« AnteriorContinuar »
a strong desire to win his confidence, he never succeeded in acquiring any real intimacy. Always on the alert to offer help, always prompt and cordial in acknowledging such favours as he received, always ad. dressing him as a kinsman naturally interested in his fortunes, he never seems to have been on easy terms or a clear understanding with him, but to have felt always that he was treading on doubtful ground and must advance with caution. At this time he not only stood for the first time “out of the person of a suitor,” —that is, in a position in which he had not any particular favour to ask or expect,—but he had for the first time received from Salisbury substantial help in his professional advancement. This might be the sign of a change of disposition, and if rightly responded to, the beginning of a more cordial intercourse. Might, or might not. And I suppose it was the doubt felt by Bacon on that point which guided him into the peculiar mix. ture of familiarity and formality which distinguishes this letter : an overture of service and affection, which, if acceptable, might help to bring on the intimacy he desired; if not, might pass for a new year's compliment.
It comes from Bacon's own collection.
A LETTER TO THE EARL OF SALISBURY, OF COURTESY UPON A
New YEAR TIDE.?
It may please your good Lordship,
Having no gift to present you with in any degree proportionable to my mind, I desire nevertheless to take the advantage of a ceremony to express myself to your Lordship; it being the first time I could make the like acknowledgment, when I stood out of the person of a suitor. Wherefore I most humbly pray your Lordship to think of me, that now it hath pleased you, by many effectual and great benefits, to add the assurance and comfort of your love and favour to that precedent disposition which was in me to admire your virtue and merits, I do esteem whatsoever I have or may have in this world but as trash, in comparison of having the honour and happiness to be a near and well accepted kinsman to so rare and worthy a counsellor, governor, and patriot. For having been a studious, if not curious observer, as well of antiquities of virtue as late pieces, I forbcar to say to your Lordship what I find and conceive; but to any other I would think to make myself believed. But not to be tedious (in that which may have the shew of a compliment) I can but wish your Lordship many happy years; many more than your father had; even so many more as we may need you more. So I remain.
1 “Salisbury,” said Ben Jonson to Drummond of Hawthornden, “never cared for any man longer than he could make use of him.”—B. J.'s Convers, with W. D., edited by D. Laing for Shaksp. Society, 1842, p. 24.
2 Add. MSS. 5503.
The exact date of the marriage of Bacon's sister-in-law, Dorothy Barnham, with Sir John Constable, I have not, as I said, been able to ascertain. But
among the state papers now at the Rolls House there is one relating to her jointure, which (if correctly referred to January, 1607-8) affords a reason, in the absence of better, for placing the next letter here.
Lady Packington, her mother, had a troublesome temper and a disposition to interfere in the domestic arrangements of her relatives. Her husband himself seems to have had an uneasy time with her. About a year before, we read in one of Chamberlain's letters that “Sir John Packington and his little violent lady are parted upon foul
And now it appears that disputes had arisen about Sir John Constable's settlements, in which it may be presumed that she had a hand. The paper to which I have referred is entitled “ Conditions to which I am content to yield unto, and did from the beginning intend and offer, for the jointure and advancement of Dorothy Barnham, my spouse," and is signed Jo. Constable.” He offers to assure ber a jointure of £100 a year, as soon as he comes to his estate; with certain exceptions and provisoes, of which the following is, for our present purpose, the most noticeable :—“But always I understand it, that those her friends which have so intolerably slandered and wronged me, shall have no intermeddling at all either in the assurance or in the allowance of these articles.”3
Now if we suppose that the mother-in-law was one of the persons 80 excluded, and that Bacon was one of those selected as trustees (which is most probable, for Sir John was always one of his most valued friends), the following letter (which comes from the 'Remains') will be intelligible enough, to reveal as much perhaps as we have a right to know of that part of his domestic trials.
| 13th Feb. 1606-7.
? It bears no date. But I gather from it that his grandfather and his father were still alive, and that his wife was under the age of twenty-four.
3 Domestic James I., vol. xxxi., entered in Calendar “Jan.? 1608."
To my LADY PACKINGTON, IN ANSWER OF A MESSAGE BY HER
You shall with right good will be made acquainted with anything which concerneth your daughters, if you bear a mind of love and concord: otherwise you must be content to be a stranger unto us. For I may not be so unwise as to suffer you to be an author or occasion of dissension between your daughters and their husbands, having seen so much misery of that kind in yourself.
And above all things I will turn back your kindness, in which you say you will receive my wife if she be cast off. For it is much more likely we have occasion to receive you being cast off, if you remember what is passed. But it is time to make an end of those follies. And
shall at this time pardon me this one fault of writing to you. For I mean to do it no more till you use me and respect me as you ought. So wishing you better than it seemeth you will draw upon yourself, I rest,
Parliament did not meet again in 1608, having been further prorogued upon apprehension or pretence of the “ sickness ” then prevalent in London ;? and Bacon's principal public services were performed in the Courts and belong to the professional department.
