Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Bacon was the man whose activity, acuteness, and fertility of resource were on all occasions confided in; he was certainly at this period the most efficient officer of government; and as he refused no services which could recommend him either to the king or the favorite, his letters exhibit the keeper. of the great seal equally occupied in carrying through the monopolies, grants of crown land, and other jobs of Buckingham and his kindred on one hand, and in pointing out retrenchments to be made and abuses to be rectified in the household and public offices, on the other. Commissioners were appointed to assist in the latter objects of inquiry; and one fruit of their examinations was the accusation before hinted at against the lord-treasurer, who was charged with the embezzlement of a considerable portion of the money paid by the Dutch for the redemption of their cautionary towns, and with various other malversations in his high office.

The treasurer was by no means a person generally odious in the country; on the contrary, he had been advantageously distinguished, as lord Thomas Howard, in all the principal naval actions of the preceding reign, from the defeat of the Armada downwards, and bore with all classes the character of a brave man and a plain, honest sailor. His capacity however was narrow, and there was a weakness in his temper which seems to have brought him under the absolute dominion of a haughty and unprincipled wife, whose rapacity conducted him to shame and ruin. Every thing connected with the business of

the

the treasury is said to have been venal under the management of lady Suffolk and of sir John Bingley, the treasurer's remembrancer, who acted as her agent in driving the trade of corruption. The earl himself was generally believed to have been in great measure, if not entirely, innocent and ignorant of these nefarious transactions; and it was judged necessary to join the names both of the countess and of the remembrancer in the accusation preferred against him. No particulars, either of the charge or the evidence, have come down to posterity, because all the proceedings were carried on in the court of star-chamber, no records of which appear to have been regularly kept ;-probably because this tribunal was completely arbitrary, being bound neither by rules of law, nor even by its own precedents. It has however been related, that the accusation was brought in very acrimonious terms by sir Edward Coke, who was not sorry to recover favor with the king by an extraordinary display of zeal on this occasion; and who produced from the abundant stores of his professional erudition all the instances on record of chastisements inflicted on the great officers of the crown for malversation. The lord keeper also made a speech against the delinquents, in which he compared the countess to an exchange-woman who kept her shop, while sir John Bingley cried, “What d'ye lack?” It is said notwithstanding, that Bacon was secretly a friend of the lord-treasurer's, who escaped the better by his meansa. In the star- Coke's Detection, p. 81.

chamber,

chamber, the rules of which seem to have been in studied opposition to those of the courts of common law, it was always expected that the party accused should acknowledge his offence, and, humbling himself before his judges and the king, implore a remission of his sentence: but Suffolk, whether innocent or guilty, had a spirit above this abjectness; he stood on his defence, and his exculpation being declared unsatisfactory by a tribunal which never acquitted, he and his lady were sentenced to pay a fine of 30,0001. and committed to the Tower; Bingley was to pay 2,0001. and remain a prisoner in the Fleet. Suffolk, who had previously conveyed away his estates to his brother and his son-in-law, declared himself unable to pay this penalty ; and the king, though much offended with him for steps which seemed to imply a distrust of his royal clemency, was soon prevailed upon to mitigate his fine to7,0001. -which was immediately begged by his majesty's Scotch favorite, viscount Haddington. After discharging this sum, the earl was set at liberty; Bingley likewise obtained his release, by the surrender of his place to one of the followers of Buckingham.

The lord-treasurer had been suspended from his office some time before sentence was pronounced against him, and during that interval it was put in commission; but soon after his condemnation Buckingham's mother was permitted to sell it for 20,0001. to sir Henry Montague, chief-justice of the king's bench; who had little reason to rejoice in the purchase, for in less than a twelvemonth the staff was

taken

taken from him, by the same all-powerful interest, to be conferred on sir Lionel Cranfield, master of the wards.

The chastisement of a great officer of state for public delinquencies, is usually one of the most applauded acts of a monarchical government; but in this instance, as in some succeeding ones, this pretended triumph of impartial justice over the great and powerful, was bebeld by the subjects of king James either with indifference or disgust. The reason was plain : nothing could be more notorious than the system of favoritism, intrigue and corruption by which the court was ruled; and it was obvious to every person of common sense, that greater offences than any of which the lord-treasurer was believed guilty would have provoked no animadversion in a Villiers, and that innocence the most unspotted could scarcely have secured from ruin the father-in-law of the fallen Somerset.

CHAPTER

CHAPTER XVIII.

1618.

Alarm at the appearance of a comet.-Death and character

of the queen.-James makes a speech in the star-chamber. -He judges in person the cause of lady Lake.-Publication of his works.-Synod of Dort.-Divines sent thither by James.-Carleton-Hall-Davenant-Ward-Balcanqual Goad --Hales. Account of Selden. —His history of tythes.-Conduct of James to him,-to sir H. Finch.-Rise of lord-keeper Williams.-Progress of Villiers.-Extravagant grants to him and his family.Causes of discontent.Marriage treaty with Spain.-Suspension of laws against catholics.--Convents founded in Flanders.-Female jesuits. -The Palatine elected king of Bohemia.Letter of Abbot

respecting him.-Pacific politics of James. In the seventeenth century, the appearance of a comet was still regarded less as an astronomical phenomenon than a portent announcing the anger of heaven and predictive of calamity public and private. During the year 1618 one of these bodies exhibited itself to the view of most countries of the civilised world, and carried dismay and horror in its course. Not only mighty monarchs, but the humblest private individuals, seem to have considered the sign as sent to them, and to have set a double guard on all their actions. Thus sir Symonds D'Ewes, the learned antiquary, having been in danger of an untimely end by entangling himself among some bell-ropes,

makes

VOL. II,

Į

« AnteriorContinuar »