Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) online

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developed at some length, and ranged into their
proi)cr ])laces.

Elizabeth had a larger share of good sense and
sound judgment than is commonly to be met with
among women ; accompanied with a greatness of
mind and steadiness of purpose that might do honour
to the best of men. These her natural endow-
ments received much, though severe, improvement
from the dangers she was exposed to in the first
part of her life. She grew up in a strict attention
over licr own actions, even over her looks and


words, from the rigour of her father's temper, and
particularly from the jealous cruelty of her sister's
administratiou : a sliort hut uicmorahle period of
time, when Englaud hclield, under a female reign,
such instances of merciless rage, such scenes of
horror, as had of old startled the lloman world, under
a Nero and a Domitian. The dreadful genius of
thai superstition to which she had devoted herself,
then exerted its si)irit undisguised, in hetraying, tor-
menting, hutchering, hy the ministry of inhuman
priests and inquisitors, whoever would not profess
what he could not possibly believe. If we may credit
historians, they had even doomed Elizabeth herself
to die ; and she escaped, miraculously, not by the
kindness, but the policy of Philip ; himself a tyrant,
the coolest and most determined of these latter

At her accession to the throne, she found her reve-
nues anticipated or exhausted ; her kingdom, through
the sanguinary madness of her predecessor, disjointed
and broken of its vigour within ; at the same time
unsupported by allies and without consideration
abroad, Her good sense led her to see, by the errors
of her father and her sister, that she could expect to
reign with security, only by deserving the confidence
and gaining the love of the nation : and that in order
thereto, she must propose to herself no other end of
ruling but the happiness and honour of all her people.
This system of policy, so simple in itself, so glorious
in its consequences, and yet by princes so seldom
pursued, she adhered to steadily, almost uniformly,
through a long and triumphant reign ; for this very
reason triumphant !

The reformation of religion she attempted and
effected, at a season when her power was uncon-
iirmed, and in probable danger from intestine com-
motions. For revolutions in religion arc apt to put
the whole constitution of a society into ferment, even
more strongly tlian alterations in government ; as
every individual is immediately and intimately actu-
ated by what seems to him of highest and most last-

^11'- THE LIFE or THE

iiig concern. She kept awake, and aniiriated, with
vvonderiiil address, the divisions in Scotland, in
France, in tlic Netherlands : and that with more
Justice on hvv part, than is usually ohserved hy
}v,-iiK:os when they woiild do ill offices to tlieir neigh-
hours. The sovereigns of tliosc countnes, when they
agreed in nothing else, v^ere ever comhined in a
eonnnon eniJiity to her : at a time too when she had
nothing to o])pose against their pretensions, their
conspiracies, their open attacks, hut her own courage
and the native strength of Jl^ngland alone. And yet,
hy hel])ing forward the reformation in Scotland ; by
supporting- the ])rotestants in France ; hy the wise
and well-managed supplies she sent to the ])utch,
who were strueolins: hard for their lives and liberties

or? o

with an unrelenting tyrant : by this series of conduct,
steadily pursued, slie triumphed over ail opposition,
and rendered herself the arbitress of Europe. For it
may be affirmed, that her administration made a
greater impression on all the states round her, than
it received itself from any : an undoubted proof of
its firmness and active \ igour.

"Wlien she came to the crown, she found tlie nation
four millions in debt : a sum then almost incredible !
and vet her aconomv alone enabled her to discharo-c
it. The coil], whicli had been mucli end)ased by
Henry the eighth, and by Mary wholly neglected,
she quickly lestorcd to its just standard ; and there-
w^ith the pubhc laith and credit. Her magazines she
carefully replenished with arms, ammunition, war-
like stores of every kind ; and the youth all over
England were ordered to be duly trained in military
exercises. Her navy was fallen to decay, and almost
abandoned. Tjiis slie set herself to repair with an
attention wliich the great bulwark of this kingdom
will c\cY deserve from a prince who understands in
what his own strength and that of his dominions
naturally consist. Her fleet was at last a match for
the mighty armada of Spain : that armada, which
was boasted to be invincible, and was in truth a
desperate effort of the whole power and resentment


of lier bitterest enemy. Her victory over liiui, as
entire as it was glorious, gave security and renown to
this island : and, wliate\ er the ])artialit\' of foreign
writers may have iiisinviated to the contrary, she
owed it to her own heroical conduct, and the unex-
ampled bravery of Iicr subjects.

