Imágenes de páginas

desiring them to wear them for my sake, as I did wear theirs So wishing you all a good new year, I rest

for mine own sake.

Grays Inn,

Yours assured,


this 8th of Jan. 1611.

The business alluded to in a short letter written a little later to John Murray (who according to Bishop Goodman was "an universal man, and got more or less by every suit "), was connected probably with some grant which had been referred to Bacon as Solicitor General. But as the enclosure has not been preserved we have no means of identifying it.


Good Mr. Murray,

I have laboured like a packhorse in your business, and, as I think, I have driven in a nail. I pray deliver the enclosed to his Majesty, wherein I have made mention of the same. I rest Yours assured,

27th January 1611.3



We now come to a paper for which Bacon must be regarded as altogether answerable; and it is the rather deserving of attention because some severe censures have been passed upon him for writing it. Being a purely voluntary performance, not in any way connected with the business of his office, and having been carefully preserved among his papers by himself, it may be justly treated as an act of his own; and whatever blame it merits rests with him. But I think the censures have been passed without due attention to the circumstances; of which a sufficient record has fortunately, though accidentally, been preserved.

Thomas Sutton, having in a long life of various enterprise amassed a great fortune, proposed to bestow the bulk of it after his death upon some great public charity: for which he had been long engaged in making provision and preparation. He died on the 12th of December 1611, leaving a will of which we have the following contemporary report, written a few days after.

1 Court of James I. i. p. 203.

2 Harl. MSS.6986, fo. 202. The original is in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. 3 So in the copy in the British Museum; and also in a note of the original letter, for which I am indebted to Mr. David Laing. But I suspect the true date to be 1614.

"I cannot yet learn many particulars of his will, but thus much hath been told me from the mouth of auditor Sutton one of his executors,that he hath given 20,000l. ready money to charitable uses, to be disposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Ely, and the Bishop of London. He hath left 80007. lands a year to his college or hospital at the Charterhouse (which is not bestowed on the Prince, as was given out), to the maintenance of eight score soldiers [gentle]men (?), who are to have pensions according to their degree, as they have borne places of captains, lieutenants, or ancients, or the like. There is a school likewise for eight score scholars, with 1007. stipend for the schoolmaster, and other provision for ushers; with 100 marks a year wages for a gardener, to keep the orchard' and gardens in good order. Many other legacies I hear of, which you shall have together if I can get them. I cannot learn of much that he hath left to his poor kindred: not above the value of 400l. a year.”1

So much we may suppose Bacon knew of the matter at this time, -being the news of the day; and I do not know that he had other special means of information. But the will was not destined to pass unquestioned. On the 15th of January 1611-12, Chamberlain writes again :

"Rich Sutton's will is called in question, and will come sub judice. A certain tanner, pretending to be his heir at common law, goes about to overthrow it, and wants not abettors. He was called to the council table on Sunday and there bound in 100,000l. (if he do evict the will) to stand to the King's award and arbitrement.”

Of this also we may presume that Bacon was informed, though there is no reason to suppose that up to this time he had anything else to do with it. At any rate he must have known all about it soon after, for he was one of the law officers appointed by the Privy Council to hear and report upon the cause. And I conclude it was at this time, and with a view to the possible issue of this proceeding, that he drew up the following paper of advice to the King: advice of which the wisdom may possibly be disputed, though I rather think that the history of charitable institutions in England would supply more examples in approval than in disapproval of it; but which certainly, as long as he himself believed it to be good, he cannot reasonably be censured for offering. Faithful alumni of the Charterhouse may indeed be excused for protesting vehemently against an argument which assails the principles of their foundation, and for finding Bacon guilty of an error in judgment. But those who accuse him of advising a violation of the law must surely 1 Chamberlain to Carleton, 18 Dec. 1611. S. P. Dom. James I., vol. 67, no. 101. 2 Do. to. do., 15 Jan. 1611. S. P. Dom. James I., vol. 68, no. 18.

3 Bancroft's Life of Sutton,' p. 123.

have overlooked the second paragraph, in which it is expressed as distinctly as possible that the intentions of the testator are not to be interfered with as long as the bequest is either held good in law or can be made good by equity. And his ideas concerning the conditions under which charities of this kind may be made to do most good may still be studied with advantage.


