1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bacon, Francis
BACON, FRANCIS (Baron Verulam, Viscount St Albans) (1561–1626), English philosopher, statesman and essayist, was born at York House in the Strand, London, on the 22nd of January 1560/1. He was the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Bacon (q.v.). His mother, the second wife of Sir Nicholas, was a daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, formerly tutor to Edward VI. She was a woman of considerable culture, well skilled in the classical studies of the period, and a warm adherent of the Reformed or Puritan Church. Very little is known of Bacon’s early life and education. His health being then, as always, extremely delicate, he probably received much of his instruction at home. In April 1573 he was entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, where for three years he resided with his brother Anthony. At Cambridge he applied himself diligently to the several sciences as then taught, and came to the conclusion that the methods employed and the results attained were alike erroneous. Although he preserved a reverence for Aristotle (of whom, however, he seems to have known but little), he learned to despise the current Aristotelian philosophy. It yielded no fruit, was serviceable only for disputation, and the end it proposed to itself was a mistaken one. Philosophy must be taught its true purpose, and for this purpose a new method must be devised. With the first germs of this great conception in his mind, Bacon left the university.
On the 27th of June 1576 he and his brother Anthony were entered de societate magistrorum at Gray’s Inn, and a few months later he was sent abroad with Sir Amyas Paulet, the English ambassador at Paris. The disturbed state of government and society in France at that time afforded him valuable political instruction. It was formerly supposed that certain Notes on the State of Christendom, usually printed in his works, contain the results of his observations, but Spedding has shown that there is no reason for ascribing these Notes to him, and that they may be attributed with more probability to one of his brother Anthony’s correspondents.
The sudden death of his father in February 1578/9 necessitated Bacon’s return to England, and exercised a very serious influence on his fortunes. A considerable sum of money had been laid up by Sir Nicholas for the purchase of an estate for his youngest son, the only one otherwise unprovided for. Owing to his sudden death, this intention was not carried out, and a fifth only of the money descended to Francis. This was one of the gravest misfortunes of his life; he started with insufficient means, acquired a habit of borrowing and was never afterwards out of debt. As it had become necessary that he should adopt some profession, he selected that of law, and took up his residence at Gray’s Inn in 1579.
In the fragment De Interpretatione Naturae Prooemium (written probably about 1603) Bacon analyses his own mental character and lays before us the objects he had in view when he entered on public life. If his opening sentence, “Ego cum me ad utilitates humanas natum existimarem” (“since I thought myself born to be of advantage to mankind”), seems at first sight a little arrogant, it must be remembered that it is the arrogance of Aristotle’s μεγαλόψυχος, who thinks himself worthy of great things, and is worthy. The ideal of production of good to the human race through the discovery of truth, was combined in him with the practical desire to be of service to his country. He purposed, therefore, to obtain, if possible, some honourable post in the state which would give him the means of realizing these projects, and would enable him to do somewhat for the church, the third of the objects whose good he had at heart. The constant striving after these three ends is the key to Bacon’s life. His qualifications for accomplishing the task were not small. His intellect was far-seeing and acute, quick and yet cautious, meditative, methodical and free from prejudice. If we add to this account that he seems to have been of an unusually amiable disposition we have a fairly complete picture of his mental character at this critical period of his life.
In 1580 he appears to have taken the first step in his career by applying, through his uncle, Burghley, the lord treasurer, for some post at court. His suit, though well received by the queen, was unsuccessful; the particulars are totally unknown. For two years after this disappointment he worked quietly at Gray’s Inn, and in 1582 was admitted an outer barrister. In 1584 he took his seat in parliament for Melcombe in Dorsetshire, but the notes for the session do not disclose what reputation he gained. About the same time he made another application to Burghley, apparently with a view to expediting his progress at the bar. His uncle, who appears to have “taken his zeal for ambition,” wrote him a severe letter, taking him to task for arrogance and pride, qualities which Bacon vehemently disclaimed. As his advancement at the bar was unusually rapid, his uncle’s influence may have been exerted in his behalf. In 1589 he received the first substantial piece of patronage from his powerful kinsman, the reversion of the clerkship of the Star Chamber. The office was worth about £1600 a year; but it did not become vacant for nearly twenty years. A considerable period of his life thus slipped away, and his affairs had not prospered. He had written on the condition of parties in the church; he had set down his thoughts on philosophical reform in the lost tract, Temporis Partus Maximus; but he had failed in obtaining the position which he looked upon as an indispensable condition of success. A long and eloquent letter to Burghley throws additional light upon his character, and gives a hint as to the cause of his uncle’s slackness in promoting him.
Some time before this, perhaps as early as 1588, Bacon appears to have become acquainted with the earl of Essex, Elizabeth’s favourite. At the close of 1591 he was acting as the earl’s confidential adviser, and exerted himself, together with his brother Anthony, diligently in the earl’s service. In February 1593 parliament was called, and Bacon took his seat for Middlesex. The special occasion for which the House had been summoned was the discovery of one of the numerous popish plots that distracted Elizabeth’s reign.
