« 上一頁繼續 »
saying, that, for the future, no such opposition to the jurisdiction of the chancery should be permitted.
On the 30th of June, the chief justice again presented himself, on his knees, at the council table, when Secretary Winwood informed him, that his majesty was by no means satisfied with his answers, but that, out of regard to his former services, he was pleased not to deal heavily with him, and had therefore decreed, 1. That he should be sequestered from the council table until his majesty's further pleasure. 2. That he should forbear to ride his summer circuit as judge of assize; and 3. That during his vacation, while he had time to live privately, and dispose of himself at home, he should review his books of Reports, wherein his majesty had been informed that many exorbitant and extravagant opinions were set down and published as good law. Amongst other things that the kingwas not pleased with, the title of those books, wherein Sir Edward Coke had styled himself Lord Chief Justice of England, whereas he was only entitled to be called Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench. To this harsh sentence the chief justice is said to have answered, that he did, in all humility, prostrate himself to his majesty's good pleasure; that he acknowledged the decree to be just, and proceeding rather from his majesty's mercy, than his justice. As though this degradation were not sufficient, the lord treasurer, gladly availing himself of an opportunity to insult a man who had lost the royal favour, informed him, that he had one more circumstance to mention, the cognizance of which properly belonged to the Earl Marshal, viz. that his coachman used to ride bare headed before him, which was more than he could any ways assume or challenge to himself, and he required him to forbear it for the future. Compelled to notice this ridiculous charge, the chief justice replied, that the coachman did it only for his own ease, and not by his commandment. In October following, Coke was brought before the chancellor, and prohibited from entering Westminster Hall; and, on the 15th of November, he was succeeded, in the office of chief justice, by Sir Henry Mountague. He is said to have received the writ of supersedeas "with dejection and tears."
The address of the lord chancellor to the new chief justice, on his being sworn in, throws some light upon the causes which led to the dismissal of his predecessor. In the first place, Sir Henry was informed, that it is dangerous in a monarchy, for a man, holding a high and eminent place, to be ambitiously popular. He was next counselled to follow the example of his grandfather, who had also been chief justice, but had never arrogated to himself the title of capitalis Justiciarius Anglia; who had never, by absurd and inept new constructions, strained the statute of Ed. III. to reach the Chancery; and who had never made teste Edwardo Mountague to justle with teste meipso. The chancellor also informed him, that he doubted not but if the king, by his writ under the great seal, commanded the judges that they should not proceed Rege inconsulto, they were bound dutifully to obey.— Lastly, he bad him remember the removing and putting down of his late predecessor, and by whom. From this address may be gathered the professed, and probably the true reasons which led to the degradation of Sir Edward Coke; but, in addition to these, there were some private motives, which undoubtedly influenced that measure. The place of chief clerk of the court of King's Bench, at that period worth about 4000/. per annum, was at the disposal of the chief justice, who, it is said, had made an arrangement with the favourite, Somerset, respecting the profits of the office. On the rise of Sir George Villiers, afterwards Duke of Buckingham, an overture was made to Coke to admit two trustees for the new favourite, to which the chief justice replied, that he was old and could not struggle. However, on the office becoming vacant, it was evident that Coke had no intention of so unworthily disposing of it; and this circumstance, in all probability, hastened his dismission from the bench. Against this combination of public and private jealousies, Sir Edward Coke could not hope to maintain himself.
Hitherto we have seen little of Coke's domestic history; but soon after his disgrace, some circumstances occurred in his family which rendered his private affairs the subject of public curiosity and discussion. A coolness having arisen between Sir Francis Bacon and Secretary Winwood, the latter, desirous of humbling his adversary, imagined that he could adopt no surer means to attain that object, than by procuring the restoration of the late chief justice to the royal favour. He therefore applied to Coke to sanction a marriage between his daughter, Frances Coke, and Sir John Villiers, the eldest brother of the favourite, now raised to the title of Earl of Buckingham. To this marriage, when proposed to him at a former period, Coke had expressed himself averse; but his scruples appear to have been overcome by his reverse of fortune, and he gave his consent to the match. But to prevent this union, no common exertions were made. Bacon, foreseeing in an alliance between his old rival and the favourite, the ruin of his own hopes, opposed the measure with a violence and indiscretion, which could scarcely have been expected from him. He addressed a letter to Buckingham, in which he urged every argument against the match, which he imagined likely to influence the mind of the favourite. To the king, he also expressed himself very fully, dissuading him from suffering the affair to proceed; but adding, with the marvellous subserviency which distinguished him, that if the king was resolved that the match should go on, he then desired to receive his particular will and commandments, that he might conform himself thereto, imagining (though he would not wager on women's minds) that he could more prevail with the mother than any other man. The Lady Hatton, indeed, probably from a spirit of opposition to her husband, was strongly opposed to the marriage, which, it is said, did not meet with the approbation of the young lady herself. Lady Hatton, determined not to yield in a matter which concerned her prerogative as a wife and a mother, secretly conveyed the daughter away, and concealed her in the house of Sir Edmund Withipole, near Oatlands. As soon as Sir Edward had discovered the place of her retreat, he wrote to Buckingham to procure a warrant from the privy council, for the restoration of his daughter; but, being too impatient to wait for a reply, in company with his sons he went to Sir Edmund Withipole's house, and brought back his daughter by force. Bacon, for this pretended offence, prevailed upon Yelverton, the attorney-general, to file an information in the Star-Chamber, against Coke; all proceedings in which were, however, suspended by an order from court. A reconciliation was effected between Sir Edward and his lady; and Bacon, finding that Buckingham, and consequently the king, were determined to prosecute the match, applied himself to the forwarding of it, with the same devotion with which he had formerly opposed it. On the return of the king from Scotland, Sir Edward Coke was admitted to his presence, and was soon afterwards restored to his seat at the council-table. The marriage between his daughter and Sir John Villiers was celebrated at Hampton Court, with all imaginable splendour.
