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nocent or innocent; fortitude to prosecute and execute; temperance, so to carry justice as it be not passionate in the pursuit, nor confused in involving persons upon light suspicion, nor precipitate in time. For this his majesty's virtue of justice, God hath of late raised an occasion, and erected, as it were, a stage or theatre, much to his honour, for him to show it, and act in the pursuit of the untimely death of Sir Thomas Overbury, and therein cleansing the land from blood. For, my lords, if blood spilt pure doth cry to heaven in God's ears, much more blood defiled with poison.
This great work of his majesty's justice, the more excellent it is, your lordships will soon conclude the greater is the offence of any that have sought to affront it or traduce it. And, therefore, before I descend unto the charge of these offenders, I will set before your lordships, the weight of that which they have sought to impeach; speaking somewhat of the general crime of impoisonment, and then of the particular circumstances of this fact upon Overbury; and, thirdly, and chiefly, of the king's great and worthy care and carriage in this business.
The offence of impoisonment is most truly figured in that device or description, which was made of the nature of one of the Roman tyrants, that he was "lutum sanguine maceratum," mire mingled or cemented with blood: for, as it is one of the highest offences in guiltiness, so it is the basest of all others in the mind of the offenders. Treasons "magnum aliquid spectant:" they aim at great things; but this is vile and base. I tell your lordships what I have noted, that in all God's book, both of the Old and New Testament, I find examples of all other offences and offenders in the world, but not any one of an impoisonment or an impoisoner. I find mention of fear of casual impoisonment: when the wild vine was shred into the pot, they came complaining in a fearful manner; Master, "inors in olla." And I find mention of poisons of beasts and serpents; "the poison of asps is under their lips." But I find no example in the book of God of impoisonment. I have sometimes thought of the words in the psalm, "let their table be made a snare." Which certainly is most, true of impoisonment; for the table, the daily bread, for which we pray, is turned to a deadly snare: but, I think rather, that that was meant of the treachery of friends that were participant of the same table.
laid for the mother, and was taken up by the child, and killed the child: and so in that notorious case, whereupon the statute of 22 Henry VIII., chap. 9, was made, where the intent being to poison but one or two, poison was put into a little vessel of barm that stood in the kitchen of the Bishop of Rochester's house; of which barm pottage or gruel was made, wherewith seventeen of the bishop's family were poisoned: nay, divers of the poor that came to the bishop's gate, and had the broken pottage in alms, were likewise poisoned. And, therefore, if any man will comfort himself, or think with himself, Here is great talk of impoisonment, I hope I am safe; for I have no enemies; nor I have nothing that any body should long for: Why, that is all one; for he may sit at table by one for whom poison is prepared, and have a drench of his cup, or of his pottage.
And so, as the poet saith, "concidit infelix alieno vulnere;" he may die another man's death. And, therefore, it was most gravely, and judiciously, and properly provided by that statute, that impoisonment should be high treason; because whatsoever offence tendeth to the utter subversion and dissolution of human society, is in the nature of high treason.
Lastly, it is an offence that I may truly say of it, "non est nostri generis, nec sanguinis." It is, thanks be to God, rare in the isle of Britain: it is neither of our country, nor of our church; you may find it in Rome or Italy. There is a region, or perhaps a religion for it: and if it should come amongst us, certainly it were better living in a wilderness than in a court.
For the particular fact upon Overbury. First, for the person of Sir Thomas Overbury: I knew the gentleman. It is true, his mind was great, but it moved not in any good order; yet, certainly it did commonly fly at good things; and the greatest fault that I ever heard of him, was, that he made his friend his idol. But I leave him as Sir Thomas Overbury.
But take him as he was, the king's prisoner in the tower; and then see how the case stands. In that place the state is as it were respondent to make good the body of a prisoner. And, if any thing happen to him there, it may, though not in this case, yet in some others, make an aspersion and reflection upon the state itself. For the person is utterly out of his own defence; his own care and providence can serve him nothing. He But let us go on. It is an offence, my lords, is in custody and preservation of law; and we that hath the two spurs of offending; "spes have a maxim in our law, as my lords the judges perficiendi," and "spes celandi:" it is easily know, that when a state is in preservation of law, committed, and easily concealed.
