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be known as the Nonconformist party. This party, far from being necessarily in opposition to the Government, were for the present in the same boat, and well disposed, had reasonable liberty of action been allowed them, to be among its most zealous and effectual supporters. Their importance as a party may be understood from the fact that Leicester, the favorite, was content to put himself at their head; that Walsingham, Secretary of State, was known to sympathize with them; that Burghley, Lord Treasurer, though restrained by official caution and reserve, was believed to wish them well; that Grindal, the late Primate, had been for some time out of favor with the Queen for giving too much countenance to some of their opinions; and that they had a large majority in the present House of Commons. Whether this party was to be in alliance with the State or in opposition, was the question now at issue; and to this particular Parliament, more distinctly perhaps than to any other period, must be assigned the determination of it.

I doubt whether there has been a more important crisis in English history, or whether the Queen ever made a greater mistake than in choosing this moment to stop the tide and put herself in direct opposition to this party. She succeeded indeed: she carried her point and stood her ground during her own life; but it was at the expense of creating a division among the Protestant party, which ended in the overthrow of the monarchy itself for a time, and in making the existence of a national English Church, in any true sense of the word national, an impossibility to this day. The Church of England emerged from the storm with the name and legal rights and temporal attractions, but without the moral and spiritual authority, of a national church, to be thenceforward only one of many Protestant sects into which the English 1 To prevent misconceptions I may mention that I use the word " sect" in exactly the same sense in which Paley uses it in the following passage: "If in

people are divided. But so it was to be. Grindal was dead; and Whitgift, known as the uncompromising foe of the Nonconformists, had been advanced to the Primacy, with the avowed purpose of enforcing uniformity by silencing and punishing dissentients. The severity of his proceedings was now taken up by the Commons as a national grievance, and the complaints of the people were embodied in a petition to the Queen, the substance of which may be seen in Fuller's "Church History "1 (ix. 16. 7), and the entire document, together with the answers, in D'Ewes's "Journals," pp. 357-361.

The particulars and progress of the quarrel will be noticed more conveniently a little further on, in connection with Bacon's tract on Church Controversies. But I thought it better to introduce the subject in this place, because of the great impression which it must have made upon his mind, and some influence which it probably had upon his career. What his judgment was upon the matters in controversy we shall see hereafter. What his prejudices and predispositions were likely to be may be partly inferred from a letter addressed at the time by his mother to Burghley.

deference then to these reasons it be admitted that a legal provision for the clergy, compulsory upon those who contribute to it, is expedient, the real question will be, whether this provision should be confined to one sect of Christianity, or extended indifferently to all. Now it should be observed that this question never can offer itself where the people are agreed in their religious opinions, and that it never ought to arise where a system may be framed of doctrines and worship wide enough to comprehend their disagreement, and which might satisfy all by uniting all in the articles of their common faith, and in a mode of Divine worship that omits every subject of controversy or offense. Where such a comprehension is practicable, the comprehending religion ought to be made the religion of the State." This is exactly what I mean by "a national Church in the true sense of the word national." The rest of Paley's argument proceeds upon the supposition that such a Church is to be despaired of, that "separate congregations and different sects must unavoidably continue in the country," and that the only practicable form of national religion is the establishment by law "of one sect in preference to the rest."- Moral and Pol. Philos. ch. x.

1 Misplaced under the year 1587.



During the Christmas recess a conference had taken place at Lambeth between the Bishops and the Nonconformists or Preachers, as they were called the questions raised in the petition; and it seems that the Bishops were thought to have had much the best of the argument. Lady Bacon, believing that the Preachers had not had fair play, in the abundance of her zeal sought an interview with Burghley to urge their cause, and the next day reinforced her arguments by a letter, in which, after pleading earnestly on behalf of the Preachers for leave first to assemble and consult together, and then to prove the justice of their cause before the Queen or her Council, and not before the Bishops, — being "parties partial in their own defense" part," she proceeds:

"for mine own

"I will not deny, but as I may hear them in their public exercises as a chief duty commanded by God to widows, and also I confess as one that hath found mercy, that I have profited more in the inward feeling knowledge of God his holy will, though but in a small measure by such sincere and sound opening of the Scriptures by an ordinary preaching within these seven or eight years, than I did by hearing odd sermons at Paul's wellnigh twenty years together. I mention this unfeignedly the rather to excuse this my boldness towards your Lordship, humbly beseeching your Lordship to think upon their suit, and as God shall move your understanding heart to further it."

The day before this letter was written, the House of Commons had received the answer of the Bishops to their petition, and the Nonconformists had learned that they must either abandon their cause, or work it against the Government by the help of popular sympathy and alliance.

All this time, it seems, the suit (whatever it was) which Bacon had made to the Queen, through Burghley in 1580, remained in suspense, neither granted nor de

nied; and the uncertainty prevented him from settling his course of life. From the following letter to Walsingham we may gather two things more concerning it: it was something which had been objected to as unfit for so young a man; and which would in some way have made it unnecessary for him to follow "a course of practice," meaning, I presume, ordinary practice at the Bar.


It may please your Honor to give me leave amidst your great and diverse business to put you in remembrance of my poor suit, leaving the time unto your Honor's best opportunity and commodity. I think the objection of my years will wear away with the length of my suit. The very stay doth in this respect concern me, because I am thereby hindered to take a course of practice, which by the leave of God, if her Majesty like not of my suit, I must and will follow: not for any necessity of estate, but for my credit sake, which I know by living out of action will wear. I spake when the Court was at Theball's to Mr. Vice-Chamberlain,1 who promised me his furderance; which I did lest he mought be made for some other. If it may please your Honor, who as I hear hath great interest in him, to speak with him in it, I think he will be fast mine. Thus desiring continuance of your Honor's favor, I wish you all good, and myself occasion to do you service. Gray's Inn, this 25th of August, 85.

Your Honor's in all duty,


This is the last we hear of this suit, the nature and fate of which must both be left to conjecture. With regard to its fate, my own conjecture is that he presently gave up all hope of success in it, and tried instead to ob

1 This was Sir Christopher Hatton.

tain through his interest at Court some furtherance in the direct line of his profession. It is certain that about this time or soon after he made another application to Burghley, the precise nature of which we are again left to guess, but which was to facilitate his "coming within bars;" that is, as I suppose (for the meaning of the phrase is doubtful), his admission to practice in the Courts. By the regulations then in force an utter barrister had to continue in "exercise of learning" for five years, before he was permitted to plead at any of the Courts at Westminster, or to subscribe any plea. Bacon, having been admitted to the Utter Bar on the 27th of June, 1582, had still more than two years to wait; and if, according to the intention intimated in the last letter, he was now ready and resolved "to take a course of practice," he would naturally wish to have his term of probation shortened. In what precise way this was to be done I do not know, but I presume that between Burghley and the Queen means might have been found, and that he now submitted to Burghley some proposition with that view.

We need not assume that his pretensions were really unreasonable or his manners justly offensive, to account for the fact which appears from the next letter, that they had by this time exposed him to some unfriendly criticism, that complaints reached Burghley of his nephew's arrogance, and that Burghley thought it expedient to give him some good advice on the subject. The solid grounds on which Bacon's pretensions rested had not yet been made manifest to the apprehension of Bench and Bar; his mind was full of matters with which they could have no sympathy, and the shy and studious habits which we have seen so offend Mr. Faunt, would naturally be misconstrued in the same way by many others. The incredulous disdain with which the English public greets every young aspirant who proclaims himself or is pro

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