As Bacon’s conduct in this emergency seriously affected his fortunes and has been much misunderstood, it is necessary to state, as briefly as possible, the whole facts of the case. The House having been duly informed of the state necessities, assented to a double subsidy and appointed a committee to draw up the requisite articles. Before this was completed, a message arrived from the House of Lords requesting a conference, which was granted. The committee of the Commons were then informed that the crisis demanded a triple subsidy to be collected in a shorter time than usual, that the Lords could not assent to less than this, and that they desired to confer on the matter. This proposal of the Lords to discuss supply infringed upon the privileges of the Commons; accordingly, when the report of committee was read to the Lower House, Bacon spoke against the proposed conference, pointing out at the same time that a communication from the Lords might be received, but that the actual deliberation on it must be taken by themselves alone. His motion, after some delay, was carried and the conference was rejected. The Lords upon this lowered their demands, and desired merely to make a communication, which, being legitimate, was at once assented to. The House had then before them the proposal for a triple subsidy, to be collected in three, or, as the motion ultimately was shaped, in four years, instead of in six, as the ordinary custom would have been. Bacon, who approved of the increased subsidy, was opposed to the short period in which it was proposed to raise it. He suggested that it would be difficult or impossible for the people to meet such heavy demands, that discontent and trouble would arise, and that the better method of procedure was to raise money by levy or imposition. His motion appears to have received no support, and the four years’ subsidy was passed unanimously. Bacon, as it turned out, had been mistaken in thinking that the country would be unable to meet the increased taxation, and his conduct, though prompted by a pure desire to be of service to the queen, gave deep and well-nigh ineradicable offence. He was accused of seeking popularity, and was for a time excluded from the court. His letter to Burghley, who had told him of the queen’s displeasure with his speech, offers no apology for what he had said, but expresses regret that his motives should have been misunderstood. He soon felt that the queen’s anger was not to be appeased by such a justification. The attorney-generalship had fallen vacant and Bacon became a candidate for the office, his most formidable rival being his life-long antagonist, Edward Coke, who was then solicitor. Essex warmly espoused Bacon’s cause and earnestly pressed his claims upon the queen; but his impetuous, pettish pleading tended to retard the cause. Burghley, on the other hand, in no way promoted his nephew’s interest; he would recommend him for the solicitorship, but not for the attorney-generalship; and it is not improbable that Sir Robert Cecil secretly used his influence against his cousin. The queen delayed the appointment, and Bacon’s fortunes, as they then stood, could ill brook delay. He was harassed with debt and at times so disheartened that he contemplated retirement from public life. In March 1594 it was at last understood that Coke was to be attorney-general. Essex, though bitterly mortified, at once threw all his energies into the endeavour to procure for Bacon the solicitorship; but in this case also, his method of dealing, which was wholly opposed to Bacon’s advice, seemed to irritate the queen. The old offence was not yet forgiven, and after a tedious delay, the office was given, in October 1595, to Serjeant Thomas Fleming. Burghley and Sir John Puckering seem to have assisted Bacon honestly, if not over-warmly, in this second application; but the conduct of Cecil had roused suspicions which were not perhaps without foundation. Essex, to compensate in some degree for Bacon’s disappointment, insisted on presenting him with a piece of land, worth about £1800, and situated probably near Twickenham Park. Nor did his kindness cease there; before sailing on the expedition to Cadiz, in the beginning of 1596, he addressed letters to Buckhurst, Fortescue and Egerton, earnestly requesting them to use their influence towards procuring for Bacon the vacant office of master of the rolls. Before anything came of this application, the Cadiz expedition had resulted in a brilliant success, and Essex became the idol of the army and the people. Bacon saw clearly that such a reputation would assuredly alienate the affections of the queen, who loved not to have a subject too powerful or too popular. He therefore addressed an eloquent and imploring letter to the earl, pointing out the dangers of his position and urging upon him what he judged to be the only safe course of action, to seek and secure the favour of the queen alone; above all things dissuading him from the appearance of military popularity. His advice, however, was unpalatable and proved ineffectual. The earl still continued his usual course of dealing with the queen, depending solely upon her supposed affection for him, and insanely jealous of any other whom she might seem to favour. His unskilful and unlucky management of the sea expedition to Ferrol and the Azores in no way lowered his popularity with the people, but undoubtedly weakened his influence with the queen.
Bacon’s affairs in the meantime had not been prospering. He had increased his reputation by the publication in 1597 of his Essays, along with which were the Colours of Good and Evil and the Meditationes Sacrae; but his private fortunes were in a bad condition. No public office apparently could be found for him; a scheme for retrieving his position by a marriage with the wealthy widow, Lady Elizabeth Hatton, failed, and in 1598 he was arrested for debt. He seems, however, to have been growing in favour with the queen. Some years previously (perhaps about 1594), he had begun to be employed by her in crown affairs, and he gradually acquired the standing of one of the learned counsel, though he had no commission or warrant, and received no salary. At the same time he was no longer on the former friendly terms with Essex, a certain estrangement having sprung up between them, caused no doubt by the earl’s dislike of his friend’s advice. The earl’s affairs were then at a somewhat critical stage, and as our judgment upon a most important episode in Bacon’s life depends upon our knowledge of the events of the ensuing year, it will be requisite to enter somewhat minutely into proceedings with which Bacon himself had nothing to do.
