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HUGH LATIMER ON JUDICIAL BRIBERY.
this is scala inferni, the right way to hell, to be covetous, to take bribes, and pervert justice. If a Judge should ask me the way to hell, I would show him this way. First, let him be a covetous man; let his heart be poisoned with covetousness. Then let him go a little farther, and take bribes; and, lastly, pervert judgment. Lo, there is the mother, and the daughter, and the daughter's daughter. Avarice is the mother ; she brings forth bribe-taking, and bribe-taking perverting of judgment. There lacks a fourth thing to make up the mess, which, so help me God, if I were a Judge, should be hangum tuum, a Tyburn tippet to take with him; an it were the Judge of the King's Bench, my Lord Chief Justice of England, yea, an it were my Lord Chancellor himself, to Tyburn with him! He that took the silver basin and ewer for a bribe, thinketh that it will never come out. But he may now know that I know it, and I know it not alone; there be more beside me that know it. Oh, briber and bribery! He was never a good man that will so take bribes. It will never be merry in England till we have the skins of such.”
But from his own mouth let us judge him. Sic cogitavit Franciscus de Verulamio : “For corruption'; do not only bind thine own hands or thy servant's hands from taking, but bind the hands of suitors also from offering. For integrity used doth the one; but integrity professed, and with a manifest detestation of bribery, doth the other: and avoid not only the fault, but the suspicion.""
The crime of judicial bribery had been practised like perjury and theft, but it was evidently held in abhorrence ;—and there never has been a period in our history, when, the suitors in a court of justice and the Judge being the parties spoken of, an historian could have said, “ Corrumpere et corrumpi seculum vocatur.”
Bacon, doubtless, sometimes decided against those who had bribed him: but this was inevitable where, as occasionally happened, he had received bribes from both sides, or where the bribing party was flagrantly in the wrong, or a commonlaw Judge had been called in to assist, or where, from the long list of bribes, they could not be all borne in recollection at the moment when the decision was to be pronounced.
We are told, indeed, that the offence could not by possibility be committed by him, on account of the purity of his character; but ought we not rather to judge of his character from his actions,
Essay,' of Great Place.'
than of his actions from his character ? Evidence of “ habit and repute,” I fear, would not be in favour of this defendant. Notwithstanding his gigantic intellect, his moral perceptions were blunt, and he was ever ready to yield to the temptation of present interest. When he received the Great Seal he was still harassed by debts which he had imprudently contracted, and, instead of then trying to discharge them, his love of splendour involved him in increased difficulties. His secretaries and servants found a ready resource in the offers made by the suitors, and when it was once understood that money was available, -till the catastrophe occurred, the system was carried to such a pitch that even eminent counsel, at their consultations, recommended a bribe to the Chancellor." His confession ought to be received as sincere, even out of regard to his reputation; for, although the taking of bribes by a Judge be bad, there would be still greater infamy in a man acknowledging himself to be guilty of a series of disgraceful offences which he had never committed, merely to humour the caprice of a King or a minister. But it is absurd to suppose that James and Buckingham would not cordially have supported him if he could have been successfully defended ;– for, setting aside friendship and personal regard, which, in courts, are not much to be calculated upon, -- they had no object whatever to gain by his ruin,-and it would have been most desirable in their eyes, if possible, to have repulsed the first assault of the Commons on a great officer of the Crown, and to have prevented a precedent which they distinctly foresaw would be dangerous to the royal prerogative,—which was soon actually directed against Buckingham himself, though ineffectually, --which was successfully pursued in the impeachment of Strafford, -and which materially assisted in the ultimate ruin of the Stuart dynasty.
I have thought it becoming to make these observations in vindication of the great principles of right and justice. But I now have a more pleasing task,—to record the composure, the industry, the energy displayed by Bacon after his fall, and the benefits he continued to confer by his philosophical and literary labours on his country,--though I must again be pained by pointing out instances of weakness and meanness by which he still tarnished his fame.
8 See Aubrey's case in the impeachment. 2 St. Tr. 1101.
COMMITTED TO THE TOWER.
CONCLUSION OF THE LIFE OF LORD BACON.
IF Bacon's illness had been feigned when proceedings were pending against him,--after his sentence it was real and alarming. For some time he could not have been removed from York House without hazard of his life. But the first burst of mental agony having expended itself, he recovered his composure, and his health improved. There was a disposition, creditable to all parties, to show him the utmost consideration and forbearance consistent with the substantial interests of justice. Still the sentence of the House of Peers could not be treated as a nullity, although it might be mitigated by the prerogative of mercy in the Crown.
