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"Attorney. All that he did was by thy instigation, thou viper; for I thou thee, thou traitor.*
"Raleigh. It becomes not a man of quality and virtue to call me so: but I take comfort in it, it is all you can do.
"Attorney. Have I angered you?
"Raleigh. I am in no case to be angry."
When the impatience of Coke had proceeded so far, that Lord Cecil, one of the commissioners, interposed, and begged he would permit the prisoner to speak, " Mr. Attorney sate down in a chafe, and would speak no more, until the commissioners urged and entreated him, when, after much ado, he went on." Being interrupted by Sir Walter, he resumed his invectives.
"Attorney. Thou art the most vile and execrable traitor that ever lived.
"Raleigh. You speak indiscretely, barbarously, and uncivilly.
"Attorney. I want words to express thy viperous treasons.
"Raleigh. I think you want words, indeed, for you have spoken one thing half a dozen times.
"Attorney. Thou art an odious fellow, thy name is hateful to all the realm of England for thy pride.
"Raleigh. It will go near to prove a measuring cast between you and me, Mr. Attorney."
We have noticed elsewhere the very different manner in which, several years afterwards, Sir Edward Coke comported himself, when, as chief justice, he passed sentence of death upon the unfortunate Raleigh. Perhaps he was desirous, however late, of making some reparation for the harshness and cruelty of his former conduct.
"I know," said the chief justice, "you have been valiant and wise, and I doubt not but you retain both these virtues, for now you shall have occasion to use them. Your faith hath heretofore been questioned, but I am resolved you are a good Christian; for your book, which is an admirable work, doth testify as much. I would give you counsel, but I know you can apply unto yourself for better
* It has been supposed, that Shakespeare alludes to this passage, where in Twelfth Night he makes Sir Toby tell Sir Andrew, who is about to challenge Viola, " If thou thou'st him some thrice it may not be amiss."
The judicial proceedings of their time furnished our elder dramatists with many hints. Ben Jonson appears to have borrowed largely in his Epicane from the proceedings in the case of the Earl and Countess of Essex.
than I can give you. Yet will I (with the good neighbour in the gospel, who finding one in the way wounded and distressed, poured oil into his wounds, and refreshed him) give unto you the oil of comfort, though in respect that I am a minister of the law, mixed with vinegar."
The acute and comprehensive genius of Coke never displayed itself more conspicuously than in the examination and developement of an obscure and complicated case. His industry, patience, and sagacity, admirably qualified him for the task of unravelling the dark conspiracies with which his times unfortunately abounded. His conduct in the prosecution of Sir Everard Digby and the other conspirators involved in the powder plot, has generally been considered a master-piece of forensic ability. From the unconnected style of some of his writings, the reader might be led to suppose, that his addresses at the bar partook of the same excursive tendency; but, on the contrary, we are assured, that the Earl of Salisbury, upon the trial of the gunpowder conspirators, asserted, " That the evidence had been so well distributed and opened by the attorney-general, that he never heard such a mass of matter better contracted, or made more intelligible to a jury."
The distinguished talents which Coke manifested upon this occasion led to his speedy promotion; and in June 1606, he was called to the degree of serjeant, and raised to the highest seat in the Common Pleas. Sir Henry Hobart succeeded him in the post of attorney-general, and Sir Francis Bacon became the new solicitor. Office had been long the object of Bacon's ambition, and some years before this time he had endeavoured to obtain the appointment which was now bestowed upon him, but without effect. This failure he attributed, whether justly or not it is difficult to resolve, to Sir Edward Coke; and hence arose an animosity, which appears to have been cherished with no common care. In a letter which he addressed to Coke, probably about the period when the latter was on the point of being raised to the bench, he expresses himself with much bitterness, and in the spirit of one who considers himself injured.
"I thought best," says he, " once for all, to let you know in plainness what I find of you, and what you shall find of me: you take to yourself a liberty to disgrace and disable my law, my experience, my discretion. * * * 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 upon your remove, or to step into some other course; so I am more free than ever I 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 shew 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, the more decent carriage of my master's service; and to our better understanding one of another."
The politic nature of Bacon easily enabled him to gain the confidence of his sovereign, before whom he prostrated one of the noblest intellects with which man was ever endowed. It was not, however, so light a task to render Sir Edward Coke subservient to the royal wishes, and all the ingenuity of Bacon was occasionally exerted to lead him in the proper course. An attempt of the kind was made in the case of one Peacham, in whose study certain papers had been found, which were supposed to be treasonable, and upon which the king was desirous of obtaining the private and extrajudicial opinion of the judges; a proceeding, to use the most lenient term, of the most doubtful propriety. Upon this occasion, the attorneygeneral, Sir Francis Bacon, undertook to procure the opinion of the chief justice of the King's Bench, to which station Coke had been raised in October 1613, and in the attorney's letters to the king we have a full relation of the arts to which he was compelled to resort.
"For the course your majesty directeth and commandeth'for the feeling of the judges of the King's Bench their several opinions, by distributing ourselves and enjoining secresy, we did first find an encounter in the opinion of my Lord Coke, who seemed to affirm, that such particular and, as he called it, auricular taking of opinions, was not according to the custom of this realm, and seemed to divine that his brethren would never do it."
