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compliance a weak and impertinent pretence; and that as to the statute they mentioned, it was very improbable that any of his predecessors should be so far off their guard as to pass an act so very prejudicial to the prerogative. He concluded with reiterating his commands not to proceed. Soon afterwards the judges were summoned to the council-table. The king himself was present to administer the reproof. He reprimanded for their remissness in permitting counsel to dispute his prerogative at the bar; telling them that it was their duty to check such intemperate sallies; that deferring their judgment, upon just and necessary reasons, was neither a denial nor delay of justice; that to say
the point was a private contest between subject and subject, was wide of the case ; and, lastly, that their letter was indecently couched, and failed in form. Upon the latter accusation all the judges knelt, acknowledged their error, and craved pardon. It was now that the high and independent spirit of Coke was boldly and nobly displayed. He entered at once upon his defence. He insisted that the king's command for stopping the proceedings was a delay of justice, and, by consequence, against law
and the judges' oath; and that as they intended to manage the pleading, the king's prerogative should not have been concerned. To this James replied, that for them to pronounce whether his prerogative was concerned or not, without consulting him, was a preposterous management. He then required the lord chancellor to deliver his opinion, whether his commands had been against law and the oath of the judges. The chancellor, wisely excusing himself, referred the matter to the king's counsel; who, with Bacon at their head, at once declared that the royal command was no denial of justice. Coke, however, was not silenced. Indignant at the obsequious conduct of the crown lawyers, he urged that it was the duty of the king's counsel to argue before the judges, and not against them. After some further discussion, the following question was propounded by the lords of the council: “ Whether, in a case where the king believed his pre
rogative or interest concerned, and required the judges to attend him for their advice, they ought not to stay proceedings till his majesty had consulted them ?” To this all the judges answered in the affirmative, excepting Sir Edward Coke, who said that when the case happened, he would do his duty* ; -an answer at once honest, bold, and discreet.
It unfortunately happened, that about this time a violent dispute occurred between Sir Edward Coke and the Lord Chancellor Ellesmere ; “which," says the historian Wilson, “ made a passage to both their declines.” At the trial of a cause before Coke, one of the witnesses was kept back by the practice of the opposite party. “A pragmatical fellow," a friend of the party who withheld the witness, undertook to account for his non-appearance. Carrying him to a tavern, and calling for a pot of sack, he bade him drink; and leaving him drinking, went into court, where, being called to prove the incapacity of the witness to attend, he swore “ that he left him in such a condition, that if he continued in it a quarter of an hour, he would be a dead man.” On this evidence a verdiet was obtained ; but the party who had been injured by the fraud filed a bill in chancery against his adversary, who, refusing to put in his answer, was committed. Upon this the defendant petitioned the starchamber for relief; and Coke, as it is said, mingling himself with the dispute, threatened the chancellor with a præmunire. t This was merely the revival of a former controversy. After a judgment in the king's bench, one Glanville had been committed for refusing to obey a decree of the court of chancery in the same matter; whereupon he applied to the court of king's bench, who held that he ought to be bailed, and bailed him accordingly. I The consequence of these proceedings was a reference of the disputed jurisdiction to the king, who, after hearing the matter argued, affirmed the authority of the court of chancery. * Biogr. Brit. art. Coke, p. 689. + Wilson in Kennet, vol. ii.
Collectanea Juridica, vol. i. p. 20.
