« AnteriorContinuar »
istrates, but he interfered with their profits, which depended mainly upon the number of suits brought before them, and the reputa. tion of their respective Courts. These jealousies, which began so soon after his appointment, went on constantly increasing, till at last, as we shall see, they produced an explosion which shook Westminster Hall to its centre.
In this struggle he finally triumphed over the Common-law Judges; but they entirely defeated him in an attempt which he made to strengthen the jurisdiction of his Court by the imposition of fines. It had always been held, as it now is, that a decree in Chancery does not directly bind the land like a judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, and that it can only be enforced by imprisonment of the person. Egerton imposed a fine upon Sir Thomas Thomilthorp for not performing his decree in Chancery concerning lands of inheritance, and estreated it into the Exchequer, with a view of its being there levied by Crown process. The party pleaded that the fine was illegal, “and upon debate of the question in Court and good advisement taken, it was adjudged that the Lord Chancellor had no power to assess any such fine, for then, by a mean, he might bind the interest of the land where he had no power, but of the person only, and thereupon the said Sir Thomas Thomilthorp was.discharged of the said fine.”*
Not satisfied with this, Egerton made another experiment with the like view and the like success. For non-performance of a decree against one Waller he fined him, and upon process of extent out of Chancery seized his lands in Middlesex, “whereupon Waller brought his assize in the Court of Common Pleas, where the opinion of the whole Court agreed in omnibus with the Court of Exchequer.”+
We have on record a very striking instance of the vigour with which he strove to correct the prolixity of the written pleadings in his Court. In a case of Mylward v. Weldon, there being a complaint of the length of the Replication, and the Lord Chancellor being satisfied that " whereas it extended to six score sheets, all the matter thereof which was pertinent might have been well contained in sixteen," an order was made in these words :-" It appearing to his Lordship, by the confession of Richard M;lward, the plaintiff's son, that he did devise, draw, and engross the said Replication, and because his Lordship is of opinion that such an abuse is not in any sort to be tolerated-proceeding of a malicious purpose to increase the defendant's charge, and being fraught with much impertinent matter not fit for this Court, it is therefore order, ed that the Warden of the Fleet shall take the said Richard Mylward into his custody, and shall bring him into Westminster Hall on Saturday about 10 of the clock in the forenoon, and then and there shall cut a hole in the myddest of the same engrossed Replication, which is delivered unto him for that purpose, and put
* Sir Thomas Thomilthorp's case, 4 Inst. 84.
† Waller's case, 4 Inst. 84.
the said Richard's head through the same hole, and so let the same Replication hang about his shoulders with the written side outward, and then, the same so hanging, shall lead the same Richard, bareheaded and barefaced, round about Westminster Hall whilst the Courts are sitting, and shall show him at the bar of every of the three Courts within the Hall, and then shall take him back again to the Fleet and keep him prisoner until he shall have paid 101. to her Majesty for a fine, and 20 nobles' to the defendant for his costs in respect of the aforesaid abuse, which fine and costs are now adjudged and imposed upon him by this Court for the abuse aforesaid.”* The order should have gone on to require that a print of the unlucky Richard, with his head peeping through the volumes of sheep skin, should, in terrorem, be hung up in the chambers of every equity draughtsman.
During a year and a half, Lord Keeper Egerton, had few distractions from the discharge of his judi- 14.
ndi. [a. D. 1597.) cial duties; but in the end of 1597, the exhausted state of the Exchequer, from the great charges of the Spanish war, compelled Elizobeth reluctantly to call a parliament. On the first day of meeting, the Queen being seated on the throne, "o
[Oct. 25.] he, by her command, declared to the two Houses the cause of the summons. After confessing that the royal presence of her Majesty, the view of such an honourable assembly, the weightiness of the service, and his own weakness, appalled him much, he gives a florid description of the prosperity of the kingdom, with a compliment to the Queen's extraordinary modesty. “This Her Majesty is pleased to ascribe to the great power and infinite mercy of the Almighty; and therefore it shall well become us all most thankfully, on the knees of our hearts, to acknowledge no less unto his holy name.” Next comes a most excellent passage on Law Reform, very applicable to the present time. “ And whereas the number of the laws already made are very great, some also of them being obsolete and worn out of use; others idle and vain, serving to no purpose; some again over heavy and too severe for the offence; others too loose and slack for the faults they are to punish, and many of them so full of difficulties to be understood that they cause many controversies; you are therefore to enter into a due consideration of the said laws, and where you find superfluity to prune, where defect to supply, and where ambiguity to explain, that they be not burthensome, but profitable to the com- : monwealth.” He then strongly presses for a supply,—thus concluding, “ Quod justum est necessarium est ; nothing can be more just than this war; nothing ought to be more necessary than carefully to provide due maintenance for the same.”
