« VorigeDoorgaan »
wishes were not complied withı. In one passage the language of Homer and that of Coke are identical, though it does not appear that the latter had any very familiar acquaintance with Greekwe mean the passage in which the remark occurs, that if the young prosecutor was strong, he should remeinber that it was God who had given himn strength.
Ei HoRCE Kaptepuscovi, Seus wow col TÚY' E o wuer.* Nor did the honest, though hasty judge, confine himself to language so gentle as this. In his indignation he did not hesitate to admit, in plain terms, that Bacon and his apparent motives were anything but agreeable to him ; thus again recalling " the king of men” where he exclaims, thou art most hateful to me (8x916705 dé 102 €661). But no one having power could offend Bacon. He never openly showed resentment to those higher in office, or possessed of more influence than himself ; nor did he take the least offence in the present case. In his letter to the king, written a day or two after having been thus rebuked, or, perhaps, the same day, he says: “I am not wholly out of hope that my Lord Coke himself, when I have in some dark manner put him in doubt that he shall be left alone, will not be singular.”
He was not mistaken in this. Coke finally gave a reluctant assent to the decision of his brethren, and the unfortunate old clergyman was put to the rack. Bacon, in person, sought to wring a confession from him while undergoing the horrible infliction ; but did so in vain. Not a shade of guilt would he acknowledge. The prosecutor felt disappointed at this, and wrote to the king to complain that “ Peacham hath a dumb devil.” All did not save him, however, from conviction. Ile was duly sentenced to be beheaded, but public opinion was so much outraged by the whole proceedings, in spite of the secrecy in which they were shrouded, that the government did not venture to carry the sentence into execution. There was, however, no liberty for the wretched old
He was forced to languish in jail until he died. It was about the same time that Bacon prosecuted Oliver St. John, before the Star Chamber, for maintaining that the king had no right to levy benevolences. A conviction was obtained as a matter of course, and the champion of constitutional liberty and the rights of man was sentenced to pay a fine of five thousand
* Il. 1, 178.
pounds sterling, and be imprisoned during the king's pleasure. It is painful to observe that it was during the intervals between these scandalous proceedings, Bacon was engaged " in reducing and re-compiling the laws of England.” Nay, more, it was after he had written his best essays, including that on Judicature, in which he says :-"Judges ought to remember that their office is ‘jus dicere,' and not jus dare,' to interpret law, and not to make law, or give law. * Cursed (saith the law) is he that removeth the landmark. The mislayer of a mere stone is to blame; but it is the unjust judge that is the capital remover of landmarks when he defineth amiss of lands and property. One foul sentence doth more hurt than many foul examples ; for these do but corrupt the stream, the other corrupteth the fountain.
In causes of life and death judges ought, as far as the case permitteth in justice, to remember mercy, and to cast a severe eye upon the example, but a merciful eye upon the person,” &c.
Here we are reminded of the gallant and generous Essex, the only true friend, except Ben Johnson, ever Bacon had. At the risk of offending the Queen, while her chief favorite, he would on all occasions, in and out of season, urge the claims of Bacon in compliance with the most carnest wishes and importunities of the latter. Failing in obtaining office for him, he presented him a valuable estate. In short, no brother could have exerted himself more zealously for another brother. This is evident from Bacon's own letters; but it is equally evident from the same that, when the day of adversity came, Essex experienced the basest ingratitude in return. It was worse than this. One may be ungrateful to his friend-make no return for his favors when the smallest kindness would be of service-and yet scorn to become his enemy. But not content with doing all in his power, both by his talents and influence, to convict Essex of high treason, and lead him to the scaffold, he undertook to libel his memory, writing an elaborate pamphlet to show what a horrible and base traitor his late friend was, and how well he deserved his fate! Public opinion was not so much vitiated even in these corrupt times, but that conduct like this excited indignation. Bacon felt that he had brought odium on himself; and no one being more ambitious of popularity, he wrote and published, in the form of a letter, a pamphlet, in vindication of his conduct towards Essex. The substance of this is, that he merely did his duty in the first instance as crown
prosecutor, after he had failed to obtain pardon for his friend, and that, in regard to the paper which he wrote after Essex's deatly he did little more than transcribe the thoughts and views of others on the subject. As the Queen was now dead and several others who had taken an active part in the prosecution, it was impossible to disprove this. The public understood the fact ; so that the vindication proved a failure. Were it even true that he wrote nothing against his late friend but what had been dictated to him, this would not exculpate him from the charge of seeking to destroy his reputation with posterity, as he had already destroyed his life. It was only admitting in effect that he would have written or said anything he was told by those who happened to be in power, and from whom he expected preferment. It were strange, indeed, if such an apology had proved satisfactory, since the man who is actuated by personal resentment for some injury, real or imaginary, is much less to blame when he injures a former friend than one who suffers himself to be made a tool to carry out the resentinent of others. There is no reason to suppose that Bacon
ill-will towards Essex. He was not a person to cherish malice even against those who sought to injure him. IIe was as cold in hatred as he was in love, and it does not appear that he ever loved any one ; how, then, could he have felt so much incensed against one who had always proved a brother to him? The truth is, that he was so inordinately ambitious of station and wealth, that he would have done almost anything to secure them. His own relatives knew this well so did Elizabeth—and this, after all is, perhaps, the true secret of the little success he had in sceking oflice while they continued in power. Indeed, in nothing does the character of Elizabeth appear to greater advantage than in her persistent refusal to elevate Bacon. She had no doubt, as we have seen already, of his superior learning and brilliant talents. She was always ready to acknowledge that her late Lord Keeper had claims on her gratitude ; but though satisfied that his son possessed a much greater intellect than himself, she was evidently afraid to trust the former.
