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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interest or passion. Having thus, to prevent a distant
and uncertain danger, involved himself in one that
was real and immediate, he made no scruple to change
sides at once ; to go directly against his former opi-
nion ; and to offer miasked his interest in the young
lady's mother for promoting the match he had just
been labouring to disappoint. On such trivial acci-
dents do the fortunes of ministers depend : and to
such little and sliameful arts is ambition often obliged
to stoop. Nor even thus did lie presently regain his



I-ORD CHANCELLOR BACON. XH

credit with Buckingham. The family continued to
load him with reproaches ; and he remained long
under that agony of heart which an aspiring man must
feel, wlien his power and dignity are at the mercy
of a king's minion, young, and giddy with liis eleva-
tion, and who thinks himself offended. Tliey were
however reconciled at last ; and their friendship, if
ohsequiousness in one to all the humours of the other
deserves the name of friendsliip, continued without
interruption for some years ; while 13uckingham went
on daily to place and dis])lace the great officers of the
crown, as wantonness of fancy, or anger, or interest
led him ; to recommend or discountenance every pri-
vate person who had a suit depending in any court,
just as he was influenced ; to authorize and protect
every illegal project, that could serve most speedily
to enrich himself or his kindred. In a word, he he-
caine formidable even to the master who had raised
him from the dust, and who should have srill awed
him by his authority : and this amidst the dissipation
of a life, given up to idle amusements, or sullied with
criminal pleasures.

In tlie beginning of 1619, Sir Francis Bacon was An. igi9.
created lord high Chancellor of England, and sliortly
after baron of Verulam ; which title he exchanged,
the year following, lor that of viscount 8t. Albans.
8uch events in his life as these may be passed over
slightly : he was so great a man, that external honours
could add no lustre to his name. Indeed had they
been the immediate reward of those nobler services
he had done, and was still meditating to do his
country, they might deserve more particular notice,
for the sake of him who bestowed them.

Neither the weight and variety of business, nor the
pomps of a court, could divert his attention from the
study of phi]osophy. Those were his avocations and
incumbrances; this was his beloved employment, and
almost the only pleasure in which he indulged his
freer and better hours. He gave to the public in
1020 his Novum Orgauo7i, as a second part to his An. icso.
grand Instauration of the Sciences : a work that for



Xlii THE LIFE OF THE

twelve years together he had been metlioclizing', alter-
ing, polishing ; till he had laboured the whole into
a series of Aphorisms, as it now appears. Of all
his ^vritings this seems to have undergone the strict-
est revision, and to be finished with the severest
judgment. Indeed the form into which it is cast
admits of nothing foreign, of nothing merely orna-
mental. The lights and embellishments of imagina-
tion, the grace and harmony of style, are rejected
here, as beauties either superfluous, or of an inferior
nature. The author has, besides, made use of several
xerms in a new and peculiar sense, which may have
discouraged some readers, as it has made others ima-
gine them equally unintelligible with the horrors of
a vacuum, the quiddities, and substantial forms, of
the philosophy which he attempted to discredit : and
therefore, of all his writings it has been the least
read, or understood. It was hitended as a more use-
ful, a more extensive logic than the world had yet
been acquainted watli; an art not conversant about
syllogisms, and modes of argumentation, that maybe
serviceable sometimes in arranging truths already
known, or in detecting fallacies that lie concealed
amonff our own reasoninsrs and those of other men ;
but an art inventive of arts ; productive of new dis-
coveries, real, important, and of general use to hiunan
life. This he proposed, by turning our attention
from notions to things ; from those subtle and frivo-
lous speculations that dazzle, not enliglitcn, the un-
derstanding, to a sober and sensible investigation of
the laws and ])owers of nature, in a way becoming
sages who make truth and information the sole aim
of their inquiries. In order to this, his first endeavour
was to weed out of the mind such errors as naturally
grow in it, or have been planted there by education,
and cherished by the influence of men. whose writ-
ings had long claimed a right of prescription to rule
and mislead mankind. To a mind thus prepared for
instruction, he proposes the second and scientifical
part of his scheme, the true method of interpreting
nature, by fact and obser^•ation ; by sound and ge-



LORD CHANCELI.O]{ UACOX. xliii

nuine induction, \vidcly differing- from that puerile
art which till then hud solely prevailed in philosophy.
His requires a sufficient, an accurate collection of in-
stances, gathered with sagacity and recorded with
impartial plainness, on both sides of the question :
from which, after viewing them in all possible lights,
to be sure that no contradictory instances can be
brought, some portion of useful truth, leading on to
further discoveries, may be at last fairly deduced.
In this way, experiments and reasonings grow u]>
together, to support and illustrate each other mutu-
ally, in every part of science.

