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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 2 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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death of this man. Do what you will with him." "If the profession
of the law," said the elder Hampden, "gives a man authority to
murder at this rate, it is the interest of all men to rise and
exterminate that profession." Nor was this language held only by
unlearned country gentlemen. Sir William Williams, one of the
ablest and most unscrupulous lawyers of the age, took the same
view of the case. He had not hesitated, he said, to take part in
the prosecution of the Bishops, because they were allowed
counsel. But he maintained that, where the prisoner was not
allowed counsel the Counsel for the Crown was bound to exercise a
discretion, and that every lawyer who neglected this distinction
was a betrayer of the law. But it is unnecessary to cite
authority. It is known to everybody who has ever looked into a
court of quarter-sessions that lawyers do exercise a discretion
in criminal cases; and it is plain to every man of common sense
that, if they did not exercise such a discretion, they would be a
more hateful body of men than those bravoes who used to hire out
their stilettoes in Italy.

Bacon appeared against a man who was indeed guilty of a great
offence, but who had been his benefactor and friend. He did more
than this. Nay, he did more than a person who had never seen
Essex would have been justified in doing. He employed all the art
of an advocate in order to make the prisoner's conduct appear
more inexcusable and more dangerous to the State than it really
had been. All that professional duty could, in any case, have
required of him would have been to conduct the cause so as to
ensure a conviction. But from the nature of the circumstances
there could not be the smallest doubt that the Earl would be
found guilty. The character of the crime was unequivocal. It had
been committed recently, in broad daylight, in the streets of the
capital, in the presence of thousands. If ever there was an
occasion on which an advocate had no temptation to resort to
extraneous topics, for the purpose of blinding the judgment and
inflaming the passions of a tribunal, this was that occasion.

Why then resort to arguments which, while they could add nothing
to the strength of the case, considered in a legal point of view,
tended to aggravate the moral guilt of the fatal enterprise, and
to excite fear and resentment in that quarter from which alone
the Earl could now expect mercy? Why remind the audience of the
arts of the ancient tyrants? Why deny what everybody knew to be
the truth, that: a powerful faction at Court had long sought to
effect the ruin of the prisoner? Why above all, institute a
parallel between the unhappy culprit and the most wicked and most
successful rebel of the age? Was it absolutely impossible to do
all that professional duty required without reminding a jealous
sovereign of the League, of the barricades, and of all the
humiliations which a too powerful subject had heaped on Henry the

But if we admit the plea which Mr. Montagu urges in defence of
what Bacon did as an advocate, what shall we say of the
Declaration of the Treasons of Robert, Earl of Essex? Here at
least there was no pretence of professional obligation. Even
those who may think it the duty of a lawyer to hang, draw, and
quarter his benefactors, for a proper consideration, will hardly
say that it is his duty to write abusive pamphlets against them,
after they are in their graves. Bacon excused himself by saying
that he was not answerable for the matter of the book, and that
he furnished only the language. But why did he endow such
purposes with words? Could no hack writer, without virtue or
shame, be found to exaggerate the errors, already so dearly
expiated, of a gentle and noble spirit? Every age produces those
links between the man and the baboon. Every age is fertile of
Oldmixons, of Kenricks, and of Antony Pasquins. But was it for
Bacon so to prostitute his intellect? Could he not feel that,
while he rounded and pointed some period dictated by the envy of
Cecil, or gave a plausible form to some slander invented by the
dastardly malignity of Cobham; he was not sinning merely against
his friend's honour and his own? Could he not feel that letters,
eloquence, philosophy, were all degraded in his degradation?

The real explanation of all this is perfectly obvious; and
nothing but a partiality amounting to a ruling passion could
cause anybody to miss it. The moral qualities of Bacon were not
of a high order. We do not say that he was a bad man. He was not
inhuman or tyrannical. He bore with meekness his high civil
honours, and the far higher honours gained by his intellect. He
was very seldom, if ever, provoked into treating any person with
malignity and insolence. No man more readily held up the left
cheek to those who had smitten the right. No man was more expert
at the soft answer which turneth away wrath. He was never
charged, by any accuser entitled to the smallest credit, with
licentious habits. His even temper, his flowing courtesy, the
general respectability of his demeanour, made a favourable
impression on those who saw him in situations which do not
severely try the principles. His faults were--we write it with
pain--coldness of heart, and meanness of spirit. He seems to have
been incapable of feeling strong affection, of facing great
dangers, of making great sacrifices. His desires were set on
things below wealth, precedence, titles, patronage, the mace, the
seals, the coronet, large houses, fair gardens, rich manors,
massy services of plate, gay hangings, curious cabinets, had as
great attractions for him as for any of the courtiers who dropped
on their knees in the dirt when Elizabeth passed by, and then
hastened home to write to the King of Scots that her Grace seemed
to be breaking fast. For these objects he had stooped to
everything and endured everything. For these he had sued in the
humblest manner, and, when unjustly and ungraciously repulsed,
had thanked those who had repulsed him, and had begun to sue
again. For these objects, as soon as he found that the smallest
show of independence in Parliament was offensive to the Queen, he
had abased himself to the dust before her, and implored
forgiveness in terms better suited to a convicted thief than to a
knight of the shire. For these he joined, and for these he
forsook, Lord Essex. He continued to plead his patron's cause
with the Queen as long as he thought that by pleading that cause
he might serve himself. Nay, he went further; for his feelings,
though not warm, were kind; he pleaded that cause as long as he
thought that he could plead it without injury to himself. But
when it became evident that Essex was going headlong to his ruin,
Bacon began to tremble for his own fortunes. What he had to fear
would not indeed have been very alarming to a man of lofty
character. It was not death. It was not imprisonment. It was the
loss of Court favour. It was the being left behind by others in
the career of ambition. It was the having leisure to finish the
Instauratio Magna. The Queen looked coldly on him. The courtiers
began to consider him as a marked man. He determined to change
his line of conduct, and to proceed in a new course with so much
vigour as to make up for lost time. When once he had determined
to act against his friend, knowing himself to be suspected, he
acted with more zeal than would have been necessary or
justifiable if he had been employed against a stranger. He
exerted his professional talents to shed the Earl's blood, and
his literary talents to blacken the Earl's memory.

It is certain that his conduct excited at the time great and
general disapprobation. While Elizabeth lived, indeed, this
disapprobation, though deeply felt, was not loudly expressed. But
a great change was at hand. The health of the Queen had long been
decaying; and the operation of age and disease was now assisted
by acute mental suffering. The pitiable melancholy of her last
days has generally been ascribed to her fond regret for Essex.
But we are disposed to attribute her dejection partly to physical
causes, and partly to the conduct of her courtiers and ministers.
They did all in their power to conceal from her the intrigues
which they were carrying on at the Court of Scotland. But her
keen sagacity was not to be so deceived. She did not know the
whole. But she knew that she was surrounded by men who were
impatient for that new world which was to begin at her death, who
had never been attached to her by affection, and who were now but
very slightly attached to her by interest. Prostration and
flattery could not conceal from her the cruel truth, that those
whom she had trusted, and promoted had never loved her, and were
fast ceasing to fear her. Unable to avenge herself, and too proud
to complain, she suffered sorrow and resentment to prey on her
heart till, after a long career of power, prosperity, and glory,
she died sick and weary of the world.

James mounted the throne: and Bacon employed all his address to
obtain for himself a share of the favour of his new master. This
was no difficult task. The faults of James, both as a man and as
a prince, were numerous; but insensibility to the claims of
genius and learning was not among them. He was indeed made up of
two men, a witty, well-read scholar, who wrote, disputed, and
harangued, and a nervous, drivelling idiot, who acted. If he had
been a Canon of Christ Church or a Prebendary of Westminster, it
is not improbable that he would have left a highly respectable
name to posterity; that he would have distinguished himself among
the translators of the Bible, and among the Divines who attended
the Synod of Dort; and that he would have been regarded by the
literary world as no contemptible rival of Vossius and Casaubon.
But fortune placed him in a situation in which his weakness
covered him with disgrace, and in which his accomplishments
brought him no honour. In a college, much eccentricity and
childishness would have been readily pardoned in so learned a
man. But all that learning could do for him on the throne was to
make people think him a pedant as well as a fool.

Bacon was favourably received at Court; and soon found that his
chance of promotion was not diminished by the death of the Queen.
He was solicitous to be knighted, for two reasons which are
somewhat amusing. The King had already dubbed half London, and
Bacon found himself the only untitled person in his mess at
Gray's Inn. This was not very agreeable to him. He had also, to
quote his own words, "found an Alderman's daughter, a handsome
maiden, to his liking." On both these grounds, he begged his
cousin Robert Cecil, "if it might please his good Lordship," to
use his interest in his behalf. The application was successful.
Bacon was one of three hundred gentlemen who, on the coronation-
day, received the honour, if it is to be so called, of
knighthood. The handsome maiden, a daughter of Alderman Barnham,
soon after consented to become Sir Francis's lady.

The death of Elizabeth, though on the whole it improved Bacon's
prospects, was in one respect an unfortunate event for him. The
new King had always felt kindly towards Lord Essex, and, as soon
as he came to the throne, began to show favour to the House of
Devereux, and to those who had stood by that house in its
adversity. Everybody was now at liberty to speak out respecting
those lamentable events in which Bacon had borne so large a
share. Elizabeth was scarcely cold when the public feeling began
to manifest itself by marks of respect towards Lord Southampton.
That accomplished nobleman, who will be remembered to the latest
ages as the generous and discerning patron of Shakspeare, was
held in honour by his contemporaries chiefly on account of the
devoted affection which he had borne to Essex. He had been tried
and convicted together with his friend; but the Queen had spared
his life, and, at the time of her death, he was still a prisoner.
A crowd of visitors hastened to the Tower to congratulate him on
his approaching deliverance. With that crowd Bacon could not
venture to mingle. The multitude loudly condemned him; and his
conscience told him that the multitude had but too much reason.
He excused himself to Southampton by letter, in terms which, if
he had, as Mr. Montagu conceives, done only what as a subject and
an advocate he was bound to do, must be considered as shamefully
servile. He owns his fear that his attendance would give
offence, and that his professions of regard would obtain no
credit. "Yet," says he, "it is as true as a thing that God
knoweth, that this great change hath wrought in me no other
change towards your Lordship than this, that I may safely be that
to you now which I was truly before."

How Southampton received these apologies we are not informed. But
it is certain that the general opinion was pronounced against
Bacon in a manner not to be misunderstood. Soon after his
marriage he put forth a defence of his conduct, in the form of a
Letter to the Earl of Devon. This tract seems to us to prove only
the exceeding badness of a cause for which such talents could do
so little.

