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have been of infinite value to him. But that gift was wanting. He appears to have been just as popular as ever, and not at all wiser. Still ready to find a personal grievance in every smile bestowed on a rival, whether friend or enemy, he had many grievances at this time to digest. These I shall have to refer to hereafter; but as I find no record of any meeting or other communication at this time between him Bacon, who was now deeply engaged in the business of the new Parliament which had just met, I must now give some account of that.
A.D. 1597-8. ÆTAT, 37,
QUEEN ELIZABETH's courage was of that rare temper which can rise
find superfluity to prune and cut off, where defect to supply, and where ambiguity to explain; that they be not burdensome but profitable to the commonwealth. Which being a service of importance and very needful to be required, yet as nothing is to be regarded if due mean be not had to withstand the malice and the force of those professed
enemies which seek the destruction of the whole state, this before all and above all is to be thought of,” etc.? And so he proceeds to speak generally of the necessity of aids and subsidies. Nothing was said of any immediate alarm, though this was spoken on the 24th of October, while the Spanish fleet was still hovering about the coasts, and our own not yet returned. And so little appearance was there of hurry, anxiety, or impatience, that immediately after the presentation of the Speaker on the 27th, the Houses were adjourned by the Queen's command till the 5th of November. Nor was it till ten days after that, that any motion was made on the subject of supply. All the principal commonwealth bills had precedence. The way was led by a bill against forestallers and regrators, those ancient and unconquerable offenders, with whom the legislature was still waging an ineffectual war. Then followed a motion against enclosures and depopulation, and for the maintenance of husbandry and tillage—a measure then very popular, of which I shall speak further presently. Then questions of privileges and returns—the House's own special business. Next day (Monday, 7th November) came a bill to take away benefit of clergy in cases of abduction of women, and a motion
touching sundry enormities growing by patents of privilege and monopolies;" which was renewed the next day, and discussed several times afterwards, without any intimation that it was an interference with the prerogative. On the 8th came a motion for the relief of the people from the obligation to keep certain kinds of armour and weapons, now obsolete. Then a motion for the abridging and reforming of the excessive number of superfluous and burdensome penal laws.” On the 10th a question was raised about certain abuses in the ecclesiastical courts—which called forth a message from the Queen, not now to imprison the member who made the motion or to forbid the Speaker to read the bill, but to command the House to prosecute the inquiry. On the 11th a committee was appointed for continuance of statutes. On the 12th a bill was brought in for the increase of mariners and the maintenance of navigation. On the 14th a bill for the suppression of robberies, which had been brought in before but I do not know on what day, was thrown out upon the second reading. On the 15th a bill was introduced for extirpation of beggars. After which the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved for a committee to treat and consult concerning supply.
As nothing could be more decorous than the order of proceedings, so nothing could be more successful. All went smoothly. No difference arose which caused any embarrassment, either between the parties in either House, or between one House and the other, or be
1 D’Ewes, p. 524.
tween either of them and the Crown. An amount of supply, equal to that given by the last Parliament (which was greater than any Parliament had given before), was voted without a dissentient voice.
The laws which were passed bear the impress of the time, both in the matters dealt with and the mode of dealing. But they were all framed, according to the best political economy of the day, either to check the diseases or to improve the general health of society. How large a space in these deliberations was occupied by the great problem of the Relief of the Poor, may be inferred from the fact that on the 22nd of November eleven separate bills, all bearing upon that subject, were referred to the same committee; and if they did not succeed in settling the question for ever, they placed it on a footing on which it stood for nearly two hundred and fifty years ; and might have been standing now, if abuses had not crept into the administration of it for which its authors were not responsible; for the 43rd of Elizabeth, chap. 2, which has been called the great charter of the poor, the first comprehensive measure of legal charity," is only the 39th of Elizabeth, chap. 3, continued, and improved in some details. In principle and in all its main features it is the same.
In this, as indeed in almost every measure of general policy discussed in this Parliament, Bacon appears to have been more or less engaged, for there is scarcely a committee-list in which his name does not appear. But the records are not full enough to show the part he took in the deliberations, except in three or four cases. The motion "for abridging and reforming the excessive number of superfluous and burdensome penal laws" was seconded by him, but appears to have dropped or merged in an ordinary “Continuance" Act. An Act for the “increase of mariners for the service and defence of the realm” led to conferences with the Lords, some of which were reported by him to the Commons. But in the acts for the prevention of enclosures and the maintenance of tillage he appears to have had the chief management; and a fragment of his introductory speech has been preserved. Of these measures it may be worth while to give a more particular account, the rather because the changes which have intervened, not only in opinion on such questions, but in the essential conditions of the case, make it difficult in these days to understand their true import.
They were meant to give effect to a measure introduced originally by Henry VII., and as Bacon himself in his later life drew attention to that measure as a specimen of profound legislation, and explained at large the objects, provisions, and operation of it, I cannot introduce the subject better than by quoting his remarks.
“Another statute was made of singular policy, for the population
apparently, and (if it be throughly considered) for the soldiery and militar forces of the realm. Enclosures at that time began to be more frequent, whereby arable land (which could not be manured without people and families) was turned into pasture, which was easily rid by a few herdsmen; and tenancies for years, lives, and at will (whereupon much of the yeomanry lived) were turned into demesnes. This bred a decay of people, and by consequence a decay of towns, churches, tithes, and the like. The King likewise knew full well, aud in no wise forgot, that there ensued withal upon this a decay and diminution of subsidies and taxes; for the more gentlemen ever the lower books of subsidies. In remedying of this inconvenience, the King's wisdom was admirable, and the Parliament's at time. Enclosures they would not forbid, for that had been to forbid the improvement of the patrimony of the kingdom ; nor tillage they would not compel, for that was to strive with nature and utility: but they took a course to take away depopulating enclosures and depopulating pasturage, and yet not that by name, or by any imperious express prohibition, but by consequence. The ordinance was, That all houses of husban. dry that were used with twenty acres of ground and upwards, should be maintained and kept up for ever; together with a competent proportion of land to be used and occupied with them, and in nowise to be severed from them (as by another statute, made afterwards in his successor's time, was more fully declared): this upon forfeiture to be taken, not by way of popular action, but by seizure of the land itself by the king and lords of the fee, as to half the profits, till the houses and lands were restored. By this means, the houses being kept up did of necessity enforce a dweller ; and the proportion of land for occupation being kept up did of necessity enforce that dweller not to be a beggar or cottayer, but a man of some substance, that might keep hinds and servants and set the plough on going. This did wonderfully concern the might and mannerhood of the kingdom, to have farms as it were of a standard sufficient to maintain an able body out of penury, and did in effect amortise a great part of the lands of the kingdom unto the hold and occupation of the yeomanry or middle-people, of a condition between gentlemen and cottagers or peasants. Now how much this did advance the militar power of the kingdom is apparent by the true principles of war and the examples of other kingdoms. For it hath been held by the general opinion of men of best judgment in the wars (howsoever some few have varied, and that it may receive some distinction of case) that the principal strength of an army consisteth in the infantry or foot. And to make good infantry it requireth men bred not in a servile or indigent fashion, but in some free and plentiful manner. Therefore