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without brilliant talents, by industry and perseverance he gained considerable practice at the bar. When the dissolution of the monasteries took place, he was appointed by Henry VIII. to the lucrative post of Solicitor to the Court of Augmentations, a board established for managing the church property which [A. D. 1537.] came to the Crown,-and like most others concerned in the management of it, he contrived to have a grant of a portion of it for his own use.*
Along with all the other grantees of church property he became a favourer of the Reformation, but he took care to give no offence by going openly beyond the limits of the departure from Rome which the law permitted. He now presented to the King a splendid plan for the endowment from the spoils of the monasteries of a great seminary in London, after the model of a University, for the study of the law, and for the training of ambassadors and statesmen. It is much to be regretted that, owing to the rapacity of the courtiers, this effort was abortive, as, down to our own time, London remained the only metropolis in Europe (except Constantinople) without a University, and English lawyers, though very acute practitioners, have rather been deficient in an enlarged knowlege of jurisprudence.
Nicholas Bacon was, in this reign, further promoted by being [A. D. 1546.] appointed Attorney to the Court of Wards, an impor[A. D. 1546.] tant situation during the subsistence of military tenures, and affording ample scope for corruption and oppression. But he conducted himself in it with integrity as well as diligence, and he was allowed to retain it both by Edward VI. and Queen Mary. He was a brother-in-law of Sir William Cecil, afterwards the celebrated Burghley, now rising into eminence, and already known for his prudence and craft; but although in close intimacy with him, he was not sufficiently eminent to share with him in the plot for bringing in Lady Jane Grey‡, and he still remained in his subordinate situation when Cecil had gained the confidence of Mary, and was himself in high office.
During her reign both brothers acquiesced in the reconciliation with Rome, and quietly conformed to the reigning religion, although they had actively supported the Reformation under Edward. A satirical writer, referring to this period of Bacon's life, bitterly says, "His Lordship could neither by the greatness of his beads, creeping to the cross, nor exterior show of devotion before the high al
*He got the manors of Bottesdale, of Ellingham, and of Redgrave, where he afterwards received Queen Elizabeth.
† Besides the study of the common and civil law, the objects of the projected institution were to cultivate the knowledge of Latin and French, and in those languages to write and debate on all questions of public policy; to form historical collections, and publish new treatises relating to domestic institutions and foreign diplo macy; and the students were finally to perfect their knowledge of political science as attachés, travelling in the suites of the King's ambassadors on the Continent.
It has always seemed to me a strong proof that Northumberland's scheme was by no means so foolish and desperate as has been generally supposed, that it was supported by a man of the sagacity of Cecil.
tar, find his entrance into high dignity in Queen Mary's time."* Notwithstanding the seeming warmth of the Roman Catholic zeal he now displayed, Queen Mary had some suspicion of his sincerity, and forbade him to go beyond sea, because "he had a great wit of action," and she was afraid he might enter into the plots that were formed against her among the Protestants of Germany. He owed his elevation to his brother-in-law. Cecil, while Secretary to Mary, had a private understanding with Elizabeth, who looked up to him for sucuring her succession, and he had been the first to repair to Hatfield to announce to her that she was Queen. She employed him to compose the speech she was to deliver at her first council, and he became her sole adviser in the formation of her ministry.
For the Great Seal, he recommended his near connection, Nicholas Bacon, wishing to favour him, and considering him competent to the duties of the office, [DEC. 22, 1558.] without any ambitious or intriguing turn which might render him dangerous as a rival. The Queen hesitated for some time, as the office of Chancellor or Lord Keeper had hitherto generally been given either to a dignified prelate, or some layman who had gained distinction by civil service; and Bacon was only known in his own profession as a plodding lawyer, and for having industriously done the duties of attorney to the Court of Augmentations and the Court of Wards. She saw the necessity for the appointment of a lawyer, and the accounts she received of the respectable and useful qualities of Bacon induced her to yield; but sparing of honours from the commencement of her reign, she would only give him the title of "Lord Keeper," and would only knight him instead of raising him to the peerage. He was perfectly contented —often repeating his motto," Mediocria firma." He was sworn of the Privy Council, however, and admitted to the public deliberations of this board.
