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FRANCIS BACON (BARON VERULAM, VISCOUN...

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Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 144 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FRANCIS BACON (BARON VERULAM, VISCOUNT ST ALBANS) (1561-1626), English philosopher, statesman and essayist, was born at York House in the Strand, London, on the 22nd of January 156o/1. He was the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Bacon (q.v.). His mother, the second wife of Sir Nicholas, was a daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, formerly tutor to Edward VI. She was a woman of considerable culture, well skilled in the classical studies of the period, and a warm adherent of the Reformed or Puritan Church. Very little is known of Bacon's early life and education. His health being then, as always, extremely delicate, he probably received much of his instruction at home. In April 1573 he was entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, where for three years he resided with his brother Anthony. At Cam-bridge he applied himself diligently to the several sciences as then taught, and came to the conclusion that the methods employed and the results attained were alike erroneous. Although he preserved a reverence for Aristotle (of whom, however, he seems to have known but little), he learned to despise the current Aristotelian philosophy. It yielded no fruit, was serviceable only for disputation, and the end it proposed to itself was a mistaken one. Philosophy must be taught its true purpose, and for this purpose a new method must be devised. With the first germs of this great conception in his mind, Bacon left the university. On the 27th of June 1576 he and his brother Anthony were entered de societate magistrorum at Gray's Inn, and a few months later he was sent abroad with Sir Amyas Paulet, the English ambassador at Paris. The disturbed state of government and society in France at that time afforded him valuable political instruction. It was formerly supposed that certain Notes on the State of Christendom, usually printed in his works, contain the results of his observations, but Spedding has shown that there is no reason for ascribing these Notes to him, and that they may be attributed with more probability to one of his brother Anthony's correspondents. The sudden death of his father in February 1578/9 necessitated Bacon's return to England, and exercised a very serious influence on his fortunes. A considerable sum of money had been laid up by Sir Nicholas for the purchase of an estate for his youngest son, the only one otherwise. unprovided for. Owing to his sudden death, this intention was not carried out, and a fifth only of the money descended to Francis. This was one of the gravest misfortunes of his life; he started with insufficient means, acquired a. habit of borrowing and was never afterwards out of debt. As it had become necessary that he should adopt some profession, he selected that of law, and took up his residence at Gray's Inn in 1579. In the fragment De Interpretation Naturae Prooemium (written probably about 1603) Bacon analyses his own mental character and lays before us the objects he had in view when he entered on public life. If his opening sentence, " Ego cum me ad utilitates humanas natum existimarem " (" since I thought my-self born to be of advantage to mankind "), seems at first sight a little arrogant, it must be remembered that it is the arrogance of Aristotle's µeyaXh vxos,r who thinks himself worthy of great things, and is worthy. The ideal of production of good to the human race through the discovery of truth, was combined in him with the practical desire to be of service to his country. He purposed, therefore, to obtain, if possible, some honourable post in the state which would give him the means of realizing these projects, and would enable him to do somewhat for the church, the third of the objects whose good he had at heart. The constant striving after these three ends is the key to Bacon's life. His qualifications for accomplishing the task were not small. His intellect was far-seeing and acute, quick and yet cautious, meditative, methodical and free from prejudice. If we add to this account that he seems to have been of an unusually amiable disposition we have a fairly complete picture of his mental character at this critical period of his life. In 158o he appears to have taken the first step in his career by applying, through his uncle, Burghley, the lord treasurer, for some post at court. His suit, though well received by the queen, was unsuccessful; the particulars are totally unknown. For two years after this disappointment he worked quietly at Gray's Inn, and in 1582 was admitted an outer barrister. In 1584 he took his seat in parliament for Melcombe in Dorsetshire, but the notes for the session do not disclose what reputation he gained. About the. same time he made another application to Burghley, apparently with a view to expediting his progress at the bar. His uncle, who appears to have " taken his zeal for ambition," wrote him a severe letter, taking him to task for arrogance and pride, qualities which Bacon vehemently disclaimed. As his advancement at the bar was unusually rapid, his uncle's influence may have been exerted in his behalf. In 1589 he received' the first substantial piece of patronage from his powerful kinsman, the reversion of the clerkship of the Star Chamber. The office was worth about £1600 a year; but it did not become vacant for nearly twenty years. A considerable period of his life thus slipped away, and his affairs had not prospered. He had written on the condition of parties in the church; he had set down his thoughts on philosophical reform in the lost tract, Temporis Partus Maximus; but he had failed in obtaining the position which he looked upon as an indispensable condition r See Nic. Eth. iv. 3. 3. 1123b. of success. A long and eloquent letter to Burghley2 throws additional light upon his character, and gives a hint as to the cause of his uncle's slackness in promoting him. Some time before this, perhaps as early as 1588, Bacon appears to have become acquainted with the earl of Essex, Elizabeth's favourite. At the close of 1591 he was acting as the earl's confidential adviser, and exerted himself, together with his brother Anthony, diligently in the earl's service. In February 1593 parliament was called, and Bacon took his seat for Middle-sex. The special occasion for which the House had been sum- moned was the discovery of one of the numerous popish' plots that distracted Elizabeth's reign.. As Bacon's conduct in this emergency seriously affected his fortunes and has been much misunderstood, it is necessary to state, as briefly as possible, the whole facts of the case. The House having been duly informed of the state necessities, assented to a double subsidy and appointed a committee to draw up the requisite articles. Before this was completed, a message arrived from the House of Lords requesting a conference, which was granted. The committee of the Commons were then informed that the crisis demanded a triple subsidy to be collected in a shorter time than usual, that the Lords could not assent to less than this, and that they desired to confer on the matter. This proposal of the Lords to discuss supply infringed upon the privileges of the Commons; accordingly, when the report of committee was read to the Lower House, Bacon spoke against the proposed conference, pointing out at the same time that a communication from the Lords might be received, but that the actual deliberation on it must be taken by themselves alone. His motion, after some delay, was carried and the conference was rejected. The Lords upon this lowered their demands, and desired merely to make a communication, which, being legitimate, was at once assented to. The House had then before them the proposal for a triple subsidy, to be collected in three, or, as the motion ultimately was shaped, in four years, instead of in'six, as the ordinary custom would have been. Bacon, who approved of the increased subsidy, was opposed to the short period in which it was proposed to raise it. He suggested that it would be difficult or impossible for the people to meet such heavy demands, that discontent and trouble would arise, and that the better method of procedure was to raise money by levy or imposition. His motion appears to have received no support, and the four years' subsidy was passed unanimously. Bacon, as it turned out, had been mistaken in thinking that the country would be unable to meet the increased taxation, and his conduct, though prompted by a pure desire to be of service to the queen, gave deep and well-nigh ineradicable offence. He was accused " I wax now somewhat ancient ; one-and-thirty years is a great deal of sand in the hour-glass... .I ever bare a mind (in some middle place that I could discharge) to serve her majesty; novas a man born under Sol, that loveth honour; nor under Jupiter, that loveth business (for the contemplative planet carrieth me away wholly) ; but as a man born under an excellent sovereign, that deserveth the dedication of all men's