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Among the qualities of a good judge there is one remaining and fit to bring up the rear, which the king looked upon as to be presaged in his new officer,
an hand clean from corruption and taking gifts,' which blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.-Deut. xvi. 19. It was loudly exclaimed, and the king was ashamed to have so far mistaken the persons, that there were sucking horse-leeches in great places. Things not to be valued at money were saleable, and what could not gold procure ? As Menander writes,
Φίλοι δικαςαι, μαφτυρες, μονον διδα: αυτες γαρ εξεις τες θεες υπερετας. That is, friends and judges and witnesses, you may have them for a price ; pay, such as sit in the place of God will serve you for such wages. The wise king having little prevailed by monitions and menaces against this sordid filthiness, cast his liking upon a man whom he might least suspect for gripleness and bribery. The likeliest, indeed, of all others to shake this viper from his hand, and to be armed with a breastplate of integrity against the mammon of iniquity, for he was far more ready to give than to take, to oblige than to be beholdinge. Magis illud laborari ut illi quamplurimi debeant,” as Sallust of Jugurtha.
He was well descended of a fortunate and ancient lineage, and had made his progress to advancements by steps of credit, a good bridle against base deviations. What then made an unsavoury historian call him country pedant? A reproach with which H. L. doth flirt at him, in his history of King Charles, a scornful untruth. So I shake off this bar, and return to the reverend dean, who was in a function of holy calling next to God. Among them I know all have not been incorrupt: the sons of Samuel turned aside after lucre, and took bribes and perverted judgment. 1 Sam. viii. 3. But commonly, I trust, they do not forget what å scandal it is if God's stewards, turn the devil's rent gatherers. He was also unmarried and so unconcerned in the natural impulsion of avarice to provide for wife and children. Our old moral men touched often upon this string that justice is a virgin Ilapdeve esi dukn, says Hesiod, and therefore fit to be committed to the trust of a virgin magistrate. He was never sullied with suspicion that he loved presents : no not so much as Gratuidad di Guantes as the Spaniards phrase is, but to go higher, they are living that know what sums of value have been brought to his secretaries, such as might have swayed a man that was not impregnable, and with how much solicitousness they have been requested to throw them at his feet for favours already received, which no man durst undertake, as knowing assuredly it would displace the broker, and be his ruin. And it was happy for him, when five years after limehounds were laid close to his footsteps to hunt him, and every corner searched to find a tittle of that dust behind his door. But it proved a dry scent to the inquisitors, for to his glory, and shame to his enemies, it could never appear that the least birdlime of corruption did stick to his fingers.
Among the exceptions with which Lord Cranfield did exagitate him, one may require a larger answer than he thought him worthy of in that humour. He replies to him very briefly to him in the laconic form, because such brittle ware would break with a touch. The treasurer was misinformed or coined it out of his own head. That the Keeper dispatched great number of cases by hearing petitions in his chamber, and he did usually reverse decrees upon petitions. That £40,000 had been taken in one year among his servants by such spurious and illegitimate justice.
That he did much work by petitions and treble as much in the first year as in those that succeeded, it is confessed. First, the hindrances had been so great which the court sustained before he began to rectify them, that unless he had allowed poor men some furtherance by motions or petitions, they had been undone for want of timely favour.
Secondly, all high potentates and magistrates under them have ever employed some at their hand to give answers to supplicants that made requests unto them.
Therefore, to straiten his course against all presumption of errors, he directed two remonstrances; the first, to the lord marquis, September the 8th, the other to his majesty, October the 9th, 1622, which follow as he penned them.
