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CHAP.
LIII.

Bacon's

conduct between

and execu

tion of Essex.

at Paris, intending to take forcible possession of his Sovereign's person, with the purpose of dethroning him, had such confidence in the love of the citizens, that he appeared to lead the intended insurrection in his doublet and hose, attended with only eight men,- and who when he was obliged to yield, the King taking arms against him, pretended that he had merely contemplated a private quarrel.

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Essex having been condemned, Elizabeth wavered to the last moment about carrying the sentence into execution. conviction One while relenting, she sent her commands, by Sir Edward Carey, that he should not be executed;-then, remembering his perverse obstinacy,- that he scorned to ask her pardon or to send her the ring, the appointed pledge of love and reconciliation, she from time to time recalled the reprieve. It is highly probable that, under these circumstances, Bacon might have saved the life of his friend, either by advising him or interceding for him. He went not to the Tower, and although "between the arraignment and my Lord's suffering he was once with the Queen, yet he durst not deal directly for my Lord, as things stood." He tells us, indeed, that "he did commend her Majesty's mercy, terming it to her as an excellent balm that did continually distil from her sovereign hands, and made an excellent odour in the senses of her people." But while he thus flattered her, he did not venture to hint that her reputation for mercy would be endangered by suffering the law to take its course against Essex, who, though technically guilty of treason, instead of "imagining and compassing her death," felt for her the sincerest loyalty and reverence, and would cheerfully have died in her defence. Why did he not throw himself on his knees before her, and pray for a pardon? - Because, while it was possible that he might have melted her, it was possible that he might have offended her, and that a vacancy in the office of Solicitor General occurring, he might be again passed over.

Bacon's

Worse remains behind. The execution being deeply debaseness in plored and censured by the people, and Elizabeth, when she blackening the memory afterwards appeared in public, being received with the coldest silence instead of the enthusiastic plaudits to which she had been accustomed for forty years, she wished a pamphlet to be

of Essex.

LIFE OF LORD BACON.

written to prove that Essex was properly put to death, and she selected Francis Bacon to write it. He, without hesitation, undertook the task, pleased" that her Majesty had taken a liking of his pen," and, with his usual industry and ability, soon produced "A Declaration of the Practices and Treasons of Robert, late Earl of Essex."

No honourable man would purchase Bacon's subsequent elevation at the price of being the author of this publication. A mere report of the trial for treason would have been excusable; but, to blacken the memory of his friend, he goes back to a period when they were living together on terms of the closest intimacy,-when Essex was entirely under his influence; and he accuses him of crimes of which he knew that the deceased was entirely innocent. Having begun by saying that the favourite aspired to the greatness of the Præfectus Prætorio under the Emperors of Rome, he charges him with having formed a treasonable design when he first went Deputy to Ireland. "For being a man by nature of an high imagination, and a great promiser to himself as well as to others, he was confident that if he were once the first person in a kingdom, and a sea between the Queen's seat and his, and Wales the nearest land from Ireland, and that he had got the flower of the English forces into his hands, which he thought so to intermix with his own followers as the whole body should move by his spirit, and if he might also have absolutely into his own hands potestatem vitæ et necis et arbitrium belli et pacis over the rebels, he should be able to make that place of lieutenancy of Ireland as a rise or step to ascend to his desired greatness in England." Next, all his proceedings in Ireland are converted into overt acts of this treasonable design. But none knew better than Bacon that, though Essex's Irish policy had been unwise and unfortunate, he had most earnestly done his best to serve his country, and that when he returned he had been both publicly and privately absolved of all disloyalty, -the only charge maintained against him being, that he had acted in some instances contrary to his instructions.

Bacon vainly attempts to mitigate his own infamy by saying, "Never Secretary had more particular and express

CHAP.

LIII.

СНАР.
LIII.

Indignation of the public.

Defence of
Bacon by

tagu.

directions in every point how to guide my hand in it ;" and that, after the first draught, it was materially altered by certain counsellors to whom it was propounded by her Majesty's appointment, he himself giving only words and form of style. After the specimen I have exhibited, what shall we say of his asseveration?—" their Lordships and myself both were as religious and curious of truth as desirous of satisfaction."

The base ingratitude and the slavish meanness manifested by Bacon on this occasion called forth the general indignation of his contemporaries. He afterwards tried to soften this by his "Apology, addressed to Mountjoy Earl of Devonshire," a tract from which I have taken most of the facts on which my censure is founded, and which seals his condemnation with posterity; as it not only admits these facts, but shows that he had before his eyes no just standard of honour, and that in the race of ambition he had lost all sense of the distinctions between right and wrong.'

