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been called to take a part in it. The point was this. They were to hear something which the King had commanded the Lords to impart to them. Were the Lords then a body interposed between the King and his subjects? They had objected to receive messages from him by his Council: were they to receive them by the Upper House? The matter was thought grave enough for a Committee.
Whereupon a Committee was chosen to consider what was fittest to be done who shortly after resolved that one of our House who was appointed, viz. Mr. Solicitor, should before the Lords spake, desire to say something unto the Lords on the behalf of the House; and that then he should say that which the House directed him; which he did with some amplification."
The office naturally fell to Bacon because he was to be reporter of the proceedings at the Conference. But there can be no doubt that he was the very best man to whom they could have entrusted it; and the little "amplification" which he ventured on may have had something to do with the smooth passage of it. The following is given as the substance of what he said.
They had received a message from their Lordships, desiring a meeting, whereunto they had yielded. But that whether it were in the expressing of it or in the conceiving of it or both, there were some mistakes which had left an impression in the minds of the hearers, which did beget this resolution, which by their commandment he was to intimate to their Lordships, which was this that if their Lordships did desire this meeting upon intent only to communicate unto them their own conceits or anything which they had received from his Majesty, they were come hither with all willing readiness to receive it. But that if their Lordships were employed herein as messengers only to the House of 'Commons from his Majesty, who is like the sun which shines directly as well upon the lowest vallies as upon the highest hills, then they were to signify to their Lordships that this course was contrary to the ancient orders, liberties, privileges, and graces of this House. And therefore we are to entertain it as it shall please the House to direct us.
Salisbury was not a man to sacrifice the matter to a scruple about the words. He easily explained that they had desired a meeting, in consequence of something which they had heard from the King, in Add. MSS. 4210, f. 37 b.
1 Parl. Deb. 1610, p. 51.
order that they might take counsel together what should be done. And so the Conference proceeded.
And now it appeared that, though it had been expressly desired by the Lords that the Committees might be the same who had been employed before,' the object of the conference was quite different. The business consisted solely of a speech from Salisbury; the object of which was, not to explain how much the King would abate of his former demand and to propose terms for discussion, but simply to urge a present vote of "supply by subsidies," and for that purpose the suspension of all other business, including "Support" as well as "Grievances,"-till their next meeting in October, when the negotiation of the contract would be resumed. There was no discussion, nor any invitation to discuss: it was a perfectly "dry" meeting.
The motion was one which indicated rather the extremity of the case than the skill of the mover. For except some additional uncertainty as to the course of affairs abroad, and some vague apprehension of the coming ascendancy of Popery in Christendom, consequent upon the removal of Henry IV., he does not appear to have had anything new to communicate which should have induced the Commons to descend from their vantage-ground. He had indeed some fresh acts of popularity on the King's part to announce; some remissions of duty to the merchants, a promise to impose no more duties before their next meeting, and permission to the Lower House "to dispute of his power to impose, in radice." But as things had been managed, these concessions had been so manifestly the consequence of his necessity, that as long as other and more important concessions remained to be got, they formed the worst of all arguments for taking that necessity away. Salisbury explained frankly enough what he wanted. "For the point of Supply, he wished we would give his Majesty so much as might disengage himself and pay his debts; and that something might remain in deposito (in what place or whose hands we pleased) tanquam thesaurus sacer, as a dry and standing stock, not to be touched but upon urgent necessity." But he can hardly have expected the House of Commons to overlook the probable consequence of making such a grant in June-namely that their grievances when presented in October would have so much the less chance of respectful consideration.
Such however was the proposition to be submitted to them. Being reported by Bacon, I presume that it was presented in the fairest light which it would bear; but the result was what might "The Committees to be the same that were last." L. J. p. 611. 2 Parl. Deb. 1610. Addl. MSS. 4210, f. 39 b.
have been anticipated. A motion for a grant of two subsidies was debated for two days, and after several amendments and fresh propositions and conciliatory messages from the King, ended at last in the postponement by general consent of the whole question. ́A message to his Majesty, by Mr. Chancellor, and that we will lay all other business aside and endeavour within a short time to give his Majesty satisfaction" was proposed at last by Sir Edwin Sandys, and "assented unto by the voice of the House." To which the King replied that he did not "misjudge the proceedings of the House in not giving him a subsidy, and was indifferent whether any other motion were made concerning any supply, till they should receive a full answer to their grievances."? What better could have been expected? The common sense of the House told them, and each successive move of the government confirmed the impression, that in relieving the King from his own wants they would relieve him from the necessity of considering theirs. Bacon seems to have felt that he had no ground to work upon. In the two days' debate which followed his report, the only record which remains of what he said is this note from which I can only gather that he spoke in favour of supply.