My most noble Lord, I am half ashamed of myself that any man durst be so shameless as to lay upon me the least suspicion of corruption in that frugality of life, poverty of estate, and retiredness from all acquaintance or dependencies wherein I live; but I have learnt one rule in the law, that knaves ever complain of generalities. And I long to be charged with any particular; petitions are things that never brought to any man in my place either profit or honour, but infinite trouble and molestation. Three parts of four of them are poor men's, and bring not a penny to my secretaries. The last part are so slighted and disrespected by my orders, that they cannot be to my secretaries (whom I take to be honest men, and well provided for) worth their trouble or attendance. All petitions that I answer are of these kind. First, for ordinary writs to be signed by my hand; secondly, for motions to be made in court; thirdly, for to be placed in the paper of peremptories; fourth, for license to beg; fifth, for referring for insufficient answers; sixth, for a day to dispatch references recommended from the king ; seventh, for reigling commissions to be dispatched to the country; eighth, for my letter to the next justices to compound braules ; ninth, for commissions of bankrupts, certiorari, especial stay of an extent until counsel be heard, &c. Let any man that understands himself be questioned by your lordship whether any of these poor things can raise a bribe or a fee worth the speaking of. I protest I am fain to allow £20. a year to a youth in my chamber, to take care of the poor men's petitions, the secretaries do so neglect them.
In a while after thus to the King :
May it please your most excellent Majesty to pardon the first boldness of this kind of interrupting your majesty. Although I do find by search those particular charges of chamber orders, showed unto me by my most noble Lord Admiral, to be falsely laid and wilfully mistaken, as being either binding decrees or solemn orders pronounced in open court, and pursued only to processes of execution by these private directions; yet do I find withal, and I have advisedly and with mature deliberation, upon my entering into this office, made many dispatches upon the petitions of the subjects to mine own great trouble, and to ihe ease of their partes many thousand pounds in the compass of this year. For that motion, which upon a petition will cost the party nothing if it be denied, nor above five shillings to the secretaries (unless the party play the fool and wilfully exceed that expected fee) where it is granted, being put into the mouth of a lawyer will cost the client, whether granted or denied, one piece at the least, and for the most part five, ten, or twenty pieces, is notoriously known to all the world ; yet have I most willingly observed in all orders upon petitions, First, to order nothing in this kind without notice given to the adverse part and oath made thereof. Secondly, to reverse, correct, or alter to one syllable of any decree or order pronounced in court upon counsel heard on both sides. Thirdly, to alter no possession unless it be in pursuance of a former decree or order pronounced in open court upon counsel heard on both sides, or to save by a sequestration to indifferent hands, some bona peritura, which commonly be a tithe or a crop of hay or corn, which are ready to be carried away by force by unresponsal men, and will not stay for a decree in court. Now I humbly crave your majesty's opinion whether I may go on this way, as ancient as the court, for easing your majesty's subjects with these cautions and limitations, the clamour of the lawyer and ignorance of some men, qui me per ornamenta feriunt notwithstanding. For although no party grieved doth or indeed can complain against these dispatches, and that in the corruptest times it was never heard that any bribes have been taken for answers upon petitions, yet what reason have I to overtoil myself in easing the purse of the subject, if it be objected as a crime against me, and be not a service acceptable to your majesty and the realms ? I have eased myself these three days in this kind, but am enforced to prevent their complaini by this humble representation unto your majesty. I most humbly, therefore, crave your majesty's directions, denied to none of your servants that desire them, to be signified unto me by the Lord Admiral at his lordship’s best conveniency.
The fair and familiar Conference which the Lord Treasurer had with the Lord
Keeper after some Expostulations of his own, and the issue joined thereupon, at Whitehall, September 7, 1622. Object. 1. There is taken £40,000 for petitions in your house this year.
Sol. Not much above the fortieth part of the money for all the dispatches of the Chancery, Star-Chamber, Councel-Table, Parliament, the great diocese of Lincoln, the jurisdiction of Westminster, and St. Martin's le Grand; all which have resort to my house by petitions.
OB. 2. You have yourself a share in the money:
Sol. Then let me have no share in God's kingdom ; it is such a baseness as never came within the compass of my thoughts.
