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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 2 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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Calvinistic model, has been fiercely disputed. It is a question
on which men of eminent parts, learning, and piety have differed,
and do to this day differ very widely. It is a question on which
at least a full half of the ability and erudition of Protestant
Europe has ever since the Reformation, been opposed to the
Anglican pretensions. Mr. Gladstone himself, we are persuaded,
would have the candour to allow that, if no evidence were
admitted but that which is furnished by the genuine Christian
literature of the first two centuries, judgment would not go in
favour of prelacy. And if he looked at the subject as calmly as
he would look at a controversy respecting the Roman Comitia or
the Anglo-Saxon Witenagemote, he would probably think that the
absence of contemporary evidence during so long a period was a
defect which later attestations, however numerous, could but very
imperfectly supply. It is surely impolitic to rest the doctrines
of the English Church on a historical theory which, to ninety-
nine Protestants out of a hundred, would seem much more
questionable than any of those doctrines. Nor is this all.
Extreme obscurity overhangs the history of the middle ages; and
the facts which are discernible through that obscurity prove that
the Church was exceedingly ill regulated. We read of sees of the
highest dignity openly sold, transferred backwards and forwards
by popular tumult, bestowed sometimes by a profligate woman on
her paramour, sometimes by a warlike baron on a kinsman still a
stripling. We read of bishops of ten years old, of bishops of
five years old, of many popes who were mere boys, and who
rivalled the frantic dissoluteness of Caligula, nay, of a female
pope. And though this last story, once believed throughout all
Europe, has been disproved by the strict researches of modern
criticism, the most discerning of those who reject it have
admitted that it is not intrinsically improbable. In our own
island, it was the complaint of Alfred that not a single priest
south of the Thames, and very few on the north, could read either
Latin or English. And this illiterate clergy exercised their
ministry amidst a rude and half-heathen population, in which
Danish pirates, unchristened, or christened by the hundred on a
field of battle, were mingled with a Saxon peasantry scarcely
better instructed in religion. The state of Ireland was still
worse. "Tota illa per universam Hiberniam dissolutio,
ecclesiasticae disciplinae, illa ubique pro consuetudine
Christiana saeva subintroducta barbaries," are the expressions of
St. Bernard. We are, therefore, at a loss to conceive how any
clergyman can feel confident that his orders have come down
correctly. Whether he be really a successor of the Apostles
depends on an immense number of such contingencies as these;
whether, under King Ethelwolf, a stupid priest might not, while
baptizing several scores of Danish prisoners who had just made
their option between the font and the gallows, inadvertently omit
to perform the rite on one of these graceless proselytes;
whether, in the seventh century, an impostor, who had never
received consecration, might not have passed himself off as a
bishop on a rude tribe of Scots; whether a lad of twelve did
really, by a ceremony huddled over when he was too drunk to know
what he was about, convey the episcopal character to a lad of

Since the first century, not less, in all probability, than a
hundred thousand persons have exercised the functions of bishops.
That many of these have not been bishops by apostolical
succession is quite certain. Hooker admits that deviations from
the general rule have been frequent, and with a boldness worthy
of his high and statesmanlike intellect, pronounces them to have
been often justifiable. "There may be," says he, "sometimes very
just and sufficient reason to allow ordination made without a
bishop. Where the Church must needs have some ordained, and
neither hath nor can have possibly a bishop to ordain, in case of
such necessity the ordinary institution of God hath given
oftentimes, and may give place. And therefore we are not simply
without exception to urge a lineal descent of power from the
Apostles by continued succession of bishops in every effectual
ordination." There can be little doubt, we think, that the
succession, if it ever existed, has often been interrupted in
ways much less respectable. For example, let us suppose, and we
are sure that no well-informed person will think the supposition
by any means improbable, that, in the third century, a man of no
principle and some parts, who has, in the course of a roving and
discreditable life, been a catechumen at Antioch, and has there
become familiar with Christian usages and doctrines afterwards
rambles to Marseilles, where he finds a Christian society, rich,
liberal, and simple-hearted. He pretends to be a Christian,
attracts notice by his abilities and affected zeal, and is raised
to the episcopal dignity without having ever been baptized. That
such an event might happen, nay, was very likely to happen,
cannot well be disputed by any one who has read the Life of
Peregrinus. The very virtues, indeed, which distinguished the
early Christians, seem to have laid them open to those arts which

"Uriel, though Regent of the Sun, and held
The sharpest-sighted spirit of all in Heaven."

Now this unbaptized impostor is evidently no successor of the
Apostles. He is not even a Christian; and all orders derived
through such a pretended bishop are altogether invalid. Do we
know enough of the state of the world and of the Church in the
third century to be able to say with confidence that there were
not at that time twenty such pretended bishops? Every such case
makes a break in the apostolical succession.

Now, suppose that a break, such as Hooker admits to have been
both common and justifiable, or such as we have supposed to be
produced by hypocrisy and cupidity, were found in the chain which
connected the Apostles with any of the missionaries who first
spread Christianity in the wilder parts of Europe, who can say
how extensive the effect of this single break may be? Suppose
that St. Patrick, for example, if ever there was such a man, or
Theodore of Tarsus, who is said to have consecrated in the
seventh century the first bishops of many English sees, had not
the true apostolical orders, is it not conceivable that such a
circumstance may affect the orders of many clergymen now living?
Even if it were possible, which it assuredly is not, to prove
that the Church had the apostolical orders in the third century,
it would be impossible to prove that those orders were not in the
twelfth century so far lost that no ecclesiastic could be certain
of the legitimate descent of his own spiritual character. And if
this were so, no subsequent precautions could repair the evil.

Chillingworth states the conclusion at which he had arrived on
this subject in these very remarkable words: "That of ten
thousand probables no one should be false; that of ten thousand
requisites, whereof any one may fail, not one should be wanting,
this to me is extremely improbable, and even cousin-german to
impossible. So that the assurance hereof is like a machine
composed of an innumerable multitude of pieces, of which it is
strangely unlikely but some will be out of order; and yet, if any
one be so, the whole fabric falls of necessity to the ground: and
he that shall put them together, and maturely consider all the
possible ways of lapsing and nullifying a priesthood in the
Church of Rome, will be very inclinable to think that it is a
hundred to one, that among a hundred seeming priests, there is
not one true one; nay, that it is not a thing very improbable
that, amongst those many millions which make up the Romish
hierarchy, there are not twenty true." We do not pretend to know
to what precise extent the canonists of Oxford agree with those
of Rome as to the circumstances which nullify orders. We will
not, therefore, go so far as Chillingworth. We only say that we
see no satisfactory proof of the fact, that the Church of England
possesses the apostolical succession. And, after all, if Mr.
Gladstone could prove the apostolical succession, what would the
apostolical succession prove? He says that "we have among us the
ordained hereditary witnesses of the truth, conveying it to us
through an unbroken series from our Lord Jesus Christ and his
Apostles." Is this the fact? Is there any doubt that the orders
of the Church of England are generally derived from the Church of
Rome? Does not the Church of England declare, does not Mr.
Gladstone himself admit, that the Church of Rome teaches much
error and condemns much truth? And is it not quite clear, that as
far as the doctrines of the Church of England differ from those
of the Church of Rome, so far the Church of England conveys the
truth through a broken series?

That the founders, lay and clerical, of the Church of England,
corrected all that required correction in the doctrines of the
Church of Rome, and nothing more, may be quite true. But we never
can admit the circumstance that the Church of England possesses
the apostolical succession as a proof that she is thus perfect.
No stream can rise higher than its fountain. The succession of
ministers in the Church of England, derived as it is through the
Church of Rome, can never prove more for the Church of England
than it proves for the Church of Rome. But this is not all. The
Arian Churches which once predominated in the kingdoms of the
Ostrogoths, the Visigoths, the Burgundians, the Vandals, and the
Lombards, were all episcopal Churches, and all had a fairer claim
than that of England to the apostolical succession, as being much
nearer to the apostolical times. In the East, the Greek Church,
which is at variance on points of faith with all the Western
Churches, has an equal claim to this succession. The Nestorian,
the Eutychian, the Jacobite Churches, all heretical, all
condemned by councils, of which even Protestant divines have
generally spoken with respect, had an equal claim to the
apostolical succession. Now if, of teachers having apostolical
orders, a vast majority have taught much error, if a large
proportion have taught deadly heresy, if on the other hand, as
Mr. Gladstone himself admits, Churches not having apostolical
orders, that of Scotland for example, have been nearer to the
standard of orthodoxy than the majority of teachers who have had
apostolical orders, how can he possibly call upon us to submit
our private judgment to the authority of a Church on the ground
that she has these orders?

Mr. Gladstone dwells much on the importance of unity in doctrine.
Unity he tells us, is essential to truth. And this is most
unquestionable. But when he goes on to tell us that this unity is
the characteristic of the Church of England, that she is one in
body and in spirit, we are compelled to differ from him widely.
The apostolical succession she may or may not have. But unity she
most certainly has not, and never has had. It is a matter of
perfect notoriety, that her formularies are framed in such a
manner as to admit to her highest offices men who differ from
each other more widely than a very high Churchman differs from a
Catholic, or a very low Churchman from a Presbyterian; and that
the general leaning of the Church, with respect to some important
questions, has been sometimes one way and sometimes another.
Take, for example, the questions agitated between the Calvinists
and the Arminians. Do we find in the Church of England, with
respect to those questions, that unity which is essential to
truth? Was it ever found in the Church? Is it not certain that,
at the end of the sixteenth century, the rulers of the Church
held doctrines as Calvinistic as ever were held by any
Cameronian, and not only held them, but persecuted every body who
did not hold them? And is it not equally certain, that the rulers
of the Church have, in very recent times, considered Calvinism as
a disqualification for high preferment, if not for holy orders?
Look at the questions which Archbishop Whitgift propounded to
Barret, questions framed in the very spirit of William
Huntington, S. S. [One question was, whether God had from
eternity reprobated certain persons; and why? The answer which
contented the Archbishop was "Affirmative, et quia voluit."] And
then look at the eighty-seven questions which Bishop Marsh,
within our own memory, propounded to candidates for ordination.
We should be loth to say that either of these celebrated prelates
had intruded himself into a Church whose doctrines he abhorred,
and that he deserved to be stripped of his gown. Yet it is quite
certain that one or other of them must have been very greatly in
error. John Wesley again, and Cowper's friend, John Newton, were
both Presbyters of this Church. Both were men of ability. Both we
believe to have been men of rigid integrity, men who would not
have subscribed a Confession of Faith which they disbelieved for
the richest bishopric in the empire. Yet, on the subject of
predestination, Newton was strongly attached to doctrines which
Wesley designated as "blasphemy, which might make the ears of a
Christian to tingle." Indeed it will not be disputed that the
clergy of the Established Church are divided as to these
questions, and that her formularies are not found practically to
exclude even scrupulously honest men of both sides from her
altars. It is notorious that some of her most distinguished
rulers think this latitude a good thing, and would be sorry to
see it restricted in favour of either opinion. And herein we most
cordially agree with them. But what becomes of the unity of the
Church, and of that truth to which unity is essential? Mr.
Gladstone tells us that the Regium Donum was given originally to
orthodox Presbyterian ministers, but that part of it is now
received by their heterodox successors. "This," he says, "serves
to illustrate the difficulty in which governments entangle
themselves, when they covenant with arbitrary systems of
opinions, and not with the Church alone. The opinion passes away,
but the gift remains." But is it not clear, that if a strong
Supralapsarian had, under Whitgift's primacy, left a large estate
at the disposal of the bishops for ecclesiastical purposes, in
the hope that the rulers of the Church would abide by Whitgift's
theology, he would really have been giving his substance for the
support of doctrines which he detested? The opinion would have
passed away, and the gift would have remained.

