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first germs of this great conception in his mind, Bacon left the | of success. A long and eloquent letter to Burghley throws university. additional light upon his character, and gives a hint as to the cause of his uncle's slackness in promoting him.
On the 27th of June 1576 he and his brother Anthony were entered de societate magistrorum at Gray's Inn, and a few months later he was sent abroad with Sir Amyas Paulet, the English ambassador at Paris. The disturbed state of government and society in France at that time afforded him valuable political instruction. It was formerly supposed that certain Notes on the State of Christendom, usually printed in his works, contain the results of his observations, but Spedding has shown that there is no reason for ascribing these Notes to him, and that they may be attributed with more probability to one of his brother Anthony's correspondents.
Some time before this, perhaps as early as 1588, Bacon appears to have become acquainted with the earl of Essex, Elizabeth's favourite. At the close of 1591 he was acting as the earl's confidential adviser, and exerted himself, together with his brother Anthony, diligently in the earl's service. In February 1593 parliament was called, and Bacon took his seat for MiddleThe special occasion for which the House had been summoned was the discovery of one of the numerous popish plots that distracted Elizabeth's reign.
The sudden death of his father in February 1578/9 necessitated Bacon's return to England, and exercised a very serious influence on his fortunes. A considerable sum of money had been laid up by Sir Nicholas for the purchase of an estate for his youngest son, the only one otherwise unprovided for. Owing to his sudden death, this intention was not carried out, and a fifth only of the money descended to Francis. This was one of the gravest misfortunes of his life; he started with insufficient means, acquired a habit of borrowing and was never afterwards out of debt. As it had become necessary that he should adopt some profession, he selected that of law, and took up his residence at Gray's Inn in
In the fragment De Interpretatione Naturae Prooemium (written probably about 1603) Bacon analyses his own mental character and lays before us the objects he had in view when he entered on public life. If his opening sentence," Ego cum me ad utilitates humanas natum existimarem" (" since I thought myself born to be of advantage to mankind "), seems at first sight a little arrogant, it must be remembered that it is the arrogance of Aristotle's μeyaλófuxos,1 who thinks himself worthy of great things, and is worthy. The ideal of production of good to the human race through the discovery of truth, was combined in him with the practical desire to be of service to his country. He purposed, therefore, to obtain, if possible, some honourable post in the state which would give him the means of realizing these projects, and would enable him to do somewhat for the church, the third of the objects whose good he had at heart. The constant striving after these three ends is the key to Bacon's life. His qualifications' for accomplishing the task were not small. His intellect was far-seeing and acute, quick and yet cautious, meditative, methodical and free from prejudice. If we add to this account that he seems to have been of an unusually amiable disposition we have a fairly complete picture of his mental character at this critical period of his life.
As Bacon's conduct in this emergency seriously affected his fortunes and has been much misunderstood, it is necessary to state, as briefly as possible, the whole facts of the case. The House having been duly informed of the state necessities, assented to a double subsidy and appointed a committee to draw up the requisite articles. Before this was completed, a message arrived from the House of Lords requesting a conference, which was granted. The committee of the Commons were then informed that the crisis demanded a triple subsidy to be collected in a shorter time than usual, that the Lords could not assent to less than this, and that they desired to confer on the matter. This proposal of the Lords to discuss supply infringed upon the privileges of the Commons; accordingly, when the report of committee was read to the Lower House, Bacon spoke against the proposed conference, pointing out at the same time that a communication from the Lords might be received, but that the actual deliberation on it must be taken by themselves alone. His