Ireland was then in a rebellious and discontented condition, and it was difficult for the English government to decide either on a definite course of policy with regard to it, or on a leader by whom that policy might be carried out. A violent quarrel took place between the queen and Essex, who for some months retired from court and refused to be reconciled. At last he came forth from his seclusion, and it was soon understood that he was in person to undertake the subjugation of the rebels in Ireland, with a larger force than had ever before been sent into that country. Into the obscure details of this unhappy campaign it is unnecessary to enter; one fact stands out clearly, that Essex endeavoured to carry out a treasonable design. His jealousy and ill-temper had been so roused that the only course open to him seemed to be the obtaining a powerful military force, the possession of which would compel the queen to reinstate him in her favour. Whether or not this plan was in contemplation before he undertook the Irish expedition is not evident, though even outsiders at that time entertained some suspicions, but there can be no doubt of the treasonable character of the negotiations carried on in Ireland. His plans, probably not very definite, were disturbed by an imperative message from the queen, ordering him not to return to England without her permission. He at once set off, and, trusting apparently to her affection for him, presented himself suddenly before her. He was, for the moment, received kindly, but was soon afterwards ordered to keep his chamber, and was then given into the custody of the lord keeper at York House, where he remained till March 1600. His great popularity, and the general ignorance of the reasons for his imprisonment, stirred up a strong feeling against the queen, who was reported to be influenced by Bacon, and such indignation was raised against the latter that his friends feared his life would be in danger. It was at last felt necessary that the queen should in some way vindicate her proceedings, and this she at first did, contrary to Bacon’s advice, by a declaration from the Star Chamber. This, however, gave little or no satisfaction, and it was found expedient to do what Bacon had always recommended, to have a fair trial, yet not one in which the sentence must needs be damaging to the earl. The trial accordingly took place before a body of her majesty’s councillors, and Bacon had a subordinate and unimportant part in the accusation. Essex does not seem to have been at all hurt by his action in this matter, and shortly after his release they were again on friendly terms, Bacon drawing up letters as if to or from the earl with the design of having them brought before the queen. But Bacon did not know the true character of the transactions in which Essex had been engaged. The latter had been released from all custody in August, but in the meantime he had been busily engaged in treasonable correspondence with James of Scotland, and was counting on the Irish army under his ally, Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy (afterwards earl of Devonshire), the new deputy. But Mountjoy had apparently come to see how useless the attempt would be to force upon the queen a settlement of the succession and declined to go farther in the matter. Essex was thus thrown upon his own resources, and his anger against the queen being roused afresh by the refusal to renew his monopoly of sweet wines, he formed the desperate project of seizing her person and compelling her to dismiss from her council his enemies Raleigh, Cobham, and Cecil. As some pretext, he intended to affirm that his life was in danger from these men, who were in league with the Spaniards. The plot was forced on prematurely by the suspicions excited at court, and the rash attempt to rouse the city of London (8th of February 1601), proved a complete fiasco. The leaders were arrested that night and thrown into prison. Although the actual rising might have appeared a mere outburst of frantic passion, the private examinations of the most prominent conspirators disclosed to the government a plot so widely spread, and involving so many of the highest in the land, that it would have been perilous to have pressed home accusations against all who might be implicated. Essex was tried along with the young earl of Southampton, and Bacon, as one of her majesty’s counsel, was present on the occasion. Coke, who was principal spokesman, managed the case with great want of skill, incessantly allowing the thread of the evidence to escape, and giving the prisoners opportunity to indulge in irrelevant justifications and protestations which were not ineffectual in distracting attention from the real question at issue. On the first opportunity Bacon rose and briefly pointed out that the earl’s plea of having done nothing save what was absolutely necessary to defend his life from the machinations of his enemies was weak and worthless, inasmuch as these enemies were purely imaginary; and he compared his case to that of Peisistratus, who had made use of a somewhat similar stratagem to cloak his real designs upon the city of Athens. He was thereupon interrupted by the earl, who proceeded to defend himself, by declaring that in one of the letters drawn up by Bacon, and purporting to be from the earl to Anthony Bacon, the existence of these rumours, and the dangers to be apprehended from them, had been admitted; and he continued, “If these reasons were then just and true, not counterfeit, how can it be that now my pretences are false and injurious?” To this Bacon replied, that “the letters, if they were there, would not blush to be seen for anything contained in them, and that he had spent more time in vain in studying how to make the earl a good servant to the queen than he had done in any thing else.” It seems to be forgotten in the general accounts of this matter, not only that Bacon’s letters bear out what he said, but that the earl’s excuses were false. A second time Bacon was compelled to interfere in the course of the trial, and to recall to the minds of those present the real question at issue. He animadverted strongly upon the puerile nature of the defence, and in answer to a remark by Essex, that if he had wished to stir up a rebellion he would have had a larger company with him, pointed out that his dependence was upon the people of London, and compared his attempt to that of the duke of Guise at Paris. To this the earl made little or no reply. Bacon’s use of this illustration and of the former one of Peisistratus, has been much commented on, and in general it seems to have been thought that had it not been for his speeches Essex might have escaped, or, at all events, have been afterwards pardoned. But this view of the matter depends on the supposition that Essex was guilty only of a rash outbreak. That this was not the case was well known to the queen and her council. Unfortunately, prudential motives hindered the publication of the whole evidence; the people, consequently, were still ignorant of the magnitude of the crime, and, till recently, biographers of Bacon have been in a like ignorance. The earl himself, before execution, confessed his guilt and the thorough justice of his sentence, while, with singular lack of magnanimity, he incriminated several against whom accusations had not been brought, among others his sister Lady Rich. After his execution it was thought necessary that some account of the facts should be drawn up and circulated, in order to remove the prejudice against the queen’s action in the matter. This was entrusted to Bacon, who drew up a Declaration of the Practices and Treasons attempted and committed by Robert, late Earl of Essex, his first draft being extensively altered and corrected by the queen and council. Nothing is known with certainty of the reception given to this official explanation, but the ill-feeling against Bacon was not wholly removed, and some years later, in 1604, he published, in the form of a letter to Mountjoy, an Apology for his action in the case. This Apology gives a most fair and temperate history of the relations between Bacon and Essex, shows how the prudent counsel of the one had been rejected by the other, and brings out very clearly what we conceive to be the true explanation of the matter. Everything that Bacon could do was done by him, until the real nature of Essex’s design was made apparent, and then, as he had repeatedly told the earl, his devotion and respect were for the queen and state, not for any subject; friendship could never take rank above loyalty. Those who blame Bacon must acquit Essex of all wrong-doing.