It is an offence that is "tanquam sagitta nocte volans;" it is the arrow that flies by night. It discerns not whom it hits: for many times the poison is laid for one, and the other takes it; as in Sanders's case, where the poisoned apple was
nothing can destroy it, or hurt it. And God forbid but the like should be for the persons of those that are in custody of law; and therefore this was a circumstance of great aggravation.
Lastly, to have a man chased to death in such manner, as it appears now by matter of record;
for other privacy of the cause I know not, by poison after poison; first roseaker, then arsenic, then mercury sublimate, then sublimate again; it is a thing would astonish man's nature to hear it. The poets feign, that the Furies had whips, that they were corded with poisonous snakes; and a man would think that this were the very case, to have a man tied to a post, and to scourge him to death with snakes; for so may truly be termed diversity of poisons.
Now I will come to that which is the principal; that is, his majesty's princely, yea, and, as I may truly term it, sacred proceeding in this cause. Wherein I will speak of the temper of his justice, and then of the strength thereof.
First, it pleased my lord chief justice to let me know, that which I heard with great comfort, which was the charge that his majesty gave to himself first, and afterwards to the commissioners in this case, worthy certainly to be written in letters of gold, wherein his majesty did forerank and make it his prime direction, that it should be carried, without touch to any that was innocent; nay, more, not only without impeachment, but without aspersion: which was a most noble and princely caution from his majesty; for men's reputations are tender things, and ought to be, like Christ's coat, without seam. And it was the more to be respected in this case, because it met with two great persons; a nobleman that his majesty had favoured and advanced, and his lady, being of a great and honourable house: though I think it be true that the writers say, That there is no pomegranate so fair or so sound, but may have a perished kernel. Nay, I see plainly, that in those excellent papers of his majesty's own handwriting, being as so many beams of justice issuing from that virtue which doth shine in him; I say, I see it was so evenly carried, without prejudice, whether it were a true accusation of the one part, or a practice of a false accusation on the other, as showed plainly that his majesty's judgment was "tanquam tabula rasa," as a clean pair of tables, and his ear" tanquam janua aperta," as a gate not side open, but wide open to truth, as it should be by little and little discovered. Nay, I see plainly, that, at the first, till farther light did break forth, his majesty was little moved with the first tale, which he vouchsafeth not so much as the name of a tale; but calleth it a rumour, which is a heedless tale.
As for the strength or resolution of his majesty's justice, I must tell your lordships plainly; I do not marvel to see kings thunder out justice in cases of treason, when they are touched themselves; and that they are "vindices doloris proprii:" but that a king should, "pro amore justitiæ" only, contrary to the tide of his own affection, for the preservation of his people, take such care of a cause of justice, that is rare and worthy to be celebrated far and near. For, I
think, I may truly affirm, that there was never in this kingdom, nor in any other kingdom, the blood of a private gentleman vindicated "cum tanto motu regni," or, to say better, "cum tanto plausu regni." If it had concerned the king or prince, there could not have been greater nor better commissioners to examine it. The term hath been almost turned into a "justitium," or vacancy; the people themselves being more willing to be lookers on in this business, than to follow their own. There hath been no care of discovery omitted, no moment of time lost. And, therefore, I will conclude this part with the saying of Solomon, "Gloria Dei celare rem, et gloria regis scrutari rem.” And his majesty's honour is much the greater for that he hath showed to the world in this business, as it hath relation to my Lord of Somerset, whose case in no sort I do prejudge, being ignorant of the secrets of the cause, but taking him as the law takes him hitherto, for a subject, I say, the king hath to his great honour showed, that were any man, in such a case of blood, as the signet upon his right hand, as the Scripture says, yet would he put him off.
Now will I come to the particular charge of these gentlemen, whose qualities and persons I respect and love; for they are all my particular friends: but now I can only do this duty of a friend to them, to make them know their fault to the full.
And, therefore, first, I will by way of narrative declare to your lordships the fact, with the occasion of it; then you shall have their confessions read, upon which you are to proceed, together with some collateral testimonies by way of aggravation: and, lastly, I will note and observe to your lordships the material points which I do insist upon for their charge, and so leave them to their answer: and this I will do very briefly, for the case is not perplexed.
