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relating to Sir Stephen Proctor and his projects; one of which (fo. 18) bears the following title: "The project for the suit preferred to the King's Highness concerning the fines, forfeitures, issues, and amerciaments inquirable before the Justices of Peace and Clerk of the Market, to bring the revenue better in charge and more plentifully into the King's coffers, and also to reform many grievances in the Commonwealth.” And the first article of his suit is, “that his Majesty may be pleased by patent to nominate the petitioner his especial officer, to take upon him by himself and his sufficient deputies the general charge, oversight, and bringing of those things into his Majesty's coffers, according to his petition, to the end one mild and plausible course may therein be held throughout the realm ; and to be named and directed therein as his Majesty shall be best advised: to hold for term of his life.” It seems to me not unlikely that this was the very paper which was referred to Bacon, and to which his “certificate" relates. But as each of the matters selected for comment is clearly explained in Bacon's own words, it is not necessary to quote more of it.
THE CERTIFICATE TO His MAJESTY TOUCHING THE PROJECTS
OF SIR STEPHEN PROCTOR.1 It may please your Sacred Majesty,
With the first free time from your Majesty's service of more present dispatch, I have perused the projects of Sir Stephen Proctor, and do find it a collection of extreme diligence and inquisition, and more than I thought could have met in one man's knowledge. For though it be an easy matter to run over many offices and professions, and to note in them general abuses or deceits; yet nevertheless to point at and trace out the particular and covert practices, shifts, devices, tricks, and as it were stratagems, in the meaner sort of the ministers of justice or public service, and to do it truly and understandingly, is a discovery whereof great good use may be made for your Majesty's service and good of your people. But because this work, I doubt not, hath been to the gentleman the work of years, whereas my certificate must be the work but of hours or days, and that it is commonly and truly said, that he that embraceth much straineth and holdeth the less, and that propositions have wings, but operation and execution hath leaden feet; I most humbly desire pardon of your Majesty, if I do for the present only select some one or
1 Harl. MSS. 7020, fo. 156. The heading inserted in Bacon's hand.
two principal points, and certify my opinion thereof; reserving the rest as a sheaf by me, to draw out at further time further matter for your Majesty's information for so much as I shall conceive to be fit or worthy the consideration.
For that part therefore of these projects which concerneth penal laws, I do find the purpose and scope to be, not to press a greater rigour or severity in the execution of penal laws; but to repress the abuses in common informers, and some clerks and under-ministers that for common gain partake with them. For if it had tended to the other point, I for my part should be
very far from advising your Majesty to give ear unto it. For as it is said in the psalm, If thou, Lord, should be extreme to mark what is done amiss, who may abide it ? so it is most certain, that your people is so ensnared in a multitude of penal laws, that the execution of them cannot be borne. And as it followeth; But with thee is mercy, that thou mayest be feared: so it is an intermixture of mercy and justice that will bring you fear and obedience: for too much rigour makes people desperate. And therefore to leave this, which was the only blemish of king Henry VII.'s reign, and the unfortunate service of Empson and Dudley, whom the people's curses rather than any law brought to overthrow; the other work is a work not only of profit to your Majesty, but of piety towards your people. For if it be true in any proportion, that within these five years of your Majesty's happy reign, there hath not five hundred pounds benefit come to your Majesty by penal laws, (the fines of the Star-chamber which are of a higher kind only except), and yet nevertheless there hath been a charge of at least fifty thousand pounds which hath been laid upon your people, it were more than time it received a remedy.
This remedy hath been sought by divers statutes : as principally by a statute in 18°, and another of 31°, of the late Queen of happy memory. But I am of opinion that the appointing of an officer proper for that purpose will do more good than twenty statutes, and will do that good cffcctually, which those statutes aim at intentionally.
And this I do allow of the better, because it is none of those new superintendencies which I see many times offered upon pretence of reformation, as if Judges did not their duty, or ancient and sworn officers did not their duty, and the like: but it is only to set a custos or watchman, neither over Judges nor clerks, but only over a kind of people that cannot be sufficiently watched or overlooked, and that is the common Promoters or Informers; the very awe and noise whereof will do much good, and the practice much more.