She ^vas tlic Hrst of our })riuces v.ho pursued, in
any consider;t))]o degree, tlie only siu'e method of
makiui!; England greiit and i)owerful : })v encourairinsr
and extendnig our commerce ; which, inider her
protection, grew high, and spread itself through the
Nortli. and to both tlic Indies. In a word, such was
her conduct, sucli her good fortune, in this island
and on the continent, that her allies had the strongest
confidence in her assistance and good faith : that her
enemies stood in awe of her }>o\vcr, and were forced
to an unwilling approbation of her prudence. The
ap])lauso of such as tliink they have cause to hate,
and distress us, is the sincerest, as it is the noblest
])raise. Her oeconomy was admirable. 8he hus-
banded the public money for her peo])le's ease : she
laid it out, on proper occasions, for tlicir safety and
honour. The undertakirigs of tlic government were
never greater ; the charge was never less. Tliis
gives the highest idoa of her ministry, and places
their characters, in general, above imputation or

Of Sir Nicholas Bacon, our autlior's father, I have
already given some account : and shall only add here,
that he never aspired beyond the rank he brought
witli liim to court. His moderation in all other re-
spects was the same. Vi'hen the (pu^n visited him
at his seat in Hertfordsliire, she told him with an air
of pleasantry, that bis house was too little for him.
No, readied the lord Keeper ; but your majesty has
made me too great for my house.

\\'alsingham, in his private character, was of un-
blemisiied honesty. ^Vs a minister he had singular
sagacity in procuring intelligence ; whicii he knew
to apply, with great dexterity, to the purposes of
government : devoting himself, with so generous a


self-neglect, to the service of his country, that he
gained a reputation for contempt of riches, which
would have been highly reverenced in the best times
of antiquity ; and will go near, in these days, to be
thought either folly or frenzy.

The lord treasurer Burleigh, for his consummate
abilities as a statesman, was reckoned the first name
of his age : and is still pointed out as a pattern,
which we rather wish, than expect, to see fully
copied by his successors in power. As he had strong
natural parts, and was of unwearied application to
business, his experience must have been universal
and unequalled ; for he was at the head of the
government almost forty years. He seems, in par-
ticular, to have been eminently possessed of that
intrepidity of head, that civil courage, so necessary
in a great minister : and without which no minister
will ever do any thing truly noble, or of lasting
utility to mankind. Inviolably attached to his
mistress, he served her with equal fidelity and success;
and had the singular felicity to promote the good
of his country by the same arts that he employed to
gratify the inclinations of his sovereign.

The glory of this princess will receive a new
lustre by comparing the state of England with that
of almost all other nations in Europe, at the same
time. It must have been no common addition to
the tranquillity and happiness of our ancestors, that
they enjoyed both, uninterrupted, for such a length
of years ; while Scotland and France, Spain and
Holland, were torn with continual divisions, and
bleeding by the wounds of foreign and domestic
wars. Her's too was tlie age of heroes both in arts
and arms. Great captains, able statesmen, writers
of the liighest order arose, and under her influence
flourislied together. Thus Bacon had all the incen-
tives that could kindle liim uj) to a generous ambi-
tion, and quicken his emulation in the pursuit of
knowledge and lioncst fame. And indeed his letters
remain a proof, that if lie courted the proper oppor-
tunities of raising his name, he lost none that might


improve and enlarge his mind. As tlie lord treasurer Bacon
had married his aunt, vvc find him frequent in his Letter vil
applications to tliat minister for some place of credit
and service in tlie state. He professes, too, that his
views on this head are as moderate, as his aims ano-
ther -way are amhitions and vast ; for that lie had
taken all philosophy for his province. i\ly lord
Burleigh interested himself so far on his hehalf as
to procure for him, against violent opposition, the
office of register to the Star-cliamber, worth about
1600/. a year: but it was only in reversion, and did
not fall to him till near twenty years afterwards.
Neither did he obtain any other preferment all this
reign : though his winning address, his eloquence,
his large and systematical learning had raised him
to the admiration of the greatest men at court. He
was particularly esteemed and patronized by Robert
Devereux, the famous and unfortunate earl of Essex ;
to whom he attached himself in his younger years,
and by whose interest in the queen he flattered him-
self with the prospect of bettering his condition.
Elizabetli herself shewed him several marks of dis-
tinction, admitted him often to her presence, and
even consulted him on the state of her affairs: as
her ministers sometimes made use of his pen in the
vindication of her government. And yet, notwith-
standing these fair appearances, he met with no
preferment from that queen answerable to the idea
we have of his merit, or her discernment in the
distribution of favours. This deserves some expla-
nation ; as it will discover to us the true genius of
those ministers, who pretending to merit themselves,
are jealous of it in all other men : who are equally
poor-spirited and aspiring.