This is only a single instance. What wide differences of opinion
respecting the operation of the sacraments are held by bishops,
doctors, presbyters of the Church of England, all men who have
conscientiously declared their assent to her articles, all men
who are, according to Mr. Gladstone, ordained hereditary
witnesses of the truth, all men whose voices make up what, he
tells us, is the voice of true and reasonable authority! Here,
again, the Church has not unity; and as unity is the essential
condition of truth, the Church has not the truth.

Nay, take the very question which we are discussing with Mr.
Gladstone. To what extent does the Church of England allow of the
right of private judgment? What degree of authority does she
claim for herself in virtue of the apostolical succession of her
ministers? Mr. Gladstone, a very able and a very honest man,
takes a view of this matter widely differing from the view taken
by others whom he will admit to be as able and as honest as
himself. People who altogether dissent from him on this subject
eat the bread of the Church, preach in her pulpits, dispense her
sacraments, confer her orders, and carry on that apostolical
succession, the nature and importance of which, according to him,
they do not comprehend. Is this unity? Is this truth?

It will be observed that we are not putting cases of dishonest
men who, for the sake of lucre, falsely pretend to believe in the
doctrines of an establishment. We are putting cases of men as
upright as ever lived, differing on theological questions of the
highest importance and avowing that difference, are yet priests
and prelates of the same church. We therefore say, that on some
points which Mr. Gladstone himself thinks of vital importance,
the Church has either not spoken at all, or, what is for all
practical purposes the same thing, has not spoken in language to
be understood even by honest and sagacious divines. The religion
of the Church of England is so far from exhibiting that unity of
doctrine which Mr. Gladstone represents as her distinguishing
glory, that it is, in fact, a bundle of religious systems without
number. It comprises the religious system of Bishop Tomline, and
the religious system of John Newton, and all the religious
systems which lie between them. It comprises the religious system
of Mr. Newman, and the religious system of the Archbishop of
Dublin, and all the religious systems which lie between them. All
these different opinions are held, avowed, preached, printed,
within the pale of the Church, by men of unquestioned integrity
and understanding.

Do we make this diversity a topic of reproach to the Church of
England? Far from it. We would oppose with all our power every
attempt to narrow her basis? Would to God that, a hundred and
fifty years ago, a good king and a good primate had possessed the
power as well as the will to widen it! It was a noble
enterprise, worthy of William and of Tillotson. But what becomes
of all Mr. Gladstone's eloquent exhortations to unity? Is it not
mere mockery to attach so much importance to unity in form and
name, where there is so little in substance, to shudder at the
thought of two Churches in alliance with one State, and to endure
with patience the spectacle of a hundred sects battling within
one Church? And is it not clear that Mr. Gladstone is bound, on
all his own principles, to abandon the defence of a Church in
which unity is not found? Is it not clear that he is bound to
divide the House of Commons against every grant of money which
may be proposed for the clergy of the Established Church in the
colonies? He objects to the vote for Maynooth, because it is
monstrous to pay one man to teach truth, and another to denounce
that truth as falsehood. But it is a mere chance whether any sum
which he votes for the English Church in any colony will go to
the maintenance of an Arminian or a Calvinist, of a man like Mr.
Froude, or of a man like Dr. Arnold. It is a mere chance,
therefore, whether it will go to support a teacher of truth, or
one who will denounce that truth as falsehood.

This argument seems to us at once to dispose of all that part of
Mr. Gladstone's book which respects grants of public money to
dissenting bodies. All such grants he condemns. But surely, if it
be wrong to give the money of the public for the support of those
who teach any false doctrine, it is wrong to give that money for
the support of the ministers of the Established Church. For it is
quite certain that, whether Calvin or Arminius be in the right,
whether Laud or Burnet be in the right, a great deal of false
doctrine is taught by the ministers of the Established Church. If
it be said that the points on which the clergy of the Church of
England differ ought to be passed over, for the sake of the many
important points on which they agree, why may not the same
argument be maintained with respect to the other sects which
hold, in common with the Church of England, the fundamental
doctrines of Christianity? The principle that a ruler is bound in
conscience to propagate religious truth, and to propagate no
religious doctrine which is untrue, is abandoned as soon as it is
admitted that a gentleman of Mr. Gladstone's opinions may
lawfully vote the public money to a chaplain whose opinions are
those of Paley or of Simeon. The whole question then becomes one
of degree. Of course no individual and no government can
justifiably propagate error for the sake of propagating error.
But both individuals and governments must work with such
machinery as they have; and no human machinery is to be found
which will impart truth without some alloy of error. We have
shown irrefragably, as we think, that the Church of England does
not afford such a machinery. The question then is this; with what
degree of imperfection in our machinery must we put up? And to
this question we do not see how any general answer can be given.
We must be guided by circumstances. It would, for example, be
very criminal in a Protestant to contribute to the sending of
Jesuit missionaries among a Protestant population. But we do not
conceive that a Protestant would be to blame for giving
assistance to Jesuit missionaries who might be engaged in
converting the Siamese to Christianity. That tares are mixed with
the wheat is matter of regret; but it is better that wheat and
tares should grow together than that the promise of the year
should be blighted.

Mr. Gladstone, we see with deep regret, censures the British
Government in India for distributing a small sum among the
Catholic priests who minister to the spiritual wants of our Irish
soldiers. Now, let us put a case to him. A Protestant gentleman
is attended by a Catholic servant, in a part of the country where
there is no Catholic congregation within many miles. The servant
is taken ill, and is given over. He desires, in great trouble of
mind, to receive the last sacraments of his Church. His master
sends off a messenger in a chaise and four, with orders to bring
a confessor from a town at a considerable distance. Here a
Protestant lays out money for the purpose of causing religious
instruction and consolation to be given by a Catholic priest. Has
he committed a sin? Has he not acted like a good master and a
good Christian? Would Mr. Gladstone accuse him of "laxity of
religious principle," of "confounding truth with falsehood," of
"considering the support of religion as a boon to an individual,
not as a homage to truth?" But how if this servant had, for the
sake of his master, undertaken a journey which removed him from
the place where he might easily have obtained religious
attendance? How if his death were occasioned by a wound received
in defending his master? Should we not then say that the master
had only fulfilled a sacred obligation of duty? Now, Mr.
Gladstone himself owns that "nobody can think that the
personality of the State is more stringent, or entails stronger
obligations, than that of the individual." How then stands the
case of the Indian Government? Here is a poor fellow enlisted in
Clare or Kerry, sent over fifteen thousand miles of sea,
quartered in a depressing and pestilential climate. He fights for
the Government; he conquers for it; he is wounded; he is laid on
his pallet, withering away with fever, under that terrible sun,
without a friend near him. He pines for the consolations of that
religion which, neglected perhaps in the season of health and
vigour, now comes back to his mind, associated with all the
overpowering recollections of his earlier days, and of the home
which he is never to see again. And because the State for which
he dies sends a priest of his own faith to stand at his bedside,
and to tell him, in language which at once commands his love and
confidence, of the common Father, of the common Redeemer, of the
common hope of immortality, because the State for which he dies
does not abandon him in his last moments to the care of heathen
attendants, or employ a chaplain of a different creed to vex his
departing spirit with a controversy about the Council of Trent,
Mr. Gladstone finds that India presents "a melancholy picture,"
and that there is "a large allowance of false principle" in the
system pursued there. Most earnestly do we hope that our remarks
may induce Mr. Gladstone to reconsider this part of his work, and
may prevent him from expressing in that high assembly, in which
he must always be heard with attention, opinions so unworthy of
his character.

We have now said almost all that we think it necessary to say
respecting Mr. Gladstone's theory. And perhaps it would be safest
for us to stop here. It is much easier to pull down than to build
up. Yet, that we may give Mr. Gladstone his revenge, we will
state concisely our own views respecting the alliance of Church
and State.

We set out in company with Warburton, and remain with him pretty
sociably till we come to his contract; a contract which Mr.
Gladstone very properly designates as a fiction. We consider the
primary end of Government as a purely temporal end, the
protection of the persons and property of men.

We think that Government, like every other contrivance of human
wisdom, from the highest to the lowest, is likely to answer its
main end best when it is constructed with a single view to that
end. Mr. Gladstone, who loves Plato, will not quarrel with us for
illustrating our proposition, after Plato's fashion, from the
most familiar objects. Take cutlery, for example. A blade which
is designed both to shave and to carve, will certainly not shave
so well as a razor, or carve so well as a carving-knife. An
academy of painting, which should also be a bank, would, in all
probability, exhibit very bad pictures and discount very bad
bills. A gas company, which should also be an infant school
society, would, we apprehend, light the streets ill, and teach
the children ill. On this principle, we think that Government
should be organised solely with a view to its main end; and that
no part of its efficiency for that end should be sacrificed in
order to promote any other end however excellent.

But does it follow from hence that Governments ought never to
pursue any end other than their main end? In no wise. Though it
is desirable that every institution should have a main end, and
should be so formed as to be in the highest degree efficient for
that main end; yet if, without any sacrifice of its efficiency
for that end, it can pursue any other good end, it ought to do
so. Thus, the end for which a hospital is built is the relief of
the sick, not the beautifying of the street. To sacrifice the
health of the sick to splendour of architectural effect, to place
the building in a bad air only that it may present a more
commanding front to a great public place, to make the wards
hotter or cooler than they ought to be, in order that the columns
and windows of the exterior may please the passers-by would be
monstrous. But if, without any sacrifice of the chief object, the
hospital can be made an ornament to the metropolis, it would be
absurd not to make it so.

In the same manner, if a Government can, without any sacrifice of
its main end, promote any other good work, it ought to do so. The
encouragement of the fine arts, for example, is by no means the
main end of Government; and it would be absurd, in constituting a
Government, to bestow a thought on the question, whether it would
be a Government likely to train Raphaels or Domenichinos. But it
by no means follows that it is improper for a Government to form
a national gallery of pictures. The same may be said of patronage
bestowed on learned men, of the publication of archives, of the
collecting of libraries, menageries, plants, fossils, antiques,
of journeys and voyages for purposes of geographical discovery or
astronomical observation. It is not for these ends that
Government is constituted. But it may well happen that a
Government may have at its command resources which will enable
it, without any injury to its main end, to pursue these
collateral ends far more effectually than any individual or any
voluntary association could do. If so, Government ought to pursue
these collateral ends.

It is still more evidently the duty of Government to promote,
always in subordination to its main end, everything which is
useful as a means for the attaining of that main end. The
improvement of steam navigation, for example, is by no means a
primary object of Government. But as steam vessels are useful for
the purpose of national defence, and for the purpose of
facilitating intercourse between distant provinces, and of
thereby consolidating the force of the empire, it may be the
bounden duty of Government to encourage ingenious men to perfect
an invention which so directly tends to make the State more
efficient for its great primary end.

Now on both these grounds, the instruction of the people may with
propriety engage the care of the Government. That the people
should be well educated, is in itself a good thing; and the State
ought therefore to promote this object, if it can do so without
any sacrifice of its primary object. The education of the people,
conducted on those principles of morality which are common to all
the forms of Christianity, is highly valuable as a means of
promoting the main object for which Government exists, and is on
this ground well deserving the attention of rulers. We will not
at present go into the general question of education; but will
confine our remarks to the subject which is more immediately
before us, namely, the religious instruction of the people.