Bacon’s private fortunes, during the period after the death of Essex, were not in a flourishing condition. He had obtained a grant of £1200 from the fines imposed on Catesby, one of the conspirators, but his debts were sufficient to swallow up this and much more. And, though he was trusted by Elizabeth, and on good terms with her, he seems to have seen that he had no chance of advancement. But her death in 1603, followed by the undisputed succession of James, gave him new hopes. He used every means in his power to bring himself under James’s notice, writing to all his friends at the Scottish court and to the king himself. He managed to obtain a personal interview with the king, but does not seem to have been much satisfied with it. In fact, while the king confirmed in their situations those who had held crown offices under Elizabeth, Bacon, not holding his post by warrant, was practically omitted. He was, however, continued, by special order of the king, as learned counsel extraordinary, but little or no law business appears to have been entrusted to him. He procured, through his cousin Cecil, the dignity of knighthood, which, contrary to his inclination, he received along with about 300 others, on the 23rd of July 1603. Between this time and the opening of James’s first parliament he was engaged in literary work, and sent to the king two pamphlets—one on the Union, the other on measures for the pacification of the church. Shortly after he published his Apology. In March 1604 parliament met, and during their short session Bacon’s hands seem to have been full of work. It was a busy and stirring time, and events occurred during it which carried within them the seeds of much future dissension. Prerogative and privilege came more than once into collision, the abuses of purveyance and wardship were made matters of conference, though the thorough discussion of them was deferred to a succeeding session; while James’s temper was irritated by the objections brought against his favourite scheme of the Union, and by the attitude taken up by the House with regard to religious affairs. The records are barely full enough to enable us to judge of the share taken by Bacon in these discussions; his name generally appears as the reporter of the committees on special subjects. We can occasionally, however, discern traces of his tact and remarkable prudence; and, on the whole, his attitude, particularly with regard to the Union question, recommended him to James. He was shortly afterwards formally installed as learned counsel, receiving the salary of £40, and at the same time a pension of £60 yearly. He was also appointed one of the commission to treat of the conditions necessary for the Union; and the admirable manner in which the duties of that body were discharged must be attributed mainly to his influence and his complete mastery of the subject. During the recess he published his Advancement of Learning, dedicated to the king.
He was now brought into relations with James, and his prospects began to improve. It is important for us to know what were his ideas upon government, upon parliaments, prerogative, and so forth, since a knowledge of this will clear up much that would seem inexplicable in his life. It seems quite evident that Bacon, from position, early training and, one might almost think, natural inclination, held as his ideal of government the Elizabethan system. The king was the supreme power, the centre of law and justice, and his prerogative must not be infringed. Parliament was merely a body called to consult with the king on emergencies (circa ardua regni) and to grant supplies. King and parliament together make up the state, but the former is first in nature and importance. The duty of a statesman was, therefore, to carry out the royal will in as prudent a manner as possible; he was the servant of the king, and stood or fell according to his pleasure. He was not singular in his opinions and he was undoubtedly sincere; and it is only by keeping them constantly in mind that we can understand his after relations with the king.
In the second parliament there was not so much scope for the exercise of his powers. The Gunpowder Plot had aroused in the Commons warmer feelings towards the king; they passed severe laws against recusants, and granted a triple subsidy. At the same time they continued the collection of the grievances concerning which they were to move. In the course of this session Bacon married Alice Barnham “the alderman’s daughter, an handsome maiden, to my liking,” of whom he had written some years before to his cousin Cecil. Little or nothing is known of their married life.
The third parliament was chiefly occupied with the commercial and legal questions rising out of the proposed Union, in particular, with the dispute as to the naturalization of the Post Nati. Bacon argued ably in favour of this measure, but the general feeling was against it. The House would only pass a bill abolishing hostile laws between the kingdoms; but the case of the Post Nati, being brought before the law courts, was settled as the king wished. Bacon’s services were rewarded in June 1607 by the office of solicitor. Several years passed before he gained another step. Meantime, though circumstances had thrown him too much into active life, he had not forgotten his cherished project of reorganizing natural science. A survey of the ground had been made in the Advancement, and some short pieces not published at the time were probably written in the subsequent two or three years. Towards the close of 1607 he sent to his friends a small tract, entitled Cogitata et Visa, probably the first draft of what we have under that title. In 1609 he wrote the noble panegyric, In felicem memoriam Elizabethae, and the curiously learned and ingenious work, De Sapientia Veterum; and completed what seems to have been the Redargutio Philosophiarum, or treatise on the “idols of the theatre.”
