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ROBERT Earl of SOMERSET to Sir THOMAS OVERBURY. (a) From a copy among Lord BACON's papers in the Lambeth library.
I HAVE Considered that my answer to you, and what I have otherwise to say, will exceed the bounds of a letter; and now having not much time to use betwixt my waiting on the king, and the removes we do make in this our little progress, I thought fit to use the same man to you, whom I have heretofore many times employed in the same business. He has, besides an account and a better description of me to give you, to make a repetition of the former carriages of all this business, that you may distinguish that, which he did by knowledge of mine and direction, and betwixt that he did out of his own discretion without my warrant. With all this he has to renew to you a former desire of mine, which was the ground-work of this, and the chief errand of his coming to you, wherein I desire your answer by him. I would not employ this gentleman to you, if he were, as you conceit of him, your unfriend, or an ill instrument betwixt us. So owe him the testimony of one,
field, and the master of the rolls; the lord chief justice of the King's Bench, Fleming, being kept at home by some infirmity. There the attorney and solicitor first undertook Mr. Whitelocke, and the recorder [Henry Montagu], as the king's serjeant, Sir Robert Mansell, charging the one as a counsellor, the other as a questioner, in matters of the king's prerogative and sovereignty upon occasion of a commission intended for a research into the administration of the admiralty. "Whitelocke in his answer," adds Sir Henry Wotton, "spake more confusedly than was expected from a lawyer; and the "knight more temperately than was expected from a soldier... "Whitelocke ended his speech with an absolute confession of his "own offence, and with a promise of employing himself hereafter in "defence of the king's prerogative.... In this they generally agreed, "both counsellors and judges, to represent the humiliation of both "the prisoners to the king, in lieu of innocency, and to intercede "for his gracious pardon: which was done, and accordingly the "next day they were inlarged upon a submission under writing."
(a) He was committed to the Tower on the 21st of April, 1613, and died there of poison on the 15th of September following.
that has spoken as honestly, and given more praises of you, than any man, that has spoken to me.
My haste at this time makes me to end sooner than I expected: but the subject of my next sending shall be to answer that part you give me in your love, with a return of the same from
Your assured loving friend,
Lord Somerset's first letter.
TO THE KING.
It may please your most excellent Majesty,
HAVING understood of the death of the lord chief justice (a) I do ground in all humbleness an assured hope, that your majesty will not think of any other but your poor servants, your attorney, (b) and your solicitor, (c) one of them, for that place. Else we shall be like Noah's dove, not knowing where to rest our feet. For the places of rest, after the extreme painful places, wherein we serve, have used to be either the lord chancellor's place, or the mastership of the rolls, or the places of the chief justices; whereof, for the first, I could be almost loth to live to see this worthy counsellor fail. The mastership of the rolls is blocked with a reversion. (d) My lord Coke is like to outlive us both. So as, if this turn fail, I for my part know not whither to look. I have served your majesty above a prenticehood, full seven years and more, as your solicitor, which is, I think
(a) Sir Thomas Fleming, who died about August, 1613.
(b) Sir Henry Hobart, who was made lord chief justice of the Common Pleas, November 26, 1613, in the room of Sir Edward Coke, removed to the post of lord chief justice of the King's Bench, October 25.
(c) Sir Francis Bacon himself, who was appointed attorney-general, October 27, 1613.
(d) To Sir Julius Cæsar.
one of the painfulest places in your kingdom, specially as my employments have been; and God hath brought mine own years to fifty-two, which I think is older than ever any solicitor continued unpreferred. My suit is principally, that you would remove Mr. Attorney to the place. If he refuse, then I hope your majesty will seek no farther than myself, that I may at last, out of your majesty's grace and favour, step forward to a place either of more comfort or more ease. Besides, how necessary it is for your majesty to strengthen your service amongst the judges by a chief justice, which is sure to your prerogative, your majesty knoweth. Therefore I cease farther to trouble your majesty, humbly craving pardon, and relying wholly upon your goodness and remembrance, and resting in all true humbleness,
Your Majesty's most devoted,
and faithful subject and servant,
Reasons why it should be exceeding much for his majesty's service to remove the Lord COKE from the place he now holdeth (a) to be Chief Justice of England, (b) and the Attorney (c) to succeed him, and the Solicitor (d) the Attorney.
