« PreviousContinue »
That I believe to be the fact; but in spite of that I am strongly impressed with the necessity for reform. The real force of so-called “popular” opinion, the volume of which is not, I think, very large, is against any Second Chamber worthy of the name. The real desire is to end the Second Chamber, or, failing that, to reduce it to a condition of paralyzed impotence that amounts to the same thing. The necessity for a Second Chamber is recognized in all democratic communities. In none of them is the necessity so urgent as with us. Other nations are confronted with social and economic problems similar to those with which we have to deal; but, in other respects, our position is singular. With a vast Indian Empire to administer, with long and exposed frontiers in the East and West, with great and numerous dominions and possessions in all quarters of the globe whose interests are coterminous with and, in the nature of things, sometimes conflicting with the interests of other nations, our position is one of extreme sensitiveness. No other nation is exposed to such continual danger. Our legislative and administrative machinery has to deal with problems of a character more varied and more intricate than those which are involved in the affairs of any other people. Any breakdown in our machinery would produce consequences infinitely more serious than in the case of any other community. With us the presence of an efficient governor to prevent the engine racing, of a flywheel to ensure steadiness and continuity of impulse, is more essential than to any other nation or Empire. Movement under a single Chamber—under the House of Commons—would be by bounds and rebounds, action and reaction; in short, by jerks. That would be of comparatively small importance were the effect produced confined to our own immediate domestic
concerns; but with a world-wide Empire and all the intricacies and complexities attaching to it involved, it is essential to our existence that the varied and violent modes of motion of the First Chamber should be reduced to one line of consistent progress. A. Second Chamber is necessary to our existence. In view of that fact, and of the fact that the outcry against the House of Lords really originates in a desire to reduce it or any other Second Chamber to impotence or to abolish it altogether, it is highly desirable that the House of Lords should take steps to strengthen its position. The House of Lords is at present laboring under difficulties from which time will bring relief. When the cleavage of political thought is clear, and Social or economic opinions have crystallized into concrete political shape, a revising Chamber can form a pretty correct estimate of public feeling from the constitution of the popularly elected House. It can rely upon it that certain lasting definite substantial views dominated an election. Such is not the case now. Party politics are in a state of solution. Elements are seeking the complements necessary for combination. No great distinct issues are at stake. No human being could define the political creed of the party in power; and the party in opposition are concerned mainly in inventing and imposing articles of faith upon the party in power which that party repudiate and deny. This “sloppy” condition of politics will pass away, party lines will harden up again under new conditions, but in the meantime existing circumstances impose unusual difficulties on the Second Chamber and make it specially incumbent On it to divest itself of elements of weakness and acquire elements of strength. The most vulnerable spot in the constitution of the House is to be found in the fact that it contains, as any body of such numerical proportions must contain, certain “undesirables,” and that other members, though perfectly desirable in all other respects, do not take any active interest in political or public affairs; yet both undesirables and absentees can vote, and by their votes might decide some question of the greatest importance. This defect, though probably more apparent than real, should be abated. It would relieve the House of a source of weakness and the House would undoubtedly derive an element of strength in an extended creation of life peerages, in larger representation of the King's dominions beyond the seas, and in the introduction of representatives of religious bodies other than the Established Church.
But into proposals for reform I do not desire to enter here. My views are embodied in a Bill introduced in
the House of Lords in 1888; and Lord The Nineteenth Century and After.
Newton has, I am happy to See, expressed his intention of introducing a Bill this session. The pity is that the matter was not officially taken in hand during the long continuance in, power of the Unionist party.
Such is the irony of fate that the House of Lords is not unlikely to find itself suffering under the same grievance against which the House of Commons so clamorously protests, but aggravated to this extent that the latter body has access to a Court of Appeal and the former has not. Nothing can be done save by consent of both Houses. Mending the House of Lords implies of necessity strengthening it. The object of its Radical critics is to weaken or abolish it. Under these circumstances it seems probable that, if the House of Lords passes a wise and moderate measure of reform, the House of Commons will throw out the Bill.
FRANCIS BACON AT THE BAR OF HISTORY.