abilities.... Again, the meanness of my estate cloth somewhat move me; for though I cannot accuse myself that I am either prodigal or slothful, yet my health is not to spend, nor my course to get. Lastly, I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends as I have moderate civil ends; for I have taken all knowledge to be my province; and if I could purge it of two sorts of rovers, whereof the one with frivolous disputations, confutations and verbosities, the other with blind experiments and auricular traditions and impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in industrious observations, grounded conclusions and profitable inventions and discoveries—the best state of that province. This, whether it be curiosity, or vain-glory, or nature, or (if one take it favourably) philanthropia, is so fixed in my mind as it cannot be removed. And I do easily see, that place of any reasonable commandment doth bring commandment of more wits than of a man's own. ... And if your lordship shall find now, or at any time, that I do seek or affect any place whereunto any that is nearer to your lord-ship shall be convenient, say then that I am a most dishonest man. And if your lordship will not carry me on,. . .this I will do, I will sell the inheritance that I have, and purchase some lease of quick revenue, or some office of gain that shall be executed by deputy, and so give over all care of service, and become some sorry bookmaker, or a true pioneer in that mine of truth."—Spedding, Letters and Life, i. 108-109. of seeking popularity, and was for a time excluded from the court. His letter to Burghley,' who had told him of the queen's displeasure with his speech, offers no apology for what he had said, but expresses regret that his motives should have been misunderstood. He soon felt that the queen's anger was not to be appeased by such a justification. The attorney-generalship had fallen vacant and Bacon became a candidate for the office, his most formidable rival being his life-long antagonist, Edward Coke, who was then solicitor. Essex warmly espoused Bacon's cause and earnestly pressed his claims upon the queen; but his impetuous, pettish pleading tended to retard the cause. Burghley, on the other hand, in no way promoted his nephew's interest; he would recommend him for the solicitorship, but not for the attorney-generalship; and it is not improbable that Sir Robert Cecil secretly used his influence against his cousin. The queen delayed the appointment, and Bacon's fortunes, as they then stood, could ill brook delay. He was harassed with debt and at times so disheartened that he contemplated retirement from public life. In March 1594 it was at last understood that Coke was to be attorney-general. Essex, though bitterly mortified, at once threw all his energies into the endeavour to procure for Bacon the solicitorship; but in this case also, his method of dealing, which was wholly opposed to Bacon's advice,2 seemed to irritate the queen. The old offence was not yet for-given, and after a tedious delay, the office was given, in October 1595, to Serjeant Thomas Fleming. Burghley and Sir John Puckering seem to have assisted Bacon honestly, if not over-warmly, in this second application; but the conduct of Cecil had roused suspicions which were not perhaps without foundation. Essex, to compensate in some degree for Bacon's disappointment, insisted on presenting him with a piece of land, worth about £1800, and situated probably near Twickenham Park. Nor did his kindness cease there; before sailing on the expedition to Cadiz, in the beginning of 1596, he addressed letters to Buckhurst, Fortescue and Egerton, earnestly requesting them to use their influence towards procuring for Bacon the vacant office of master of the rolls. Before anything came of this application, the Cadiz expedition had resulted in a brilliant success, and Essex became the idol of the army and the people. Bacon saw clearly that such a reputation would assuredly alienate the affections of the queen, who loved not to have a subject too powerful or too popular. He therefore addressed an eloquent and imploring letter to the earl, pointing out the dangers of his position and urging upon him what he judged to be the only safe course of action, to seek and secure the favour of the queen alone; above all things dissuading him from the appearance of military popularity. His advice, however, was unpalatable and proved ineffectual. The earl still continued his usual course of dealing with the queen, depending solely upon her supposed affection for him, and insanely jealous of any other whom she might seem to favour. His unskilful and unlucky management of the sea expedition to Ferrol and the Azores in no way lowered his popularity with the people, but undoubtedly weakened his influence with the queen. Bacon's affairs in the meantime had not been prospering. He had increased his reputation by the publication in 1597 of his Essays, along with which were the Colours of Good and Evil and the Meditationes Sacrae; but his private fortunes were in a bad condition. No public office apparently could be found for him; a scheme for retrieving his position by a marriage with the wealthy widow, Lady Elizabeth Hatton, failed, and in 1598 he was arrested for debt. He seems, however, to have been growing in favour with the queen. Some years previously (perhaps about 1594), he had begun to be employed by her in crown affairs, and he gradually acquired the standing of one of the learned counsel, though he had no commission or warrant, and received no salary. At the same time he was no longer on the former friendly terms with Essex, a certain estrangement ' Spedding, Letters and Life, i. 234-235, cf. i. 362. This letter, with those to Puckering or Essex and the queen,i. 240-241, should be compared with what is said of them by Macaulay in his Essay on Bacon, and by Campbell, Lives, ii. 287. 2 See Letters and Life, i. 289, ii. 34.having sprung up between them, caused no doubt by the earl's dislike of his friend's advice. The earl's affairs were then at a somewhat critical stage, and as our judgment upon a most important episode in Bacon's life depends upon our knowledge of the events of the ensuing year, it will be requisite to enter somewhat minutely into proceedings with which Bacon himself had nothing to do. Ireland was then in a rebellious and discontented condition, and it was difficult for the English government to decide either on a definite course of policy with regard to it, or on a leader by whom that policy might be carried out. A violent quarrel took place between the queen and Essex, who for some months retired from court and refused to be reconciled. At last he came forth from his seclusion, and it was soon understood that he was in person to undertake the subjugation of the rebels in Ireland, with a larger force than had ever before been sent into that country. Into the obscure details of this unhappy campaign it is unnecessary to enter; one fact stands out clearly, that Essex endeavoured to carry out a treasonable design. His jealousy and ill-temper had been so roused that the only course open to him seemed to be the obtaining a powerful military force, the possession of which would compel the queen to reinstate him in her favour. Whether or not this plan was in contemplation before he undertook the Irish expedition is not evident, though even outsiders at that time entertained some suspicions, but there can be no doubt of the treasonable character of the negotiations carried on in Ireland. His plans, probably not very definite, were disturbed by an imperative message from the queen, ordering him not to return to England without her permission. He at once set off, and, trusting apparently to her affection for him, presented himself suddenly before her. He was, for the moment, received kindly, but was soon afterwards ordered to keep his chamber, and was then given into the custody of the lord keeper at York House, where he remained till March 1600. His great popularity, and the general ignorance of the reasons for his imprisonment, stirred up a strong feeling against the queen, who was reported to be influenced by Bacon, and such indignation was raisgd against the latter that his friends feared his life would be in danger. It was at last felt necessary that the queen should in some way vindicate her proceedings, and this she at first did, contrary to Bacon's advice, by a declaration from the Star Chamber. This, however, gave little or no satisfaction, and it was found expedient to do what Bacon had always recommended, to have a fair trial, yet not one in which the sentence must needs be damaging to the earl. The trial accordingly took place before a body of her majesty's councillors, and Bacon had a subordinate and unimportant part in the accusation. Essex does not seem to have been at all hurt by his action in this matter, and shortly after his release they were again on friendly terms, Bacon drawing up letters as if to or from the earl with the design of having them brought before the queen. But Bacon did not know the true character of the transactions in which Essex had been engaged. The latter had been released from all custody in August, but in the meantime