OB. 3. It is commonly reported you pay to my Lord Admiral £1,000 per
Sol. As true as the other. The means of my place will reach to no more than two months.
OB. 4. You never receive any petitions with your own hands, but turn them to your secretaries, who take double fees, one for receiving, and the other for delivering.
Sol. Let the Cloisters at Westminster answer for me. I never to this day received any petition from my secretaries, which I had formerly delivered unto them with my own hands. This is a new fashion which my lord hath found in some other courts.
OB. 5. You sell days of hearing at higher rates than ever they were at. Sol. I never disposed of any since I came to this place, but leave them wholly to the six clerks and registers, to be set down in their antiquity. Unless his lordship means hearing of motions in the paper of peremptories, which I seldom deny upon any petition, and which are worth no money at all.
OB. 6. You usually reverse decrees upon petitions.
Sol. I have never reversed, altered, explained, or endured a motion, or petition, that touched upon a decree once pronounced; but have sometimes made orders in pursuance of the same.
OB. 7. You have three doorkeepers, and are so locked up, that no man can have access unto you.
Sou. I have no such officer in all my house, unless his lordship means the college porters; nor no locks at all, but his majesty's business, which I must respect above ceremonies and compliments.
OB. 8. You are cried out against over all the kingdom for an insufferable oppression and grievance.
Sol. His lordship (if he have any frie Is) may hear of such a cry, and yet be pleased to místake the person cried out against.
OB. 9. All the lords of the council cry out upon you, and you are a wretched and a friendless man, if no man acquaints you with it.
Sol. I am a wretched man indeed if it be so. And your lordship (at the least) a very bold man if it be otherwise.
OB. 10. I will produce particular witnesses, and make all these charges good.
Sol. I know your lordship cannot, and I do call upon you to do it, as suspecting all to be but your lordship’s envy and malice to that service of the king's, and ease of his subjects, which God hath enabled me to accomplish, and perform in this troublesome office.
J. L. C. S.
After time of James.
Sir Matthew Hale. By his exact and impartial administration of justice, of which we have the following instances. He would never receive any private addresses or recommendations from the greatest persons in any matter in which justice was concerned. One of the first peers of England went once to his chamber, and told him, “ That having a suit in law to be tried before him, he was then to acquaint him with it, that he might the better understand it when it should come to be heard in court.” Upon which Sir Matthew interrupted him, and said, “ He did not deal fairly with him to come to his chamber about such affairs, for he never received any information of causes but in open court, where both parties were to be heard alike.” So he would not suffer him to go on. Whereupon his grace (for he was a duke) went away not a little dissatisfied, and complained of it to the king as a rudeness that was not to be endured. But his majesty bid him content himself that he was no worse used ;” and said he verily believed he would have used himself no better if he had gone to solicit him in any of his own cauşes. Another passage fell out in one of his circuits, which was somewhat censured as an affectation of unreasonable strictness, but it flowed from his exactness to the rules he had set himself. A gentleman had sent him a buck for his table that had a trial at the assizes. So when he heard his name, he asked “ If he was not the same person who had sent him the venison ?" and finding he was the same, he told him he could not suffer the trial to go on till he had paid him for his buck. To which the gentleman answered, “That he never sold his venison, and that he had done nothing to him which he did not do to every judge that had gone the circuit,” which was confirmed by several gentlemen then present : but all would not do; for the Lord Chief Baron had learned from Solomon, “ that a gift perverteth the ways of judgment,” and therefore he would not suffer the trial to go on till he had paid for the present, upon which the gentleman withdrew the record. And at Salisbury, the dean and chapter having, according to custom, presented him with six sugar-loaves in his circuit, he made his servants pay for the sugar before he would try their cause.
Were Bacon's judgments influenced by the presents ? That these solicitations and presents had not any influence upon the judgments of the Chancellor appears from many reasons.
1. During the violence and virulence of the charges not a word was attempted to be said of his having ever decided unjustly.
