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As soon as this submission was read in the House, a committee was appointed to visit him, in order to learn whether his signature was genuine. "My lords," was his reply, "it is my act, my hand, my heart. I beseech your lordships be merciful unto a broken reed."

It was in the midst of racking pain, physical and mental, that this cry of agony was wrung from him. He believed that he was dying. He knew that few amongst his countrymen would from henceforth regard him otherwise than as corrupt in heart and feeling. Nor was this all. A man who is in act innocent, may look forward to the day when it will be proved that he never committed the crime of which he is accused. No such proof could ever come for Bacon. To admit his innocence men must read his heart, and must learn to look upon the world with his eyes. "For my name and memory," he declared in his last will," I leave it to men's charitable speeches, to foreign nations, and to the next ages." Yet he must have known that the next ages would have a difficult task. They would have to show, what of all things is the hardest to prove, that his heart was pure whilst his actions were guilty.1

1 The following verses are valuable as giving an idea of the mode in which Bacon's case was regarded by a not unfavourable looker on :

"Vicecomes Sanctus Albanus Cancellarius Anglicanus
Miris dotibus imbutus, ingeniosus et acutus,

Linguâ nemini secundus (ah! si esset manu mundus)
Eloquens et literatus repetundarum accusatus

Accusatus haud convictus (utinam haud rithmus fictus)
Tanquam passer plumbo ictus est ægrotus, aut sic dictus,
Morte precor moriatur reus antequam damnatur,
Morte dico naturali (munus, non est pœna tali),
Ab amico accusatus; miser tu, at es ingratus.
Acteon tu propriis manibus, præda facta tuis canibus
Pereant canes hi latrantes te famamque vulnerantes.
Tua sors est deploranda, quid si culpa perdonata,
Fama est per orbem flata quod sigilla sunt sublata.
Mali semel accusatus, etsi pœnâ liberatus,
Manet malum et reatus, absit hic sit tuus status.

Vive tu, si vitam cupis, vita cara ursis, lupis,
Et si quid fecisti malè, redime et benè vale."

S. P. Dom. cxx. 39.


May 1. The Great Seal taken from him.



With such inquiries the House of Lords had no concern. They were called upon-not to solve a psychological problem, but to punish corrupt actions, in order that they might not be imitated for the future. Their first step was to ask the King to take away the Great Seal from the man in whose custody it had been surrounded with an atmosphere of venality. James at once assented. "I would have done it," he said, "if I had not been moved therein." The next day Mandeville, Pembroke, Lennox, and Arundel were sent to the sick man to require the surrender of the Seal. They found him 'very sick.' "We wish," said one of them, "that it had been better with you.' In his weariness of life, Bacon replied, "The worse, the better." Then, after a little, he added, "By the King's great favour I received the Great Seal; by my own great fault I have lost it." After this melancholy scene the messengers departed, carrying with them the symbol of the King's authority, which they had been directed to retain in their own hands, as commissioners, till a permanent successor was appointed.1 At the same time Ley was anthorised to continue his attendance as Speaker of the House of Lords.2

May 2. Bacon unable to attend the

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There were those amongst the peers who were not satisfied even with this humiliation. The next day, at Southampton's motion, the officers of the House were sent to summon the late Lord Chancellor to the bar. The Great Seal, which had hitherto protected him, was But he was still able to appeal to the weakness of his physical frame. He was in bed when the officers arrived. He told them that they asked for an impossibility. He was not making excuses. If he had been well, he would willingly have come.

House. no longer his.

May 3.


The excuse thus made was accepted without difficulty on the following morning. The question was then put whether the late Lord Chancellor was guilty of the matters with which he was charged, and it was agreed to without a dissentient voice. The House then went into committee to discuss the penalty to be inflicted upon him. 2 Lords' Journals, iii. 103-104.

sentence debated.

1 Elsing's Notes, 41.

That it should consist of fine and imprisonment was accepted without difficulty. Lord Sheffield moved, amidst signs of approbation, that he should be incapable for the future of holding any office of judicature, or of a seat in the Privy Council. Saye, ever rancorous in his indignation against guilt, proposed that degradation from the peerage should be added. Against this extremity, Arundel and Pembroke protested. It soon appeared that Saye's proposal would be made a question between the supporters of the Court and the Opposition. It was adopted by Spencer and Southampton, the lattter of whom took credit to himself for not having recommended the addition of banishment, of which he declared the late Chancellor to be worthy; whilst Lennox, Mandeville, Hamilton, and the Prince himself spoke in Bacon's favour. At last a compromise was suggested by Hamilton. Let him be spared from personal degradation; but let him lose his right of sitting in the House, or of coming to Court. After this, Arundel, who had earlier in the debate acknowledged the foulness of the offence, nevertheless again deprecated the idea of expulsion from the peerage. It was not usual, he said, to degrade a peer excepting by Act of Parliament. Bishop Neile added a more peculiar reason. It would be well, he said, to leave him his title, that he might remember from whence he had fallen. To these arguments no reply was made; but Southampton, fearing perhaps lest Bacon might escape altogether, rose again. "Is it well," he said, "that he whom this House thinks unfit to be a constable, shall come to the Parliament ?' After this the exclusion from Parliament was voted without a dissentient voice. As soon as it was carried, Buckingham, apparently with the intention of averting any further addition to the sentence, observed that Bacon was so sick that he could not live long.

