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years, in which he was sold sixteen times, have never been recompensed.” Had the poor man talked of his sufferings, instead of his services, we apprehend the plea would have been more valid. He winds up by a kind excuse for his sovereign's neglect of his merit, and an acknowledgement that it is right in Divine goodness thus to humble him, and purify him from sin.
Whatever might be the neglect or condemnation of poor Ferdinand in his own country, either from the wise who shared, or the witty who laughed at him, we are not ashamed to thank him. He has given us many affecting pictures of human suffering, which, although delivered with prolixity, are marked by simplicity and general feeling, insomuch, that we are fully persuaded our traveller was a good-natured, kind-hearted man, who might sometimes overcharge his descriptions to add to the pleasure of his readers; but was not (on the whole) either gifted with the imagination necessary for romance, nor the desire of practising deception beyond its most harmless character.
ART.VI.-Three Lare Tracts, by Sir Edward Coke, Knight, Lord
Chief Justice of the King's Bench. By William Hawkins, Serjeant at Law. 8vo. London, 1764.
We entreat our readers not to be terrified at the “
and judicial” title which is prefixed to the present article, for we can safely assure them, that we have no intention of exercising their patience by a legal critique. In opposition to Sir Edward Coke, who has entitled his first institute “ A Commentary upon Littleton, not upon the name of the Author only, but upon the Law itself;" our observations, on the present occasion, are upon the name itself, and not upon the law; and our object in the following pages is to present a succinct account of a man, whose character is in many respects well worthy of record. Had the interest attached to it, indeed, been derived merely from his professional reputation, we should certainly have regarded the following sketch of his life as very foreign to our pages. Although his name, in the estimation of our lawyers, occupies that pre-eminent rank, which in every science or profession is commonly accorded to some master-genius, yet the details of a mere lawyer's life would be little acceptable to any one out of the pale of the profession. In this country, however, many of those who have acted the most conspicuous parts on the political stage, have been men who have filled the highest judicial situations of the state, and it has been by no means unusual to discover, under the wig and ermine of the judge, the intriguing head of the politician and the habits of the courtier. How unfavourable to the purity of the judicial character this political tendency must be, is sufficiently obvious; but while, in many instances, it has been productive of corruption and subserviency, in others it has served to display in clearer light the integrity and firmness which can resist both the blandishments and the threats of power. In our legal biography, we have many illustrious examples of men who have withstood both the one and the other; and although the character of Sir Edward Coke be not, in some respects, free from considerable reproach, yet we shall not find one, amongst all the ornaments of our courts of justice, more truly entitled to the praise of uniting the most profound learning with the strictest integrity of principle in public life. But, independently of his connexion with the political history of his times, the personal character of Lord Chief Justice Coke is by no means unworthy of study. The man who could excite the fear and enmity of Bacon must have possessed no ordinary claims to distinction.
Sir Edward Coke was the son of Robert Coke, Esq. a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, and was born at Mileham, in the county of Norfolk, in the year 1550. At the age of ten, he was sent to the free-school at Norwich, and afterwards to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he remained about four years. From Cambridge he was removed to Clifford's Inn, and the following year became a student of the Inner Temple. After studying for six years, a short prolation at that time, he was called to the bar, and held his first brief in the Queen's Bench, in Trinity term, 1578. About seven years after his being called, he married Bridget, the daughter of John Paxton, Esq. a gentleman of an ancient family in Norfolk, with whom he received a large fortune, which gave him considerable influence in his native county. He was chosen Recorder of Coventry and Norwich, and being frequently consulted by the Lord Treasurer Burleigh, he rose rapidly into reputation and business. The freeholders of Norfolk returned him as their representative to Parliament; and, in the thirty-fifth of Elizabeth, he was chosen Speaker of the House of Commons. In 1592, he became Solicitor, and was shortly afterwards advanced to the post of Attorney-General. Having lost his first wife, by whom he had ten children, he married the Lady Hatton, relict of Sir William Hatton, and sister of Lord Burleigh, afterwards Earl of Exeter. How unfortunate an union this was, will be seen in the sequel. The most important matter in which the Attorney-General was engaged during the reign of his royal mistress, was the prosecution of the celebrated Earl of Essex and the Earl of Southampton, before the House of Lords, for high treason. Upon this occasion, Coke conducted himself towards the prisoners with that rancour and animosity, which are the most discreditable parts of his character. The Earl of Essex declared, that he had been talked out of his life by orators; while Southampton addressed the Attorney-General in these words—“ Mr. Attorney, you have urged the matter very far, and you wrong me therein-my blood be upon your head.” The bitterness of spirit which he always appears to have felt towards those against whom he was retained, prompted him to indulge in the most unfeeling taunts. Of Essex, he asserted, “ that, by the just judgement of God, he of his earldom should be Robert the last, that of a kingdom thought to be Robert the first.' There is, however, no reason to doubt that Coke was fully convinced of the guilt of the accused.
On the accession of James I, the Attorney-General was knighted, and in the same year was engaged in the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, and his companions. On this occasion, his conduct was still more violent and indecent than on the trial of Lord Essex, and has deeply stained a character which otherwise would have commanded our entire esteem. Into the difficult question of the guilt or innocence of Raleigh, we shall not enter; for whether guilty or innocent, a man of his high genius and signal reputation deserved to be treated with every mark of decency and feeling.
