It may please your Grace;|
I have considered the objections, perused the statutes, and framed the alterations, which I send; still keeping myself within the brevity of a letter and form of a narration; not entering into a form of argument or disputation: For in my poor conceit it is somewhat against the majesty of princes' actions to make too curious and striving apologies; but rather to set them forth plainly, and so as there may appear an harmony and constancy in them, so that one part upholdeth another. And so I wish your Grace all prosperity. From my poor lodging, this, etc.
This letter is without date; nor is there any note to
explain the occasion on which it was written, or the nature of the
enclosure which it seems to have conveyed. But upon a careful examination
of the words it clearly appears, --
1st, that Bacon had previously submitted to Archbishop
Whitgift, for consideration, the draft of some brief narrative in
explanation of some of the Queen's actions.|
2ndly, that the object of it was to justify what she had done; but that the justification was implied in a plain statement of the facts, without the help of arguments or apologies.
3rdly, that the justification rested upon the fact that her conduct had been consistent.
4thly, that the narrative included a reference to certain statutes.
5thly, that the paper had been sent back to him with some objections, and was now returned by him with alterations made by himself to meet them, but still in the same form.
If therefore a paper can be found answering this description in all points, and written when Whitgift was Archbishop of Canterbury and an active Privy Councillor, we may conclude (if not with absolute certainty yet with a probability almost amounting to certainty) that it was the paper referred to in the foregoing letter; not perhaps in exactly the same shape (for other alterations may have been introduced afterwards), but the same substantially.
Now precisely such a paper I do find in the Scrinia
Sacra; that is to say, a letter addressed by Sir Francis Walsingham to
an official person in France, containing an explanation in a narrative form
of the Queen's proceedings towards the Catholics on the one hand and the
Puritans on the other; framed expressly to show that her course had been
consistent throughout; including a reference to two statutes; and written
before the 6th of April, 1590 (the date of Walsingham's death), but not
before 1589 (for it has an obvious allusion to the Marprelate libels); the
greater part of which letter, I should add (as a circumstance which, taken
along with the rest, may be considered conclusive), is also found almost
word for word in Bacon's 'Observations on a Libel,' written in 1592. And
here it follows:--|
To Monsieur Critoy, Secretary of France.
Whereas you desire to be advertised touching the proceedings here in ecclesiastical causes, because you seem to note in them some inconstancy and variation, as if we sometimes inclined to one side and sometimes to another, and as if that clemency and lenity were not used of late which was used in the beginning; all which you impute to your own superficial understanding of the affairs of this state, having notwithstanding her Majesty's doings in singular reverence, as the real pledges which she hath given unto the world of her sincerity in religion and of her wisdom in government well meriteth; I am glad of this occasion to impart that little I know in that matter to you, both for your own satisfaction and to the end you may make use thereof towards any that shall not be so modestly and so reasonably minded as you are. ...
And therefore, Sir, to conclude, consider uprightly of these matters, and
you shall see her Majesty is no temporizer in religion. It is not the
success abroad, nor the change of servants here at home, can alter her;
only as the things themselves alter, so she applieth her religious wisdom
to methods correspondent unto them; still retaining the two rules before
mentioned, in dealing tenderly with consciences and yet in discovering
faction from conscience and softness from singularity. Farewell.
If this letter was really drawn up by Bacon (of which,
for the reasons above-stated, I have myself no doubt), it is interesting as
the earliest specimen we have of his taste, judgment, and policy in
conducting the defence of the government against popular imputations; the
best policy, provided only that the case of the government be good
enough to bear it. It is to be remembered indeed that
it was not written in his own name, and that his was not the last
judgment which was to be satisfied. Whitgift as well as Walsingham had a
strong personal interest in the matter, nor did he want either authority or
opportunity to correct his old pupil's exercise. If the original manuscript
should ever be discovered, I think traces will be found here and there, but
especially towards the end of the last sentence but two, where the style
and the logic both halt a little, of the Primate's hand. In the main
however, it bears both in conception and execution all the marks of Bacon's