Sir Fr. Bacon. I will not blast the affections of this House with elaborate speech.-Great hope in the heart. Upon that to proceed.3
The failure of this last attempt to obtain a present supply left matters where they were. The Commons had been going on with their preparations for the "free Conference" concerning Tenures to which they had been invited by the Lords, as well as with the search for records touching Impositions, and were now ready to deal with both questions. On the 18th of June they opened communications with the Lords, which resulted in a conference on the 26th; and on the 23rd they began to debate, in committee of the whole House, the great question, "whether the King have power to set impositions upon merchandises without assent of Parliament." The debate appears to have occupied five days-the 23rd, 27th, 28th, and 29th of June, and the 2nd of July on one of which days-probably the 27th-Bacon made a great speech in defence of the King's right.
Of this he must at one time have meant to preserve a full report. 1 C. J., 14 June, p. 439. 2 Parl. Deb. 1610, p. 58. 3 C. J., p. 439.
For there was found among his papers a fair copy of part of it, in the same form as the other speeches belonging to the volume entitled Orationes, Acta, Instrumenta, circa res civiles; with corrections in his own hand. This was printed in 1734 among the papers appended to Stephens's second collection of "the letters of the Lord Chancellor Bacon," and having been reprinted at full length in the State Trials, is one of the best known of his political writings. But it is a remarkable fact, and shows how little attention has been really bestowed upon these writings even by the most diligent of our law. yers and historians, that though noticed and commented upon by men as eminent as Hargrave and Hallam, it has always been taken for the entire speech; nor am I aware that until Mr. Gardiner discovered in the British Museum the manuscript which he afterwards edited for the Camden Society, anybody had publicly noticed that it is incomplete. The evidence of that manuscript (though not needed to prove the fact, for no man could read the printed speech attentively without perceiving it) has the great advantage of being conclusive and indisputable, and making further discussion superfluous. It shows that what we have is about half of the whole; and may therefore well seem weak (as Hallam observes that it does) compared with the arguments on the other side. That the argument is weakly handled as far as it goes, I think nobody will say; and a judicious speaker reserves the weight of his argument for the close of his speech. How it happened that after taking so much pains with the first half, and as far as it goes it is carefully composed, carefully transcribed, and carefully corrected,-Bacon did not think it worth while to go on with it, is a question not so easily answered. But I fancy that upon closer consideration of the point of law, or closer scrutiny of the records, such as the very process of preparing the remainder of the speech for the transcriber would naturally entail,(and when it was made there had been little time to examine the mass of records that had just been disinterred)—he saw reason to alter his opinion, and therefore laid the paper by.
If so, the loss of the remainder of the argument,-I say loss, because the notes in Mr. Gardiner's manuscript will be found to indicate the character and quantity of what is wanting rather than to supply it is the less to be regretted, because I think we are bound to regard it under the circumstances as an argument which Bacon himself did not think worth preserving. And on the same ground I shall hold myself excused from attempting to weigh the rival reasonings or follow the course of the debate. It is enough to know that "after much straining of courtesy who should begin," the debate was commenced by Nicholas Fuller," who speaks (as you know)"
says Carleton who was present "always honestly, but that time very sufficiently," and who was answered by Sir Henry Montagu, Recorder of London. Bacon's speech appears to have been the second on that side, and with this introduction may be left to explain itself.
AN ARGUMENT OF THE KING'S SOLICITOR IN THE LOWER HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT, PROVING THE KING'S RIGHT OF IM
And it please you, Mr. Speaker, this question touching the right of Impositions is very great, extending to the prerogative of the King on the one part, and the liberty of the subject on the other; and that in a point of profit and value, and not of conceit or fancy. And therefore, as weight in all motions increaseth force, so I do not marvel to see men gather the greatest strength of argument they can to make good their opinions. And so you will give me leave likewise, being strong in mine own persuasion that it is the King's right, to shew my voice as free as my thought. And for my part I mean to observe the true course to give strength to this cause, which is by yielding those things which are not tenable, and keeping the question within the true state and compass; which will discharge many popular arguments, and contract the debate into a less room.
Wherefore I do deliver the question, and exclude or set by as not in question five things. First, the question is de Portorio and not de Tributo, to use the Roman words for explanation sake; it is not, I say, touching any taxes within the land, but of payments at the ports. Secondly, it is not touching any impost from port to port, but where claves regni, the keys of the kingdom, are turned to let in from foreign parts, or to send forth to foreign parts; (in a word) matter of commerce and intercourse, not simply of carriage or vecture. Thirdly, the question is (as the distinction was used above in another case) de vero et falso, and not de bono et malo; of the legal point, and not of the inconvenience, otherwise than as it serves to decide the law. Fourthly, I do set apart three commodities, wool, wool-fells, and leather, as being in differing case from the rest; because the custom upon them is antiqua custuma. Lastly, the question is not whether in matter of imposing the King may alter the law by his prerogative, but whether the King have not such a prerogative by law.
1 Harl. MSS. 6797, f. 147.