We may illustrate our view of the policy which Governments ought
to pursue with respect to religious instruction, by recurring to
the analogy of a hospital. Religious instruction is not the main
end for which a hospital is built; and to introduce into a
hospital any regulations prejudicial to the health of the
patients, on the plea of promoting their spiritual improvement,
to send a ranting preacher to a man who has just been ordered by
the physician to lie quiet and try to get a little sleep, to
impose a strict observance of Lent on a convalescent who has been
advised to eat heartily of nourishing food, to direct, as the
bigoted Pius the Fifth actually did, that no medical assistance
should be given to any person who declined spiritual attendance,
would be the most extravagant folly. Yet it by no means follows
that it would not be right to have a chaplain to attend the sick,
and to pay such a chaplain out of the hospital funds. Whether it
will be proper to have such a chaplain at all, and of what
religious persuasion such a chaplain ought to be, must depend on
circumstances. There may be a town in which it would be
impossible to set up a good hospital without the help of people
of different opinions: and religious parties may run so high
that, though people of different opinions are willing to
contribute for the relief of the sick, they will not concur in
the choice of any one chaplain. The High Churchmen insist that,
if there is a paid chaplain, he shall be a High Churchman. The
Evangelicals stickle for an Evangelical. Here it would evidently
be absurd and cruel to let an useful and humane design, about
which we are all agreed, fall to the ground, because all cannot
agree about something else. The governors must either appoint two
chaplains and pay them both; or they must appoint none; and every
one of them must, in his individual capacity, do what he can for
the purpose of providing the sick with such religious instruction
and consolation as will, in his opinion, be most useful to them.

We should say the same of Government. Government is not an
institution for the propagation of religion, any more than St.
George's Hospital is an institution for the propagation of
religion: and the most absurd and pernicious consequences would
follow, if Government should pursue, as its primary end, that
which can never be more than its secondary end, though
intrinsically more important than its primary end. But a
Government which considers the religious instruction of the
people as a secondary end, and follows out that principle
faithfully, will, we think, be likely to do much good and little

We will rapidly run over some of the consequences to which this
principle leads, and point out how it solves some problems which,
on Mr. Gladstone's hypothesis, admit of no satisfactory solution.

All persecution directed against the persons or property of men
is, on our principle, obviously indefensible. For, the protection
of the persons and property of men being the primary end of
Government and religious instruction only a secondary end, to
secure the people from heresy by making their lives, their limbs,
or their estates insecure, would be to sacrifice the primary end
to the secondary end. It would be as absurd as it would be in the
governors of a hospital to direct that the wounds of all Arian
and Socinian patients should be dressed in such a way as to make
them fester.

Again, on our principles, all civil disabilities on account of
religious opinions are indefensible. For all such disabilities
make Government less efficient for its main end: they limit its
choice of able men for the administration and defence of the
State; they alienate from it the hearts of the sufferers; they
deprive it of a part of its effective strength in all contests
with foreign nations. Such a course is as absurd as it would be
in the governors of a hospital to reject an able surgeon because
he is an Universal Restitutionist, and to send a bungler to
operate because he is perfectly orthodox.

Again, on our principles, no Government ought to press on the
people religious instruction, however sound, in such a manner as
to excite among them discontents dangerous to public order. For
here again Government would sacrifice its primary end to an end
intrinsically indeed of the highest importance, but still only a
secondary end of Government, as Government. This rule at once
disposes of the difficulty about India, a difficulty of which Mr.
Gladstone can get rid only by putting in an imaginary discharge
in order to set aside an imaginary obligation. There is assuredly
no country where it is more desirable that Christianity should be
propagated. But there is no country in which the Government is so
completely disqualified for the task. By using our power in order
to make proselytes, we should produce the dissolution of society,
and bring utter ruin on all those interests for the protection of
which Government exists. Here the secondary end is, at present,
inconsistent with the primary end, and must therefore be
abandoned. Christian instruction given by individuals and
voluntary societies may do much good. Given by the Government it
would do unmixed harm. At the same time, we quite agree with Mr.
Gladstone in thinking that the English authorities in India ought
not to participate in any idolatrous rite; and indeed we are
fully satisfied that all such participation is not only
unchristian, but also unwise and most undignified.

Supposing the circumstances of a country to be such, that the
Government may with propriety, on our principles, give religious
instruction to a people; we have next to inquire, what religion
shall be taught. Bishop Warburton answers, the religion of the
majority. And we so far agree with him, that we can scarcely
conceive any circumstances in which it would be proper to
establish, as the one exclusive religion of the State, the
religion of the minority. Such a preference could hardly be given
without exciting most serious discontent, and endangering those
interests, the protection of which is the first object of
Government. But we never can admit that a ruler can be justified
in helping to spread a system of opinions solely because that
system is pleasing to the majority. On the other hand, we cannot
agree with Mr. Gladstone, who would of course answer that the
only religion which a ruler ought to propagate is the religion of
his own conscience. In truth, this is an impossibility. And as we
have shown, Mr. Gladstone himself, whenever he supports a grant
of money to the Church of England, is really assisting to
propagate not the precise religion of his own conscience, but
some one or more, he knows not how many or which, of the
innumerable religions which lie between the confines of
Pelagianism and those of Antinomianism, and between the confines
of Popery and those of Presbyterianism. In our opinion, that
religious instruction which the ruler ought, in his public
capacity, to patronise, is the instruction from which he, in his
conscience, believes that the people will learn most good with
the smallest mixture of evil. And thus it is not necessarily his
own religion that he will select. He will, of course, believe
that his own religion is unmixedly good. But the question which
he has to consider is, not how much good his religion contains,
but how much good the people will learn, if instruction is given
them in that religion. He may prefer the doctrines and government
of the Church of England to those of the Church of Scotland. But
if he knows that a Scotch congregation will listen with deep
attention and respect while an Erskine or a Chalmers sets before
them the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, and that a
glimpse of a surplice or a single line of a liturgy would be the
signal for hooting and riot and would probably bring stools and
brickbats about the ears of the minister, he acts wisely if he
conveys religious knowledge to the Scotch rather by means of that
imperfect Church, as he may think it, from which they will learn
much, than by means of that perfect Church from which they will
learn nothing. The only end of teaching is, that men may learn;
and it is idle to talk of the duty of teaching truth in ways
which only cause men to cling more firmly to falsehood.

On these principles we conceive that a statesman, who might be
far indeed from regarding the Church of England with the
reverence which Mr. Gladstone feels for her, might yet firmly
oppose all attempts to destroy her. Such a statesman may be too
well acquainted with her origin to look upon her with
superstitious awe. He may know that she sprang from a compromise
huddled up between the eager zeal of reformers and the
selfishness of greedy, ambitious, and time-serving politicians.
He may find in every page of her annals ample cause for censure.
He may feel that he could not, with ease to his conscience,
subscribe all her articles. He may regret that all the attempts
which have been made to open her gates to large classes of
nonconformists should have failed. Her episcopal polity he may
consider as of purely human institution. He cannot defend her on
the ground that she possesses the apostolical succession; for he
does not know whether that succession may not be altogether a
fable. He cannot defend her on the ground of her unity; for he
knows that her frontier sects are much more remote from each
other, than one frontier is from the Church of Rome, or the other
from the Church of Geneva. But he may think that she teaches more
truth with less alloy of error than would be taught by those who,
if she were swept away, would occupy the vacant space. He may
think that the effect produced by her beautiful services and by
her pulpits on the national mind, is, on the whole, highly
beneficial. He may think that her civilising influence is
usefully felt in remote districts. He may think that, if she were
destroyed, a large portion of those who now compose her
congregations would neglect all religious duties, and that a
still larger portion would fall under the influence of spiritual
mountebanks, hungry for gain, or drunk with fanaticism. While he
would with pleasure admit that all the qualities of Christian
pastors are to be found in large measure within the existing body
of Dissenting ministers, he would perhaps be inclined to think
that the standard of intellectual and moral character among that
exemplary class of men may have been raised to its present high
point and maintained there by the indirect influence of the
Establishment. And he may be by no means satisfied that, if the
Church were at once swept away, the place of our Sumners and
Whatelys would be supplied by Doddridges and Halls. He may think
that the advantages which we have described are obtained, or
might, if the existing system were slightly modified, be
obtained, without any sacrifice of the paramount objects which
all Governments ought to have chiefly in view. Nay, he may be of
opinion that an institution, so deeply fixed in the hearts and
minds of millions, could not be subverted without loosening and
shaking all the foundations of civil society. With at least equal
ease he would find reasons for supporting the Church of Scotland.
Nor would he be under the necessity of resorting to any contract
to justify the connection of two religious establishments with
one Government. He would think scruples on that head frivolous in
any person who is zealous for a Church, of which both Dr. Herbert
Marsh and Dr. Daniel Wilson have been bishops. Indeed he would
gladly follow out his principles much further. He would have been
willing to vote in 1825 for Lord Francis Egerton's resolution,
that it is expedient to give a public maintenance to the Catholic
clergy of Ireland: and he would deeply regret that no such
measure was adopted in 1829.

In this way, we conceive, a statesman might on our principles
satisfy himself that it would be in the highest degree
inexpedient to abolish the Church, either of England or of

But if there were, in any part of the world, a national Church
regarded as heretical by four-fifths of the nation committed to
its care, a Church established and maintained by the sword, a
Church producing twice as many riots as conversions, a Church
which, though possessing great wealth and power, and though long
backed by persecuting laws, had, in the course of many
generations, been found unable to propagate its doctrines, and
barely able to maintain its ground, a Church so odious, that
fraud and violence, when used against its clear rights of
property, were generally regarded as fair play, a Church, whose
ministers were preaching to desolate walls, and with difficulty
obtaining their lawful subsistence by the help of bayonets, such
a Church, on our principles, could not, we must own, be defended.
We should say that the State which allied itself with such a
Church postponed the primary end of Government to the secondary:
and that the consequences had been such as any sagacious observer
would have predicted. Neither the primary nor the secondary end
is attained. The temporal and spiritual interests of the people
suffer alike. The minds of men, instead of being drawn to the
Church, are alienated from the State. The magistrate, after
sacrificing order, peace, union, all the interests which it is
his first duty to protect, for the purpose of promoting pure
religion, is forced, after the experience of centuries, to admit
that he has really been promoting error. The sounder the
doctrines of such a Church, the more absurd and noxious the
superstition by which those doctrines are opposed, the stronger
are the arguments against the policy which has deprived a good
cause of its natural advantages. Those who preach to rulers the
duty of employing power to propagate truth would do well to
remember that falsehood, though no match for truth alone, has
often been found more than a match for truth and power together.

A statesman, judging on our principles, would pronounce without
hesitation that a Church, such as we have last described, never
ought to have been set up. Further than this we will not venture
to speak for him. He would doubtless remember that the world is
full of institutions which, though they never ought to have been
set up, yet, having been set up, ought not to be rudely pulled
down; and that it is often wise in practice to be content with
the mitigation of an abuse which, looking at it in the abstract,
we might feel impatient to destroy.

We have done; and nothing remains but that we part from Mr.
Gladstone with the courtesy of antagonists who bear no malice. We
dissent from his opinions, but we admire his talents; we respect
his integrity and benevolence; and we hope that he will not
suffer political avocations so entirely to engross him, as to
leave him no leisure for literature and philosophy.


(July 1837)

The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England. A new
Edition. By BASIL MONTAGU, Esq., 16 vols. 8vo. London: 1825-1834.

WE return our hearty thanks to Mr. Montagu. for this truly
valuable work. From the opinions which he expresses as a
biographer we often dissent. But about his merit as a collector
of the materials out of which opinions are formed, there can be
no dispute; and we readily acknowledge that we are in a great
measure indebted to his minute and accurate researches for the
means of refuting what we cannot but consider as his errors.

