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inflicted on him. And for his wife and children: whereas he said that for the catholic cause he was content to neglect the ruin of himself, his wife, his estate, and all, we should have his desire, as it is in the Psalms: Let his wife be a widow, and his children vagabonds ; let his posterity be destroyed, and in the next generation let his name be quite put out.” The peculiar quaintness of Coke's style was frequently displayed in the course of this speech. “ S. P. Q. R.,” says the orator,
was sometimes taken for these words, Senatus populusque Romanus, the senate and people of Rome; but now they may truly be expressed thus, Stultus populus quærit Romam, a foolish people that runneth to Rome.” “ And here,” continues the reporter, was very aptly and delightfully inserted and narrated the apologue or tale of the cat and the mice. The cat having a long time preyed upon the mice, the poor creatures at last for their safety contained themselves within their holes; but the cat, finding his prey to cease, as being known to the mice that he was indeed their enemy and a cat, deviseth this course following, viz. changeth his hue, getting on a religious habit, shaveth his crown, walks gravely by their holes, and yet perceiving that the mice kept their holes, and looking out suspected the worst, he formally and father-like said unto them, Quod fueram non sum, frater, caput aspice tonsum ! Oh brother! I am not as you take me for, no more a cat; see my habit and shaven crown! Hereupon some of the more
edulous and bold among them were again, by his de ceit, snatched up; and therefore, when afterwards he came as before to entice them forth, they would come out no more, but answered, Cor tibi restat idem, vix tibi præsto fidem. Talk what you can, we will never believe you; you have still a cat's heart within you. You do not watch and pray, but you watch to prey. And so have the jesuits, yea, and priests too; for they are all joined in the tails like Samson's foxes. Ephraim . against Manasses, and Manasses against Ephraim; and both
Upon the trial of Garnet, for his participation in the same conspiracy, Coke thus described the prisoner:-"He hath many gifts and endowments of nature ; by art learned, a good linguist, and by profession a jesuit, and a superior, as indeed he is superior to all his predecessors in devilish treason; a doctor of jesuits, that is, a doctor of five D.D.'s, as dissimulation, deposing of princes, disposing of kingdoms, daunting and deterring of subjects, and destruction.” + Such was the whimsical style sanctioned by the taste of the day.
It is gratifying to turn from scenes like these, where contumely and insult were added to the severe and inhuman penalties which the law itself inflicted. On the 20th of June 1606, shortly after the trials for the gunpowder plot, Sir Edward Coke was promoted from the office of attorney-general to the chief justiceship of the common pleas. From the period of his ascending the bench, the violence of temper which he had so frequently exhibited at the bar appears to have been much softened. He was succeeded in the office of attorney-general by Sir Henry Hobart, while Sir Francis Bacon was made solicitor-general, an office to which he had long aspired, and which, as he imagined, he had been debarred from filling by the efforts of Sir Edward Coke. From some cause, which it is now difficult to trace, probably from dissimilarity of character and pursuits, these celebrated men had contracted a mutual dislike for each other, Bacon envied the reputation and advancement of Coke, and Coke despised and slighted the professional acquirements of his younger rival. At length, shortly before the promotion of Coke to the bench, as it is said, Bacon gave way to his passionate feelings, and addressed to the attorney-general the following extraordinary letter :
“ Mr. Attorney, " I thought it best, once for all, to let you know in plainness what I find of you, and what you shall find of * State Trials, vol. ii. p. 181.
+ Id. p. 234.
You take to yourself a liberty to disgrace and disable my law, .my experience, my discretion : what it pleaseth you, I pray, think of me: I am one that knows both mine own wants and other men's; and it may be, perchance, that mine mend, and others' stand at a stay. And surely I may not endure in public place to be wronged without repelling the same, to my best advantage to right myself. You are great, and therefore have the more enviers, which would be glad to have you paid at another's cost. Since the time I missed the solicitor's place (the rather I think by your means), I cannot expect that you and I shall ever serve as attorney and solicitor together ; but either to serve with another on your remove, or to step into some other course, so as I am more free than I ever was from any occasion of unworthy conforming myself to you more than general good manners or your particular good usage shall provoke ; and if you had not been short-sighted in your own fortune (as I think), you might have had more use of me. But that side is passed. I write not this to show my friends what a brave letter I have written to Mr. Attorney. I have none of those humours; but that I have written it to a good end, that is, to the more decent carriage of my master's service, and to our particular better understanding one of another. This letter, if it should be answered by you in deed and not in word, I suppose it will not be worse for us both, else it is but a few lines lost, which for a much smaller matter I would have adventured. So this being to yourself, I for my part rest,” &c.