As we are now approaching tow^ards the most An. 1621.
memorable event of our author's public life, which
ended in a melancholy reverse of his fortune and
honour, it will be necessary to trace, step by step, the
causes that produced it : esj)ccially as the affair has
not been hitherto considered in the point of view that
renders it most interesting and instructive. It will, I
believe, appear with evidence, that, whatever his
crimes might be, he was sacrificed to the safety of
another, far more criminal than himself: and that
this was the act of an ill-judging master, with whom
it was a greater merit to be amusing in any degree,
than to be serviceable in the greatest.

Among the weaknesses of king James, his vanity
was the most pernicious to his own family, and to
the nation in general. He ])laced an infinite value
on certain chimerical advantages that met in his per-
son ; on that inherent riglit by which, he pretended,
the crown of ICngland was devolved to him ; on his
long acquaintance witli the prime mysteries of govern-
ment, and on his unconnnon accomplishments in
learning. His favoinite maxim was, that he who
knows not how to dissemble, knows not how to
reign : but he seems not to have heard of a second
maxim, without whicli tlie first cannot be successful,
even for a time ; to conceal every appearance of
cunning, and to deceive under the guise of candour
and good faith. He, on the contrary, shewed his
whole game at once, to his own subjects and to



Xliv THE LIFE OF THE

foreigners alike : so that in his attempts upon the
former, in his negotiations with tlie latter, this Solo-
mon was the only dn})e. A great share of learning
he certainly had, bnt of learning that a king onght
not to be acquainted with ; the very refuse of the
schools, which served for little else but to furnish
him with an impertinent fluency, on every subject :
and he indulged himself in the sovereign pedantry
of setting it. to show, on every occasion. On all these
heads, he was extolled without measure by the most
pestilent of flatterers, grave and reverend ecclesiastics :
for which, and because they encouraged him in an
iinprincely application of his talent, he, on many
occasions, made his power the mean instrument to
gratify their passions and lust of dominion. They,
in return, found out for him a title antecedent and
superior to human laws, even a divine right of being
weak or wicked, without controul. And this doctrine,
horrible as it is, they dared to derive from Scripture :
where if it could be found, which to affirm were
blasphemy, it would be the triumph of infidelity, and
demonstration that those sacred writings were inspired,
not by God, but by some being, his opposite and
the enemy of all goodness. This doctrine, meeting
with his own perverted habits of tliinking, made
king James look upon his subjects as slaves ; upon
his parliaments as usurpers of a power to which they
had no right, or at best a precarious one : and he had
now, for seven years togetlicr, affected to govern with-
out them ; to set up an interest separate from that
of his people, and to su])])ly liis wants by all ways
and means, but such as the constitution prescribed,
ilacket, These metliods were suggested to liim by the worst
p. 50. enemies of tlie commonwealth, the tribe of projectors
and monopolists : miscreants who slicltered them-
selves under the name and influence of Buckingham,
and who repaid his protection extravagantly, at the
expence of a people whom they w^re grinding and
devouring. His mother too, now created a countess
in lier own right, a woman born for mischief, of a
meddling spirit and insatiably greedy, was deep in