On the last day of May he was carried a prisoner to the Tower. To save him the humiliation of marching through the Strand and the principal streets of the city in custody of tipstaves,-a procession contrasting sadly with that which he headed when he proudly rode from Gray's Inn, attended by the nobility and Judges, to be installed as Lord Keeper in Westminster Hall,-a barge was privately ordered to the stairs of York House, and, the tide suiting early in the morning so that London Bridge might be conveniently shot, he was quietly conducted by the Sheriff of Middlesex to the Traitors' Gate, and there, with the warrant for his imprisonment, delivered to the Lieutenant of the Tower. A comfortable apartment had been prepared for him; but he was overcome by the sense of his disgrace. He might have had some compunctious visitings when he recognised the scene of Peacham's tortures. and we certainly know that he could not bear the thought of spending even a single night near those cells,
"With many a foul and midnight murder fed." He instantly sat down and wrote the following letter to Buckingham :
“Good my Lord,—Procure the warrant for my discharge this day. Death, I thank God, is so far from being unwelcome to me, as I have
called for it (as Christian resolution would permit) any time these two months. But to die before the time of his Majesty's grace, and in this disgraceful place, is even the worst that could be ; and when I am dead, he is gone that was always in one tenour a true and perfect servant to bis Master, and one that was never author of any immoderate, no, nor unsafe, no (I will say it), nor unfortunate counsel, and one that no temptation could ever make other than a trusty, and honest, and Christloving friend to your Lordship; and (howsoever I acknowledge the sentence just, and for reformation sake fit) the justest Chancellor that hath been in the five changes since Sir Nicholas Bacon's time. God bless and prosper your Lordship, whatsoever becomes of me. “Your Lordship's true friend, living and dying,
“ FRANCIS ST. ALBAX. “ Tower, 31st May, 1621.”
At the same time he wrote a letter to the King which is not preserved, but which we may believe was very touching, from his own representation, that it was
“ de profundis.” Prince Charles, in a manner for which he has not been sufficiently praised, hearing of the deplorable condition of the prostrate Ex-Chancellor, took a more lively interest in procuring his liberation than older councillors, who were afraid of giving offence to the parliament. Nothing effectual could be done that day; but on the 1st of June, a warrant under the sign-manual was made out for the noble prisoner's discharge. It was arranged that Sir John Vaughan, who held an office in the Prince's household, and lived in a beautiful villa at Parson's Green, should receive him, and that he should continue in retirement there till parliament was prorogued." The very same day he returned his warmest thanks to the Prince : _“I am much beholden to your Highness's worthy servant, Sir John Vaughan, the sweet air and loving usage of whose house hath already much revived my languishing spirits. I beseech your Highness thank him for me. God ever preserve and prosper your Highness.'
The buoyancy of his spirit immediately returned, and in three days after he thus writes to Buckingham. “I heartily thank
you for getting me out of prison; and now my body is out, my mind nevertheless will be still in prison till I may be on my feet to do his Majesty and your Lordship faithful
t He tries to delude himself into some sort u Camden says, " Ex-cancellarius in arcem of self-complacency, from the thought that traditur; post biduum deliberatus;” but he his decrees were sound in spite of all the must reckon time according to the manner of bribes he had accepted, and that he sold jus- the Jews. tice, not injustice.
* Works, v. 552.
HIS PETITION TO THE LORDS,
service. Wherein your Lordship, by the grace of God, shall find that my adversity hath neither spent nor pent my spirits."
But his creditors, finding out where he was, became very troublesome to him. He wished to have been allowed to return to York House and to remain there till he had made some settlement of his affairs; and he sent his faithful secretary, Meautys, who served him in his adversity with fresh zeal, to obtain this favour; but, although the Prince joined in the solicitation, it was refused-on the ground that he had been condemned “not to come within the verge of the Court.” He was ordered immediately to take up his residence at Gorhambury, and not to move elsewhere till his Majesty's pleasure should be further notified to him.
Thither he accordingly repaired; but the place had a very different aspect to him from what it had presented when, accompanied by the great and the witty, he retreated to its shades after the splendid fatigues of office. He found this solitude,-without cheering retrospect or anticipation, -most painful, and he prepared a petition to the House of Lords, that he might be released from it. To move their compassion he
says, I am old, weak, ruined, in want, a very subject of pity. My only suit to your Lordships is to show me your noble favour towards the release of my confinement--to me, I protest, worse than the Tower. There I could have company, physicians, conference with my creditors and friends about my debts, and the necessities of my estate, helps for my studies and the writings I have in hand. Here I live
the sword point of a sharp air, endangered if I go abroad, dulled if I stay within, solitary and comfortless, without company, banished from all opportunities to treat with any to do myself good and to help out any wrecks; and that which is one of my greatest griefs, my wife, that hath been no partaker of my offending, must be partaker of this misery of my restraint.” After imploring them to intercede for him, he thus concludes
.“ Herein your Lordships shall do a work of charity and nobility; you shall do me good; you shall do my creditors good, and it may be you shall do posterity good, if, out of the carcass of dead and rotten greatness, as out of Samson's lion, there may be honey gathered for the use of future times.” But the public indignation had not yet sufficiently subsided to permit his restoration to society, and he was obliged to shut
y Works, v. 554.