The House then resumed, and the sentence was formally put into shape. The late Chancellor was to pay a fine of 40,000l., to be imprisoned in the Tower during the King's pleasure, to be incapable of any place or employment in the State or commonwealth, and to be disabled from sitting in Parliament, or from coming within twelve miles of the Court.




An attempt made by Suffolk's son, Lord Howard de Walden, to gratify the animosities of his family, by the suspension during life of Bacon's titles of nobility, was thwarted by the good sense of the House. Such a sentence would have been more than a penalty for a crime; it would have been a personal disgrace inflicted upon the offender. The Prince and Buckingham came to the aid of the fallen Chancellor, and it is said that the Bishops voted as one man on the side of lenity. Their efforts were successful, and the proposition was rejected by a majority. The remainder of the proposed sentence was then put to the vote, and was carried with a single dissentient voice -the voice of Buckingham, who had found little to say in extenuation of such faults as those with which Bacon had been charged, but had made it a point of honour not to abandon his constant supporter in extremity.1

The sentence de

The Commons were then summoned to the bar, and the judgement resolved upon was pronounced. It was a heavy sentence, but not more heavy than the circumstances of the case demanded. It was well that the House livered. of Lords should declare its opinion that the late Lord Chancellor could no longer be employed with advantage in the service of the State. The fine and imprisonment were, as every one knew, worse in appearance than in reality. Such penalties were in those days little more than a strong expression of opinion if the condemned person sought for a remission of his sentence from the King in sufficiently humble terms, the remission was almost certain to be accorded; and no one could doubt that Bacon was likely to be humble, and that James was likely to be forgiving.


When the history of the debate was told to Bacon, he remarked that he was only bound to thank his clergy.' Some weeks later, looking back upon the past in a more serious mood, he said that though he was bound to acknowledge 'the sentence just, and for reformation's sake fit,' yet that he had been the justest Chancellor since his father's death. The judgment thus recorded by himself may be accepted by history as final. Thus fell Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Alban, from the 1 Elsing's Notes.



highest eminence to which a subject could climb. Neither of Bacon's the great English parties which were so soon to spring into existence could claim him as their own; and as long as the influence of those parties continued to lay its spell upon history, his memory was left without a champion. His name was used by satirists, who knew nothing of his life, to point the commonplace moral that intellect dissociated from virtue must fail to command success. In our own days, the most brilliant of historians, exasperated by the absurdities of a weak and ignorant panegyrist, took the case against Bacon under his patronage, and in language which will be read as long as the English tongue endures, painted the great statesman and the great philosopher in colours as odious as they are untrue to nature, because his thoughts and principles did not square with the system of a Whig politician of the nineteenth century. After this, it is hardly to be wondered at that a great German chemist should have boldly declared him to be a charlatan and an impostor, because he was neither a Kepler nor a Faraday. It is time that Bacon should be known as he really was. He was not the faultless monster which it has pleased some of his too enthusiastic worshippers to represent him. But far less was he that strange congeries of discordant qualities which were never found united in any human being. He was not one man as a thinker, and another man as a politician. In every part of his career he was indefatigable in his pursuit of truth and justice. His faults as a philosopher, as a statesman, and as a judge, arose alike from the same source. "I have taken all knowledge for my province," he once ex

It will be seen that I have little sympathy with Lord Macaulay's view of Bacon's character. But there are wonderful flashes of common sense in his essay. For instance, when have the writers who believe in Bacon s faultlessness, answered such an argument as this?"It seems strange that Mr. Montagu should not perceive, that while attempting to vindicate Bacon's reputation, he is really casting on it the foulest of all aspersions. He imputes to his idol a degree of meanness and depravity more loathsome than judicial corruption itself. A corrupt judge may have many good qualities. But a man who, to please a powerful patron, solemnly declares himself guilty of corruption when he knows himself to be innocent, must be a monster of servility and impudence."

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