motion, after some delay, was carried and the conference was rejected. The Lords upon this lowered their demands, and desired merely to make a communication, which, being legitimate, was at once assented to. The House had then before them the proposal for a triple subsidy, to be collected in three, or, as the motion ultimately was shaped, in four years, instead of in six, as the ordinary custom would have been. Bacon, who approved of the increased subsidy, was opposed to the short period in which it was proposed to raise it. He suggested that it would be difficult or impossible for the people to meet such heavy demands, that discontent and trouble would arise, and that the better method of procedure was to raise money by levy or imposition. His motion appears to have received no support, and the four years' subsidy was passed unanimously. Bacon, as it turned out, had been mistaken in thinking that the country would be unable to meet the increased taxation, and his conduct, though prompted by a pure desire to be of service to the queen, gave deep and well-nigh ineradicable offence. He was accused
In 1580 he appears to have taken the first step in his career by applying, through his uncle, Burghley, the lord treasurer, for some post at court. His suit, though well received by the queen, was unsuccessful; the particulars are totally unknown. For two years after this disappointment he worked quietly at Gray's Inn, and in 1582 was admitted an outer barrister. In 1584 he took his seat in parliament for Melcombe in Dorsetshire, but the notes for the session do not disclose what reputation he gained. About the same time he made another application to Burghley, apparently with a view to expediting his progress at the bar. His uncle, who appears to have taken his zeal for ambition," wrote him a severe letter, taking him to task for arrogance and pride, qualities which Bacon vehemently disclaimed. As his advancement at the bar was unusually rapid, his uncle's influence may have been exerted in his behalf. In 1589 he received the first substantial piece of patronage from his power-it ful kinsman, the reversion of the clerkship of the Star Chamber. The office was worth about £1600 a year; but it did not become vacant for nearly twenty years. A considerable period of his life thus slipped away, and his affairs had not prospered. He had written on the condition of parties in the church; he had set down his thoughts on philosophical reform in the lost tract, Temporis Partus Maximus; but he had failed in obtaining the position which he looked upon as an indispensable condition 1 See Nic. Eth. iv. 3. 3. 1123b.
"I wax now somewhat ancient; one-and-thirty years is a great deal of sand in the hour-glass....I ever bare a mind (in some middle place that I could discharge) to serve her majesty; not as a man born under Sol, that loveth honour; nor under Jupiter, that loveth business (for the contemplative planet carrieth me away wholly); but as a man born under an excellent sovereign, that deserveth the dedication of all men's abilities. ... Again, the meanness of my estate doth somewhat move me; for though I cannot accuse myself that I am either prodigal or slothful, yet my health is not to spend, nor my course to get. Lastly, I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends as I have moderate civil ends; for I have taken all knowledge to be my province; and if I could purge it of two sorts and verbosities, the other with blind experiments and auricular of rovers, whereof the one with frivolous disputations, confutations traditions and impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in industrious observations, grounded conclusions and profitable inventions and discoveries-the best state of that province. This, whether it be curiosity, or vain-glory, or nature, or (if one take favourably) philanthropia, is so fixed in my mind as it cannot be removed. And I do easily see, that place of any reasonable commandment doth bring commandment of more wits than of a man's own. ...And if your lordship shall find now, or at any time, that I do seek or affect any place whereunto any that is nearer to your lordship shall be convenient, say then that I am a most dishonest man. And if your lordship will not carry me on,...this I will do, I will sell the inheritance that I have, and purchase some lease of quick revenue, or some office of gain that shall be executed by deputy, and so give over all care of service, and become some sorry bookmaker, or a true pioneer in that mine of truth."-Spedding, Letters and Life, i. 108-109.