It is not probable that Bacon's Defence had much effect on his
contemporaries. But the unfavourable impression which his conduct
had made appears to have been gradually effaced. Indeed it must
be some very peculiar cause that can make a man like him long
unpopular. His talents secured him from contempt, his temper and
his manners from hatred. There is scarcely any story so black
that it may not be got over by a man of great abilities, whose
abilities are united with caution, good humour, patience, and
affability, who pays daily sacrifice to Nemesis, who is a
delightful companion, a serviceable though not an ardent friend,
and a dangerous yet a placable enemy. Waller in the next
generation was an eminent instance of this. Indeed Waller had
much more than may at first sight appear in common with Bacon. To
the higher intellectual qualities of the great English
philosopher, to the genius which has made an immortal epoch in
the history of science, Waller had indeed no pretensions. But the
mind of Waller, as far as it extended, coincided with that of
Bacon, and might, so to, speak, have been cut out of that of
Bacon. In the qualities which make a man an object of interest
and veneration to posterity, they cannot be compared together.
But in the qualities by which chiefly a man is known to his
contemporaries there was a striking similarity between them.
Considered as men of the world, as courtiers, as politicians, as
associates, as allies, as enemies, they had nearly the same
merits, and the same defects. They were not malignant. They were
not tyrannical. But they wanted warmth of affection and elevation
of sentiment. There were many things which they loved better than
virtue, and which they feared more than guilt. Yet, even after
they had stooped to acts of which it is impossible to read the
account in the most partial narratives without strong
disapprobation and contempt, the public still continued to
regard them with a feeling not easily to be distinguished from
esteem. The hyperbole of Juliet seemed to be verified with
respect to them. "Upon their brows shame was ashamed to sit."
Everybody seemed as desirous to throw a veil over their
misconduct as if it had been his own. Clarendon, who felt, and
who had reason to feel, strong personal dislike towards
Waller, speaks of him thus: "There needs no more to be said to
extol the excellence and power of his wit and pleasantness of his
conversation, than that it was of magnitude enough to cover a
world of very great faults, that is, so to cover them that they
were not taken notice of to his reproach, viz., a narrowness in
his nature to the lowest degree, an abjectness and want of
courage to support him in any virtuous undertaking, an
insinuation and servile flattery to the height the vainest and
most imperious nature could be contented with. . . . It had power
to reconcile him to those whom he had most offended and provoked,
and continued to his age with that rare felicity, that his
company was acceptable where his spirit was odious, and he was at
least pitied where he was most detested." Much of this, with some
softening, might, we fear, be applied to Bacon. The influence of
Waller's talents, manners, and accomplishments, died with him;
and the world has pronounced an unbiassed sentence on his
character. A few flowing lines are not bribe sufficient to
pervert the judgment of posterity. But the influence of Bacon is
felt and will long be felt over the whole civilised world.
Leniently as he was treated by his contemporaries, posterity has
treated him more leniently still. Turn where we may, the trophies
of that mighty intellect are full in few. We are judging Manlius
in sight of the Capitol.

Under the reign of James, Bacon grew rapidly in fortune and
favour. In 1604 he was appointed King's Counsel, with a fee of
forty pounds a year; and a pension of sixty pounds a year was
settled upon him. In 1607 he became Solicitor-General, in 1612
Attorney-General. He continued to distinguish himself in
Parliament, particularly by his exertions in favour of one
excellent measure on which the King's heart was set, the union of
England and Scotland. It was not difficult for such an intellect
to discover many irresistible arguments in favour of such a
scheme. He conducted the great case of the Post Nati in the
Exchequer Chamber; and the decision of the judges, a decision the
legality of which may be questioned, but the beneficial effect of
which must be acknowledged, was in a great measure attributed to
his dexterous management. While actively engaged in the House of
Commons and in the courts of law, he still found leisure for
letters and philosophy. The noble treatise on the Advancement of
Learning, which at a later period was expanded into the De
Augmentis, appeared in 1605. The Wisdom of the Ancients, a work
which, if it had proceeded from any other writer, would have been
considered as a masterpiece of wit and learning, but which adds
little to the fame of Bacon, was printed in 1609. In the meantime
the Novum Organum was slowly proceeding. Several distinguished
men of learning had been permitted to see sketches or detached
portions of that extraordinary book; and, though they were not
generally disposed to admit the soundness of the author's views,
they spoke with the greatest admiration of his genius. Sir Thomas
Bodley, the founder of one of the most magnificent of English
libraries, was among those stubborn Conservatives who considered
the hopes with which Bacon looked forward, to the future
destinies of the human race as utterly chimerical, and who
regarded with distrust and aversion the innovating spirit of the
new schismatics in philosophy. Yet even Bodley, after perusing
the Cogitata et Visa, one of the most precious of those scattered
leaves out of which the great oracular volume was afterwards made
up, acknowledged that in "those very points, and in all proposals
and plots in that book, Bacon showed himself a master-workman";
and that "it could not be gainsaid but all the treatise over did
abound with choice conceits of the present state of learning, and
with worthy contemplations of the means to procure it." In 1612 a
new edition of the Essays appeared, with additions surpassing the
original collection both in bulk and quality. Nor did these
pursuits distract Bacon's attention from a work the most arduous,
the most glorious, and the most useful that even his mighty
powers could have achieved, "the reducing and recompiling," to
use his own phrase, "of the laws of England."

Unhappily he was at that very time employed in perverting those
laws to the vilest purposes of tyranny. When Oliver St. John was
brought before the Star Chamber for maintaining that the King had
no right to levy Benevolences, and was for his manly and
constitutional conduct sentenced to imprisonment during the royal
pleasure and to a fine of five thousand pounds, Bacon appeared as
counsel for the prosecution. About the same time he was deeply
engaged in a still more disgraceful transaction. An aged
clergyman, of the name of Peacham, was accused of treason on
account of some passages of a sermon which was found in his
study. The sermon, whether written by him or not, had never been
preached. It did not appear that he had any intention of
preaching it. The most servile lawyers of those servile times
were forced to admit that there were great difficulties both as
to the facts and as to the law. Bacon was employed to remove
those difficulties. He was employed to settle the question of law
by tampering with the judges, and the question of fact by
torturing the prisoner.

Three judges of the Court of King's Bench were tractable. But
Coke was made of different stuff. Pedant, bigot, and brute as he
was, he had qualities which bore a strong, though a very
disagreeable resemblance to some of the highest virtues which a
public man can possess. He was an exception to a maxim which we
believe to be generally true, that those who trample on the
helpless are disposed to cringe to the powerful. He behaved with
gross rudeness to his juniors at the bar, and with execrable
cruelty to prisoners on trial for their lives. But he stood up
manfully against the King and the King's favourites. No man of
that age appeared to so little advantage when he was opposed to
an inferior, and was in the wrong. But, on the other hand, it is
but fair to admit that no man of that age made so creditable a
figure when he was opposed to a superior, and happened to be in
the right. On such occasions, his half-suppressed insolence and
his impracticable obstinacy had a respectable and interesting
appearance, when compared with the abject servility of the bar
and of the bench. On the present occasion he was stubborn and
surly. He declared that it was a new and highly improper practice
in the judges to confer with a law-officer of the Crown about
capital cases which they were afterwards to try; and for some
time he resolutely kept aloof. But Bacon was equally artful and
persevering. "I am not wholly out of hope," said he in a letter
to the King, "that my Lord Coke himself, when I have in some dark
manner put him in doubt that he shall be left alone, will not be
singular." After some time Bacon's dexterity was successful; and
Coke, sullenly and reluctantly, followed the example of his
brethren. But in order to convict Peacham it was necessary to
find facts as well as law. Accordingly, this wretched old man was
put to the rack, and, while undergoing the horrible infliction,
was examined by Bacon, but in vain. No confession could be wrung
out of him; and Bacon wrote to the King, complaining that Peacham
had a dumb devil. At length the trial came on. A conviction was
obtained; but the charges were so obviously futile, that the
Government could not, for very shame, carry the sentence into
execution; and Peacham, was suffered to languish away the short
remainder of his life in a prison.

All this frightful story Mr. Montagu relates fairly. He neither
conceals nor distorts any material fact. But he can see nothing
deserving of condemnation in Bacon's conduct. He tells us most
truly that we ought not to try the men of one age by the standard
of another; that Sir Matthew Hale is not to be pronounced a bad
man because he left a woman to be executed for witchcraft; that
posterity will not be justified in censuring judges of our time,
for selling offices in their courts, according to the established
practice, bad as that practice was; and that Bacon is entitled to
similar indulgence. "To persecute the lover of truth," says Mr.
Montagu, "for opposing established customs, and to censure him in
after ages for not having been more strenuous in opposition, are
errors which will never cease until the pleasure of self-
elevation from the depression of superiority is no more."

We have no dispute with Mr. Montagu about the general
proposition. We assent to every word of it. But does it apply to
the present case? Is it true that in the time of James the First
it was the established practice for the law-officers of the Crown
to hold private consultations with the judges, touching capital
cases which those judges were afterwards to try? Certainly not.
In the very page in which Mr. Montagu asserts that "the
influencing a judge out of court seems at that period scarcely to
have been considered as improper," he give the very words of Sir
Edward Coke on the subject. "I will not thus declare what may
be my judgment by these auricular confessions of new and
pernicious tendency, and not according to the customs of the
realm." Is it possible to imagine that Coke, who had himself been
Attorney-General during thirteen years, who had conducted a far
greater number of important State prosecutions than any other
lawyer named in English history, and who had passed with scarcely
any interval from the Attorney-Generalship to the first seat in
the first criminal court in the realm, could have been startled
at an invitation to confer with the Crown-lawyers, and could have
pronounced the practice new, if it had really been an
established usage? We well know that, where property only was at
stake, it was then a common, though a most culpable practice, in
the judges, to listen to private solicitation. But the practice
of tampering with judges in order to procure capita; convictions
we believe to have been new, first, because Coke, who understood
those matters better than any man of his time, asserted it to be
new; and secondly, because neither Bacon nor Mr. Montagu has
shown a single precedent.

How then stands the case? Even thus: Bacon was not conforming to
an usage then generally admitted to be proper. He was not even
the last lingering adherent of an old abuse. It would have been
sufficiently disgraceful to such a man to be in this last
situation. Yet this last situation would have been honourable
compared with that in which he stood. He was guilty of attempting
to introduce into the courts of law an odious abuse for which no
precedent could be found. Intellectually, he was better fitted
than any man that England has ever produced for the work of
improving her institutions. But, unhappily, we see that he did
not scruple to exert his great powers for the purpose of
introducing into those institutions new corruptions of the
foulest kind.

The same, or nearly the same, may be said of the torturing of
Peacham. If it be true that in the time of James the First the
propriety of torturing prisoners was generally allowed, we should
admit this as an excuse, though we should admit it less readily
in the case of such a man as Bacon than in the case of an
ordinary lawyer or politician. But the fact is, that the practice
of torturing prisoners was then generally acknowledged by lawyers
to be illegal, and was execrated by the public as barbarous. More
than thirty years before Peacham's trial, that practice was so
loudly condemned by the voice of the nation that Lord Burleigh
found it necessary to publish an apology for having occasionally
resorted to it. But, though the dangers which then threatened the
Government were of a very different kind from those which were to
be apprehended from anything that Peacham could write, though the
life of the Queen and the dearest interests of the State were in
jeopardy, though the circumstances were such that all ordinary
laws might seem to be superseded by that highest law, the public
safety, the apology did not satisfy the country; and the Queen
found it expedient to issue an order positively forbidding the
torturing of State-prisoners on any pretence whatever. From that
time, the practice of torturing, which had always been unpopular,
which had always been illegal, had also been unusual. It is well
known that in 1628, only fourteen years after the time when Bacon
went to the Tower to listen to the yells of Peacham, the judges
decided that Felton, a criminal who neither deserved nor was
likely to obtain any extraordinary indulgence, could not lawfully
be put to the question. We therefore say that Bacon stands in a
very different situation from that in which Mr. Montagu tries to
place him. Bacon was here distinctly behind his age. He was one
of the last of the tools of power who persisted in a practice the
most barbarous and the most absurd that has ever disgraced
jurisprudence, in a practice of which, in the preceding
generation, Elizabeth and her Ministers had been ashamed, in a
practice which, a few years later, no sycophant in all the Inns
of Court had the heart or the forehead to defend. [Since this
Review was written, Mr. Jardine has published a very learned and
ingenious Reading on the use of torture in England. It has not,
however, been thought necessary to make any change in the
observations on Peacham's case.

It is impossible to discuss within the limits of a note, the
extensive question raised by Mr. Jardine. It is sufficient here
to say that every argument by which he attempts to show that the
use of the rack was anciently a lawful exertion of royal
prerogative may be urged with equal force, nay, with far greater
force, to prove the lawfulness of benevolences, of ship-money, of
Mompesson's patent, of Eliot's imprisonment, of every abuse,
without exception, which is condemned by the Petition of Right
and the Declaration of Right.]

