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A FEW days before Bacon was made Lord Keeper, the state of the negotiation then pending with Spain for the marriage of Prince Charles with the Infanta had been laid before the Council board, and they had "by consent agreed that his Majesty might with honour enter into a treaty of marriage" &c.1 It was not a project from which Bacon expected any good; and if the King had taken his advice he would have gone no further in it than to let it be talked of as a possible resource by which the Crown might free itself from debt. Neither did the Council, I think, (judging from the terms of the resolution,) expect it to succeed; but they thought that, if it were fairly proceeded with on the King's part, some occasion would probably turn up for breaking it off with honour and advantage.2 That it should be proceeded with for the present was however settled; and Sir John Digby was appointed to go as ambassador to Spain, partly to conduct the negotiation, partly to effect some arrangement for the suppression of the pirates of Algiers and Tunis, who had become very troublesome.
Such being the state of the negotiation when Bacon had to take it up as a leading Councillor, true policy required that it should be guided with a view to both issues, so that some good might be secured either way;-good to the general state of Christendom, if Spain were disposed to act sincerely for that end; good to the particular interests of England and Protestantism, if not. And first came the question, what good could be extracted out
1 See "the sum of his M. speech to some of his Council on the 2 of March" [1616-7]. Harl. MSS. 1323. fo. 263.
2 "It were very likely that the breach, if any were, could not be but upon some material point of religion; which if it fell out could not be any dishonour to his Majesty, but on the contrary a great reputation, both with his subjects here at home, and with his friends of the reformed religion in foreign parts."
of the alliance, supposing it to succeed. Accordingly on the 23rd of March 1616-7, while the King was on his way to Scotland, Bacon sent for his consideration a paper of additional instructions for Sir John Digby: which began thus:
"Besides your instructions directory to the substance of the main errand, we would have you in the whole carriage and passages of your negotiation, as well with the King himself as with the Duke of Lerma and Council there, intermix discourse upon fit occasions, that may express ourselves to the effect following:
"That you doubt not but that both Kings, for that which concerns religion, will proceed sincerely, both being entire and perfect in their own belief and way; but that there are so many noble and excellent effects, which are equally acceptable to both religions and for the good and happiness of the Christian world, which may arise out of this conjunction, as the union of both Kings in actions of estate may make the difference in religion as laid aside and almost forgotten.
"As first, that it will be a means utterly to extinguish and extirpate pirates, which are the common enemies of mankind, and do much infest Europe at this time.
"Also, that it may be a beginning and seed (for the like actions before have had less beginnings) of a holy war against the Turk, whereunto it seems the events of time do invite Christian kings, in respect of the great corruption and relaxation of discipline of war in that empire; and much more in respect of the utter ruin and enervation of the Grand Signor's navy and forces by sea: which openeth a way (without congregating vast armies by land) to suffocate and starve Constantinople, and thereby to put those provinces into mutiny and insurrection."
The remaining articles do not concern us at present.
Now as I do not find in any of Bacon's letters or memoranda of earlier date any hint of such a project as this last mentioned, I suppose it was this particular occasion that put it into his head, and led him into that train of meditation to which we owe the fragment which follows. In 1622, in which year it was written, the position which the King had taken with regard to Spain was again much the same as in 1617. The negotiation having been kept on foot for awhile by delusive promises, and afterwards interrupted and almost broken off
by the war in the Palatinate, had been again resumed, and it was resolved that the match should proceed. Bacon was no longer in office; but he was still attentive to public affairs, and the return of the former political conjuncture would naturally remind him of his former advice, and induce him to take the subject up again; while the utter and final breach with Spain which followed soon after sufficiently accounts for his not proceeding further with it; although he thought so well both of the matter, and of the manner in which he had opened it, that he had the fragment translated into Latin and included among his Opera Moralia et Civilia.'
