upon man shall send any challenge in writing, or meschallenge and fair terms, as they call it. The sage of challenge; if any man shall carry or deother, for that the law hath not provided suffi- liver any writing or message of challenge; if any cient punishment and reparation for contumely man shall accept or return a challenge; if any man of words, as the lie, and the like: wherein his shall accept to be a second in a challenge of majesty's said attorney-general did show, by either part; if any man shall depart the realm, many weighty arguments and examples, that the with intention and agreement to perform the fight law of England did consent with the law of God beyond the seas; if any man shall revive a quarand the law of nations in both these points, and rel by any scandalous bruits or writings, contrary that this distinction in murder between foul and to a former proclamation, published by his mafair, and this grounding of mortal quarrels upon jesty in that behalf; that in all these cases his uncivil and reproachful words, or the like dis- majesty's attorney-general, in discharge of his graces, was never authorized by any law or duty, by the favour and assistance of his majesty ancient examples; but it is a late vanity, crept in and the court, would bring the offenders, of what from the practice of the French, who themselves state or degree soever, to the justice of this court, since have been so weary of it, as they have been leaving the lords commissioners martial to the forced to put it down with all severity. more exact remedies: adding farther, that he heard there were certain counsel learned of duels, that tell young men when they are beforehand, and when they are otherwise, and did incense and incite them to the duel, and made an art of it; who likewise should not be forgotten. And so concluded with two petitions, the one in particular to the lord chancellor, that in case advertisement were given of a purpose in any to go beyond the seas to fight, there might be granted his majesty's

Fourthly, His majesty's said attorney-general did prove unto the court, by rules of law and precedents, that this court hath capacity to punish sending and accepting of challenges, though they were never acted nor executed; taking for a ground infallible, that wheresoever an offence is capital or matter of felony, if it be acted and performed, there the conspiracy, combination, or practice tending to the same offence, is punishable

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writ of "Ne exeat regnum" against him; and
the other to the lords in general, that he might be
assisted and countenanced in this service.

justices that are trustea with the preservation of the peace, are not able to master and repress those offences, which were by the court at large After which opening and declaration of the ge- set forth, to be not only against the law of God, neral cause, his majesty's said attorney did pro- to whom, and his substitutes, all revenge belongceed to set forth the proofs of this particular chal-eth, as part of his prerogative, but also against lenge and offence now in hand, and brought to the oath and duty of every subject unto his mathe judgment and censure of this honourable jesty, for that the subject doth swear unto him by court; whereupon it appeared to this honourable the ancient law allegiance of life and member; court, by the confession of the said defendant, whereby it is plain inferred, that the subject hath Priest himself, that he having received some wrong and disgrace at the hands of one Hutchest, did thereupon, in revenge thereof, write a letter to the said Hutchest, containing a challenge to fight with him at single rapier, which letter the said Priest did deliver to the said defendant, Wright, together with a stick containing the length of the rapier, wherewith the said Priest meant to perform the fight. Whereupon the said Wright did deliver the said letter to the said Hutchest, and did read the same unto him; and after the reading thereof, did also deliver to the said Hutchest the said stick, saying, that the same was the length of the weapon mentioned in the said letter. But the said Hutchest, dutifully respecting the preservation of his majesty's peace, did refuse the said challenge, whereby no farther mischief did ensue thereupon.