he had been busily engaged in treasonable correspondence with James of Scotland, and was counting on the Irish army under his ally, Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy (afterwards earl of Devonshire), the new deputy. But Mountjoy had apparently come to see how useless the attempt would be to force upon the queen a settlement of the succession and declined to go farther in the matter. Essex was thus thrown upon his own resources, and his anger against the queen being roused afresh by the refusal to renew his monopoly of sweet wines, he formed the desperate project of seizing her person and compelling her to dismiss from her council his enemies Raleigh, Cobham, and Cecil. As some pretext, he intended to affirm that his life was in danger from these men, who were in league with the Spaniards. The plot was forced on prematurely by the suspicions excited at court, and the rash attempt to rouse the city of London (8th of February 16or),proved a complete fiasco. The leaders were arrested that night and thrown into prison. Although the actual rising might have appeared a mere outburst of frantic passion, the private examinations of the most prominent conspirators disclosed to the government a plot so widely spread, and involving so many of the highest in the land, that it would have been perilous to have pressed home accusations against all who might be implicated. Essex was tried along with the young earl of Southampton, and Bacon, as one of her majesty's counsel, was present on the occasion. Coke, who was principal spokesman, managed the case with great want of skill, incessantly allowing the thread of the evidence to escape, and giving the prisoners opportunity to indulge in irrelevant justifications and protestations which were not ineffectual in distracting attention from the real question at issue. On the first opportunity Bacon rose and briefly pointed out that the earl's plea of having done nothing save what was absolutely necessary to defend his life from the machinations of his enemies was weak and worthless, inasmuch as these enemies were purely imaginary ; and he compared his case to that of Peisistratus, who had made use of a somewhat similar stratagem to cloak his real designs upon the city of Athens. He was thereupon interrupted by the earl, who proceeded to defend himself, by declaring that in one of the letters drawn up by Bacon, and purporting to be from the earl to Anthony Bacon, the existence of these rumours, and the dangers to be apprehended from them, had been admitted; and he continued, "If these reasons were then just and true, not counterfeit, how can it be that now my pretences are false and injurious?" To this Bacon replied, that " the letters, if they were there, would not blush to be seen for anything contained in them, and that he had spent more time in vain in studying how to make the earl a good servant to the queen than he had done in anything.else." It seems to be forgotten in the general accounts of this matter, not only that Bacon's letters bear out what he said, but that the earl's excuses were false. A second time Bacon was compelled to interfere in the course of the trial, and to recall to the minds of those present the real question at issue. He animadverted strongly upon the puerile nature of the defence, and in answer to a remark by Essex, that if he had wished to stir up a rebellion he would have had a larger company with him, pointed out that his dependence was upon the people of London, and compared his attempt to that of the duke of Guise at Paris. To this the earl made little or no reply. Bacon's use of this illustration and of the former one of Peisistratus, has been much commented on, and in general it seems to have been thought that had it not been for his speeches Essex might have escaped, or, at all events, have been afterwards pardoned. But this view of the matter depends on the supposition that Essex was guilty only of a rash outbreak.' That this was not the case was well known to the queen and her council. Unfortunately, prudential motives hindered the publication of the whole evidence; the people, consequently, were still ignorant of the magnitude of the crime, and, till recently, biographers of Bacon have been in a like ignorance.' The earl himself, before execution, confessed his guilt and the thorough justice of his sentence, while, with singular lack of magnanimity, he incriminated several against whom accusations had not been brought, among others his sister Lady Rich. After his execution it was thought necessary that some account of the facts should be drawn up and circulated, in order to remove the prejudice against the queen's action in the matter. This was entrusted to Bacon, who drew up a Declaration of the Practices and Treasons attempted and committed by Robert, late Earl of Essex, his first draft being extensively altered and corrected by the queen and council. Nothing is known with certainty of the reception given to this official explanation, but the ill-feeling against Bacon was not wholly removed, and some years later, in 1604, he published, in the form of a letter to Mountjoy, an Apology for his action in the case. This Apology gives a most fair and temperate history of the relations between Bacon and Essex, shows bow the prudent counsel of the one had been rejected by the other, and brings out very clearly what we conceive to be the true explanation of the matter. Everything See Macaulay's Essay on Bacon. ! The whole story of Essex is given in Spedding's Letters and Life. It is vigorously told by J. Bruce in the introduction to his Correspondence of James VI. with Sir Robert Cecil (Camden Society, 1861).that Bacon could do was done by him, until the real nature of Essex's design was made apparent, and then, as he had repeatedly told the earl, his devotion and respect were for the queen and state, not for any subject; friendship could never take rank above loyalty. Those who blame Bacon must acquit Essex of all wrong-doing. Bacon's private fortunes, during the period after the death of Essex, were not in a flourishing condition. He had obtained a grant of £1200 from the fines imposed on Catesby, one of the conspirators, but his debts were sufficient to swallow up this and much more. And, though he was trusted by Elizabeth, and on good terms with her, he seems to have seen that he had no chance of advancement. But her death in 1603, followed by the undisputed succession of James, gave him new hopes. He used every means in his power to bring himself under James's notice, writing to all his friends at the Scottish court and to the king himself. He managed to obtain a personal interview with the king, but does not seem to have been much satisfied with it. In fact, while the king confirmed in their situations those who had held crown offices under Elizabeth, Bacon, not holding his post by warrant, was practically omitted. He was, however, continued, by special order of the king, as learned counsel extra-ordinary, but little or no law business appears to have been entrusted to him. He procured, through his cousin Cecil, the dignity of knighthood, which, contrary to his inclination, he received along with about 300 others, on the 23rd of July 1603. Between this time and the opening of James's first parliament he was engaged in literary work, and sent to the king two pamphlets —one on the Union, the other on measures for the pacification of the church. Shortly after he published his Apology. In March 1604 parliament met, and during their short session Bacon's hands seem to have been full of work. It was a busy and stirring time, and events occurred during it which carried within them the seeds of much future dissension. Prerogative and privilege came more than once into collision, the abuses of purveyance and wardship were made matters of conference, though the thorough discussion of them was deferred to a succeeding session ; while James's temper was irritated by the objections brought against his favourite scheme of the Union, and by the attitude taken up by the House with regard to religious affairs. The records are barely full enough to enable us to judge of the share taken by Bacon in these discussions; his name generally appears as the reporter of the committees on special subjects. We can occasionally, however, discern traces of his tact and remarkable prudence; and, on the whole, his attitude, particularly with regard to the Union question, recommended him to James. He was shortly afterwards formally installed as learned counsel, receiving the salary of £40, and at the same time a pension of £6o yearly. He was also appointed one of the commission to treat of the conditions necessary for the Union; and the admirable manner in which the duties of that body were discharged must be attributed mainly to his influence and his complete mastery of the subject. During the recess he published his Advancement of Learning, dedicated to the king. He was now brought into relations with James, and his prospects began to improve. It is important for us to know what were his ideas upon government, upon parliaments, prerogative, and so forth, since a knowledge of this will clear up much that would seem inexplicable in his life. It seems