The patience of the court was now exhausted, and it was resolved to inflict upon Sir Edward Coke the disgrace and punishment which he had incurred by his uniform opposition to the irregular and arbitrary designs of the government. On the 26th July, 1616, he was summoned before the council, when three several charges were preferred against him. The first related to some malversation while he was attorney-general; the second, to his conduct in Glanville's case, mentioned above; and the third, to his behaviour before the king, when the judges were called on to account for their proceeding, notwithstanding the royal prohibition. To these accusations Coke returned. clear and distinct answers. Soon afterwards he again appeared at the council-table on his knees, when he was informed by secretary Winwood, that though a favourable report had been made to the king of the proceedings which had taken place there a few days before, his majesty was not satisfied with the explanations given. Out of his clemency, however, his majesty had been pleased not to deal heavily with him, and had decreed, 1. That he should be sequestered from the council-table until his majesty's further pleasure was known; 2. That he should forbear to ride his summer circuit as judge of assize; 3. That during the vacation, while he had time to live privately and dispose himself at home, he should take into his consideration and review his book of reports, wherein, as his majesty was informed, were many extravagant and exorbitant opinions set down and published for positive and good law. Amongst other things, the king was not well pleased with the title of those books,' wherein he styled himself lord chief justice, &c., whereas he could challenge no more than lord chief justice of the king's bench. Having corrected what in his discretion he found meet in those reports, his majesty's pleasure was that he should bring the same privately to himself, that he might consider thereof as in his princely judgment should be found expedient. To this reprimand Coke replied, that he did in all humility prostrate himself to his majesty's good pleasure; that he
acknowledged the decree to be just, proceeding rather from his majesty's exceeding mercy than his justice; that he gave humble thanks to their lordships for their favours and goodness towards him, and hoped that his behaviour for the future would be such as to merit their lordships' favours. * On his thus retiring in disgrace from the council-table, the lord treasurer availed himself of the opportunity, in the quaint language of Wilson t, “ to give him a wipe.” He told him that he had one thing more to let him know, which belonged to the earl marshal to take notice of, which was that his coachman used to ride bareheaded before him, which was more than any ways he could assume or challenge to himself, and he required him to forbear it for the future.
Coke replied, that his coachman did it for his own ease, and not by his commandment; and again making his acknowledgmerts, departed.
The reprimand at the council-table was followed, in the course of the same year, by Coke's removal from office. This measure was probably hastened by the desire of Villiers, who was anxious to obtain possession of a valuable office in the king's bench which Coke had promised to Somerset, and which might be obtained without difficulty from a new chief justice. On seeing the supersedeas which deprived him of his high judicial rank, Coke's fortitude forsook him, and he is said to have received it with tears. [ On the 15th November, 1616, Sir Henry Montague was appointed chief justice, and the lord chancellor, in the address which it was at that time customary to deliver on such occasions, warned him not to follow the steps of his predecessor, against whom the greater part of the speech was directed.
« Remember," he concluded, “ the removing and putting down of your late predecessor, and by whom.”
Thus, by the vengeance of an arbitrary court, and the artifices of a needy favourite, was a judge of profound learning and incorruptible integrity driven from the seat * Biogr. Brit. art. Coke, p. 691. + In Kennet, vol. ii. D'Israeli's James I., p. 125.
Moor's Rep., 828.
which he had occupied with so much honour. Though the reflections which accompanied him in his disgrace must have been most consolatory, yet to a mind like that of the late chief justice, wholly devoted to the science of his profession, a retreat from its labours must have been productive of nothing but irksomeness and disquiet. In the midst of his misfortunes his ancient adversary, Sir Francis Bacon, did not fail to take advantage of so favourable an opportunity to goad still more deeply the wounded spirit of his rival. He addressed to him an “Expostulation,” for the purpose, as he informed Coke, of showing to him “his true shape in a glass.” As many of these observations had, doubtless, a foundation in truth, though they may have been aggravated by the feelings of the writer, they are not to be overlooked in forming an estimate of the real character of Sir Edward Coke.
« First, therefore, behold your errors. In discourse you delight to speak too much, not to hear other men: this, some say, becomes a pleader, not a judge ; for by this sometimes your affections are entangled with a love of your own arguments, though they be the weaker, and rejecting of those which, when your affections were settled, your own judgment would allow for strongest. Thus while you speak in your own element, the law, no man ordinarily equals you ; but when you wander, as you often delight to do, you wander indeed, and give never such satisfaction as the curious time requires. This is not caused by any natural defect, but, first, for want of election, when you, having a large and fruitful mind, should not so much labour what to speak, as to find what to leave unspoken : rich soils are often to be weeded.
Secondly, you cloy your auditory when you would be observed : speech must be either sweet or short.
“ Thirdly, you converse with books, not men, and books especially human ; and have no excellent choice with men, who are the best books; for a man of action and employment you seldom converse with, and then but