The labour which has been bestowed on this volume has been a
labour of love. The writer is evidently enamoured of the subject.
It fills his heart. It constantly overflows from his lips and his
pen. Those who are acquainted with the Courts in which Mr.
Montagu practises with so much ability and success well know how
often he enlivens the discussion of a point of law by citing some
weighty aphorism, or some brilliant illustration, from the De
Augmentis or the Novum Organum. The Life before us doubtless owes
much of its value to the honest and generous enthusiasm of the
writer. This feeling has stimulated his activity, has sustained
his perseverance, has called forth all his ingenuity and
eloquence; but, on the other hand, we must frankly say that it
has, to a great extent, perverted his judgment.

We are by no means without sympathy for Mr. Montagu even in what
we consider as his weakness. There is scarcely any delusion which
has a better claim to be indulgently treated than that under the
influence of which a man ascribes every moral excellence to those
who have left imperishable monuments of their genius. The causes
of this error lie deep in the inmost recesses of human nature. We
are all inclined to judge of others as we find them. Our estimate
of a character always depends much on the manner in which that
character affects our own interests and passions. We find it
difficult to think well of those by whom we are thwarted or
depressed; and we are ready to admit every excuse for the vices
of those who are useful or agreeable to us. This is, we believe,
one of those illusions to which the whole human race is subject,
and which experience and reflection can only partially remove, It
is, in the phraseology of Bacon, one of the idola tribus. Hence
it is that the moral character of a man eminent in letters or in
the fine arts is treated, often by contemporaries, almost always
by posterity, with extraordinary tenderness. The world derives
pleasure and advantage from the performances of such a man. The
number of those who suffer by his personal vices is small, even
in his own time, when compared with the number of those to whom
his talents are a source of gratification. In a few years all
those whom he has injured disappear. But his works remain, and
are a source of delight to millions. The genius of Sallust is
still with us. But the Numidians whom he plundered, and the
unfortunate husbands who caught him in their houses at
unseasonable hours, are forgotten. We suffer ourselves to be
delighted by the keenness of Clarendon's observation, and by the
sober majesty of his style, till we forget the oppressor and the
bigot in the historian. Falstaff and Tom Jones have survived the
gamekeepers whom Shakspeare cudgelled and the landladies whom
Fielding bilked. A great writer is the friend and benefactor of
his readers; and they cannot but judge of him under the deluding
influence of friendship and gratitude. We all know how unwilling
we are to admit the truth of any disgraceful story about a person
whose society we like, and from whom we have received favours;
how long we struggle against evidence, how fondly, when the facts
cannot be disputed, we cling to the hope that there may be some
explanation or some extenuating circumstance with which we are
unacquainted. Just such is the feeling which a man of liberal
education naturally entertains towards the great minds of former
ages. The debt which he owes to them is incalculable. They have
guided him to truth. They have filled his mind with noble and
graceful images. They have stood by him in all vicissitudes,
comforters in sorrow, nurses in sickness, companions in solitude.
These friendships are exposed to no danger from the occurrences
by which other attachments are weakened or dissolved. Time glides
on; fortune is inconstant; tempers are soured; bonds which seemed
indissoluble are daily sundered by interest, by emulation, or by
caprice. But no such cause can affect the silent converse which
we hold with the highest of human intellects. That placid
intercourse is disturbed by no jealousies or resentments. These
are the old friends who are never seen with new faces, who axe
the same in wealth and in poverty, in glory and in obscurity.
With the dead there is no rivalry. In the dead there is no
change. Plato is never sullen. Cervantes is never petulant.
Demosthenes never comes unseasonably. Dante never stays too long.
No difference of political opinion can alienate Cicero. No heresy
can excite the horror of Bossuet.

Nothing, then, can be more natural than that a person endowed
with sensibility and imagination should entertain a respectful
and affectionate feeling towards those great men with whose minds
he holds daily communion. Yet nothing can be more certain than
that such men have not always deserved to be regarded with
respect or affection. Some writers, whose works will continue to
instruct and delight mankind to the remotest ages, have been
placed in such situations that their actions and motives are as
well known to us as the actions and motives of one human being
can be known to another; and unhappily their conduct has not
always been such as an impartial judge can contemplate with
approbation. But the fanaticism of the devout worshipper of
genius is proof against all evidence and all argument. The
character of his idol is matter of faith; and the province of
faith is not to be invaded by reason. He maintains his
superstition with a credulity as boundless, and a zeal as
unscrupulous, as can be found in the most ardent partisans of
religious or political factions. The most decisive proofs are
rejected; the plainest rules of morality are explained away;
extensive and important portions of history are completely
distorted. The enthusiast misrepresents facts with all the
effrontery of an advocate, and confounds right and wrong with all
the dexterity of a Jesuit; and all this only in order that some
man who has been in his grave during many ages may have a fairer
character than he deserves.

Middleton's Life of Cicero is a striking instance of the
influence of this sort of partiality. Never was there a character
which it was easier to read than that of Cicero. Never was there
a mind keener or more critical than that of Middleton. Had the
biographer brought to the examination of his favourite
statesman's conduct but a very small part of the acuteness and
severity which he displayed when he was engaged in investigating
the high pretensions of Epiphanius and Justin Martyr, he could
not have failed to produce a most valuable history of a most
interesting portion of time. But this most ingenious and learned
man, though

"So wary held and wise
That, as 'twas said, he scarce received
For gospel what the church believed,"

had a superstition of his own. The great Iconoclast was himself
an idolater. The great Avvocato del Diavolo, while he disputed,
with no small ability, the claims of Cyprian and Athanasius to a
place in the Calendar, was himself composing a lying legend in
honour of St. Tully. He was holding up as a model of every virtue
a man whose talents and acquirements, indeed, can never be too
highly extolled, and who was by no means destitute of amiable
qualities, but whose whole soul was under the dominion of a
girlish vanity and a craven fear. Actions for which Cicero
himself, the most eloquent and skilful of advocates, could
contrive no excuse, actions which in his confidential
correspondence he mentioned with remorse and shame, are
represented by his biographer as wise, virtuous, heroic. The
whole history of that great revolution which overthrew the Roman
aristocracy, the whole state of parties, the character of every
public man, is elaborately misrepresented, in order to make out
something which may look like a defence of one most eloquent and
accomplished trimmer.

The volume before us reminds us now and then of the Life of
Cicero. But there is this marked difference. Dr. Middleton
evidently had an uneasy consciousness of the weakness of his
cause, and therefore resorted to the most disingenuous shifts, to
unpardonable distortions and suppressions of facts. Mr. Montagu's
faith is sincere and implicit. He practises no trickery. He
conceals nothing. He puts the facts before us in the full
confidence that they will produce on our minds the effect which
they have produced on his own. It is not till he comes to reason
from facts to motives that his partiality shows itself; and then
he leaves Middleton himself far behind. His work proceeds on the
assumption that Bacon was an eminently virtuous man. From the
tree Mr. Montagu judges of the fruit. He is forced to relate many
actions which, if any man but Bacon had committed them, nobody
would have dreamed of defending, actions which are readily and
completely explained by supposing Bacon to have been a man whose
principles were not strict, and whose spirit was not high,
actions which can be explained in no other way without resorting
to some grotesque hypothesis for which there is not a tittle of
evidence. But any hypothesis is, in Mr. Montagu's opinion, more
probable than that his hero should ever have done anything very

This mode of defending Bacon seems to us by no means Baconian. To
take a man's character for granted, and then from his character
to infer the moral quality of all his actions, is surely a
process the very reverse of that which is recommended in the
Novum Organum. Nothing, we are sure, could have led Mr. Montagu
to depart so far from his master's precepts, except zeal for his
master's honour. We shall follow a different course. We shall
attempt, with the valuable assistance which Mr. Montagu has
afforded us, to frame such an account of Bacon's life as may
enable our readers correctly to estimate his character.

It is hardly necessary to say that Francis Bacon was the son of
Sir Nicholas Bacon, who held the great seal of England during the
first twenty years of the reign of Elizabeth. The fame of the
father has been thrown into shade by that of the son. But Sir
Nicholas was no ordinary man. He belonged to a set of men whom it
is easier to describe collectively than separately, whose minds
were formed by one system of discipline, who belonged to one rank
in society, to one university, to one party, to one sect, to one
administration, and who resembled each other so much in talents,
in opinions, in habits, in fortunes, that one character, we had
almost said one life, may, to a considerable extent, serve for
them all.

They were the first generation of statesmen by profession that
England produced. Before their time the division of labour had,
in this respect, been very imperfect. Those who had directed
public affairs had been, with few exceptions, warriors or
priests; warriors whose rude courage was neither guided by
science nor softened by humanity, priests whose learning and
abilities were habitually devoted to the defence of tyranny and
imposture. The Hotspurs, the Nevilles, the Cliffords, rough,
illiterate, and unreflecting, brought to the council-board the
fierce and imperious disposition which they had acquired amidst
the tumult of predatory war, or in the gloomy repose of the
garrisoned and moated castle. On the other side was the calm and
subtle prelate, versed in all that was then considered as
learning, trained in the Schools to manage words, and in the
confessional to manage hearts, seldom superstitious, but skilful
in practising on the superstition of others; false, as it was
natural that a man should be whose profession imposed on all who
were not saints the necessity of being hypocrites; selfish, as it
was natural that a man should be who could form no domestic ties
and cherish no hope of legitimate posterity, more attached to his
order than to his country, and guiding the politics of England
with a constant side-glance at Rome.

But the increase of wealth, the progress of knowledge, and the
reformation of religion produced a great change. The nobles
ceased to be military chieftains; the priests ceased to possess a
monopoly of learning; and a new and remarkable species of
politicians appeared.

These men came from neither of the classes which had, till then,
almost exclusively furnished ministers of state. They were all
laymen; yet they were all men of learning; and they were all men
of peace. They were not members of the aristocracy. They
inherited no titles, no large domains, no armies of retainers, no
fortified castles. Yet they were not low men, such as those whom
princes, jealous of the power of a nobility, have sometimes
raised from forges and cobblers' stalls to the highest
situations. They were all gentlemen by birth. They had all
received a liberal education. It is a remarkable fact that they
were all members of the same university. The two great national
seats of learning had even then acquired the characters which
they still retain. In intellectual activity, and in readiness to
admit improvements, the superiority was then, as it has ever
since been, on the side of the less ancient and splendid
institution. Cambridge had the honour of educating those
celebrated Protestant Bishops whom Oxford had the honour of
burning; and at Cambridge were formed the minds of all those
statesmen to whom chiefly is to be attributed the secure
establishment of the reformed religion in the north of Europe.

