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incola fuit anima mea; for my life hath been conversant in things wherein I take little pleasure. Your Majesty may have heard somewhat that my father was an honest man, and somewhat you may have seen of myself, though not to make any true judgment by, because I have hitherto had only potestatem verborum, nor that neither. I was three of my young years bred with an ambassador in France, and since I have been an old truant in the school-house of your council-chamber, though on the second form; yet longer than any that now sitteth hath been on the head form. If your Majesty find any aptness in me, or if you find any scarcity in others, whereby you may think it fit for your service to remove me to business of state; although I have a fair way before me for profit (and by your Majesty's grace and favour for honour and advancement), and in a course less exposed to the blasts of fortune, yet now that he is gone, quo vivente virtutibus certissimum exitium, I will be ready as a chessman to be wherever your Majesty's royal hand shall set me. Your Majesty will bear me witness, I have not suddenly opened myself thus far. I have looked on upon others, I see the exceptions, I see the distractions, and I fear Tacitus will be a prophet, magis alii homines quam alii mores. I know mine own heart, and I know not whether God that hath touched my heart with the affection may not touch your royal heart to discern it. Howsoever, I shall at least go on honestly in mine ordinary course, and supply the rest in prayers for you, remaining, &c.1
If the King could have taken courage to accept this offer,-to make Bacon his principal Secretary of State and uphold him firmly in the office,—making him to himself what the first Cecil had been to Elizabeth in the beginning of her reign,-it is possible that the after history of England would have run in another course. But perhaps it would have required the spirit of Elizabeth to do it. James could not have done it without giving deep offence to all the great people with whom he lived, and encountering a great deal of direct and indirect opposition from them and he was not forced to resolve by the necessity of immediate action. For upon the question of calling a new Parliament (in which case the obvious necessity of having a competent man to manage his business in the House of Commons must have hastened decision) there were divisions in the
1 He had first written "and I wish to God your M. case were not to require extraordinary affection, for of ability I cannot speak. Sending my best prayers, I rest."
Council. The Earl of Northampton, who from his age, his rank, his reputation, his abilities, and especially from his influence with Rochester (an influence natural enough in itself and greatly increased by Rochester's interest in his niece-for that unhappy business was already on foot) was now become one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, is known to have been strongly against it. Sir Julius Cæsar, who (now that Salisbury was gone) was the greatest official authority in matters of the Exchequer, appears (if he was really the author of the dialogue on the Great Contract) to have countenanced the opinion that the powers which the King possessed were sufficient, without the help of Parliament, to deliver him from his embarrassments.1 Rochester cannot be supposed to have had many ideas of his own on so difficult a subject. The King had ideas enough; but with a Council so constituted he had very imperfect opportunities of knowing the truth, and with so fresh a recollection of recent disappointments and disgusts, would naturally incline to the opinion of those who promised to set his affairs straight without risking an appeal to that troublesome assembly. In such circumstances one cannot wonder that he resolved not to try a Parliament, or at least put off the resolution to try one, till all other means of rectifying his estate should be put in force. It happened that his case could ill bear any such delay. Delay itself was bad; and perhaps the manner in which the interval was employed made it still worse. But so it was to be. The consideration of a Parliament was suspended for the present. The appointment of a Secretary of State was postponed. The Treasurership was put in commission. The Council was set hard at work to find all possible means of abating the expenditure and improving the revenue: Northampton taking the lead in Council, and Bacon being one of the most active of the sub-commissioners appointed to assist.
His letters however had not been altogether thrown away. Though the King did not make him a Councillor, he encouraged him to offer counsel upon the most important affairs of state; listened to him ; and was I think generally disposed to act (I say disposed to act, for between the disposition to do a thing and the doing of it there was in his case a great gap) upon his suggestions. So that from the mo
ment of Salisbury's death Bacon became a much more important person.
Among the places left vacant, one was the Mastership of the
1 "You have answered now all my doubts touching the Kings means of present supply and yearly support without the further help of his Parliament." Parl. Debates, 1610, p. 172.
Wards; an office so lucrative that it had always fallen to the lot of some great person, and to which Salisbury had succeeded on his father's death. After the dissolution of the last Parliament, the debates of which had (as we have seen) turned mainly upon the proposal to abolish the office altogether by purchasing the prerogative of Wardship from the Crown, an attempt had been made to improve the management of it by a set of new instructions issued under the Great Seal in February 1610. The object I think was to make it bring more money into the Exchequer. But after so much attention had been drawn to it as a popular grievance, and such strong language allowed to pass almost without dispute, it was the more necessary, since the office was after all to be maintained, that the administration of it should be carefully looked to; and as this would be easier to do if it were in less powerful hands, the King resolved to try the experiment of committing it to some man of lower rank.