LORD CHANCEI.LOR BACON. xlv

the guilt of these transactions ; forwarding every bad
project that brouglit her in money; and, by the
mighty poAvcr slie Jiad over her son, succeeding in
every scandalous job slic undertook, lender an ad-
ministration like this, when England was in effect
governed by a dissolute youth, himself in the hands
of an intriguing, ra})acious woman, it cannot be sur-
])rising that the people were vexed and j)lundered by
illegal patents, by monopolies, by other mischievous
projects, calculated to enrich a few, and to ruin
thousands. To all these patents, however procured,
the chancellor had readily, almost implicitly, affixed
the seal, as the mere creature of Buckingham : or if
he ever ventured to insinuate that any of them were
contrary to law, his remonstrance was too fearful
and unsupported to produce any effect. This is the
great stain on his character, that he deserted, or neg-
lected, the post of honour where Providence had ])laced
him, on the frontier, if I may so speak, betwixt
Prerogative and 1 -liberty ; that, if he did not encou-
rage, he at least connived at, the invasions that were
every day making into the latter. Yet this was against
his inclination, as well as against his better sense of
things ; for as he knew well that his master's true
interest lay in a good understanding with his people,
he had often advised him to call frequent parliaments,
and to throw himself on the affections of the nation
for the support of his government. Though such
advice was repugnant to all the maxims by which
that monarch wished to establish his power ; though
he had resolved to lay parliaments aside for ever, as
daring encroachcrs u}>on his prerogative, who made
themselves greater and their prince less than became
either : yet he was now prevailed upon to meet the
two houses once more. Indeed the exigency of his
affairs rendered it necessary. His subjects, it is true,
were harassed and pillaged ; but he was still in ex-
treme want of money : those wretches, to whom he
delegated his authority, leaving to him little else
besides the public hatred, occasioned by their rapines
committed in his name. Add to this, that the June-



Xlvi THE LIFE OF THE

ture appeared favourable for obtaining large supplies
from the commons. As the whole body of the nation
expressed an uncommon zeal for recovering the Pala-
tinate to his unfortunate son-in-law, he had reason to
expect, tliat, on the assurance of his entering heartily
into a war, they would vote him considerable aids of
monev ; which he might afterwards divert, as he
actually did, to other purposes that better suited his
genius and notions.

A parliament was accordingly summoned : and it
met on the 20th of January, 1621. The king was
not wholly mistaken in his conjecture : for the com-
mons immediately voted him two entire subsidies :
but went at the same time upon a strict enquiry into
those arbitrary impositions, that, in a period of seven
years, were become insupportable to the people.
Among the monopolies, in particular, there were
three of flagrant injustice and oppression. Certain
persons had obtained patents from the king, which
impowered them to set an annual fine on such as
kept inns, or alehouses, throughout England. AVith-
out a licence from the patentees, no man could hold
either : and whoever would not readily pay the sum,
at which tliosc low instruments of power thought fit
to excise him, was sure of being harassed and plun-
dered, or thrown into a jail. This proved a fruitful
source of vexations, and fell heavy on the poorer sort.
The third was yet more enormous ; a patent for the
sole making and vending of gold and silver lace,
which had been granted to two infamous tools of the
favourite, JMompesson and Miclicl ; the Dudley and
Empson of that age. The first a man of fortune,
whose sole ambition was to make himself considered,
though but by his crimes : the other an obscure
justice of the peace, who, in a remote quarter of the
town, picked up a sordid maintenance from the
stews. They had, it seems, shamefully abused the
power their exclusive patent gave them, by putting
off, for true, great quantities of counterfeit lace,
wrought up and embased with copper, or other ma-
terials of a poisonous nature : and whoever presumed



LORD CHANCELLOR BACON. xlvii

to make or sell any other was cruelly punished, by
fine and imprisonment. In these outrages they were Hackn,
the more daring, because Sir Edward Villiers, half- l^lyjj'-'-
brother to the favourite, was associated into their
patent, though not named in it. These, with many
other grievances, were laid open in parliament, and
severely censured. JJut the commons did not stop
here. They were for carrying their search up to
the prime cause of iiU grievances, in order to discover
by whose influence the several patents had been pro-
cured, and how tliey had passed the seals. Com-
plaints were brouglit into the house, about tlic same
time, of corrupt practices even in the higli court of
Equity. This alarmed the king for his chancellor,
and still more for his minion : as private intimation
had been sent to Buckingham, of a severe scrutiny Cahaia
that was making into all his management, and of '^''"''^ ^^
frequent meetings that were held, with great secrecy,
by certain members of the lower house ; in order to
fix on him the guilt of whatever was most imjustifia-
ble and oppressive. Buckingham's creatures, anxious
and alarmed at this intelligence, persuaded him that
he could secure impunity to himself and them, only
by bringing his master forthwith to dissolve the
parliament : and James liad certainly been frightened
into that rash and hazardous step, but for the sober
remonstrances of AVilliains dean of AV^estminster,
That politic courtier advised him to cancel at once,
by proclamation, all monopolies and vexatious grants;
to sacrifice inferior criminals to the public resent-
ment, and to soothe the })arliament with an assurance
that this reformation was first proposed by his favou-
rite, on finding how much he had been abused by
designing and knavisli projectors. This counsel the
king resolved to follow ; but it did not Avholly free
him from the perplexity he was under. The chan-
cellor, whom his interest led him to preserve, was
openly accused of corruption : the favourite, whom
his tenderness could not resign, was secretly, and
therefore more dangerously attacked ; as the encou-
rager, if not the author, of whatever was deemed