Serjeant Yelverton being presented at the bar as Speaker elect, the Lord Keeper, in the Queen's name, overruled his disqualifica
tion*, and gave her assent to his prayer for the ancient liberties and privileges of the Commons, “ with admonition, however, that the said liberties and privileges should be discreetly and wisely used, as was meet.”[
The Lord Keeper not yet being a Peer, during the session he had only to put the question in the House of Lords, without taking any share in the debates; but he was once asked his opinion [FEB. 9, 1598.]
ay on' a question of precedence. Thomas Howard,
O.] second son of the Duke of Norfolk, being created Baron Howard de Walden, claimed to take place next after Earls, because the younger son of a Duke is considered by the heralds of higher rank than a Viscount; but, by the advice of the Lord Keeper, he was placed below all Barons, without prejudice to his precedence elsewhere.
A subsidy being granted, the attempts in the Commons at reform became very distasteful to the Queen ;-particularly a bill to put down the nuisance of monopolies, which now caused deep and universal discontent;—and she brought the session to a speedy close. The Lord Keeper then, by her order, rebuked the Commons for their presumption : “ Touching the monopolies, her Majesty hoped that her dutiful and loving subjects would not take away her prerogative, which is the chiefest flower in her garden, and the principal and head pearl in her crown and diadem, but that they would rather leave that to her disposition.” I After the death of the great Lord Burghley, although his son,
Sir Robert Cecil, was the Queen's chief Coun[Aug. 4, 1598.] cilor. she nev
*. 3, 1030.] cillor, she never was under the sway of any one minister, and Egerton enjoyed a considerable share of her confidence. He was accordingly named chief Commissioner to negotiate in London a treaty with the Dutch, and after long conferences with their ambassadors, an advantageous treaty was signedby which the Queen was eased of an annual charge of 120,0001., the payment of the debt due to her was secured, and a large subsidiary force was stipulated for in case of a Spanish invasion.
In 1601, the Lord Keeper was again employed as a diplomatist in concluding a treaty with Denmark, whereby an important ally was secured, and the Protestant interest in Europe was materially strengthened.
* We have not the particulars of Yelverton's disqualifying speech at the bar in the House of Lords, but it was probably a repetition of that in the Commons, where he expressed wonder how he came to be chosen, “as it could not be for his estate, his father dying having left him only a small annuity.” “ Then,” said he, “grow. ing to man's estate and some small practice of the law, I took a wife, by whom I have had many children, the keeping of us all being a great impoverishment to my estate, and the daily living of us all nothing but my daily industry. Neither from my person nor nature doth this choice proceed; for he that supplieth this place ought to be a man big and comely, stately and well spoken, his voice great, his courage majestical, his nature haughty, and his purse heavy : but contrarily, the stature of my body is small, myself not so well-spoken, my voice low, my carriage lawyer-like and of the common fashion, my nature soft and bashful, my purse tbin, light, and never yet plentiful.”—1 Parl. Hist. 898. + Ib. 895.
$ Ib, 906.
He nowhere appears to greater advantage than in his conduct to the Queen's favourite, the Earl of Essex. This young nobleman had high and generous qualities along with great faults. Egerton did not, like others, flatter his vices during his prosperity, nor abandon him when his imprudence had involved him in difficulties, and ruin was impending over him. Although unequal in age, and of very dissimilar character and pursuits, a strict intimacy had subsisted between them almost from the time of Essex's first appearance at Court; and now that Sir Thomas was in the dignified position of Lord Keeper, he exercised all his influence and authority to correct the irregularities of his youthful friend, and to rescue him from the consequences of his imprudence.*
Queen Elizabeth, in a fit of anger, having given her favourite a box on the ear, accompanied with the words “Begone and be hanged,” he thought that, though the 14.