quite evident' that Bacon, from position, early training and, one might almost think, natural inclination, held as his ideal of government the Elizabethan system. The king was the supreme power, the centre of law and justice, and his prerogative must not be infringed. Parliament was merely a body called to consult with the king on emergencies (circa ardua regni) and to grant supplies. King and parliament together make up the state, but the former is first in nature and importance. The duty of a statesman was, therefore, to carry out the royal will in as prudent a manner as possible ; he was the servant of the king, and stood or fell according to his pleasure. He was not singular in his opinions and he was undoubtedly sincere; and it is only ' See Letters and Life, iv. 177, W. 38, vii. 116, 117. by keeping them constantly in mind that we can understand his after relations with the king. In the second parliament there was not so much scope for the exercise of his powers. The Gunpowder Plot had aroused in the Commons warmer feelings towards the king; they passed severe laws against recusants, and granted a triple subsidy. At the same time they continued the collection of the grievances concerning which they were to move. In the course of this session Bacon married Alice Barnham " the alderman's daughter, an handsome maiden, to my liking," of whom he had written some years before to his cousin Cecil. Little or nothing is known of their married life. The third parliament was chiefly occupied with the commercial and legal questions rising out of the proposed Union, in particular, with the dispute as to the naturalization of the Post Natl. Bacon argued ably in favour of this measure, but the general feeling was against it. The House would only pass a bill abolishing hostile laws between the kingdoms; but the case of the Post Nall, being brought before the law courts, was settled as the king wished. Bacon's services were rewarded in June 16o7 by the office of solicitor.' Several years passed before he gained another step. Meantime, though circumstances had thrown him too much into active life, he had not forgotten his cherished project of reorganizing natural science. A survey of the ground had been made in the Advancement, and some short pieces not published at ,the time were probably written in the subsequent two or three years. Towards the close of 1607 he sent to his friends a small tract, entitled Cogitata et Visa, probably the first draft of what we have under that title. In 1609 he wrote the noble panegyric, In felicem memoriam Elizabethae, and the curiously learned and ingenious work, De Sapientia Veterum; and completed what seems to have been the Redargutio Philosophiarum, or treatise on the " idols of the theatre." In 1610 the famous fourth parliament of James met. Prerogative, despite Bacon's advice and efforts, clashed more than once with liberty; Salisbury's bold schemes for relieving the embarrassment caused by the reckless extravagance of the king proved abortive, and the House was dissolved in February 1611. Bacon took a considerable share in the debates, consistently upheld the prerogative, and seemed yet to possess the confidence of the Commons. The death of Salisbury, occurring soon, after, opened a position in which Bacon thought his great political skill and sagacity might be made more immediately available for the king's service. How far he directly offered himself for the post of secretary is uncertain, but we know that his hopes were disappointed, the king himself undertaking the duties of the office. About the same time he made two ineffectual applications for the mastership of the wards; the first, on Salisbury's death, when it was given to Sir George Carey; the second, on the death of Carey. It is somewhat hard to understand why so little favour was shown by the king to one who had proved himself able and willing to do good service, and who, in spite of his disappointments, still continued zealously to offer advice and assistance. At last in 1613, a fair opportunity for promotion occurred. The death of Sir Thomas Fleming made a vacancy in the chief justiceship of the king's bench, and Bacon, after some deliberation, proposed to the king that Coke should be removed from his place in the court of common pleas and transferred to the king's bench. He gives several reasons for this in his letter to the king, but in all probability his chief motive was that pointed out by Spedding, that in the court of king's bench there would be less danger of Coke coming into collision with the king on questions of prerogative, in handling which Bacon was always very circumspect and tender. The vacancy caused by Coke's promotion was then filled up by Hobart, and Bacon, finally, stepped into the place of attorney-general. The fact of this advice being offered and followed in all essentials, illustrates very clearly the close relations between the king and Bacon, who had become a confidential adviser on most occasions of difficulty. That his adherence to the royal party was already noticed and commented on appears from the significant remark r In October 1608 he became treasurer of Gray's Inn. The ter-centenary was celebrated in 1908.of Chamberlain, who, after mentioning the recent changes, among the law officials, says, " There is a strong apprehension that . Bacon may prove a dangerous instrument." Further light is thrown upon Bacon's relations with James, and upon his political sympathies, by the letter to the king advocating the calling of a parliament,2 and by the two papers of notes on which his letter was founded.3 These documents, even after due weight is given to all considerations urged in their favour,' seem to confirm the view already taken of Bacon's theory of government, and at the same time show that his sympathies with the royal party tended to blind him to the true character of certain courses of action, which can only be justified by a straining of political ethics. The advice he offered, in all sincerity, was most prudent and sagacious, and might have been successfully carried out by a man of Bacon's tact and skill; but it was intensely one-sided, and exhibited a curious want of appreciation of what was even then beginning to be looked on as the true relation of king, parliament and people. Unfortunately for James, he could neither adopt nor carry out Bacon's policy. The parliament which met in April 1614, in which Bacon sat for Cambridge University, and was dissolved in June, after a stormy session, was by no means in a frame of mind suitable for the king's purposes. The House was enraged at the supposed project (then much misunderstood) of the " Undertakers "; objection was taken to Bacon being elected or serving as a member while holding office as attorney-general; and, though an exception was made in his favour, it was resolved that no attorney-general should in future be eligible for a seat in parliament. No supply was granted, and the king's necessities were increased instead of diminished. The emergency suggested to some of the bishops the idea of a voluntary contribution, which was eagerly taken up by the noblemen and crown officials. The scheme was afterwards extended so as to take in the whole kingdom, but lost something of its voluntary character, and the means taken to raise the money, which were not what Bacon would have recommended,' were calculated to stir up discontent. The general dissatisfaction received a somewhat unguarded and intemperate expression in a letter sent to the justices of Marlborough by a gentleman of the neighbourhood, named Oliver St John,' in which he denounced the attempt to raise funds in this way as contrary to law, reason and religion, as constituting in the king personally an act of perjury, involving in the same crime those who contributed, and thereby subjecting all parties to the curses levelled by the church at such offences. St John was summoned before the Star Chamber for slander and treasonable language; and Bacon, ex officio, acted as public prosecutor. The sentence pronounced (a fine of £5000 and imprisonment for life) was severe, but it was not actually inflicted, and probably was not intended to be carried out, the success of the prosecution being all that was desired. St John remained a short time in prison, and was then released, after making a full apology and submission. The fine was remitted. It seems incredible that Bacon's conduct on this occasion should have been censured by his biographers. The offence was clear; the law was undoubted; no particular sympathy was excited for the culprit; the sentence was not carried out; and Bacon did only what any one in his place would naturally and necessarily have done. The nature of his office involved him in several trials for treason occurring about the same time, and one of these is of interest sufficient to require a somewhat longer examination. Edmund Peacham' had been 2 Letters and Life, iv. 380. Ibid, iv. 365-373• 4 Ibid. iv. 375-378. ' Ibid. v. 81-83. 