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1621

BACON'S FAULTS.

95

light which can be thrown upon them by the help of the records of the Court of Chancery, will be sufficient to give a tolerably clear idea of the nature of his delinquencies.

In answer to one at least of the charges, he could offer no excuse. "He had given way," it was said, "to great exactions by his servants." He at once acknowledged servants. that it was a great fault of neglect that he looked no better to them.

Faults of his

Payments after the

close of the suit.

formal.

From the remaining twenty-seven 1 articles, ten may, for all practical purposes, be summarily excluded. They related to presents given after the closing of the various suits, and which were, therefore, according to the ideas of the day, to be regarded as legitimate payments.2 Cases where of the rest, five cases may also be dismissed as of no the fault was real importance. When Bacon accepted 500l. from merely Sir Rowland Egerton, it was in total ignorance that the old question would be again stirred by Edward Egerton's wilfulness. Smithwick's case has been already commented on: it concerned the Chancellor's servants rather than himself. The three remaining gifts of this class had been received from rival companies which had submitted to his arbitration; but this was merely in accordance with the opinion of the day, which held that an arbitrator ought to be rewarded for his trouble, without fixing any scale of payment.

Cases more

tionable.

Sir J.

Still twelve cases remain, all of them open to grave or less objec- objection, some of them to the severest reprobation. From Sir John Trevor, Bacon had accepted 100l., Trevor. as a new year's gift, but had neglected to inquire whether his cause was ended or not. The truth was, that it had been dismissed to a trial at common-law, but that as the equity was reserved, it might again come before him judicially. He had received 600l. or 700l. from Lord Montague after the decision had been given. But the decision was resisted by the other party, and the case came up again before him. He was obliged to acknowledge that he had

Lord Montague.

1 I adopt Bacon's numbering in preference to that of the Lords. 2 These were the gifts brought by Hody, Monk, Holman, Fisher, Scott, Lenthall, Wroth, Dunch, Ruswell, and Barker.

received fair warning that this was likely to occur; for when the money was brought, the bearer told him, 'that my lord would be further thankful if he could once get his quiet.' All that Bacon was able to say in defence of his conduct was that he had paid no attention to the message.1

From Sir John Kennedy he had received a rich cabinet, whilst a suit was pending. Bacon had seen it, and had

Sir J.
Kennedy.

ordered it to be carried back. When he afterwards heard that it was still in the house, he was offended at the neglect of his orders; but he had not insisted on obedience, and all that he could now say was that the cabinet was ready to be returned to whom their lordships should appoint.

Aubrey, E.
Egerton,
and Lady
Wharton.

Hansby.

Of the cases of Aubrey, of Edward Egerton, and of Lady Wharton, enough has been said already.

In one respect the case of Ralph Hansby resembles that of Lady Wharton. There is the clearest evidence that Bacon did that which was utterly indefensible. But there is also the clearest evidence that the money which he improperly received did not, in the slightest degree, affect his judgment.

On July 17, 1617, Bacon had decided, in Hansby's favour, a question respecting the validity of a deed by which he derived a large estate from his uncle. There still, however, remained a further question as to the property, upon which certain legacies were chargeable. The point was referred by Bacon to some of the Masters in Chancery, upon whose report he would have to deliver his final judgment. Under these circumstances he accepted a present of 500l. from Hansby, in whose favour the suit about the legacies was finally decided. In itself, this last judgment was, no doubt, open to grave suspicion. But, fortunately for his credit, Bacon had given the reasons upon which it was based. The question turned upon the intention of the old man at the time when he was signing the deed in favour of his nephew, and it so happened that not only

The particulars of the case will be found in the Order Books, under the heading "Dominus St. John v. Englefield." In Trin T. and Mich. T. 1617, there are two Masters' Reports headed "Viscount Montague v. Englefield."

1621

CHARGES AGAINST BACON.

97

the lawyers who had drawn it up were unanimously in favour of Hansby's interpretation of the clauses, but that evidence was given to the effect that his uncle, before he signed the deed, had entered into an explanation in which he spoke of other property on which he intended that the legacies should be charged, and by which, therefore, his intention to exonerate his nephew was placed beyond a doubt. Once more then, in a case in which the presumptions against Bacon are undoubtedly strong, the evidence in favour of his integrity is overwhelming.1 The next case, if it had stood alone, was sufficient to procure Bacon's condemnation. In 1614, Ellesmere had decided in favour of Peacock in a suit against Sir George Reynell, Reynell.2 Difficulties arose in carrying out the judgment, and interrogatories were administered to various persons, with the view of ascertaining the facts of the case with greater accuracy. Before sufficient time had elapsed for raising the question again in court, the Great Seal was transferred to Bacon, and Reynell, who was connected with him by marriage, brought him 200l. to buy furniture for York House, of which he was then about to take possession. It was not till the succeeding winter that Reynell made application for a rehearing,3 and it was either on the following or on some subsequent New Year's Day, that he brought to the Chancellor a diamond ring, which was, as Bacon admitted,

Peacock.

of too great value for a New Year's gift. What was still worse, before the suit was ended, Bacon borrowed from Peacock 1,000l., and submitted to receive an assurance that no interest or written acknowledgment of the debt would be required.

