set of Orders, which, to a large extent, fixed the practice of the court till the reforms of the last century. Throughout his life. Bacon was a consistent advocate of the codification of the statute law, and of the digesting of case law. This set of Orders was the one piece of codification which he was able to effect.




In January, 1619, he issued 101 Orders dealing with the practice of the court,1 and in October, 1620, he issued some supplementary Orders, eleven of which dealt with the same subject.2 The orders of 1619 begin with decrees-how they could be questioned, suspended, and executed. They go on to explain the conditions under which bills would be dismissed; and the conditions under which injunctions and sequestrations, and decrees to corroborate the orders of the Court of Requests or the Provincial Councils, could be got.5 The duties of the registrars are set out in some detail; and rules are laid down for reference to the masters, and for the drafting of their reports and certificates.8 Then follow rules of pleading, dealing with bills, answers, demurrers, and pleas. They are followed by rules for the conduct of commissions to examine witnesses,1o for the taking of affidavits.1 and for process against those guilty of contempt.12 Certain applications are enumerated which were not to be granted on petition merely,13 and special rules are made for the issue of certain kinds of writs. The filing of writs and the enrolment of injunctions is regulated.15 Special rules are made for the issue of commissions for charitable uses, for sewers, in bankruptcy, and to constitute the court of Delegates. 16 The last three rules deal with pauper litigants, licences to collect money for losses, and the exemplifications of letters patent and other records.17 The Orders of the following year deal with bills of conformity to compel a composition with creditors, 18 the entry of orders, and further rules as to the issue of licences to collect money for losses. The fact that it was possible to make this comprehensive code is an eloquent testimony to the extent to which the machinery and the procedure of the court had become settled. It is quite clear that a court which had attained this degree of development would soon evolve substantive principles of equity.

Fourthly, Bacon fulfilled his promise to do speedy justice.

1 Their text will be found in Sanders, Chancery Orders i 109-122; or better in Spedding's Ed. of Bacon's Works vii 759-774.

2 Sanders, Chancery Orders i 129-131. 4 Orders 13-19

7 Orders 45, 47, 50, 51, 52, 53.

10 Orders 68-74.

13 Orders 80-83.

5 Orders 20-34.

3 Orders I-12

8 Orders 46, 48, 49.
11 Orders 75-76.
14 Orders 85-89.

• Orders 35-44. 9 Orders 55-67. 12 Orders 77-79.

16 Orders 94-97; for the court of Delegates see vol. i 603-605. 17 Orders 98-100.

18 On this matter see above 139 and n. 13; Pt. II. c. 4 I. § 6.

15 Orders 90-92.

A month after he had taken his seat in Chancery he could write to Buckingham, "This day I have made even with the business of the kingdom for common justice. Not one cause unheard. The lawyers drawn dry of all the motions they were to make. Not one petition unanswered."1 And in December of the same

year he was able to make the same boast.2 Nor is there any evidence that the quality of justice dispensed was unsatisfactory. It is true that he was by his own confession too ready to take presents from suitors. It is true that in at least one case he allowed Buckingham's influence to pervert the course of justice.3 But it is probable, on the whole, that the presents which he took did not prevent him from deciding as he would otherwise have decided. At least we do not hear that any large number of his cases were reversed by his successor.

It may be fairly said, therefore, that Bacon left his mark upon the court of Chancery. As attorney-general he had been largely instrumental in vindicating the independence of the court, and in thus securing the free development of equity. As chancellor he helped to restore harmony between the Chancery and the courts of common law; and he created from the scattered orders of his predecessors a code of procedure, the formation of which was a condition precedent to the development of a system of equity. Thus he consolidated and completed the work of that school of lawyer chancellors which had come with the chancellorship of Sir Thomas More. That the development of a system of equity did not make rapid way till after the Restoration was due wholly to political causes.

With the interlude of Bacon's successor, bishop Williams, I have already dealt. His successor Coventry was a lawyer, and carried on the business of the court on the lines which Bacon had laid down.