8 Not to be confounded with any of those of the same name who held the title of Baron St John of Bletsho (see Diet. of Nat. Biog. vol. 1. p. 15o ad fin.). ' Circa 1554-1616; educated at Cambridge; ordained priest 1581; vicar of Ridge, Herts, 1581; rector of Hinton St George, Somerset, 1587; eventually condemned to death at the Taunton Assizes (7th August 1615). The sentence was not carried out, and Peacham is said to have died in gaol (March 1616). See Gardiner's Hist.of England, ii. 272-283; State Trials, ii. 869; Calendar of State Papers (1603-1606); Hallam's Constitutional Mist. is 343; T. P. Taswetl-Langmead, English Constitutional History (5th ed 1896), p. 425. Nearly all works on constitutional law and history discuss the case. committed to custody for a libel on his superior, James Montagu (1568?-1618), bishop of Bath and Wells. In searching his house for certain papers, the officers came upon some loose sheets stitched together in the form of a sermon, the contents of which were of such a nature that it was judged right to lay them before the council. As it was at first suspected that the writing of this book had been prompted by some disaffected persons, Peacham was interrogated, and after he had declined to give any information, was subjected to torture. Bacon, as one of the learned counsel, was ordered by the council to take part in this examination, which was undoubtedly warranted by precedent, whatever may now be thought of it. Nothing, however, was extracted from Peacham in this way, and it was resolved to proceed against him for treason. Now, in the excited state of popular feeling at that period, the failure of government to substantiate an accusation of treason would have been a serious matter. The king, with whom the council agreed, seems there-fore to have thought it desirable to obtain beforehand the opinions of the four chief judges as to whether the alleged offence amounted to treason. In this there was nothing unusual or illegal, and no objection would at that time have been made to it, but James introduced a certain innovation; he proposed that the opinions of the four judges should be given separately and in private. It may be reasonably inferred that his motive for this was the suspicion, or it may be the knowledge, that Coke did not consider the matter treasonable. At all events when Coke, who as a councillor already knew the facts of the case, was consulted regarding the new proposal of the king, he at once objected to it, saying that " this particular and auricular taking of opinions " was " new and dangerous," and " not according to the custom of the realm." He at last reluctantly assented, and proposed that Bacon should consult with him, while the other law officers addressed themselves to the three puisne judges. By Bacon's directions the proposal to the three judges to give their opinions separately was made suddenly and confidently, and any scruples they might have felt were easily overcome. The first step was thus gained, and it was hoped that if " infusion " could be avoided, if the papers bearing on the case were presented to the judges quickly, and before their minds could be swayed by extraneous influence, their decision on the case would be the same as that of the king. It is clear that the extraneous influence to be feared was Coke, who, on being addressed by Bacon, again objected to giving his opinion separately, and even seemed to hope that his brother judges after they had seen the papers would withdraw their assent to giving their decisions privately. Even after the discussion of the case with Bacon, he would not give his opinion until the others had handed in theirs. What the other judges thought is not definitely known, but Bacon appears to have been unable to put in operation the plan he had devised for swaying Coke's judgment,' or if he did attempt it, he was unsuccessful, for Coke finally gave an opinion consistent with what he seems to have held at first, that the book was not treasonable, as it did not disable the king's title. Although the opinions of the judges were not made public, yet as we learn, not only from Bacon, but from a sentence in one of Carleton's letters,2 a rumour had got about that there was doubt as to the book being treasonable. Under these circumstances, Bacon, who feared that such a report might incite other people to attempt a similar offence, proposed to the king that a second rumour should be circulated in order to destroy the impression caused by the first. " I do think it necessary," he says, " that because we live in an age in which no counsel is kept, and that it is true there is some bruit abroad that the judges of the king's bench do doubt of the case that it should not be treason, that it be given out constantly, and yet as it were in secret, and so a fame to slide, that the doubt was only upon the publication, in that it was never published. For that (if your majesty marketh it) taketh away or at least qualifieth the danger of the example; for that will be no man's case." 3 Bacon's conduct in this matter has been curiously misrepresented. He has been accused of ' Letters and Life, v. Iola ' 2 Ibid. v. 121, n. 3 Ibid. v. 124. torturing the prisoner, and of tampering with the judges4 by consulting them before the trial; nay, he is even represented as selecting this poor clergyman to serve for an example to terrify the disaffected, as breaking into his study and finding there a sermon never intended to be preached, which merely encouraged the people to resist tyranny.° All this lavish condemnation rests on a complete misconception of the case. If any blame attaches to him, it must arise either from his endeavour to force Coke to a favourable decision, in which he was in all probability prompted by a feeling, not uncommon with him, that a matter of state policy was in danger of being sacrificed to some senseless legal quibble or precedent, or from his advice to the king that a rumour should be set afloat which was not strictly true. Bacon's share in another great trial which came on shortly afterwards, the Overbury and Somerset case, is not of such a nature as to render it necessary to enter upon it in detail.° It may be noted, however, that his letters about this time show that he had become acquainted with the king's new favourite; the brilliant Sir George Villiers, and that he stood high in the king's good graces. In the early part of 1616, when Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellesmere (c. 1540-1617), the lord chancellor, was dangerously ill, Bacon wrote a long and careful letter to the king, proposing himself for the office, should it fall vacant, and stating as frankly as possible of what value he considered his services would be. In answer, he appears to have received a distinct promise of the reversion of the office; but, as Ellesmere recovered, the matter stood over for a time. He proposed, however, that he should be made a privy councillor, in order to give him more weight in his almost recognized position of adviser to the king, and on the 9th of June 1616 he took the oaths and his seat at the council board. Meanwhile, his great rival Coke, whose constant tendency to limit the prerogative by law and precedent had made him an object of particular dislike to James, had on two points come into open collision with the king's rights. The first case was an action of praemunire against the court of chancery, evidently instigated by him, but brought at the instance of certain parties whose adversaries had obtained redress in the chancellor's court after the cause had been tried in the court of king's bench. With all his learning and ingenuity Coke failed in inducing or even forcing the jury to bring in a bill against the court of chancery, and it seems fairly certain that on the technical point of law involved he was wrong. Although his motive was, in great measure, a feeling of personal dislike towards Ellesmere, yet it is not improbable that he was influenced by the desire to restrict in every possible way the jurisdiction of a court which was the direct exponent of the king's wishes. The other case, that of the commendams, was more important in itself and in the circumstances connected with it. The general question involved in a special instance was whether or not the king's prerogative included the right of granting at pleasure livings in commendam, i.e. to be enjoyed by one who was not the incumbent. Bacon, as attorney-general, delivered a speech, which has not been reported; but the king was informed that the arguments on the other side had not been limited to the special case, but had directly impugned the. general prerogative right of granting livings. It was necessary for James, as a party interested, at once to take measures to see that the decision of the judges should not be given on the general question without due consultation. He accordingly wrote to Bacon, directing him to intimate to the judges his pleasure that they should delay judgment until after discussion of the matter with himself. Bacon communicated first with Coke, who in reply desired that similar notice should be given to the other judges. This was done by Bacon, though he seems to hint that in so doing he was ' Macaulay's Essay. ° Campbell, Lives, ii. 344. ° The mysterious crimes supposed to be concealed under the obscure details of this case have cast a shadow of, vague suspicion on all who were concerned in it. The minute examination of the facts by Spedding (Letters and Life, v. 208-347) seems to show that these secret crimes exist nowhere but in the heated imaginatioIs of romantic biographers and historians. going a little beyond his instructions. The judges took no notice of the intimation, proceeded at once to give judgment, and sent a letter in their united names to the king announcing what they had done, and declaring that it was contrary to law and to their oath for them to pay any attention to a request that their decision should be delayed. The king was indignant at this encroachment, and acting partly on the advice of Bacon, held a council on the 6th of June 1616, at which the judges attended. James then entered at great length into the case, censuring the judges for the offensive form of their letter, and for not having delayed judgment upon his demand, which had been made solely because he was himself a party concerned. The judges, at the conclusion of his speech, fell on their knees, and implored pardon for the manner of their letter; but Coke attempted to justify the matter contained in it, saying that the delay required by his majesty was contrary to law. The point of law was argued by Bacon, and decided by the chancellor in favour of the king, who put the question to the judges individually, " Whether, if at any time, in a case depending before the judges; which his majesty conceived to concern him either in power or profit, and thereupon required to consult with them, and that they should stay proceedings in the meantime, they ought not to stay accordingly?" To this all gave assent except Coke, who said that " when the case should be, he would do that should be fit for a judge to do." No notice was taken by the king of this famous, though somewhat evasive, reply, but the judges were again asked what course they would take in the special case now before them. They all declared that they would not decide the matter upon general grounds affecting the prerogative, but upon special circumstances incident to the case; and with this answer they were dismissed. Bacon's conduct throughout the affair has been blamed, but apparently on wrong grounds. As attorney he was merely fulfilling his duty in obeying the command of the king; and in laying down the law on the disputed point, he was, we may be sure, speaking his own convictions. Censure might more reasonably be bestowed on him because he deliberately advised a course of action than which nothing can be conceived better calculated to strengthen the hands of an absolute monarch.' This appeared to Bacon justifiable and right, because the prerogative would be defended and preserved intact. Coke certainly stands out in a better light, not so much for his answer, which was rather indefinite, and the force of which is much weakened by his assent to the second question of the king, but for the general spirit of resistance to encroachment exhibited by him. He was undeniably trouble-some to the king, and it is no matter for wonder that James resolved to remove him from a position where he could do so much harm. On the 26th June he was called before the council to answer certain charges, one of which was his conduct in the praemunire question. He acknowledged his error on that head, and made little defence. On the 3oth he was suspended from council and bench, and ordered to employ his leisure in revising certain obnoxious opinions in his reports. He did not perform the task to the king's satisfaction, and a few months later he was dismissed from office. Bacon's services to the king's cause had been most important; and as he had, at the same time, acquired great favour with Villiers, his prospects looked brighter than before. According to his custom, he strove earnestly to guide by his advice the conduct of the young favourite. His letters, in which he analyses the various relations in which such a man must stand, and pre-scribes the course of action suitable for each, are valuable and deserving of attention? Very striking, in view of future events, are the words' in which he gives him counsel as to his dealing with judges: " By no means be you persuaded to interpose yourself by word or letter in any cause depending, or like to be depending, in any court of justice, nor suffer any man to do it where you can hinder it; and by all means dissuade the king himself from it, upon the importunity of any, either for their friends or themselves. If it should prevail, it perverts justice; ' A somewhat similar case is that of the writ De Rege inconsulto brought forward by Bacon. See Letters and Life, v. 233-236. ' Ibid. vi. 6, 7, 13-26, 27-56. 3 Ibid. vi. 33.but if the judge be so just, and of so undaunted a courage (as ht ought to be) as not to be inclined thereby, yet it always leaves a taint of suspicions and prejudice behind it." It is probable that Villiers at this time had really a sense of the duties attaching to his position' and was willing to be guided by a man of approved wisdom. It was not long before an opportunity occurred for showing his gratitude and favour. Ellesmere resigned the chancellorship on the 5th of March 1626/7, and on the 7th the great seal was bestowed upon Bacon, with the title of lord keeper. Two months later he took his seat with great pomp in the chancery court, and delivered a weighty and impressive opening discourse. He entered with great vigour on his new labours, and in less than a month he was able to report to Buckingham that he had cleared off all outstanding chancery cases. He seemed now to have reached the height of his ambition; he was the first law officer in the kingdom, the accredited minister of his sovereign, and on the best terms with the king and his favourite. His course seemed perfectly prosperous and secure, when a slight storm arising opened his eyes to the frailty of the tenure by which he held his position. Coke was in disgrace but not in despair; there seemed to be a way whereby he could reconcile himself to Buckingham, through the marriage of his daughter, who had an ample fortune, to Sir John Villiers, brother of the marquess, who was penniless or nearly so. The match was distasteful to Lady Hatten and to her daughter; a violent quarrel was the consequence, and Bacon, who thought the proposed marriage most unsuitable, took Lady Hatton's part. His reasons for disapproval he explained to the king and Buckingham, but found to his surprise that their indignation was strongly roused against him. He received from both bitter letters of reproof; it was rumoured that he would be disgraced, and Buckingham was said to have compared his present conduct to his previous unfaithfulness to Essex. Bacon, who seems to have acted from a simple desire to do the best for Buckingham's own interests, at once changed his course, advanced the match by every means in his power, and by a humble apology appeased the indignation that had been excited against him. It had been a sharp lesson, but things seemed to go on smoothly after it, and Bacon's affairs prospered. On the 4th of January 1617/8 he received the higher title of lord chancellor; in July of the same year he was made Baron Verulam and in January r62o/r he was created Viscount St Albans. His fame, too, had been increased by the publication in 162o of his most celebrated work, the Novnm Organism. He seemed at length to have made satisfactory progress towards the realization of his cherished aims; the method essential for his Instauration was partially completed; and he had attained as high a rank in the state as he had ever contemplated. But his actions in that position were not calculated to promote the good of his country. Connected with the years during which he held office is one of the weightiest charges against his character. Buckingham, notwithstanding the advice he had received from Bacon himself, was in the habit of addressing letters to him recommending the causes of suitors. In many cases these seem nothing more than letters of courtesy, and, from the general tone, it might fairly be concluded that there was no intention to sway the opinion of the judge illegally, and that Bacon did not understand the letters in that sense. This view is supported by consideration of the few answers to them which are extant.' One outstanding case, how-ever, that of Dr Steward,' casts some suspicion on all the others, The terms of Buckingham's note' concerning it might easily have aroused doubts; and we find that the further course of the action was to all appearances exactly accommodated to Dr Steward, who ' A position which Bacon in some respects approved. See Essays,. " Of Ambition." " It is counted by some a weakness in princes to have favourites; but it is of all others the best remedy against ambitious great ones; for when the way of pleasuring and displeasuring lieth by the favourite, it is impossible any other should be over great." ' Letters and Life, vi. 278, 294-296, 313. s Ibid. vii. 579-588, analysis of the case by D. D. Heath, who ex-presses a strong opinion against Bacon's action in the matter. Ibid. vi. 444. had been so strongly recommended. It is, of course, dangerous to form an extreme judgment on an isolated and partially understood case, of which also we have no explanation from Bacon himself, but if the interpretation