no disposing power over himself of life and member to be spent or ventured according to his own passions and fancies, insomuch as the very practice of chivalry in justs and tournays, which are but images of martial actions, appear by ancient precedents not to be lawful without the king's license obtained. The court also noted, that these private duels or combats were of another nature from the combats which have been allowed by the law, as well of this land as of other nations, for the trial of rights or appeals. For that those combats receive direction and authority from the law; whereas these, contrariwise, spring only from the unbridled humours of private men. And as for the pretence of honour, the court much misliking the confusion of degrees which is grown of late, every man assuming tinto himself the term and attribute of honour, did This honourable court, and all the honourable utterly reject and condemn the opinion that the presence this day sitting, upon grave and mature private duel, in any person whatsoever, had any deliberation, pondering the quality of these of- grounds of honour; as well because nothing can fences, they generally approved the speech and be honourable that is not lawful, and that it is no observations of his majesty's said attorney-ge- magnanimity or greatness of mind, but a swellneral, and highly commended his great care and ing and tumour of the mind, where there faileth a good service in bringing a cause of this nature right and sound judgment; as also for that it was to public punishment and example, and in pro- rather justly to be esteemed a weakness, and a fessing a constant purpose to go on in the like conscience of small value in a man's self to be decourse with others: letting him know, that he jected so with a word or trifling disgrace, as to might expect from the court all concurrence and think there is no recure of it, but by the hazard of assistance in so good a work. And thereupon life: whereas true honour, in persons that know the court did by their several opinions and sen- their own worth, is not of any such brittle subtences declare how much it imported the peace stance, but of a more strong composition. And, and prosperous estate of his majesty and his king- finally, the court, showing a firm and settled resodom, to nip this practice and offence of duels in the lution to proceed with all severity against these head, which now did overspread and grow uni- duels, and gave warning to all young noblemen versal, even among mean persons, and was not gentlemen, that they should not expect the like only entertained in practice and custom, but was connivance or toleration as formerly have been, framed into a kind of art and precepts: so that, but that justice should have a full passage, withaccording to the saying of the Scripture," mis-out protection or interruption. Adding, that after chief is imagined like a law." And the court with a strait inhibition, whosoever should attempt a one consent did declare their opinions: that, by challenge or combat, in case where the other party the ancient law of the land, all inceptions, preparations, and combinations to execute unlawful acts, though they never be performed, as they be not to be punished capitally, except it be in the case of treason, and some other particular cases of statute law; so yet they are punishable as misdemeanors and contempts: and that this court was proper for offences of such a nature; especially in this case, where the bravery and insolency of the times are such as the ordinary magistrates and

was restrained to answer him, as now all good subjects are, did by their own principals receive the dishonour and disgrace upon himself.

And for the present cause, the court hath ordered, adjudged, and decreed, that the said William Priest and Richard Wright be committed to the prison of the fleet, and the said Priest to pay five hundred pounds, and the said Wright five hundred marks, for their several fines to his majesty's use And to the end, that some more public example

may be made hereof amongst his majesty's people, | so have ordered and decreed, that the same be not the court hath further ordered and decreed, that only read and published at the next assizes for the said Priest and Wright shall, at the next Surry, at such time as the said Priest and Wright assizes, to be holden in the county of Surry, are to acknowledge their offences as aforesaid; but publicly, in face of the court, the judges sitting, that the same be likewise published and made acknowledge their high contempt and offence known in all shires of this kingdom. And to against God, his majesty, and his laws, and show that end the justices of assizes are required by themselves penitent for the same. this honourable court to cause this decree to be Moreover, the wisdom of this high and honour- solemnly read and published in all the places and able court thought it meet and necessary that all sittings of their several circuits, and in the greatsorts of his majesty's subjects should understand est assembly; to the end, that all his majesty's and take notice of that which hath been said and subjects may take knowledge and understand the handled this day touching this matter, as well by opinion of this honourable court in this case, and his highness's attorney-general, as by the lords in what measure his majesty and this honourjudges, touching the law in such cases. And, able court purposeth to punish such as shall fall therefore, the court hath enjoined Mr. Attorney to into the like contempt and offences hereafter. have special care to the penning of this decree, for Lastly, this honourable court much approving that, the setting forth in the same summarily the matters which the right honourable Sir Edward Coke, and reasons which have been opened and delivered knight, Lord Chief Justice of England, did now by the court touching the same; and, nevertheless, deliver touching the law in this case of duels, also at some time convenient to publish the par- hath enjoined his lordship to report the same ticulars of his speech and declaration, as very in print, as he hath formerly done divers other meet and worthy to be remembered and made cases, that such as understand not the law in known unto the world, as these times are. And that behalf, and all others, may better direct this decree, being in such sort carefully drawn themselves, and prevent the danger thereof hereand penned, the whole court thought it meet, and after.

THE CHARGE GIVEN

BY SIR FRANCIS
FRANCIS BACON, KNIGHT,

HIS MAJESTY'S ATTORNEY-GENERAL,

AGAINST

MR. OLIVER SAINT JOHN,

FOR SCANDALIZING AND TRADUCING IN THE PUBLIC SESSIONS, LETTERS SENT FROM THE LORDS OF THE COUNCIL, TOUCHING THE BENEVOLENCE.

MY LORDS,

I shall inform you "ore tenus," against this gentleman, Mr. I. S.; a gentleman, as it seems, of an ancient house and name; but, for the present, I can think of him by no other name, than the name of a great offender. The nature and quality of his offence, in sum, is this: This gentleman hath, upon advice, not suddenly by his pen, nor by the slip of his tongue; not privately, or in a corner, but publicly, as it were, to the face of the king's ministers and justices, slandered and traduced the

king our sovereign, the law of the land, the parliament, and infinite particulars of his majesty's worthy and loving subjects. Nay, the slander is of that nature, that it may seem to interest the people in grief and discontent against the state; whence might have ensued matter of murmur and sedition. So that it is not a simple slander, but a seditious slander, like to that the poet speaketh of- Calamosque armare veneno." A venomous dart, that hath both iron and poison.