Bacon far behind his age! Bacon far behind Sir Edward Coke! Bacon
clinging to exploded abuses! Bacon withstanding the progress of
improvement! Bacon struggling to push back the human mind! The
words seem strange. They sound like a contradiction in terms. Yet
the fact is even so: and the explanation may be readily found by
any person who is not blinded by prejudice. Mr. Montagu cannot
believe that so extraordinary a man as Bacon could be guilty of a
bad action; as if history were not made up of the bad actions of
extraordinary men, as if all the most noted destroyers and
deceivers of our species, all the founders of arbitrary
governments and false religions, had not been extraordinary men,
as if nine-tenths of the calamities which have befallen the human
race had any other origin than the union of high intelligence
with low desires.

Bacon knew this well. He has told us that there are persons
"scientia tanquam angeli alati, cupiditatibus vero tanquam
serpentes qui humi reptant"; [De Augmentis, Lib. v. Cap. I.] and
it did not require his admirable sagacity and his extensive
converse with mankind to make the discovery. Indeed, he had only
look within. The difference between the soaring angel and the
snake was but a type of the difference between Bacon the
philosopher and Bacon the Attorney-General, Bacon seeking for
truth, and Bacon seeking for the Seals. Those who survey only
one-half of his character may speak of him with unmixed
admiration or with unmixed contempt. But those only judge of him
correctly who take in at one view Bacon in speculation and Bacon
in action. They will have no difficulty in comprehending how one
and the same man should have been far above his age and far
behind it, in one line the boldest and most useful of innovators,
in another one the most obstinate champion of the foulest abuses.
In his library, all his rare powers were under the guidance of an
honest ambition, of all enlarged philanthropy, of a sincere love
of truth. There, no temptation drew him away from the right
course. Thomas Aquinas could pay no fees. Duns Scotus could
confer no peerages. The Master of the Sentences had no rich
reversions in his gift. Far different was the situation of the
great philosopher when he came forth from his study and his
laboratory to mingle with the crowd which filled the galleries of
Whitehall. In all that crowd there was no man equally qualified
to render great and lasting services to mankind. But in all that
crowd there was not a heart more set on things which no man ought
to suffer to be necessary to his happiness, on things which can
often be obtained only by the sacrifice of integrity and honour.
To be the leader of the human race in the career of improvement,
to found on the ruins of ancient intellectual dynasties a more
prosperous and a more enduring empire, to be revered by the
latest generations as the most illustrious among the benefactors
of mankind, all this was within his reach, But all this availed
him nothing, while some quibbling special pleader was promoted
before him to the bench, while some heavy country gentleman took
precedence of him by virtue of a purchased coronet, while some
pandar, happy in a fair wife, could obtain a more cordial salute
from Buckingham, while some buffoon, versed in all the latest
scandal of the Court, could draw a louder laugh from James.

During a long course of years, Bacon's unworthy ambition was
crowned with success. His sagacity early enabled him to perceive
who was likely to become the most powerful man in the kingdom. He
probably knew the King's mind before it was known to the King
himself, and attached himself to Villiers, while the less
discerning crowd of courtiers still continued to fawn on
Somerset, The influence of the younger favourite became greater
daily. The contest between the rivals might, however, have lasted
long, but for that frightful crime which, in spite of all that
could be effected by the research and ingenuity of historians, is
still covered with so mysterious an obscurity. The descent of
Somerset had been a gradual and almost imperceptible lapse. It
now became a headlong fall; and Villiers, left without a
competitor, rapidly rose to a height of power such as no subject
since Wolsey had attained.

There were many points of resemblance between the two celebrated
courtiers who, at different times, extended their patronage to
Bacon. It is difficult to say whether Essex or Villiers was more
eminently distinguished by those graces of person and manner
which have always been rated in courts at much more than their
real value. Both were constitutionally brave; and both, like most
men who are constitutionally brave, were open and unreserved.
Both were rash and head-strong. Both were destitute of the
abilities and of the information which are necessary to
statesmen. Yet both, trusting to the accomplishments which had
made them conspicuous in tilt-yards and ball-rooms, aspired to
rule the State. Both owed their elevation to the personal
attachment of the sovereign; and in both cases this attachment
was of so eccentric a kind, that it perplexed observers, that it
still continues to perplex historians, and that it gave rise to
much scandal which we are inclined to think unfounded. Each of
them treated the sovereign whose favour he enjoyed with a
rudeness which approached to insolence. This petulance ruined
Essex, who had to deal with a spirit naturally as proud as his
own, and accustomed, during near half a century, to the most
respectful observance. But there was a wide difference between
the haughty daughter of Henry and her successor. James was timid
from the cradle. His nerves, naturally weak, had not been
fortified by reflection or by habit. His life, till he came to
England, had been a series of mortifications and humiliations.
With all his high notions of the origin and extent of his
prerogatives, he was never his own master for a day. In spite of
his kingly title, in spite of his despotic theories, he was to
the last a slave at heart. Villiers treated him like one; and
this course, though adopted, we believe, merely from temper,
succeeded as well as if it had been a system of policy formed
after mature deliberation.

In generosity, in sensibility, in capacity for friendship, Essex
far surpassed Buckingham. Indeed, Buckingham can scarcely be said
to have had any friend, with the exception of the two princes
over whom successively he exercised so wonderful an influence.
Essex was to the last adored by the people. Buckingham was always
a most unpopular man, except perhaps for a very short time after
his return from the childish visit to Spain. Essex fell a victim
to the rigour of the Government amidst the lamentations of the
people. Buckingham, execrated by the people, and solemnly
declared a public enemy by the representatives of the people,
fell by the hand of one of the people, and was lamented by none
but his master.

The way in which the two favourites acted towards Bacon was
highly characteristic, and may serve to illustrate the old and
true saying, that a man is generally more inclined to feel kindly
towards one on whom he has conferred favours than towards one
from whom he has received them. Essex loaded Bacon with benefits,
and never thought that he had done enough. It seems never to have
crossed the mind of the powerful and wealthy noble that the poor
barrister whom he treated with such munificent kindness was not
his equal. It was, we have no doubt, with perfect sincerity that
the Earl declared that he would willingly give his sister or
daughter in marriage to his friend. He was in general more than
sufficiently sensible of his own merits; but he did not seem to
know that he had ever deserved well of Bacon. On that cruel day
when they saw each other for the last time at the bar of the
Lords, Essex taxed his perfidious friend with unkindness and
insincerity, but never with ingratitude. Even in such a moment,
more bitter than the bitterness of death, that noble heart was
too great to vent itself in such a reproach.

Villiers, on the other hand, owed much to Bacon. When their
acquaintance began, Sir Francis was a man of mature age, of high
station, and of established fame as a politician, an advocate,
and a writer. Villiers was little more than a boy, a younger son
of a house then of no great note. He was but just entering on the
career of court favour; and none but the most discerning
observers could as yet perceive that he was likely to distance
all his competitors. The countenance and advice of a man so
highly distinguished as the Attorney-General, must have been an
object of the highest importance to the young adventurer. But
though Villiers was the obliged party, he was far less warmly
attached to Bacon, and far less delicate in his conduct towards
Bacon, than Essex had been.

To do the new favourite justice, he early exerted his influence
in behalf of his illustrious friend. In 1616 Sir Francis was
of the Privy Council, and in March 1617, on the retirement of
Lord Brackley, was appointed Keeper of the Great Seal.

On the seventh of May, the first day of term, he rode in state to
Westminster Hall, with the Lord Treasurer on his right hand, the
Lord Privy Seal on his left, a long procession of students and
ushers before him, and a crowd of peers, privy-councillors, and
judges following in his train. Having entered his court, he
addressed the splendid auditory in a grave and dignified speech,
which proves how well he understood those judicial duties which
he afterwards performed so ill. Even at that moment, the proudest
moment of his life in the estimation of the vulgar, and, it may
be, even in his own, he cast back a look of lingering affection
towards those noble pursuits from which, as it seemed, he was
about to be estranged. "The depth of the three long vacations,"
said he, "I would reserve in some measure free from business of
estate, and for studies, arts, and sciences, to which of my own
nature I am most inclined."

The years during which Bacon held the Great Seal were among the
darkest and most shameful in English history. Everything at home
and abroad was mismanaged. First came the execution of Raleigh,
an act which, if done in a proper manner, might have been
defensible, but which, under all the circumstances, must be
considered as a dastardly murder. Worse was behind: the war of
Bohemia, the successes of Tilly and Spinola, the Palatinate
conquered, the King's son-in-law an exile, the House of Austria
dominant on the Continent, the Protestant religion and the
liberties of the Germanic body trodden under foot. Meanwhile, the
wavering and cowardly policy of England furnished matter of
ridicule to all the nations of Europe. The love of peace which
James professed would, even when indulged to an impolitic excess,
have been respectable, if it had proceeded from tenderness for
his people. But the truth is, that, while he had nothing to spare
for the defence of the natural allies of England, he resorted
without scruple to the most illegal and oppressive devices, for
the purpose of enabling Buckingham and Buckingham's relations to
outshine the ancient aristocracy of the realm. Benevolences were
exacted. Patents of monopoly were multiplied. All the resources
which could have been employed to replenish a beggared exchequer,
at the close of a ruinous war, were put in motion during this
season of ignominious peace.

The vices of the administration must be chiefly ascribed to the
weakness of the King and to the levity and violence of the
favourite. But it is impossible to acquit the Lord Keeper of all
share in the guilt. For those odious patents, in particular,
which passed the Great Seal while it was in his charge, he must
be held answerable. In the speech which he made on first taking
his seat in his court, he had pledged himself to discharge this
important part of his functions with the greatest caution and
impartiality. He had declared that he "would walk in the light,"
"that men should see that no particular turn or end led him, but
a general rule." Mr. Montagu would have us believe that Bacon
acted up to these professions, and says that "the power of the
favourite did not deter the Lord Keeper from staying grants and
patents when his public duty demanded this interposition." Does
Mr. Montagu consider patents of monopoly as good things? or does
he mean to say that Bacon staid every patent of monopoly that
came before him? Of all patents in our history, the most
disgraceful was that which was granted to Sir Giles Mompesson,
supposed to be the original of Massinger's Overreach, and to Sir
Francis Michell, from whom justice Greedy is supposed to have
been drawn, for the exclusive manufacturing of gold and silver
lace. The effect of this monopoly was of course that the metal
employed in the manufacture was adulterated, to the great loss of
the public. But this was a trifle. The patentees were armed with
powers as great as have ever been given to farmers of the revenue
in the worst governed countries. They were authorised to search
houses and to arrest interlopers; and these formidable powers
were used for purposes viler than even those for which they were
given, for the wreaking of old grudges, and for the corrupting of
female chastity. Was not this a case in which public duty
demanded the interposition of the Lord Keeper? And did the Lord
Keeper interpose? He did. He wrote to inform the King, that he
"had considered of the fitness and conveniency of the gold and
silver thread business," "that it was convenient that it should
be settled," that he "did conceive apparent likelihood that it
would redound much to his Majesty's profit," that, therefore, "it
were good it were settled with all convenient speed." The meaning
of all this was, that certain of the House of Villiers were to go
shares with Overreach and Greedy in the plunder of the public.
This was the way in which, when the favourite pressed for
patents, lucrative to his relations and to his creatures, ruinous
and vexatious to the body of the people, the chief guardian of
the laws interposed. Having assisted the patentees to obtain
this monopoly, Bacon assisted them also in the steps which they
took for the purpose of guarding it. He committed several people
to close confinement for disobeying his tyrannical edict. It is
needless to say more. Our readers are now able to judge whether,
in the matter of patents, Bacon acted conformably to his
professions, or deserved the praise which his biographer has
bestowed on him.

