Page images
PDF
EPUB

with your underlings; not freely, but as a schoolmaster with his scholars, ever to teach, never to learn ; but if sometimes you would in your familiar discourse hear others, and make election of such as know what they speak, you should know many of the tales you tell to be but ordinary; and many other things which you delight to repeat and serve in for novelties, to be but stale. As in your pleadings you were wont to insult over misery, and to inveigh bitterly at the persons, which bred you many enemies, whose poison yet swelleth, and the effects now appear, so are you still wont to be a little careless in this point, to praise or disgrace upon slight grounds, and that sometimes untruly; so that your reproofs or commendations are for the most part neglected and contemned; when the censure of a judge, coming slow but sure, should be a brand to the guilty, and a crown to the virtuous. You will jest at any man in public, without respect of the person's dignity or your own: this disgraceth your gravity more than it can advance the opinion of your wit; and so do all actions which we see you do directly with a touch of vain-glory, having no respect for the true end. You make the law to lean too much to your opinion, whereby you show yourself to be a legal tyrant, striking with that weapon where you please, since you are able to turn the edge any way: for thus the wise master of the law gives warning to young students, that they should be wary, lest, while they hope to be instructed by your integrity and knowledge, they should be deceived with your skill armed with authority. Your too much love of the world is too much seen, when, having the living of a thousand, you relieve few or none : the hand that has taken so much, can it give so little ? Herein you show no bowels of compassion, as if you thought all too little for yourself, or that God hath given you all that you have, if you think wealth to be his gift, I mean that you get well, for I know sure the rest is not, only to that end, you should still gather more, and never be satisfied; but try how much you would gather, to account for all at the great and general audit-day. We desire you to amend this, and let your poor tenants in Norfolk find some comfort; where nothing of your estate is spent towards their relief, but all brought up hither to the impoverishing of your country.”*

In pursuance of the royal command, Coke applied himself to the revision of his reports, and after the expiration of three months submitted five errors which he had discovered to his majesty; “ being rather,” as it is said in a paper which appears to have been drawn up by Bacon, “a scorn than a satisfaction to his majesty.”+ James was therefore pleased that Sir Edward's “memory should be refreshed, and that he should be put in mind of some passages dispersed in his books which his majesty did distaste ;” and the attorney and solicitor general selected five points upon which the explanations of the late chief justice were desired. A warrant was issued to some of the judges to examine these errors; but the enquiry was subsequently dropped.

At length an opportunity occurred to Coke of restoring himself to the royal favour without being guilty of any compliances disgraceful to his political character. Sir John Villiers, the brother of the favourite, the Earl of Buckingham, had formerly made proposals for an alliance between himself and the youngest daughter of Sir Edward Coke. The offer had, however, been slighted; but now, by the advice of Sir Ralph Winwood, the secretary of state, who had been offended by some want of courtesy on the part of Bacon, and who therefore attached himself to the interests of his rival, Sir Edward Coke, a renewal of the negotiation for the marriage was proposed. A large portion was offered with the lady, and Buckingham approved of the alliance. At the moment when Coke was on the point of accomplishing his wishes, and securing the good offices of the favourite, a formidable obstacle presented itself.

On the death of his first wife, Coke had married the Lady Hatton, widow of Sir William Hatton, and sister to Thomas Lord Burleigh, afterwards Earl of Exeter. * Bacon's Works by Montagu, vol. vii. p. 298. + Id. vol. vii. p. 352.

The temper of this lady was such as to afford her husband very little pleasure in their domestic intercourse; and she now opposed with violence the match which he had so greatly at heart. In order to prevent it, she carried away her daughter secretly, and lodged her in the house of Sir Edmund Withipole, near Oatlands. Coke made immediate application to the Earl of Buckingham for a warrant from the privy council to procure the restoration of his daughter, and, discovering the place of her confinement, he proceeded to Sir Edmund Withipole's house, accompanied by his sons, and carried her from thence by force. For this prompt exertion of the paternal authority, Lady Hatton preferred a complaint against her husband in the star-chamber.

