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A. D. 1617.

Great Seal delivered to BACON as Lord Keeper.



THERE was nothing now wanting to the earthly felicity of Bacon except the possession of the Great Seal of England. He continued from time to time to remind the King of his pretensions; and he induced the Prince to say a good word for his further advancement. He pretended that the King's service was his great object, and adding, "were your Majesty mounted and seated without difficulties and distates in your business as I desire to see you, I should ex animo desire to spend the decline of my years in my studies; wherein, also, I should not forget to do him honour, who, besides his active and politic virtues, is the best pen of Kings, much more the best subject of a pen."

On the 7th of March, 1617, his wish was accomplished. The Great Seal having been surrendered by Lord Ellesmere, was, between the hours of eleven and twelve on that day, in the Palace at Whitehall, delivered to Sir FRANCIS BACON by the King, who, at the same time, in a speech, graciously commemorated his services as Solicitor General, Attorney General, and Privy Councillor, and gave him four admonitions for his guidance as Lord Keeper: 1. To restrain the jurisdiction of the Court within its true and due limits. 2. Not to put the Great Seal to letters patent without due consideration. Quod dubites ne feceris. 3. To retrench all unnecessary delays. Bis dat qui cito dat. 4. That justice might pass with as easy charge as might be. Sir Francis, on bended knees, humbly, and with a most grateful mind, acknowledged the constant and never-tiring kindness of the


"Predictus Franciscus Bacon flexis genibus humiliter gratiosissimo animo aguovit constantem Dni Regis et prennem beneficor. cursum utpote qui per tot gradus eum manu quasi duxerit ad sum. honoris fastigium," &e" 16 Jac.

- Cl. R.


King, who had conducted him, step by step, to the highest CHAP. pinnacle of honour, - professing dutifully his determination to preserve all the rights and prerogatives of the Crown,equally to administer the law to all in the Courts in which he himself should preside, and to exercise a general superintendence over the administration of justice throughout the realm.

As soon as Bacon had got home, the Great Seal, in its silken purse, lying on the table before him,―his eye glancing from the paper to the long-courted bauble, and his heart overflowing with gratitude, -he wrote the following letter to Villiers, now Earl of Buckingham, who had been present at the ceremony at Whitehall:

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His de.


to Buck

My dearest Lord, - It is both in cares and kindness His letter that small ones float up to the tongue, and great ones sink of thanks down into the heart in silence. Therefore, I could speak ingham. little to your Lordship to-day, neither had I a fit time; but I must profess thus much, that, in this day's work, you are the truest and perfectest mirror and example of firm and generous friendship that ever was in Court. And I shall count every day lost wherein I shall not either study your well-doing in thought, or do your name honour in speech, or perform your service in deed. Good my Lord, account and accept me

"Your most bounden and devoted Friend

and Servant of all men living,

"FR. BACON, C. S."*

With what rapture he must have written the letters C. S., which he added to his name for the first time! It has been supposed by some of his blind admirers that he reluctantly submitted to his elevation, and that, inwardly desirous of retirement and contemplation, he would have shut himself up for the rest of his days in his library at Gorhambury, had it not been for the importunities of his family and dependents, joined to his hope of being able to do more good to mankind by sacrificing his inclinations, and showing to the

Works, vol. v. 463.



King's visit to Scot


world what could be effected by a philosopher in high office and in the exercise of great power. For this opinion no better reason can be given than an extract of an Essay written by him while a student in Gray's Inn: "Men in great place are thrice servants: servants of the Sovereign or state; servants of fame; and servants of business: so as they have no freedom, neither in their persons, nor in their actions, nor in their times. It is a strange desire to seek power and to lose liberty, or to seek power over others and to lose power over a man's self."* It may as well be said that he despised money, because in his writings he calls riches "the baggage of virtue." In seasons of reflection and remorse he must often have said to himself,

"Video meliora proboque; Deteriora sequor."

His first act was graceful and becoming; he went next day to York House to pay his respects to his predecessor,to thank him for that kindness which had contributed to his advancement, and, in the King's name, to offer him an Earldom.