Thomas Coventry "was a son of the robe, his father having been a judge in the court of common pleas.' His rise was rapid. He became recorder of London in 1616 at the age of thirty-eight, in spite of Bacon's opposition, which seems to have been grounded upon his friendship with Coke. But he soon

1 Spedding, Letters and Life vi 208.

2 Ibid 283; on the other hand it would appear that this pace had not been fully maintained; in 1619 Chamberlain wrote to Carleton that "The Lord Chancellor's slackness causes a rumour that he is to have a Lord Keeper as a coadjutor," S.P. Dom. 1619-1623, 39, cviii 69; of course this may have been due to illness or to some other temporary cause.

See Mr. Heath's elaborate analysis of the case of Dr. Steward, Spedding, Letters and Life vii App. 579-588.

4 Above 226-227.

5 Clarendon, History of the Rebellion (ed. 1843) 19.

"The man upon whom the choice is like to fall, which is Coventry, I hold doubtful for your service; not but that he is well learned and an honest man, but he


proved that Bacon's suspicions were groundless. Whatever his earlier opinions may have been, he soon became a royalist in politics. He was made solicitor-general in 1617, attorneygeneral in 1621, and lord keeper in 1625. Though he was a believer in a strong prerogative, he was by no means a pliant courtier. He persuaded Charles I. to assent in regular form to the Petition of Right,1 he advised against the dissolution of the Parliament in 1629,2 and he did not hesitate to oppose Buckingham's arrogance. It is true that he approved of the levy of ship money; but he took little active part in Charles's eleven years of prerogative rule. If he intervened it was on the side of moderation.4 "He was seldom known to speak," says Clarendon, "in matters of state, which, he well knew, were for the most part concluded, before they were brought to that public agitation; never in foreign affairs." 5 And so, unlike most of Charles's ministers, he both retained his office, and yet was esteemed by the people. He died in 1640, just after the writs for the Short Parliament had been issued. His last message to the king was a plea for patient forbearance with that Parliament-he advised the king, "to take all distastes from the Parliament summoned against April with patience, and suffer it to sit without an unkind dissolution."

The attention which Coventry gave to the business of the court is seen by the numerous Orders which he issued. Some of them were merely temporary. Thus we have several in 1636 dealing with the dislocation of business caused by the plague.i There are very many made to regulate the duties of and fees payable to various officers of the court. Some of those duties and fees seem to have still been very badly defined; and Orders were still necessary to prevent officials from poaching upon one another's domains. In 1638, with a view to the settlement of this question, the king ordered juries to be impanelled from the


hath been bred as it were by Lord Coke and seasoned in his ways," Spedding, Letters and Life vi 97.

1 Foss, Judges vi 280.

3 Foss, Judges vi 280.

2 Gardiner vii 77.

4 Thus he with the Chief Justices took a lenient view in Sherfield's case, Gardiner vii 257; and in 1627 he resisted the attempt of the Council to treat a refusal to take press money as punishable by martial law, ibid vi 156-157.

5 Op. cit. 19.

He had, says Clarendon, op. cit. 53, a rare felicity, in being looked upon generally throughout the kingdom with great affection, and a singular esteem, when very few other men in any high trust were so."

7 'Hacket, Life of Williams


8 Sanders, Chancery Orders i 193-196.

9 Ibid 137-161; 163, 164; 168-170; 171-173; 184-188; 189-191; 191-193; 197, 198; 200-202; 202-204; it would appear that parties were in the habit of paying masters and others for their reports, see Monro, Acta Cancellaria 209; but this was prohibited by 1 James I. c. 10.


officials and clerks of the various courts to enquire into fees taken during the past thirty years. Many of his Orders relate to procedure; and the fact that it was necessary to issue them showed that Bacon's Orders had not been observed. In fact, as I have said, the chief reason why the abuses of the court of Chancery were not remedied was not want of will, but want of power. Several Orders were directed against the abuse of setting down causes for hearing out of their turn.3 Other Orders dealt with the abuse of writs of privilege, with the issue of commissions to examine witnesses, with the abuse of issuing process of contempt against persons who had no notice of any previous process. In 1635 came a new series of thirty-one Orders." Instructions as to their duties were given to the Six Clerks, the Registrars, the Masters, and the clerks of the court, with the object of reducing the length and cost of the Chancery procedure. With the same object, an attempt was made to check prolixity in pleading, and the examination of witnesses upon irrelevant matters. Rules were laid down for the hearing of demurrers, motions, petitions, the issue of injunctions, and suits in forma pauperis. Counsel were ordered to see to it that they did not demur for trivial causes, that they made no motion without substantial grounds, that they did not sign a pleading unless they had drawn or perused it, that they did not inform the court as to facts on the mere authority of solicitor or client without perusing the record of the case.