In 1610 the famous fourth parliament of James met. Prerogative, despite Bacon’s advice and efforts, clashed more than once with liberty; Salisbury’s bold schemes for relieving the embarrassment caused by the reckless extravagance of the king proved abortive, and the House was dissolved in February 1611. Bacon took a considerable share in the debates, consistently upheld the prerogative, and seemed yet to possess the confidence of the Commons. The death of Salisbury, occurring soon after, opened a position in which Bacon thought his great political skill and sagacity might be made more immediately available for the king’s service. How far he directly offered himself for the post of secretary is uncertain, but we know that his hopes were disappointed, the king himself undertaking the duties of the office. About the same time he made two ineffectual applications for the mastership of the wards; the first, on Salisbury’s death, when it was given to Sir George Carey; the second, on the death of Carey. It is somewhat hard to understand why so little favour was shown by the king to one who had proved himself able and willing to do good service, and who, in spite of his disappointments, still continued zealously to offer advice and assistance. At last in 1613, a fair opportunity for promotion occurred. The death of Sir Thomas Fleming made a vacancy in the chief justiceship of the king’s bench, and Bacon, after some deliberation, proposed to the king that Coke should be removed from his place in the court of common pleas and transferred to the king’s bench. He gives several reasons for this in his letter to the king, but in all probability his chief motive was that pointed out by Spedding, that in the court of king’s bench there would be less danger of Coke coming into collision with the king on questions of prerogative, in handling which Bacon was always very circumspect and tender. The vacancy caused by Coke’s promotion was then filled up by Hobart, and Bacon, finally, stepped into the place of attorney-general. The fact of this advice being offered and followed in all essentials, illustrates very clearly the close relations between the king and Bacon, who had become a confidential adviser on most occasions of difficulty. That his adherence to the royal party was already noticed and commented on appears from the significant remark of Chamberlain, who, after mentioning the recent changes among the law officials, says, “There is a strong apprehension that . . . Bacon may prove a dangerous instrument.”
Further light is thrown upon Bacon’s relations with James, and upon his political sympathies, by the letter to the king advocating the calling of a parliament, and by the two papers of notes on which his letter was founded. These documents, even after due weight is given to all considerations urged in their favour, seem to confirm the view already taken of Bacon’s theory of government, and at the same time show that his sympathies with the royal party tended to blind him to the true character of certain courses of action, which can only be justified by a straining of political ethics. The advice he offered, in all sincerity, was most prudent and sagacious, and might have been successfully carried out by a man of Bacon’s tact and skill; but it was intensely one-sided, and exhibited a curious want of appreciation of what was even then beginning to be looked on as the true relation of king, parliament and people. Unfortunately for James, he could neither adopt nor carry out Bacon’s policy. The parliament which met in April 1614, in which Bacon sat for Cambridge University, and was dissolved in June, after a stormy session, was by no means in a frame of mind suitable for the king’s purposes. The House was enraged at the supposed project (then much misunderstood) of the “Undertakers”; objection was taken to Bacon being elected or serving as a member while holding office as attorney-general; and, though an exception was made in his favour, it was resolved that no attorney-general should in future be eligible for a seat in parliament. No supply was granted, and the king’s necessities were increased instead of diminished. The emergency suggested to some of the bishops the idea of a voluntary contribution, which was eagerly taken up by the noblemen and crown officials. The scheme was afterwards extended so as to take in the whole kingdom, but lost something of its voluntary character, and the means taken to raise the money, which were not what Bacon would have recommended, were calculated to stir up discontent. The general dissatisfaction received a somewhat unguarded and intemperate expression in a letter sent to the justices of Marlborough by a gentleman of the neighbourhood, named Oliver St John, in which he denounced the attempt to raise funds in this way as contrary to law, reason and religion, as constituting in the king personally an act of perjury, involving in the same crime those who contributed, and thereby subjecting all parties to the curses levelled by the church at such offences. St John was summoned before the Star Chamber for slander and treasonable language; and Bacon, ex officio, acted as public prosecutor. The sentence pronounced (a fine of £5000 and imprisonment for life) was severe, but it was not actually inflicted, and probably was not intended to be carried out, the success of the prosecution being all that was desired. St John remained a short time in prison, and was then released, after making a full apology and submission. The fine was remitted. It seems incredible that Bacon’s conduct on this occasion should have been censured by his biographers. The offence was clear; the law was undoubted; no particular sympathy was excited for the culprit; the sentence was not carried out; and Bacon did only what any one in his place would naturally and necessarily have done. The nature of his office involved him in several trials for treason occurring about the same time, and one of these is of interest sufficient to require a somewhat longer examination. Edmund Peacham had been committed to custody for a libel on his superior, James Montagu (1568?