The more careful study of history in recent years has caused a mitigation of the verdicts passed on many of our greatest men. Pope, expressing the conventional view of his contemporaries, denounced Bacon as the meanest of mankind, and in the same breath condemned Cromwell to everlasting infamy. Those who condemn the public acts of Cromwell will admit that his reputation stands to-day on a very different level from that to which it was relegated by Pope. In the case of Bacon the result is more doubtful. Basil Montagu's attempt to rehabilitate him was smothered as soon as it was born by Macaulay's review. But a few years later Bacon found a new advocate in the most conscientious, most indefatigable, most capable of biogra
phers. Nearly a generation has passed away since Mr. Spedding's great work appeared. It was hailed with enthusiasm by scholars in every quarter, and for the first time the case for Bacon received a fair and impartial hearing. Nobody doubts that we have heard the last word for the defence, and after this interval of time it may be interesting to look round and inquire to what extent Mr. Spedding's conclusions are likely to be permanently adopted. “I believed myself born for the service of mankind.” In these words We have the keynote to Bacon's life. From a very early age the sense of a mission for which he was specially ordained, which he alone could fulfill had been growing up in his mind. He
tells how, when only fifteen, he wrote cuses for his "natural freedom and a scientific treatise which, "with great plainness of speech," and he has to confidence and a magnificent title,” he cure himself of a habit of "speaking named “The Greatest Birth of Time." with panting, and labor of breath and The character of his mission he defines voice." He writes to his uncle Burghin the preface to his “Interpretation ley that he has "as vast contemplative of Nature," written in 1603:
ends as he has moderate civil ends."
It is easy to censure Bacon for forWhen I searched I found no work so
saking his true destiny, but in the first meritorious as the discovery and development of the arts and inventions
instance he was forced by poverty to that tend to civilize the life of man.... seek some kind of employment. While Above all, if any man could succeed drudging at the Bar he had no leisure not in merely bringing to light one for philosophy, and he was continually particular invention, however useful-- harassed by petty pecuniary worries. but in kindling in nature a luminary
He therefore applied to Burghley to which would, at its first rising, shed some light on the present limits and
nd help him to obtain some modest posiborders of human discoveries, and tion about the Court. For some reawhich afterwards, as it rose still son, neither Burghley nor the Queen higher, would reveal and bring into was willing to promote him. Bacon clear view every nook and cranny of believed that Burghley deliberately darkness-it seemed to me that such a
kept him back for fear that his interdiscoverer would deserve to be called
ests might clash with those of Robert the true Extender of the Kingdom of man over the Universe.
Cecil. Why the Queen disliked or dis
trusted him we have no means of After reviewing his qualifications for knowing. But it is certain that all his such a task, he adds, with an almost appeals after the death of his father, sublime self-sufficiency, "For all these in 1579, failed to bring him the moderreasons I considered that my nature ate assistance he needed. and disposition had, as it were, a Nine years later, in an unlucky hour, kind of kinship and connection with he made the acquaintance of Essex. truth." 1 Such were Bacon's real aims; Essex, then not quite twenty-one, was such to the end they remained
at the beginning of his meteorlike cayear before his death he can still say, reer. His rise had been so sudden and *The ardor and constancy of my mind so brilliant that it seemed for the mo... in this pursuit bas not grown old ment that he must carry everything nor rooled.” Looking back on a long before him. He attached himself to life spent in quite different occupations, Bacon with a romantic ardor unparalit seems to him that he has been leled in the whole history of literary *borne by some destiny against the in- patronage; to quote Mr. Spedding, "a (lination of my genius."
good opinion more confident, an interBacon, then, begins with the convic. est more earnest and unmistakably sintion that he is designed for a life of cere," than Essex expresses in his letcontemplation and research. Wealth ters, “could not be conveyed in Engand honors do not attract him. He is shy and brusque in manner; like
? In his letter to Burghley (January 1592) he
says: “It ... I do seek or affect any place others who are "of nature bashful," he
whereunto any that is nearer unto your lordis mistaken for proud." He is not apt ship shall be concurrent, say then that I am to flatter; his friend Essex makes ex
a most dishonest man."
* We find Essex pleading Bacon's claims as Spedding's " Edition of Bacon's Works," early as 1588. See Dr. Abbott's “ Introduction ili. 519.
to Bacon's Essays," p. 10.
lish.” The injustice with which Bacon was treated roused his keenest sympathy, and he engaged to “spend his uttermost credit, friendship and authority against whomsoever” to secure Bacon's preferment. Nobody—not Mr. Spedding, certainly not Bacon himself—has ever denied that he kept his word. To Bacon, depressed by nine years' unsuccessful supplication, this unexpected support must have given new life, and not the least of his obligations to Essex lay in this, that he believed in him when, among persons of influence at any rate, no one else did. It was perhaps due to the fresh hopes thus excited that Bacon’s “civil ends" gradually became less moderate. With the support of his powerful and enthusiastic patron, the highest offices in the State might not be beyond his reach. Power to Bacon would mean power to do good; no one saw, as he thought lle saw, the real needs and dangers of the country. And Science would share in his advancement. It was impossible for a private individual to work out schemes so vast as his; and he reflects that “good thoughts, though God accept them, yet towards men are little better than good dreams, except they be put in act, and that cannot be without power and place.” “ In 1594 the Attorney-Generalship became vacant, and Essex undertook to secure it for Bacon. The attempt was most unfair to the Solicitor-General, Coke, who had clearly a prior claim: but minor points like this Essex, in his headlong zeal, would not stop to consider. He was opposed by Burghley, who represented that Bacon was too inexperienced for the post. The Queen chose to be guided by Burghley; Coke was appointed, and became thenceforth Bacon's bitter enemy. Essex then tried to get Bacon appointed Solicitor-General. He showed in Bacon's interests a degree of con* Essay, “Of Great Place.”