Bacon has likewise left on record a relation of the manner in which the attorney-general occasionally treated him, in which the courtesy and dignity of Coke appear to little advantage.
“ I moved to have a reseizure of the lands of Geo. Moore, a relapsed recusant, a fugitive, and a practising traytor; and showed better matter for the queen against the discharge by plea, which is ever with a salvo jure.
* Bacon's Works, vol. iv. p. 570. Biogr. Brit. vol. iii. p. 681.
And this I did in as gentle and reasonable terms as might be.
“ Mr. Attorney kindled at it, and said, 'Mr. Bacon, if you have any tooth against me, pluck it out ; for it will do you more hurt than all the teeth in your head will do you good.' I answered coldly, in these very words:
-Mr. Attorney, I respect you: I fear you not; and the less you speak of your own greatness, the more I will think of it.'
“ He replied, ' I think scorn to stand upon terms of greatness towards you, who are less than little, less than the least ;' and other such strange light terms he gave me, with that insulting which cannot be expressed.
“ Herewith stirred, yet I said no more but this: • Mr. Attorney, do not depress me so far ; for I have been your better, and may be again, when it please the queen.'
“ With this be spake, neither I nor himself could tell what, as if he had been born attorney-general; and in the end bade me not meddle with the queen's business, but with mine own; and that I was unsworn, &c. I told him, sworn or unsworn was all one to an honest man; and that I ever set my service first, and myself second ; and wished to God that he would do the like.
“ Then he said, it were good to clap a cap. utlagatum upon my back! To which I only said, he could not, and that he was at a fault ; for he hunted upon an old scent.
“ He gave me a number of disgraceful words besides; which I answered with silence, and showing that I was not moved with them.” *
It is probable that these complaints were recorded for the purpose of being submitted to the king ; but it does
that any proceedings took place in consequence. The conduct of Sir Edward Coke on the bench, in maintaining the integrity of the judicial character, at a period when the judges were dependent on the favour of
* Bacon's Letters, by Birch, p. 22. Bacon's Works, by Montagu, vol.vii.
the court, deserves a very particular examination. One of the earliest cases in which he was called upon to assert the independence of his judgment, arose out of the proceedings of the high commission court. The unconstitutional and dangerous measures of which that court was made the instrument, have been described by many historians. Cases in which it would have been impossible to procure a conviction in a court of common law were referred to the ecclesiastical commissioners, who did not hesitate to lend themselves to the violent and arbitrary designs of the court. The parties who were aggrieved by these unconstitutional proceedings not unfrequently appealed for protection to the courts of common law; and soon after Coke's accession to the bench, many prohibitions were moved for and granted, to stay the proceedings both of the court of high commission and of the presidents of the council of York and Wales. At length, the number of these prohibitions attracted the attention of the court; and the judges were called upon to justify their proceedings. This justification was prepared and communicated to the council by Sir Edward Coke, and contains a full and bold defence of the conduct pursued by himself and his brothers in granting prohibitions to the courts of the lords president. * [See Note 1.] The churchmen and courtiers, however, were far from being satisfied with these reasons; and Bancroft, the archbishop of Canterbury, preferred a formal complaint to the king against the conduct of the judges of the common law. In consequence of this complaint, both the archbishop and the judges were, in the month of November 1608, summoned before his majesty ; when Bancroft insisted that the king had power in his own person to determine of what matters the ecclesiastical court had cognizance; and that, if he was so pleased, he might take any cause from the determination of the judges and decide it himself. And the archbishop said, “ that this was clear in divinity, that such authority belongs to the king by the word of God in the Scripture.” This singular doctrine
* 12 Rep. 50.