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It is impossible, we think, after reading the foregoing testimonies, and many others might be accumulated, coming from such authentic sources, and all so explicit, for any one, be he never so sceptical, to hesitate for a moment in saluting our illustrious philosopher as the father of experimental science, and in ascribing to his works the merit of having greatly accelerated the progress of
cus's opinion. The letter was written by occasion of the opposition which some few in Italy did make against Galileo, as if he went about to establish that by experiments which appears to be contrary to Holy Scripture. But he makes it appear the while by this piece of a letter which I send you, that if that passage of scripture doth expressly favour either side, it is for the affirmation of Copernicus's opinion, and for the negative of Aristotle's. To an attorney-general in the midst of a town, and such a one as is employed in the weightiest affairs of the kingdom, it might seem unseasonable for me to interrupt you with matter of this nature. But I know well enough in how high account you have the truth of things; and that no day can pass wherein you give not liberty to your wise thoughts of looking upon the works of nature.'—Ibid. 294; and see p. 368.
physical knowledge. It becomes interesting,' says sir David Brewster, 'to inquire whether or not the philosophers who succeeded Bacon acknowledged any obligation to his system, or derived the slightest advantage from his precepts. If Bacon,' he continues, 'constructed a method to which modern science owes its existence, we shall find its cultivators grateful for the gift, and offering the richest incense at the shrine of a benefactor whose generous labours conducted them to immortality.'* We adopt the test thus confidently proposed; and now willingly leave it to our readers to determine, whether sir David Brewster's conclusion be correct, that no such testimonies are to be found.'*
In resuming the narrative of lord Bacon's life, we must remind our readers that in
* Brewster's Life of Newton, p. 324; and see ante, p. 210.
1617 he was made lord Keeper,--in 1618, lord Chancellor,—and that in two years afterwards, he published his great work, the Novum Organum. He had completed his sixtieth year, amidst troops of friends, emulous to do honour to one who was an honour to his country, and whose fame had gone out into all lands. If at this period of his life Bacon had quitted all civil employment, and retired into the seclusion of Gorhambury, there to pursue his beloved philosophy,
he would have appeared to posterity, not only as the great ornament of his age and nation, but of human nature itself.
He, however, who had long run so brilliant a course, instead of setting in splendour, suddenly fell from his high estate,—was, by the judgment of his peers, degraded from office, heavily fined, and imprisoned in the Tower. As to what were the faults which
produced so sudden a reverse of fortune,
The fall of Bacon, however, is one of those
The period of which we speak was cha
* Voltaire's Letters on the English Nation, p. 58.
racterised by an eager desire on the part of the Parliament to reform those abuses which, during the reign of James and his favourites, filled the country with dissatisfaction and alarm. As the Commons refused to support the extravagance of a Prince whom they despised, the King supplied the place of subsidies by granting patents of monopoly: a source of revenue which, from its
very nature, must at length fail. In the hope of obtaining some legitimate supplies, a Parliament was summoned, which met in 1620-1. * During this eventful session, the Commons, conscious of their growing strength and eager to exert it, endeavoured to concentrate in their own body the whole judicial power of Parliament, and to employ this formidable engine in extirpating the various abuses which, under the corrupt influence of the crown, had crept into almost every department of the executive. The Upper House,
* Rymer's Fødera, vol. 17, p. 270.