Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion of unavenged insults. After the conviction of Somerset,
all
manner of titles and offices were conferred on the new
favourite, who was ostensibly the King's servant, but really
ruled the King and the kingdom. Bacon was on the best
possible footing with him, and they cordially entered into the
schemes of each other.*

CHAP.

LIV.

Coke obnoxious for

job.

About this time Villiers had a personal quarrel with Coke Sir E. about the appointment to a lucrative office in the Court of King's Bench, which he wished to obtain for a dependent. resisting a Bacon, of course, did all he could to assist in this job. † Coke, after some hesitation, at last peremptorily resisted the encroachment on his patronage, and his dismissal was resolved upon. The difficulty was to find a pretext for removing him. Although the Judges all held during pleasure, the power of cashiering them had hitherto been very sparingly exercised, and never except upon some charge of misconduct. Coke Merits of was the greatest master of the Common Law that ever had appeared in England. Notwithstanding the arrogance with which he was chargeable when at the bar, he had given the highest satisfaction to the profession and the public since his elevation to the Bench. His opposition to the equitable jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor, though unjustifiable, was generally popular, and all mankind (with the exception of the King and the most slavish of the ministers) approved of the noble stand he had made for judicial independence in Peacham's case and the affair of the " commendams," and he had been

"Your Majesty certainly hath found out and chosen a safe nature, a capable man, an honest will. generous and noble affections, and a courage well lodged, and one that I know loveth your Majesty unfeignedly, and admireth you as inuch as is in a man to admire his Sovereign upon earth.”- Bacon to James. Yet no human being ever more thoroughly despised another than Buckingham his " Dad."

66

[ocr errors]

† Bacon gives Villiers an amusing account of a conversation on this subject with Coke As I was sitting by my Lord Chief Justice, one of the Judges asked him Whether Roper1 were dead?' He said, he for his part knew not.' Another of the Judges answered, It should concern you, my Lord, to know it.' Whereupon he turned his speech to me, and said. No, Mr. Attorney, I will not wrestle now in my latter times.' My Lord,' said I, 'you speak like a wise man.' 'Well,' saith he, they have had no luck with it that have had it.' 1 said again, Those days are past.' Here you have the dialogue to make you merry."Jaa. 22. 1616.

[ocr errors]

Coke as a

lawyer.

LIV.

Foolish

charge against him.

CHAP. rapturously applauded for his energy on the discovery of the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury,-in posting off to Theobald's to arrest Somerset with his own hands. The expedient to which Bacon resorted shows, that it is no more possible "to hate" than "to love and be wise." The frivolous, unfounded, preposterous, ludicrous charge brought against Coke was, that in his Reports of decided cases he had introduced several things in derogation of the royal perogative.* On no better ground, in the month of June, 1616, though not formerly superseded, and still allowed to do duty at chambers, he was suspended from the public execution of his office and from the Council Table, and instead of appearing in Court at Westminster, or going his circuit, it was most insultingly ordered that, during the long vacation, " he should enter into a view and retractation of such novelties and errors and offensive conceits as were dispersed in his Reports."

He is ordered to revise his

Reports.

Bacon's

insulting letter to Coke.

Bacon having laid his enemy prostrate on the ground, tramples on his body. He now addressed "an Expostulation to the Lord Chief Justice Coke," in which, after some profane applications of Scripture, and pointing out how in his fallen. state he ought to rejoice in the humiliation which God had inflicted upon him, he thus pithily proceeds: "Not only knowledge, but also every other gift which we call the gifts of fortune, have power to puff up earth; afflictions only level these mole-hills of pride, plough the heart, and make it fit for wisdom to sow her seed, and for grace to bring forth her increase. Happy is that man therefore, both in regard of heavenly and earthly wisdom, that is thus wounded to be cured, thus broken to be made straight, thus made acquainted with his own imperfections that he may be perfected.

66

Supposing this to be the time of your affliction, that which I have propounded to myself is by taking this seasonable advantage, like a true friend, though far unworthy to be counted so, to show you your true shape in a glass, and that

* Of these very Reports Bacon himself had deliberately written, “To give every man his due,—had it not been for Sir Edward Coke's Reports, which though they may have errors, and some peremptory and extrajudicial resolutions more than are warranted, yet they contain infinite good decisions and rulings over cases, -the law by this time had been almost like a ship without ballast."

not in a false one to flatter you, nor yet in one that should make you seem worse than you are, and so offend you, but in one made by the reflection of your own words and actions, from whose light proceeds the voice of the people, which is often, not unfitly, called the voice of God. It proceedeth from love and a true desire to do you good. All men can see their own profit; that part of the wallet hangs before. A true friend (whose worthy office I would perform, since I fear both yourself and all great men want such,) is to show the other, and which is from your eyes.

