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points of strictness and severity, much less in points of mercy and mitigation. And yet if any thing, which I shall move, might be contrary to your honourable and worthy end (the introducing of a reformation) I should not seek it. But herein I beseech your Lordships to give me leave to tell you a story.
Titus Manlius took his son's life, for giving battle against the prohibition of his General. Not many years afterward, the like severity was pursued by Papyrius Cursor, the Dictator, against Quintus Maximus; who, being upon the point to be sentenced, was by the intercession of some particular persons of the senate spared: whereupon Livy maketh this grave and gracious observation, Neque minus firmata est disciplina militaris periculo Quinti Maximi, quàm miserabili supplicio Titi Manlii; the discipline of war was no less established by the questioning of Quintus Maximus, than by the punishment of Titus Manlius.' And the same reason is in the reformation of justice; for the questioning of men in eminent places hath the same terror, though not the same rigour, with the punishment. But my cause stays not there for my humble desire is, that his Majesty would take the seal into his hands; which is a great downfall, and may serve, I hope, in itself for an expiation of my faults.
Therefore, if mercy and mitigation be in your Lordships' power, and no way cross your ends, why should I not hope of your favour and commiseration? Your Lordships will be pleased to behold your chief pattern, the King our Sovereign, a King of incomparable clemency, and whose heart is inscrutable for wisdom and goodness: and your Lordships will remember, there sate not these hundred years before a
Prince in your House, and never such a Prince, whose presence deserveth to be made memorable by records and acts mixed of mercy and justice. Yourselves are either Nobles (and compassion ever beateth in the veins of noble blood) or Reverend Prelates, who are the servants of Him, that would not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax. You all sit upon a high stage, and therefore cannot but be sensible of the change of human conditions, and of the fall of any from high place.
Neither will your Lordships forget, that there are vitia temporis, as well as vitia hominis; and the beginning of reformation hath the contrary power to the pool of Bethesda : for that had strength to cure him only that was first cast in, and this hath strength to hurt him only that is first cast in; and for my part, I wish it may stay there, and go no farther.
Lastly, I assure myself, your Lordships have a noble feeling of me, as a member of your own body, and one that in this very session had some taste of your very loving affections; which I hope was not a lightning before the death of them, but rather a spark of that grace, which now in the conclusion will more appear. And therefore my humble suit to your Lordships is, that my penitent submission may be my sentence, the loss of my seal my punishment, and that your Lordships would recommend me to his Majesty's grace and pardon for all that is past. God's Holy Spirit be among you.'
A committee of Peers now waited upon him to demand, whether it were his own hand, that was subscribed to the same:' to whom he replied, " My
Lords, it is my act, my hand, my heart, I beseech your Lordships to be merciful to a broken reed."
Notwithstanding these abject and humiliating admissions, however, he was sentenced to pay a mulct of forty thousand pounds; to be imprisoned in the Tower during the King's pleasure; to be for ever incapable of any office, place, or employment in the commonwealth; and never to sit again in parliament, or to come within the verge of the court.*
That so heavy a punishment should have been incurred by a man, whose talents have commanded the admiration of the world, must ever be regretted; but there is no evidence to prove, that the rigour of his sentence exceeded the strict limits of justice. He might not, perhaps, have been guilty of any flagrant infringement of equity in many of his judicial decrees; it is even possible, that his decisions might have been made against the very persons, who had bribed him: but this, as Aikin justly observes, is not the natural operation of a bribe upon minds mean enough to accept one: and at any rate those, who bestowed it without effect, seem to have had some grounds of complaint. Neither is it any extenuation of his crime, that it was stimulated by
*Upon his fall he wrote a letter to Prince Charles, soliciting his Royal Highness' intercession with his Majesty, in which he introduced the following profane expression; "I hope, as your father was my Creator, that you his son will become my Redeemer." But this is not a solitary instance of his abuse of scriptural allusion. In his History of Henry VII.,' speaking of Sir William Stanley's placing the crown on the head of that prince, then Earl of Richmond, after the memorable action of Bosworth Field, he says; "The condition of mortal man is not capable of greater benefit, than the King received by the hands of Stanley, being like the benefit of Christ, at once to save and crown."
the false ambition of supporting his official splendor, not by the baser goadings of avarice, or the more venial cravings of family provision; or that it was, in many instances, incurred by his blind indulgence of his servants.* Of this latter cause however, after it
* Rushworth affirms, that "the gifts taken were, for the most part, for interlocutory orders." That this is not correctly true, may perhaps safely be conjectured from the unwarrantable expression of Lord Clifford, who wished he had stabbed the LordKeeper;' a wish, hardly to be accounted for without the supposition of some signal injury. But the matter is placed beyond conjecture by the item in the black bead-roll of extortion, acknowledged by Lord Bacon on the proceedings before the House of Lords, respecting the able and unhappy Wraynham or Wrayngham; in whose case this President of a Court of Equity confessed, that upon his removing to York House he had received a suit of hangings to the value of 160l. and upward, which Sir Edward Fisher (Wraynham's adversary) gave him, by advice of Mr. Chute, toward furnishing his house. For complaining of this injustice in a petition to the King, that oppressed gentleman was prosecuted in the horrid Court of Star-Chamber, was fined and imprisoned (even unto death) instead of being relieved, and had the still heavier misery of seeing his family reduced from affluence to beggary. What the Lords, on their proceedings against Wraynham in the Star-Chamber for charging Lord Chancellor Bacon with injustice,' considered a libel and a slander, the Lords on their proceedings in parliament against the same Lord Chancellor, upon an impeachment for bribery and corruption in the execution of his high office,' considered a well-founded complaint and true in every particular! All this Bacon knew he knew Wraynham innocent and injured, himself guilty, and the Lords abused and misled; and yet he suffered him and his family to sink under calamities, from which after the long lapse of nearly two centuries they are but just under the providence of God beginning slowly to emerge. See State-Trials, VII. 102. The sentence pronounced against Mr. Wraynham is to be found in Popham's Reports, p. 135. Mr. Chalmers' short statement, in which he calls the injured party Wrenham,' does not appear to be drawn up with his accustomed candour and accuracy.
was too late, he became so sensible that when upon passing, during his prosecution, through a room where they were sitting, they all stood up, he said, "Sit down, my masters; your rise hath been my fall.”*
The King, however, quickly released him from the Tower, made a grant of his fine to some trustees for his benefit, and settled upon him a pension of 1800/. per ann. But, as he applied the greatest part of his income to the payment of debts† contracted while he was in office, his expenses in procuring materials for experiments in natural philosophy compelled him to make such applications to James, as prove at once his consummate address and his perfect knowledge of that prince's disposition.
Sir Francis Bacon to the King.
For now it is thus with me; I am a year and a half old in misery, though (I must ever acknowledge) not without some mixture of your Majesty's grace and mercy. For I do not think it possible, that any you once loved should be totally miserable. My own
* While he sat abstracted at the upper end of the table, they are said to have cheated him at the lower.
What arms, asks one of his biographers, could suit him better than his own! Part of them are mullets, or stars: and "falling stars (says Guillim) are the emblem of the inconstancy of fortune, and unsure footing of ambitious aspirers, which may shine for a time; but in a moment fall headlong from the heaven of their hopes, and from the height of their honours, by the strokes of justice and by their own demerits."
↑ Yet, though about this time he discharged encumbrances to the amount of 8000l., he died nearly thrice that sum in debt. Such indeed, even after his fall, was his insuppressible passion for the parade of equipage, that Prince Charles observed one day (on seeing his retinue) "Well, do what we can, this man scorns to go out like a snuff."