The Court was now in the bustle of preparation for James's visit to Scotland. On his accession to the throne of England, he had promised his countrymen to pay them at least a triennial visit; but, during fourteen long years, the halls of Holyrood had been empty; and the progress to the north, at last about to take place, attracted the attention of both nations. Buckingham was to accompany the King, that he might direct his proceedings, and take care that no fresh favourite should engage his affections. The new Lord Keeper was to be left at the head of the government in London. In the contemplation of this journey, he had prepared, while Attorney General, "Remembrances for the King before his going into Scotland;" and he now sketched out the "Council business" to be done in his Majesty's absence, the great object of which was to preserve the public tranquillity during Easter Term, when the town was expected to be very full of company.† The

* Essay, “Of Great Place."

These papers show that the attendance of persons in London from the


King took his departure from Whitehall on the 14th of CHAP.
March, exactly a week after Bacon had received the Great

It was luckily vacation time, and the Lord Keeper had full leisure to prepare for entering on the discharge of his judicial duties. His promotion had given general satisfaction; he was congratulated upon it not only by his Alma Mater, but by the University of Oxford*, and the universal expectation was, that the beau idéal of a perfect Judge, which he had so admirably imaged in his Essay "Of Judicature,” was really to be exemplified to the admiring gaze of mankind.

A. D. 1617.


as Lord

At the commencement of his judicial career there was no Bacon's indisappointment. On the 7th of May, the first day of Easter term, he took his seat in the Court of Chancery. The Keeper. splendour of the ceremony was little impaired by the absence of the grandees who were attending the King, their place being supplied by the general eagerness to do honour to the new Lord Keeper. The procession was formed at his " "lodging" in Gray's Inn, and marched, by Holborn, Chancery Lane, the Strand, Charing, Whitehall, and King Street, to Westminster Hall, in the following order: -1. Clerks and officers in Chancery. 2. Students of law. 3. Serjeant at arms, purse-bearer, and gentlemen servants of the Lord Keeper. 4. The Lord Keeper, in a gown of purple satin, riding between the Lord Treasurer and the Keeper of the Privy Seal. 5. Earls and Barons. 6. Privy Councillors. 7. The Judges. 8. Knights and Esquires; —all of whom followed the Lord Keeper mounted on caparisoned steeds. Alight

country now depending on the meeting of parliament, was then regulated by the law terms, and this seems to have continued to the reign of Queen Anne:


Rhymes ere he wakes, and print before term ends,
Oblig'd by hunger and request of friends."

* To Cambridge he replied, " Your gratulations shall be no more welcome to me than your business or occasions, which I will attend; and yet not so but that I shall endeavour to prevent them by my care of your good." To Oxford: "I shall by the grace of God, as far as may concern me, hold the balance as equally between the two Universities as I shall hold the balance of other justice between party and party. And yet in both cases I must meet with some inclinations of affection, which nevertheless shall not carry me aside.” — April 12. 1617.


CHAP. ing in Palace Yard, and entering Westminster Hall, the Lord Keeper was received by the Serjeants at Law and the Benchers and Readers of the Inns of Court, and conducted into the Court of Chancery, now filled with those who had composed the cavalcade.

His inaugural address.

The oaths being administered to him, he delivered an address on which he had bestowed much pains, and which shows his intimate familiarity with the duties he had to perform. He thus began: "Before I enter into the business of the Court, I shall take advantage of so many honourable witnesses to publish and make known summarily what charge the King's most excellent Majesty gave me when I received the Seal, and what orders and resolutions I myself have taken in conformity to that charge, that the King may have the honour of direction, and I the part of obedience." After some pardonable flattery of his royal Master, he proceeds to lay down most excellent practical rules, which he undertook to observe. "I am resolved that my decree shall come speedily, if not instantly, after the hearing, and my signed decree speedily upon my decree pronounced. For it hath been a manner much used of late in my Lord's time, of whom I learn much to imitate, and somewhat to avoid, that upon the solemn and full hearing of a cause nothing is pronounced in Court, but breviates are required to be made, which I do not dislike in itself in causes perplexed. But yet I find, when such breviates were taken, the cause was sometimes forgotten a term or two, and then set down for a new hearing. I will promise regularly to pronounce my decree within a few days after my hearing, and to sign my decree, at the least, in the vacation after the pronouncing. For fresh justice is sweetest.

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Again, because justice is a sacred thing, and the end for which I am called to this place, and therefore is my way to heaven, (and if it be shorter, it is never a whit the worse,) I shall, by the grace of God, as far as God will give me strength, add the afternoon to the forenoon, and some fortnight of the vacation to the term, for the expediting and clearing of the causes of the Court; only the depth of the

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