The statesmen of whom we speak passed their youth surrounded by
the incessant din of theological controversy. Opinions were still
in a state of chaotic anarchy, intermingling, separating,
advancing, receding. Sometimes the stubborn bigotry of the
Conservatives seemed likely to prevail. Then the impetuous onset
of the Reformers for a moment carried all before it. Then again
the resisting mass made a desperate stand, arrested the movement,
and forced it slowly back. The vacillation which at that time
appeared in English legislation, and which it has been the
fashion to attribute to the caprice and to the power of one or
two individuals, was truly a national vacillation. It was not
only in the mind of Henry that the new theology obtained the
ascendant one day, and that the lessons of the nurse and of the
priest regained their influence on the morrow. It was not only in
the House of Tudor that the husband was exasperated by the
opposition of the wife, that the son dissented from the opinions
of the father, that the brother persecuted the sister, that one
sister persecuted another. The principles of Conservation and
Reform carried on their warfare in every part of society, in
every congregation, in every school of learning, round the hearth
of every private family, in the recesses of every reflecting

It was in the midst of this ferment that the minds of the persons
whom we are describing were developed. They were born Reformers.
They belonged by nature to that order of men who always form the
front ranks in the great intellectual progress. They were
therefore, one and all, Protestants. In religious matters,
however, though there is no reason to doubt that they were
sincere, they were by no means zealous. None of them chose to run
the smallest personal risk during the reign of Mary. None of them
favoured the unhappy attempt of Northumberland in favour of his
daughter-in-law. None of them shared in the desperate councils of
Wyatt. They contrived to have business on the Continent; or, if
they staid in England, they heard mass and kept Lent with great
decorum. When those dark and perilous years had gone by, and when
the Crown had descended to a new sovereign, they took the lead in
the reformation of the Church. But they proceeded, not with the
impetuosity of theologians, but with the calm determination of
statesmen. They acted, not like men who considered the Romish
worship as a system too offensive to God, and too destructive of
souls, to be tolerated for an hour, but like men who regarded the
points in dispute among Christians as in themselves unimportant,
and who were not restrained by any scruple of conscience from
professing, as they had before professed, the Catholic faith of
Mary, the Protestant faith of Edward, or any of the numerous
intermediate combinations which the caprice of Henry and the
servile policy of Cranmer had formed out of the doctrines of both
the hostile parties. They took a deliberate view of the state of
their own country and of the Continent: they satisfied themselves
as to the leaning of the public mind; and they chose their side.
They placed themselves at the head of the Protestants of Europe,
and staked all their fame and fortunes on the success of their

It is needless to relate how dexterously, how resolutely, how
gloriously they directed the politics of England during the
eventful years which followed, how they succeeded in uniting
their friends and separating their enemies, how they humbled the
pride of Philip, how they backed the unconquerable spirit of
Coligny, how they rescued Holland from tyranny, how they founded
the maritime greatness of their country, how they outwitted the
artful politicians of Italy, and tamed the ferocious chieftains
of Scotland. It is impossible to deny that they committed many
acts which would justly bring on a statesman of our time censures
of the most serious kind. But, when we consider the state of
morality in their age, and the unscrupulous character of the
adversaries against whom they had to contend, we are forced to
admit that it is not without reason that their names are still
held in veneration by their countrymen.

There were, doubtless, many diversities in their intellectual and
moral character. But there was a strong family likeness. The
constitution of their minds was remarkably sound. No particular
faculty was pre-eminently developed; but manly health and vigour
were equally diffused through the whole. They were men of
letters. Their minds were by nature and by exercise well
fashioned for speculative pursuits. It was by circumstances,
rather than by any strong bias of inclination, that they were
led to take a prominent part in active life. In active life,
however, no men could be more perfectly free from the faults of
mere theorists and pedants. No men observed more accurately the
signs of the times. No men had a greater practical acquaintance
with human nature. Their policy was generally characterised
rather by vigilance, by moderation, and by firmness, than by
invention, or by the spirit of enterprise.

They spoke and wrote in a manner worthy of their excellent sense.
Their eloquence was less copious and less ingenious, but far
purer and more manly than that of the succeeding generation. It
was the eloquence of men who had lived with the first translators
of the Bible, and with the authors of the Book of Common Prayer.
It was luminous, dignified, solid, and very slightly tainted with
that affectation which deformed the style of the ablest men of
the next age. If, as sometimes chanced, these politicians were
under the necessity of taking a part in the theological
controversies on which the dearest interests of kingdoms were
then staked, they acquitted themselves as if their whole lives
had been passed in the Schools and the Convocation.

There was something in the temper of these celebrated men which
secured them against the proverbial inconstancy both of the Court
and of the multitude. No intrigue, no combination of rivals,
could deprive them of the confidence of their Sovereign. No
parliament attacked their influence. No mob coupled their names
with any odious grievance. Their power ended only with their
lives. In this respect, their fate presents a most remarkable
contrast to that of the enterprising and brilliant politicians of
the preceding and of the succeeding generation. Burleigh was
Minister during forty years. Sir Nicholas Bacon held the great
seal more than twenty years. Sir Walter Mildmay was Chancellor
of the Exchequer twenty-three years. Sir Thomas Smith was
Secretary of State eighteen years; Sir Francis Walsingham about
as long. They all died in office, and in the enjoyment of public
respect and royal favour. Far different had been the fate of
Wolsey, Cromwell, Norfolk, Somerset, and Northumberland. Far
different also was the fate of Essex, of Raleigh, and of the
still more illustrious man whose life we propose to consider.

The explanation of this circumstance is perhaps contained in the
motto which Sir Nicholas Bacon inscribed over the entrance of his
hall at Gorhambury, Mediocria firma. This maxim was constantly
borne in mind by himself and his colleagues. They were more
solicitous to lay the foundations of their power deep than to
raise the structure to a conspicuous but insecure height. None of
them aspired to be sole Minister. None of them provoked envy by
an ostentatious display of wealth and influence. None of them
affected to outshine the ancient aristocracy of the kingdom. They
were free from that childish love of titles which characterised
the successful courtiers of the generation which preceded them
and of that which followed them. Only one of those whom we have
named was made a peer; and he was content with the lowest degree
of the peerage. As to money, none of them could, in that age,
justly be considered as rapacious. Some of them would, even in
our time, deserve the praise of eminent disinterestedness. Their
fidelity to the State was incorruptible. Their private morals
were without stain. Their households were sober and well

Among these statesmen Sir Nicholas Bacon was generally considered
as ranking next to Burleigh. He was called by Camden "Sacris
conciliis alterum columen"; and by George Buchanan,

"diu Britannici
Regni secundum columen."

The second wife of Sir Nicholas and mother of Francis Bacon was
Anne, one of the daughters of Sir Anthony Cooke, a man of
distinguished learning who had been tutor to Edward the Sixth.
Sir Anthony had paid considerable attention to the education of
his daughters, and lived to see them all splendidly and happily
married. Their classical acquirements made them conspicuous even
among the women of fashion of that age. Katherine, who became
Lady Killigrew, wrote Latin Hexameters and Pentameters which
would appear with credit in the Musae Etonenses. Mildred, the
wife of Lord Burleigh, was described by Roger Ascham as the best
Greek scholar among the young women of England, Lady Jane Grey
always excepted. Anne, the mother of Francis Bacon, was
distinguished both as a linguist and as a theologian. She
corresponded in Greek with Bishop Jewel, and translated his
Apologia from the Latin, so correctly that neither he nor
Archbishop Parker could suggest a single alteration. She also
translated a series of sermons on fate and free-will from the
Tuscan of Bernardo Ochino. This fact is the more curious, because
Ochino was one of that small and audacious band of Italian
reformers, anathematised alike by Wittenberg, by Geneva, by
Zurich, and by Rome, from which the Socinian sect deduces its

Lady Bacon was doubtless a lady of highly cultivated mind after
the fashion of her age. But we must not suffer ourselves to be
deluded into the belief that she and her sisters were more
accomplished women than many who are now living. On this subject
there is, we think, much misapprehension. We have often heard men
who wish, as almost all men of sense wish, that women should be
highly educated, speak with rapture of the English ladies of the
sixteenth century, and lament that they can find no modern damsel
resembling those fair pupils of Ascham and Aylmer who compared,
over their embroidery, the styles of Isocrates and Lysias, and
who, while the horns were sounding, and the dogs in full cry, sat
in the lonely oriel, with eyes riveted to that immortal page
which tells how meekly and bravely the first great martyr of
intellectual liberty took the cup from his weeping gaoler. But
surely these complaints have very little foundation. We would by
no means disparage the ladies of the sixteenth century or their
pursuits. But we conceive that those who extol them at the
expense of the women of our time forget one very obvious and very
important circumstance. In the time of Henry the Eighth and
Edward the Sixth, a person who did not read Greek and Latin could
read nothing, or next to nothing. The Italian was the only modern
language which possessed anything that could be called a
literature. All the valuable books then extant in all the
vernacular dialects of Europe would hardly have filled a single
shelf, England did not yet possess Shakspeare's plays and the
Fairy Queen, nor France Montaigne's Essays, nor Spain Don
Quixote. In looking round a well-furnished library, how many
English or French books can we find which were extant when Lady
Jane Grey and Queen Elizabeth received their education? Chaucer,
Gower, Froissart, Commines, Rabelais, nearly complete the list.
It was therefore absolutely necessary that a woman should be
uneducated or classically educated. Indeed, without a knowledge
of one of the ancient languages no person could then have any
clear notion of what was passing in the political, the literary,
or the religious world. The Latin was in the sixteenth century
all and more than all that the French was in the eighteenth. It
was the language of courts as well as of the schools. It was the
language of diplomacy; it was the language of theological and
political controversy. Being a fixed language, while the living
languages were in a state of fluctuation, and being universally
known to the learned and the polite, it was employed by almost
every writer who aspired to a wide and durable reputation. A
person who was ignorant of it was shut out from all acquaintance,
not merely with Cicero and Virgil, not merely with heavy
treatises on canon-law and school divinity, but with the most
interesting memoirs, state papers, and pamphlets of his own time,
nay even with the most admired poetry and the most popular squibs
which appeared on the fleeting topics of the day, with Buchanan's
complimentary verses, with Erasmus's dialogues, with Hutten's

This is no longer the case. All political and religious
controversy is now conducted in the modern languages. The ancient
tongues are used only in comments on the ancient writers. The
great productions of Athenian and Roman genius are indeed still
what they were. But though their positive value is unchanged,
their relative value, when compared with the whole mass of mental
wealth possessed by mankind, has been constantly falling. They
were the intellectual all of our ancestors. They are but a part
of our treasures. Over what tragedy could Lady Jane Grey have
wept, over what comedy could she have smiled, if the ancient
dramatists had not been in her library? A modern reader can make
shift without Oedipus and Medea, while he possesses Othello and
Hamlet. If he knows nothing of Pyrgopolynices and Thraso, he is
familiar with Bobadil, and Bessus, and Pistol, and Parolles. If
he cannot enjoy the delicious irony of Plato, he may find some
compensation in that of Pascal. If he is shut out from
Nephelococcygia, he may take refuge in Lilliput. We are guilty,
we hope, of no irreverence towards those great nations to which
the human race owes art, science, taste, civil and intellectual
freedom, when we say, that the stock bequeathed by them to us has
been so carefully improved that the accumulated interest now
exceeds the principal. We believe that the books which have been
written in the languages of western Europe, during the last two
hundred and fifty years,--translations from the ancient languages
of course included,--are of greater value than all the books
which at the beginning of that period were extant in the world.
With the modern languages of Europe English women are at least as
well acquainted as English men. When, therefore, we compare the
acquirements of Lady Jane Grey. with those of an accomplished
young woman of our own time, we have no hesitation in awarding
the superiority to the latter. We hope that our readers will
pardon up this digression. It is long; but it can hardly be
called unseasonable, if it tends to convince them that they are
mistaken in thinking that the great-great-grandmothers of their
great-great-grandmothers were superior women to their sisters and
their wives.

Francis Bacon, the youngest son of Sir Nicholas, was born at York
House, his father's residence in the Strand, on the twenty-second
of January 1561. The health of Francis was very delicate; and to
this circumstance may be partly attributed that gravity of
carriage, and that love of sedentary pursuits which distinguished
him from other boys. Everybody knows how much sobriety of
deportment and his premature readiness of wit amused the Queen,
and how she used to call him her young Lord Keeper. We are told
that, while still a mere child, he stole away from his
playfellows to a vault in St. James's Fields, for the purpose of
investigating the cause of a singular echo which he had observed
there. It is certain that, at only twelve, he busied himself with
very ingenious speculations on the art of legerdemain; a subject
which, as Professor Dugald Stewart has most justly observed,
merits much more attention from philosophers than it has ever
received. These are trifles. But the eminence which Bacon
afterwards attained makes them interesting.