"First, therefore, behold your errors. In discourse you delight to speak too much, not to hear other men; this some say becomes a pleader, not a judge. While you speak in your own element, the law, no man ordinarily equals you; but when you wander, as you often delight to do, you wander indeed, and give never such satisfaction as the curious time requires.

"Secondly, you clog your auditory when you would be observed; speech must be either sweet or short.

"Thirdly, you converse with books, not men, and books especially human; and have no excellent choice with men, who are the best books: for a man of action and employment you seldom converse with, and then but with your underlings; not freely, but as a schoolmaster with his scholars, ever to teach, never to learn. But if sometimes you would in your familiar discourse hear others and make election of such as know what they speak, you should know many of these tales you tell to be but ordinary, and many other things which you delight to repeat and serve out for novelties to be but stale. As in your pleadings you were wont to insult over misery, and to inveigh bitterly at the persons, which bred you many enemies, whose poison yet smelleth, so are you still wont to be a little careless in this point, to praise and disgrace upon slight grounds, and that sometimes untruly; so that your reproofs and commendations are for the most part neglected and contemned; where the censure of a Judge, coming slow but sure, should be a brand to the guilty, and a crown to the virtuous. You will jest at any man in public, without respect of the person's dignity or your own:

СНАР,
LIV.

СНАР.
LIV.

this disgraceth your gravity more than it can advance the opinion of your wit; and so do all actions which we see you do directly with a touch of vain-glory, having no respect to the true end. You make the law to lean too much to your opinion, whereby you show yourself to be a legal tyrant, striking with that weapon where you please, since you are able to turn the edge any way. Your too much love of the world is too much seen, where, having the living of a thousand, you relieve few or none. The hand that hath taken so much, can it give so little? Herein you show no bowels of compassion, as if you thought all too little for yourself. We desire you to amend this, and let your poor tenants in Norfolk find some comfort; where nothing of your estate is spent towards their relief, but all brought up hither to the impoverishing of your country.

"But now since the case so standeth, we desire you to give way to power, and so to fight that you be not utterly broken, but reserved entirely to serve the commonwealth again, and to do what good you can, since you cannot do all the good you would; and since you are fallen upon this rock, cast out the goods to save the bottom; stop the leaks, and make towards land; learn of the steward to make friends of the unrighteous mammon. You cannot but have much of your estate (pardon my plainness) ill got. Think how much of that you never spake for, how much by speaking unjustly or in unjust causes. Account it then a blessing of God if thus it may be laid out for your good, and not left for your heir.

"Do not, if you be restored, as some others do, fly from the service of virtue to serve the time, but rather let this cross make you zealous in God's cause, sensible in ours, and more sensible in all.”

After much more reproof and admonition, he jeeringly advises him not to be too much cast down: "To humble ourselves before God is the part of a Christian; but for the world and our enemies the counsel of the poet is apt,

"Tu non cede malis, sed contrà audientior ito.'"*

* Works, v. 403.

LIV.

before the

In no composition that I have met with is there a greater CHAP. display of vengeful malignity. Under pretence of acting a Christian part, he pours oil of vitriol into the wounds he had Coke is inflicted. There seems to have been an intention to make summoned Coke disgorge some of his ill-gotten gains, by a heavy fine Privy in the Star Chamber. That was abandoned, but the dis- Council. missal was consummated. After the long vacation, the Chief Justice was summoned by Bacon before the Privy Council, to give an account of what he had done in the way of correcting his Reports. He declared that in his eleven volumes, containing 500 cases, there were only four errors, and that there were as many in the much-esteemed Plowden, which the wisdom of time had discovered, and later judgments controlled. The order, prompted by Bacon and pronounced by the Lord Chancellor, was, "that the Chief Justice should still forbear his sitting at Westminster, &c., not restraining nevertheless any other exercise of his place in private."

Bacon having made a report of this proceeding to the Bacon King, with a view of hastening the final blow, says "If presses for his dismisupon this probation, added to former matters, your Majesty sal. think him not fit for your service, we must in all humbleness subscribe to your Majesty, and acknowledge that neither his displacing, considering he holdeth his place but during your will and pleasure, nor the choice of a fit man to put in his room, are council-table matters, but are to proceed wholly from your Majesty's great wisdom and pleasure. So that in this course it is but the signification of your pleasure, and the business is at an end as to him."

dismissed.

At length Bacon had the exquisite delight of making out Coke is Coke's "supersedeas," and a warrant to the Lord Chancellor for a writ to create a new Chief Justice.*

To add to his satisfaction, he contrived to get himself into the good graces of Prince Charles, and was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall.

Sir E. Coke was removed Nov. 15. 1616, and Sir Henry Montagu was sworn in as his successor the following day.

Bacon, of Duchy

Chancellor

of Cornwall.

« PreviousContinue »