It had been well had James I. been of the same mind; for then the unfortunate Peacham would not have been tortured by Bacon ; neither could the philosopher have been convicted of gross and corrupt bribery; he could not hare sold patents for inventions never made, allowing valuable monopolies to those who had no
right to them, but who were willing to give him an interest in their dishonest and oppressive dealings. It is melancholy to contemplate a man of so mighty an intellect guilty of all this ; but his conduct was, if possible, more degrading still when his crimes were brought to light. His adulation to the king--to all whom he thought could render him any service—while crouching in the dust to each—including those who heartily despised his meanness—has scarcely a parallel in its grossness. When first accused, he is full of confidence, declaring himself as “innocent as any one born on St. Innocent's day.” But in one week he is all contrition, patriotism, and loyalty. In a long letter to the king, he says : “But as I can offer to your majesty's compassion little arising from myself to move you, except it be my extreme misery, which I have truly laid open, so looking up to your majesty yourself, I should think I had committed Cain's fault if I should despair ; your majesty is a king whose heart is as unscrutable for secret motives of goodness as for depth of wisdom. You are, creator-like, factive, and not destructive ; you are a prince in whom I have ever noted an aversion against anything that savored of a hard heart, as on the other, your princely eye was wont to meet with any motion that was made on the relieving part.
Help me, dear sovereign lord and master, and pity me so far as I, that have borne a bag, be not now, in
my age, forced in effect to bear & wallet ; nor I, that desire to live to study, may not be driven to study to live.”
This was strange language to address to one who had not the courage, manliness, filial affection or gallantry to raise a hand, or make the least effort to save his mother's head—that of the beautiful Queen of Scots, grown grey in captivity and sorrow_from the block. He who would not interfere for his own mother, CONdemned to death, in defiance of all law, lest he might render himself unpopular with her enemies, was not likely to assume much responsibility on behalf of his fallen Chancellor. True, he was but half a king when, instead of insisting on the liberation of his mother, on learning that she was condemned to death by Elizabeth, he contented himself with causing prayers to be offered up for her conversion “from the errors of Popery.” We say that he was but half a king ; because, had he been a full royal sovereign, it would have been almost impossible for him, according to Bacon, to have acted otherwise than nobly. In the essay entitled “Of a King," he
says: “A king is a mortal god on earth, unto whom the living God hath lent his oun name as a great honor; but withal told him he should die like a man, lest he shuuld be proud and flatter himself that God hath, with his name, imparteil unto him his nuture also." The essay which opens thus, ends with the following sentence, which is quite in keeping with the rest : "Ile, then, that honoreth not him (the king,) is next an atheist, wanting the fear of God in his heart.” In dedicating his “Instauration " to the same monarch, he uses similar language: "There remains to me but to make one request worthy of your majesty, and very especially relating to my subject, namely, that resembling Solomon, as you do in most respects, in the gravity of your decisions, the peacefulness of your reign, the expansion of your heart, and lastly, in the noble variety of books you have composell," &c.* But it was not alone the king he addressed in this style. His humiliating conduct towards Buckingham, after he had done all he could in private to injure him, seems almost incredible even to those who have no doubt of the meannesses which we have already note. We are told, on the anthority of Sir Anthony Weldon, that as soon as he found that Buckingham had heard of his interference against him, he immediately repaired to that nobleman's house, and was, on two successive days, suffered to remain in an anti-chamber, among the common servants, seated on an old wooden box, with the great Seal of England by his side ; and that when at length he was admitted, he flung himself on the floor, kissed the favorite's feet and vowed never to rise until he was forgiven. No one despised such as this more than Buckingham, nor did he try to conceal the fact.
* IIe is still more grossly adulatory, if possible, in the dedication of his work on the “ Advancement of Learning," as may be seen from the following passages :-"Leaving aside the other parts of your virtue and fortune, I have been touched, yea, and possessed with an extreme wonder at those your virtues and faculties which the philosophers call intellectual ; the largeness of your capacity, the faithfulness of your memory, the swiftness of your apprehension, the penetration of your judgment, and the facility and order of your clocution. ** And as the Scripture saith of the wisest king, “That his heart was as the sands of the sea; which, though it be one of the largest bodies, yet it consisteth of the smallest and finest portions, so hath God given your majesty a composition of understanding admirable, being able to compass and comprehend the greatest matters, and nevertheless to touch and apprehend the least, whereas it should seem an impossibility in nature for the same instrument to make itself fit for great and small works. As for your gift of speech. I call to mind what