The whole court was at this time rent into fac-
tions, headed on one part by the earl of Essex ; on
the other by the (,'ecils, father and son. Essex was
then in all the flower of his youth, and remarkable
for the gracefulness of his person. In his nature,
brave, ambitious, popular : and what is uncommon,
at once the favourite of the sovereign and of the

Xii TliE i.iii: OF Tilt

nation. Fond of military glory : liberal to profu-
sion ; devoted entirely to his friends, and keeping no
measures ^vith his enemies ; of competent learning
himself, and a signal benefactor to learned men.
One quality lie liad, which distinguishes him emi-
nently from sucli as are personally beloved by
princes : in the height of his favour he received the
admonitions, tlie remonstrances of his friends with
all gentleness ; and was ever most patient of the
truth. But then he wanted those arts which are
most nccessiiry in a courtier ; and are indeed the
only qualities which tlie rabble of courtiers value
themselves upon ; circumspection, cunning, affec-
tation of secrecy, with a servile obsequiousness to
the humours of their superiors, and a mean but
anxious attention to their own interest, whether at
the expence of their patrons, or of their country. A
different turn of mind gave the earl's enemies great
advantages against him. They failed not to repre-
sent to the queen, on several occasions, that this
young lord, not satisfied with the distinction of being
her favourite, p^retended to be her master ; and ])re-
scribcd lo her judgment on affairs of state, witli a
haniilitiness ill becoming; the distance betwixL a
sovereign and the creature of her bounty. Such in-
sinuations, as they were partly true, could not fail of
making an impression on J^ylizabeth, who was natu-
rally high-spirited, and infinitely jealous of her
authority. Though she had a particular fondness for
the earl, she took occasion every now and then to
mortify his jiride, by refusing to advance those friends
of his whom he recomnu^nded for preferment. After
his return fron) ilie expedition to Cadiz, in which lie
had behaved himselt wiih much gallantry, she raiseil
his enemy. Sir Robert ( 'ecil, to be secretary of state ;
thongli he had earnestly solicited that post for another.
He liad often applied to her in behalf of J5acon, and
asked for liini, with all the warmth of friendship,
the place of Solicitor (n'ueral, but liad lieen always
refused. Cecil, who mortally hated Essex, and had
entertained a secret jealousy of J3acon, on account


of his superior talents, represented the latter to the
queen as a man of mere speculation ; as one wholly
given up to philosophical incjuhics, new indeed and
amusing, but fanciful and unsolid : ami therefore
more likely to distract her affairs, than to serve her
usefully and with proper jud(j;nient. Bacon however
was tliis man's cousin-german ; his father and the
lord Burleigh having nuuried two sisters : but am-
bition knows neither merit nor relation. This
unworthy treatment from so near a kinsman carried
Bacon into very free expostulations on his courtly
artifices, as he endeavoured in secret to crush the
man whom yet he pretended openly to serve : and
these repeated disappointments sunk so deep into his
spirit, that he was several times on tlie ])oint of
retiring for ever, and even of hiding his grief and
resentment in some foreign country. Essex, who
could Init ill brook the mortification of a denial,
thiding himself unable to ser\e his friend in a public
way, would needs make up the loss to him out of
his own ])rivate fortune : and if we may believe
Bushell, he bestowed upon him about this time Biisiuirs
Twickenham-Park and its garden of Paradise. AVhe- f„'^"'*^' ^
ther it >\as that or some other of his lands, the
donation was so very considerable, that Bacon, as
himself acknowledges in his Apology, sold it after-
wards, even at an under price, for no less than
eighteen hundred pounds A bounty so noble, ac-
companied too, as we know it was, with all those
agreeable distinctions tliat to a mind, dclieattly
sensible, are more obliging than the bounty itself",
must kindle in the breast of a good man the mo>.t
ardent sentiments of gratitude, and create an in-
violable attachment to siicli a benefactor. ^\'hat
then are we to think of Bacon, when we find him,
after tliis nobleman's unhappy fate, publishing to all
Kngland a Declaration of the treasons of Robert carl
of Essex ? This behaviour drew upon him a heavy
and general hatred at tliat time : which was not
extinouished even by his death, but continues still,
in the writings of more than one historian, an im-


putation on his memory. As this transaction is of
importance to his moral character, I will lay it before
the reader as impartially as 1 can.