For some time he used the Great Seal of Philip and Mary, but on the 26th of January, 1559, this seal was broken by the Queen's commands, and she delivered to him [A. D. 1559.] another, with her own name and insignia.†
From the first he
* It is very curious that his son in defending him against this libel does not at all deny his ostentatious profession of the Roman Catholic religion to please Queen Mary, but contends that he was a great favourite with her "in regard of his constant standing for her title," and that he might have had great promotion under her if he had been so minded. Lord Bacon's works, ed. 1819, vol. iii. p. 96.
† See a very circumstantial account of this ceremony in the Cl. Roll, 1 Eliz., which, after narrating the delivery of the old Seal to the Queen in her private chamber at Westminster, her order that it should be broken, the execution of this order in an outer room, the production of another Seal, " imagine armis et titulis honoris Domine Regine tantumdo insculptum," the delivery of this to Sir Nicholas as Lord Keeper, thus concludes, " Ipseque prdm nov. Sigill. de Dna Regna adtune et ibidem in presencia eordm nobilium virorm gratulentr recipiens in exteriorem cameram pricam recessit, ac illud in quandam perulam de corio poni et sigillo suo pprio muniri et sigillari fecit, ac sic munitum et sigillatum in quendam sacculum velveti rubei insigniis regiis decoratum posuit illudque penes se retinuit et retinet."
gained the confidence of the youthful Queen, who, says Camden, “relied upon him as the very oracle of the law."
Parliament met on the 25th day of January* when the Queen being seated on the throne, the Lord Keeper opened it with a speech beginning thus, "My Lords and Masters all, the Queen's most Excellent Majesty having summoned hither her high Court of Parliament, hath commanded me to open and declare the chief causes and considerations that moved her thereunto." This discourse is very long and tedious. He compares Elizabeth to the good King Hezekiah and the noble Queen Hester, and extols her desire for the amendment of the laws and the promotion of true religion. But the only part worth transcribing is his advice as to the manner in which the debates were to be conducted in both Houses. "You will also clearly forbear, and as a great enemy to good council fly from all manner of contentious reasonings and disputations, and all sophistical, captious, and frivolous arguments and quiddities, meeter for ostentation of wit than consultation of weighty matters; comelier for scholars than councillors, and more beseeming the schools than parliament houses.”†
The Lord Keeper is said to have now given very discreet advice respecting the Queen's title. On the accession of Mary, an act was passed declaring void the divorce between Henry and Catherine of Aragon, which virtually bastardised Elizabeth, although the statute of 36 Henry VIII., putting her into the succession to the Crown, remained unrepealed. He laid down for law, that the descent of the Crown of itself removed all disabilities; and she was contented with an act to acknowledge her title, and without reversing the attainder of her mother‡, to make her inheritable ex parte materna.
Bacon was now called upon to act in a capacity that would [MARCH, 1559.] seem strange to a. Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper of our time--as a moderator in the grand public disputation held by the Queen's command, between the champions of the two religions, his predecessor, Ex-chancellor Heath, acting for the Catholics, being his colleague.
There is much reason to fear that the Lord Keeper, become an
* Parliament was called under writs dated the 1st of December, and it would appear that between her accession and the 22d of December, when the Queen delivered the Great Seai to Bacon, she affixed it to all instruments which it required with her own hand.
It must be remembered that such an oration was not like a modern Queen's speech delivered by Lords Commissioners,-which is supposed to be the language of her Majesty, advised by her cabinet, but was delivered as the extempore composition of the orator. On this occasion the Lord Keeper makes many apologies for his own imperfections, and regrets his "want of ability to do it in such sort as was beseeming for her Majesty's honor, and as the great weightiness and worthiness of the matter did require."
This was a very delicate question; and from Elizabeth not wishing to stir it, there is reason to fear that the proofs of Anne's guilt were formidable. It was remarked that although she was constantly boasting of being the daughter of Henry VIII., she hardly ever made any allusion to her mother.
avowed and zealous Protestant, was by no means impartial; for entirely superseding the other moderator, and taking upon himself the management of the conference, he insisted, each morning, that the Catholic disputants should begin, and he would not allow them to reply upon the Protestants. At last the five Bishops and three Doctors of Laws on the Catholic side declared they would argue no longer, and that they would withdraw. The Lord Keeper, highly incensed, put the question to them successively, "whether they would not stay?" All except one insisted on departing, and thereupon he dismissed them with these ominous words, that ye would not that we should hear you, perhaps you may shortly hear of us." Accordingly, their abrupt departure being declared to be a contempt of the Queen's authority, the Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln were committed to prison, and the rest were bound over to appear before the Council, and not to go beyond the cities of London and Westminster without leave.