In the thirteenth year of his age he was entered at Trinity
College, Cambridge. That celebrated school of learning enjoyed
the peculiar favour of the Lord Treasurer and the Lord Keeper,
and acknowledged the advantages which it derived from their
patronage in a public letter which bears date just a month after
the admission of Francis Bacon. The master was Whitgift,
afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, a narrow minded, mean, and
tyrannical priest, who gained power by servility and adulation,
and employed it in persecuting both those who agreed with Calvin
about church-government, and those who differed from Calvin
touching the doctrine of Reprobation. He was now in a chrysalis
state, putting off the worm, and putting on the dragon-fly, a
kind of intermediate grub between sycophant and oppressor. He was
indemnifying himself for the court which he found it expedient to
pay to the Ministers by exercising much petty tyranny within his
own college. It would be unjust, however, to deny him the praise
of having rendered about this time one important service to
letters. He stood up manfully against those who wished to make
Trinity College a mere appendage to Westminster school; and by
this act, the only good act, as far as we remember, of his long
public life, he saved the noblest place of education in England
from the degrading fate of King's College and New College.

It has often been said that Bacon, while still at college,
planned that great intellectual revolution with which his name is
inseparably connected. The evidence on this subject, however, is
hardly sufficient to prove what is in itself so improbable as
that any definite scheme of that kind should have been so early
formed, even by so powerful and active a mind. But it is certain
that, after a residence of three years at Cambridge, Bacon
departed, carrying with him a profound contempt for the course of
study pursued there, a fixed conviction that the system of
academic education in England was radically vicious, a just scorn
for the trifles on which the followers of Aristotle had wasted
their powers, and no great reverence for Aristotle himself.

In his sixteenth year he visited Paris, and resided there for
some time, under the care of Sir Amias Paulet, Elizabeth's
Minister at the French Court, and one of the ablest and most
upright of the many valuable servants whom she employed. France
was at that time in a deplorable state of agitation. The
Huguenots and the Catholics were mustering all their force for
the fiercest and most protracted of their many struggles; while
the prince, whose duty it was to protect and to restrain both,
had by his vices and follies degraded himself so deeply that he
had no authority over either. Bacon, however, made a tour through
several provinces, and appears to have passed some time at
Poitiers. We have abundant proof that during his stay on the
Continent he did not neglect literary and scientific pursuits.
But his attention seems to have been chiefly directed to
statistics and diplomacy. It was at this time that he wrote those
Notes on the State of Europe which are printed in his works. He
studied the principles of the art of deciphering with great
interest, and invented one cipher so ingenious, that, many years
later, he thought it deserving of a place in the De Augmentis. In
February 1580, while engaged in these pursuits, he received
intelligence of the almost sudden death of his father, and
instantly returned to England.

His prospects were greatly overcast by this event. He was most
desirous to obtain a provision which might enable him to devote
himself to literature and politics. He applied to the
Government; and it seems strange that he should have applied in
vain. His wishes were moderate. His hereditary claims on the
administration were great. He had himself been favourably noticed
by the Queen. His uncle was Prime Minister. His own talents were
such as any Minister might have been eager to enlist in the
public service. But his solicitations were unsuccessful. The
truth is that the Cecils disliked him, and did all that they
could decently do to keep him down. It has never been alleged
that Bacon had done anything to merit this dislike; nor is it at
all probable that a man whose temper was naturally mild, whose
manners were courteous, who, through life, nursed his fortunes
with the utmost care, and who was fearful even to a fault of
offending the powerful, would have given any just cause of
displeasure to a kinsman who had the means of rendering him
essential service and of doing him irreparable injury. The real
explanation, we believe, is this. Robert Cecil, the Treasurer's
second son, was younger by a few months than Bacon. He had been
educated with the utmost care, had been initiated, while still a
boy, in the mysteries of diplomacy and court-intrigue, and was
just at this time about to be produced on the stage of public
life. The wish nearest to Burleigh's heart was that his own
greatness might descend to this favourite child. But even
Burleigh's fatherly partiality could hardly prevent him from
perceiving that Robert, with all his abilities and acquirements,
was no match for his cousin Francis. This seems to us the only
rational explanation of the Treasurer's conduct. Mr. Montagu is
more charitable. He supposes that Burleigh was influenced merely
by affection for his nephew, and was "little disposed to
encourage him to rely on others rather than on himself, and to
venture on the quicksands of politics, instead of the certain
profession of the law." If such were Burleigh's feelings, it
seems strange that he should have suffered his son to venture
on those quicksands from which he so carefully preserved his
nephew. But the truth is that, if Burleigh had been so disposed,
he might easily have secured to Bacon a comfortable provision
which should have been exposed to no risk. And it is certain
that he showed as little disposition to enable his nephew to
live by a profession as to enable him to live without a

That Bacon himself attributed the conduct of his relatives to
jealousy of his superior talents, we have not the smallest doubt.
In a letter written many years later to Villiers, he expresses
himself thus: "Countenance, encourage, and advance able men in
all kinds, degrees, and professions. For in the time of the
Cecils, the father and the son, able men were by design and of
purpose suppressed."

Whatever Burleigh's motives might be, his purpose was
unalterable. The supplications which Francis addressed to his
uncle and aunt were earnest, humble, and almost servile. He was
the most promising and accomplished young man of his time. His
father had been the brother-in-law, the most useful colleague,
the nearest friend of the Minister. But all this availed poor
Francis nothing. He was forced, much against his will, to betake
himself to the study of the law. He was admitted at Gray's Inn;
and during some years, he laboured there in obscurity.

What the extent of his legal attainments may have been it is
difficult to say. It was not hard for a man of his powers to
acquire that very moderate portion of technical knowledge which,
when joined to quickness, tact, wit, ingenuity, eloquence, and
knowledge of the world, is sufficient to raise an advocate to the
highest professional eminence. The general opinion appears to
have been that which was on one occasion expressed by Elizabeth.
"Bacon," said she, "hath a great wit and much learning; but in
law showeth to the utmost of his knowledge, and is not deep." The
Cecils, we suspect, did their best to spread this opinion by
whispers and insinuations. Coke openly proclaimed it with that
rancorous insolence which was habitual to him. No reports are
more readily believed than those which disparage genius, and
soothe the envy of conscious mediocrity. It must have been
inexpressibly consoling to a stupid sergeant, the forerunner of
him who, a hundred and fifty years later, "shook his head at
Murray as a wit," to know that the most profound thinker and the
most accomplished orator of the age was very imperfectly
acquainted with the law touching bastard eigne and mulier puisne,
and confounded the right of free fishery with that of common

It is certain that no man in that age, or indeed during the
century and a half which followed, was better acquainted than
Bacon with the philosophy of law. His technical knowledge was
quite sufficient, with the help of his admirable talents and of
his insinuating address, to procure clients. He rose very rapidly
into business, and soon entertained hopes of being called within
the bar. He applied to Lord Burleigh for that purpose, but
received a testy refusal. Of the grounds of that refusal we can,
in some measure, judge by Bacon's answer, which is still extant.
It seems that the old Lord, whose temper, age and gout had by no
means altered for the better, and who loved to mark his dislike
of the showy, quick-witted young men of the rising generation,
took this opportunity to read Francis a very sharp lecture on his
vanity and want of respect for his betters. Francis returned a
most submissive reply, thanked the Treasurer for the admonition,
and promised to profit by it. Strangers meanwhile were less
unjust to the young barrister than his nearest kinsman had been.
In his twenty-sixth year he became a bencher of his Inn; and two
years later he was appointed Lent reader. At length, in 1590, he
obtained for the first time some show of favour from the Court.
He was sworn in Queen's Counsel extraordinary. But this mark
honour was not accompanied by any pecuniary emolument.

He continued, therefore, to solicit his powerful relatives for
some provision which might enable him to live without drudging at
his profession. He bore, with a patience and serenity which, we
fear, bordered on meanness, the morose humours of his uncle, and
the sneering reflections which his cousin cast on speculative
men, lost in philosophical dreams, and too wise to be capable of
transacting public business. At length the Cecils were generous
enough to procure for him the reversion of the Registrarship of
the Star-Chamber. This was a lucrative place; but, as many years
elapsed before it fell in, he was still under the necessity of
labouring for his daily bread.

In the Parliament which was called in 1593 he sat as member for
the county of Middlesex, and soon attained eminence as a debater.
It is easy to perceive from the scanty remains of his oratory
that the same compactness of expression and richness of fancy
which appear in his writings characterised his speeches; and that
his extensive acquaintance with literature and history enabled
him to entertain his audience with a vast variety of
illustrations and allusions which were generally happy and
apposite, but which were probably not least pleasing to the taste
of that age when they were such as would now be thought childish
or pedantic. It is evident also that he was, as indeed might have
been expected, perfectly free from those faults which are
generally found in an advocate who, after having risen to
eminence at the bar, enters the House of Commons; that it was his
habit to deal with every great question, not in small detached
portions, but as a whole; that he refined little, and that his
reasonings were those of a capacious rather than a subtle mind.
Ben Jonson, a most unexceptionable judge, has described Bacon's
eloquence in words, which, though often quoted, will bear to be
quoted again. "There happened in my time one noble speaker who
was full of gravity in his speaking. His language, where he could
spare or pass by a jest, was nobly censorious. No man ever spoke
more neatly, more pressly, more weightily, or suffered less
emptiness, less idleness, in what he uttered. No member of his
speech but consisted of his own graces. His hearers could not
cough or look aside from him without loss. He commanded where he
spoke, and had his judges angry and pleased at his devotion. No
man had their affections more in his power. The fear of every man
that heard him was lest he should make an end." From the mention
which is made of judges, it would seem that Jonson had heard
Bacon only at the Bar. Indeed we imagine that the House of
Commons was then almost inaccessible to strangers. It is not
probable that a man of Bacon's nice observation would speak in
Parliament exactly as he spoke in the Court of Queen's Bench. But
the graces of manner and language must, to a great extent, have
been common between the Queen's Counsel and the Knight of the

Bacon tried to play a very difficult game in politics. He wished
to be at once a favourite at Court and popular with the
multitude. If any man could have succeeded in this attempt, a man
of talents so rare, of judgment so prematurely ripe, of temper so
calm, and of manners so plausible, might have been expected to
succeed. Nor indeed did he wholly fail. Once, however, he
indulged in a burst of patriotism which cost him a long and
bitter remorse, and which he never ventured to repeat. The Court
asked for large subsidies and for speedy payment. The remains of
Bacon's speech breathe all the spirit of the Long Parliament.
"The gentlemen," said he, "must sell their plate, and the farmers
their brass pots, ere this will be paid; and for us, we are here
to search the wounds of the realm, and not to skim them over. The
dangers are these. First, we shall breed discontent and endanger
her Majesty's safety, which must consist more in the love of the
people than their wealth. Secondly, this being granted in this
sort, other princes hereafter will look for the like; so that we
shall put an evil precedent on ourselves and our posterity; and
in histories, it is to be observed, of all nations the English
are not to be subject, base, or taxable." The Queen and her
Ministers resented this outbreak of public spirit in the highest
manner. Indeed, many an honest member of the House of Commons
had, for a much smaller matter, been sent to the Tower by the
proud and hot-blooded Tudors. The young patriot condescended to
make the most abject apologies. He adjured the Lord Treasurer to
show some favour to his poor servant and ally. He bemoaned
himself to the Lord Keeper, in a letter which may keep in
countenance the most unmanly of the epistles which Cicero wrote
during his banishment. The lesson was not thrown away. Bacon
never offended in the same manner again.