I will therefore set down first what is the abuse or inconvenience, and then what is the remedy which may be expected from the industry of this officer; and I will divide it into two parts: the one for that that may concern the ease of your people, (for with that I will crave leave to begin, as knowing it to be principal in your Majesty's intention,) and the other for that that may concern your Majesty's benefit.
Concerning the ease of his Majesty's subjects, polled and vexed by common informers.
The Remedies by the Industry The Abuses or Inconveniences.
of the Officer. 1. An informer exhibits an 1. The officer by his diliinformation, and in that one gence finding this case, is to information he will put an inform the court thereof, who hundred several subjects. Of thereupon may grant good this information every costs against the informer to shall take out copies, and every every of the subjects vexed : one shall put in his several an- and withal not suffer the same swer. This will cost perhaps informer to revive his informaan hundred marks: that done, tion against any of them; and no further proceeding. But lastly fine him as for a misthe clerks have their fees, and demeanor and abuse of justice. the informer hath his dividend And by that time a few of such for bringing the water to the examples be made, they will be mill.
soon weary of that practice. It is to be noted, that this vexation is not met with by
For it is no composition but a discontinuance, and in that case there is no penalty but costs: and the poor subject will never sue for his costs, lest it awake the in
former to revive his information, and so it scapeth clearly.
2. Informers receive pen- 2. This is an abuse that apsions of divers persons to for- peareth not by any proceeding bear them. And this is com- in court, because it is before monly of principal offenders, suit commenced; and therefore and of the wealthiest sort of requireth a particular enquiry. tradesmen ; for if one trades- But when it shall be the care man may presume to break the and cogitation of one man to law, and another not, he will overlook informers, these things be soon richer than his fellows.
are easily discovered. For let As for example, if one draper him but look who they be that may use tenters, because he is the informer calls in question, in fee with an informer, and and hearken who are of the others not, he will soon outstrip same trade in the same place the good tradesman that keeps and are spared, and it will be the law.
easy to trace a bargain. And if it be thought strange In this case, having disthat any man should seek his covered the abuse, he ought to peace by one informer when inform the Barons of the Exhe lieth open to all, the ex- chequer, and the King's learned perience is otherwise : for one counsel, that by the Star-chaminformer will bear with the ber or otherwise such taxers friend of another, looking for of the King's subjects may be the like measure.
punished. And besides they have devices to get priority of information, and to put in an information de bene esse, to prevent others and to protect their pensioners.
And if it be said this is a pillory matter to the informer, and therefore he will not attempt it, although therein the statute is a little doubtful, yet if hanging will not keep thieves from stealing, it is not pillory will keep informers from poll. ing.
And herein Sir Stephen addeth a notable circumstance: that they will peruse a trade, as of brewers or victuallers, and if any stand out and will not be in fee, they will find means to have a dozen informations come upon him at once.
3. The subject is often for 3. The officer keeping a book the same offence vexed by seve
of all the informations put in, ral informations-sometimes with a brief note of the matter, the one informer not knowing may be made acquainted with of the other; and often by con
all informations to come in, federacy, to weary the party and if he find a precedent for with charge: upon every of the same cause, he may inform which goeth process, and of some of the Barons, that by every of them he must take their order the receiving of the copies and make answers, and latter may be stayed without so relieve himself by motion to any charge to the party at all; the court if he can; all which so as it appear by the due promultiplieth charge and trouble. secution of the former, that it
is not a suit by collusion to protect the party.
Concerning the King's benefit, which may grow by a moderate prosecution of some penal laws.
The Abuses or Inconveniences.
1. After an information is exhibited and answered (for so the statute requires), the informer for the most part groweth to composition with the defendant; which he cannot do without peril of the statute, except he have licence from the court: which licence he ought to return by order and course
1. The officer in this point is to perform his greatest service to the King, in soliciting for the King in such sort as licences be duly returned, the deceits of these fraudulent compositions discovered, and fines may be set for the King in some good proportion, having respect to the values both of