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than to punish offenders. It was certain that they could not proceed against the referees without alienating the King. If, on the other hand, they could convert into law the Bill which was before them, it would never again be in the power of any minister, however high in favour, to divert disputes relating to commercial privileges from the ordinary courts.





EVEN after the demand for an inquiry into the conduct of the referees had been withdrawn, Bacon must have felt that,

Bacon's position. position was still insecure. In the House of Lords his connection with Buckingham told against him. The Commons, it is true, had withdrawn their charges against him in deference to the King, but they were in no humour to criticise very closely any accusation brought against him which did not involve an attack on the royal prerogative. Whatever may be the judgment finally passed on his conduct with respect to the patents, it is impossible that he can have been regarded by his political opponents, in the full blaze of the revelations of Mompesson's villany, in any other light than in that of a sycophant and a tyrant.

though the immediate danger had passed by, his


Since its appointment at the commencement of the session, the committee for inquiring into abuses in courts of justice had held its sittings regularly on Wednesday afterregistrars noons. On February 28, its attention was drawn in Chancery. to the delinquencies of the registrars of the Court of Chancery. These men, amongst whom a certain John Churchill was especially notorious, were accustomed to add to their regular fees by the practice of forging orders, and entering them as if they had been delivered by the Court. Bacon's character was not affected by this discovery in the slightest degree, but it gave the delinquents a special mo




tive for purchasing impunity by informing against their superiors.1

March 14.

The Committee did not meet again till March 14. Cranfield, who saw that, since Buckingham's speech on the preceding day, his opportunity of calling the referees Bills of Con- to account was slipping away, led the attack against formity. Bacon by complaining of his practice of issuing Bills of Conformity. These Bills, by which the Court of Chancery had been in the habit of extending its protection over insolvent debtors who were able to make out a case for its interference, were attacked by the Master of the Wards in the true spirit of a London shopkeeper. Cranfield even went so far as to declare that, compared with these, Mompesson's knaveries were but a trifle. "It were as good," he said, "a man took away a purse as hinder him recover by justice his due debt." Coke followed on the same side. He could not believe that there were such proceedings in any court of justice. Sir Dudley Digges, who had just returned from a mission to

1 Proceedings and Debates, i. 109. These forgeries must, as a rule, have related to matters of small weight, which would escape the notice of the Court. On one occasion on which Churchill ventured to tamper with a decree of importance he was, as will be seen, detected immediately.

2 In his anxiety to prove that there was a good understanding between Buckingham and Cranfield, Mr. Hepworth Dixon (Story of Lord Bacon's Life, 371) has said that Cranfield received a grant of ‘a considerable share of the fines which belonged of right to the officers of Bacon's court,' by which he got a pretext for overhauling the Entry Books and scrutinising the receipt of fees.' No doubt Mrs. Green, in her Calendar, states that Cranfield received a grant of the alienation fines on Dec. 22, 1620. But her statement that it was made to Lord Cranfield at once provokes suspicion, as there was no such person in existence at the date, and a reference to the Patent Rolls shows that she was led into error by a mistake in an old index. The grant was made, not in 1620 but in 1621. It could not well be otherwise, as the fines belonged not to Bacon's officers, but to Bacon himself, and till he surrendered them after his sentence it was not in the King's power to grant them to Cranfield. Mrs. Green's reputation for accuracy stands deservedly so high that it is always worth while to notice any of the slips which are to be found, few and far between, in that calendar which few have had opportunity of testing so thoroughly as myself.

Amsterdam on behalf of the East India Company, spoke the sentiments of the more reasonable traders, who did not altogether regard a debtor as a wild beast to be hunted down without mercy. In old times, he said, there were certain definite cases in which these bills had been granted, 'but now, it is to be feared, that the latitude of the jurisdiction of that Court had brought in many mischiefs.' He wished that something might be done, in order that it might not lie in the breast of one man, be it whosoever, to use so large a power, but that he might be tied to the old rules and bounds of Chancery, which is only to mitigate the rigour of the law.' 1

Digges had evidently made out a case for inquiry. Dislike of technicalities, and confidence in his own powers, were the fertile sources of Bacon's errors. In his eagerness to supersede the imperfections of the existing law, he sometimes forgot to calculate the risk of pouring contempt upon law itself, or to remember that it is only by the establishment of general rules that progress is possible. In his desire to crush opposition to the gold and silver thread patent, which had, as he firmly believed, been established for the benefit of the commonwealth, he had sanctioned the operations of an arbitrary tribunal, which might in after times be imitated for the worst of purposes, and it is by no means impossible that in the hope of giving protection to a struggling debtor, he may have countenanced measures which, if reduced into a rule, would have made honest trade impossible.


Every day was thus increasing the alienation between Bacon and the House of Commons. Yet there can have been few amongst the members who did not feel charged with a shock when Christopher Aubrey appeared at the bar with a petition in which the Chancellor was directly charged with bribery.


Aubrey had many years previously been employed by Sir William Brunker, as a receiver of certain fines, called the Aubrey's Issues of Jurors, which had been leased to him by the King. The two men had quarrelled, and an action at common law resulted in a judgment in Aubrey's


1 Proceedings and Debates, i. 157-159.

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favour. Brunker appealed to the Court of Chancery, and in April, 1618, the suit came on for a hearing before Bacon. On the whole the Chancellor expressed himself in Brunker's favour, but declined to give any positive opinion till the accounts had been subjected to a strict examination. Some weeks passed by, and no satisfactory explanation of his claims could be extracted from Aubrey. It was not, it would seem, in the correctness of his figures that the strength of his case was to be found. He had already, unless he is grossly belied, bribed and cajoled at least two witnesses to give evidence in his favour. He now ventured on a bolder step. On June 1, he placed 100l. in the hands of his counsel, Sir George Hastings, and requested him to give it to the Chancellor himself. The money, he was subsequently informed, had been given and accepted, and he confidently looked forward to a favourable decision upon his case. In less than a fortnight, however, he was undeceived. On the 13th, "a killing order," as he afterwards termed it, ejected him from his post, and appointed a new receiver in his place. Under these circumstances, the production of his accounts became a necessity. His case occupied the court for more than two years; and it was not till November, 1620, that Bacon finally announced his award, which acknowledged the justice of many of his claims, but which, as it did not give him all that he had asked, left him a dissatisfied man.3

Brooding over his injuries, Aubrey determined to appeal to

1 Affidavits of Brunker and Twine, Oct. 23, 1617, Chancery Affidavits, Mich. T. 1617, Nos. 157, 158. Orders, Brunker v. Aubrey, Oct. 20, 1617; April 29, 1618, Order Book, 1617, A. fol. 71,955.

2 Orders, Brunker v. Aubrey, May 5, 16, 17, 1618, Order Book, 1617, A. fol. 931, 937, 1246.

3 Affidavits of Ware, Jolly, and Worrall, April 21, June 25, July 24, 1618, Chancery Affidavits, Hil. T. 1617-18, No. 634; Trin. T. 1618, Nos. 186, 211. Orders, Brunker v. Aubrey, June 13, 1618; Nov. 14, 1620, Order Book, 1617, A. fol. 1101, 1620, B. fol. 460. In Proceedings and Debates, the date of the "killing order" is erroneously given as July 13, and the bribe is said to have been given on July 1. No doubt both these should be June. The mistake would easily be made in transcribing from Nicholas's shorthand notes.

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