of seeking popularity, and was for a time excluded from the court. | His letter to Burghley,' who had told him of the queen's displeasure with his speech, offers no apology for what he had said, but expresses regret that his motives should have been misunderstood. He soon felt that the queen's anger was not to be appeased by such a justification. The attorney-generalship had fallen vacant and Bacon became a candidate for the office, his most formidable rival being his life-long antagonist, Edward Coke, who was then solicitor. Essex warmly espoused Bacon's cause and earnestly pressed his claims upon the queen; but his impetuous, pettish pleading tended to retard the cause. Burghley, on the other hand, in no way promoted his nephew's interest; he would recommend him for the solicitorship, but not for the attorney-generalship; and it is not improbable that Sir Robert Cecil secretly used his influence against his cousin. The queen delayed the appointment, and Bacon's fortunes, as they then stood, could ill brook delay. He was harassed with debt and at times so disheartened that he contemplated retirement from public life. In March 1594 it was at last understood that Coke was to be attorney-general. Essex, though bitterly mortified, at once threw all his energies into the endeavour to procure for Bacon the solicitorship; but in this case also, his method of dealing, which was wholly opposed to Bacon's advice, seemed to irritate the queen. The old offence was not yet forgiven, and after a tedious delay, the office was given, in October 1595, to Serjeant Thomas Fleming. Burghley and Sir John Puckering seem to have assisted Bacon honestly, if not overwarmly, in this second application; but the conduct of Cecil had roused suspicions which were not perhaps without foundation. Essex, to compensate in some degree for Bacon's disappointment, insisted on presenting him with a piece of land, worth about £1800, and situated probably near Twickenham Park. Nor did his kindness cease there; before sailing on the expedition to Cadiz, in the beginning of 1596, he addressed letters to Buckhurst, Fortescue and Egerton, earnestly requesting them to use their influence towards procuring for Bacon the vacant office of master of the rolls. Before anything came of this application, the Cadiz expedition had resulted in a brilliant success, and Essex became the idol of the army and the people. Bacon saw clearly that such a reputation would assuredly alienate the affections of the queen, who loved not to have a subject too powerful or too popular. He therefore addressed an eloquent and imploring letter to the earl, pointing out the dangers of his position and urging upon him what he judged to be the only safe course of action, to seek and secure the favour of the queen alone; above all things dissuading him from the appearance of military popularity. His advice, however, was unpalatable and proved ineffectual. The earl still continued his usual course of dealing with the queen, depending solely upon her supposed affection for him, and insanely jealous of any other whom she might seem to favour. His unskilful and unlucky management of the sea expedition to Ferrol and the Azores in no way lowered his popularity with the people, but undoubtedly weakened his influence with the queen.
having sprung up between them, caused no doubt by the earl's dislike of his friend's advice. The earl's affairs were then at a somewhat critical stage, and as our judgment upon a most important episode in Bacon's life depends upon our knowledge of the events of the ensuing year, it will be requisite to enter somewhat minutely into proceedings with which Bacon himself had nothing to do.
Bacon's affairs in the meantime had not been prospering. He had increased his reputation by the publication in 1597 of his Essays, along with which were the Colours of Good and Evil and the Meditationes Sacrae; but his private fortunes were in a bad condition. No public office apparently could be found for him; a scheme for retrieving his position by a marriage with the wealthy widow, Lady Elizabeth Hatton, failed, and in 1598 he was arrested for debt. He seems, however, to have been growing in favour with the queen. Some years previously (perhaps about 1594), he had begun to be employed by her in crown affairs, and he gradually acquired the standing of one of the learned counsel, though he had no commission or warrant, and received no salary. At the same time he was no longer on the former friendly terms with Essex, a certain estrangement Spedding, Letters and Life, i. 234-235. cf. i. 362. This letter, with those to Puckering or Essex and the queen,i. 240-241, should be compared with what is said of them by Macaulay in his Essay on Bacon, and by Campbell, Lives, ii. 287.
See Letters and Life, i. 289, ii. 34
Ireland was then in a rebellious and discontented condition, and it was difficult for the English government to decide either on a definite course of policy with regard to it, or on a leader by whom that policy might be carried out. A violent quarrel took place between the queen and Essex, who for some months retired from court and refused to be reconciled. At last he came forth from his seclusion, and it was soon understood that he was in person to undertake the subjugation of the rebels in Ireland, with a larger force than had ever before been sent into that country Into the obscure details of this unhappy campaign it is unnecessary to enter; one fact stands out clearly, that Essex endeavoured to carry out a treasonable design. His jealousy and ill-temper had been so roused that the only course open to him seemed to be the obtaining a powerful military force, the possession of which would compel the queen to reinstate him in her favour. Whether or not this plan was in contemplation before he undertook the Irish expedition is not evident, though even outsiders at that time entertained some suspicions, but there can be no doubt of the treasonable character of the negotiations carried on in Ireland. His plans, probably not very definite, were disturbed by an imperative message from the queen, ordering