That wretched man, Weston, who was the actor or mechanical party in this impoisonment, at the first day being indicted by a very substantial jury of selected citizens, to the number of nineteen, who found" billa vera," yet, nevertheless, at the first stood mute: but after some days' intermission, it pleased God to cast out the dumb devil, and that he did put himself upon his trial; and was, by a jury also of great value, upon his confession, and other testimonies, found guilty: so as thirty-one sufficient jurors have passed upon him. Whereupon judgment and execution was awarded against him. After this, being in preparation for another world, he sent for Sir John Overbury's father, and falling down upon his knees, with great remorse and compunction, asked him forgiveness. Afterwards, again, of his own motion, desired to have his like prayer of forgiveness recommended to his mother, who was absent. And at both times, out of the abundance of his heart, confessed that he was to die justly, and
that he was worthy of death. And after, again, at | ships, that this infusion of a slander into a king's his execution, which is a kind of sealing-time of ear, is of all forms of libels and slanders the worst. confessions, even at the point of death, although It is true, that kings may keep secret their informthere were tempters about him, as you shall hear ations, and then no man ought to inquire after by-and-by, yet he did again confirm publicly, them, while they are shrined in their breast. But that his examinations were true, and that he had where a king is pleased that a man shall answer been justly and honourably dealt with. Here is for his false information; there, I say, the false the narrative, which induceth the charge. The information to a king exceeds in offence the false charge itself is this. information of any other kind; being a kind, since we are in a matter of poison, of impoisonment of a king's ear. And thus much for the offence of M. L.
For the offence of S. W. and H. I., which I said was in consort, it was shortly this. At the time and place of the execution of Weston, to supplant his Christian resolution, and to scandal
Mr. L., whose offence stands alone single, the offence of the other two being in consort; and yet all three meeting in their end and centre, which was to interrupt or deface this excellent piece of justice; Mr. L., I say, meanwhile be'tween Weston's standing mute and his trial, takes upon him to make a most false, odious, and libellous relation, containing as many untruths asize the justice already past, and perhaps to cut lines, and sets it down in writing with his own hand, and delivers it to Mr. Henry Gibb, of the bed-chamber, to be put into the king's hand; in which writing he doth falsify and pervert all that was done the first day at the arraignment of Weston; turning the pike and point of his imputations principally upon my Lord Chief Justice of England; whose name, thus occurring, I cannot pass by, and yet I cannot skill to flatter. But this I will say of him, and I would say as much to ages, if I should write a story; that never man's person and his place were better met in a business, than my Lord Coke and my lord chief justice, in the cause of Overbury.
Now, my lords, in this offence of M. L., for the particulars of these slanderous articles, I will observe them unto you when the writings and examinations are read; for I do not love to set the gloss before the text. But, in general, I note to your lordships, first, the person of M. L. I know he is a Scotch gentleman, and thereby more ignorant of our laws and forms: but I cannot tell whether this doth extenuate his fault in respect of ignorance, or aggravate it much, in respect of presumption; that he would meddle in that that he understood not: but I doubt it came not out of his quiver: some other man's cunning wrought upon this man's boldness. Secondly, I may note unto you the greatness of the cause, wherein he, being a private mean gentleman, did presume to deal. M. L. could not but know to what great and grave commissioners the king had committed this cause; and that his majesty in his wisdom would expect return of all things from them to whose trust he had committed this business. For it is the part of commissioners, as well to report the business, as to manage the business; and then his majesty might have been sure to have had all things well weighed, and truly informed: and, therefore, it should have been far from M. L. to have presumed to have put forth his hand to so high and tender a business, which was not to be touched but by employed hands. Thirdly, I note to your lord
off the thread of that which is to come, these gentlemen, with others, came mounted on horseback, and in a ruffling and facing manner put themselves forward to re-examine Weston upon questions: and what questions? Directly cross to that that had been tried and judged. For what was the point tried? That Weston had poisoned Overbury. What was S. W.'s question? Whether Weston did poison Overbury or no? A contradictory directly: Weston answered only, that he did him wrong; and turning to the sheriff, said, You promised me I should not be troubled at this time. Nevertheless, he pressed him to answer; saying he desired to know it, that he might pray with him. I know not that S. W. is an ecclesiastic, that he should cut any man from the communion of prayer. And yet for all this vexing of the spirit of a poor man, now in the gates of death; Weston, nevertheless, stood constant, and said, I die not unworthily; my lord chief justice hath my mind under my hand, and he is an honourable and just judge. This is S. W. his offence.
