« ForrigeFortsæt »
upon his head.-As there is motion, there must be a force which produces it. Is this force of gravity confined to the surface of the earth, or does it extend to the heavenly bodies? Such were the thoughts which presented themselves to his mind, and the theory of the heavens was established."
So, too, in the political world, when he predicted the gradual progress of disaffection and the overthrow of the monarchy which took place a few years after he was dead.
In what a spirit of prophecy did he speak when he said to the King, who had resolved to yield him to the ignorant fury of the people, "Be not deceived. Be assured that they who will strike at your Chancellor will strike at your crown. May I, if I am the first, be the last of sacrifices;" a prophecy too fatally fulfilled when his son Charles was on the scaffold.
Bacon's consciousness of this power appears in the memorable passage in the Novum Organum, predicting, as it were, the times in which we are so fortunate as to live:
"I have held up a light in the obscurity of philosophy which will be seen centuries after I am dead. It will be seen by the erection of temples, tombs, palaces, theatres, bridges, making noble roads, cutting canals, granting multitudes of charters and liberties for comfort of decayed companies and corporations; in the foundations of colleges and lectures for learning and the education of youth; foundations and institutions of orders and fraternities for nobility, enterprize and obedience; but, above all, the establishing good laws for the regulation of the kingdom, and as an example of the world."
How correct, therefore, is the statement in the Review, that it is not the imagination but the foresight of Bacon which really appears in the New Atlantis.
Fiction, or the conception of the existence of non-existences, its advantages and evils, was duly appreciated by Bacon. He saw and examined it in the three forms in which it appears. When the conceived existence is supposed to be real, as the illusions of ignorance and of insanity-when the conceived existence, although not supposed real, is possible, as the characters in novels-and the conception of impossible existences, as the Genii of the Lamp and of the Ring, and the creations of Poets-was most highly appreciated by Bacon. He saw that the uses of this species of fiction are the delight with which it is ever attended-the power which it possesses to adorn with her hues, her forms, "the nakedness of austere truth, and to expose error in all its deformities;" and the gratifications of our best aspirings raising the pall from our dark spirits, lifting the mind from the dungeon of the body to the enjoyment of its own divine essence.
Although Bacon was conscious of these pleasures and the advantages of fiction, he did not form too high an estimate of their value.
He indulged in imagination, but was not misled by it. He used ornament, but was not attached to it. He formed these garlands of science because he knew that, except to philosophy, truth required such decorations; and he foresaw that if the time should arrive when they would fade away-when the noble temple which he had raised would be levelled to the ground-the genius of true philosophy would be seen amidst the ruins.
Fruitful and vivid as was his imagination, he understood its laws and governed it with absolute sway. He used it as a philosopher. It never had precedence in his mind; but followed in the train of his reason. "God defend," he says, in the conclusion of his preface to the Instauratio," that we should publish the airy dreams of our own fancy for the real ideas of the world. But rather may He be so graciously propitious unto us, that we may write the Apocalypse and true vision of the impressions and signets of the Creator upon the creature."
But, to speak in the words of Lord Bacon, it is not good to stay too long amidst these speculations and imaginations. Let us now pass on to the charges made by Mr. Macaulay.
The charges are four :
1st. That he was guilty of cruelty by assisting in the torture of an old clergyman of the name of Peacham.
2nd. That he was guilty of ingratitude by his conduct to his friend and benefactor Lord Essex.
3rd. That he availed himself of his power of Attorney General privately to tamper with the Judges, to procure the conviction of some state prisoners.
4th. That he was guilty of bribery. The charges are,
3. Abuse of Power.
Grave charges, not to be made hastily by any man in any times, certainly not by intelligence in the present times, not by Mr. Macaulay against Lord Bacon.
Intelligence firm in acting is slow in condemning; it says, with Cæsar, when he threatened Metellus with instant death, "durius est mihi hoc dicere quam facere."
Let us take these charges separately, stick by stick.
And, First, the charge of cruelty. Mr. Macaulay's words are,—
"He was deeply engaged in a most 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. In order to convict Peacham, it was necessary to find facts. 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. 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. Morethan thirty years before Peacham's trial, the practice of torturing, which had always been unpopular, which had always been illegal, had also been unusual. We therefore say that 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."
The charges of cruelty, when carefully examined, are,—
First, That in the reign of James, torture was contrary to the practice of the times, and that thirty years before the torture of Peacham, it was condemned by all lawyers.
Secondly, That Bacon examined Peacham by torture, and rejoiced in his sufferings.
First, that in the reign of James, torture was contrary to the tice of the times, and condemned by all lawyers.
