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Speech as

General for

a supply.

such subjects vary from age to age, that the House then agreed that this case did not apply, as he was a member of the House when he was made Attorney General, and therefore could not be unseated.

Sir Roger Owen argued that no Attorney General was ever chosen, nor anciently any Privy Councillor, nor any that took livery of the King. He relied on the authority of Sir Thomas More, who after he had been Speaker and Chancellor, said," that the eye of a King's courtier can endure no colours but one, the King's livery hindering their sight.” He compared those holding office at the King's pleasure, to "a cloud gilded by the rays of the sun, and to brass coin which the King's stamp makes current." Sir John Saville moved "that those Privy Councillors who had got seats might stay for that time, but Mr. Attorney should not serve in that House."

After a committee to search for precedents, it was resolved that "Mr. Attorney General Bacon remain in the House for this parliament, but never any Attorney General to serve in the Lower House in future." The right of the Attorney General to sit as a member of the House of Commons has not since been seriously questioned. As he is summoned according to immemorial usage to advise the House of Lords, and ought to return his writ and to take his place on the woolsack, it is easy to conceive that conflicting duties might be cast upon him; but his attendance on the Lords is dispensed with, except in Peerage cases, and it has been found much more convenient that he should be allowed to act as law adviser to the House of Commons, which might otherwise be inops concilii.

Mr. Attorney made his first and only speech in this parliament on the supply. He began by observing, "that since they had been pleased to retain him there, he owed them the best offices he could, and if they had dismissed him his wishes would have been still with them." He then most elaborately pointed out the King's wants and the necessity for supplying them, ridiculing the notion that had gone abroad that a confederacy had been formed to control the free will of the



House, and again bringing out his favourite and unlucky CHAP. quotation," Dulcis tractus pari jugo."

But a majority were much more inclined to inquire into monopolies and other grievances, -and parliament was abruptly dissolved.

After the parliamentary effort he had made to obtain a supply, Bacon seems to have thought that all expedients by which the Exchequer might be filled were justifiable.



The most productive of these was the demanding of Raising of "Benevolences." Letters were written to the sheriffs of counties and the magistrates of corporations, calling on the King's loving subjects to contribute to his necessities. The contributions were supposed to be voluntary, but were in reality compulsory, for all who refused were denounced and treated as disloyal. Oliver St. John having written a letter to the Mayor of Marlborough, representing that this " Benevolence" was contrary to law, and that the magistrates ought not to assist in collecting it, the Attorney General prosecuted him in the Star Chamber for a libel. In his speech Bacon he strenuously defended this mode of raising money; and defends for the reason that "it is fit to burn incense where ill odours lences." have been cast," he delivered an elaborate panegyric on the government of King James, whom he described as a constant protector of the liberties, laws, and customs of the kingdom, maintaining religion not only with sceptre and sword, but by The defendant was sentenced to pay a fine of 50007., to be imprisoned during the King's pleasure, and to make a written submission. Bacon's indiscriminate admirers contend that he is exempt from all blame in this proceeding, because the Judges declared that the levying of "Benevolences" was not contrary to any statute, and Lord Chancellor Ellesmere solemnly expressed a wish that passing sentence on Mr. St. John might be "his last act of judicial duty; but there could not be a doubt that raising "Benevolences" was in substance levying an aid without authority of parliament, and that the person was morally responsible for the misconduct of the Judges who put them in a position where they must either pervert the law or forfeit their offices.

his pen.





conduct in the prosetion of


Tampers with the Judges.

The blame now imputable to Bacon, however, was light indeed compared with what he incurred in a case which soon followed. Fine and imprisonment having no effect in quelling the rising murmurs of the people, it was resolved to make a more dreadful example, and Peacham, a clergyman of Somersetshire, between sixty and seventy years of age, was selected for treason. for the victim. On breaking into his study, a sermon was there found which he had never preached, nor intended to preach, nor shown to any human being, but which contained some passages encouraging the people to resist tyranny. He was immediately arrested, and a resolution was taken to prosecute him for high treason. But Mr. Attorney, who is alone responsible for this atrocious proceeding, anticipated considerable difficulties both in law and fact before the poor old parson could be subjected to a cruel and ignominious death. He therefore first began by tampering with the Judges of the King's Bench, to fix them by an extra-judicial opinion. His plan was to assail them separately, and therefore he skilfully called in his subordinates,―assigning Justice Dodderidge to the Solicitor General, Justice Crook to Serjeant Montague, and Justice Houghton to Serjeant Crew, -and directing these emissaries that "they should not in any case make any doubt to the Judges, -as if they mistrusted they would not deliver any opinion apart,—but should speak resolutely to them." The Chief Justice he reserved for his own management,-"not being wholly without hope," says he, "that my Lord Coke himself, when I have in some dark manner put him in doubt that he shall be left alone, will not continue singular." The puisnes were pliant. The Chief at first affirmed, that "such auricular taking of opinions was not according to the custom of this realm;" but at last yielded to Bacon's remonstrance, that "though Judges might make a suit to be spared for their opinion till they had spoken with their brethren, if the King upon his own princely judgment, for reason of estate, should think fit to have it otherwise, there was no declining-nay, that it touched on a violation of their oath, which was, to counsel the King whether it were jointly or separately."