For H. I., he was not so much a questionist; but wrought upon the other's questions, and, like a kind of confessor, wished him to discharge his conscience, and to satisfy the world. What world? I marvel! it was sure the world at Tyburn. For the world at Guildhall, and the world at London, was satisfied before; "teste" the bells that rung. But men have got a fashion now-adays, that two or three busy-bodies will take upon them the name of the world, and broach their own conceits, as if it were a general opinion. Well, what more? When they could not work upon Weston, then H. I. in an indignation turned about his horse, when the other was turning over the ladder, and said, he was sorry for such a conclusion; that was, to have the state ho noured or justified; but others took and reported his words in another degree: but that I leave, seeing it is not confessed.
H. I., his offence had another appendix, before
The questions that are to be asked ought to tend to farther revealing of their own or others guiltiness; but to use a question in the nature of a false interrogatory, to falsify that which is "res judicata," is intolerable. For that were to erect a court of commission of review at Tyburn, against the King's Bench at Westminster. And, besides, it is a thing vain and idle: for if they answer according to the judgment past, it adds no credit; or if it be contrary, it derogateth nothing: but yet it subjecteth the majesty of justice to popular and vulgar talk and opinion.
this in time; which was, that at the day of the verdict given up by the jury, he also would needs give his verdict, saying openly, that if he were of the jury, he would doubt what to do. Marry, he saith, he cannot tell well whether he spake this before the jury had given up the verdict, or after; wherein there is little gained. For whether H. I. were a pre-juror or a post-juror, the one was to prejudge the jury, the other as to taint them. Of the offence of these two gentlemen in general, your lordships must give me leave to say, that it is an offence greater and more dangerous than is conceived. I know well that, as we have no Spanish inquisitions, nor justice in a corner; so we have no gagging of men's mouths at their death: but that they may speak freely at the last But now your lordships shall hear the examihour; but then it must come from the free motion nations themselves, upon which I shall have ocof the party, not by temptation of questions.casion to note some particular things, &c.
My lords, these are great and dangerous of fences; for if we do not maintain justice, justice will not maintain us.
A CHARGE DELIVERED
BY SIR FRANCIS BACON, KNIGHT,
THE KING'S SOLICITOR-GENERAL,
ARRAIGNMENT OF THE LORD SANQUHAR,
IN THE KING'S BENCH AT WESTMINSTER.
The Lord Sanquhar, a Scotch nobleman, having, in private revenge, suborned Robert Carlile to murder John Turner, master of fence, thought, by his greatness, to have borne it out; but the king, respecting nothing so much as justice, would not suffer nobility to be a shelter for villany; but, according to law, on the 29th of June, 1612, the said Lord Sanquhar, having been arraigned and condemned, by the name of Robert Creighton, Esq., was, before Westminster-hall Gate, executed, where he died very penitent. At whose arraignment my Lord Bacon, then solicitor-general to King James, made this speech following:
In this cause of life and death, the jury's part is in effect discharged; for after a frank and formal confession, their labour is at an end: so that what hath been said by Mr. Attorney, or shall be said by myself, is rather convenient than necessary.
My Lord Sanquhar, your fault is great, and cannot be extenuated, and it need not be aggravated; and if it needed, you have made so full an anatomy of it out of your own feeling, as it cannot be matched by myself, or any man else, out of conceit; so as that part of aggravation I leave. Nay, more, this Christian and penitent course of yours draws me thus far, that I will
agree, in some sort extenuates it; for certainly, as even in extreme evils there are degrees; so this particular of your offence is such as, though it be foul spilling of blood, yet there are more foul: for if you had sought to take away a man's life for his vineyard, as Ahab did; or for envy, as Cain did; or to possess his bed, as David did; surely the murder had been more odious.