These Orders show that Coventry was well aware of the abuses of the court and intended to remedy them; and they might have effected some permanent reforms if the Great Rebellion had not intervened. They show that he was an able judge-understanding, says Clarendon, "the whole science and mystery of the law;" and he worked well with the judges of the common law courts." But the collapse of Charles's attempt at prerogative government was for the time being fatal to the court of Chancery. Coventry's immediate successors were not in a position to effect anything for the improvement or development of the equitable jurisdiction.

The choice which Charles made of a successor to Coventry showed that he had no intention of acting upon Coventry's last piece of advice. He appointed Finch,10 the chief justice of the

1 Sanders, op. cit. i 204-205.

2 Vol. i 428.

3 Sanders, Chancery Orders i 154, 206-207; similar orders have been made by Williams, ibid 134-135, 147-148.

4 Ibid 162; for a similar order by Williams, see ibid i 151-152.

• Ibid 165-166.

9 Ibid.

7 Ibid 176-184.

"Ibid 164-165.

8 Op. cit. 19.

10 For some further account of Finch see below 343-344.

Common Pleas, who was, owing to his judgment in the Case of
Ship Money, one of the most unpopular men in England.
ing his short tenure of office he distinguished himself by the
astonishing ruling that he should always consider an order of
the Council to be a sufficient ground for making a decree in
equity. The year after his appointment (1641) he fled the
country to escape condemnation by the Long Parliament. His
successor was Edward Littleton-the friend of Selden.2 He had
succeeded Finch as chief justice of the Common Pleas a posi-
tion for which he was admirably suited; and on Finch's flight
was made lord keeper—a position for which he was most un-
suitable. He was a moderate man, and the king suspected his
loyalty. But he finally decided to throw in his lot with the king,
and retired with the great seal to York in 1642. He died in
1645. His successor was Richard Lane, who had so ably de-
fended Strafford that the Commons abandoned their impeach-
ment, and had recourse to an act of attainder. He retained his
title during the rest of the king's life; and died an exile in 1650.


By the middle of the seventeenth century it had thus become obvious that the head of the court of Chancery must be an English lawyer; and, seeing that those who practised before the court had also been educated in English law, it had become clear that there would be no great infusion of the rules of the civil law by way of the court of Chancery. But in the preceding period, when the chancellors were ecclesiastics, the masters of the court had naturally been canonists or civilians. The canonists disappeared after the reign of Henry VIII.5 But, all through this period, a large proportion of the masters still continued to be civilians, and often sat on the bench with the chancellor as his assistants."

The fact that some of the masters thus continued to be civilians was due to three causes. In the first place, we have seen that the civilians, who had studied their law and taken their degree of Doctor at Oxford or Cambridge or elsewhere, had

1" Upon a demurrer put in to a bill before him, which had no other equity in it than an order of the lords of the council, (he said) that whilst he was keeper no man should be so saucy to dispute those orders, but that the wisdom of that board should be always ground enough for him to make a decree in Chancery," Clarendon, op. cit. 30. 2 Below 376.

3 Clarendon, op. cit. 228, tells us that he lamented his own position-" that he had been preferred from the Common Pleas, where he knew both the business and the persons he had to deal with, to the other high office he now held, which obliged him to converse and transact with another sort of men, who were not known to him, and in affairs which he understood not, and had not one friend amongst them, with whom he could confer upon any doubt which occurred to him."

4 Vol. iv 276-283.

5 Above 222-223; vol. i 592, 594.

6 This is clear from the lists given in Foss, Judges vols. v and vi, 7 Spence, Equitable Jurisdiction i 383 and n. d.

VOL. V.-17

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