In the meanwhile Bacon, who had been created lord keeper, was not idle. He saw the necessity of crushing at once the hopes which Coke had formed of a restoration to power, and he applied himself with diligence to frustrate them. In the first instance he addressed himself to Buckingham, stating the reasons against the alliance : - First, he shall marry into a disgraced house, which, in reason of state, is never held good ; next, he shall marry into a troubled house of man and wife, which in religion and Christian discretion is disliked,” &c. He then addressed the king, urging, in the same manner, many reasons against the match, and attributing the peaceable and submissive state of the country to “ the disauctorising” of Coke, and hinting, that if he again came into power, strengthened by such an alliance, it would cause a relapse of affairs into their former state. Resolving to lose no advantage in the controversy, Bacon promoted the filing of an information against Coke in the starchamber for his conduct in recovering his daughter; but every effort was vain against the wishes of the favourite. By the intervention of Lady Compton, the mother of Buckingham, a truce was declared between Sir Edward and his wife. The lord keeper was severely censured by the king*, the proceedings in the star-chamber were

* See James's letter, Bacon's Works by Montagu, vol, vii, p. 359.

directed to be suspended, and Coke, restored to favour, was reinstated in his place at the council-table. With that mean subserviency, which degraded a mind of the highest and noblest order, Bacon, perceiving that he could not prevent the marriage, became equally zealous in promoting it. [Note 6.7 It was accordingly solemnized with much pomp at Hampton Court; but Lady Hatton, at the instance of her husband, was placed for some time under restraint. The domestic disputes between these parties were never entirely reconciled. Many letters remain to prove the bad terms on which they lived; but the history of their domestic quarrels is neither edifying nor amusing. [Note 7.7 On her release, the Lady Hatton gave a magnificent entertainment in honour of the marriage of her daughter; but her husband was forbidden the feast. “ The expectancy of Sir Edward's rising is much abated," says a letter-writer of the day *, “ by reason of his lady's liberty; who was brought in great honour to Exeter House by my Lord of Buckingham from Sir William Craven's, whither she had been remanded, presented by his lordship to the king, received gracious usage, reconciled to her daughter by his majesty, and her house in Holborn enlightened by his presence at dinner, where there was a royal feast, and to make it more absolutely her own, express commandment given by her ladyship, that neither Sir Edward Coke, nor any of his servants, should be admitted.” [Note 8.] On one occasion, upon a rumour of Sir Edward's death at his house at Stoke Pogis, Lady Hatton, accompanied by her brother, set off immediately to take possession of the place; but on their way were stopped by one of the physicians, with the disagreeable intelligence of Sir Edward's amendment.t

Notwithstanding Coke's restoration to favour, he never again received any judicial appointment; though his name was included in a great number of commissions for the management and arrangement of various public affairs. I

* Strafford's Letters, vol. i. p.5.

+ Id. vol. i. p. 265, I Rymer's Federa, vol. xvii. Biogr. Brit. art. Coke, p. 693.

In the third parliament of James I., which assembled in 1620, Sir Edward Coke appeared as one of the representatives of Leskard, in Cornwall. His character, age, and experience, added to the ability and zeal with which he devoted himself to the service of the country, gave great weight to all the measures which he supported. He exerted himself particularly to procure the abolition of the many injurious monopolies which had been lately granted; and to bring to punishment the persons who, under colour of them, had oppressed the country. [Note 9.] In almost every debate of importance the name of Sir Edward Coke appears as a speaker, supporting on all occasions the cause of freedom and liberality. He was one of the very few persons of that age who had the capacity to perceive the injurious nature of those restrictions with which, at that period, almost every branch of trade was fettered. On a bill being brought in “ for the free trade and traffic of Welsh cloths, cottons, plains, &c. in and through the kingdom of England and principality of Wales,” Sir Edward Coke said, “Whereas it is alleged that for a reason of state there was a restriction on the buying of those Welsh cloths, &c.: a reason of state is often used as a trick to put a man out of the right way; for when a man can give no reason for a thing, then he flieth to a higher strain, and saith it is a reason of state. Freedom of trade is the life of trade: and all monopolies and restrictions of trade do overthrow trade.* Again, in the debate on a bill to enable merchants of the staple to transport woollen cloths to Holland, &c. Coke expressed a similar sentiment; saying, “ that he thought it best for the kingdom to have a liberty of trade, so it be well governed.” + On another occasion we find him opposing the first project of a corn-law which was ever proposed in parliament. A bill having been brought in under the title of “ A bill against the importation of corn,” was opposed by Mr. Towerson, Sir Dudley Digges, and Sir Edward Coke. Sir Dudley Digges said, that if * Proceedings and Debates, &c. vol. i. p. 308.; and see vol ii. p. 155. + Id. vol. ii. p. 35.

« PreviousContinue »