Is Mr. Macaulay correct in this statement, or is it unfounded? I say that he is incorrect, that the charge is unfounded, without a shadow of truth to support it. I assert that in those sad times torturing prisoners was as common as the punishment of death was, a few years ago, in our own times. I assert that, so far from the practice having been supposed improper, it was a common practice, and that the warrants were issued to the most intelligent and virtuous members of the community; and so continued to the time of the Civil Wars, when the voice of philosophy, which for years had appealed in vain, was at last heard, and this barbarous practice abolished.
So I assert-Mr. Macaulay denies it-and thereupon, to speak in legal phrase, issue is joined. Let us proceed to the evidence. The evidence is of two sorts :—
2nd. The opinions of intelligence, not as dictators to command, but as consuls to advise.
First, Facts. The evidence of Facts consists of warrants for inflicting torture which were issued in the reigns of Elizabeth, of James, and of Charles, together with the last warrant, in 1641, which ought to be written in letters of gold. If the author of the review will trouble himself to refer to Mr. Jardine's valuable tract
upon torture, he will find more than fifty of these execrable documents. I annex some of them, omitting the warrant against Peacham, as deserving a separate consideration :
"9th Dec., 1580.
"A Letter to Thomas Townsend, Henry Doyly, and William Blennerhasset. Whereas the House of Sir Drew Drury hath been robbed with the privitie of one Humphrey, a boy, you are therefore required to call the said Humphrey, and by some slight kind of torture, such as may not touch the losse of any lymbe, as by whipping, wring from him the knowledge," &c. &c.
"24th Dec. 1580.
"A Letter to the Lieutenante of the Tower, Sir George Carye, Knighte, Mr. Atturney and Mr. Solicitor General, signifying that, whereas there are apprehended one Hurte and Bosgrave, we require they may be brought unto torture," &c.
"State Paper Office.
"We have had twoo severall examinations of Thomas Myaghe. We have forborne to putt him in Skevington's Yrons, for that we received chardge from yow to examine hym with secrecie, whiche in that sorte we could not do, that maner of dealinge requiring the presence and ayd of one of the jaylors all the tyme that he shall be in those yrons."
"22nd June, 1581.
"A Letter to the Bishop of Chester, giving him to understand of the receipt of his letter of the second of this present, and of the copies of two fayned visions of a young mayden in that countye putt into writing, and scattered abroade among the popish and ignorant people of his dyocese. Their Lordships require the best to be done to endevor to syft and boult oute who be the authors, and by causing the mayden (in case by fayer means she shall not confesse the same) to be secretlie whipped, and so brought to declare the truthe, whereby if yt shall not prevaile then to send her hither to Their Lordships to be further proceaded against.'
"29th Oct., 1581.
"A Letter to the Atturney and Solicitor Generall, the Lieutenant of the Tower, Dr. Hammond, Thomas Wilkes, and Thomas Norton, for the examining of Edmund Campion, Thomas Fourd, and others, and to put them unto the racke," &c.
VOL. III. (1841.) No. II.
"29th April, 1582.
"A Letter to Mr. Lieutenant of the Tower, Mr. Thomas Randolph, Mr. Doctor Hammonde, and Mr. Owen, of Lincoln's Inne, requiring them to examine one Thomas Alfield, a seminarie prieste, who, as it is supposed is hable to discouver many maters touching the practises and proceedings of Jesuites and in case he shall not willingly discover to put him to the racke.
"So we take leaves, wishinge your prosperous Helth, this 10th day of Marche, 1580.
"To the Right Honourable Sir Francis Walsingham, "Principall Secretarie."
"A letter to Sir Owen Hopton, Mr. Macwilliam, and Mr. Younge, to put unto the torture of the rack William Wakeman, alias Oaves," &c.
"15th May, 1586.
"A letter to the Lieutenant of the Tower to cause Wakeman alias Oaves, Beaumont alias B. Pynder alias Pudsey, to be examined by torture," &c.
"23rd Dec., 1586.
"A Letter to Sir Owen Hopton, Knight; Ralfe Rugbie, Master of Katherine's; John Popham, Her Majestie's Attorney; Thomas Egerton, Her Majestie's Sollycitor; Sands, Clerke of the Crowne; and Thomas Owen to examine these persons whose names are underwryt [ten in number] and if necessary put them to the torture of the racke."
"24th April, 1587.
"A Letter to Sir Owen Hopton, Knight, Thomas Randolph, Henry Killigrew, Richard Yonge, Esquires, to put one Andreas Van Metter to the accustomed torture of the rack as oftentimes as they should see cause."
"A Letter to Sir Owen Hopton, Mr. Daniel, Mr. Young, this is to require you to examine such persons as are entered in a schedule especially John Staughton and Humphrey Fullwood, and to be put to the racke and torture," &c.