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the King, had entered into a confederacy, and had undertaken to secure a majority to enable him to control the house. To pacify the heat, Bacon made a powerful speech, (a) in which he ridicules the supposition that any man can have embarked in such a wild undertaking as to control the Commons of England: to make a policy of insurance as to what ship shall come safe home into the
He concludes by calling upon the lords, "for justice' and true honour's sake, honour of religion, law, and the King, to co-operate with him against this fond and false disguise or puppetry of honour."
(a) The speech itself may be found in vol. vi. p. 13. The following is a short outline of it: "Mr. Speaker," he says, " I have been hitherto silent in this matter of Undertaking, wherein, as I perceive, the house is much enwrapped.
"First, because to be plain with you, I did not well understand what it meant, or what it was; and I do not love to offer at that I do not thoroughly conceive. That private men should undertake for the Commons of England: why? a man might as well undertake for the four elements: it is a thing, so giddy, and so vast: it is so wild for any man to think that he can make a policy of insurance as to what ship shall come safe home into the harbour in these troubled seas," &c. as in the text.
"The second rea«on that made me silent was, because this suspicion and rumour of undertaking settles upon no person certain. It is like the birds of paradise," &c. as in the text.
"And lastly, since I perceive that this cloud still hangs over the house, and that it may do hurt, as well in fame abroad as in the King's ear, I resolved with myself to do the part of an honest voice in this house, to counsel you what I think to be for the best."
voi. . xv. m
harbour in these troubled seas; to find a new passage for the King's business, by a new and unknown point of the compass: to build forts to intimidate the house, unmindful that the only forts by which the King of England can command, is the fort of affection moving the hearts, and of reason the understandings of his people. He then implores the house not to listen to these idle rumours, existing only in the imagination of some deluded enthusiast, who like the fly upon the chariot wheel, says, What a dust do I raise! and, being without foundation or any avowed author, are like the birds of paradise, without feet, and never lighting upon any place, but carried away by the wind whither it listeth. Let us then," he adds, "instead of yielding to these senseless reports, deliberate upon the perilous situation in which the government is placed: and, remembering the parable of Jotham, in the case of the trees of the forest, that when question was, whether the vine should reign over them? that might not be;—and whether the olive should reign over them? that might not be, let us consider whether we have not accepted the bramble to reign over us. For it seems that the good vine of the King's graces, that is not so much in esteem: and the good oil, whereby we should relieve the wants of the estate and crown, is laid aside; and this bramble of contention and emulation, this must reign and rule amongst us."
Having examined and exposed all the arguments, he concludes by saying: "Thus I have told you mine opinion. I know it had been more safe and politic to have been silent; but it is more honest and loving to speak. When a man speaketh, he may be wounded by others; but if he holds his peace from good things, he wounds himself."
The exertions of Bacon and of the King's friends being, however, of no avail, the King, seeing no hope of assistance, in anger dissolved the parliament, and committed several of the members who had spoken freely of his measures.
This violence, instead of allaying, increased the ferment June, in the nation; and, unable to obtain a supply from parliament, and being extremely distressed for money, several of the nobility and clergy in and about London, made presents to the King; and letters were written to the sheriffs and justices in the different counties, and to magistrates of several corporations, informing them what had been done in the metropolis, and how acceptable and seasonable similar bounty would be from the country.
Amongst others, a letter was sent to the Mayor of Marlborough in Wiltshire, where Mr. Oliver St. John, a gentleman of an ancient family, was then residing, who wrote to the mayor on the 11th of October, 1614, representing to him that this benevolence was against law, reason, and religion,(a) and insinuating that the King, by
(a) Wilson says, "These fair blossoms not producing the hoped-for fruit, they find out new projects to manure the people; different much in name and nature; a benevolence extorted; a free gift against their wills was urged upon them, and they that did not give in their money must give in their names, which carried a kind of fright with it. But the most knowing men (like so many pillars to the kingdom's liberties) supported their neighbour's tottering resolutions, with assuring them that these kind of benevolences were against law, reason, and religion.