Your temptation was revenge, which the more natural it is to man, the more have laws both divine and human sought to repress it; "Mihi vindicta." But in one thing you and I shall never agree, that generous spirits, you say, are hard to forgive: no, contrariwise, generous and magna
nimous minds are readiest to forgive; and it is a weakness and impotency of mind to be unable to forgive;
"Corpora magnanimo satis est prostrasse leoni."
But, howsoever, murders may arise from several motives, less or more odious, yet the law both of God and man involves them in one degree, and, therefore, you may read that in Joab's case, which was a murder upon revenge, and matcheth with your case; he, for a dear brother, and you for a dear part of your own body; yet there was a severe charge given, it should not be unpunished.
day's justice, had not God in his providence removed them.
But, now that I have given God the honour, let me give it likewise where it is next due, which is to the king our sovereign.
This murder was no sooner committed, and brought to his majesty's ears, but his just indig nation, wherewith he first was moved, cast itself into a great deal of care and providence to have justice done. First came forth his proclamation, somewhat of a rare form, and devised, and in effect dictated by his majesty himself; and by that he did prosecute the offenders, as it were with the breath and blast of his mouth. Then did his majesty stretch forth his long arms, for kings have long arms when they will extend them, one of them to the sea, where he took hold of Grey shipped for Sweden, who gave the first light of testimony; the other arm to Scotland, and took hold of Carlile, ere he was warm in his house, and brought him the length of his kingdom under such safe watch and custody, as he could have no means to escape, no, nor to mischief himself, no, nor learn any lessons to stand mute; in which cases, perhaps, this day's justice might have received a stop. So that I may conclude his ma
And certainly the circumstance of time is heavy upon you: it is now five years since this unfortunate man Turner, be it upon accident, or be it upon despite, gave the provocation, which was the seed of your malice. All passions are suaged with time: love, hatred, grief; all fire itself burns out with time, if no new fuel be put to it. Therefore, for you to have been in the gall of bitterness so long, and to have been in a restless chase of this blood so many years, is a strange example; and I must tell you plainly, that I conceive you have sucked those affections of dwelling in majesty hath showed himself God's true lieutenant, lice, rather out of Italy and outlandish manners, where you have conversed, than out of any part of this island, England or Scotland.
But that which is fittest for me to spend time in, the matter being confessed, is to set forth and magnify to the hearers, the justice of this day; first of God, and then of the king.
My lord, you have friends and entertainments in foreign parts; it had been an easy thing for you to set Carlile, or some other bloodhound on work, when your person had been beyond the seas; and so this news might have come to you in a packet, and you might have looked on how the storm would pass: but God bereaved you of this foresight, and closed you here under the hand of a king that, though abundant in clemency, yet is no less zealous of justice.
Again, when you came in at Lambeth, you might have persisted in the denial of the procurement of the fact; Carlile, a resolute man, might perhaps have cleared you, for they that are resolute in mischief, are commonly obstinate in concealing the procurers, and so nothing should have been against you but presumption. But then also, God, to take away all obstruction of justice, gave you the grace, which ought indeed to be more true comfort to you, than any device whereby you might have escaped, to make a clear and plain confession.
Other impediments there were, not a few, which might have been an interruption to this!
and that he is no respecter of persons; but the English, Scottish, nobleman, fencer, are to him alike in respect of justice.
Nay, I must say farther, that his majesty hath had, in this, a kind of prophetical spirit; for what time Carlile and Grey, and you, my lord, yourself, were fled no man knew whither, to the four winds, the king ever spake in a confident and undertaking manner, that wheresoever the offenders were in Europe, he would produce them forth to justice; of which noble word God hath made him master.
Lastly, I will conclude towards you, my lord, that though your offence hath been great, yet, your confession hath been free, and your behaviour and speech full of discretion; and this shows, that though you could not resist the tempter, yet you bear a Christian and generous mind, answerable to the noble family of which you are descended. This I commend unto you, and to take it to be an assured token of God's mercy and favour, in respect whereof all worldly things are but trash; and so it is fit for you, as your state now is, to account them. And this is all I will say for the present.
[Note, The reader, for his fuller information in this story of the Lord Sanquhar, is desired to peruse the case in the ninth book of the Lord Coke's Reports; at the end of which the whole series of the murder and trial is exactly related.]