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CHAPTER LII.

CONTINUATION OF LIFE OF LORD BACON TILL THE FALL OF THE
EARL OF ESSEX.

LII.

We have now presented to us a sudden turn of his fortune, CHAP. which rather retarded his promotion, but which, from the unsuspected faculty he exhibited, and the applause he re- Enters on ceived, gave a new stimulus to his ambition. There was in- new career. fused into him at this juncture a taste for public life which ever after combated, without overcoming, his passion for philosophy.

Returned a the House of Com

member of

mons.

His maiden speech on

Law Re

After a government carried on for some years by prerogative alone, a parliament met on the 19th of February, 1593, and Francis Bacon took his seat as representative for the county of Middlesex. In a discussion which arose a few days after upon the topics dwelt upon by the Lord Keeper, in explaining the causes of summoning the parliament (which we may consider "the debate on the address"), he made his maiden speech; and I rejoice to find that it was on "Law Reform." We have but scanty remains of his oratory in the form. House of Commons, but enough to account for the admiration he excited, and the influence he acquired. On this occasion he observed, "The cause of assembling all parliaments hath been hitherto for laws or monies; the one being the sinews of peace, the other of war: to one I am not privy, but the other I should know. I did take great contentment in her Majesty's speech, delivered by the Lord Keeper, how that it was a thing not to be done suddenly, nor scarce a year would suffice to purge the statute book, the volumes of law being so many in number that neither common people can half practise them, nor lawyers sufficiently understand them. The Romans appointed ten men who were to collect or recall all former laws, and to set forth those twelve tables so much of all men commended. The Athenians likewise

appointed six for that purpose. And Louis IX., King of France, did the like in reforming his laws."— We must try

CHAP.
LII.

Ben Jonson's opinion of

to conceive to ourselves the instances he gave of absurd penal laws remaining unrepealed, and the advantages he pointed out from digesting and codifying.

We know that he was ever after the most favoured speaker in that assembly; and, for this reason, when he was made Attorney General, and, according to all precedent, he was disqualified to act as a representative of the people, being summoned as an assistant to the Lords,-it was unanimously resolved that he should retain his seat in the Lower House. "There happened in my time," says Ben Jonson, "one noble speaker who was full of gravity in his speaking. His lanhis oratory. guage, where he could spare or pass by a jest, was nobly censorious. No man ever spoke more neatly, more pressly, more weightily, or suffered less emptiness, less idleness, in what he uttered. No member of his speech but consisted of his own graces. His hearers could not cough or look aside from him without loss. He commanded where he spoke, and had his Judges angry and pleased at his devotion. No man had their affections more in his power. The fear of every man who heard him was lest he should make an end."* So intoxicated was Bacon with the success of his first effort, that in the debate on the 7th of March, on the subagainst the sidy, he delivered a flaming oration against the Court, running great risk of being sent to the Tower and punished by the Star Chamber for his presumption. "To the subsidy demanded he propounded three questions, which he desired might be answered: the first, impossibility or difficulty; the second, danger and discontentment; and, thirdly, a better manner of supply. For impossibility, the poor men's rent is such as they are not able to yield it. The gentlemen must sell their plate, and farmers their brass pots, ere this will be paid; and as for us, we are here to search the wounds of the realm, and not to skin them over. We shall breed discontent

His fa

mous

speech

subsidy.

* It has been supposed, from the use of the word "Judges," that Ben Jonson had never heard Bacon speak in parliament; but I apprehend that he refers to those who heard and formed a judgment of Bacon's eloquence without wearing black coifs and scarlet robes.

"A perfect JUDGE will read each piece of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ."-Pope.

See Macaulay's Essays, vol. ii. 302.

LII.

ment in paying these subsidies, and endanger her Majesty's CHAP. safety, which must consist more in the love of the people than in their wealth. This being granted, other princes hereafter will look for the like, so that we shall put an evil precedent on ourselves and our posterity." * He concluded with a motion, which was carried, for "a committee to deliberate and consult in what proportion they might now relieve her Majesty with subsidies in respect of those many and great enemies against whose power and malice she was to provide."

tion of

Queen.

The courtiers were thrown into a state of horror and Indignaamazement. The Queen, in the present temper of the House, and with news of the approach of the Spanish Armada, deemed it prudent to take no public notice of this outrage; but she was deeply incensed, and desired it to be intimated to the delinquent, by the Lord Treasurer and the Lord Keeper, that he must never more look to her for favour or promotion. An eloquent eulogist says, "he heard them with the calmness of a philosopher†;" but his answers show that he was struck with repentance and remorse, and that, in the hope of obtaining pardon, he plainly intimated that he should never repeat the offence. In all time coming, he never sought popularity more than might well stand with his interest at Court.

1594.

The following year his compunction for his opposition to April 10. the subsidy was aggravated by the opportunity which occurred of obtaining professional honours. Egerton, the Attorney General, was made Master of the Rolls. Some of

* D'Ewes's Journal, 1593.

