Front Page Titles (by Subject) C. Coke's Hearing, June 26, 1616. - Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. III
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C. Coke’s Hearing, June 26, 1616. - Sir Edward Coke, Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. III 
The Selected Writings and Speeches of Sir Edward Coke, ed. Steve Sheppard (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003). Vol. 3.
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C. Coke’s Hearing, June 26, 1616.
Ed.: Following the commendams argument, effectively staged by Francis Bacon, Coke’s dismissal was but a matter of time. These notes were printed in the Acts of the Privy Council, 1616.
It may please your most excellent Majestie.
The Lorde Chiefe Justice, presentinge himself on his knee at the Boarde, your Sollicitor signifyed: That hee was by your commaundement to charge him for certaine acts and speeches, wherein your Majestie was much unsatisfyed; which were in number three.
1. First, an act donn.
2. Secoundly, speeches of hiegh contempt utterred in a seate of justice.
3. Thirdly, uncomely and undutifull carryage in the presence of your Majestie, your Privie Councell, and your Judges.
Concerninge the first, which was the act. It was donn when hee was in place of trust, and concerned a statute of 12,000li. taken of Sir Christopher Hatton, to the use of Sir Edward Coke, when hee was your Majesty’s Attorney-Generall; not to pay a debte of good value, due unto your Majestie, nor to accept of a discharge for the same, and for the better streingtheninge of that statute there was likewise a bond taken of 6,000li., with suerties to the same effect; soe that Sir Christopher Hatton lay charged under the penaltie of 18,000li. not to pay the debte, to agree to noe surrender, discharge, or release, nor anie way to assent thereunto. That this offence was aggravated by denyall and protestacion made of late by the Lord Chiefe Justice, that hee was not privie to the condicion of the defeasaunce; whereas the statute was taken to his use, the defeasaunce by indenture, whereof Sir Christopher Hatton’s part was founde, but the other parte was not founde. That he was privie to the peninge of it, inserted wordes with his owne haunde, and that Mr. Walter and Mr. Bridgman, his owne councell, were witnesses to it.
The secounde pointe was, wordes spoken in the Kinges Bench, the last day of Hillary tearme last, in a case of Glanvile and Allen, whereof your Sollicitor made a narrative relacion, and charged the Lord Chiefe Justice to have given too much harte and incoragement to that cause. That hee had too constauntly directed the jury, turned them thrice from the barr, threatenned to comitt them, examined them by the pole, and tolde them that they had ben tamperred withall. That hee had given warneinge to the councellors at the barr that, if they sett their haundes to a Bill after judgement, hee would | foreclose them the Courte; and further in another case the same day sayde, that the Common Lawe of Englaunde would bee overthrowen, and that the light of the lawe would bee obscured, and that all this was confirmed by good wittnes.
The thirde and last pointe was, his undecent behaviour before your Majestie, your Councell, and your Judges; and that consisted of twoe partes. First, the exception hee tooke at your learned councell in your presence for speakinge by your commaundement.
The secound, that your Majestie havinge openned yourself in the case of commendams, and satisfyed the Judges, that your Majestie sendinge unto them had noe intent to delay justice; and question beinge putt to the rest of the Judges, whether they did hold it for a delay of justice, that your Majestie had sent in that cause, or if you shoulde send hereafter in a like case, wherein your Majesty’s prerogative were interressed, the rest of the Judges submittinge themselves, hee alone dissented from all the rest.
This beinge the effect of your Sollicitor’s charge, the Lord Chiefe Justice made aunsweare: That hee would, by their lordships’ favours, beginn with the last, and sayde, that for the pointe of challendginge and takeinge exception at your Majesty’s councell learned speakinge in the case of comendams by your Majesty’s commaundement, hee acknowledged it for an error, and humbly submitted himself.
To the pointe, that upon the question asked the Judges touchinge stay of proceedinges, hee did deny, when all the rest of the Judges did yeild, his aunsweare was: that the question included a multitude of particulars, which suddenly occurringe to his minde, caused him to make that aunsweare, that when that time should bee, hee would doe that which should become an honest and just Judge.
For the bonde, he sayeth that that assuraunce was in hammeringe a yeare and a half. They were elephantini libri;1 and nowe, twelve yeares beinge past, it was noe marvaile if his memorie were shorte, specially since about that time hee was imployed, first in the greate services of the priests’ treason, and Cobham’s treason, and the next yeare in the powder treason; and that, if anie thinge have slipped him in that multitude of businesses, lett theis services blott out his errors.
Secoundly, hee did use an argument ab impossibili,2 which was, that the debte remayneinge at that time was 33,000li., and that younge Mr. Hatton’s meanes were very meane, not above 100 markes a yeare; and therefore impossible for him to redeeme it; and that, as soone as it came to a possibillitie, when hee first heard of Sir Robert Rich his offer, hee then submitted it, before such time as hee remembred the statute or defeasaunce.
Thirdly, cui bono:3 Hee sayd hee never had anie profitt by it, but the presentacion to a benefice; and all the rest was his wive’s.
Fowerthly, the Crowne was content with the installment, and hee did but take bondes to continewe it; and throughout all this, hee submitted himself to your Majestie and the Boarde, sayinge Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea.4
| For his speeches in the Kinges Bench, etc., hee sayeth first, that whatsoever was donn, was donn by common consent, and for those speeches, manie of them were spoken, and hee knewe by whom they were spoken, but not by himself: and then offerred fower consideracions.
