Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

however, having interposed, the Commons adandoned their pretensions to this privilege; and the ancient plan of parliamentary impeachment was revived. The attention of the Commons was first directed to certain monopolists whose privileges were extremely oppressive and obnoxious to the people, though lucrative to the crown and its creatures. Foreseeing that some sacrifice must be made, the King and Buckingham, (whose brother was likewise deeply implicated in the abuses of those times,) acting under the advice of Williams, then dean of Westminster, determined that the monopolists should be offered up as victims to the public wrath, in the hope of diverting it from themselves.*

And your lordship,' [Buckingham) said Dean Wil. liams, 'must needs partake in the applause; for though it is known that these vermin haunted your chamber, and is much whispered that they set up trade with some little license from your honour, yet when none shall appear more forward than yourself to crush them, the discourse will come about, that these devices, which take ill, were stolen from you by misrepresentation,

As the Commons evinced a daring resolution to inquire into all sorts of abuses,whether in church or state,-complaints now came from every quarter; and numerous committees were soon appointed for the purpose of reporting to the House on the subject of grievances. Even the judicial seat did not escape the pestilent vices of those distempered times; and, on the twelfth of March, the Commons appointed a committee for inquiring into abuses in the courts of justice. Sir John Bennet, judge of the prerogative court, and Dr. Field, bishop of Llandaff, were both impeached for bribery;* and, on the fifteenth of March, a report

when you were but new blossomed in court, whose deformities being discovered, you love not your own mistakings, but are the most forward to recall them.'— Bishop Hacket's Scrinia Reserata, p. 50, published in 1693. This is not merely a Life of Abp. Williams, but a valuable history—somewhat heavy and pedantic, it is true--of one of the most interesting and important periods in our annals. * State Trials, vol. 2, pp. 1116, 1145.

was made by sir Robert Phillips, on behalf of this committee, alleging that two persons (Aubrey and Egerton) had presented a charge of corruption against no less a person than the lord Chancellor :-'a man,' said sir Robert, 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.'* It was afterwards moved that this business should be presented to the Lords, without exasperation, at a conference between the two Houses, which accordingly took place on the nineteenth, the Lords agreeing to enter into a speedy examination of the complaints. On the following day, the Lord Admiral (Buckingham) informed the Upper House that, by the direction of the King, he had twice visited the Chancellor, and found him, at first, very sick and heavy, but afterwards better and much comforted, he having heard that the complaint of the grievances of the Commons against him was come before their

* State Trials, vol. 2, p. 1088.

lordships, from whom he was assured of receiving honourable justice. The following letter from Bacon was then presented to the house by Buckingham, and read:

• My very good Lords,- 1 humbly pray your lordships all to make a favourable and true construction of my absence. It is no feigning or fainting, but sickness both of my heart and of my back, though joined with that comfort of mind that pursuadeth me that I am not far from heaven, whereof I feel the first fruits. And because, whether I live or die, I would be glad to preserve my honour and fame, so far as I am worthy; hearing that some complaints of base bribery are coming before your lordships, my requests unto your lordships are:

First, that you will maintain me in your good opinion, without prejudice, until my cause be heard.

Secondly, that in regard I have sequestered my mind at this time in great part from worldly matters, thinking of my account and answers in a higher court, your lordships will give me convenient time, according to the course of other courts, to advise with my counsel, and to make my answer; wherein, nevertheless, my counsel's part will be the least; for I shall not, by the grace of God, trick up an innocency with cavillations, but plainly and ingenuously (as your lordships know my manner is) declare what I know or remember.

Thirdly, that according to the course of justice, I may be allowed to except to the witnesses brought against me; and to move questions to your lordships for their crossexaminations; and likewise to produce my own witnesses for the discovery of the truth.

* And lastly, that if there be any more petitions of like nature, that your lordships would be pleased not to take any prejudice or apprehension of any number or muster of them, especially against a judge, that makes two thousand orders and decrees in a year, (not to speak of the courses that have been

« ForrigeFortsæt »