The argument of the dialogue has but little interest for us at this day, except as indicating a stage in the history of opinion: and even for that it is hardly available, because it is not carried far enough to enable us to judge what Bacon's own opinion was upon the question proposed. His design apparently was to exhaust the subject, by showing it from all sides; as seen by the Roman Catholic "zelant," by the Protestant zelant, by the orthodox and moderate divine, by the soldier, by he statesman, and by the courtier; while the distribution of the parts is such as to give full scope to them all. But as the formal discussion breaks off before the first speaker has concluded (who represents the extreme Roman Catholic view),-the "moderate divine " having said nothing, and the statesman (who, though a Roman Catholic also, would, I presume, have represented Bacon's own opinion) having merely intimated that he did not consider the design impracticable, it is not easy to conjecture with any confidence what the ultimate judgment was intended to be. Comparing it however with an opinion of Bacon's own, recorded two years later; remembering the instructions to Sir John Digby which I have quoted; and observing the spirit of the introductory conversation, especially with reference to one or two passages which appear to have
1 "Postremo duo fragmenta adjici mandavit; Dialogum de Bello Sacro, et Novam Atlantidem. Fragmentorum autem genera tria esse dixit. Primum eorum quæ libris integris amissis servata sunt; ut Somnium Scipionis. Secundum eorum quæ auctor ipse, vel morte præreptus vel aliis negotiis distractus, perficere non potuit, ut Platonis Atlantis. Tertium eorum quæ auctor itidem ex composito et volens deseruit: ex quo genere sunt ista duo quæ diximus. Neque tamen ea deseruit Dominatio sua fastidio argumenti, sed quod alia multa habuerat quæ merito antecedere deberent."— Rawley's preface to the Opera Moralia et Civilia. 1638.
26 Though offensive wars for religion are seldom to be approved, or never, except there be some mixture of civil titles.". ·Considerations touching a War with Spain: written in 1624.
been inserted on revision, I am inclined to think that Eupolis, the "Politique," would have limited his approval to a war against the Turks; and that not simply as Infidels, but as dangerous neighbours to all Christendom. And I suppose that as things then stood the Christian powers might very fairly, and merely in self-defence and as a matter of international policy, have demanded securities from the Turks, the refusal of which would (even according to modern opinions) have formed a just ground of war. That it would have been a "holy war,”—that is, that it would incidentally have had the effect of recovering to the Church countries then subject to Infidels, would in Bacon's eyes no doubt have been a great additional recommendation: experience not having yet sufficiently proved that subjection of territory to Christian rule does not involve conversion of people to the Christian faith.
Setting aside the practical question as to the lawfulness of wars for the propagation of the faith—a question which would now in any company of divines and statesmen be negatived without a division, and regarding the work as a literary composition, it will be found not merely to be still interesting, but to deserve a conspicuous place among Bacon's writings. For it is the only specimen we have of his manner of conducting a discussion in the form of dialogue; and enough is done to show how skilfully he could handle that fine but difficult instrument. The design of the composition is to represent the question as fairly debated between several speakers looking at it from different points of view, and each bringing the full force of his wit and learning to the support of his own conclusion; and nothing can be more natural and life-like than the conversation, so far as it goes. The historical matters incidentally handled have an interest also which is by no means obsolete. And the dedicatory letter to Bishop Andrews contains the fullest account of Bacon's own personal feelings and designs as a writer which we have from his own pen.
This fragment was first published by Dr. Rawley in 1629, along with two or three others, in a small volume entitled Certain miscellany works of the Right Honourable Francis Lo. Verulam, Viscount St. Alban: the alleged motive of the publication being to supersede or prevent corrupt copies, and "to satisfy the desires of some who held it unreasonable that any delineations of that pen, though in never so small a model,
should not be shown to the world." It was afterwards by Bacon's own direction (as I have said), and apparently under his supervision, translated into Latin, and added to the Opera Moralia et Civilia. There is a manuscript copy of part of it in the British Museum', and another in the Cambridge University Library; but Rawley's edition contains some passages which are not in the MS. and therefore I suppose it was printed from a corrected copy and is the better authority.
As in other similar cases I have compared the English with the Latin, and quoted in foot-notes all variations which seem to be at all material.
1 Harl. MSS. 4263.