thought that though the [A. D. 1598.] insult came from a woman, as she was his Sovereign it ought to be resented, and clapping his hand to his sword, he swore “he would not bear such usage were it from Henry VIII. himself.” In a great passion he withdrew from Court. The Lord Keeper immediately gave him salutary advice in a long and most excellent letter, of which I will give a passage:
" It is often seen, that he that is a stander by seeth more than he that played the game, and for the most part any man in his own cause standeth in his own light. You are not so far gone but you may well return. The return is safe, but the progress dangerous and desperate. If you have any enemies, you do that for them which they could never do for themselves, whilst you leave your friends to open shame and contempt, forsake yourself, overthrow your fortunes, and ruin your honour and reputation. My good Lord, I want wisdom to advise you, but I will never want an honest and true heart to wish you well; nor, being warranted by a true conscience, to forbear to speak what I think. I have begun plainly. I hope your Lordship will not be offended if I proceed still after the same fashion. Bene cedit qui tompori cedit. And Seneca saith, Lex si nocentem punit, cedendum est justitiæ ; si innocentem, cedendum est fortune. The best remedy is not to contend and strive, but humbly to submit. Have you given cause, and take scandal to yourself? Why then all you can do is too little to make satisfaction. Is cause of scandal given to you? Yet policy, duty, and religion enforce you to sue, yield, and submit to your Sovereign, between whom and you there can be no proportion of duty.”'t
*" They live and join very honourably together-out of which correspondency and noble conjunction betwixt Mars and Pallas, betwixt justice and valour,-Í mcan hetwixt so admirable a nobleman as the Earl, and so worthy a justice as the Lord Keeper, I doubt not but very famous effects will daily spring to her Majesty's honour, the good of the state, and the comfort of both their Lordships' particular true friends.”_Birch's Memoirs of Queen Elizabeth, Letter of Anthony Bacon.
† Birch, Mem. Eliz. vol. ii. 384.
Essex, unsubdued, thus replied:
“ Although there is not that man this day living whom I should sooner make a judge of any question that did concern me than yourself, yet must you give me leave to tell you, that, in such a case, I must appeal from all earthly judges, and if in any, then surely in this, where the highest Judge on earth hath imposed upon me without trial or hearing the most heavy judgment that ever hath been known. When the vilest of all indignities is done unto me, doth religion enforce me to sue, or doth God require it? Is it impiety not to do it? Why, cannot Princes err? Cannot subjects receive wrong? Is an earthly power infinite? Pardon me, my Lord, I can never subscribe to these principles. Let Solomon's fool laugh when he is stricken; let those who mean to make their profit of Princes show no sense of Princes' injuries. As for me, I have received wrong, I feel it; my cause is good, I know it; and whatsoever happens, all the powers on earth can never exert more strength and constancy in oppressing than I can show in suffering every thing that can or shall be imposed upon me. Your Lord. ship, in the beginning of your letter, makes me a player and yourself a looker-on, and me a player of my own game, so you see more than I: but give me leave to tell you that, since you do but see and I do suffer, I must of necessity feel more than you."
This correspondence, when circulated and brought to the notice of the Queen, incensed her for a time still more against Essex; but he was at last induced, by the verbal advice of the Lord Keeper, to apologise, and never having lost his place in her heart, he soon regained his ascendancy in her Councils, and after the death of Burghley, who always strove to depress him, he was for a time considered her chief Councillor, till he imprudently took upon himself the office of Lord Deputy of Ireland to quell the rebellion in that country,—whereby he exposed himself to the hazards of a very disagreeable service, and left the field at home open to the intrigues of his enemies.
During Essex's absence in Ireland, the Lord Keeper did what was possible with the Queen to place his actions in the most favourable point of view, but she was so much disappointed by his want of success against Tyrone, and so much provoked by his presumption and obstinacy, and so much exasperated by the representations of the Cecils, who turned every incident to account in their struggle for undivided power,—that he thought his only chance was to try the effect of his personal presence,-an experiment that had once succeeded with Leicester her former favour(Sept. 1599.] Le
1500, ite. He presented himself in her bed-room at Non
Wo such, while she was still at her toilette, and her hair was scattered over her face. Thus surprised, she at first gave him rather an affectionate welcome; but when she had leisure to reflect upon his conduct she was very much dissatisfied, and (according to English fashion) would have brought him to trial for high treason,-had it not been that, by an extraordinary effort of