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mankind.'* No one, we think, who calmly and dispassionately considers the proceedings in this memorable trial, and, together with an unprejudiced spirit and judgment, possesses a full knowledge of the moral and political history of those times, will be disposed to adopt either of these extreme opinions. We do not hesitate to say,--an opinion not hastily formed, but deliberately and after much reflection, that Bacon was guilty of practices which ought not to be tolerated in any court of justice; and so transcendently important to the well-being of any country is the pure administration of its laws, that to obtain it, there is hardly any price too great to be given. Still there are certain considerations in extenuation of lord Bacon's offence which ought not to be overlooked, and which, if duly weighed, will tend
* 'If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shin'd, The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.'
Pope, Essay on Man.
to rectify those extravagant notions of his guilt, taken up by many an unthinking reader, upon no better ground, we verily believe, than the well-known antithesis of Pope,-who, whatever may be his merits as a poet, did not evince much moral discrimination when, in the same poem in which lord Bacon is held up to everlasting scorn, he crowns with all honour the abandoned Bolingbroke.
In the first place, then, we would observe, that all our knowledge of Bacon's guilt is derived from ex parte evidence. He was not confronted with his accusers-never crossexamined
any of the witnesses against himnever adduced any on his own behalf. It is true he gave up his defence, and delivered in a confession upon which the judgment of his peers was avowedly grounded. But we have shown,* upon most undeniable evidence -positive as well as presumptive—that this
* Ante, pp. 252-256.
confession was not his own spontaneous act, but made by order of the King. Besides, if the confession itself be narrowly examined, we shall find, (as already observed, *) that most of the articles are palliated, or excused, or shown to be different than as alleged in the charge; and it is plain, (as an able writer remarks,) that Bacon could have gone much further in this way, but for the miserable dilemma in which he was placed.
Again, we ought not to estimate the crime of which lord Bacon was convicted, by a standard inapplicable to the age in which he lived. It had been a practice,' says Carte, Iperhaps from the times that our Kings had ceased to take money for the purchase of writs to sue in their courts, for suitors to make presents to the judges, who sate in them, either at new year's tide, or
* Ante, p. 267.
† North American Review (N. S.) for April, 1823, art. xx.
Vol. 4. p. 73.
when their causes were on the point of coming to an hearing: it was a thing of course, not considered in the nature of a bribe, being universally known, and deemed an usual or honorary perquisite. In the course of Bacon's trial, Mr. Alford, an eminent member of the House of Commons, observed, that in the legyer-book of his family, there were entries of thirty shillings, paid to a secretary, and ten pounds to a lord Chancellor for his pains in hearing a cause, and that, in his opinion, such gratuities were customary.* The extent of this practice of receiving presents may be partly estimated by the following extract from Miss Aikin's Account of the Reign of Elizabeth—an authority, says the writer from whom we borrow the quotation, the less suspicious, as that lady has exercised her gifts with great diligence against lord Bacon':-—'The ministers of a sovereign, who scrupled not
* Journals of the Commons, I, 573.
to accept of bribes from parties engaged in law suits, for the exertion of her own interest with the judges, could scarcely be expected to exhibit much delicacy on this head. In fact, the venality of the court of Elizabeth was so great, that no public character appears even to have professed a disdain of the influence of gifts and bribes; and we find lord Burleigh inserting the following among rules moral and prudential, drawn up for the use of his son Robert, when young:-"Be sure to keep some great man thy friend, but trouble him not for trifles. Compliment him often. Present him with many, yet small gifts, and of little charge. And if thou have cause to bestow any great gratuity, let it be some such thing as may be daily in his sight.”' Miss Aikin then quotes the following letter of Hutton, archbishop of York, to the lord treasurer Burleigh : I am bold at this time to inform your lordship, what ill success I had in a suit for a pardon for Miles Dawson, semi