In his judicial capacity his conduct was not less reprehensible.
He suffered Buckingham to dictate many of his decisions. Bacon
knew as well as any man that a judge who listens to private
solicitations is a disgrace to his post. He himself, before he
was raised to the woolsack, represented this strongly to
Villiers, then just entering on his career. "By no means," said
Sir Francis, in a letter of advice addressed to the young
courtier, "by no means be you persuaded to interpose yourself,
either by word or letter, in any cause depending in any court of
justice, nor suffer any great man to do it where you can hinder
it. If it should prevail, it perverts justice; but if the judge
be so just, and of such courage as he ought to be, as not to be
inclined thereby, yet it always leaves a taint of suspicion
behind it." Yet he had not been Lord Keeper a month when
Buckingham began to interfere in Chancery suits; and Buckingham's
interference was, as might have been expected, successful.

Mr. Montagu's reflections on the excellent passage which we have
quoted above are exceedingly amusing. "No man," says he, "more
deeply felt the evils which then existed of the interference of
the Crown and of statesmen to influence judges. How beautifully
did he admonish Buckingham, regardless as he proved of all
admonition!" We should be glad to know how it can be expected
that admonition will be regarded by him who receives it, when it
is altogether neglected by him who gives it. We do not defend
Buckingham; but what was his guilt to Bacon's? Buckingham was
young, ignorant, thoughtless, dizzy with the rapidity of his
ascent and the height of his position. That he should be eager to
serve his relations, his flatterers, his mistresses, that he
should not fully apprehend the immense importance of a pure
administration of justice, that he should think more about those
who were bound to him by private ties than about the public
interest, all this was perfectly natural, and not altogether
unpardonable. Those who intrust a petulant, hot-blooded, ill-
informed lad with power, are more to blame than he for the
mischief which he may do with it. How could it be expected of a
lively page, raised by a wild freak of fortune to the first
influence in the empire, that he should have bestowed any serious
thought on the principles which ought to guide judicial
decisions? Bacon was the ablest public man then living in
Europe. He was near sixty years old. He had thought much, and to
good purpose, on the general principles of law. He had for many
years borne a part daily in the administration of justice. It was
impossible that a man with a tithe of his sagacity and experience
should not have known that a judge who suffers friends or patrons
to dictate his decrees violates the plainest rules of duty. In
fact, as we have seen, he knew this well: he expressed it
admirably. Neither on this occasion nor on any other could his
bad actions be attributed to any defect of the head. They sprang
from quite a different cause.

A man who stooped to render such services to others was not
likely to be scrupulous as to the means by which he enriched
himself. He and his dependants accepted large presents from
persons who were engaged in Chancery suits. The amount of the
plunder which he collected in this way it is impossible to
estimate. There can be no doubt that he received very much more
than was proved on his trial, though, it may be, less than was
suspected by the public. His enemies stated his illicit gains at
a hundred thousand pounds. But this was probably an exaggeration.

It was long before the day of reckoning arrived. During the
interval between the second and third Parliaments of James, the
nation was absolutely governed by the Crown. The prospects of the
Lord Keeper were bright and serene. His great place rendered the
splendour of his talents even more conspicuous, and gave an
additional charm to the serenity of his temper, the courtesy of
his manners, and the eloquence of his conversation. The pillaged
suitor might mutter. The austere Puritan patriot might, in his
retreat, grieve that one on whom God had bestowed without measure
all the abilities which qualify men to take the lead in great
reforms should be found among the adherents of the worst abuses.
But the murmurs of the suitor and the lamentations of the patriot
had scarcely any avenue to the ears of the powerful. The King,
and the Minister who was the King's master, smiled on their
illustrious flatterer. The whole crowd of courtiers and nobles
sought his favour with emulous eagerness. Men of wit and learning
hailed with delight the elevation of one who had so signally
shown that a man of profound learning and of brilliant wit might
understand, far better than any plodding dunce, the art of
thriving in the world.

Once, and but once, this course of prosperity was for a moment
interrupted. It would seem that even Bacon's brain was not strong
enough to bear without some discomposure the inebriating effect
of so much good fortune. For some time after his elevation, he
showed himself a little wanting in that wariness and self-command
to which, more than even to his transcendent talents, his
elevation was to be ascribed. He was by no means a good hater.
The temperature of his revenge, like that of his gratitude, was
scarcely ever more than lukewarm. But there was one person whom
he had long regarded with an animosity which, though studiously
suppressed, was perhaps the stronger for the suppression. The
insults and injuries which, when a young man struggling into note
and professional practice, he had received from Sir Edward Coke,
were such as might move the most placable nature to resentment.
About the time at which Bacon received the Seals, Coke had, on
account of his contumacious resistance to the royal pleasure,
been deprived of his seat in the Court of King's Bench, and had
ever since languished in retirement. But Coke's opposition to the
Court, we fear, was the effect not of good principles, but of a
bad temper. Perverse and testy as he was, he wanted true
fortitude and dignity of character. His obstinacy, unsupported by
virtuous motives, was not proof against disgrace. He solicited a
reconciliation with the favourite, and his solicitations were
successful. Sir John Villiers, the brother of Buckingham, was
looking out for a rich wife. Coke had a large fortune and an
unmarried daughter. A bargain was struck. But Lady Coke, the lady
whom twenty years before Essex had wooed on behalf of Bacon,
would not hear of the match. A violent and scandalous family
quarrel followed. The mother carried the girl away by stealth.
The father pursued them, and regained possession of his daughter
by force. The King was then in Scotland, and Buckingham had
attended him thither. Bacon was during their absence at the head
of affairs in England. He felt towards Coke as much malevolence
as it was in his nature to feel towards anybody. His wisdom had
been laid to sleep by prosperity. In an evil hour he determined
to interfere in the disputes which agitated his enemy's
household. He declared for the wife, countenanced the Attorney-
General in the filing an information in the Star-Chamber against
the husband, and wrote letters to the King and the favourite
against the proposed marriage. The strong language which he
used in those letters shows that, sagacious as he was, he did
not quite know his place, and that he was not fully acquainted
with the extent either of Buckingham's power, or of the change
which the possession of that power had produced in Buckingham's
character. He soon had a lesson which he never forgot. The
favourite received the news of the Lord Keeper's interference
feelings of the most violent resentment, and made the King even
more angry than himself. Bacon's eyes were at once opened to
his error, and to all its possible consequences. He had been
elated, if not intoxicated, by greatness. The shock sobered him
in an instant. He was all himself again. He apologised
for his interference. He directed the Attorney-General to stop
the proceedings against Coke. He sent to tell Lady Coke that
he could do nothing for her. He announced to both the families
that he was desirous to promote the connection. Having given
these proofs of contrition, he ventured to present himself
before Buckingham. But the young upstart did not think that he
had yet sufficiently humbled an old man who had been his friend
and his benefactor, who was the highest civil functionary
in the realm, and the most eminent man of letters of the world.
It is said that on two successive days Bacon repaired to
Buckingham's house, that on two successive days he was suffered
to remain in an antechamber among footboys, seated on an old
wooden box, with the Great Seal of England at his side; and that
when at length he was admitted, he flung himself on the floor,
kissed the favourite's feet, and vowed never to rise till he was
forgiven. Sir Anthony Weldon, on whose authority this story
rests, is likely enough to have exaggerated the meanness of Bacon
and the insolence of Buckingham. But it is difficult to imagine
that so circumstantial a narrative, written by a person who avers
that he was present on the occasion, can be wholly without
foundation; and, unhappily, there is little in the character
either of the favourite or of the Lord Keeper to make the
narrative improbable. It is certain that a reconciliation took
place on terms humiliating to Bacon, who never more ventured to
cross any purpose of anybody who bore the name of Villiers. He
put a strong curb on those angry passions which had for the first
time in his life mastered his prudence. He went through the forms
of a reconciliation with Coke, and did his best, by seeking
opportunities of paying little civilities, and by avoiding all
that could produce collision, to tame the untameable ferocity of
his old enemy.

In the main, however, Bacon's life, while he held the Great Seal,
was, in outward appearance, most enviable. In London he lived
with great dignity at York House, the venerable mansion of his
father. Here it was that, in January 1620, he celebrated his
entrance into his sixtieth year amidst a splendid circle of
friends. He had then exchanged the appellation of Keeper for the
higher title of Chancellor. Ben Jonson was one of the party, and
wrote on the occasion some of the happiest of his rugged rhymes.
All things, he tells us, seemed to smile about the old house,
"the fire, the wine, the men." The spectacle of the accomplished
host, after a life marked by no great disaster, entered on a
green old age, in the enjoyment of riches, power, high honours,
undiminished mental activity, and vast literary reputation, made
a strong impression on the poet, if we may judge from those well-
known lines:

"England's high Chancellor, the destined heir,
In his soft cradle, to his father's chair,
Whose even thread the Fates spin round and full
Out of their choicest and their whitest wool."

In the intervals of rest which Bacon's political and judicial
functions afforded, he was in the habit of retiring to
Gorhambury. At that place his business was literature, and his
favourite amusement gardening, which in one of his most
interesting Essays he calls "the purest of human pleasures." In
his magnificent grounds he erected, at a cost of ten thousand
pounds, a retreat to which he repaired when he wished to avoid
all visitors, and to devote himself wholly to study. On such
occasions, a few young men of distinguished talents were
sometimes the companions of his retirement; and among them his
quick eye soon discerned the superior abilities of Thomas Hobbes.
It is not probable, however, that he fully appreciated the powers
of his disciple, or foresaw the vast influence, both for good and
for evil, which that most vigorous and acute of human intellects
was destined to exercise on the two succeeding generations.

In January 1621, Bacon had reached the zenith of his fortunes. He
had just published the Novum Organum; and that extraordinary book
had drawn forth the warmest expressions of admiration from the
ablest men in Europe. He had obtained honours of a widely
different kind, but perhaps not less valued by him. He had been
created Baron Verulam. He had subsequently been raised to the
higher dignity of Viscount St. Albans. His patent was drawn in
the most flattering terms, and the Prince of Wales signed it as a
witness. The ceremony of investiture was performed with great
state at Theobalds, and Buckingham condescended to be one of the
chief actors. Posterity has felt that the greatest of English
philosophers could derive no accession of dignity from any title
which James could bestow, and, in defiance of the royal letters
patent, has obstinately refused to degrade Francis Bacon into
Viscount St. Albans.

In a few weeks was signally brought to the test the value of
those objects for which Bacon had sullied his integrity, had
resigned his independence, had violated the most sacred
obligations of friendship and gratitude, had flattered the
worthless, had persecuted the innocent, had tampered with judges,
had tortured prisoners, had plundered suitors, had wasted on
paltry intrigues all the powers of the most exquisitely
constructed intellect that has ever been bestowed on any of the
children of men. A sudden and terrible reverse was at hand. A
Parliament had been summoned. After six years of silence the
voice of the nation was again to be heard. Only three days after
the pageant which was performed at Theobalds in honour of Bacon,
the Houses met.

Want of money had, as usual, induced the King to convoke his
Parliament. It may be doubted, however, whether, if he or his
Ministers had been at all aware of the state of public feeling,
they would not have tried any expedient, or borne with any
inconvenience, rather than have ventured to face the deputies of
a justly exasperated nation. But they did not discern those
times. Indeed almost all the political blunders of James, and of
his more unfortunate son, arose from one great error. During the
fifty years which preceded the Long Parliament a great and
progressive change was taking place in the public mind. The
nature and extent of this change was not in the least understood
by either of the first two Kings of the House of Stuart, or by
any of their advisers. That the nation became more and more
discontented every year, that every House of Commons was more
unmanageable than that which had preceded it, were facts which it
was impossible not to perceive. But the Court could not
understand why these things were so. The Court could not see that
the English people and the English Government, though they might
once have been well suited to each other, were suited to each
other no longer; that the nation had outgrown its old
institutions, was every day more uneasy under them, was pressing
against them, and would soon burst through them. The alarming
phaenomena, the existence of which no sycophant could deny, were
ascribed to every cause except the true one. "In my first
Parliament," said James, "I was a novice. In my next, there was a
kind of beasts called undertakers" and so forth. In the third
Parliament he could hardly be called a novice, and those beasts,
the undertakers, did not exist. Yet his third Parliament gave
him more trouble than either the first or the second.