May it please your Majesty,

I find it a positive precept of the old law, that there should be no sacrifice without salt: the moral whereof (besides the ceremony) may be, that God is not pleased with the body of a good intention, except it be seasoned with that spiritual wisdom and judgment, as it be not easily subject to be corrupted and perverted: for salt, in the scripture, is a figure both of wisdom and lasting. This cometh into my mind upon this act of Mr. Sutton, which seemeth to me as a sacrifice without salt, having the materials of a good intention, but not powdered with any such ordinances and institutions as may preserve the same from turning corrupt, or at least from becoming unsavoury and of little use. For though the choice of the feoffees be of the best, yet neither they can always live, and the very nature of the work itself, in the vast and unfit proportions thereof, being apt to provoke a mis-employment, it is no diligence of theirs (except there be a digression from that model) that can excuse it from running the same way that gifts of like condition have heretofore done. For to design the Charterhouse, a building fit for a Prince's habitation, for an hospital, is all one as if one should give in alms a rich embroidered cloak to a beggar; and certainly a man may see, tanquam quæ oculis cernuntur, that if such an edifice, with six thousand pounds revenue, be erected into one hospital, it will in small time degenerate to be made a preferment of some great person to be master, and he to take all the sweet, and the poor to be stinted, and take but the crumbs; as it comes to pass in divers hospitals of this realm, which have but the names of hospitals, and are but wealthy benefices in respect of the mastership; but the poor, which is the propter quid, little relieved. And the like hath been the fortune of much of the alms of the Roman religion in their great foundations, which 1 Harl. MSS. 6797, fo. 155. The title is added in Bacon's own hand.

being begun in vain glory and ostentation, have had their judgment upon them to end in corruption and abuse. This meditation hath made me presume to write these few lines to your Majesty; being no better than good wishes, which your Majesty's great wisdom may make something or nothing of.

Wherein I desire to be thus understood, that if this foundation (such as it is) be perfect and good in law, then I am too well acquainted with your Majesty's disposition to advise any course of power or profit that is not grounded upon a right: nay further, if the defects be such as a court of equity may remedy and cure, then I wish that as St. Peter's shadow did cure diseases, so the very shadow of a good intention may cure defects of that nature. But if there be a right and birth-right planted in the heir, and not remediable by courts of equity, and that right be submitted to your Majesty, whereby it is both in your power and grace what to do; then I do wish that this rude mass and chaos of a good deed were directed rather to a solid merit and durable charity than to a blaze of glory, that will but crackle a little in talk and quickly extinguish.

And this may be done, observing the species of Mr. Sutton's intent, though varying in individuo. For it appears that he had in notion a triple good; an hospital, and a school, and maintaining of a preacher: which individuals resort to these three general heads; relief of poor, advancement of learning, and propagation of religion. Now then if I shall set before your Majesty, in every of these three kinds, what it is that is most wanting in your kingdom, and what is like to be the most fruitful and effectual use of such a beneficence, and least like to be perverted; that, I think, shall be no ill scope of my labour, how meanly soever performed; for out of variety represented, election may be best grounded.

Concerning the relief of the poor, I hold some number of hospitals with competent endowments will do far more good that one hospital of an exorbitant greatness. For though the one course will be the more seen, yet the other will be the more felt. For if your Majesty erect many, besides the observing the ordinary maxim, Bonum quo communius eo melius, choice may be made of those towns and places where there is most need, and so the remedy may be distributed as the disease is dispersed. Again, greatness of relief accumulate in one place doth rather


invite a swarm and surcharge of poor, than relieve those that are naturally bred in that place; like to ill-tempered medicines, that draw more humour to the part than they evacuate from it. But chiefly I rely upon the reason that I touched in the beginning; that in these great hospitals the revenues will draw the use, and not the use the revenues; and so through the mass of their wealth they will swiftly tumble down to a mis-employAnd if any man say that in the two hospitals in London there is a precedent of greatness concurring with good employment, let him consider that those hospitals have annual governors; that they are under the superior care and policy of such a state as the city of London; and chiefly, that their revenues consist not upon certainties, but upon casualties and free gifts, which gifts would be withheld if they appeared once to be perverted; so as it keepeth them in a continual good behaviour and awe to employ them aright; none of which points do match with the present case.

The next consideration may be, whether this intended hospital, as it hath a more ample endowment than other hospitals, should not likewise work upon a better subject than other poor; as that it should be converted to the relief of maimed soldiers, decayed merchants and householders, aged and destitute churchmen, and the like; whose condition, being of a better sort than loose people and beggars, deserveth both a more liberal stipend and allowance, and some proper place of relief, not intermingled or coupled with the basest sort of poor. Which project, though specious, yet in my judgment will not answer the designment in the event, in these our times. For certainly few men in any vocation, which have been somebody, and bear a mind somewhat according to the conscience and remembrance of that they have been, will ever descend to that condition as to profess to live upon alms, and to become a corporation of declared beggars; but rather will choose to live obscurely, and as it were to hide themselves with some private friends: so that the end will be of such an institution, that it will make the place a receptacle of the worst, idlest, and most dissolute persons of every profession, and to become a cell of loiterers, and cast serving-men, and drunkards, with scandal rather than fruit to the commonwealth. And of this kind I can find but one example with us, which is the alms knights of Windsor; which particular would give a man small encouragement to follow that precedent.

« AnteriorContinuar »