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Ay at all grievances, but only at loans. Let us not flatter ourselves. Who will give subsidies, if the king may impose what he will ? and if, after parliament, the king may enhance what he pleaseth? I know the king will not do it. I know he is a religious king, free from personal vices; but he deals with other men's hands, and sees with other men's eyes. Will any give a subsidy, if they are to be taxed after parliament at pleasure ? The king cannot lawfully tax any by way of loans. I differ from them who would have this of loans go amongst grievances; for I would have it
alone. “ I'll begin with a noble record ; it cheers me to think of it,-26 Edw. III. It is worthy to be written in letters of gold. Loans against the will of the subject are against reason, and the franchises of the land ; and they desire restitution. What a word is that franchise ? The lord may tax his villein high or low; but it is against the franchises of the land for freemen to be taxed but by their consent in parliament. Franchise is a French word, and in Latin it is libertas. In Magna Charta it is provided, that Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, aut disseisetur de libero tenemento suo, fc. nisi per legale judicium parium suorum, vel per legem terræ. This charter hath been confirmed by sundry good kings above thirty times.”
At length the commons resolved to frame a bill which should include a remedy for the various grievances under which the nation was suffering; and, with the assistance of Sir Edward Coke, the famous petition of rights was framed. Various conferences took place on the subject of this bill between the lords and the commons; in which Coke argued strenuously in support of the petition. After vainly endeavouring to elude it, Charles gave his assent to the bill in the usual form. The joy of the commons at this event is said to have been “ speakable ;” but it was expressed to the king in a manner more satisfactory. A bill was passed, granting five subsidies to the crown; and it was carried up to the
* Parl. Hist. vol. vii. p. 371.
lords by Sir Edward Coke, almost the whole house ate tending him.
Shortly before the passing of this bill the cominons had fallen with great violence upon Buckingham; and, notwithstanding the speaker's injunction that they should not proceed with that subject, Sir Edward Coke openly denounced the favourite as the cause of all their misfortunes. A singular picture of this debate has been preserved in a contemporary letter, which proves the earnest feelings with which the popular speakers of that day were affected.
“ Then Sir Robert Philips spake, and mingled his words with weeping. Mr. Prynne did the like; and Sir Edward Coke, overcome with passion, seeing the desolation likely to ensue, was forced to sit down, when he began to speak, through the abundance of tears.” “ The naming of the duke," says the same writer, was entertained and answered with a cheerful acclamation of the house, as when one good hound recovers the scent, the rest come in with a full cry.”+
The latest service rendered by Sir Edward Coke to his country is said to have been the managing of a conference with the lords respecting the issuing of a commission of excise, for the raising of money by imposition. I
At the dissolution of parliament, which took place in March 1628, O.S., Sir Edward Coke, weighed down with the burden of years, retired from public life to his seat at Stoke Pogis, where he continued to reside till the period of his death. That event took place on the 3d of September 1634. He died repeating the words, “ Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” He was buried at Titeshall church, in Norfolk.
A short time before his death, Sir Francis Windebank, under the authority of an order from the privycouncil, came to search his house for treasonable and seditious papers.
Many manuscripts of value were on this occasion carried away; amongst which were the First and Second Institutes, the Eleventh and Twelfth
* Parl, Hist. vol. viii. p. 203.
+ Rushworth, vol. i. p. G09. * Id. p. 614, 615.
Reports, and upwards of fifty other manuscripts, together with his last will. Some years afterwards, on the petition of one of Sir Edward's sons, such of the manuscripts as could be found were returned to his family, but the will was never recovered.
By his first wife, Sir Edward Coke had seven sons and three daughters ; by his second wife, two daughters. The alliances and descents of the family are traced in the Biographia Britannica. Henry, the fifth son of Edward, left a son, Robert Coke, who married the Lady Anne Osborne, daughter of the Duke of Leeds, by whom he had an only son, Edward Coke. Edward Coke married Carey, the daughter of Sir John Newton, of Gloucestershire, by whom he had several children, the eldest of whom, Thomas Coke, was afterwards created Baron Lovell and Earl of Leicester. Anne, the youngest daughter of this Edward Coke, married Philip Roberts, Esq., a major in the second troop of life-guards, from whom the present Mr. Coke is lineally descended.