Vanlore.

The case of Vanlore was similar to that of Peacock. It was proved that Bacon had borrowed from him 2,000l. at a time when he was a suitor in the Court.

1 Orders, Hansby v. Hansby, Order Book, 1616 A. fol. 1257, 1617 A. fol. 661, 965, 1051, 1228.

2 Order, Peacock v. Reynell, June 27, 1614, Order Book, 1614 A. fol. 1308.

3 Order, Reynell v. Peacock, Dec. 20, 1617, Order Book, 1617 A. fol. 389.

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Compton's case was more peculiar. He had been asked by Bacon for a loan of 500/., and had refused to lend it, on the ground that the Chancellor had interfered with his Compton. attempt to proceed to extremities against a debtor, and that he now owed 400l. to a certain Huxley. Upon this Bacon wrote to Huxley, begging him to refrain from pressing his claim for six months; and Compton accordingly retracted his refusal, and lent the money which had been demanded. By-and-by, however, Huxley repented of his concession, and proceeded against Compton at common law. Compton appealed to Chancery, alleging that he was merely a surety, and that Huxley ought first to have applied to those who had actually borrowed the money from him. Sir Charles Rich, one of the Masters of the Court, reported that Compton's story was a mere tissue of falsehoods, and Bacon ordered him to pay the debt with costs. Unseemly as the Chancellor's position was towards the plaintiff, it cannot be affirmed that there was any denial of justice here.

The last case to be mentioned was an affair of a very different kind. The Company of French Merchants had comThe French plained to Bacon, that the London Vintners had enmerchants. tered into a combination not to buy wine at reasonable prices, and had offered him 1,000l. as a reward for the services which they expected him to render. Bacon at once drew up a tariff by which he considered that the vintners would make a profit of 67. a tun. His scheme was, however, rejected by the vintners, and the merchants appealed to the King. James, on the ground that his customs would be injuriously affected by the cessation of trade, commissioned Bacon to settle the dispute. Thus authorised, he dealt with the vintners, as he himself acknowledged, 'more stiffly and preremptorily.' He imprisoned 'for a day or two some that were the most stiff.' Unable to resist such arguments as these, the vintners withdrew their opposition, though they complained bitterly that they had been forced to buy wines whereof they had no need nor use,' at higher rates than they were vendible. The merchants on the other hand, presented the Chancellor with the 1,000l. which they had promised him, assuring him that he had kept them

1621

BACON'S CONFESSION.

99

from a kind of ruin ;' and maintaining that 'the vintners, if they were not insatiably minded, had a very competent gain.' No candid person who reads Bacon's account of the matter can doubt that he acted precisely as, with his notions on trade, he would have been likely to act if he had never been offered a penny for his trouble. But no candid person can deny that in listening to the offer of payment before the service was rendered, he did precisely what in the most corrupt times would have been done by the most corrupt of ministers.

of the

evidence upon the

question of character.

In every one of these cases additional inquiry tells the same tale. The volumes of the Order Books may be searched The bearing through, but they will never reveal an excuse for Bacon's actions. But wherever they throw any light upon his motives, that light is invariably favourable. He takes Lady Wharton's purse, but he does nothing but repeat a sentence delivered months before. He accepts a sum of money from Hansby, but he decides on evidence so conclusive that no other course is open to him. May it not fairly be supposed that this result would hold good in other instances, and that the misdeeds of the great Chancellor were attributable to contempt of forms, to the carelessness of haste, and to an overweening confidence in his own integrity? His own language during the progress of the investigation is in every respect honourable to his character. Believing at first that no case can be established against him, his only demand is for a fair and open trial. As day by day brings fresh presumption against him, he reiterates his demand, adding the assurance that no prevarication on his part shall stand in the way of justice. When the blow falls it is a crushing one. He sees the truth, and he makes no attempt to blind the eyes of his judges. He never admits that his intentions had been corrupt, nor does he ever affirm that his actions had been innocent. "I do again confess,"-such are the words sion of with which his long answer closes, "that in the points charged upon me, although they should be taken as myself have declared them, there is a great deal of corruption and neglect, for which I am heartily and penitently sorry." 1 1 Bacor.'s confession, Lords' Journals, iii. 98.

His expres

penitence.

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