"For the Mastership of the Wards," writes Chamberlain on the 11th of June 1612, "the King saith he hath groped after one in the dark, and will make trial if a meaner man cannot perform it as well as a great, and yet he means not to trust him too far, but will make him provisional till the end of Michaelmas term, and so longer as he shall see cause. And though he saith he hath made no man privy to his resolution, yet it is thought it will light on Sir Francis Bacon." "'1
Whether this plan had been suggested by Bacon, or whether it was the King's own idea, I cannot say. But Bacon had either been advised with or offered advice in the matter, and had submitted to the King a draft of directions for the new Master of the Wards, and a declaration to be made by him at his first sitting; and it seems that he shared the general expectation that the choice would light upon himself. A contemporary copy of the proposed declaration and directions, with the heading inserted in his own hand, is preserved among the Harleian manuscripts: and though it has no date, it may be safely referred to the beginning of June 1612.
A FRAME OF DECLARATION FOR THE MASTER OF THE WARds, AT HIS FIRST SITTING.2
The King (whose virtues are such, as if we, that are his ministers, were able duly to correspond unto them, it were enough to make a golden time) hath commanded certain of his intentions to be published, touching the administration of this place, beCourt and Times of James I.,' vol. i. p. 172. 2 Harl. MSS. 7020, f. 161.
cause they are somewhat differing from the usage of former times, and yet not by way of novelty, but by way of reformation, and reduction of things to their ancient and true institution.
Wherein nevertheless it is his Majesty's express pleasure it be signified, that he understands this to be done without any derogation from the memory or service of those great persons which have formerly held this place, of whose doings his Majesty retaineth a good and gracious remembrance, especially touching the sincerity of their own minds.
But now that his Majesty meaneth to be as it were master of the wards himself, and that those that he useth be but as his substitutes, and move wholly in his motion, he doth expect things be carried in a sort worthy his own care.
First therefore his Majesty hath had this princely consideration with himself, that as he is pater patriæ, so he is by the ancient law of this kingdom pater pupillorum, where there is any tenure by knight's service of himself; which extendeth almost to all the great families noble and generous of this kingdom: and therefore being a representative father, his purpose is to imitate and approach as near as may be to the duties and offices of a natural father, in the good education, well bestowing in marriage, and preservation of the houses, woods, lands, and estates of his wards.
For as it is his Majesty's direction that that part which concerns his own profit and right be executed with moderation, so on the other side, it is his princely will that that other part which concerneth protection be overspread and extended to the utmost.
Wherein his Majesty hath three persons in his eye, the wards themselves, idiots, and the rest of like nature; the suitors in this court; and the subjects at large.
For the first, his Majesty hath commanded special care to be taken in the choice of the persons to whom they be committed, that the same be sound in religion, such whose house and families are not noted for dissolute, no greedy persons, no step-mothers, nor the like, and with these qualifications, of the nearest friends. Nay further, his Majesty is minded not so to delegate this trust to the committees, but that he will have once in the year at the least by persons of credit in every county a view and inspection. taken of the persons, houses, woods, and lands of the wards, and
other persons under the protection of this court, and certificate to be made thereof accordingly.
For the suitors, which is the second; his Majesty's princely care falls upon two points of reformation; the first that there be an examination of fees, what are due and ancient, and what are new and exacted; and those of the latter kind put down : the other, that the court do not entertain causes too long upon continuances of liveries after the parties are come of full age, which serveth but to waste the parties in suit, considering the decrees cannot be perpetual, but temporary; and therefore controversies here handled are seldom put in peace, till they have past a trial and decision in other courts.
For the third, which is the subject at large: his Majesty hath taken into his princely care the unnecessary vexations of his people by feodaries, and other inferior ministers of like nature, by colour of his tenures: of which part I say nothing for the present, because the partics whom it concerns are for the most part absent but order shall be given, that they shall give their attendance the last day of the term, then to understand further his Majesty's gracious pleasure.
Thus much by his Majesty's commandment; now we may proceed to the business of the court.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE MASTER OF THE WARDS TO OBSERVE, FOR HIS MAJESTY'S BETTER SERVICE, AND THE GENERAL GOOD.2 First, that he take an account how his Majesty's last instructions have been pursued; and of the increase of benefit accrued to his Majesty thereby, and the proportion thereof.
Wherein first, in general, it will be good to cast up a year's benefit, viz. from February, 1610, which is the date of the instructions under the great seal, to February, 1611; and to compare the total with former years before the instructions, that the tree may appear by the fruit, and it may be seen how much his Majesty's profit is redoubled or increased by that course.
Secondly, it will not be amiss to compute not only the yearly benefit, but the number of wardships granted that year, and to compare that with the number of former years; for though the number be a thing casual, yet if it be apparently less than in former years, then it may be justly doubted that men take ad1 second of in MS.
2 Harl. MSS. 7020, f. 159.