–1618), bishop of Bath and Wells. In searching his house for certain papers, the officers came upon some loose sheets stitched together in the form of a sermon, the contents of which were of such a nature that it was judged right to lay them before the council. As it was at first suspected that the writing of this book had been prompted by some disaffected persons, Peacham was interrogated, and after he had declined to give any information, was subjected to torture. Bacon, as one of the learned counsel, was ordered by the council to take part in this examination, which was undoubtedly warranted by precedent, whatever may now be thought of it. Nothing, however, was extracted from Peacham in this way, and it was resolved to proceed against him for treason. Now, in the excited state of popular feeling at that period, the failure of government to substantiate an accusation of treason would have been a serious matter. The king, with whom the council agreed, seems therefore to have thought it desirable to obtain beforehand the opinions of the four chief judges as to whether the alleged offence amounted to treason. In this there was nothing unusual or illegal, and no objection would at that time have been made to it, but James introduced a certain innovation; he proposed that the opinions of the four judges should be given separately and in private. It may be reasonably inferred that his motive for this was the suspicion, or it may be the knowledge, that Coke did not consider the matter treasonable. At all events when Coke, who as a councillor already knew the facts of the case, was consulted regarding the new proposal of the king, he at once objected to it, saying that “this particular and auricular taking of opinions” was “new and dangerous,” and “not according to the custom of the realm.” He at last reluctantly assented, and proposed that Bacon should consult with him, while the other law officers addressed themselves to the three puisne judges. By Bacon’s directions the proposal to the three judges to give their opinions separately was made suddenly and confidently, and any scruples they might have felt were easily overcome. The first step was thus gained, and it was hoped that if “infusion” could be avoided, if the papers bearing on the case were presented to the judges quickly, and before their minds could be swayed by extraneous influence, their decision on the case would be the same as that of the king. It is clear that the extraneous influence to be feared was Coke, who, on being addressed by Bacon, again objected to giving his opinion separately, and even seemed to hope that his brother judges after they had seen the papers would withdraw their assent to giving their decisions privately. Even after the discussion of the case with Bacon, he would not give his opinion until the others had handed in theirs. What the other judges thought is not definitely known, but Bacon appears to have been unable to put in operation the plan he had devised for swaying Coke’s judgment, or if he did attempt it, he was unsuccessful, for Coke finally gave an opinion consistent with what he seems to have held at first, that the book was not treasonable, as it did not disable the king’s title. Although the opinions of the judges were not made public, yet as we learn, not only from Bacon, but from a sentence in one of Carleton’s letters, a rumour had got about that there was doubt as to the book being treasonable. Under these circumstances, Bacon, who feared that such a report might incite other people to attempt a similar offence, proposed to the king that a second rumour should be circulated in order to destroy the impression caused by the first. “I do think it necessary,” he says, “that because we live in an age in which no counsel is kept, and that it is true there is some bruit abroad that the judges of the king’s bench do doubt of the case that it should not be treason, that it be given out constantly, and yet as it were in secret, and so a fame to slide, that the doubt was only upon the publication, in that it was never published. For that (if your majesty marketh it) taketh away or at least qualifieth the danger of the example; for that will be no man’s case.” Bacon’s conduct in this matter has been curiously misrepresented. He has been accused of torturing the prisoner, and of tampering with the judges by consulting them before the trial; nay, he is even represented as selecting this poor clergyman to serve for an example to terrify the disaffected, as breaking into his study and finding there a sermon never intended to be preached, which merely encouraged the people to resist tyranny. All this lavish condemnation rests on a complete misconception of the case. If any blame attaches to him, it must arise either from his endeavour to force Coke to a favourable decision, in which he was in all probability prompted by a feeling, not uncommon with him, that a matter of state policy was in danger of being sacrificed to some senseless legal quibble or precedent, or from his advice to the king that a rumour should be set afloat which was not strictly true.
Bacon’s share in another great trial which came on shortly afterwards, the Overbury and Somerset case, is not of such a nature as to render it necessary to enter upon it in detail. It may be noted, however, that his letters about this time show that he had become acquainted with the king’s new favourite, the brilliant Sir George Villiers, and that he stood high in the king’s good graces. In the early part of 1616, when Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellesmere (c. 1540–1617), the lord chancellor, was dangerously ill, Bacon wrote a long and careful letter to the king, proposing himself for the office, should it fall vacant, and stating as frankly as possible of what value he considered his services would be. In answer, he appears to have received a distinct promise of the reversion of the office; but, as Ellesmere recovered, the matter stood over for a time. He proposed, however, that he should be made a privy councillor, in order to give him more weight in his almost recognized position of adviser to the king, and on the 9th of June 1616 he took the oaths and his seat at the council board.