Xlviii THE LIFE OF THE

Bushel's most illegal and oppressive. To save both, at this
Polt^' juncture, would be impossible: and he found he
p-2,3. must either part with the object of his inclinations,
or with the oracle of his counsels. How such a
2>rince would determine, is easy to guess. His pas-
sion prevailed over his reason : and my lord 8t. Al-
bans was made the scape-goat of Buckingham. He
was even obliged to abandon his defence. As he had
gained universal esteem by his learning ; and as his
eloquence was equal to his parts, superior and com-
manding, the king would not hazard his appearing
before the lords to plead his own cause. In the course
of such an inquiry, he miglit have diverted the public
odium from himself, by laying open the long series
of bad administration to which he had been privy ;
the many illegal patents he had been compelled to
pass ; and all this came fidl home to Buckingham, the
great object of national vengeance. The faults, too,
imputed to himself, he might have extenuated so far
as to procure a great mitigation of the censure that
must otherwise fall upon him in its utmost rigour.
All this he foresaw and felt : but the king absolutely
commanded him not to be present at his trial ; pro-
mising, on his royal word, to screen him in the last
determination ; or if that could not be, to reward
him afterwards with ample retribution of protection
and favour. He obeyed, and was undone.
State Tri. ^" ^lic twclftli of March, a committee for inspect-
Voi. I. inir into the abuses of the courts of iustice was
appointed by tlic commons, home days after, Sn*
Robert Phillips, a gentleman eminent for public spirit
and humanity, reported from thence to the house,
that complaints had been brought before them, by
two persons, against the lord Chancellor, for bribery
and corruption. This report he made not only with-
out bitterness, but in terms of great regard and ten-
derness for the accused ; moving, that the business
might be presented to the peers, singly, and without
exaggeration. At a conference, on the nineteenth,
between certain members of both houses, the lords
agreed to take the matter into their speedy consider-



p. 3b3, etc.



I.ORD CHANCELLOR BACON. xlix

ation. As soon as this affair was become the public
talk, a new crowd of accusers appeared, and charged
home the unhappy chancellor with otlier and flagrant
instances of bribery ; such persons especially as had
courted him with presents, and afterwards received
a judgment unfavourable to their expectations : ani-
mated more by that disappointment, than by the
iniquity of his decisions ; for it does not appear that Rush-
any of his decrees were ever reversed. He was all yoS'^''''
this while confined to his house by an indisposition,
real or pretended : but if his body was in health,
wliat must have been the condition of his mind, in
this interval of suspense and anxiety ? a great mind,
already self- convicted, yet exquisitely sensible to good
fame, which it has long enjoyed, and is upon the
j>oint of losing for ever ! His reflections, whether he
looked back on the past, or forward to the prospect
before him, must have been terrible : as they were at
the same time inflamed by peculiar circumstances of
shame and confusion ; that he was now, at the age of
sixty-one, falling a victim to the rapine and insolence
of his domestics, which he had weakly connived at,
rather than to any faults of his own.