Bacon was not to be thus rebuffed, and having delivered the papers to the chief justice, he attempted to sound his opinion. Coke's legal caution and wariness are well described by the attorney.
"It is true, he heard me in a grave fashion more than accustomed, and took a pen and took notes of my divisions; and when he read the precedents and records would say this, you mean, falleth within your first, or your second division. In the end I expressly demanded his opinion, as that whereto both he and I were enjoined. But he desired me to have the precedents with him, that he might advise upon them. I told him, the rest of my fellows would dispatch their parts, and I should be behind with mine; which I persuaded myself your majesty would impute rather to his backwardness than to my negligence."
By this importunity the chief justice was prevailed upon to return an answer to the question proposed to him; but how little that answer was calculated to please the king, may be gathered from the terms in which it is spoken of by Bacon: "I send your majesty enclosed my Lord Coke's answers; I will not call them rescripts, much less oracles. They are of his own hand, and offered to me as they are in writing; though I am glad of it for mine own discharge."
The discovery of the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury afforded another opportunity for the display of Sir Edward Coke's peculiar tact in fathoming all the depths of a dark conspiracy. Upon this atrocious transaction coming to light, the investigation of it, in the first instance, was committed to the chief justice alone; but he, finding the names of many persons of rank and consequence involved, begged that certain noblemen might be joined with him in the commission, which was accordingly done. The zeal, industry, and ability, with which he conducted this examination, elicited praise even from his rival, Sir Francis Bacon; but his conduct upon the trial of the murderers, to which we adverted in a former article, has been the subject of much discussion. There appears to be no doubt, that considerable suspicion was entertained, at the time of the trial of the Earl and Countess of Somerset, for the murder of Overbury, that Prince Henry, the king's eldest son, had also perished by poison. We have attempted, in another place, to weigh the probabilities of that fact, and it will be sufficient at present to observe, that the mind of the chief justice himself does not appear to have been wholly free from those suspicions. The memoir writers of the day have asserted, that he uttered on these trials some imprudent and intemperate expressions relative to the prince's death, which were the cause of his subsequent disgrace. "The Lord Chief Justice Coke," says Wilson, in his Life and Reign of King James I., " in his rhetorical flourishes, at his (Sir T. Monson's) arraignment, vented some expressions, as if he could discover more than the death of a private person, intimating, though not plainly, that Overbury's untimely remove had something in it of retaliation, as if he had been guilty of the same crime towards Prince Henry, blessing himself with admiration at the horror of such actions. In which he flew so high a pitch, that he was taken down by a court lure; Sir Thomas Monson's trial laid aside, and he soon afterwards set at liberty, and the chief justice's wings were clipped for it ever after." The same story is repeated by Weldon, in his Court and Character of King James, and with still more bitter reflections upon the chief justice. "It is verily believed, that when the king made those horrible imprecations upon himself, and
deprecations of the judges, it was intended, that the law should run in its proper channel, but was stopped and put out of its course by the folly of that great clerk, Sir Edward Coke, though no wise man, who, in a vain-glorious speech, to shew his vigilance, entered into a rapture as he sat upon the bench, saying, God knows what became of that sweet babe, Prince Henry, but I know somewhat; and surely, in searching the cabinets, he lighted upon some papers which spake plain in that which was even whispered, which, had he gone on in a gentle way, would have fallen in of themselves not to have been prevented; but this folly of his tongue, stopped the breath of the discovery of that so foul a murder, which, I fear, cries still for vengeance." It is true, that in the printed report of the trial, we find no mention of these "vain-glorious speeches," and on this ground, as well as upon that of the improbability of the charge, the writer of the very excellent article on Sir Edward Coke, in the Biographia Britannica, to whom, in sketching the present Memoir, we have been largely indebted, imagines the statements of Watson and Weldon to be erroneous. "But besides all this," adds the same writer, "we have several letters of Sir Francis Bacon's to the king upon this subject, in which he is far enough from magnifying the chief justice's conduct, and yet not a word in them of these intemperate speeches." Now although it may be admitted, that Bacon does not allude to the expressions which are supposed to have dropt upon this occasion from the chief justice, yet he insinuates to the king, in more than one place, that Coke was aiming at the discovery of something beyond the guilt of the murderers of Overbury. We would refer more particularly to the notes which were made by Bacon for the information of the king, in which he seems to hint, that the chief justice was very eager that some further investigations should take place. The attorney general is recounting the evidence which he intended to offer on the trial of the Earl of Somerset.
"I shall also give in evidence, in this place, the slight account of that letter, which was brought to Somerset by Ashton, being found in the fields soon after the late prince's death, and was directed to Antwerp, containing these words: 'that the first branch was cut from the tree, and that he should, ere long, send happier and joyfuller news.'
"Which is a matter I would not use, but that my Lord Coke, v)ho hath filled this part with many frivolous things, would think all lost, except he bear somewhat of this kind. But this it is to come to the bearings of a business." -- , ,
The result of these trials was the conviction and execur