The personal appearance of Sir Edward Coke is said to have been prepossessing ; a representation which the portraits remaining of him confirm. His features were regular, and their expression engaging. His frame was vigorous and well proportioned; his air and manner grave and full of dignity. In his habits of life he was temperate, laborious, and exact ; neat in his dress, and studious of the cleanliness of his person. It was a common saying of his, “ That the cleanliness of a man's clothes ought to put him in mind of keeping all clean within.”+ It was his custom to “ measure out his time at regular hours," retiring to rest at nine o'clock, and rising at three in the morning. I
In estimating the political character of Sir Edward Coke, it is very necessary to consider it with relation to the times in which he lived, and the station in life which he filled. The king had not yet abandoned any of those
* Roger Coke's Detection, sub anno 1634.
Biog. Brit, art. Coke, p. 679.
high pretensions, which had been so imperiously advanced by the Tudor princes; and the people had not learned to regard with indifference the frowns of the sovereign. The favour of the court was still all-sufficient, 'not merely to dignify, but also to enrich the fortunate object of it; and to be excluded from the rays of that favour was destructive, not merely to the pride, but often to the prosperity, of the offender. To a disgraced courtier the popular cause had few attractions to offer. The country party did not yet occupy such a station as to render their service either very profitable or very honourable in the eyes of the nation at large. To one who held a judicial office under the crown the motives to a subservient policy were still stronger. The judges had been long regarded as in some degree bound, by virtue of their office of royal counsellors, to justify the acts of the crown. They held their offices merely during the king's pleasure, which they had in but too many instances been in the habit of scrupulously regarding. To preserve the character free from stain in such times, and under such circumstances, required not merely integrity of heart and honesty of purpose, but a mind of singular resolution and constancy.
A writer *, who seldom makes an assertion without a competent authority to sustain it, in reviewing the character of Sir Edward Coke, has termed him “ terer and tool of the court till he obtained his ends.” It is very difficult to say, upon what particular actions of Coke's life this censure is grounded. Until he was raised to the bench it does not appear that he took any part in politics ; for the asperity and violence with which he conducted the charges against Essex and Raleigh cannot be properly referred to any political feeling. They doubtless arose from the exuberance of professional and official zeal, heightened by the uncontrollable vehemence of a temper never well regulated. While he filled the office of attorney-general, we find no instances of undue compliance with the wishes of the court; no dishonourable
* Hallam's Const. Hist. vol. i. p. 360. 4to.
attempts to advance the prerogative at the expense of the liberties of the people. The very temper and disposition of Coke refute the idea of his having ever acted the flatterer or the tool. Had he, indeed, possessed the capacity of thus shaping his conduct according to the necessities of his fortunes, he would scarcely have evinced that unbending opposition to the court, which he must have known would ultimately lead to his disgrace. His conduct through a long course of years, and in situations of the most critical difficulty, was obviously guided by a strong overruling principle of integrity. Maturity of years seldom adds to honesty of purpose; and it is not probable that he, who in his youth was the flatterer and the tool, should in his manhood and in his decline be the firm and constant patriot. Of Sir Edward Coke's conduct, while on the bench, in resisting the aggressions of the court, it is difficult to speak in terms of adequate praise. Exposed to the arts and dissimulations of the most subtle man of his age, to the frowns of the king, and to the ill-offices both of the courtiers and of the clergy, he still persisted in vindicating the laws against every attempt to overthrow them. Even when abandoned by the whole body of his brethren, who meanly and tamely submitted themselves to the court, Coke did not hesitate singly and alone to persist in justifying the rectitude of his conduct, and exhibited a stubbornness of virtue, which, in those times of lax political morality, was as honourable as it was singular. To him was the nation very principally indebted for that high and independent tone in the debates of parliament which elevated the character of the commons, and enabled them to struggle so successfully against the arm of prerogative.
In his judicial character, Sir Edward Coke was scarcely less deserving of commendation. At a period when corruption was so much more common than it has been in later times, that the stain which it impressed upon the character was of a lighter dye, his reputation for judicial purity and integrity was blameless. The violence of