He was now satisfied that he had little to hope from the
patronage of those powerful kinsmen whom he had solicited during
twelve years with such meek pertinacity; and he began to look
towards a different quarter. Among the courtiers of Elizabeth had
lately appeared a new favourite, young, noble, wealthy,
accomplished, eloquent brave, generous, aspiring; a favourite who
had obtained from the grey-headed Queen such marks of regard as
she had scarce vouchsafed to Leicester in the season of the
passions; who was at once the ornament of the palace and the idol
of the city. who was the common patron of men of letters and of
men of the sword; who was the common refuge of the persecuted
Catholic and of the persecuted Puritan. The calm prudence which
had enabled Burleigh to shape his course through so many dangers,
and the vast experience which he had acquired in dealing with two
generations of colleagues and rivals, seemed scarcely sufficient
to support him in this new competition; and Robert Cecil sickened
with fear and envy as he contemplated the rising fame and
influence of Essex.

The history of the factions which, towards the close of the reign
of Elizabeth, divided her court and her council, though pregnant
with instruction, is by no means interesting or pleasing. Both
parties employed the means which are familiar to unscrupulous
statesmen; and neither had, or even pretended to have, any
important end in view. The public mind was then reposing from one
great effort, and collecting strength for another. That impetuous
and appalling rush with which the human intellect had moved
forward in the career of truth and liberty, during the fifty
years which followed the separation of Luther from the communion
of the Church of Rome, was now over. The boundary between
Protestantism and Popery had been fixed very nearly where it
still remains. England, Scotland, the Northern kingdoms were on
one side; Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, on the other. The line
of demarcation ran, as it still runs, through the midst of the
Netherlands, of Germany, and of Switzerland, dividing province
from province, electorate from electorate, and canton from
canton. France might be considered as a debatable land, in which
the contest was still undecided. Since that time, the two
religions have done little more than maintain their ground. A few
occasional incursions have been made. But the general frontier
remains the same. During two hundred and fifty years no great
society has risen up like one man, and emancipated itself by one
mighty effort from the superstition of ages. This spectacle was
common in the sixteenth century. Why has it ceased to be so? Why
has so violent a movement been followed by so long a repose? The
doctrines of the Reformers are not less agreeable to reason or to
revelation now than formerly. The public mind is assuredly not
less enlightened now than formerly. Why is it that Protestantism,
after carrying everything before it in a time of comparatively
little knowledge and little freedom, should make no perceptible
progress in a reasoning and tolerant age; that the Luthers, the
Calvins, the Knoxes, the Zwingles, should have left no
successors; that during two centuries and a half fewer converts
should have been brought over from the Church of Rome than at the
time of the Reformation were sometimes gained in a year? This has
always appeared to us one of the most curious and interesting
problems in history. On some future occasion we may perhaps
attempt to solve it. At present it is enough to say that, at the
close of Elizabeth's reign, the Protestant party, to borrow the
language of the Apocalypse, had left its first love and had
ceased to do its first works.

The great struggle of the sixteenth century was over. The great
struggle of the seventeenth century had not commenced. The
confessors of Mary's reign were dead. The members of the Long
Parliament were still in their cradles. The Papists had been
deprived of all power in the State. The Puritans had not yet
attained any formidable extent of power. True it is that a
student, well acquainted with the history of the next generation,
can easily discern in the proceedings of the last Parliaments of
Elizabeth the germ of great and ever memorable events. But to the
eye of a contemporary nothing of this appeared. The two sections
of ambitious men who were struggling for power differed from each
other on no important public question. Both belonged to the
Established Church. Both professed boundless loyalty to the
Queen. Both approved the war with Spain. There is not, as far as
we are aware, any reason to believe that they entertained
different views concerning the succession to the Crown. Certainly
neither faction had any great measure of reform in view. Neither
attempted to redress any public grievance. The most odious and
pernicious grievance under which the nation then suffered was a
source of profit to both, and was defended by both with equal
zeal. Raleigh held a monopoly of cards, Essex a monopoly of sweet
wines. In fact, the only ground of quarrel between the parties
was that they could not agree as to their respective shares of
power and patronage.

Nothing in the political conduct of Essex entitles him to esteem;
and the pity with which we regard his early and terrible end is
diminished by the consideration, that he put to hazard the lives
and fortunes of his most attached friends, and endeavoured to
throw the whole country into confusion, for objects purely
personal. Still, it is impossible not to be deeply interested for
a man so brave, high-spirited, and generous; for a man who, while
he conducted himself towards his sovereign with a boldness such
as was then found in no other subject, conducted himself towards
his dependants with a delicacy such as has rarely been found in
any other patron. Unlike the vulgar herd of benefactors, he
desired to inspire, not gratitude, but affection. He tried to
make those whom he befriended feel towards him as towards an
equal. His mind, ardent, susceptible, naturally disposed to
admiration of all that is great and beautiful, was fascinated by
the genius and the accomplishments of Bacon. A close friendship
was soon formed between them, a friendship destined to have a
dark, a mournful, a shameful end.

In 1594 the office of Attorney-General became vacant, and Bacon
hoped to obtain it. Essex made his friend's cause his own, sued,
expostulated, promised, threatened, but all in vain. It is
probable that the dislike felt by the Cecils for Bacon had been
increased by the connection which he had lately formed with the
Earl. Robert was then on the point of being made Secretary of
State. He happened one day to be in the same coach with Essex,
and a remarkable conversation took place between them. "My Lord,"
said Sir Robert, "the Queen has determined to appoint an
Attorney-General without more delay. I pray your Lordship to let
me know whom you will favour." "I wonder at your question,"
replied the Earl. "You cannot but know that resolutely, against
all the world, I stand for your cousin, Francis Bacon."
"Good Lord!" cried Cecil, unable to bridle his temper,
"I wonder your Lordship should spend your strength on so
unlikely a matter. Can you name one precedent of so raw a
youth promoted to so great a place?" This objection came with
a singularly bad grace from a man who, though younger than Bacon,
was in daily expectation of being made Secretary of State. The
was too obvious to be missed by Essex, who seldom forbore to
speak his mind. "I have made no search," said he, "for precedents
of young men who have filled the office of Attorney-General.
But I could name to you, Sir Robert, a man younger than Francis,
less learned, and equally inexperienced, who is suing and
striving with all his might for an office of far greater
weight." Sir Robert had nothing to say but that he thought his
own abilities equal to the place which he hoped to obtain, and
that his father's long services deserved such a mark of gratitude
from the Queen; as if his abilities were comparable to his
cousin's, or as if Sir Nicholas Bacon had done no service to the
State. Cecil then hinted that, if Bacon would be satisfied with
the Solicitorship, that might be of easier digestion to the
Queen. "Digest me no digestions," said the generous and ardent
Earl. "The Attorneyship for Francis is that I must have; and in
that I will spend all my power, might, authority, and amity; and
with tooth and nail procure the same for him against whomsoever;
and whosoever getteth this office out of my hands for any other,
before he have it, it shall cost him the coming by. And this be
you assured of, Sir Robert, for now I fully declare myself; and
for my own part, Sir Robert, I think strange both of my Lord
Treasurer and you, that can have the mind to seek the preference
of a stranger before so near a kinsman; for if you weigh in a
balance the parts every way of his competitor and him, only
excepting five poor years of admitting to a house of court before
Francis, you shall find in all other respects whatsoever no
comparison between them."

When the office of Attorney-General was filled up, the Earl
pressed the Queen to make Bacon Solicitor-General, and, on this
occasion, the old Lord Treasurer professed himself not
unfavourable to his nephew's pretensions. But after a contest
which lasted more than a year and a half, and in which Essex, to
use his own words, "spent all his power, might, authority, and
amity," the place was given to another. Essex felt this
disappointment keenly, but found consolation in the most
munificent and delicate liberality. He presented Bacon with an
estate worth near two thousand pounds, situated at Twickenham;
and this, as Bacon owned many years after, "with so kind and
noble circumstances as the manner was worth more than the

It was soon after these events that Bacon first appeared before
the public as a writer. Early in 1597 he published a small volume
of Essays, which was afterwards enlarged by successive additions
to many times its original bulk. This little work was, as it well
deserved to be, exceedingly popular. It was reprinted in a few
months; it was translated into Latin, French, and Italian; and it
seems to have at once established the literary reputation of its
author. But, though Bacon's reputation rose, his fortunes were
still depressed. He was in great pecuniary difficulties; and, on
one occasion, was arrested in the street at the suit of a
goldsmith for a debt of three hundred pounds, and was carried to
a spunging-house in Coleman Street.

The kindness of Essex was in the meantime indefatigable. In 1596
he sailed on his memorable expedition to the coast of Spain. At
the very moment of his embarkation, he wrote to several of his
friends, commending, to them, during his own absence, the
interests of Bacon. He returned, after performing the most
brilliant military exploit that was achieved on the Continent by
English arms during the long interval which elapsed between the
battle of Agincourt and that of Blenheim. His valour, his
talents, his humane and generous disposition, had made him the
idol of his countrymen, and had extorted praise from the enemies
whom he had conquered. [See Cervantes's Novela de la Espanola
Inglesa.] He had always been proud and headstrong; and his
splendid success seems to have rendered his faults more offensive
than ever. But to his friend Francis he was still the same. Bacon
had some thoughts of making his fortune by marriage, and had
begun to pay court to a widow of the name of Hatton. The
eccentric manners and violent temper of this woman made her a
disgrace and a torment to her connections. But Bacon was not
aware of her faults, or was disposed to overlook them for the
sake of her ample fortune. Essex pleaded his friend's cause with
his usual ardour. The letters which the Earl addressed to Lady
Hatton and to her mother are still extant, and are highly
honourable to him. "If," he wrote, "she were my sister or my
daughter, I protest I would as confidently resolve to further it
as I now persuade you"; and again, "If my faith be anything, I
protest, if I had one as near me as she is to you, I had rather
match her with him, than with men of far greater titles." The
suit, happily for Bacon, was unsuccessful. The lady indeed was
kind to him in more ways than one. She rejected him; and she
accepted his enemy. She married that narrow-minded, bad-hearted
pedant, Sir Edward Coke, and did her best to make him as
miserable as he deserved to be.

The fortunes of Essex had now reached their height, and began to
decline. He possessed indeed all the qualities which raise men to
greatness rapidly. But he had neither the virtues nor the vices
which enable men to retain greatness long. His frankness, his
keen sensibility to insult and injustice, were by no means
agreeable to a sovereign naturally impatient of opposition, and
accustomed, during forty years, to the most extravagant flattery
and the most abject submission. The daring and contemptuous
manner in which he bade defiance to his enemies excited their
deadly hatred. His administration in Ireland was unfortunate, and
in many respects highly blamable. Though his brilliant courage
and his impetuous activity fitted him admirably for such
enterprises as that of Cadiz, he did not possess the caution,
patience, and resolution necessary for the conduct of a
protracted war, in which difficulties were to be gradually
surmounted, in which much discomfort was to be endured, and in
which few splendid exploits could be achieved. For the civil
duties of his high place he was still less qualified. Though
eloquent and accomplished, he was in no sense a statesman. The
multitude indeed still continued to regard even his faults with
fondness. But the Court had ceased to give him credit, even for
the merit which he really possessed. The person on whom, during
the decline of his influence, he chiefly depended, to whom he
confided his perplexities, whose advice he solicited, whose
intercession he employed, was his friend Bacon. The lamentable
truth must be told. This friend, so loved, so trusted, bore a
principal part in ruining the Earl's fortunes, in shedding his
blood, and in blackening his memory.

