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To this message the Chancellor replied, that he would return an answer with all convenient speed; which he accordingly did, having previously informed the House that he intended not to offer any manner of defence, but craving the liberty, where the charge was more full than the facts justified, of making declaration of the truth in such particulars, the charge being brief and not containing all circumstances.
On the 30th April, sir James Leigh, the lord Chief Justice, who had been commissioned to be speaker in the Upper House during the absence of Bacon, delivered to the Lords the Chancellor's confession and submission; in which document most of the articles of the charge are extenuated by showing either that the alleged gifts were of less value than stated, or that they had been received, unknown to him, by his servants,
articulate confession, too long for insertion in the text, but which is printed at length in the appended Notes and Illustrations, Note (G.)
or that they were delivered whilst no cause was pending, or advanced only as loans. Having replied to each of the articles, the Chancellor thus closes his confession:- This declaration I have made to your lordships with a sincere mind; humbly craving, that if there should be any mistaking, your lordships would impute it to want of memory, and not to any desire of mine to obscure truth, or palliate any thing: for I do again confess, that in the points charged upon me, although they should be taken as myself have declared them, there is a great deal of corruption and neglect, for which I am heartily and penitently sorry, and submit myself to the judgment, grace, and mercy of the court. For extenuation, I will use none concerning the matters themselves; only it may please your lordships, out of your nobleness, to cast your eyes of compassion upon my person and estate. I was never noted for an avaricious man; and the apostle saith, that covetousness is the root of all evil. I hope also, that your lordships do the rather find me in a state of grace; for that, in all these particulars, there are few or none that are not almost two years old, whereas those that have an habit of corruption do commonly wax worse and worse; so that it hath pleased God to prepare me, by precedent degrees of amendment, to my present penitency. And for my estate, it is so mean and poor, as my care is now chiefly to satisfy my debts.'
This document having been read, a deputation of twelve lords was sent to the lord Chancellor, who, showing him his confession, told him that the Upper House conceived it to be ingenuous and full, and demanded whether he had subscribed it. Upon which he said, My lords, it is my act, my hand, my heart; I beseech your lordships, be merciful unto a broken reed.' This
answer being reported to the House, the same de
* See Note (G.)
putation, accompanied by the Prince, was directed to move the King to sequester the Great Seal from the lord Chancellor, which request he immediately complied with. On the following day, being the second of May, Bacon was summoned to appear before the Lords the next morning, to receive sentence; but the officers found him sick in bed, and unable to attend. * He implored the King to save him from judgment, urging, that if it be reformation which is sought, the very taking away of the Seal, upon his general submission, would be as much in example as any further severity; and it appears from Bacon's own words, that his Majesty would have 'pulled him out of the fire of a sentence.' I Such an interposition, however, was perhaps beyond his power; and certainly it did not suit either the policy of his profligate favourite, Buckingham, or the
• See Bacon's Works, vol. 13, p. 30. + Bacon's Works, vol. 12, p. 52.
spirit which actuated the counsel of the wily Williams.
On the following day the Lords proceeded to judgment, which was delivered in these terms:
1. That the lord Viscount St. Alban, Lord Chancellor of England, shall undergo fine and ransom of forty thousand pounds.
2. That he shall be imprisoned in the Tower during the King's pleasure.
3. That he shall for ever be incapable of any office, place, or employment, in the state or commonwealth.
4. That he shall never sit in Parliament, nor come within the verge of the court.'*
This severe sentence, founded on his own confession, forms that blot upon the character of Bacon which some would fain treat as a mere 'paltry libel,' and others, as a crime which made him the meanest of
* State Trials, vol. 2, p. 1113. See Note (H.)