Of these the most considerable was his argument in the case of the Postnati, delivered before the Lord Chancellor and all the Judges, assembled in the Exchequer Chamber. It was a great case, and arose in this way. The proceedings in the last session had left the question of Naturalisation not only unsettled, but subject to a grave doubt in point of law: the Judges baving, as advisers of the Upper House, given opinion that the Postnati were already ipso jure naturalised; while the Lower House had resolved that they were not, and declined to naturalise them by Statute, until other measures had been passed which must necessarily have taken a long time. This doubt affected the rights of all persons born in Scotland within the five years last past, and to be born hereafter; and as neither an extra-judicial declaration of the Judges nor a mere resolution of the
Remains, p. 78. 2 See Proclamations, 30th Sept. 1607; 10th Jan. 1607-8; 4th Sept. 1608.
House of Commons was competent to settle it, it was a matter of great importance to obtain an authoritative and conclusive decision. To procure this, a grant of lands in England was made to an infant born in Scotland since the King's accession, of which a disseisin having been effected, an action of common law was brought by his guardians to recover possession, together with a suit in Chancery for the discovery of evidence. The decision in both cases turned upon the question whether he were an alien or no; and in both, after hearing, was “ adjourned into the Exchequer Chamber, to be argued openly there ; first by the Counsel learned of either party, and then by all the Judges of England."! Bacon's argument, probably the greatest of his forensic speeches, certainly the most interesting to non-professional readers, appears to have been delivered some time before Easter Term (which began on the 13th of April) 1608; and will be found among the Professional Works.?
The result was a judgment in favour of the plaintiff, delivered by the Lord Chancellor and twelve of the Judges,--two only dissenting; a judgment very satisfactory to those who thought with Bacon that there could be no secure union between the two countries without naturalisation, and that the sooner it took place the better; for it settled that part of the question which was most iinportant. The remaining marks of separation might retard the union between the English and Scotch of that generation, but in the next generation they would have disappeared altogether. With those who wanted no such union and apprehended evil to England from this communication of privileges, the decision was of course unpopular; for it imposed upon their children the very state of things which they had refused for themselves, and from which they would have saved their posterity if they could. That this unpopularity was so great and so general as to make it from that time “ useless to call upon Parliament to consider any measure connected with the union," imputation upon the patriotism of the Commons of those days which I hope is unjust. But even if the result of the proceeding did involve so grave an inconvenience, it is difficult to see how the Government could have avoided it. To say that a doubtful question of law, involving the private rights of innumerable persons, ought not to have been referred to the highest legal tribunal in the land, is to say that the forms of judicial procedure ought to have been regarded as useless, and the Judges as incompetent for their function. And as it was never suspected that any undue influence was used to limit the freedom of the defence, or to bias the decision, it is
? Vol. VII. p. 641.
3 Gardiner, i. 323.
strange that in these times, when nobody wishes the decision reversed or regrets the effects of it, any doubt should be felt as to the propriety of the proceeding through wbich it was obtained. “Never any case,” says Coke," was adjudged in the Exchequer Chamber with greater concordance and less variety of opinion. ... Et sic determinata et terminata est ista quæstio."
There is another writing of Bacon's which appears to have been composed about this time, and (though its forin and the use to which he turned it afterwards caused it to be classed among the literary works) might perhaps with as much propriety have been placed here; for there can be little doubt that it was closely connected with the business of this particular time, and meant to bear upon the solution of the most important state-problem with which the statesmen of the time had to deal.
The day had come when the ordinary revenues of the Crown were no longer adequate to the ordinary requirements of government. And the day was fast coming when it would not be possible any longer to disguise that fact. Now if the King could not carry on the government constitutionally without belp from the House of Commons which the House might constitutionally refuse, it followed that the House of Commons had potentially a veto upon all the proceedings of the Government. If this be done (they might say), or if that be not done, we shall stop the supplies. The transfer of so great a power to new hands, coming suddenly, and coming (as it probably would) with a struggle, was a revolution which could not be anticipated without serious apprehension : for in a constitution like the English there was no knowing how much disturbance it would cause. The best chance of averting or postponing the discovery would be to engage the country in some action which would carry the sympathies of the people with it. Now the pacific character of James's government was probably up to this time the most unpopular thing about it; and though the time was happily past when
“To win our ancient right in France again,
Or die a soldier as he lived a King,” ? could be approved by sane men as a fit object of royal ambition, yet there were many questions still alive-questions concerning religion, trade, colonization, etc.,-in which the English people would have been proud to see their Government asserting a foremost position
i Rich. III. act iii. sc. 1.