To open to your lordships the true state of this

offence, I will set before you, first, the occasion five points: I will number them, because other whereupon Mr. I. S. wrought: then the offence itself, in his own words: and, lastly, the points of his charge.

My lords, you may remember that there was the last parliament an expectation to have had the king supplied with treasure, although the event failed. Herein it is not fit for me to give opinion of a House of Parliament, but I will give testimony of truth in all places. I served in the Lower House, and I observed somewhat. This I do affirm, that I never could perceive but that there was in that House a general disposition to give, and to give largely. The clocks in the House perchance might differ; some went too fast, some went too slow; but the disposition to give was general: so I think I may truly say, "solo tempore lapsus amor.'

This accident happening thus beside expectation, it stirred up and awaked in divers of his majesty's worthy servants and subjects of the clergy, the nobility, the court, and others here near at hand, an affection loving and cheerful, to present the king, some with plate, some with money, as free-will offerings, a thing that God Almighty loves, a cheerful giver: what an evil eye doth I know not. And, my lords, let me speak it plainly unto you: God forbid anybody should be so wretched as to think that the obligation of love and duty, from the subject to the king, should be joint and not several. No, my lords, it is both. The subject petitioneth to the king in parliament. He petitioneth likewise out of parliament. The king on the other side gives graces to the subject in parliament: he gives them likewise, and poureth them upon his people out of parliament; and so, no doubt, the subject may give to the king in parliament, and out of parliament. It is true the parliament is "intercursus magnus," the great intercourse and main current of graces and donatives from the king to the people, from the people to the king: but parliaments are held but at certain times; whereas the passages are always open for particulars; even as you see great rivers have their tides, but particular springs and fountains run continually. To proceed, therefore: As the occasion, which was the failing of supply by parliament, did awake the love and benevolence of those that were at hand to give; so it was apprehended and thought fit by my lords of the council to make a proof, whether the occasion and example both would not awake those in the country of the better sort to follow. Whereupon, their lordships devised and directed letters unto the sheriffs and justices, which declared what was done here above, and wished that the country might be moved, especially men of value.

Now, my lords, I beseech you give me favour and attention to set forth and observe unto you

men may note them; and I will but touch them, because they shall not be drowned or lost in discourse, which I hold worthy the observation, for the honour of the state and confusion of slanderers; whereby it will appear most evidently what care was taken, that that which was then done might not have the effect, no, nor the show, no, nor so much as the shadow of a tax; and that it was so far from breeding or bringing in any ill precedent or example, as, contrariwise, it is a corrective that doth correct and allay the harshness and danger of former examples.

The first is, that what was done was done immediately after such a parliament, as made general profession to give, and was interrupted by accident: so as you may truly and justly esteem it,

tanquam posthuma proles parliamenti," as an after-child of the parliament, and in pursuit, in some small measure, of the firm intent of a parliament past. You may take it also, if you will, as an advance or provisional help until a future parliament; or as a gratification simply, without any relation to a parliament; you can no ways take it amiss.

The second is, that it wrought upon example, as a thing not devised or projected, or required; no, nor so much as recommended, until many that were never moved nor dealt with, "ex mero motu," had freely and frankly sent in their presents. So that the letters were rather like letters of news, what was done at London, than otherwise: and we know "exempla ducunt, non trahunt:" examples they do but lead, they do. not draw nor drive.

The third is, that it was not done by commission under the great seal; a thing warranted by a multitude of precedents, both ancient, and of late time, as you shall hear anon, and no doubt warranted by law: so that the commissions be of that style and tenor, as that they be to move and not to levy: but this was done by letters of the council, and no higher hand or form.

The fourth is, that these letters had no manner of show of any binding act of state: for they contain not any special frame or direction how the business should be managed; but were written as upon trust, leaving the matter wholly to the industry and confidence of those in the country; so that it was an "absque computo;" such a form of letters as no man could fitly be called to account upon.

The fifth and last point is, that the whole carriage of the business had no circumstance compulsory. There was no proportion or rate set down, not so much as by way of a wish; there was no menace of any that should deny; no reproof of any that did deny; no certifying of the names of any that had denied. Indeed, if men could not content themselves to deny, but that

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