advanced by Heath be the true one, Bacon certainly suffered his first, and, so far as we can see, just judgment on the case to be set aside, and the whole matter to be reopened in obedience to a request from Buckingham. It is somewhat hard to understand Bacon's position with regard to the king during these years. He was the first officer of the crown, the most able man in the kingdom, prudent, sagacious and devoted to the royal party. Yet his advice was followed only when it chimed in with James's own will; his influence was of a merely secondary kind; and his great practical skill was employed simply in carrying out the measures of the king in the best mode possible. We know indeed that he sympathized cordially with the home policy of the government; he had no objection to such monopolies or patents as seemed advantageous to the country, and for this he is certainly not to be blamed.' The opinion was common at the time, and the error was merely ignorance of the true principles of political economy. But we know also that the patents were so numerous as to be oppressive, and we can scarcely avoid inferring that Bacon more readily saw the advantages to the government than the disadvantages to the people. In November 162o, when a new parliament was summoned to meet on January following, he earnestly pressed that the most obnoxious patents, those of alehouses and inns, and the monopoly of gold and silver thread, should be given up, and wrote to Buckingham, whose brothers were interested, advising him to withdraw them from the impending storm. This prudent advice was unfortunately rejected. But while he went cordially with the king in domestic affairs, he was not quite in harmony with him on questions of foreign policy. Not only was he personally in favour of a war with Spain for the recovery of the Palatinate, but he foresaw in such a course of action the means of drawing together more closely the king and his parliament. He believed that the royal difficulties would be removed if a policy were adopted with which the people could heartily sympathize, and if the king placed himself at the head of his parliament and led them on. But his advice was neglected by the vacillating and peace-loving monarch, his proffered proclamation was put aside, and a weak, featureless production substituted in its place. Nevertheless the new parliament seemed at first more responsive than might have been looked for. A double subsidy was granted, which was expressly stated to be " not on any consideration or condition for or concerning the Palatinate." The session, however, was not far advanced when the question of patents was brought up; a determined attack was made upon the very ones of which Bacon had been in dread, and it was even proposed to proceed against the referees (Bacon and Montagu) who had certified that there was no objection to them in point of law. This proposal, though pressed by Coke, was allowed to drop; while the king and Buckingham, acting under the advice of Williams, afterwards lord keeper, agreed to give up the monopolies. It was evident, however, that a determined attack was about to be made upon Bacon, and that the proceeding against the referees was really directed against him. It is probable that this charge was dropped because a more powerful weapon had in the meantime been placed in his enemies' hands. This was the accusation of bribery and corrupt dealings in chancery suits, an accusation apparently wholly unexpected by Bacon, and the possibility of which he seems never to have contemplated until it was actually brought against him. At the beginning of the session a committee had been appointed for inquiring into abuses in the courts of justice. Some illegal practices of certain chancery officials had been detected and punished by the court itself, and generally there was a disposition to overhaul its affairs, while Coke and Lionel Cranfield, earl of Middlesex (1575–1645) directly attacked some parts of the chancellor's administration. But on the 14th of March one ' For a full discussion of Bacon's connexion with the monopolies, see Gardiner, Prince Charles, &c. ii. 355-373. For his opinion of monopolies in general, see Letters and Life, vi. 49. Christopher Aubrey appeared at the bar of the House, and charged Bacon with having received from him a sum of money while his suit was going on, and with having afterwards decided against him. Bacon's letter2 on this occasion is worthy of serious attention; he evidently thought the charge was but part of the deliberate scheme to ruin him which had already been in progress. A second accusation (Edward Egerton's case) followed immediately after, and was investigated by the House, who, satisfied that they had just matter for reprehension, appointed the 19th for a conference with the Lords. On that day Bacon, as he had feared, was too ill to attend. He wrote3 to the Lords excusing his absence, requesting them to appoint a convenient time for his defence and cross-examination of witnesses, and imploring them not to allow their minds to be prejudiced against him, at the same time declaring that he would not " trick up an innocency with cavillations, but plainly and ingenuously declare what he knew or remembered." The charges rapidly accumulated, but Bacon still looked upon them as party moves, and was in hopes of defending himself.' Nor did he seem to have lost his courage, if we are to believe the common reports of the day,' though certainly they do not appear worthy of very much credit. The notes' bearing upon the interview which he obtained with the king show that he had begun to see more clearly the nature and extent of the offences with which he was charged, that he now felt it impossible altogether to exculpate himself, and that his hopes were directed towards obtaining some mitigation of his sentence. The long roll of charges made upon the 19th of April finally decided him; he gave up all idea of defence, and wrote to the king begging him to show him favour in this emergency.? The next day he sent in a general confession to the Lords,' trusting that this would be considered satisfactory. The Lords, however, decided that it was not sufficient as a ground for their censure, and demanded a detailed and particular confession. A list of twenty-eight charges was then sent him, to which an answer by letter was required. On the 3oth of April his " confession and humble submission "9 was handed in. In it, after going over the several instances, he says, " I do again confess, that on the points charged upon me, although they should be taken as myself have declared them, there is a great deal of corruption and neglect; for which I am heartily and penitently sorry, and submit myself to the judgment, grace, and mercy of the court."'" On the 3rd of May, after considerable discussion, the Lords decided upon the sentence, which was," That he should undergo fine and ransom of £4o,000; that he should be imprisoned in the Tower during the king's pleasure; that he should be for ever incapable of any office, place or employment in the state or commonwealth; that he should never sit in parliament, or come within the verge of the court. This heavy sentence was 2 Letters and Life, vii. 213: " I know I have clean hands and a clean heart, and I hope a clean house for friends or servants. But Job himself, or whosoever was the justest judge, by such hunting for matters against him as hath been used against me, may for a time seem foul, specially in a time when greatness is the mark and accusation is the game." Ibid. vii. 215-216. Ibid. vu. 225-226. From the letter to the king (March 25,162 z )—" When I enter into myself, I find not the materials of such a tempest as is comen upon me. I have been (as your majesty knoweth best) never author of any immoderate counsel, but always desired to have things carried suavibus modis. I have been no avaricious op-pressor of the people. I have been no haughty or intolerable or hateful man in my conversation or carriage. I have inherited no hatred from my father, but am a good patriot born. Whence should this be? For these are the things that use to raise dislikes abroad. And for the briberies and gifts wherewith I am charged, when the book of hearts shall be opened, I hope I shall not be found to have the troubled fountain of a corrupt heart in a depraved habit of taking rewards to pervert justice, howsoever I may be frail, and partake of the abuse of the times." 6 Ibid. vii. 227, and Gardiner, Prince Charles, &c. i. 450. ' Letters and Life, vii. 236, 238. 7 Ibid. vii. 241. 8 Ibid. vii. 242-244; " It resteth therefore that, without fig-leaves, I do ingenuously confess and acknowledge, that having understood the particulars of the charge, not formally from the House but enough to inform my conscience and memory, I find matter sufficient and full, both to move me to desert the defence, and to move your lordships to condemn and censure me." 9 Ibid. vii. 252-262. 