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Clerk's draft of a Commission to Sir James Ley, requesting that he perform Sir Francis Bacon's duties as Lord Chancellor during Bacon's trial for corruption
Westminster, 1621. Westminster, March 18, 1621. Four pages in secretary hand, to Sir James Ley, Lord Chief Justice (Jan. 21, 1621 - Jan. 26, 1625), written by "Edmunds" (likely written as a draft or file copy) on behalf of King James I. Each page about 31 x 38 cm, folded twice with some folds cracking, and general staining, but text legible and complete. The text of the commission was read into the Journals of the House of Lords, but the whereabouts of the official copy are unknown. Housed in a custom, quarter-leather display portfolio.& & On March 14, 1621 the first complaint of corruption was raised against Sir Francis Bacon, then Lord Chancellor of England. The Parliament formally charged Bacon with corruption on March 19th, leading to his eventual conviction. Bacon responded to the charges with the following famous sentence: "And for the briberies and gifts wherewith I am charged, when the books of hearts shall be open, I hope I shall not be found to have the troubled fountain of a corrupt heart in a depraved habit of taking rewards to pervert justice; howsoever I may be frail, and partake of the abuses of the times." Sir James Ley oversaw the proceedings against Bacon and on May 3rd handed down the harsh sentence, which included: a £40,000 fine, a period of imprisonment in the Tower of London, banishment from holding state office, and exclusion from Parliament and James'; court. Bacon spent a brief time in the Tower of London, but much of the sentence was pardoned by King James.& & In a royal display of tact, the commission to Sir Ley makes no reference to the charges against Bacon, only noting that Bacon, "our right trusty and right wellbeloved cousin and counsellor," is "so visited with sickness that he is not able to travel." The King then requests that Sir Ley fulfill the duties of Lord Chancellor during Bacon's absences from Court. Due to the timing of the events in his corruption hearing and the date of the letter, it was almost certainly written as a result of the charges brought against Bacon, otherwise Bacon would have sat as justice in his own corruption trial. & & The text of the letter reads:& & James, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc. To our trusty and wellbeloved Sir James Ley, knight and baronet, chief justice of the pleas, before us to be holden, greeting. & & Whereas our right trusty and right wellbeloved cousin and counsellor Francis, Viscount St. Alban [Bacon], our chancellor of England, is at this time so visited with sickness that he is not able to travel to the upper house of this our present Parliament, holden at Westminster, nor there to supply the room and place in the said upper house among the lords spiritual and temporal there assembled as to the office of the lord chancellor of England hath been accustomed, we, minding the same place and room to be supplied in all things as appertaineth for and during every time of his absence have named and appointed you and by these presents do constitute, name, appoint and authorize you from day to day and time to time when and so often as the said lord chancellor shall happen at any time or times during this present parliament to be absent from his accustomed place in the said upper house to occupy use and supply the said room and place of the said lord chancellor in the said upper house amongst the lords spiritual and temporal there assembled at every such day and time of his absence and then and there at every such time to do and execute all such things as the said lord chancellor of England should or might do if he were there personally present using and supplying with the same room therefore we will and command you the said Sir James Ley to attend to the doing and execution of the premises with effect and these our letters patent shall be your sufficient warrant and discharge of the same in every behalf, in witness whereof we have caused these our letters to be made patents, witness ourself at Westminster the eighteenth day of March in the eighteenth year of our reign of England, France and Ireland and of Scotland the four and fiftieth.& & Per ipsum regem,& & Edmunds& & Much speculation exists regarding Bacon';s corruption charges and subsequent, harsh sentencing. Accepting money from litigants was common practice at that time and Bacon maintained impartiality, despite the supposed bribes (he ruled against some litigants who gave money). One theory suggests that King James used Bacon as the sacrificial lamb to appease public outcries over corruption in his court, specifically with regard to royal monopolies distributed by the King. This theory suggests that the King was motivated by a desire to protect his favorite courtier (and possible lover), George Villiers the first Duke of Buckingham, who was publicly criticized for his abuses of royal monopolies. Sir Ley was married to Buckinham';s niece and therefore had his own reasons for helping the King protect the Buckingham';s good family name. & & Whatever the true motive for Bacon';s removal from court, the following years would become some of Bacon';s most fruitful. Indeed, the literary output from King James'; reign included some of the greatest writers and thinkers of any time: Shakespeare, Donne, Ben Jonson and Marlowe to name a few.& & An incredible historical artifact with a fantastic association among Bacon, his Judge and his pardoner, all key players in the climactic final act of Bacon';s public life.
      [Bookseller: Whitmore Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2013-07-26           Check availability:      Biblio    

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