The Parliament had no sooner met than the House of Commons
proceeded, in a temperate and respectful, but most determined
manner, to discuss the public grievances. Their first attacks
were directed against those odious patents, under cover of which
Buckingham and his creatures had pillaged and oppressed the
nation. The vigour with which these proceedings were conducted
spread dismay through the Court. Buckingham thought himself in
danger, and, in his alarm, had recourse to an adviser who had
lately acquired considerable influence over him, Williams, Dean
of Westminster. This person had already been of great use to the
favourite in a very delicate matter. Buckingham had set his heart
on marrying Lady Catherine Manners, daughter and heiress of the
Earl of Rutland. But the difficulties were great. The Earl was
haughty and impracticable, and the young lady was a Catholic.
Williams soothed the pride of the father, and found arguments
which, for a time at least, quieted the conscience of the
daughter. For these services he had been rewarded with
considerable preferment in the Church; and he was now rapidly
rising to the same place in the regard of Buckingham which had
formerly been occupied by Bacon.

Williams was one of those who are wiser for others than for
themselves. His own public life was unfortunate, and was made
unfortunate by his strange want of judgment and self-command at
several important conjunctures. But the counsel which he gave on
this occasion showed no want of worldly wisdom. He advised the
favourite to abandon all thoughts of defending the monopolies, to
find some foreign embassy for his brother Sir Edward, who was
deeply implicated in the villanies of Mompesson, and to leave the
other offenders to the justice of Parliament. Buckingham received
this advice with the warmest expressions of gratitude, and
declared that a load had been lifted from his heart. He then
repaired with Williams to the royal presence. They found the King
engaged in earnest consultation with Prince Charles. The plan of
operations proposed by the Dean was fully discussed, and approved
in all its parts.

The first victims whom the Court abandoned to the vengeance of
the Commons were Sir Giles Mompesson and Sir Francis Michell. It
was some time before Bacon began to entertain any apprehensions.
His talents and his address gave him great influence in the House
of which he had lately become a member, as indeed they must have
done in any assembly. In the House of Commons he had many
personal friends and many warm admirers. But at length, about six
weeks after the meeting of Parliament, the storm burst.

A committee of the lower House had been appointed to inquire into
the state of the Courts of Justice. On the fifteenth of March the
chairman of that committee, Sir Robert Philips, member for Bath,
reported that great abuses had been discovered. "The person,"
said he, "against whom these things are alleged is no less than
the Lord Chancellor, a man so endued with all parts, both of
nature and art, as that I will say no more of him, being not able
to say enough." Sir Robert then proceeded to state, in the most
temperate manner, the nature of the charges. A person of the name
of Aubrey had a case depending in Chancery. He had been almost
ruined by law expenses, and his patience had been exhausted by
the delays of the court. He received a hint from some of the
hangers-on of the Chancellor that a present of one hundred pounds
would expedite matters. The poor man had not the sum required.
However, having found out an usurer who accommodated him with it
at high interest, he carried it to York House. The Chancellor
took the money, and his dependants assured the suitor that all
would go right. Aubrey was, however, disappointed; for, after
considerable delay, "a killing decree" was pronounced against
him. Another suitor of the name of Egerton complained that he had
been induced by two of the Chancellor's jackals to make his
Lordship a present of four hundred pounds, and that,
nevertheless, he had not been able to obtain a decree in his
favour. The evidence to these facts was overwhelming. Bacon's
friends could only entreat the House to suspend its judgment, and
to send up the case to the Lords, in a form less offensive than
an impeachment.

On the nineteenth of March the King sent a message to the
Commons, expressing his deep regret that so eminent a person as
the Chancellor should be suspected of misconduct. His Majesty
declared that he had no wish to screen the guilty from justice,
and proposed to appoint a new kind of tribunal consisting of
eighteen commissioners, who might be chosen from among the
members of the two Houses, to investigate the matter. The Commons
were not disposed to depart from their regular course of
proceeding. On the same day they held a conference with the
Lords, and delivered in the heads of the accusation against the
Chancellor. At this conference Bacon was not present. Overwhelmed
with shame and remorse, and abandoned by all those in whom he had
weakly put his trust, he had shut himself up in his chamber from
the eyes of men. The dejection of his mind soon disordered his
body. Buckingham, who visited him by the King's order, "found his
Lordship very sick and heavy." It appears, from a pathetic letter
which the unhappy man addressed to the Peers on the day of the
conference, that he neither expected nor wished to survive his
disgrace. During several days he remained in his bed, refusing to
see any human being. He passionately told his attendants to leave
him, to forget him, never again to name his name, never to
remember that there had been such a man in the world. In the
meantime, fresh instances of corruption were every day brought to
the knowledge of his accusers. The number of charges rapidly
increased from two to twenty-three. The Lords entered on the
investigation of the case with laudable alacrity. Some witnesses
were examined at the bar of the House. A select committee was
appointed to take the depositions of others; and the inquiry was
rapidly proceeding, when on the twenty-sixth of March, the King
adjourned the Parliament for three weeks.

This measure revived Bacon's hopes. He made the most of his short
respite. He attempted to work on the feeble mind of the King. He
appealed to all the strongest feelings of James, to his fears, to
his vanity, to his high notions of prerogative. Would the Solomon
of the age commit so gross an error as to encourage the
encroaching spirit of Parliaments? Would God's anointed,
accountable to God alone, pay homage to the clamorous multitude?
"Those," exclaimed Bacon, "who now strike at the Chancellor will
soon strike at the Crown. I am the first sacrifice. I wish I may
be the last." But all his eloquence and address were employed in
vain. Indeed, whatever Mr. Montagu may say, we are firmly
convinced that it was not in the King's power to save Bacon,
without having recourse to measures which would have convulsed
the realm. The Crown had not sufficient influence over the
Parliament to procure an acquittal in so clear a case of guilt.
And to dissolve a Parliament which is universally allowed to have
been one of the best Parliaments that ever sat, which had acted
liberally and respectfully towards the Sovereign, and which
enjoyed in the highest degree the favour of the people, only in
order to stop a grave, temperate, and constitutional inquiry into
the personal integrity of the first judge in the kingdom, would
have been a measure more scandalous and absurd than any of those
which were the ruin of the House of Stuart. Such a measure, while
it would have been as fatal to the Chancellor's honour as a
conviction, would have endangered the very existence of the
monarchy. The King, acting by the advice of Williams, very
properly refused to engage in a dangerous struggle with his
people, for the purpose of saving from legal condemnation a
Minister whom it was impossible to save from dishonour. He
advised Bacon to plead guilty, and promised to do all in his
power to mitigate the punishment. Mr. Montagu is exceedingly
angry with James on this account. But though we are, in general,
very little inclined to admire that Prince's conduct, we really
think that his advice was, under all the circumstances, the best
advice that could have been given.

On the seventeenth of April the Houses reassembled, and the Lords
resumed their inquiries into the abuses of the Court of Chancery.
On the twenty-second, Bacon addressed to the Peers a letter,
which the Prince of Wales condescended to deliver. In this artful
and pathetic composition, the Chancellor acknowledged his guilt
in guarded and general terms, and, while acknowledging,
endeavoured to palliate it. This, however, was not thought
sufficient by his judges. They required a more particular
confession, and sent him a copy of the charges. On the thirtieth,
he delivered a paper in which he admitted, with few and
unimportant reservations, the truth of the accusations brought
against him, and threw himself entirely on the mercy of his
peers. "Upon advised consideration of the charges," said he,
"descending into my own conscience, and calling my memory to
account so far as I am able, I do plainly and ingenuously confess
that I am guilty of corruption, and do renounce all defence."

The Lords came to a resolution that the Chancellor's confession
appeared to be full and ingenuous, and sent a committee to
inquire of him whether it was really subscribed by himself. The
deputies, among whom was Southampton, the common friend, many
years before, of Bacon and Essex, performed their duty with great
delicacy. Indeed, the agonies of such a mind and the degradation
of such a name might well have softened the most obdurate
natures. "My Lords," said Bacon, "it is my act, my hand, my
heart. I beseech your Lordships to be merciful to a broken reed."
They withdrew; and he again retired to his chamber in the deepest
dejection. The next day, the sergeant-at-arms and the usher of
the House of Lords came to conduct him to Westminster Hall, where
sentence was to be pronounced. But they found him so unwell that
he could not leave his bed; and this excuse for his absence was
readily accepted. In no quarter does there appear to have been
the smallest desire to add to his humiliation.

The sentence was, however, severe--the more severe, no doubt,
because the Lords knew that it would not be executed, and that
they had an excellent opportunity of exhibiting, at small cost,
the inflexibility of their justice, and their abhorrence of
corruption. Bacon was condemned to pay a fine of forty thousand
pounds, and to be imprisoned in the Tower during the King's
pleasure. He was declared incapable of holding any office in the
State or of sitting in Parliament: and he was banished for life
from the verge of the court. In such misery and shame ended that
long career of worldly wisdom and worldly prosperity.

Even at this pass Mr. Montagu does not desert his hero. He seems
indeed to think that the attachment of an editor ought to be as
devoted as that of Mr. Moore's lovers; and cannot conceive what
biography was made for,

"if 'tis not the same
Through joy and through torment, through glory and shame."

He assures us that Bacon was innocent, that he had the means of
making a perfectly satisfactory defence, that when "he plainly
and ingenuously confessed that he was guilty of corruption," and
when he afterwards solemnly affirmed that his confession was "his
act, his hand, his heart," he was telling a great lie, and that
he refrained from bringing forward proofs of his innocence,
because he durst not disobey the King and the favourite, who, for
their own selfish objects, pressed him to plead guilty.

Now, in the first place, there is not the smallest reason to
believe that, if James and Buckingham had thought that Bacon had
a good defence, they would have prevented him from making it.
What conceivable motive had they for doing so? Mr. Montagu
perpetually repeats that it was their interest to sacrifice
Bacon. But he overlooks an obvious distinction. It was their
interest to sacrifice Bacon on the supposition of his guilt; but
not on the supposition of his innocence. James was very properly
unwilling to run the risk of protecting his Chancellor against
the Parliament. But if the Chancellor had been able, by force of
argument, to obtain an acquittal from the Parliament, we have no
doubt that both the King and Villiers would have heartily
rejoiced. They would have rejoiced, not merely on account of
their friendship for Bacon, which seems, however, to have been as
sincere as most friendships of that sort, but on selfish grounds.
Nothing could have strengthened the Government more than such a
victory. The King and the favourite abandoned the Chancellor
because they were unable to avert his disgrace, and unwilling to
share it. Mr. Montagu mistakes effect for cause. He thinks that
Bacon did not prove his innocence, because he was not supported
by the Court. The truth evidently is that the Court did not
venture to support Bacon, because he could not prove his

Again, it seems strange that Mr. Montagu should not perceive
that, while attempting to vindicate Bacon's reputation, he is
really casting on it the foulest of all aspersions. He imputes to
his idol a degree of meanness and depravity more loathsome than
judicial corruption itself. A corrupt judge may have many good
qualities. But a man who, to please a powerful patron, solemnly
declares himself guilty of corruption when he knows himself to be
innocent, must be a monster of servility and impudence. Bacon
was, to say nothing of his highest claims to respect, a
gentleman, a nobleman, a scholar, a statesman, a man of the first
consideration in society, a man far advanced in years. Is it
possible to believe that such a man would, to gratify any human
being, irreparably ruin his own character by his own act? Imagine
a grey-headed judge, full of years and honours, owning with
tears, with pathetic assurances of his penitence and of his
sincerity, that he has been guilty of shameful malpractices,
repeatedly asseverating the truth of his confession, subscribing
it with his own hand, submitting to conviction, receiving a
humiliating sentence and acknowledging its justice, and all this
when he has it in his power to show that his conduct has been
irreproachable! The thing is incredible. But if we admit it to be
true, what must we think of such a man, if indeed he deserves the
name of man, who thinks anything that kings and minions can
bestow more precious than honour, or anything that they can
inflict more terrible than infamy?