2. In most of the cases the presents were long after the decrees. 3. In many of the cases the presents were made by both parties.
4. When the present was made by only one of the suitors, the judgment has been against him, and in Aubrey's case, Sir R. Phillips, the chairman of the committee said, “Sir George Hastings, pitying Aubrey's case, did give in a box £100 to the Lord Chancellor in those terms or the like, “That it was to help Aubrey in his cause.' Notwithstanding, not long after, a very prejudicial and murthering order was made against Aubrey in his cause."
5. No doubt of the integrity of his judgments seems to have been entertained by his cotemporaries.
Ben Jonson. Ben Jonson died about 1630. My conceit of this person was never increased towards him by his place or honors; but I have and do reverence him for the greatness that was only proper to himself, in that he seemed to me ever by his works one of the greatest men, and most worthy of admiration, that had been in many ages. In his adversity I ever prayed that God would give him strength; for greatness he could not want. Neither cculd I condole in a word or syllable for him, as knowing no accident could do harm to virtue, but rather help to make it manifest."
Fuller. Such as condemn him for pride, in his place with the fifth part of his parts, had been ten times prouder themselves. He had been a better master if he had been a worse, being too bountiful to his servants, and either too confident of thết honesty, or too conniving at their falsehood. The story is told to his advantage, that he had two servants, one in all causes patron to the plaintiff (whom his charity presumed always injured) the other to the defendant (pitying him as compelled to law), but taking bribes of both, with this condition, to restore the money received if the cause went against them. Their lord, ignorant thereof, always did impartial justice; whilst his men (making people pay for what was given them) by compact shared the money betwixt them, which cost their master the loss of his office.
Bushel.Rushworth. He was over indulgent to his servants, and connived at their takings, and their ways betrayed him to that error : they were profuse and expensive, and had at their command whatever he was master of. The gifts taken were for the most part for interlocutory orders : his decrees were generally made with so much equity, that though gifts rendered him suspected for injustice, yet never any decree made by him was reversed as unjust, as it has been observed by some who were well skilled in our laws.-Rushworth's Collection, vol. i. 26.
Aubrey. His favourites took bribes, but his lordship always gave judgment secundum æquum et bonum. His decrees in Chancery stand firm ; there are fewer of his decrees reversed than of any other Chancellor.
Lloyd. He reflected upon himself, when he said to his servants as they rose to him in the hall, “ Your rise hath been my fall.” Though, indeed, he rather trusted to their honesty, than connived at their falsehood, yet he did impartial justice commonly to both parties, when one servant was in fee with the plaintiff, and the other with the defendant.
It seems scarcely possible to suppose that if the judgments of the Chancellor had been influenced by the solicitations and presents, the intimacy between him and the King and Buckingham would have continued. The idea of his judge ments being tainted never enter the mind of Lord Bacon. This appears from various passages in his works. In his letter to Buckingham, written as soon as the charge was made, he says :
To the Marquis of Buckingham. (a) My very good Lord, Your lordship spoke of purgatory. I am now in it; but my mind is in a calm ; for my fortune is not my felicity. I know I have clean hands, and a clean heart; and, I hope, a clean house for friends or servants. But Job himself, or whosoever was the justest judge, by such hunting for matters against him, as hath been used against me, may for a time seem foul, especially in a time when greatness is the mark, and accusation is the game. And if this be to be a Chancellor, I think, if the great seal lay upon Hounslow Heath, nobody would take it up. But the King and your lordship will, I hope, put an end to these my straits one way or other. And in troth that which I fear most is, lest continual attendance and business, together with these cares, and want of time to do my weak body right this spring by diet and physic, will cast me down; and that it will be thought feigning, or fainting. But I hope in God I shall hold out. God prosper you.
(a) This letter seems to have been written soon after Lord St. Alban began to be accused of abuses in his office of Chancellor.