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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

And dismissed Coke from his service


Bacon's

purpose coincided with the idea of a general system of legislation entertained by the King: he would have preferred the Roman law to the statute law of England. Coke was a man devoted to the letter of the law, and was inclined to offer that resistance to the sovereign which was implied in a strict adherence to the law as it was. In the conflict that arose the judges, influenced by his example, appealed to the laws as they were laid down, according to the verbal meaning of which they thought themselves bound to decide. Bacon maintained that the Judges' oath was meant to include obedience to the King also, to whom application must be made in every matter affecting his prerogative. This is probably what Queen Elizabeth also thought, and it was the decided opinion of King James. He made the man who cherished similar views his Lord Chancellor, and dismissed Coke from his service. Bacon when in office was responsible for a catastrophe which, as we shall see, not only ruined himself, but reacted upon the monarchy. The English, contemporaries and posterity alike, have taken the side of Coke. Yet Bacon's industry in business is not therefore altogether to be despised. He urged the King, who was disposed to judge hastily, to take time and to weigh the reasons of both parties. He gave the judges who went on circuit through the country the most pertinent advice. The directions which he drew up for the Court of Chancery have laid the foundations of the practice of that court, and are still
an authority for it. His scheme of collecting and reforming the English laws still, even at the present day, appears to statesmen learned in the law to be an unavoidable necessity; and the opinion is spreading that steps must be taken in this matter in the direction already pointed out by Bacon.

Bacon was one of the last men who identified the welfare of England with the development of the monarchical element in the constitution, or at all events with the preponderance of the authority of the sovereign within constitutional limits. The union of the three kingdoms under the ruling authority of the King appeared to him to contain the foundation of the future greatness of Britain. With the assertion of the authority of the sovereign he connected the hope of a reform of the laws of England, of the establishment of a comprehensive system of colonisation in Ireland, and of the assimilation of the ecclesiastical and judicial constitution of Scotland to English customs. He loved the monarchy because he expected great things from it.

But it cannot be denied that he brought his ideas into a connexion with his interests, which was fatal to the acceptance of the former. His is just a case in which we feel relieved when we turn from the disputes of the day to the free domain of scientific activity, in which his true life was spent. He has indeed said himself that he was better fitted to hold a book in his hands than to shine upon the stage of the world. In his studies he had only science itself and the whole of the world before his eyes.

The scholastic system founded on Aristotle, the inheritance of centuries of ecclesiastical supremacy, had been assailed some time before he took up the subject; and the inductive method which he opposed to that system was not anything quite new. But


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