On the twenty-sixth of ]\farch, the king came to
the house of peers; and, in expressions of studied
popularity, ovrned the errors of his government, ex-
claimed against the patents complained of, frankly
gave up to justice the lesser criminals concerned in
them : and all this for the sake of his favourite,
whom in the end he endeavoured to screen by the
poorest reasons imaginable. Indeed, no good reasons
could be alledged in defence of him, who was the
greatest criminal ; and without whose concurrence
the wretches in question could not have been guilty,
'^riie lords were not imposed upon by this speech :
however, thinking it sufficient to have reduced their
sovereign to the necessity of an apology, they feigned
to be of his opinion. Thus Buckingham escaped for
the present ; to accumulate new guilt, and to fall
at last, ignobly, by a private hand : after he had been
devoted, by the curses of a wliole people, and more

VOL. 1. e



THE LIFE OF THE

solemuly still by the deiiimciations of their repre-
sentatives. After a recess of three weeks, the house
met again : but the weight of then* indignation fell
singly, and therefore without mercy, on the chan-
cellor. They were not satisfied with his letter of
general confession, though delivered to them by the
prince of Wales ; in which he renounced all justifica-
tion of himself, and sued for no other favour, " but
" that his penitent submission might be his sentence,
" and the loss of the seals his punishment." He
was obliged to put in a particular answer to every
point of his accusation : which he did on the first of
May, 1621 ; acknowledging, in the most explicit
words, the corruption charged upon him in twenty-
eight several articles, and throwing his cause entu'ely
on the compassion of his judges. His sentence was,
" to undergo a fine of forty thousand pounds ; to be
" imprisoned in the Tower dming the king's plea-
" sure ; to be for ever uncapable of any office, place,
" or employment in the commonwealth ; and never
" to sit again in parliament, or come within the verge
" of the court." Thus he lost the great privilege of
his peerage; a severity unusual, except in cases of
treason and attainder.

The last article of his charge furnishes matter for
much reflection. It alledges, " that he had given
" way to great exactions in his servants, both in
" respect of private seals, and otherwise for sealing in-
" junctions." This indulgence to his domestics, which
was certainly extreme, has been generally, and I be-
lieve truly, reckoned the principal cause of those irre-
wiison. gularities that drew on his disgrace. Liberal in his
Bushel's own temper, or rather profuse beyond the condition
Port. p. 2. of a man who means to preserve his integrity, he al-
lowed his family in every kind of extravagance : and
as many of his retinue were young, dissipated, giddy
in the pursuit of pleasme, they squandered without
measme, where they were indulged without controul ^.

' One (lay, during his trial, as he was passing through a room where sereral
of his domestics were sitting, upon their getting up to salute him, Sit down, my
maiten, he cried ; your rise hath been my fall.



LORD CHANCELLOR BACON. li

Whether he did not discover this error till it was
too late, or whether a soul like his, lost in the great-
ness and immensity of its own views, could not
attend to that detail of little and disagreeable parti-
culars, which yet occonomy requires ; however that
Was, to support his ordinary train of living, he fell
into corruption himself, and connived at it in his
dependents. Thus we behold him, a memorable
example of all that is great and exalted, of all that
is little and low, in man. Such inconsistencies in
our human nature cannot but alarm and terrify even
those who are most confinned in a habit of virtue.

After a short confinement in the Tower, the king
restored him to his liberty, and forgave the fine in
which the parliament had amerced him. As this
fine was very considerable, he managed so as to have
it assigned over to some of his fiiends, under the
notion of beinff his creditors : and we find Williams, Cabaia,
his successor in the seals, complaining hea\'ily of^^ igc,!,
this stratagem ; as if he thereby intended to defraud
those persons to whom he was really in debt, who
were many and in danger of being ruined by his fall.
But I am inclined to hope, that he made use of this
artifice with a more innocent view : namely, to pro-
cure himself a short respite from their importunities,
till he could settle his private affairs, extremely per-
plexed by fonner ill management, and now by the
loss of his emjoloyments rendered desperate. That I
may not be obliged to mention any more an affair
alike ungrateful to the reader and wTiter, I will ob-
serve here, that about three years after this, he peti-
tioned king James for a total remission of his cen-
sure : " to the end that this blot of ignominy might Bacon.
" be removed from him, and from his memory with Letter '
" posterity." What lay in a king's power, James ccxciv.
readily granted, a full and entire pardon of his w^hole p.^249.'
sentence "*. Posterity, likewise, to which he appealed,
has seemed unwilling to remember that he ever

* Accordingly he was samnioned to the first parliament of king Charles.

e 2



]ii THE LIFE OF THE

offended : and those who record his failings, like
those who have made observations on the spots in
the sun, neither pretend to diminish his real bright-
ness in himself, nor deny his universal influence on



Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 52)