Of this most disgraceful imputation we fully acquit Bacon. He had
no defence; and Mr. Montagu's affectionate attempt to make a
defence for him has altogether failed.

The grounds on which Mr. Montagu rests the case are two: the
first, that the taking of presents was usual, and, what he seems
to consider as the same thing, not discreditable; the second,
that these presents were not taken as bribes.

Mr Montagu brings forward many facts in support of his first
proposition. He is not content with showing that many English
judges formerly received gifts from suitors, but collects similar
instances from foreign nations and ancient times. He goes back to
the commonwealths of Greece, and attempts to press into his
service a line of Homer and a sentence of Plutarch, which, we
fear, will hardly serve his turn. The gold of which Homer speaks
was not intended to fee the judges, but was paid into court for
the benefit of the successful litigant; and the gratuities which
Pericles, as Plutarch states, distributed among the members of
the Athenian tribunals, were legal wages paid out of the public
revenue. We can supply Mr. Montagu with passages much more in
point. Hesiod, who, like poor Aubrey, had a "killing decree "
made against him in the Chancery of Ascra, forgot decorum so far
that he ventured to designate the learned persons who presided in
that court, as Basileas dorophagous. Plutarch and Diodorus have
handed down to the latest ages the respectable name of Anytus,
the son of Anthemion, the first defendant who, eluding all the
safeguards which the ingenuity of Solon could devise, succeeded
in corrupting a bench of Athenian judges. We are indeed so far
from grudging Mr. Montagu the aid of Greece, that we will give
him Rome into the bargain. We acknowledge that the honourable
senators who tried Verres received presents which were worth more
than the fee-simple of York House and Gorhambury together, and
that the no less honourable senators and knights who professed to
believe in the alibi of Clodius obtained marks still more
extraordinary of the esteem and gratitude of the defendant. In
short, we are ready to admit that, before Bacon's time, and in
Bacon's time, judges were in the habit of receiving gifts from

But is this a defence? We think not. The robberies of Cacus and
Barabbas are no apology for those of Turpin. The conduct of the
two men of Belial who swore away the life of Naboth has never
been cited as an excuse for the perjuries of Oates and
Dangerfield. Mr. Montagu has confounded two things which it is
necessary carefully to distinguish from each other, if we wish to
form a correct judgment of the characters of men of other
countries and other times. That an immoral action is in a
particular society, generally considered as innocent, is a good
plea for an individual who, being one of that society, and having
adopted the notions which prevail among his neighbours, commits
that action. But the circumstance that a great many people are in
the habit of committing immoral actions is no plea at all. We
should think it unjust to call St. Louis a wicked man, because in
an age in which toleration was generally regarded as a sin, he
persecuted heretics. We should think it unjust to call Cowper's
friend, John Newton, a hypocrite and monster, because at a time
when the slave-trade was commonly considered by the most
respectable people as an innocent and beneficial traffic, he
went, largely provided with hymn-books and handcuffs, on a Guinea
voyage. But the circumstance that there are twenty thousand
thieves in London is no excuse for a fellow who is caught
breaking into a shop. No man is to be blamed for not making
discoveries in morality, for not finding out that something which
everybody else thinks to be good is really bad. But, if a man
does that which he and all around him know to be bad, it is no
excuse for him that many others have done the same. We should be
ashamed of spending so much time in pointing out so clear a
distinction, but that Mr. Montagu seems altogether to overlook

Now, to apply these principles to the case before us; let Mr.
Montagu prove that, in Bacon's age, the practices for which Bacon
was punished were generally considered as innocent, and we admit
that he has made out his point. But this we defy him to do. That
these practices were common we admit; but they were common just
as all wickedness to which there is strong temptation always was
and always will be common. They were common just as theft,
cheating, perjury, adultery have always been common. They were
common, not because people did not know what was right, but
because people liked to do what was wrong. They were common,
though prohibited by law. They were common, though condemned by
public opinion. They were common, because in that age law and
public opinion united had not sufficient force to restrain the
greediness of powerful and unprincipled magistrates. They were
common, as every crime will be common when the gain to which it
leads is great, and the chance of punishment small. But, though
common, they were universally allowed to be altogether
unjustifiable; they were in the highest degree odious; and,
though many were guilty of them, none had the audacity publicly
to avow and defend them.

We could give a thousand proofs that the opinion then entertained
concerning these practices was such as we have described. But we
will content ourselves with calling a single witness, honest Hugh
Latimer. His sermons, preached more than seventy years before the
inquiry into Bacon's conduct, abound with the sharpest invectives
against those very practices of which Bacon was guilty, and
which, as Mr. Montagu seems to think, nobody ever considered as
blamable till Bacon was punished for them. We could easily fill
twenty pages with the homely, but just and forcible rhetoric of
the brave old bishop. We shall select a few passages as fair
specimens, and no more than fair specimens, of the rest. "Omnes
diligunt munera. They all love bribes. Bribery is a princely kind
of thieving. They will be waged by the rich, either to give
sentence against the poor, or to put off the poor man's cause.
This is the noble theft of princes and magistrates. They are
bribe-takers. Nowadays they call them gentle rewards. Let them
leave their colouring, and call them by their Christian name--
bribes." And again. "Cambyses was a great emperor, such another
as our master is. He had many lord-deputies, lord-presidents, and
lieutenants under him. It is a great while ago since I read the
history. It chanced he had under him, in one of his dominions, a
briber, a gift-taker, a gratifier of rich men; he followed gifts
as fast as he that followed the pudding, a hand-maker in his
office to make his son a great man, as the old saying is: Happy
is the child whose father goeth to the devil. The cry of the poor
widow came to the emperor's ear, and caused him to flay the judge
quick, and laid his skin in the chair of judgment, that all
judges that should give judgment afterwards should sit in the
same skin. Surely it was a goodly sign, a goodly monument, the
sign of the judge's skin. I pray God we may once see the skin in
England." "I am sure," says he, in another sermon, "this is scala
inferni, the right way to hell, to be covetous, to take bribes,
and pervert justice. If a judge should ask me the way to hell, I
would show him this way. First, let him be a covetous man; let
his heart be poisoned with covetousness. Then let him go a little
further, and take bribes; and, lastly, pervert judgment. Lo, here
is the mother, and the daughter, and the daughter's daughter.
Avarice is the mother: she brings forth bribe-taking, and bribe-
taking perverting of judgment. There lacks a fourth thing to make
up the mess, which, so help me God, if I were judge, should be
hangum tuum, a Tyburn tippet to take with him; an it were the
judge of the King's Bench, my Lord Chief Judge of England, yea,
an it were my Lord Chancellor himself, to Tyburn with him." We
will quote but one more passage. "He that took the silver basin
and ewer for a bribe, thinketh that it will never come out.
But he may now know that I know it, and I know it not alone;
there be more beside me that know it. Oh, briber and bribery!
He was never a good man that will so take bribes. Nor can I
believe that he that is a briber will be a good justice. It
will never be merry in England till we have the skins of such.
For what needeth bribing where men do their things uprightly?"

This was not the language of a great philosopher who had made new
discoveries in moral and political science. It was the plain talk
of a plain man, who sprang from the body of the people, who
sympathised strongly with their wants and their feelings, and who
boldly uttered their opinions. It was on account of the fearless
way in which stout-hearted old Hugh exposed the misdeeds of men
in ermine tippets and gold collars, that the Londoners cheered
him, as he walked down the Strand to preach at Whitehall,
struggled for a touch of his gown, and bawled, "Have at them,
Father Latimer!" It is plain, from the passages which we have
quoted, and from fifty others which we might quote, that, long
before Bacon was born, the accepting of presents by a judge was
known to be a wicked and shameful act, that the fine words under
which it was the fashion to veil such corrupt practices were even
then seen through by the common people, that the distinction on
which Mr. Montagu insists between compliments and bribes was even
then laughed at as a mere colouring. There may be some oratorical
exaggeration in what Latimer says about the Tyburn tippet and the
sign of the judge's skin; but the fact that he ventured to use
such expressions is amply sufficient to prove that the gift-
taking judges, the receivers of silver basins and ewers, were
regarded as such pests of the commonwealth that a venerable
divine might, without any breach of Christian charity, publicly
pray to God for their detection and their condign punishment.

Mr. Montagu tells us, most justly, that we ought not to transfer
the opinions of our age to a former age. But he has himself
committed a greater error than that against which he has
cautioned his readers. Without any evidence, nay, in the face of
the strongest evidence, he ascribes to the people of a former age
a set of opinions which no people ever held. But any hypothesis
is in his view more probable than that Bacon should have been a
dishonest man. We firmly believe that, if papers were to be
discovered which should irresistibly prove that Bacon was
concerned in the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury, Mr. Montagu
would tell us that, at the beginning of the seventeenth century,
it was not thought improper in a man to put arsenic into the
broth of his friends, and that we ought to blame, not Bacon, but
the age in which he lived.

But why should we have recourse to any other evidence, when the
proceeding against Lord Bacon is itself the best evidence on the
subject? When Mr. Montagu tells us that we ought not to transfer
the opinions of our age to Bacon's age, he appears altogether to
forget that it was by men of Bacon's own age, that Bacon was
prosecuted, tried, convicted, and sentenced. Did not they know
what their own opinions were? Did not they know whether they
thought the taking of gifts by a judge a crime or not? Mr.
Montagu complains bitterly that Bacon was induced to abstain from
making a defence. But, if Bacon's defence resembled that which is
made for him in the volume before us, it would have been
unnecessary to trouble the Houses with it. The Lords and Commons
did not want Bacon to tell them the thoughts of their own hearts,
to inform them that they did not consider such practices as those
in which they had detected him as at all culpable. Mr. Montagu's
proposition may indeed be fairly stated thus:--It was very hard
that Bacon's contemporaries should think it wrong in him to do
what they did not think it wrong in him to do. Hard indeed; and
withal somewhat improbable. Will any person say that the Commons
who impeached Bacon for taking presents, and the Lords who
sentenced him to fine, imprisonment, and degradation for taking
presents, did not know that the taking of presents was a crime?
Or, will any person say that Bacon did not know what the whole
House of Commons and the whole House of Lords knew? Nobody who is
not prepared to maintain one of these absurd propositions can
deny that Bacon committed what he knew to be a crime.

It cannot be pretended that the Houses were seeking occasion to
ruin Bacon, and that they therefore brought him to punishment on
charges which they themselves knew to be frivolous. In no quarter
was there the faintest indication of a disposition to treat him
harshly. Through the whole proceeding there was no symptom of
personal animosity or of factious violence in either House.
Indeed, we will venture to say that no State-Trial in our History
is more creditable to all who took part in it, either as
prosecutors or judges. The decency, the gravity, the public
spirit, the justice moderated but not unnerved by compassion,
which appeared in every part of the transaction, would do honour
to the most respectable public men of our own times. The
accusers, while they discharged their duty to their constituents
by bringing the misdeeds of the Chancellor to light, spoke with
admiration of his many eminent qualities. The Lords, while
condemning him, complimented him on the ingenuousness of his
confession, and spared him the humiliation of a public appearance
at their bar. So strong was the contagion of good feeling that
even Sir Edward Coke, for the first time in his life, behaved
like a gentleman. No criminal ever had more temperate prosecutors
than Bacon. No criminal ever had more favourable judges. If he
was convicted, it was because it was impossible to acquit him
without offering the grossest outrage to justice and common

Mr. Montagu's other argument, namely, that Bacon, though he took
gifts, did not take bribes, seems to us as futile as that which
we have considered. Indeed, we might be content to leave it to be
answered by the plainest man among our readers. Demosthenes
noticed it with contempt more than two thousand years ago.
Latimer, we have seen, treated this sophistry with similar
disdain. "Leave colouring," said he, "and call these things by
their Christian name, bribes." Mr. Montagu attempts, somewhat
unfairly, we must say, to represent the presents which Bacon
received as similar to the perquisites which suitors paid to the
members of the Parliaments of France. The French magistrate had a
legal right to his fee; and the amount of the fee was regulated
by law. Whether this be a good mode of remunerating judges is not
the question. But what analogy is there between payments of this
sort, and the presents which Bacon received, presents which were
not sanctioned by the law, which were not made under the public
eye, and of which the amount was regulated only by private
bargain between the magistrate and the suitor?