Montagu, who in his very valuable edition of Bacon rather idolises his hero. In his letter to Burleigh he tries to explain away what he had said, as if only actuated by good wishes for the Queen's service; and thus concludes, "I most humbly pray your Lordship first to continue me in your own good opinion, and then to perform the part of an honourable and good friend towards your poor servant and ally, in drawing her Majesty to accept of the sincerity and simplicity of my zeal, and to hold me in her Majesty's favour, which is to me dearer than my life."

He must be supposed to have been sobbing when he thus addresses the flintyhearted Puckering,-" yet notwithstanding (to speak vainly as in grief) it may be her Majesty has discouraged as good a heart as ever looked towards her service, and as void of self-love. And so, in more grief than I can well express, and much more than I can well dissemble, I leave your Lordship, being as ever

CHAP.
LII.

He is a candidate for the office of Solicitor General.

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Bacon's friends were sanguine enough to think that per saltum he ought to have been appointed to succeed him*; but Sir Edward Coke, who had served as Solicitor General for two years, was promoted almost as a matter of course, and the great struggle arose respecting the office of Solicitor. To this Bacon had the strongest claim, from the respect entertained for his father's memory, from his relationship to the Prime Minister, from his high accomplishments,from his eminence at the bar, - from his success in parliament, and from the services he had rendered as Queen's Counsel extraordinary. He had two obstacles to surmount - his unlucky speech, and the jealousy of the Cecils. In more recent times his chance of promotion would have been increased by an occasional display of independence, showing how formidable he might be in regular opposition; but in Elizabeth's reign the system of retaining a wavering adherent, or gaining over a formidable antagonist by appointment to office had not commenced, and constant subserviency to the Court was considered indispensable in all aspirants to Court favour. Burghley, and his hopeful son Robert, now

"

The following dialogue is said to have passed between the Earl of Essex and Sir Robert Cecil, as they were about this time travelling together in the same coach: - - Cecil. " My Lord, the Queen has determined to appoint an Attorney General without more delay. I pray my Lord, let me know whom you will favour?"— Essex. "I wonder at your question. You cannot but know that resolutely against all the world I stand for your cousin, Francis Bacon."— Cecil. "I wonder your Lordship should spend your strength on so unlikely a matter. Can you name one precedent of so raw a youth promoted to so great a place?" Esser. "I have made no search for precedents of young men who have filled the office of Attorney General; but I could name to you, Sir Robert, a man younger than Francis, less learned, and equally inexperienced, who is suing and striving with all his might for an office of far greater weight."Cecil. I hope my abilities, such as they are, may be equal to the place of Secretary, and my father's long services may deserve such a mark of gratitude from the Queen. But although her Majesty can hardly stomach one so inexperienced being made her Attorney, if he would be contented with the Solicitor's place, it might be of easier digestion to her."- Essex. Digest me no digestions. The attorneyship for Francis is that I must have, and in that I will spend all my power, might, authority and amity, and with tooth and nail procure the same for him against whomsoever." See Nare's Life of Burleigh, vol. iii. p. 436. But although there may be some foundation for this conversation, it cannot be accurately reported; as the office of Attorney General at this time was not vacant for a single day,-Egerton having been appointed Master of the Rolls, and Coke appointed to succeed him as Attorney General on the 10th of April, 1594, (Dugd. Chr. See Pat. 36 Eliz.)—and there is an extreme improbability in supposing that any of the Cecils would speak so openly against Francis Bacon, whom they were pretending to support, although they secretly sought to depress him.

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LII.

coming forward as Secretary of State, pretended to support CHAP. their kinsman, but in reality were afraid that, with favourable opportunities, he would disconcert their deep-laid scheme of making the premiership hereditary in the house of Cecil.

Francis himself considered this the crisis of his fate, and resorted to means of gaining his object which would be spurned at by a modern candidate for the office, who does not acknowledge that he expects it, or interfere in any way regarding the appointment till he receives a letter from the Lord Chancellor or the First Lord of the Treasury asking him to accept it.

His application to his uncle was excusable, although the manner of it was rather abject. "I have ever had your Lordship in singular admiration; whose happy ability her Majesty hath so long used to her great honour and your's. Besides, that amendment of state or countenance which I have received hath been from your Lordship. And, therefore, if your Lordship shall stand a good friend to your poor ally, you shall but tueri opus which you have begun. And your Lordship shall bestow your benefit upon one that hath more sense of obligation than of self-love. Your Lordship's in all humbleness to be commanded."

His letter

to Burghley solicit

ing the ap

pointment.

The answer, under the disguise of bluntness, was artful Burghley's and treacherous. "Nephew, I have no leisure to write answer. much; but, for answer, I have attempted to place you; but her Majesty hath required the Lord Keeper to give to her the names of divers lawyers to be preferred, wherewith he made me acquainted, and I did name you as a meet man, whom his Lordship allowed in way of friendship for your father's sake; but he made scruple to equal you with certain whom he named--as Brograve and Branthwayt, whom he specially commendeth. But I will continue the remembrance you to her Majesty, and implore my Lord of Essex's help. Your loving uncle, W. BURGHLEY.”

of

Francis again, to no purpose, addressed him, saying, “If her Majesty thinketh that she shall make an adventure in using one that is rather a man of study than of practice and experience, surely I may remember to have heard that my

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