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Bacon's interest in the subject of weights and measures was very great, for in 1601 he introduced a bill against abuses in the use of them into the House of Commons, and in the course of his speech, advocating it, he said:
"I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, I'll speak out of mine own experience that I have learned and observed, having had causes of this nature referred to my report, that this fault of using false weights and measures is grown so intolerable and common that, if you would build churches, you shall not need for battlements and bells other things than false weights of lead and brass."
Bacon's bill appears to have been temporarily "thrown out;" but, according to Chief Justice Campbell, a law was subsequently enacted that "ale should be sold only in sealed vessels of the standard capacity," and not in stone jugs. Bacon appears finally to have been successful, as we learn also from the play.
"King. Your brother is legitimate;
Your father's wife did after wedlock bear him;
And if she did play false, the fraud was hers.
"If the son marry himself to a woman defamed, so that she bring bastard slips and false progeny into the family, yet the issue of this woman shall inherit the land." - Use of the Law.
My mother's son did get your father's heir;
Your father's heir must have your father's land."
King John, i. 1 (1623).
"This is the true doctrine, Pater est quem nuptiæ demonstrant. It was likewise properly ruled [in 'King John '] that the father's will, in favor of his son Robert, had no power to dispossess the rightful heir.". CHIEF JUSTICE CAMPBELL.
A FOOL AMONG FOOLS
From Shake-speare “Hamlet. Why was he sent into England?
Clown. Why? Because he was mad; he shall recover his wits there; or, if he do not, 't is no great matter there.
Clown. 'T will not be seen in him there. There the men are as mad as he."- Hamlet, v. 1 (1603).
"A strange fish! Were I in England now (as once I was), and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver; there would this monster make a man; any strange beast there makes a man."-The Tempest, ii. 2 (1623).
"It was both pleasantly and wisely said (though I think very untruly) by a nuncio of the Pope, returning from a certain nation where he served as lieger; whose opinion being asked touching the appointment of one to go in his place, he wished that in any case they did not send one that was too wise; because no very wise man would ever imagine what they in that country were like to do.". Advancement of Learning (1603-5). "To few doubtless would he seem mad therein, because the majority of men are mad." Promus (1594-96).
"Those wounds heal ill that men do give themselves." Troilus and Cressida, iii. 3 (1609).
"The evil that a man brings on himself by his own fault is greater; that which is brought on him from without is less. ... Where the evil is derived from a man's own fault, there all strikes deadly inwards." - Colors of Good and Evil (1597).
In 1604, the House of Commons petitioned the king to abate certain evils growing out of the royal purveyorship; that is, out of proceedings established by law for taking merchandise of various kinds from subjects for the use of the king's household. The petition was presented by a committee of which Bacon was spokesman.
In the play of 'Henry VIII.,' a petition of the same kind, and made for the same purpose, was presented to the king by Queen Katharine. Her speech, as given by the dramatist and that of Bacon, are so similar in scope and diction, that, as the late Judge Holmes (to whose work on the 'Author
ship of Shakespeare' we are indebted for this interesting parallelism) said, the two must have "proceeded from the same pen."
The following are some of the points of resemblance: 1. The exactions are made in the king's name, affecting the king's honor.
My good lord cardinal, they vent reproaches
Most bitterly on you, as putter-on
Of these exactions, yet the king, our master,
Whose honor heaven shield from soil, even he escapes not
"All these great misdemeanors are committed in and under your Majesty's name. And therefore we hope your Majesty will hold them twice guilty, -once for oppressing of the poor, and once more for doing it under color and abuse of your Majesty's dreaded and beloved name." - BACON.
2. The exactions are very great and oppressive.
Whereof my sovereign would have note, they are
"Your Majesty doth not hear our opinions or senses, but the very groans and complaints themselves of your Commons, more truly and vively than by representation. For there is no grievance in your kingdom so general, so continual, so sensible and so bitter unto the common subject, as this whereof we now speak."— BACON.
3. The exactions were made under commissions, against the law.
King [to the Cardinal]. Have you a precedent
We must not rend our subjects from our laws,
"They take in an unlawful manner, in a manner (I say) directly and expressly prohibited by divers laws." - BACON.
4. The exactions bear heavily upon dealers in wool and woollen goods.
"Norfolk. The clothiers all, not able to maintain
The many to them 'longing, have put off
"I do set apart these commodities, wool, wool-fels, and leather." - BACON.
5. Another special grievance is the taking of trees.
From every tree, lop, bark, and part o' th' timber;
"They take trees, which by law they cannot do; timber trees, which are the beauty, countenance, and shelter of men's houses. . . . They put the axe to the root of the tree, ere ever the master can stop it."- Bacon.
Bacon's speech was delivered, as we have said, in 1604, the very year in which the reputed poet retired from London and took up his permanent abode in Stratford. It was not printed till 1657, or forty-one years after the latter's death.
PORTRAYING ANOTHER, AS IN A GLASS
"You go not till I set you up a glass Where you may see the inmost part of you."
Hamlet, iii. 4 (1604).
"That which I have propounded to myself is,... to show you your true shape in a glass."- Letter to Sir Edward Coke.
1 Mr. Staunton, in his 'Life of Shakspere ' (excellent Shakespearean authority), says that the reputed poet retired to Stratford in the spring of 1604. It is hardly possible, however, that, even if in London at the time, he could have known the contents of a speech of which there was no contemporary public record, and which was delivered before the court and in the presence of a committee of the House of Commons only.