Elizabeth had raised that young lord, through a
series of honours, to be earl Marshal of England : and
was every day giving him new proofs of a particular
and uncommon esteem. This only served to exas-
pei'ate his enemies. They were powerful, and
closely united. But as they durst not attack him
openly, they had recourse to dark and surer arts of
vengeance : against which his openness of temper,
unsuspecting and improvident, was no wise guarded.
In truth, his imperious humour, which he could
seldom disguise, aided their designs ; for it often
broke forth into downright abuse and scorn of those
who thwarted his projects, or dissented from his
opinions : and he once, in some dispute with the
Queen herself, turned his back abruptly upon her
with all the marks of disrespect and contempt.
Provoked at this insolence, Elizabeth forgetting her
sex, and the dignity of her character, struck the earl
a box on the car ; which he on his part, with a
meanness of passion yet less excusable in a man,
resented so highly as to lay his hand on his sword,
against a woman and his sovereign. No subsequent
favours could wear this imaginary affront out of his
memory ; thougli she pardoned him the insult that
occasioned it, and sent him sliortly after into Ireland,
as her vicegerent, "witli a commission almost unli-
mited. His conduct there has not escaped the cen-
sure of historians, who have remarked severely on
the unjustifiable treaty he made with tlie arcli-rebel
Tyrone, on the private conference tliey lield toge-
ther, and on his precipitate return to l^ngland,
Mem. ..f against the queen's ex])ress orders. This last ill stej)
u'li^s^' ^^^ ^'^^^ betrayed into, if we may belie^■e Osborn, by
an artifice of Cecil : who first inflamed Elizabeth's
sus])icions of tlie earl, and tlien stopped all vessels
that were to sail for Ireland, except one, whicli he
ordered tliither on purpose witli a feigned report of
her deatlj. Fatally deceived by tliis intelligence.


Essex sailed away in a liurry for J^^nglaiul, attended
only by a few of his friends. The queen received
him witliout any emotion either of anger or aifec-
tion, and, having' confined him to his own house,
ordered his conduct to be examined in the 8tar-
Chamber. At this usage of him, liowever gracious
and moderate, the people, whose idol he was, loudly
exclaimed : and their unseasonable partiality, re-
presented by his iidversaries as of dangerous ten-
dency to the state, kindled anew the queen's indig-
nation against Jiim. Thus tliat popularity he had so
eagerly courted, and so much depended upon, served
now only to hasten forward his destruction. He was
sentenced by the council to be removed from his
place at that board ; to be suspended from his offices
of earl INIarshal and Master of the ordnance, and to
be imprisoned during the queen's pleasure. Having
humbled him thus far, she stopped short, forbidding
his sentence to be entered on record, and still con-
tinuing him jNIaster of the horse. She even gave
him the full enjoyment of his liberty, upon his ex-
pressing a perfect resignation to her pleasure ; but
withal advised him to be liis own keeper. His seem-
ing repentance was of short duration ; for upon the
queen's refusal to grant him tlie farm of sweet wines,
which he had very imprudently petitioned for, he
returned out of the country, and again abandoned
himself to all the impetuosity of his temi)er ; or
rather to the pernicious suggestions of his followers.
Indeed the presumption that naturally grows out of
successful ambition, and the interested counsels of
those whose fortunes were involved with his, seem
to have entirely turned his head : for his actions
henceforward were the genuine effects of frenzy and
despair. In conjunction with his friends, of several
conditions, lie meditated no less an attempt than to
seize on the palace, to make himself master of tlie
queen's person, and to banish from about her all
those whom he reputed his enemies. Ts'ever was
conspiracy so ill laid, or conducted with so little
probability of success. The court was presently