Again, it is mere trifling to say that Bacon could not have meant
to act corruptly, because he employed the agency of men of rank,
of bishops, privy councillors, and members of Parliament; as if
the whole history of that generation was not full of the low
actions of high people; as if it was not notorious that men, as
exalted in rank as any of the decoys that Bacon employed, had
pimped for Somerset, and poisoned Overbury.

But, says Mr. Montagu, these presents "were made openly and with
the greatest publicity." This would indeed be a strong argument
in favour of Bacon. But we deny the fact. In one, and one only,
of the cases in which Bacon was accused of corruptly receiving
gifts, does he appear to have received a gift publicly. This was
in a matter depending between the Company of Apothecaries and the
Company of Grocers. Bacon, in his Confession, insisted strongly
on the circumstance that he had on this occasion taken a present
publicly, as a proof that he had not taken it corruptly. Is it
not clear that, if he had taken the presents mentioned in the
other charges in the same public manner, he would have dwelt on
this point in his answer to those charges? The fact that he
insists so strongly on the publicity of one particular present is
of itself sufficient to prove that the other presents were not
publicly taken. Why he took this present publicly and the rest
secretly, is evident. He on that occasion acted openly, because
he was acting honestly. He was not on that occasion sitting
judicially. He was called in to effect an amicable arrangement
between two parties. Both were satisfied with his decision. Both
joined in making him a present in return for his trouble. Whether
it was quite delicate in a man of his rank to accept a present
under such circumstances, may be questioned. But there is no
ground in this case for accusing him of corruption.

Unhappily, the very circumstances which prove him to have been
innocent in this case prove him to have been guilty on the other
charges. Once, and once only, he alleges that he received a
present publicly. The natural inference is that in all the other
cases mentioned in the articles against him he received presents
secretly. When we examine the single case in which he alleges
that he received a present publicly, we find that it is also the
single case in which there was no gross impropriety in his
receiving a present. Is it then possible to doubt that his reason
for not receiving other presents in as public a manner was that
he knew that it was wrong to receive them?

One argument still remains, plausible in appearance, but
admitting of easy and complete refutation. The two chief
complainants, Aubrey and Egerton, had both made presents to the
Chancellor. But he had decided against them both. Therefore, he
had not received those presents as bribes. "The complaints of his
accusers were," says Mr. Montagu, "not that the gratuities had,
but that they had not influenced Bacon's judgment, as he had
decided against them."

The truth is, that it is precisely in this way that an extensive
system of corruption is generally detected. A person who, by a
bribe, has procured a decree in his favour, is by no means likely
to come forward of his own accord as an accuser. He is content.
He has his quid pro quo. He is not impelled either by interested
or by vindictive motives to bring the transaction before the
public. On the contrary, he has almost as strong motives for
holding his tongue as the judge himself can have. But when a
judge practises corruption, as we fear that Bacon practised it,
on a large scale, and has many agents looking out in different
quarters for prey, it will sometimes happen that he will be
bribed on both sides. It will sometimes happen that he will
receive money from suitors who are so obviously in the wrong that
he cannot with decency do anything to serve them. Thus he will
now and then be forced to pronounce against a person from whom he
has received a present; and he makes that person a deadly enemy.
The hundreds who have got what they paid for remain quiet. It is
the two or three who have paid, and have nothing to show for
their money, who are noisy.

The memorable case of the Goezmans is an example of this.
Beaumarchais had an important suit depending before the
Parliament of Paris. M. Goezman was the judge on whom chiefly the
decision depended. It was hinted to Beaumarchais that Madame
Goezman might be propitiated by a present. He accordingly offered
a purse of gold to the lady, who received it graciously. There
can be no doubt that, if the decision of the court had been
favourable to him, these things would never have been known to
the world. But he lost his cause. Almost the whole sum which he
had expended in bribery was immediately refunded; and those who
had disappointed him probably thought that he would not, for the
mere gratification of his malevolence, make public a transaction
which was discreditable to himself as well as to them. They knew
little of him. He soon taught them to curse the day in which they
had dared to trifle with a man of so revengeful and turbulent a
spirit, of such dauntless effrontery, and of such eminent talents
for controversy and satire. He compelled the Parliament to put a
degrading stigma on M. Goezman. He drove Madame Goezman to a
convent. Till it was too late to pause, his excited passions did
not suffer him to remember that he could effect their ruin only
by disclosures ruinous to himself. We could give other instances.
But it is needless. No person well acquainted with human nature
can fail to perceive that, if the doctrine for which Mr. Montagu
contends were admitted, society would be deprived of almost the
only chance which it has of detecting the corrupt practices of

We return to our narrative. The sentence of Bacon had scarcely
been pronounced when it was mitigated. He was indeed sent to the
Tower. But this was merely a form. In two days he was set at
liberty, and soon after he retired to Gorhambury. His fine was
speedily released by the Crown.

He was next suffered to present himself at Court; and at length,
in 1624, the rest of his punishment was remitted. He was now at
liberty to resume his seat in the House of Lords, and he was
actually summoned to the next Parliament. But age, infirmity, and
perhaps shame, prevented him from attending. The Government
allowed him a pension of twelve hundred pounds a year; and his
whole annual income is estimated by Mr. Montagu at two thousand
five hundred pounds, a sum which. was probably above the average
income of a nobleman of that generation, and which was certainly
sufficient for comfort and even for splendour. Unhappily, Bacon
was fond of display, and unused to pay minute attention to
domestic affairs. He was not easily persuaded to give up any part
of the magnificence to which he had been accustomed in the time
of his power and prosperity. No pressure of distress could induce
him to part with the woods of Gorhambury. "I will not," he said,
"be stripped of my feathers." He travelled with so splendid an
equipage and so large a retinue that Prince Charles, who once
fell in with him on the road, exclaimed with surprise, "Well; do
what we can, this man scorns to go out in snuff." This
carelessness and ostentation reduced Bacon to frequent distress.
He was under the necessity of parting with York House, and of
taking up his residence, during his visits to London, at his old
chambers in Gray's Inn. He had other vexations, the exact nature
of which is unknown. It is evident from his will that some part
of his wife's conduct had greatly disturbed and irritated him.

But, whatever might be his pecuniary difficulties or his conjugal
discomforts, the powers of his intellect still remained
undiminished. Those noble studies for which he had found leisure
in the midst of professional drudgery and of courtly intrigues
gave to this last sad stage of his life a dignity beyond what
power or titles could bestow. Impeached, convicted, sentenced,
driven with ignominy from the presence of his Sovereign, shut out
from the deliberations of his fellow nobles, loaded with debt,
branded with dishonour, sinking under the weight of years,
sorrows, and diseases, Bacon was Bacon still. "My conceit of his
person," says Ben Jonson very finely, "was never increased
towards him by his place or honours; but I have and do reverence
him for the greatness that was only proper to himself; in that he
seemed to me ever, by his work, one of the greatest men and most
worthy of admiration, that had been in many ages. In his
adversity I ever prayed that God would give him strength; for
greatness he could not want."

The services which Bacon rendered to letters during the last five
years of his life, amidst ten thousand distractions and
vexations, increase the regret with which we think on the many
years which he had wasted, to use the words of Sir Thomas Bodley,
"on such study as was not worthy of such a student." He commenced
a Digest of the Laws of England, a History of England under the
Princes of the House of Tudor, a body of Natural History, a
Philosophical Romance. He made extensive and valuable additions
to his Essays. He published the inestimable Treatise De Augmentis
Scientiarum. The very trifles with which he amused himself in
hours of pain and languor bore the mark of his mind. The best
collection of jests in the world is that which he dictated from
memory, without referring to any book, on a day on which illness
had rendered him incapable of serious study.

The great apostle of experimental philosophy was destined to be
its martyr. It had occurred to him that snow might be used with
advantage for the purpose of preventing animal substances from
putrefying. On a very cold day, early in the spring of the year
1626, he alighted from his coach near Highgate, in order to try
the experiment. He went into a cottage, bought a fowl, and with
his own hands stuffed it with snow. While thus engaged he felt a
sudden chill, and was soon so much indisposed that it was
impossible for him to return to Gray's Inn. The Earl of Arundel,
with whom he was well acquainted, had a house at Highgate. To
that house Bacon was carried. The Earl was absent; but the
servants who were in charge of the place showed great respect and
attention to the illustrious guest. Here, after an illness of
about a week, he expired early on the morning of Easter-day,
1626. His mind appears to have retained its strength and
liveliness to the end. He did not forget the fowl which had
caused his death. In the last letter that he ever wrote, with
fingers which, as he said, could not steadily hold a pen, he did
not omit to mention that the experiment of the snow had succeeded
"excellently well."

Our opinion of the moral character of this great man has already
been sufficiently explained. Had his life been passed in literary
retirement, he would, in all probability, have deserved to be
considered, not only as a great philosopher, but as a worthy and
good-natured member of society. But neither his principles nor
his spirit were such as could be trusted, when strong temptations
were to be resisted, and serious dangers to be braved.

In his will he expressed with singular brevity, energy, dignity,
and pathos, a mournful consciousness that his actions had not
been such as to entitle him to the esteem of those under whose
observation his life had been passed, and, at the same time, a
proud confidence that his writings had secured for him a high and
permanent place among the benefactors of mankind. So at least we
understand those striking words which have been often quoted, but
which we must quote once more. "For my name and memory, I leave
it to men's charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and to
the next age."

His confidence was just. From the day of his death his fame has
been constantly and steadily progressive; and we have no doubt
that his name will be named with reverence to the latest ages,
and to the remotest ends of the civilised world.

The chief peculiarity of Bacon's philosophy seems to us to have
been this, that it aimed at things altogether different from
those which his predecessors had proposed to themselves. This was
his own opinion. " Finis scientiarum," says he, "a nemine adhuc
bene positus est."[Novum Organum, Lib. i. Aph. 81.] And again,
"Omnium gravissimus error in deviatione ab ultimo doctrinarum
fine consistit." [De Augmentis, Lib. i.] " Nec ipsa meta," says
he elsewhere, "adhuc ulli, quod sciam, mortalium posita est et
defixa."[Cogitata et visa.] The more carefully his works are
examined, the more clearly, we think, it will appear that this is
the real clue to his whole system, and that he used means
different from those used by other philosophers, because he
wished to arrive at an end altogether different from theirs.

What then was the end which Bacon proposed to himself? It was, to
use his own emphatic expression, "fruit." It was the multiplying
of human enjoyments and the mitigating of human sufferings. It
was "the relief of man's estate." [Advancement of Learning, Book
i.] It was "commodis humanis inservire." [De Augmentis, Lib. vii.
Cap. i.] It was "efficaciter operari ad sublevanda vitae humanae
incommoda." [Ib., Lib. ii. Cap. ii.] It was "dotare vitam humanam
novis inventis et copiis." [Novum Organum, Lib. i., Aph. 81.] It
was "genus humanum novis operibus et potestatibus continuo
dotare." [Cogitata et visa.] This was the object of all his
speculations in every department of science, in natural
philosophy, in legislation, in politics, in morals.