him not to return to England without her permission. He at once set off, and, trusting apparently to her affection for him, presented himself suddenly before her. He was, for the moment, received kindly, but was soon afterwards ordered to keep his chamber, and was then given into the custody of the lord keeper at York House, where he remained till March 1600. His great popularity, and the general ignorance of the reasons for his imprisonment, stirred up a strong feeling against the queen, who was reported to be influenced by Bacon, and such indignation was raised against the latter that his friends feared his life would be in danger. It was at last felt necessary that the queen should in some way vindicate her proceedings, and this she at first did, contrary to Bacon's advice, by a declaration from the Star Chamber. This, however, gave little or no satisfaction, and it was found expedient to do what Bacon had always recommended, to have a fair trial, yet not one in which the sentence must needs be damaging to the earl. The trial accordingly took place before a body of her majesty's councillors, and Bacon had a subordinate and unimportant part in the accusation. Essex does not seem to have been at all hurt by his action in this matter, and shortly after his release they were again on friendly terms, Bacon drawing up letters as if to or from the earl with the design of having them brought before the queen. But Bacon did not know the true character of the transactions in which Essex had been engaged. The latter had been released from all custody in August, but in the meantime he had been busily engaged in treasonable correspondence with James of Scotland, and was counting on the Irish army under his ally, Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy (afterwards earl of Devonshire), the new deputy. But Mountjoy had apparently come to see how useless the attempt would be to force upon the queen a settlement of the succession and declined to go farther in the matter. Essex was thus thrown upon his own resources, and his anger against the queen being roused afresh by the refusal to renew his monopoly of sweet wines, he formed the desperate project of seizing her person and compelling her to dismiss from her council his enemies Raleigh, Cobham, and Cecil. As some pretext, he intended to affirm that his life was in danger from these men, who were in league with the Spaniards. The plot was forced on prematurely by the suspicions excited at court, and the rash attempt to rouse the city of London (8th of February 1601) proved a complete fiasco. The leaders were arrested that night and thrown into prison. Although the actual rising might have appeared a mere outburst of frantic passion, the private examinations of the most prominent
conspirators disclosed to the government a plot so widely spread,
that Bacon could do was done by him, until the real nature of Essex's design was made apparent, and then, as he had repeatedly told the earl, his devotion and respect were for the queen and state, not for any subject; friendship could never take rank above loyalty. Those who blame Bacon must acquit Essex of all wrong-doing.
Bacon's private fortunes, during the period after the death of Essex, were not in a flourishing condition. He had obtained a grant of £1200 from the fines imposed on Catesby, one of the conspirators, but his debts were sufficient to swallow up this and much more. And, though he was trusted by Elizabeth, and on good terms with her, he seems to have seen that he had no chance of advancement. But her death in 1603, followed by the undisputed succession of James, gave him new hopes. He used every means in his power to bring himself under James's notice, writing to all his friends at the Scottish court and to the king himself. He managed to obtain a personal interview with the king, but does not seem to have been much satisfied with it. In fact, while the king confirmed in their situations those who had held crown offices under Elizabeth, Bacon, not holding his post warrant, was practically omitted. He was, however, continued, by special order of the king, as learned counsel extraordinary, but little or no law business appears to have been entrusted to him. He procured, through his cousin Cecil, the dignity of knighthood, which, contrary to his inclination, he received along with about 300 others, on the 23rd of July 1603. Between this time and the opening of James's first parliament he was engaged in literary work, and sent to the king two pamphlets -one on the Union, the other on measures for the pacification of the church. Shortly after he published his Apology. In March 1604 parliament met, and during their short session Bacon's hands seem to have been full of work. It was a busy and stirring time, and events occurred during it which carried within them the seeds of much future dissension. Prerogative and privilege came more than once into collision, the abuses of purveyance and wardship were made matters of conference, though the thorough discussion of them was deferred to a succeeding session; while James's temper was irritated by the objections brought against his favourite scheme of the Union, and by the attitude taken up by the House with regard to religious affairs. The records are barely full enough to enable us to judge of the share taken by Bacon in these discussions; his name generally appears as the reporter of the committees on special subjects. We can occasionally, however, discern traces of his tact and remarkable prudence; and, on the whole, his attitude, particularly with regard to the Union question, recommended him to James. He was shortly afterwards formally installed as learned counsel, receiving the salary of £40, and at the same time a pension of £60 yearly. He was also appointed one of the commission to treat of the conditions necessary for the Union; and the admirable manner in which the duties of that body were discharged must be attributed mainly to his influence and his complete mastery of the subject. During the recess he published his Advancement of Learning, dedicated to the king.