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*Letters to King. Works, vol. v. 338, 343


to the tor


Still, without some further evidence, a mere sermon found СНАР. in a study seemed rather a slender overt act to be submitted to a jury of compassing the King's death. To supply the Puts deficiency, it was resolved to subject Peacham to the rack. Peacham Interrogatories were prepared to draw a confession from him of his object and of his accomplices in writing the sermon, and "upon these interrogatories he was examined before torture, between torture, and after torture." These are the words of Bacon, and I relate with horror that he was himself present at scenes equalling every thing that we have read or can imagine of the inquisition at Venice. The tone in which he describes some of them to the King, though he tries to talk bravely, shows that he was ashamed of the work in which he was engaged, and that he inwardly condemned what some of his advisers now defend:


Letter to the King about the

of Peach

"It may please your Excellent Majesty, "It grieveth me exceedingly, that your Majesty should be so much troubled with this matter of Peacham, whose torturing raging devil seemeth to be turned into a dumb devil. But am. although we are driven to make our way through questions, which I wish were otherwise, yet I hope well the end will be good. But then every man must put his helping hand* for else I must say to your Majesty in this and the like cases, as St. Paul said to the Centurion, when some of the mariners had an eye to the cock-boat, Except these stay in the ship, ye cannot be safe. I find in my Lords great and worthy care of the business: and for my part, I hold my opinion, and am strengthened in it by some records that I have found. God preserve your Majesty !"

nounces his to the


to the

It is quite clear, that several present had expressed an Bacon anopinion against going further, and that Bacon himself had not much confidence in his "records." He still persisted, however, for the King had become very earnest about it, King to go and thus he writes to his Majesty (after describing Peacham's refusal to answer certain points), "I hold it fit that myself and my fellows go to the Tower, and so I purpose to ex- flicted on amine him upon these points and some others. I think also,

* Does this mean to stretch the rack, like Lord Chancellor Wriothesley?

Tower to

see the torture in



it were not amiss to make a false fire*, as if all things were ready for his going down to his trial, and that he were upon the very point of being carried down, to see what will work His report with him." To the Tower he went accordingly, but neither old nor new invented torture could succeed. "I send," says

of the tor. turing.

Peacham brought to trial and convicted.

Public indignation.

Death of


attempts to

palliate Bacon's misconduct.

he, "your Majesty a copy of our last examination of Peacham, whereby your Majesty may perceive that this miscreant wretch goeth back from all. He never deceived me, for when others had hopes of discovery, and thought time well spent that way, I told your Majesty pereuntibus mille figuræ, and that he did but now turn himself into divers shapes to save or delay his punishment."

The old man, with dislocated joints but unbroken spirit, was brought to trial at the summer assizes at Taunton, before the Chief Baron and Sir Henry Montague. Bacon showed some remnant of virtue by being too much ashamed to attend in person. He sent in his stead Crew, the King's Serjeant, and Yelverton, the Solicitor-General, who conducted themselves to his entire satisfaction,- for without law or fact they obtained a conviction. The case, however, was so infamous, that even the Judges who presided at the trial expressed a doubt whether the offence amounted to high treason, and there was such a feeling of indignation excited throughout the country, that the Government did not venture to carry the sentence into execution. Peacham was allowed to languish in Taunton gaol, till in the following year death relieved him from his sufferings.

It is to confound the sacred distinctions of right and wrong to attempt to defend the conduct of Bacon in this affair, or to palliate its enormity. He knew that Peacham's offence did not amount to high treason. He knew as well as the Judges, who so decided a few years after, on the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham by Felton, that the law of England did not sanction torture to extort confession. If the law had been with him, he would have disgraced his character and his profession by the low subterfuges to which he resorted for the purposes of trepanning the Judges, and by

A new species of torture not to be found in his "Records." † Works, v. 354.

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