« AnteriorContinuar »
was not competent for such a command and that he mismanaged the expedition, but the difficulties were enormous, and he was the first to encounter them on the scale which was then rendered necessary. The great grievance of the Queen was that Essex had not at once gone against Tyrone, and thereby put an end, as she supposed, to the expedition ; yet not only did the Irish Council, who must have known the country, advise against this until other positions had been secured, but it is most decisively pronounced against in Spenser's View, which, as I said above, and I think I have shown in my book on Spenser's Works, represented the opinion of Ralegh. And yet the delay in attacking Tyrone was made a ground of treason against Essex. Here are the words of the View : Eudox. :
Would you leade foorth your armye agaynst the enemye, and seeke him where he is to fight?
Iren. : Noe, Eudoxus; it would not be, for it is well knowen that he is a flying enemye, hiding himself in woodes and bogges, from whence he will not drawe foorth, but into some straite passage or perillous foord, where he knows the armie must needes passe ; there will he lye in wayte, and yf he finde advauntage fitt, will danngerously hazarde the troubled souldiour. Therefore to seek him out that still flyeth, and followe him that can hardly be founde, were vayne and booteless; but I would devide my men in garrison upon his countrey, in such places as I should thinke might most annoye him.
I would wish the chief power of the armye to be garrisoned in one countrey that is strongest, and th'other upon the rest that are weakest. As for example, the Earle of Tyrone is nowe accompted the strongest : upon him would I lay 8,000 men in garrison : 1000 uppon Feughe Mac-Hughe and the Kevanaghs, and 1,000 upon some parte of ConDaughte, to be at the direction of the Governour."
This is precisely the policy which the Irish Council advised, which Essex recommended1 and attempted himself, no doubt very ineffectively, and by which Mountjoy, who succeeded him, was able ultimately to subdue the country.
The Queen was protected from all risk by her sex, Cecil by his physical incapacity, Bacon by his profession, and
1 See his despatch to the Queen of 25th June, 1599, printed in Devereux, Lives, ii. 36.
Ralegh by the interest which he was able to make with the Queen. How ungenerous therefore and calculated to wound and exasperate a man of Essex's temperament were the criticisms passed upon him at home is apparent. For, after all, when everyone else was trying to get out of the command, Essex had come forward and offered to undertake it from motives in which patriotism probably quite as much as desire for distinction were involved, and against the advice of his friend Bacon based on reasons of an entirely selfish character.
To anyone who, like the present writer, has passed many years in the Government service, it is almost a matter of instinct to ask himself, in reading a despatch, the question, who drafted it? Even, however, without such an experience it should be obvious to anyone that many of the letters signed by Queen Elizabeth were not written by her, because her style, where we really have specimens of it, was so crabbed as to be sometimes unintelligible. Of this the letter of the Queen to Essex printed at p. 445, vol. i, of Devereux's Lives, is a good example. If we could determine by whom some of these despatches were drafted we should be able to infer, more or less, by whom the Queen had been advised. I have frequently suggested that Cecil must have been the adviser, because he was the Secretary and the only man, after the death of Burghley, to whom the Queen probably paid much attention in affairs of State. But there is a very significant passage in Bacon's " Apology,” which has a bearing on this point and it is so worded as to suggest that he is skating over very thin ice, and, in plain English, not speaking the truth. The passage is as follows : 3
“ After my Lord's going (to Ireland), I saw how true a prophet I was (that the absence of Essex would exulcerate the Queen's mind against him), in regard to the evident alterations which naturally succeeded in the Queen's mind; and thereupon I was still in watch to find the best occasion that in the weakness of my power I could either take or minister, to pull him out of the fire if it had been possible : and not long after, methought I saw some overture thereof, which I apprehended readily; a particularity I think be known to very few, and the which I do rather relate unto your Lordship, because I hear it should be talked, that while my Lord was in Ireland I revealed some matter against him, or I cannot tell what; which if it were not a mere
slander as the rest is, but had any though never so little colour, was surely upon this occasion. The Queen one day at Nonesuch, a little (as I remember) before Cuffe's coming over, I attending her, showed passionate distaste of my Lord's proceedings in Ireland, as if they were unfortunate, without judgment, contemptuous, and not without some private end of his own, and all that might be, and was pleased, as she spake of it to many that she trusted least, so to fall into the like speech with me; whereupon I, who was still awake and true to my grounds which I thought surest for my Lord's good, said to this affect "[ that she should bring Essex back to the Court and to attend about her]
“ for to discontent him as you do, and yet to put arms and power into his hands, may be a kind of temptation to make him prove cumbersome and unruly."