.jjyi THK l.TTK OF Tlir,

alarmed, his hour,e invested, himself and his friends
made prisoners, \vithont any resistance on his part ;
for thongh he was emharked in a kind of rebellion,
he knew not how to he a rebel. The particnlars of
his trial are foreign to my pnrpose. It v. as managed
against him by Sir Edward (.'oke, the attorney gene-
ral, and by Bacon as one of the queen's counsel. It
stateTriais, ought not to bc forgot that tlie former treated this
"^"'- ]■ unfortunate no))lenian with a strain of petulant dulness
^' ^' and scurrility that makes us contcinn his talent as
a pleader, while we ablior the purpose to which he
made it subservient. .15iicon was moderate and de-
cent. The crime was proved by a cloud of witnesses :
and the unanimous sulfrage of liis peers found him
guiltv. After his sentence he appeared Avholly indif-
ferent to life or deatli : though the queen seemed still
irresolute, or rather inclining to save him. He died
with the tenderness of a penitent, and the firmness
of a hero : though tlie nuirshal de liiron jested on
his deportment in that last scene of life, as suiting
rather a monk than a soldier.

Tlie untimely fate of this nobleman, who died on
a scaffold in the })rime and vigour of his years, excited
universal pity, and v/as nmriiiured against by all con-
ditions of people. Their reflections on the prevail-
ing })arty at court, even on the queen herself, were
so bold and injurious, that tlie administration thought
it necessary to vindicate their conduct in a public
V d appeal to the people. This task was assigned to
ciarat. of Bacou, Q\Qn tlicu iu high esteem for his excellencies
ihfitTeh', ^g r^ writer. Some say it v»as by his enemies insidi-
eari oT ously iuiposcd Oil him, to divert tlie national resent-
v'm'ii J^^'it from themselves uj'on a paiticular person, who
p. 136. was known to have lived in friendship witli j^^sse.x,
and vv'hom tliey intended to ruin in the public
esteem, li' such was their intention, they snccecd(a
but too well in it. iSever man incurred more uni-
versal or more lasting censure than iJaeon by this
writing. He was e\ery where traduced as one wlio
endejjvourcd to mra-der the good name of his bene-
factor, after the ministry had destroyed his person :


his life was even threatened ; and he went in daily
hazard of assassination. This obliged him to publish,
in his own defence, the Apology we find among
his writings. It is long and elaborate; but not,
})crhaps, in every part satisfactory. Let us believe Apology,
him on his own testimony, that he had never done y"';//^'
that nobleman any ill offices with the queen ; though
she herself had, it seems, insinuated the contrary :
that on the other hand he had always, during the
time of their intimacy, given him advice no less
useful than sincere ; that he had wished, nay en-
deavoured the earl's preservation even at last, purely
from affection to him, without any regard to his own
interest in that endeavour : let all this be allowed ;
some blemish will still remain on his character.

Essex deserved the fate he underwent : but he
had paid his debt to justice : and the commonwealth
had now nothing to fear from any of his party.
The declaration above mentioned could therefore be
intended only to still the present clamours of the
multitude ; and though the matter of it might be
true, Bacon was not the man who should have pub-
lished those truths. lie had been long and highly
indebted to the earl's friendship, almost beyond the
example even of that age. In another man this
proceeding might not have been blameable; in him
it cannot be excused. In the next reign 8ir Henry AuI. Co-
Yelverton ventured on the displeasure both of the i"'- p- ^^^•
king and his minion, rather than do the ministry of
his office, by pleading against the earl of Somerset,
who had made him solicitor general. Had Bacon
refused that invidious part, there were others, among
the herd of aspiring and officious lawyers, ready
enough to have performed it : and his very enemies
must have thought more advantageously of him for
declining a task, in itself of no essential import-
ance to the state, and in him unjust to friendship,
obligation, gratitude, the most sacred regards among

Elizabeth survived her favourite about a year ; and, Osbom,
if we may credit Osborn, grief and remorse for his p- '*^^'
VOL. I. c


* He is fate accompanied her to the grave *. She died the

liuhJr'lho twenty-fourth of JNIarch, 1603, in the fuhiess of days

mentions and honoui*. Her reign had been long and triumph-

thc rinu^ ° ^^t I and slio had through the whole course of it

preserved, wliat she so justly merited, the love and

veneration of her people ; the truest glory, the rarest

1603. felicity of a sovereign ! yhe was succeeded by James

the sixtli of Scotland, under whom Bacon ascended,

by several steps, to the highest dignity of the law.

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 52)