Two words form the key of the Baconian doctrine, Utility and
Progress. The ancient philosophy disdained to be useful, and was
content to be stationary. It dealt largely in theories of moral
perfection, which were so sublime that they never could be more
than theories; in attempts to solve insoluble enigmas; in
exhortations to the attainment of unattainable frames of mind. It
could not condescend to the humble office of ministering to the
comfort of human beings. All the schools contemned that office as
degrading; some censured it as immoral. Once indeed Posidonius, a
distinguished writer of the age of Cicero and Caesar, so far
forgot himself as to enumerate, among the humbler blessings which
mankind owed to philosophy, the discovery of the principle of the
arch, and the introduction of the use of metals. This eulogy was
considered as an affront, and was taken up with proper spirit.
Seneca vehemently disclaims these insulting compliments. [Seneca,
Epist. 90.] Philosophy, according to him, has nothing to do with
teaching men to rear arched roofs over their heads. The true
philosopher does not care whether he has an arched roof or any
roof, Philosophy has nothing to do with teaching men the uses of
metals. She teaches us to be independent of all material
substances, of all mechanical contrivances. The wise man lives
according to nature. Instead of attempting to add to the physical
comforts of his species, he regrets that his lot was not cast in
that golden age when the human race had no protection against the
cold but the skins of wild beasts, no screen from the sun but a
cavern. To impute to such a man any share in the invention or
improvement of a plough, a ship, or a mill is an insult. "In my
own time," says Seneca, "there have been inventions of this sort,
transparent windows, tubes for diffusing warmth equally through
all parts of a building, shorthand, which has been carried to
such a perfection that a writer can keep pace with the most rapid
speaker. But the inventing of such things is drudgery for the
lowest slaves; philosophy lies deeper. It is not her office to
teach men how to use their hands. The object of her lessons is to
form the soul. Non est, inquam, instrumentorum ad usus
necessarios opifex." If the non were left out, this last sentence
would be no bad description of the Baconian philosophy, and
would, indeed, very much resemble several expressions in the
Novum Organum. "We shall next be told," exclaims Seneca, "that
the first shoemaker was a philosopher." For our own part, if we
are forced to make our choice between the first shoemaker and the
author of the three books "On Anger," we pronounce for the
shoemaker. It may be worse to be angry than to be wet. But shoes
have kept millions from being wet; and we doubt whether Seneca
ever kept anybody from being angry.

It is very reluctantly that Seneca can be brought to confess that
any philosopher had ever paid the smallest attention to anything
that could possibly promote what vulgar people would consider as
the well-being of mankind. He labours to clear Democritus from
the disgraceful imputation of having made the first arch, and
Anacharsis from the charge of having contrived the potter's
wheel. He is forced to own that such a thing might happen; and it
may also happen, he tells us, that a philosopher may be swift of
foot. But it is not in his character of philosopher that he
either wins a race or invents a machine. No, to be sure. The
business of a philosopher was to declaim in praise of poverty
with two millions sterling out at usury, to meditate epigrammatic
conceits about the evils of luxury, in gardens which moved the
envy of sovereigns, to rant about liberty, while fawning on the
insolent and pampered freedmen of a tyrant, to celebrate the
divine beauty of virtue with the same pen which had just before
written a defence of the murder of a mother by a son.

From the cant of this philosophy, a philosophy meanly proud of
its own unprofitableness, it is delightful to turn to the lessons
of the great English teacher. We can almost forgive all the
faults of Bacon's life when we read that singularly graceful and
dignified passage: "Ego certe, ut de me ipso, quod res est,
loquar, et in iis quae nunc edo, et in iis quae in posterum
meditor, dignitatem ingenii et nominis mei, si qua sit, saepius
sciens et volens projicio, dum commodis humanis inserviam; quique
architectus fortasse in philosophia et scientiis esse debeam,
etiam operarius, et bajulus, et quidvis demum fio, cum haud pauca
quae omnino fieri necesse sit, alii autem ob innatum superbiam
subterfugiant, ipsi sustineam et exsequar." [De Augmentis, Lib.
vii. Cap. i.] This philanthropia, which, as he said in one of the
most remarkable of his early letters, "was so fixed in his mind,
as it could not be removed," this majestic humility, this
persuasion that nothing can be too insignificant for the
attention of the wisest, which is not too insignificant to give
pleasure or pain to the meanest, is the great characteristic
distinction, the essential spirit of the Baconian philosophy. We
trace it in all that Bacon has written on Physics, on Laws, on
Morals. And we conceive that from this peculiarity all the other
peculiarities of his system directly and almost necessarily

The spirit which appears in the passage of Seneca to which we
have referred tainted the whole body of the ancient philosophy
from the time of Socrates downwards, and took possession of
intellects with which that of Seneca cannot for a moment be
compared. It pervades the dialogues of Plato. It may be
distinctly traced in many parts of the works of Aristotle. Bacon
has dropped hints from which it may be inferred that, in his
opinion, the prevalence of this feeling was in a great measure to
be attributed to the influence of Socrates. Our great countryman
evidently did not consider the revolution which Socrates effected
in philosophy as a happy event, and constantly maintained that
the earlier Greek speculators, Democritus in particular, were, on
the whole, superior to their more celebrated successors. [Novum
Organum, Lib. i. Aph. 71, 79. De Augmentis, Lib. iii. Cap. iv. De
principiis, atque originibus. Cogitata et visa. Redargutio

Assuredly if the tree which Socrates planted and Plato watered is
to be judged of by its flowers and leaves, it is the noblest of
trees. But if we take the homely test of Bacon, if we judge of
the tree by its fruits, our opinion of it may perhaps be less
favourable. When we sum up all the useful truths which we owe to
that philosophy, to what do they amount? We find, indeed,
abundant proofs that some of those who cultivated it were men of
the first order of intellect. We find among their writings
incomparable specimens both of dialectical and rhetorical art. We
have no doubt that the ancient controversies were of use, in so
far as they served to exercise the faculties of the disputants;
for there is no controversy so idle that it may not be of use in
this way. But, when we look for something more, for something
which adds to the comforts or alleviates the calamities of the
human race, we are forced to own ourselves disappointed. We are
forced to say with Bacon that this celebrated philosophy ended in
nothing but disputation, that it was neither a vineyard nor an
olive-ground, but an intricate wood of briars and thistles, from
which those who lost themselves in it brought back many scratches
and no food. [Novum Organum, Lib. i. Aph. 73.]

We readily acknowledge that some of the teachers of this
unfruitful wisdom were among the greatest men that the world has
ever seen. If we admit the justice of Bacon's censure, we admit
it with regret, similar to that which Dante felt when he learned
the fate of those illustrious heathens who were doomed to the
first circle of Hell:

"Gran duol mi prese al cuor quando lo 'ntesi,
Perocche gente di molto valore
Conobbi che 'n quel limbo eran sospesi."

But in truth the very admiration which we feel for the eminent
philosophers of antiquity forces us to adopt the opinion that
their powers were systematically misdirected. For how else could
it be that such powers should effect so little for mankind? A
pedestrian may show as much muscular vigour on a treadmill as on
the highway road. But on the road his vigour will assuredly carry
him forward; and on the treadmill he will not advance an inch.
The ancient philosophy was a treadmill, not a path. It was made
up of revolving questions, of controversies which were always
beginning again. It was a contrivance for having much exertion
and no progress. We must acknowledge that more than once, while
contemplating the doctrines of the Academy and the Portico, even
as they appear in the transparent splendour of Cicero's
incomparable diction, we have been tempted to mutter with the
surly centurion in Persius, "Cur quis non prandeat hoc est?"
What is the highest good, whether pain be an evil, whether all
things be fated, whether we can be certain of anything, whether
we can be certain that we are certain of nothing, whether a wise
man can be unhappy, whether all departures from right be equally
reprehensible; these, and other questions of the same sort,
occupied the brains, the tongues, and the pens of the ablest men
in the civilised world during several centuries. This sort of
philosophy, it is evident, could not be progressive. It might
indeed sharpen and invigorate the minds of those who devoted
themselves to it; and so might the disputes of the orthodox
Lilliputians and the heretical Blefuscudians about the big ends
and the little ends of eggs. But such disputes could add nothing
to the stock of knowledge. The human mind accordingly, instead of
marching, merely marked time. It took as much trouble as would
have sufficed to carry it forward; and yet remained on the same
spot. There was no accumulation of truth, no heritage of truth
acquired by the labour of one generation and bequeathed to
another, to be again transmitted with large additions to a third.
Where this philosophy was in the time of Cicero, there it
continued to be in the time of Seneca, and there it continued to
be in the time of Favorinus. The same sects were still battling
with the same unsatisfactory arguments, about the same
interminable questions. There had been no want of ingenuity, of
zeal, of industry. Every trace of intellectual cultivation was
there, except a harvest. There had been plenty of ploughing,
harrowing, reaping, threshing. But the garners contained only
smut and stubble.

The ancient philosophers did not neglect natural science but they
did not cultivate it for the purpose of increasing the power and
ameliorating the condition of man. The taint of barrenness had
spread from ethical to physical speculations. Seneca wrote
largely on natural philosophy, and magnified the importance of
that study. But why? Not because it tended to assuage suffering,
to multiply the conveniences of life, to extend the empire of man
over the material world; but solely because it tended to raise
the mind above low cares, to separate it from the body, to
exercise its subtilty in the solution of very obscure
questions.[Seneca, Nat. Quaest. praef. Lib. iii.] Thus natural
philosophy was considered in the light merely of a mental
exercise. It was made subsidiary to the art of disputation; and
it consequently proved altogether barren of useful discoveries.

There was one sect which, however absurd and pernicious some of
its doctrines may have been, ought, it should seem, to have
merited an exception from the general censure which Bacon has
pronounced on the ancient schools of wisdom. The Epicurean, who
referred all happiness to bodily pleasure, and all evil to bodily
pain, might have been expected to exert himself for the purpose
of bettering his own physical condition and that of his
neighbours. But the thought seems never to have occurred to any
member of that school. Indeed their notion, as reported by their
great poet, was, that no more improvements were to be expected in
the arts which conduce to the comfort of life.

"Ad victum quae flagitat usus
Omnia jam ferme mortalibus esse parata."

This contented despondency, this disposition to admire what has
been done, and to expect that nothing more will be done, is
strongly characteristic of all the schools which preceded the
school of Fruit and Progress. Widely as the Epicurean and the
Stoic differed on most points, they seem to have quite agreed in
their contempt for pursuits so vulgar as to be useful. The
philosophy of both was a garrulous, declaiming, canting,
wrangling philosophy. Century after century they continued to
repeat their hostile war-cries, Virtue and Pleasure; and in the
end it appeared that the Epicurean had added as little to the
quantity of pleasure as the Stoic to the quantity of virtue.

It is on the pedestal of Bacon, not on that of Epicurus, that
those noble lines ought to be inscribed

"0 tenebris tantis tam clarum extollere lumen
Qui primus potuisti, illustrans commoda vitae."

In the fifth century Christianity had conquered Paganism, and
Paganism had infected Christianity. The Church was now victorious
and corrupt. The rites of the Pantheon had passed into her
worship, the subtilties of the Academy into her creed. In an evil
day, though with great pomp and solemnity,--we quote the language
of Bacon,--was the ill-starred alliance stricken between the old
philosophy and the new faith. [Cogitata et visa.] Questions
different from those which had employed the ingenuity of Pyrrho
and Carneades, but just as subtle, just as interminable, and just
as unprofitable, exercised the minds of the lively and voluble
Greeks. When learning began to revive in the West, similar
trifles occupied the sharp and vigorous intellects of the
Schoolmen. There was another sowing of the wind, and another
reaping of the whirlwind. The great work of improving the
condition of the human race was still considered as unworthy of a
man of learning. Those who undertook that task, if what they
effected could be readily comprehended, were despised as
mechanics; if not, they were in danger of being burned as

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