Now among the despatches printed in Devereux's Lives there are two from the Queen to Essex, dated, respectively, 14th and 17th September 1599 (vol. ii., 61, 73) of such a peculiarly rhetorical style and masterly handling, and so different in form from the usual official communications of that day, that they at once suggest the question by whom could they have been drafted. In the light of the foregoing passage the answer seems inevitable, that they are the work of Bacon. These despatches are so cruelly worded and make so little allowance for the difficulties in which Essex was placed, that they alone would be sufficient to account for his desperation in leaving his command and forcing himself into the Queen's presence. Take, for example, the following from the first, in which, by subtle innuendo, Essex is clearly charged with working (to use the words describing the feelings of the Queen in the Apology) “not without some private end of his own." After alluding to the operations under such bitter terms as
strange," an excuse,” a “pretence," and so forth, the despatch says : "Further we require you to consider whether we have not great cause to think that your purpose is not to end the war, when yourself have often told us,” etc. It continues :
" We must therefore let you know, as it cannot be ignorance, so it cannot be want of means; for you had your asking, you had choice of times, you had power and authority more ample than ever any had, or ever shall have ; it may well be judged with how little contentment we seek this and other errors, but how should that be hid which is so palpable ?"
It is to be noted that in the " Declaration ” of the Earl's Treasons, which was drafted by Bacon, the same charge is made, that the Earl's military movements in Ireland were a “pretence":
“ But after he had once by her Majesty's singular trust and favour toward him obtained his patent of commission as large, and his list of forces as full as he desired, there was an end in his course of the prosecution in the North. For being arrived into Ireland, the whole carriage of his actions there was nothing else but a cunning defeating of that journey, with an intent (as appeared) in the end of the year to pleasure and gratify the rebel with a dishonourable peace, and to contract with him for his own greatness.
Therefore not long after he had received the sword, he did voluntarily engage himself in an unseasonable and fruitless journey into Munster, a journey never propounded in the Council there, never advertised over hither while it was past : by which journey her Majesty's forces, which were to be preserved entire both in vigour and number for the great prosecution, were harassed and tired with long marches together, and the northern prosecution was indeed quite dashed and made impossible.
But yet still doubting he might receive from her Majesty some quick and express commandment to proceed ; to be sure, he pursued his former device of wrapping himself in other actions, and so set himself on work anew in the county of Ophaley, being resolved, as is manifest, to dally out the season, and never to have gone that journey at all: that setting forward which he made in the very end of August being but a mere play and mockery, and for the purposes which shall now be delivered."1
It may be said that Bacon had these and the other Government dispatches before him when he drafted this Declaration. Probably he had; but this does not explain the strong similarity in the style of this passage with that of the two despatches in question.
The despatches are both dated from Nonsuch" and the first is in reply to " your letters by Cuffe." This accounts for the very curious “a little (as I remember) before Cuffe's coming over " of the Apology ; I say "curious " because it is a detail which is unnecessary for the argument, and it indicates that the writer had something damaging in his mind against which he sought to guard himself. These considerations
Spedding, Letters and Life, ii. 252.
combined seem to place it beyond reasonable doubt that Bacon drafted these two despatches. But as they are most formal documents of State, dealing with very critical questions, they cannot have been sent off without the cognizance of Cecil, the Secretary, and it seems very improbable that they should have been submitted to the Queen for her signature except by him and after he had revised them. In that case the official responsibility was his. The interesting fact historically is that Bacon is here proved to have been working at that time for Cecil. What there is to be said about this is another question. I will only note here that his performance at this juncture-if his it be (and I have no doubt of it)—is hardly more strange than his forensic efforts against the Earl later, of which the world has long taken cognizance. On the other hand if Bacon had not been prepared to make himself useful he would not have had access to the Queen. It was for his brains that he was employed.
What can have been the “particularity" (quotation from the Apology) which rumour said that Bacon had revealed to the Queen to the prejudice of Essex? The answer seems to be supplied by the concluding remark in the passage quoted above from the Apology, which is a very good example of that extraordinary simplicity of mind and lack of practical judgment, which, in spite of his subtlety, was a leading feature in Bacon's character. Could any advice have been more likely to excite the apprehensions of the Queen ? And yet Bacon actually takes credit for giving it in a document put out to prove
that he did his best for the Earl ! The matter in question had evidently to do with the rumours that Essex intended to bring over the army, and it is more than likely that, carried away by his satisfaction at being consulted by the Queen, Bacon said something indiscreet about the Scottish correspondence, in which he himself had been concerned. It was his character, shown throughout his life, that he could oppose no resistance where the sovereign was concerned.
Some writers have taken a more unfavourable view of Bacon's conduct, that he deliberately played the game of Cecil in luring Essex to his destruction; and they base this opinion on the statement in the Apology that he did his best