He was now brought into relations with James, and his prospects began to improve. It is important for us to know what were his ideas upon government, upon parliaments, prerogative, and so forth, since a knowledge of this will clear up much that would seem inexplicable in his life. It seems quite evident that Bacon, from position, early training and, one might almost think, natural inclination, held as his ideal of government the Elizabethan system. The king was the supreme power, the centre of law and justice, and his prerogative must not be infringed. Parliament was merely a body called to consult with the king on emergencies (circa ardua regni) and to grant supplies. King and parliament together make up the state, but the former is first in nature and importance. The duty of a statesman was, therefore, to carry out the royal will in as prudent a manner as possible; he was the servant of the king, and stood or fell according to his pleasure. He was not singular his opinions and he was undoubtedly sincere; and it is only
See Letters and Life, iv. 177, vi. 38, vii. 116, 117.
1 See Macaulay's Essay on Bacon.
The whole story of Essex is given in Spedding's Letters and Life.in It is vigorously told by J. Bruce in the introduction to his Correspondence of James VI. with Sir Robert Cecil (Camden Society, 1861).
by keeping them constantly in mind that we can understand his | of Chamberlain, who, after mentioning the recent changes among after relations with the king. the law officials, says, " There is a strong apprehension that . . . Bacon may prove a dangerous instrument."
Further light is thrown upon Bacon's relations with James, and
2 Letters and Life, iv. 380.
Not to be confounded with any of those of the same name who held the title of Baron St John of Bletsho (see Dict. of Nat. Biog. vol. 1. p. 150 ad fin.).
7 Circa 1554-1616; educated at Cambridge; ordained priest 1581; vicar of Ridge, Herts, 1581; rector of Hinton St George, Somerset, 1587; eventually condemned to death at the Taunton Assizes (7th August 1615). The sentence was not carried out, and Peacham is said to have died in gaol (March 1616). See Gardiner's Hist. of England, ii. 272-283; State Trials, ii. 869; Calendar of State Papers (1603-1606); Hallam's Constitutional Hist. i. 343: T. P. TaswellLangmead, English Constitutional History (5th ed., 1896), p. 425. Nearly all works on constitutional law and history discuss the case.
In the second parliament there was not so much scope for the exercise of his powers. The Gunpowder Plot had aroused in the Commons warmer feelings towards the king; they passed severe laws against recusants, and granted a triple subsidy. At the same time they continued the collection of the grievances concerning which they were to move. In the course of this session Bacon married Alice Barnham " the alderman's daughter, an handsome maiden, to my liking," of whom he had written some years before to his cousin Cecil. Little or nothing is known of their married life. The third parliament was chiefly occupied with the commercial and legal questions rising out of the proposed Union, in particular, with the dispute as to the naturalization of the Post Nati. Bacon argued ably in favour of this measure, but the general feeling was against it. The House would only pass a bill abolishing hostile laws between the kingdoms; but the case of the Post Nati, being brought before the law courts, was settled as the king wished. Bacon's services were rewarded in June 1607 by the office of solicitor. Several years passed before he gained another step. Meantime, though circumstances had thrown him too much into active life, he had not forgotten his cherished project of reorganizing natural science. A survey of the ground had been made in the Advancement, and some short pieces not published at the time were probably written in the subsequent two or three years. Towards the close of 1607 he sent to his friends a small tract, entitled Cogitata et Visa, probably the first draft of what we have under that title. In 1609 he wrote the noble panegyric, In felicem memoriam Elizabethae, and the curiously learned and ingenious work, De Sapientia Veterum; and completed what seems to have been the Redargutio PhilosophiGram, or treatise on the "idols of the theatre."
