« PreviousContinue »
with any evil intention to the House of Commons, which he did with all hearty duty and respect highly esteem; expressing, with many tears, his sorrow that his words were so misconceived and strained further than he ever intended them." On the motion of the Chancellor, a message was sent to the Commons to inform them of this apology; and that "if the Bishop's words had been spoken or meant to cast any aspersion on the Commons, their Lordships would forthwith have proceeded to the censuring and punishing thereof with all severity; but that hereafter no member of their House ought to be called in question, when there is no other ground for it but public and common fame." Still the Commons were unappeased, and they would proceed with no other business till they had more satisfaction.
The Crown now interposed in a very irregular manner; and a commission was passed under the Great Seal (to be used as a threat), authorising the Lord Chancellor and others to dissolve the parliament. The Lord Chancellor then, according to the entry in the Journals, "in a very grave and worthy speech, gave the Lords great thanks for having so nobly borne with the many motions he had so unreasonably made unto them." He concluded, by moving that a message be sent to the Commons, to say "that forasmuch as they thought to have heard something from that House this morning, they had hitherto stayed the publishing of the commission, which had passed the Great Seal, to dissolve the parliament." An equivocal answer being received, Parliament they adjourned till the following day; and then, no concession being made, the Lord Chancellor directed the commission to be read, and, in the King's name, dissolved the parliament. No other parliament met till 1620,- when a Lord Chancellor was impeached, and convicted of bribery and corruption.
* 1 Parl. Hist. 1159.
CONCLUSION OF THE LIFE OF LORD ELLESMERE.
LORD ELLESMERE, for the rest of his time, had only to attend to his duties in the Court of Chancery, in the Privy Council, in the Star Chamber, and in the Court of the Lord High Steward.
He had obtained the assistance of an able Master of the lor in Court Rolls, Sir Julius Cæsar, who had been regularly bred to the profession of the law, and a commission had issued, in which several common-law Judges were included, to hear causes in his absence. From his age and infirmities, he could no longer master the whole business of the Court single-handed, as he had done in former times. He showed, however, that his mental vigour remained unbroken.
to Earl of Somerset.
The youthful minion who was now grasping at all power and patronage, tried to get into his hands even the appointment of the officers of the Court of Chancery, but this attempt was manfully resisted by the Chancellor. The following is a copy of the letter which he wrote to the Earl of Somerset on that occasion :
"I would be gladde to gyve you a good accompt of the late projecte of Sir W. Uvedall's sute. I wysh well to the Gent. in regarde of hym selfe, but specially for your recommendation, being desirous to accommodate any thinge you shall commende unto me. But the more I haue laboured to understand what is lykely to be the scope and ende of this projecte, the more I am perplexed. I doubt that, by the successe, he shall fynde yt more in shewe then substance. I perceyve yt maye concerne many, some in the
very right of their places, as they pretende, namely, the CHAP. Clerke & Comptroller of the Hanaper, but specially the Clerk who is Clericus & Custos Hanaperii, and so a receyvor & accomptant to his Matye and conceyveth, as his Counsell advise hym, that yt wyll prejudice hym in his frehoulde, havinge his office for terme of his lyfe by his Matys letters patent. The Controller hath a kynde of relation to the same office, and can not well be severed the one from the other. The poore Sealer and Chaffewaxe, and ther dependantes, are afrayed of they know not what, suspecting that this innovation, which they understande not, can not be for ther good, but lykely to ende to ther harme, whatsoever is pretended. And these poore men, whose labour and paynes are greatest, deserue moost to be pytyed & relieved, and so yt is lykely that some upon pretence of right, and some from necessitye, wyll move more discontentement & clamour then they can stoppe.