The disputes between Coke and his lady, who was a woman of a most violent and ungovernable temper, were a subject of public notoriety and scandal. Upon one occasion, when she entertained the king at her house in Holborn, she is said to have given strict orders that neither Sir Edward, nor any of his servants, should be admitted. To such a pitch did her intemperate conduct carry her, that she was committed to custody for a libel upon her husband. The liberal settlement which she made upon her daughter, procured her release.
Although Sir Edward Coke was thus restored to favour, he received no other appointment than that of privy counsellor; but had he been of a malignant disposition, that office would have enabled him to gratify it in the fullest manner, for nearly all his greatest enemies were successively brought to the council-table, for various misdemeanors. The Lord Treasurer Suffolk and his lady were disgraced for corruption; Sir Henry Yelverton was sentenced to fine and imprisonment, for certain delinquencies; and lastly, the Lord Chancellor Bacon was convicted of bribery, and disgraced. To the honour of Sir Edward Coke, who was one of the committee appointed to prepare the charges against the chancellor, he displayed great moderation and forbearance, in his conduct towards his fallen enemy.
It was about this period, that the house of commons began to assume that bold and independent tone, to which the progress of liberal opinions, and the improving state of society, entitled it. Popular grievances were discussed with freedom, and it was evident that the voice of the people was not to be checked at the pleasure of the sovereign, as it had been in the time of the Tudors. Sir Edward Coke had long been a member of the house, and was much respected both for his talents and integrity. The part which he acted well became him as a constitutional lawyer, and he strenuously upheld the authority of parliament, and the privileges of the commons. On the 6th of February, 1620, a debate of great importance came on, in which the infringement of liberty of speech and other grievances were considered. Upon this occasion, Coke expressed himself with great warmth against the power assumed by the crown, of dispensing with acts of parliament by the royal proclamation.
When the privileges of the commons again came in question, in the case of Sir Edwin Sands, Coke took so" active a part in the dispute, that, on the 27th of December, 1621, he was committed to the Tower; and his chambers in the Temple were broken open, in order that his papers might be examined. On the 6th of January following, he was once more called before the privy council, and charged with having concealed certain papers in the case of the Earl of Somerset; a groundless imputation, as it should seem, from the circumstance of his being soon afterwards released from custody, although he was again dismissed from the council-table, with strong marks of the king's displeasure. As the conduct of Sir Edward Coke, in the house of commons, was by no means agreeable to James's notions of good government, he was appointed, together with Sir Edwin Sands, and some other obnoxious persons, a commissioner to inquire into the state of Ireland, although he does not appear to have been called upon to execute the duties of his office. On the death of James, and the accession of his son, Coke was appointed sheriff of Buckinghamshire, in order to prevent his appearance in the house of commons; but in the parliament of 1628, he was returned for that county, and distinguished himself greatly by his zealous exertions in favour of the liberty of the subject. This, indeed, is the most brilliant portion of Coke's laborious and honourable life. He saw with regret and indignation the attempts which the crown was making to entrench upon the privileges of the commons, and through them upon the rights of the people; and he resolutely opposed those measures with all the weight of his high character and profound constitutional learning. Anxious to secure in the most legal and efficacious manner the liberties of the country, he proposed and framed the Petition of Rights, and boldly attacked the Duke of Buckingham, though he had formerly commended his conduct in the breaking off of the Spanish match. On a member of the house adverting to the conduct of the duke, the speaker rose up, and said, "That he was ordered to command him not to proceed." A deep silence ensued, and the members were prohibited from quitting the house. Sir Edward Coke at length rose. We give the whole of his speech upon this occasion, as it at once displays his integrity and boldness, and the pithy and forensic style of his oratory.
"We have dealt with that duty and moderation that never was the like rebus sic stantibus, after such a violation of the liberties of the subjects; let us take this to heart. In 30 Edward III. were they then in doubt in parliament to name men that misled the king? They accused John de Gaunt, the king's son, and Lord Latimer, and Lord Nevil, for misadvising the king, and they went to the tower for it. Now, when there is such a downfal of the state, shall we hold our tongues? How shall we answer our duties to God and men? 7 Hen. IV. parl. rep. No. 31, 32, and 11 Hen. IV. No. 13; there the council are complained of, and are removed from the king. They mewed up the king, and dissuaded him from the common good. And why are we now retired from that way we were in? Why may we not name those that are the cause of all our evils? In 4 Hen. HI. and 27 Ed. III. and 13 Ric. II. the parliament moderateth the king's prerogative, and nothing grows to abuse but this house hath power to treat of it. What shall we do? Let us palliate no longer. If we do, God will not prosper us. I think the Duke of Buckingham is the cause of all our miseries; and till the king be informed thereof we shall never go out with honour, or sit with honour here. That man is the grievance of grievances. Let us set down the cause of all our disasters, and all will reflect upon him."
So great was the zeal which our representatives, at this period of our history, displayed in the performance of their duties, that many members wept bitterly, as we are credibly informed, on the speaker delivering the above message to the house, and Sir Edward Coke, in the course of his speech, sate down to wipe away his tears!