As a Judge the Lord Keeper gave the highest satisfaction, and it was universally acknowledged, that since the time of Sir Thomas More justice had never been so well administered in the Court of Chancery. Thoroughly imbued with the common law, he soon became familiar with the comparatively simple system of equitable jurisprudence then established. He was slow to enlarge his own jurisdiction, interfering very cautiously with common-law actions, — always respecting the principles of the common law, and consulting the common-law Judges upon any question of difficulty which arose before him. On the bench he was patient and courteous, and it was remarked that the parties against whom he decided, if not convinced by his reasons, never doubted his honesty, and admitted that they had had a fair hearing. More fortunate in this respect than his greater son, he was never once accused or suspected of bribery or corruption, either by his contemporaries or by posterity.*
Soon after he was in office, doubts were raised respecting his
* I find an order of his in the Registrar's Book, which, though pronounced somewhat irregularly, shows his great good nature.
"17 Nov. 1577.
LAWRENCE DANY ELL, Plaintiff,
"Whereas the matter in variance between the said parties was the 5th of this month dismissed for such causes as are in the order expressed, and the Plaintiff adjudged thereby to pay to the Defendant 30s. costs: Forasmuch as the Plaintiff being a very poor boy, in very simple clothes and bare-legged, and under the age of twelve years, came this present day into this Court and desired that he might be discharged of the said costs, it is therefore, in consideration as well of his age as also of his poverty and simplicity, ordered that (upon an affidavit made that he is the same Lawrence Danyell named Plaintiff herein) he be discharged of the said 30s. costs, and no process to issue out against him for the same." This is a rare instance of the advantage of a suitor pleading his own cause.-There is another entry showing that a poor man having followed him on foot from London to Windsor, he there patiently examined the case, and referred him to the Court of Requests. Rayley v. Dyon, Reg. Lib. A. 5 & 6. Eliz. 1563, f. 471.
judicial authority. He had been appointed by the Seal having been merely delivered to him as Keeper; and some said that, though a Chancellor might be created by "tradition "tradition" of the emblem of his jurisdiction, the only regular mode of making a Lord Keeper was by patent. On the 14th of April a patent was passed, by the Queen's warrant, giving him the same [A. D. 1559.] powers in all respects as if he were Lord Chancellor, and ratifying all that he had done as Lord Keeper. Still difficulties arose in his own mind, or cavils were made by others, respecting the extent of his powers, the Custos Sigilli having been originally only a deputy of the Lord Chancellor; [A. D. 1563.] and, finally, an act of parliament was passed, declaring that
The common law of this realm is, and always was, and ought to be taken, that the Keeper of the Great Seal of England for the time being hath always had, used, and executed, and of right ought to have, use, and execute, and from henceforth may have, perceive, take, use, and execute, as of right belonging to the office of the Keeper of the Great Seal of England for the time being, the same and the like place, authority, pre-eminence, jurisdiction, execution of laws, and all other customs, commodities, and advantages as the Lord Chancellor of England for the time being lawfully used, had, and ought to have, use, and execute, as of right belonging to the office of the Lord Chancellor of England for the time being, to all intents, constructions, and purposes as if the same Keeper of the Great Seal for the time being were Lord Chancellor of England."*
The Protestant faith being established, and the government settled in the session of parliament held soon after the Queen's accession, the Lord Keeper was not at all diverted by politics from the regular despatch of judicial business till the beginning of the year 1563, when the Queen's exchequer being empty from the assistance she rendered to the French Huguenots, she found herself reluctantly obliged to summon a new parliament for the purpose of obtaining a supply.
On the day on which the writs were returnable, the Queen be
[JAN. 11. 1563.] ing indisposed, the Lord Keeper, by virtue of a commission, postponed the meeting till the following day. He then joined a grand procession from Whitehall to Westminster Abbey, the Queen riding on horseback, clad in crimson velvet, with the Crown on her head, -twenty-two Bishops riding behind her in scarlet, with hoods of minever down their
* 5 Eliz. c. 18. This assertion of former usage is correct, where there had been a Lord Keeper without a Lord Chancellor; but the framer of the statute was probably not aware of what we, from the examination of records, now know, that in early ages there were frequently a Chancellor and Keeper of the Great Seal at the same time,-when the latter could only act by the special directions of the former. There could not after 5 Eliz. have been a Chancellor and Keeper at the same time, but all occasion for such an arrangement is now obviated by the multiplication of Vice-chancellors.