Meanwhile, his great rival Coke, whose constant tendency to limit the prerogative by law and precedent had made him an object of particular dislike to James, had on two points come into open collision with the king’s rights. The first case was an action of praemunire against the court of chancery, evidently instigated by him, but brought at the instance of certain parties whose adversaries had obtained redress in the chancellor’s court after the cause had been tried in the court of king’s bench. With all his learning and ingenuity Coke failed in inducing or even forcing the jury to bring in a bill against the court of chancery, and it seems fairly certain that on the technical point of law involved he was wrong. Although his motive was, in great measure, a feeling of personal dislike towards Ellesmere, yet it is not improbable that he was influenced by the desire to restrict in every possible way the jurisdiction of a court which was the direct exponent of the king’s wishes. The other case, that of the commendams, was more important in itself and in the circumstances connected with it. The general question involved in a special instance was whether or not the king’s prerogative included the right of granting at pleasure livings in commendam, i.e. to be enjoyed by one who was not the incumbent. Bacon, as attorney-general, delivered a speech, which has not been reported; but the king was informed that the arguments on the other side had not been limited to the special case, but had directly impugned the general prerogative right of granting livings. It was necessary for James, as a party interested, at once to take measures to see that the decision of the judges should not be given on the general question without due consultation. He accordingly wrote to Bacon, directing him to intimate to the judges his pleasure that they should delay judgment until after discussion of the matter with himself. Bacon communicated first with Coke, who in reply desired that similar notice should be given to the other judges. This was done by Bacon, though he seems to hint that in so doing he was going a little beyond his instructions. The judges took no notice of the intimation, proceeded at once to give judgment, and sent a letter in their united names to the king announcing what they had done, and declaring that it was contrary to law and to their oath for them to pay any attention to a request that their decision should be delayed. The king was indignant at this encroachment, and acting partly on the advice of Bacon, held a council on the 6th of June 1616, at which the judges attended. James then entered at great length into the case, censuring the judges for the offensive form of their letter, and for not having delayed judgment upon his demand, which had been made solely because he was himself a party concerned. The judges, at the conclusion of his speech, fell on their knees, and implored pardon for the manner of their letter; but Coke attempted to justify the matter contained in it, saying that the delay required by his majesty was contrary to law. The point of law was argued by Bacon, and decided by the chancellor in favour of the king, who put the question to the judges individually, “Whether, if at any time, in a case depending before the judges, which his majesty conceived to concern him either in power or profit, and thereupon required to consult with them, and that they should stay proceedings in the meantime, they ought not to stay accordingly?” To this all gave assent except Coke, who said that “when the case should be, he would do that should be fit for a judge to do.” No notice was taken by the king of this famous, though somewhat evasive, reply, But the judges were again asked what course they would take in the special case now before them. They all declared that they would not decide the matter upon general grounds affecting the prerogative, but upon special circumstances incident to the case; and with this answer they were dismissed. Bacon’s conduct throughout the affair has been blamed, but apparently on wrong grounds. As attorney he was merely fulfilling his duty in obeying the command of the king; and in laying down the law on the disputed point, he was, we may be sure, speaking his own convictions. Censure might more reasonably be bestowed on him because he deliberately advised a course of action than which nothing can be conceived better calculated to strengthen the hands of an absolute monarch. This appeared to Bacon justifiable and right, because the prerogative would be defended and preserved intact. Coke certainly stands out in a better light, not so much for his answer, which was rather indefinite, and the force of which is much weakened by his assent to the second question of the king, but for the general spirit of resistance to encroachment exhibited by him. He was undeniably troublesome to the king, and it is no matter for wonder that James resolved to remove him from a position where he could do so much harm. On the 26th June he was called before the council to answer certain charges, one of which was his conduct in the praemunire question. He acknowledged his error on that head, and made little defence. On the 30th he was suspended from council and bench, and ordered to employ his leisure in revising certain obnoxious opinions in his reports. He did not perform the task to the king’s satisfaction, and a few months later he was dismissed from office.
Bacon’s services to the king’s cause had been most important; and as he had, at the same time, acquired great favour with Villiers, his prospects looked brighter than before. According to his custom, he strove earnestly to guide by his advice the conduct of the young favourite. His letters, in which he analyses the various relations in which such a man must stand, and prescribes the course of action suitable for each, are valuable and deserving of attention. Very striking, in view of future events, are the words in which he gives him counsel as to his dealing with judges: “By no means be you persuaded to interpose yourself by word or letter in any cause depending, or like to be depending, in any court of justice, nor suffer any man to do it where you can hinder it; and by all means dissuade the king himself from it, upon the importunity of any, either for their friends or themselves. If it should prevail, it perverts justice; but if the judge be so just, and of so undaunted a courage (as he ought to be) as not to be inclined thereby, yet it always leaves a taint of suspicions and prejudice behind it.” It is probable that Villiers at this time had really a sense of the duties attaching to his position and was willing to be guided by a man of approved wisdom. It was not long before an opportunity occurred for showing his gratitude and favour. Ellesmere resigned the chancellorship on the 5th of March 1616/7, and on the 7th the great seal was bestowed upon Bacon, with the title of lord keeper. Two months later he took his seat with great pomp in the chancery court, and delivered a weighty and impressive opening discourse. He entered with great vigour on his new labours, and in less than a month he was able to report to Buckingham that he had cleared off all outstanding chancery cases. He seemed now to have reached the height of his ambition; he was the first law officer in the kingdom, the accredited minister of his sovereign, and on the best terms with the king and his favourite. His course seemed perfectly prosperous and secure, when a slight storm arising opened his eyes to the frailty of the tenure by which he held his position.
Coke was in disgrace but not in despair; there seemed to be a way whereby he could reconcile himself to Buckingham, through the marriage of his daughter, who had an ample fortune, to Sir John Villiers, brother of the marquess, who was penniless or nearly so. The match was distasteful to Lady Hatton and to her daughter; a violent quarrel was the consequence, and Bacon, who thought the proposed marriage most unsuitable, took Lady Hatton’s part. His reasons for disapproval he explained to the king and Buckingham, but found to his surprise that their indignation was strongly roused against him. He received from both bitter letters of reproof; it was rumoured that he would be disgraced, and Buckingham was said to have compared his present conduct to his previous unfaithfulness to Essex. Bacon, who seems to have acted from a simple desire to do the best for Buckingham’s own interests, at once changed his course, advanced the match by every means in his power, and by a humble apology appeased the indignation that had been excited against him. It had been a sharp lesson, but things seemed to go on smoothly after it, and Bacon’s affairs prospered.
