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The judicial Charge of Sir FRANCIS BACON, the King's Sollicitor, upon the Commiffion of Oyer and Determiner held for the Verge of the Court*.


OU are to know and confider well, the duty and service to which you are called, and whereupon you are by your oath charged. It is the happy estate and condition of the fubject of this realm of England, that he is not to be impeached in his life, lands, or goods, by flying rumours or wandring fames and reports, or fecret and privie inquifitions; but by the oath and prefentment of men of honeft condition, in the face of justice. But this happy eftate of the subject, will turn to hurt and inconvenience, if those that hold that part which you are now to perform, fhall be negligent and remifs in doing their duty; for as of two evils it were better mens doings were looked into over ftrictly and feverely, than that there fhould be a notorious impunity of malefactors; as was well and wifely faid of ancient time, a man were better live where nothing is lawful, than where all things are lawful. This therefore rests in your care and confcience, forafmuch as at you justice begins, and the law cannot purfue and chafe offenders to their deferved fall, except you first put them up and

discover them, whereby they may be brought to answer; · for your verdict is not concluding to condemn, but it

* Several times incorrectly printed, without the proper title, now amended by the original.


is neceffary to charge, and without it the Court cannot proceed to condemn.

Confidering therefore that yee are the eye of Justice, ye ought to be single without partial affection; watchful, not asleep, or false afleep in winking at offenders, and sharp fighted to proceed with understanding and discretion; for in a word, if you fhall not prefent unto the Court all fuch offences, as fhall appear unto you either by evidence given in, or otherwise (mark what I say) of your own knowledge, which have been committed within the verge, which is as it were the limits of your furvey, but shall smother and conceal any offence willingly, then the guiltinefs of others will cleave to your confciences, before God; and befides, you are answerable in fome degree to the King and his law, for fuch your default and fuppreffion; and therefore take good regard unto it, you are to serve the King and his people, you are to keep and obferve your oath, you are to acquit your felves.

But there is yet more cause why you fhould take more efpecial regard to your prefentments, than any other grand juries, within the counties of this Kingdom at large. for as it is a neerer degree and approach unto the King, which is the fountain of juftice and government, to be the King's fervant, than to be the King's fubject; fo this commiffion ordained for the King's fervants and houfhold, ought in the execution of Juftice to be exemplary unto other places; David faith (who was a King) The wicked man fhall not abide in my houfe; as taking knowledge that it was impoffible for Kings to extend their care, to banish wickednefs over all their land or em

pire ;

pire; but yet at least they ought to undertake to God for their house.

We fee further that the law doth fo esteem the dignity of the King's fettled manfion-house, as it hath laid unto it a plot of twelve miles round, which we call the Verge, to be fubject to a special and exempted jurisdiction, depending upon his person and great officers. This is as a half pace, or carpet fpread about the King's chair of eftate, which therefore ought to be cleared and voided more than other places of the kingdome; for if offences fhall be shrouded under the King's wings, what hope is there of difcipline and good justice in more remote parts? We fee the fun when it is at the brightest, there may be perhaps a bank of clouds in the north or the weft, or remote regions, but near his body few or none; for where the King cometh, there fhould come peace, and order, and an awe and reverence in mens hearts. And this jurifdiction was in ancient time Articuli fuper executed, and fince by statute ratified by the Lord Steward, 13 Ric. 2. c. 3. with great ceremony in the nature of a peculiar King's 33 H. 8. c.12. Bench, for the Verge, for it was thought a kind of eclipfing to the King's honour, that where the King was, any justice should be fought but immediately from his own officers. But in refpect that office was oft void, this commiffion hath fucceeded, which change I do not dislike, for though it hath less state, yet it hath more strength legally; therefore I fay, you that are a jury of the Verge, fhould lead and give a pattern unto others in the care and confcience of your prefentments.

Concerning the particular points and articles whereof you fhall inquire, I will help your memory and mine own with order, neither will I loade you or trouble my

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Chartas, . 3

God and his


self with every branch of feveral offences, but ftand upon those that are principal and most in use: The offences therefore that you are to prefent are of four natures.

1. The firft, fuch as concern God and his Church. 2. The fecond, fuch as concern the King and his eftate.

3. The third, fuch as concern the King's people, and are capital.

4. The fourth, fuch as concern the King's people, not capital.

The fervice of Almighty God, upon whofe bleffing the peace, fafety, and good eftate of King and kingdom doth depend, may be violated, and God difhonoured in three manners; by profanation, by contempt, and by divifion, or breach of unity.

First, if any man hath depraved or abused in word or & 1 Eliz. c. 2. deed the blessed Sacrament, or disturbed the preacher or

I Ed. 6. c. 1.

1 M. c. 3.



Ed. 6. c. 4. congregation in the time of divine service, or if any 13 E. 1. Stat. maliciously ftricken with weapon, or or drawn weapon in

of Winton.

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any church or church-yard, or if any fair or market have

been kept in any church-yard, these are prophanations within the purview of several statutes, and these you are to prefent; for holy things, actions, times, and facred places, are to be preserved in reverence and divine respect.

For contempts of our church and fervice, they are comprehended in that known name, which too many (if it pleased God) bear, recufancy; which offence hath many branches and dependencies: the wife recufant, fhe tempts; the church-papist, he feeds and relieves; the corrupt fchool

fchool-master, he foweth tares; the diffembler, he conformeth and doth not communicate. Therefore, if any person, man, or woman, wife, or fole, above the age of fixteen years, not having fome lawful excuse, have not repaired to church according to the several statutes, the one for the weekly, the other for the monthly repair, you are to present both the offence, and the time how long. Again, fuch as maintain, relieve, keep in service of livery, recufants, though themselves be none, you are likewise to prefent; for these be like the roots of nettles, which sting not themselves, but bear and maintain the ftinging leaves. fo of any that keepeth a school-master that comes not to church, or is not allowed by the Bishop, for that infection may spread farre. fo fuch recufants as have been convicted and conformed, and have not received the facrament once a year, for that is the touchftone of their true converfion. and of thefe offences of recufancie, take you special regard.. Twelve miles from court is no region for such subjects. In the name of God, why should not twelve miles about the King's chair be as free from papift recufants, as twelve miles from the city of Rome (the popes chair) is from Protestants. There be hypocrites and atheists, and fo I fear there be amongst us; but, no open contempt of their religion is endured. If there must be recufants, it were better they lurked in the country, than here in the bofome of the kingdome.

For matter of division and breach of unity, it is not Breach of Uwithout a mystery, that Chrift's coat had no feam, nor nity. no more should the Church, if it were poffible. Therefore if any minifter refuse to use the book of common

Zz 2


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