The following extracts present a fine contrast between the dignity of Raleigh and the angry heat of the Attorney-General.
“ Raleigh. Your words cannot condemn me; my innocency is my defence. Prove one of these things wherewith you have charged me, and I will confess the whole indictment, and that I am the horriblest traitor that ever lived, and worthy to be crucified with a thousand thousand torments.
“ Attorney. Nay, I will prove all: thou art a monster; thou hast an English face, but a Spanish heart. Now you must have money : Aremberg was no sooner in England (I charge thee, Raleigh) but thou incitedst Cobham to go unto him, and to deal with him for money, to bestow on discontented persons to raise rebellion in the kingdom.
Raleigh. Let me answer for myself.
Raleigh. I do not hear yet, that you have spoken one word against me; here is no treason of mine done; if my Lord Cobham be a traitor, what is that to me?
" Attorney. All that he did was by thy instigation, thou viper; for I thou thee, thou traitor.*
“ Raleigh. It becomes not a man of quality and virtue to call me so: but I take comfort in it, it is all you can do.
“ Attorney. Have I angered you?
Raleigh. I am in no case to be angry."
When the impatience of Coke had proceeded so far, that Lord Cecil, one of the commissioners, interposed, and begged he would permit the prisoner to speak, “Mr. Attorney sate down in a chafe, and would speak no more, until the commissioners urged and entreated him, when, after much ado, he went on. Being interrupted by Sir Walter, he resumed his invectives.
Attorney. Thou art the most vile and execrable traitor that ever lived.
Raleigh. You speak indiscretely, barbarously, and uncivilly.
Raleigh. I think you want words, indeed, for you have spoken one thing half a dozen times.
Attorney. Thou art an odious fellow, thy name is hateful to all the realm of England for thy pride.
“ Raleigh. It will go near to prove a measuring cast between you and me, Mr. Attorney.
We have noticed elsewhere the very different manner in which, several years afterwards, Sir Edward Coke comported himself, when, as chief justice, he passed sentence of death upon the unfortunate Raleigh. Perhaps he was desirous, however late, of making some reparation for the harshness and cruelty of his former conduct.
“ I know," said the chief justice, “ you have been valiant and wise, and I doubt not but you retain both these virtues, for now you shall have occasion to use them. Your faith hath heretofore been questioned, but I am resolved you are a good Christian; for your book, which is an admirable work, doth testify as much. I would give you counsel, but I know you can apply unto yourself for better
. It has been supposed, that Shakespeare alludes to this passage, where in Twelfth Night he makes Sir Toby tell Sir Andrew, who is about to challenge Viola, “ If thou thou'st him some thrice it may not be amiss."
The judicial proceedings of their time furnished our elder dramatists with many hints. Ben Jonson appears to have borrowed largely in his Epicæne from the proceedings in the case of the Earl and Countess of Essex.
than I can give you. Yet will I (with the good neighbour in the gospel, who finding one in the way wounded and distressed, poured oil into his wounds, and refreshed him) give unto you the oil of comfort, though in respect that I am a minister
of the law, mixed with vinegar."
The acute and comprehensive genius of Coke never displayed itself more conspicuously than in the examination and developement of an obscure and complicated case. His industry, patience, and sagacity, admirably qualified him for the task of unravelling the dark conspiracies with which his times unfortunately abounded. His conduct in the prosecution of Sir Everard Digby and the other conspirators involved in the powder plot, has generally been considered a master-piece of forensic ability. From the unconnected style of some of his writings, the reader might be led to suppose, that his addresses at the bar partook of the same excursive tendency; but, on the contrary, we are assured, that the Earl of Salisbury, upon the trial of the gunpowder conspirators, asserted, " That the evidence had been so well distributed and opened by the attorney-general, that he never heard such a mass of matter better contracted, or made more intelligible to a jury.”
The distinguished talents which Coke manifested upon this occasion led to his speedy promotion; and in June 1606, he was called to the degree of serjeant, and raised to the highest seat in the Common Pleas. Sir Henry Hobart succeeded him in the post of attorney-general, and Sir Francis Bacon became the new solicitor. Office had been long the object of Bacon's ambition, and some years before this time he had endeavoured to obtain the appointment which was now bestowed upon him, but without effect. This failure he attributed, whether justly or not it is difficult to resolve, to Sir Edward Coke; and hence arose an animosity, which appears to have been cherished with no common care. In a letter which he addressed to Coke, probably about the period when the latter was on the point of being raised to the bench, he expresses himself with much bitterness, and in the spirit of one who considers himself injured.
“ I thought best,” says he,“ once for all, to let you know in plainness what I find of you, and what you shall find of me: you take to yourself a liberty to disgrace and disable my law, my experience, my discretion.
You are great, and therefore have the more enviers, which would be glad to have you paid at another's cost. Since the time I missed the solicitor's place (the rather, I think, by your means) I cannot expect that you and I shall ever serve as attorney and solicitor together; but either to serve with another upon your remove, or to step into some other course; so I am more free than ever I was from any occasion of unworthy conforming myself to you,