1. That the commission (unto which nevertheles hee did in noe wise except) was ad informandum non ad convincendum.5
2. That there were but witnesses on one syde.
3. That the interrogatories might bee drawne too shorte.
4. That it was concerninge wordes spoken fower moneths agoe, which beinge spoken amongst manie might bee reported diversly, and thereupon produced a paper writen by himself, contayneinge (as hee sayeth) the true passages of that day; which paper wee present to your Majestie herewithall, beinge, as hee sayd, sett downe by himself the next after, sedato animo.6
And touchinge the wordes: that the common lawe would bee overthrowen, and that the Judges would have but little to doe at Assizes, because the light of the lawe would bee obscured, hee confesseth the wordes, but sayth they were not spoken the same day, but another time in a cause of Sir Anthonie Mildmaies; and added, that hee will not maintaine the differrence betweene the twoe Courtes, nor bringe it into question; yet, if it were an error, hee may say Erravimus cum patribus;7 and thereupon alleadged three examples: first, the articles against Cardinall Wolsey, 21 Henry 8, wherein the same wordes are used that such proceedinges in Chancery tended to the subversion of the common lawe; secoundly, the booke called the Doctor and Student; and thirdly, an opinion of the Judges in Throgmorton’s case in Queen Elizabeth’s time; addinge further that for the time to come there was noe dainger; for that the Judges, havinge receaved your Majesty’s commaundement by your Attorney Generall, that noe Bills of that nature should hereafter bee receaved, hee and his bretheren have caused the same to bee entred as an order in the same Courte, which shalbe observed.
Which beinge the effect of his aunsweare, wee have thought good withall to add that before us, as well in speech as in action, hee behaved himself very modestly and submissively.
This certificate was made the 26 day of this present June.
| At the Court at Greenewich, Sonday morneineinge (sic), the 30th of June, 1616.
Present: Lord Archbishop of Canterburie, Lord Treasurer, Lord Privie Seale, Lord Zouch, Lord Knollis, Lord Wotton, Mr. Vice-Chamberlein, Mr. Secretary Winwoode, Mr. Secretary Lake, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchecquer, Master of the Roles, Mr. Attorney Generall.
Sir Edward Coke, knight, Chiefe Justice of the King’s Bench, presentinge himself this day at thes Boarde, upon his knees, Mr. Secretary Winwoode signifyed unto him that their lordships had made reporte to his Majestie of that which passed on Wednesday last at Whithall, where hee was charged by his Majesty’s Sollicitor with certaine thinges, wherein his Majesty was much unsatisfyed: which report contayned a true and just relacion, aswell of those thinges which were then objected against him, as of his aunsweares thereunto in particular, and that, rather to his advantage then otherwise; which beinge delivered in writinge, and in his princely judgement duly waighed and considered of, his Majestie was noe way satisfyed with his aunsweares to anie of those three pointes, wherewith he stood charged, vizt.: neither in that which hee made concerninge the bonde and defeasaunce upon the installment of a debte of Sir Christopher Hatton, late Lord Chancellor of Englaund; nor yet in that which hee maketh concerninge his speeches of hiegh contempt, utterred as he sate in the seate of justice, concerninge the overthrowe of the common law; nor lastly, in the aunsweare hee offereth to excuse his uncivill and indiscreete carryage before his Majestie, assisted with his Privie Councell and his Judges: but that the charge lyeth still upon him, notwithstandinge anie thinge contayned in his said aunsweares.
Nevertheles, such is his Majesty’s clemencie and goodnes, as hee is pleased not to proceede heavely against him, but rather to looke upon the meritt of his former services; and accordingly hath decreed.
First: that hee bee sequestred from the Councell Table, untill his Majesty’s pleasure be further knowne.
Secoundly: that hee doe forbeare to ryde this sommer’s circuit as Justice of Assize.
Lastly: that duringe this vacacion, while hee hath time to live privately and dispose himself at home, hee take into his consideracion and review his bookes of Reportes, wherein (as his Majestie is informed) there bee manie exorbitaunt and extravagant opinions sett downe and published for positive and goodlawe; and if, in the review and reading thereof, hee finde anie thinge fitt to be altred or amended, the correctinge thereof is leaft to his discretion. Amongst other thinges, his Majestie was not well pleased with the tytle of those bookes, | wherein hee styled himself Lord Chiefe Justice of Englaunde, whereas hee could challendge noe more then Chiefe Justice of the Kinges Bench. And havinge corrected what in his discretion hee found meete in those Reportes, his Majesty’s pleasure was, that hee should bringe the same privately tohimself, that hee might consider thereof, as in his princely judgement should bee found expedient. Hereunto the Secretary advised him to conforme himself in all dutie and obeydience, as hee ought, whereby hee might hope that his Majestie in time would receave him againe to his gracious and princely favour.
Hereunto the Lord Chiefe Justice made aunsweare; that hee did in all humillitie prostrate himself to his Majesty’s good pleasure: thatheeacknowledged the decree to bee just, and proceeded rather from his Majesty’s exceedinge mercie, then from his justice; gave humble thankes to their lordships for their favour and goodnes towards him, and hoped that his behaviour for the future should bee such as should deserve their lordships’ favour.
My lordes havinge thus farr proceeded, the Lorde Treasurer told him that hee had one thinge more to lett him knowe, which belounged to the Erles Marshall’s to take notice of, and was, that his coachman used of late to ryde bareheaded before him, which was more then hee could anie way challendge or assume to himself, and required him to forbeare it for the future. To which the Lord Chiefe Justice aunsweared: that the coachman did it for his owne ease, and not by his commaundement. And soe, with the like submission and acknowledgment of favour, departed.
[1. ][Ed.: elephantine books;]
[2. ][Ed.: of impossibility,]
[3. ][Ed.: to whose benefit?]
[4. ][Ed.: An act does not make someone guilty unless his mind is guilty.]
[5. ][Ed.: to inform, not to convict.]
[6. ][Ed.: in a calm frame of mind.]
[7. ][Ed.: we have erred with our fathers;]