FIRST, it will strengthen the king's causes greatly amongst the judges: for both my lord Coke will think himself near a privy counsellor's place, and thereupon turn obsequious; and the attorney-general,
(a) Of chief justice of the Common Pleas, having been appointed to that office June 30, 1606.
(b) He was advanced to that office October 25, 1613.
(c) Sir Henry Hobart, who had been appointed attorney-general July 4, 1606.
(d) Sir Francis Bacon, who had been sworn solicitor-general June 25, 1607.
a new man, and a grave person, in a judge's place, will come in well to the other, and hold him hard to it, not without emulation between them, who shall please the king best.
Secondly, the attorney-general sorteth not so well with his present place, being a man timid and scrupulous both in parliament and other business, and one, that in a word was made fit for the late lord Treasurer's bent, which was to do little with much formality and protestation: whereas the now solicitor going more roundly to work, and being of a quicker and more earnest temper, and more effectual in that he dealeth in, is like to recover that strength to the king's prerogative, which it hath had in times past, and which is due unto it. And for that purpose there must be brought in to be solicitor some man of courage and speech, and a grounded lawyer; which done, his majesty will speedily find a marvellous change in his business. For it is not to purpose for the judges to stand well-disposed, except the king's council, which is the active and moving part, put the judges well to it; for in a weapon, what is a back without an edge?
Thirdly, the king shall continue and add reputation to the attorney's and solicitor's place, by this orderly advancement of them; which two places are the champion's places for his rights and prerogative; and being stripped of their expectations and successions to great place, will wax vile; and then his majesty's prerogative goeth down the wind. Besides, the remove of my lord Coke to a place of less profit, though it be with his will, yet will be thought abroad a kind of discipline to him for opposing himself in the king's causes; the example whereof will contain others in
Lastly, whereas now it is voiced abroad touching the supply of places, as if it were a matter of labour, and canvass, and money; and other persons are chiefly spoken of to be the men, and the great suitors; this will appear to be the king's own act, and is a course so natural and regular, as it is without all
suspicion of these by-courses, to the king's infinite honour. For men say now, the king can make good second judges, as he hath done lately; (e) but that is no mastery, because men sue to be kept from these places. But now is the trial in those great places, how his majesty can hold good, where there is great suit and means.
TO THE KING.
It may please your most excellent Majesty,
WE have, with all possible care and diligence, considered Cotton's (a) cause, the former and the latter,
(e) Sir John Dodderidge was made judge of the King's Bench, November 25, 1612, and Sir Augustin Nichols of the Common Pleas the day following.
(a) The case of this gentleman will render the detail of it necessary for the illustration of this letter; and the circumstances of it, not known in our history, may be thought to deserve the reader's attention. He was a native of the West of England, and a recusant, against whom a proclamation was issued in June 1613, charging him with high treason against the king and state for having published a very scandalous and railing book against his majesty, under the title of Balaam's Ass, which was dropped in the gallery at Whitehall. Just at the time of publishing this proclamation, he happened to cross the Thames, and inquiring of the waterman what news? they, not knowing him, told him of the proclamation. At landing, he muffled himself up in his cloke, to avoid being known; but had not gone many paces, when one Mr. Maine, a friend of his, meeting and discovering him, warned him of his danger; and being asked what he would advise him to do, recommended it to him to surrender himself; which he did to the earl of Southampton. He denied himself to be the author of the libel: but his study being searched, among his papers were found many parts of the book, together with relics of those persons, who had been executed for the gunpowder treason, as one of Sir Everard Digby's fingers, a toe of Thomas Percy, some other part of Catesby or Rookewood, and a piece of one of Peter Lambert's ribs. He was kept prisoner in the Tower till March 1618, when the true author of the libel was discovered to be John Williams, esq; a barrister of the Middle Temple, who had been expelled the house of commons on account of his being a papist. The discovering was owing to this accident: a pursuivant in want of money, and desirous to get some by his employment, waited at the Spanish ambassador's