"But leavinge these to theym selues, I must lett your Lordship know playnelye that yf I be pressed to deliver myne opinion, I can not gyve any furtherance to the sute. For where the constitution & frame of Hanaper hath contynued setled as yt is, I know not how many hundred yeares, this newe projecte wyll make such a breach and rupture in yt as I can not foresee yt; and your Lp. in your wysedome can not but know that all innovations be dangerous, and yt was, upon great reason, observed and sayed longe agoe, that ipsa mutatio consuetudinis etiam quæ adjuvat utilitate novitate perturbat. Such perturbations, by a newe projecte, after so many hundred yeares quyette, I woulde be sory to see in this place in my tyme, which can not be, and I desire not to be, longe. So, recommending the further consideration therof to your wysedom, I rest
"Your Lps very lovinge frende,
In the case of the Countess of Shrewsbury, brought before
the Privy Council for being concerned in the marriage of the King's cousin-german, the Lady Arabella Stuart, without the Countess of King's consent, the Lord Chancellor laid it down for law, that this was a great misdemeanour, and that the defendant, though a Peeress, by refusing to answer on oath the questions put to her respecting it, ought to be fined 20,0007.* The right of the reigning Sovereign to regulate the marriages of all members of the royal family was then enforced by the power of arbitrary fine and imprisonment, and when this power was gone, the right was found to be without any remedy till the passing of the royal marriage act, in the reign of George III.
"Case of Duels."
As a specimen of the mode of proceeding in the Star Chamber while Lord Ellesmere presided there, I will give a short abstract of the famous "Case of Duels." Sir Francis Bacon, Attorney General, filed an information against William Priest for writing and sending a challenge, and against Richard Wright for carrying it, although it had been refused. The case was very clear, and not attended with any circumstances of aggravation; yet, to check the practice of duelling, which had then increased in a most alarming manner, the trial occupied a tedious length of time, and was conducted with great solemnity. After a most elaborate opening from Mr. Attorney, he called his proofs, and the defendants confessed their guilt. Still Lord Coke was called upon by the Chancellor to lay down the law, that "to send or carry a challenge is a misdemeanour, though there be no duel." Then the Lord Chancellor pronounced sentence, "that both defendants be committed to Fleet; Priest to pay a fine of 5007., and Wright of 500 marks; that at the next Surrey assizes they should publicly, in the face of the Court, the Judges sitting, acknowledge their offence against God, the King, and the laws; that the sentence should be openly read and published before the Judges on all the circuits; and, lastly, that the Lord Chief Justice Coke should report the case for public instruction. †
It was a sore disappointment to the Lord Chancellor that
he was prevented by illness from being present in the Star Chamber at the hearing of the case of Oliver St. John, prosecuted by Mr. Attorney General Bacon in the Star Cham- Oliver ber, for denying the legality of "Benevolences." The hearing St. John's had been put off to accommodate him, and he had expressed a strong hope to be able to attend, "and it were to be his lences." last work to conclude his services, and express his affection. towards his Majesty." However, he took occasion to express his approbation of the sentence, "that the defendant should pay a fine of 50007., and be imprisoned during the King's pleasure." *
Though not chargeable with counselling acts of wanton Lord cruelty, he always supported the King in all his pretensions Ellesmere to arbitrary power, never in a single instance checking the supporter excesses of prerogative; —unlike his great contemporary, Lord of abuses of Coke, who was redeemed from many professional and political tive. sins, not only by acting the part of a patriot when turned out of office and persecuted by the existing administration, but who, even when Chief Justice holding at the pleasure of the Crown, with the Great Seal within his reach, stepped forward on various occasions as the champion of the laws and constitution of his country.
The High Commission Court, established in the reign of Court of Henry VIII. on the separation from Rome as a substitute High Comfor the papal jurisdiction, had been made an instrument of more odious vexation than the Star Chamber itself. The Lord Chancellor stood up for its legality, and its power to fine and imprison; but Coke refused to sit upon it, denying that it had any such authority, either by the common law or act of parliament, and the Chancellor was obliged to excuse his absence from its sittings.†
So James arrogated to himself the power of issuing pro- Illegal Proclamations, not merely to enforce, but to alter the law limiting this prerogative to any particular subject, and merely taking this distinction between a proclamation and an act of
* See 2 St. Tr. 899.
† 12 Rep. 87. In the next reign this Court became still more tyrannical when directed by Laud against the Puritans, but it was abolished by 16 Car. 1. c. 11.