But let us be just to Bacon. We believe that, to the last, he had
no wish to injure Essex. Nay, we believe that he sincerely
exerted himself to serve Essex, as long as he thought that he
could serve Essex without injuring himself. The advice which he
gave to his noble benefactor was generally most judicious. He
did all in his power to dissuade the Earl from accepting the
Government of Ireland. "For," says he, "I did as plainly see, his
overthrow chained as it were by destiny to that journey, as it is
possible for a man to ground a judgment upon future contingents."
The prediction was accomplished. Essex returned in disgrace.
Bacon attempted to mediate between his friend and the Queen; and,
we believe, honestly employed all his address for that purpose.
But the task which he had undertaken was too difficult, delicate,
and perilous, even for so wary and dexterous an agent. He had to
manage two spirits equally proud, resentful) and ungovernable. At
Essex House, he had to calm the rage of a young hero incensed by
multiplied wrongs and humiliations) and then to pass to Whitehall
for the purpose of soothing the peevishness of a sovereign, whose
temper, never very gentle, had been rendered morbidly irritable
by age, by declining health, and by the long habit of listening
to flattery and exacting implicit obedience. It is hard to serve
two masters. Situated as Bacon was, it was scarcely possible for
him to shape his course so as not to give one or both of his
employers reason to complain. For a time he acted as fairly as,
in circumstances so embarrassing, could reasonably be expected.
At length he found that, while he was trying to prop the fortunes
of another, he was in danger of shaking his own. He had
disobliged both the parties whom he wished to reconcile. Essex
thought him wanting in zeal as a friend: Elizabeth thought him
wanting in duty as a subject. The Earl looked on him as a spy of
the Queen; the Queen as a creature of the Earl. The
reconciliation which he had laboured to effect appeared utterly
hopeless. A thousand signs, legible to eyes far less keen than
his, announced that the fall of his patron was at hand. He shaped
his course accordingly. When Essex was brought before the council
to answer for his conduct in Ireland, Bacon, after a faint
attempt to excuse himself from taking part against his friend,
submitted himself to the Queen's pleasure, and appeared at the
bar in support of the charges. But a darker scene was behind. The
unhappy young nobleman, made reckless by despair ventured on a
rash and criminal enterprise, which rendered him liable to the
highest penalties of the law. What course was Bacon to take? This
was one of those conjunctures which show what men are. To a high-
minded man, wealth, power, court-favour, even personal safety,
would have appeared of no account, when opposed to friendship,
gratitude, and honour. Such a man would have stood by the side of
Essex at the trial, would have "spent all his power, might,
authority, and amity" in soliciting a mitigation of the sentence,
would have been a daily visitor at the cell, would have received
the last injunctions and the last embrace on the scaffold, would
have employed all the powers of his intellect to guard from
insult the fame of his generous though erring friend. An ordinary
man would neither have incurred the danger of succouring Essex,
nor the disgrace of assailing him. Bacon did not even preserve
neutrality. He appeared as counsel for the prosecution. In that
situation, he did not confine himself to what would have been
amply sufficient to procure a verdict. He employed all his wit,
his rhetoric, and his learning, not to ensure a conviction,--for
the circumstances were such that a conviction was inevitable,--
but to deprive the unhappy prisoner of all those excuses which,
though legally of no value, yet tended to diminish the moral
guilt of the crime, and which, therefore, though they could not
justify the peers in pronouncing an acquittal, might incline the
Queen to grant a pardon. The Earl urged as a palliation of his
frantic acts that he was surrounded by powerful and inveterate
enemies, that they had ruined his fortunes, that they sought his
life, and that their persecutions had driven him to despair. This
was true; and Bacon well knew it to be true. But he affected to
treat it as an idle pretence. He compared Essex to Pisistratus,
who, by pretending to be in imminent danger of assassination, and
by exhibiting self-inflicted wounds, succeeded in establishing
tyranny at Athens. This was too much for the prisoner to bear. He
interrupted his ungrateful friend by calling on him to quit the
part of an advocate, to come forward as a witness, and to tell
the Lords whether, in old times, he, Francis Bacon, had not,
under his own hand, repeatedly asserted the truth of what he now
represented as idle pretexts. It is painful to go on with this
lamentable story. Bacon returned a shuffling answer to the Earl's
question, and, as if the allusion to Pisistratus were not
sufficiently offensive, made another allusion still more
unjustifiable. He compared Essex to Henry Duke of Guise, and the
rash attempt in the city to the day of the barricades at Paris.
Why Bacon had recourse to such a topic it is difficult to say, It
was quite unnecessary for the purpose of obtaining a verdict. It
was certain to produce a strong impression on the mind of the
haughty and jealous princess on whose pleasure the Earl's fate
depended. The faintest allusion to the degrading tutelage in
which the last Valois had been held by the House of Lorraine was
sufficient to harden her heart against a man who in rank, in
military reputation, in popularity among the citizens of the
capital, bore some resemblance to the Captain of the League.

Essex was convicted. Bacon made no effort to save him, though the
Queen's feelings were such that he might have pleaded his
benefactor's cause, possibly with success, certainly without any
serious danger to himself. The unhappy nobleman was executed. His
fate excited strong, perhaps unreasonable feelings of compassion
and indignation. The Queen was received by the citizens of London
with gloomy looks and faint acclamations. She thought it
expedient to publish a vindication of her late proceedings. The
faithless friend who had assisted in taking the Earl's life was
now employed to murder the Earl's fame. The Queen had seen some
of Bacon's writings, and had been pleased with them. He was
accordingly selected to write A Declaration of the Practices and
Treasons attempted and committed by Robert Earl of Essex, which
was printed by authority. In the succeeding reign, Bacon had not
a word to say in defence of this performance, a performance
abounding in expressions which no generous enemy would have
employed respecting a man who had so dearly expiated his
offences. His only excuse was, that he wrote it by command, that
he considered himself as a mere secretary, that he had particular
instructions as to the way in which he was to treat every part of
the subject, and that, in fact, he had furnished only the
arrangement and the style.

We regret to say that the whole conduct of Bacon through the
course of these transactions appears to Mr. Montagu not merely
excusable, but deserving of high admiration. The integrity and
benevolence of this gentleman are so well known that our readers
will probably be at a loss to conceive by what steps he can have
arrived at so extraordinary a conclusion: and we are half afraid
that they will suspect us of practising some artifice upon them
when we report the principal arguments which he employs.

In order to get rid of the charge of ingratitude, Mr. Montagu
attempts to show that Bacon lay under greater obligations to the
Queen than to Essex. What these obligations were it is not easy
discover. The situation of Queen's Counsel, and a remote
reversion, were surely favours very far below Bacon's personal
and hereditary claims. They were favours which had not cost the
Queen a groat, nor had they put a groat into Bacon's purse. It
was necessary to rest Elizabeth's claims to gratitude on some
other ground; and this Mr. Montagu felt. "What perhaps was her
greatest kindness," says he, "instead of having hastily advanced
Bacon, she had, with a continuance of her friendship, made him
bear the yoke in his youth. Such were his obligations to
Elizabeth." Such indeed they were.

Being the son of one of her oldest and most faithful Ministers,
being himself the ablest and most accomplished young man of his
time, he had been condemned by her to drudgery, to obscurity, to
poverty. She had depreciated his acquirements. She had checked
him in the most imperious manner, when in Parliament he ventured
to act an independent part. She had refused to him the
professional advancement to which he had a just claim. To her it
was owing that, while younger men, not superior to him in
extraction, and far inferior to him in every kind of personal
merit, were filling the highest offices of the State, adding
manor to manor, rearing palace after palace, he was lying at a
spunging-house for a debt of three hundred pounds. Assuredly if
Bacon owed gratitude to Elizabeth, he owed none to Essex. If the
Queen really was his best friend, the Earl was his worst enemy.
We wonder that Mr. Montagu did not press this argument a little
further. He might have maintained that Bacon was excusable in
revenging himself on a man who had attempted to rescue his youth
from the salutary yoke imposed on it by the Queen, who had wished
to advance him hastily, who, not content with attempting to
inflict the Attorney-Generalship upon him, had been so cruel as
to present him with a landed estate.

Again, we can hardly think Mr. Montagu serious when he tells us
that Bacon was bound for the sake of the public not to destroy
his own hopes of advancement, and that he took part against Essex
from a wish to obtain power which might enable him to be useful
to his country. We really do not know how to refute such
arguments except by stating them. Nothing is impossible which
does not involve a contradiction. It is barely possible that
Bacon's motives for acting as he did on this occasion may have
been gratitude to the Queen for keeping him poor, and a desire to
benefit his fellow-creatures in some high situation. And there
is a possibility that Bonner may have been a good Protestant who,
being convinced that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the
Church, heroically went through all the drudgery and infamy of
persecution, in order that he might inspire the English people
with an intense and lasting hatred of Popery. There is a
possibility that Jeffreys may have been an ardent lover of
liberty, and that he may have beheaded Algernon Sydney, and
burned Elizabeth Gaunt, only in order to produce a reaction which
might lead to the limitation of the prerogative. There is a
possibility that Thurtell may have killed Weare only in order to
give the youth of England an impressive warning against gaming
and bad company. There is a possibility that Fauntleroy may have
forged powers of attorney, only in order that his fate might turn
the attention of the public to the defects of the penal law.
These things, we say, are possible. But they are so extravagantly
improbable that a man who should act on such suppositions would
be fit only for Saint Luke's. And we do not see why suppositions
on which no rational man would act in ordinary life should be
admitted into history.

Mr. Montagu's notion that Bacon desired power only in order to do
good to mankind appears somewhat strange to us, when we consider
how Bacon afterwards used power, and how he lost it. Surely the
service which he rendered to mankind by taking Lady Wharton's
broad pieces and Sir John Kennedy's cabinet was not of such vast
importance as to sanctify all the means which might conduce to
that end. If the case were fairly stated, it would, we much fear,
stand thus: Bacon was a servile advocate, that he might be a
corrupt judge.

Mr. Montagu maintains that none but the ignorant and unreflecting
can think Bacon censurable for anything that he did as counsel
for the Crown, and that no advocate can justifiably use any
discretion as to the party for whom he appears. We will not at
present inquire whether the doctrine which is held on this
subject by English lawyers be or be not agreeable to reason and
morality; whether it be right that a man should, with a wig on
his head, and a band round his neck, do for a guinea what,
without those appendages, he would think it wicked and infamous
to do for an empire; whether it be right that, not merely
believing but knowing a statement to be true, he should do all
that can be done by sophistry, by rhetoric, by solemn
asseveration, by indignant exclamation, by gesture, by play of
features, by terrifying one honest witness, by perplexing
another, to cause a jury to think that statement false. It is not
necessary on the present occasion to decide these questions. The
professional rules, be they good or bad, are rules to which many
wise and virtuous men have conformed, and are daily conforming.
If, therefore, Bacon did no more than these rules required of
him, we shall readily admit that he was blameless, or, at least,
excusable. But we conceive that his conduct was not justifiable
according to any professional rules that now exist, or that ever
existed in England. It has always been held that, in criminal
cases in which the prisoner was denied the help of counsel, and
above all, in capital cases, advocates were both entitled and
bound to exercise a discretion. It is true that after the
Revolution, when the Parliament began to make inquisition for the
innocent blood which had been shed by the last Stuarts, a feeble
attempt was made to defend the lawyers who had been accomplices
in the murder of Sir Thomas Armstrong, on the ground that they
had only acted professionally. The wretched sophism was silenced
by the execrations of the House of Commons. "Things will never be
well done," said Mr. Foley, "till some of that profession be made
examples." "We have a new sort of monsters in the world," said
the younger Hampden, "haranguing a man to death. These I call
bloodhounds. Sawyer is very criminal and guilty of this murder."
"I speak to discharge my conscience," said Mr. Garroway. "I will
not have the blood of this man at my door. Sawyer demanded
judgment against him and execution. I believe him guilty of the

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