"First, against law, being prohibited by divers acts of parliament; and a curse pronounced against the infringers of them.
"Secondly, against reason, that a particular man should oppose his judgment and discretion to the wisdom and judgment of the King assembled in parliament, who have there denied any such aid.
"Thirdly, against religion, that a king violating his oath (taken at his coronation for maintaining the laws, liberties, and customs of the realm) should be assisted by the people in an act of so much injustice and impiety. These and many other arguments, instilled into the people by some good patriots, were great impediments to the benevolence; so that
promoting it, had violated his coronation oath, and that, by such means as these, King Richard the Second had given an opportunity to Henry the Fourth to deprive him of his crown; desiring, if he thought fit, that his sentiments should be communicated to the justices who were to meet respecting the benevolence.
For this letter, Mr. St. John was tried in the Star Chamber on the 15th of April, 1615; when, the Attorney General appearing, of course, as counsel for the crown, the defendant was fined £5000., imprisoned during the King's pleasure, and ordered to make submission in writing.
So deeply were the judges impressed with the enormity of this offence, that some of the court thought the crime of a higher nature than a contempt, but they all agreed that the benevolence was not restrained by any statute; and the Lord Chancellor, who was then, as he supposed, on his death-bed, more than once expressed his anxiety that his passing sentence upon Mr. St. John might be his. last act of judicial duty, (a)
they got but little money, and lost a great deal of love: for no levies do so much decline and abase the love and spirits of the people as unjust levies. Subsidies get more of their money, but exactions enslave the mind; for they either raise them above, or depress them beneath their sufferings, which are equally mischievous, and to be avoided."
(a) A letter reporting the state of my Lord Chancellor's health,
It may please your excellent Majesty,—Because I know your majesty would be glad to hear how it is with my Lord Chancellor; and that it pleased him out of his ancient and great love to me, which many times in sickness appeareth most, to admit me to a great deal of speech with him this afternoon, which during these three days he hath scarcely done to any; I thought it might be pleasing to your majesty to certify you how I found him. I found him in bed, but his spirits fresh and good, speaking stoutly, and without being spent or weary, and both willing and beginning of himself to speak, but wholly of your majesty's business. Wherein I cannot
Such was the state of the law and of the opinion of justice which at that time prevailed ! (a)
forget to relate this particular, that he wished that his sentencing of I. S. at the day appointed might be his last work, to conclude his services, and express his affection towards your majesty. I told him I knew your majesty would be very desirous of his presence that day, so it might be without prejudice, but otherwise your majesty esteemed a servant more than a service, especially such a servant. Not to trouble your majesty, though good spirits in sickness be uncertain calendars, yet I have very good comfort of him, and I hope by that day, &.c.
See to the same effect, a letter of Feb. 7, 1614, entitled, A letter to the King, touching my Lord Chancellor's amendment, and the putting off I. S. his cause.
(a) Bacon's speech has fortunately been preserved.*— "In the last parliament there was," he says, "a great and reasonable expectation in the community that the people would grant to the King such supplies as were necessary for the maintenance of the government: and there was in the house a general disposition to give, and to give largely. The clocks in the house, perchance, might differ; some went too fast, some went too slow: but the disposition to give was general. It was, however, by an accident defeated; and this accident, happening thus contrary to expectation, it stirred up and awaked, in divers of his majesty's worthy servants and subjects, of the clergy, the nobility, the court, and others here near at hand, an affection loving and cheerful, to present the King some with plate, some with money, as a freewill offering. As the occasion did awake the love and benevolence of those that were at hand to give, so it was apprehended and thought fit, by my lords of the council, to make a proof whether the occasion and example both would not awake those in
* See vol. vi. p. 138. It is entitled, The Charge given by Sir Francis Bacon, his Majesty's Attorney General, against Mr. I.S. for scandalizing and traducing, in the public sessions, letters sent from the Lords of the Counctl touching the benevolence.