In 1610 the famous fourth parliament of James met. Prerogative, despite Bacon's advice and efforts, clashed more than once with liberty; Salisbury's bold schemes for relieving the embarrassment caused by the reckless extravagance of the king proved abortive, and the House was dissolved in February 1611. Bacon took a considerable share in the debates, consistently upheld the prerogative, and seemed yet to possess the confidence of the Commons. The death of Salisbury, occurring soon after, opened a position in which Bacon thought his great political skill and sagacity might be made more immediately available for the king's service. How far he directly offered himself for the post of secretary is uncertain, but we know that his hopes were disappointed, the king himself undertaking the duties of the office. About the same time he made two ineffectual applications for the mastership of the wards; the first, on Salisbury's death, when it was given to Sir George Carey; the second, on the death of Carey. It is somewhat hard to understand why so little favour was shown by the king to one who had proved himself able and willing to do good service, and who, in spite of his disappointments, still continued zealously to offer advice and assistance. At last in 1613, a fair opportunity for promotion occurred. The death of Sir Thomas Fleming made a vacancy in the chief justiceship of the king's bench, and Bacon, after some deliberation, proposed to the king that Coke should be removed from his place in the court of common pleas and transferred to the king's bench. He gives several reasons for this in his letter to the king, but in all probability his chief motive was that pointed out by Spedding, that in the court of king's bench there would be less danger of Coke coming into collision with the king on questions of prerogative, in handling which Bacon was always very circumspect and tender. The vacancy caused by Coke's promotion was then filled up by Hobart, and Bacon, Enally, stepped into the place of attorney-general. The fact of this advice being offered and followed in all essentials, illustrates very clearly the close relations between the king and Bacon, who had become a confidential adviser on most occasions of difficulty. That his adherence to the royal party was already noticed and commented on appears from the significant remark 1 In October 1608 he became treasurer of Gray's Inn. The tercentenary was celebrated in 1908.
committed to custody for a libel on his superior, James Montagu | torturing the prisoner, and of tampering with the judges by
for that will be no man's case."3 Bacon's conduct in this matter
Ibid. v. 124.
Bacon's share in another great trial which came on shortly afterwards, the Overbury and Somerset case, is not of such a nature as to render it necessary to enter upon it in detail. It may be noted, however, that his letters about this time show that he had become acquainted with the king's new favourite, the brilliant Sir George Villiers, and that he stood high in the king's good graces. In the early part of 1616, when Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellesmere (c. 1540-1617), the lord chancellor, was dangerously ill, Bacon wrote a long and careful letter to the king, proposing himself for the office, should it fall vacant, and stating as frankly as possible of what value he considered his services would be. In answer, he appears to have received a distinct promise of the reversion of the office; but, as Ellesmere recovered, the matter stood over for a time. He proposed, however, that he should be made a privy councillor, in order to give him more weight in his almost recognized position of adviser to the king, and on the 9th of June 1616 he took the oaths and his seat at the council board.
Meanwhile, his great rival Coke, whose constant tendency to limit the prerogative by law and precedent had made him an object of particular dislike to James, had on two points come into open collision with the king's rights. The first case was an action of praemunire against the court of chancery, evidently instigated by him, but brought at the instance of certain parties whose adversaries had obtained redress in the chancellor's court after the cause had been tried in the court of king's bench. With all his learning and ingenuity Coke failed in inducing or even forcing the jury to bring in a bill against the court of chancery, and it seems fairly certain that on the technical point of law involved he was wrong. Although his motive was, in great measure, a feeling of personal dislike towards Ellesmere, yet it is not improbable that he was influenced by the desire to restrict in every possible way the jurisdiction of a court which was the direct exponent of the king's wishes. The other case, that of the commendams, was more important in itself and in the circumstances connected with it. The general question involved in a special instance was whether or not the king's prerogative included the right of granting at pleasure livings in commendam, i.e. to be enjoyed by one who was not the incumbent. Bacon, as attorney-general, delivered a speech, which has not been reported; but the king was informed that the arguments on the other side had not been limited to the special case, but had directly impugned the general prerogative right of granting livings. It was necessary for James, as a party interested, at once to take measures to see that the decision of the judges should not be given on the general question without due consultation. He accordingly wrote to Bacon, directing him to intimate to the judges his pleasure that they should delay judgment until after discussion of the matter with himself. Bacon communicafed first with Coke, who in reply desired that similar notice should be given to the other judges. This was done by Bacon, though he seems to hint that in so doing he was Macaulay's Essay. Campbell, Lives, ii. 344obscure details of this case have cast a shadow of vague suspicion The mysterious crimes supposed to be concealed under the
on all who were concerned in it. The minute examination of the
facts by Spedding (Letters and Life, v. 208-347) seems to show that these secret crimes exist nowhere but in the heated imaginations of romantic biographers and historians.