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A zealous advocate, however, has sprung up, who, conMr. Mon- sidering Bacon to be the purest as well as the "wisest and brightest of mankind," pronounces his conduct through the whole course of these transactions to be deserving of high admiration. It will be necessary to do little more than notice the heads of the defence or panegyric. 1. "Bacon did well in preferring the Queen to Essex, as she had been so kind to him; and, instead of pampering him with good things, made him for his advantage bear the yoke in his youth." This seems to proceed on the ranting and absurd maxim in the "Apology," that "every honest man that hath his heart well planted will forsake his friend rather than forsake his King." Friendship cannot justify treason or any violation of the law; but are the sacred ties of friendship to be snapt asunder by the caprice of any crowned head? Elizabeth had

* He begins by giving a false account of the origin of his connection with Essex: "I loved my country more than was answerable to my fortune, and I held my Lord to be the fittest instrument to do good to the state, and therefore I applied myself to him," &c. He knew well that the precocious boy was wholly unfit to be a minister of state, and he applied himself to him because he hoped for advancement from the new favourite.

Montagu's Life of Bacon.

LIFE OF LORD BACON.

conferred no personal obligations on Bacon; she had refused him the professional advancement to which he was fairly entitled; and her only object was to make the most of him at the least cost. 2. "Bacon was bound to appear as counsel against Essex according to professional etiquette." Suppose that his dearly beloved brother, Anthony, who was in the service of Essex, had taken part with him in the insurrection on the 8th of February, and had been prosecuted for high treason, must Francis have appeared as counsel against him, and racked his ingenuity that his brother might be hanged, embowelled, beheaded, and quartered? Etiquette cannot be

opposed to the feelings of nature, or the dictates of morality. A dispensation might easily have been obtained, if there had been a willingness to renounce the advantage and éclat of the appearance. 3. "Essex had abused his friendship, and had assumed the dissembling attitude of humility and penitence that he might more securely aim a blow at the very life of his royal benefactress." This is an utter misrepresentation of the object of Essex's insurrection; at any rate, he had not engaged in it till Bacon had selfishly thrown him off; and Essex's public crime could not cancel the claims of private friendship, which he had never violated. But, 4. "Bacon was bound not to run the risk of marring his advancement, as he meant to use power, when attained, for the benefit of mankind." Will the end justify the means? and was he not more likely to improve the world by devoting himself to the completion of the Instauratio Magna, than by struggling to obtain the Great Seal, which he might lose by taking a bribe?

For some time after Essex's execution, Bacon was looked upon with great aversion; and, from the natural tendency of mankind to exaggerate, he was even suspected of having actively prompted that measure.

But it is marvellous to witness what men of brilliant talents, and of enterprise and energy, may accomplish, in making the public forget their errors and misconduct by means of drawing the public attention to themselves in new

CHAP.

LIII.

CHAP.

LIII.

A new

Oct. 1601.

Parliament meeting a few months after the execution of Essex, that event which had so deeply interested the nation was, for a time, almost forgotten in the excitement occasioned parliament. by the Queen's fainting fit on the throne, the shutting out of the Commons from the House of Lords when the royal speech was delivered, and the efforts made to put down the frightful grievance of monopolies.* Bacon being again returned as a member of the House of Commons, we may believe that he was at first not only shunned by the friends of Essex, but looked upon very coldly by men of all parties and opinions. Bill intro- He was determined to regain his ascendency. In the exduced by

Bacon.

His speech for a subsidy.

ercise of the privilege which then belonged to the repre sentatives of the people, and still belongs to Peers, of laying bills on the table without previously asking leave to bring them in, he immediately introduced a bill "for the better suppressing abuses in weights and measures," saying, “This, Mr. Speaker, is no bill of state nor of novelty, likely a stately gallery for pleasure, but neither to dive in nor sleep in; but this bill is a bill of repose, of quiet, of profit, of true and just dealings. The fault of using false weights and measures is grown so intolerable and common, that if you would build churches you shall not need for battlements and halls, other than false weights of lead and brass. I liken this bill to that sentence of the poet who set this as a paradox in the forefront of his book: First water, then gold, preferring necessity before pleasure. And I am of the same opinion, that things necessary in use are better than things which are glorious in estimation." He said he would speak to every particular clause at the passing of the bill." But he was not able to carry it, and the subject remained for legislation in the reign of William IV.

A supply being proposed greater than was ever previously granted (four subsidies and eight fifteenths), Bacon warmly supported it, and ridiculed a motion for exempting "three pound men," saying, "dulcis tractus pari jugo;" therefore, the poor as well as the rich should pay.

* Ante, p. 204.

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