stancy hardly to be expected of his impulsive nature. For a year and a half he urged Bacon's claims, in season —and, more often, out of season—till the Queen and the whole Court were weary of Bacon's very name. Mr. Spedding conjectures that Essex's injudicious vehemence spoiled Bacon's chance; but Burghley told Bacon that the real difficulty lay in the offence which the Queen had taken at a speech he had made in Parliament. It is to Bacon's credit that, believing himself to be in the right in the matter of this speech, he neither apologized for nor retracted it. At last the Queen decided against Bacon, and in that hour of cruel discouragement, he half resolved to give up public life and return to philosophy. Essex was almost equally upset. He generously took upon himself the whole blame of the failure; “you fare ill,” he said, “because you have chosen me for your mean and dependence,” and he presented Bacon with “a piece of land" worth in our money about £6000. When telling the story in after years,” Bacon paused to pay a tribute to the grace with which Essex bestowed his gift: “such kind and noble circumstances as the manner was worth as much as the matter.”
In estimating the extent of Bacon's obligations to Essex, Mr. Spedding reminds us that “during the last five or six years Bacon and his brother" had been performing for Essex a kind of service for which £1000 a year would not nowadays be thought very high pay, and for which he had as yet received in money or money's worth nothing whatever. Such services were in those days paid by great men, not * “Sir Francis Bacon, his apology in certain imputations concerning the late Earl of Essex.”
• Anthony Bacon, who was Essex's private secretary. He was invaluable to Essex in the
way of supplying him with foreign intelligence.
in salaries, but in patronage. Bacon lost the Solicitorship because Essex urged his claims so intemperately. In such a case what more natural than to feel that he owed him something?” ". That Essex may have spoilt Bacon's chance is quite arguable, though Burghley, who was in a position to know, took a different view. However that may be, it is safe to assert that any patron but Essex would have thought Bacon's services more than repaid by his unparalleled exertions on his behalf. Mr. Sidney Lee finds Essex “quixotic” in giving Bacon anything.” In fact the interest Essex had shown, the affectionate enthusiasm, the “manner worth as much as the matter,” were such as cannot be valued in money or services. Macaulay says finely of Essex that “unlike the vulgar herd of benefactors, he desired to inspire not gratitude, but affection.” Bacon asserted that when he accepted Essex's gift he stipulated that “it must be with the ancient savings"—that is, of duty to the Queen and country;" and in a letter to Essex of this period he makes the curious reservation, “I reckon myself to be a common . . . and so much as is lawful to be enclosed of a common, so much your Lordship shall be sure to have.” The sentiment is in every way appropriate to one who, born for mankind, could not be expected to narrow his mind to the condition of a vulgar partisan; but it cannot be supposed that Bacon meant thus to release himself from the Ordinary obligations which every honest man owes to those who have befriended him. Not many years later Bacon found himself called upon to reconcile the claims of Essex with those of the Queen and country, and also of man
kind, in so far as they were bound up with his own prospects. When Essex returned from Ireland Bacon honestly did what he could to bring about his restoration to favor. The Queen seems to have been in the habit of consulting Bacon at this time, though she still failed to promote him; and it is clear that for the first six months of the year 1600 Bacon was faithfully devoted to his patron's interests. When Essex Was Summoned to answer for his mismanagement in Ireland, Bacon wrote offering to appear as one of the prosecuting counsel; but he explains that he did so with a view to serving Essex more effectually afterwards. Then Essex passed into open treason, after which no one could have blamed Bacon for holding aloof. Unfortunately, he did not hold aloof. When Essex was put on trial for his life Bacon again appeared against him. In the “Apology” Bacon protests that he did not on this occasion offer his services; the work “was merely laid upon me with the rest of my fellows.” The fact is that he was, occasionally and irregularly, employed as counsel for the crown; he was not one of the ordinary counsel, and was not always called to appear at State trials. Unless it call be shown not only that Essex's conviction was necessary to the safety of the State, but that without Bacon's help there was no reasonable chance of Securing it, it seems obvious that common good feeling should have prompted him to stay away; and nothing could be more cold-blooded than the manner in which he turned and addressed his attack to Essex personally. Professor Gardiner, while admitting that Bacon's conduct indicated “poverty of moral feeling,” points out that “our sentiment of the precedence of personal over political ties is based upon our increased sense of political security, and is hardly applicable” to a period when “a government without an