1, Ibid. vii. 261, "Ibid. vii. 270. only partially executed. The fine was in effect remitted by the king; imprisonment in the Tower lasted for about four days; a general pardon (not of course covering the parliamentary censure) was made out, and though delayed at the seal for a time by Lord Keeper Williams, was passed probably in November 1621. The cause of the delay seems to have lain with Buckingham, whose friendship had cooled, and who had taken offence at the fallen chancellor's unwillingness to part with York House. This differs ence was finally smoothed over, and it was probably through his influence that Bacon received the much-desired permission to come within the verge of the court. He never again sat in parliament. So ends this painful episode, which has given rise to the most severe condemnation of Bacon, and which still presents great and perhaps insuperable difficulties. On the whole, the tendency of the most recent and thorough researches has been towards the opinion that Bacon's own account of the matter (from which, indeed, our knowledge of it is chiefly drawn) is substantially correct. He distinguishes three ways in which bribes may be given,' and ingenuously confesses that his own acts amounted to corruption and were worthy of condemnation. Now, corruption strictly interpreted would imply the deliberate sale of justice, and this Bacon explicitly denies, affirming that he never " had bribe or reward in his eye or thought when he pronounced any sentence or order." When we analyse the specific charges against him, with his answers to them, we find many that are really of little weight. The twenty-eighth and last, that of negligence in looking after his servants, though it did him much harm, may fairly be said to imply no moral blame. The majority of the others are instances of gratuities given after the decision, and it is to be regretted that the judgment of the peers gives us no means of determining how such gifts were looked upon, whether or not the acceptance of them was regarded as a "corrupt " practice. In four cases specifically, and in some others by implication, Bacon confesses that he had received bribes from suitors pendente lite. Yet he affirms, as we said before, that his intention was never swayed by a bribe; and so far as any of these cases can be traced, his decisions, often given in conjunction with some other official, are to all appearance thoroughly just. In several cases his judgment appears to have been given against the party bestowing the bribe, and in at least one instance, that of Lady Wharton, it seems impossible to doubt that he must have known when accepting the present that his opinion would be adverse to her cause. Although, then, he felt that these practices were really corrupt, and even rejoiced that his own fall would tend to purify the courts from them,2 he did not feel that he was guilty of perverting justice for the sake of reward. How far, then, is such defence or explanation admissible and satisfactory? It is clear that two things are to be considered: the one the guilt of taking bribes or presents on any consideration, the other the moral guilt depending upon the wilful perversion of justice. The attempt has sometimes been made to defend the whole of Bacon's conduct on the ground that he did nothing that was not done by many of his contemporaries. Bacon himself disclaims a defence of this nature, and we really have no direct evidence which shows to what extent the offering and receiving of such bribes then prevailed. That the practice was common is indeed implied by the terms in which Bacon speaks of it, and it is not improbable that the fact of these gifts being taken by officials was a thing fairly well known, although all were aware of their illegal character, and it was plain that any public exposure of such dealings would be fatal to the individual against whom the charge was made out.3 Bacon knew all this; ' Letters and Life, vii. 235-236: "The first, of bargain and contract for reward to pervert justice, pendente lite. The second, where the judge conceives the cause to be at an end, by the information of the party or otherwise, and useth not such diligence as he ought to inquire of it. And the third, where the cause is really ended, and it is sine fraude without relation to any precedent promise.... For the first of them I take myself to be as innocent as any born upon St Innocent's Day, in my heart. For the second, I .doubt on some particulars I may be faulty. And for the last, I conceived it to be no fault, but therein I desire to be better informed, that I may be twice penitent, once for the fact and again for the error." 2 Ibid. vii. 242. 3 Ibid. vii. 244: " Neither will your lordships forget that therehe was well aware that the practice was in itself indefensible,3 and that his conduct was therefore corrupt and deserving of censure. So far, then, as the mere taking of bribes is concerned, he would permit no defence, and his own confession and judgment on his action contain as severe a condemnation as has ever been passed upon him. Yet in the face of this he does not hesitate to call himself "the justest chancellor that hath been in the five changes since Sir Nicholas Bacon's time"; a and this on the plea that his intentions had always been pure, and had never been affected by the presents he received. His justification has been set aside by modern critics, not on the ground that the evidence demonstrates its falsity,6 but because it is inconceivable or unnatural that any man should receive a present from another, and not suffer his judgment to be swayed thereby. It need hardly be said that such an a priori conviction is not a sufficient basis on which to found a sweeping condemnation of Bacon's integrity as an administrator of justice. On the other hand, even if it be admitted to be possible and conceivable that a present should be given by a suitor simply as seeking favourable consideration of his cause, and not as desirous of obtaining an unjust decree, and should be accepted by the judge on the same understanding, this would not entitle one absolutely to accept Bacon's statement. Further evidence is necessary in order to give foundation to a definite judgment either way; and it is extremely improbs able, nay, almost impossible, that such can ever be produced. In these circumstances, due weight should be given to Bacon's own assertions of his perfect innocence and purity of intention; they ought not to be put out of court unless found in actual contradiction to the facts, and the reverse of this is the case, so far as has yet appeared.' The remaining five years of his life, though he was still harassed by want of means, for James was not liberal, were spent in work far more valuable to the world than. anything he had accomplished in his high office. In March 1622 be presented to Prince Charles his History of Henry VII.; and immediately, with unwearied industry, set to work to complete some portions of his great work. In November 1622 appeared the HistoriaVentorum; in January 1622/3, the Historia Vitae et Mortis; and in October of the same year, the De Augmentis Scientiarum, a Latin translation, with many additions, of the Advancement. Finally, in December 1624, he published his Apophthegms, and Translations of some of the Psalms, dedicated to George Herbert; and, in 1625, a third and enlarged edition of the Essays. Busily occupied with these labours, his life now drew rapidly to a close. In March 1626 he came to London, and when driving one day near Highgate, was taken with a desire to discover whether snow would act as an antiseptic. He stopped his carriage, got out at a cottage, purchased a fowl, and with his own hands assisted to stuff it with snow. He was seized with a sudden chill, and became so seriously unwell that he had to be conveyed to Lord Arundel's house, which was near at hand. Here his illness increased, the cold and chill brought on bronchitis and he died, after a few days' suffering, on the 9th of April 1626. are eitia temporis as well as vitia hominis, and that the beginning of reformations hath the contrary power to the pool of Bethesda, for that had strength to cure only him that was first cast in, and this bath commonly strength to hurt him only that is first cast in." 3 See, among many other passages, Essays, " Of Great Place " " For corruptions do not only bind thine own hands or thy servant's hands from taking, but bind the hands of suitors also from offering; for integrity used doth the one; but integrity professed, and with a manifest detestation of bribery, doth the other; and avoid not only the fault but the suspicion." b Cf. Letters and Life, vii. 56o: " I was the justest judge that was in England these fifty years; but it was the justest censure in Parliament that was these two hundred years." 6 Or on the ground that there was a distinct rule forbidding chancellors and the like officials to take presents. This does not seem to have been the case, if we may judge from what Bacon says Letters and Life, vii. 233. v Not only do the cases, so far as they are known, support Bacon's plea of innocence, but it is remarkable that no attempt at a reversal of any of his numerous decrees appears to have been successful. Had his decrees been wilful perversions of justice, it is scarcely conceivable that some of them should not have been overturned. See Letters and Life, vii. 555-562.
End of Article: FRANCIS BACON (BARON VERULAM, VISCOUNT ST ALBANS) (1561-1626)
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