On the 4th of January 1617/8 he received the higher title of lord chancellor; in July of the same year he was made Baron Verulam and in January 1620/1 he was created Viscount St Albans. His fame, too, had been increased by the publication in 1620 of his most celebrated work, the Novum Organum. He seemed at length to have made satisfactory progress towards the realization of his cherished aims; the method essential for his Instauration was partially completed; and he had attained as high a rank in the state as he had ever contemplated. But his actions in that position were not calculated to promote the good of his country.
Connected with the years during which he held office is one of the weightiest charges against his character. Buckingham, notwithstanding the advice he had received from Bacon himself, was in the habit of addressing letters to him recommending the causes of suitors. In many cases these seem nothing more than letters of courtesy, and, from the general tone, it might fairly be concluded that there was no intention to sway the opinion of the judge illegally, and that Bacon did not understand the letters in that sense. This view is supported by consideration of the few answers to them which are extant. One outstanding case, however, that of Dr Steward, casts some suspicion on all the others. The terms of Buckingham’s note concerning it might easily have aroused doubts; and we find that the further course of the action was to all appearances exactly accommodated to Dr Steward, who had been so strongly recommended. It is, of course, dangerous to form an extreme judgment on an isolated and partially understood case, of which also we have no explanation from Bacon himself, but if the interpretation advanced by Heath be the true one, Bacon certainly suffered his first, and, so far as we can see, just judgment on the case to be set aside, and the whole matter to be reopened in obedience to a request from Buckingham.
It is somewhat hard to understand Bacon’s position with regard to the king during these years. He was the first officer of the crown, the most able man in the kingdom, prudent, sagacious and devoted to the royal party. Yet his advice was followed only when it chimed in with James’s own will; his influence was of a merely secondary kind; and his great practical skill was employed simply in carrying out the measures of the king in the best mode possible. We know indeed that he sympathized cordially with the home policy of the government; he had no objection to such monopolies or patents as seemed advantageous to the country, and for this he is certainly not to be blamed. The opinion was common at the time, and the error was merely ignorance of the true principles of political economy. But we know also that the patents were so numerous as to be oppressive, and we can scarcely avoid inferring that Bacon more readily saw the advantages to the government than the disadvantages to the people. In November 1620, when a new parliament was summoned to meet on January following, he earnestly pressed that the most obnoxious patents, those of alehouses and inns, and the monopoly of gold and silver thread, should be given up, and wrote to Buckingham, whose brothers were interested, advising him to withdraw them from the impending storm. This prudent advice was unfortunately rejected. But while he went cordially with the king in domestic affairs, he was not quite in harmony with him on questions of foreign policy. Not only was he personally in favour of a war with Spain for the recovery of the Palatinate, but he foresaw in such a course of action the means of drawing together more closely the king and his parliament. He believed that the royal difficulties would be removed if a policy were adopted with which the people could heartily sympathize, and if the king placed himself at the head of his parliament and led them on. But his advice was neglected by the vacillating and peace-loving monarch, his proffered proclamation was put aside, and a weak, featureless production substituted in its place. Nevertheless the new parliament seemed at first more responsive than might have been looked for. A double subsidy was granted, which was expressly stated to be “not on any consideration or condition for or concerning the Palatinate.” The session, however, was not far advanced when the question of patents was brought up; a determined attack was made upon the very ones of which Bacon had been in dread, and it was even proposed to proceed against the referees (Bacon and Montagu) who had certified that there was no objection to them in point of law. This proposal, though pressed by Coke, was allowed to drop; while the king and Buckingham, acting under the advice of Williams, afterwards lord keeper, agreed to give up the monopolies. It was evident, however, that a determined attack was about to be made upon Bacon, and that the proceeding against the referees was really directed against him. It is probable that this charge was dropped because a more powerful weapon had in the meantime been placed in his enemies’ hands. This was the accusation of bribery and corrupt dealings in chancery suits, an accusation apparently wholly unexpected by Bacon, and the possibility of which he seems never to have contemplated until it was actually brought against him. At the beginning of the session a committee had been appointed for inquiring into abuses in the courts of justice. Some illegal practices of certain chancery officials had been detected and punished by the court itself, and generally there was a disposition to overhaul its affairs, while Coke and Lionel Cranfield, earl of Middlesex (1575–1645) directly attacked some parts of the chancellor’s administration. But on the 14th of March one Christopher Aubrey appeared at the bar of the House, and charged Bacon with having received from him a sum of money while his suit was going on, and with having afterwards decided against him. Bacon’s letter on this occasion is worthy of serious attention; he evidently thought the charge was but part of the deliberate scheme to ruin him which had already been in progress. A second accusation (Edward Egerton’s case) followed immediately after, and was investigated by the House, who, satisfied that they had just matter for reprehension, appointed the 19th for a conference with the Lords. On that day Bacon, as he had feared, was too ill to attend. He wrote to the Lords excusing his absence, requesting them to appoint a convenient time for his defence and cross-examination of witnesses, and imploring them not to allow their minds to be prejudiced against him, at the same time declaring that he would not “trick up an innocency with cavillations, but plainly and ingenuously declare what he knew or remembered.” The charges rapidly accumulated, but Bacon still looked upon them as party moves, and was in hopes of defending himself. Nor did he seem to have lost his courage, if we are to believe the common reports of the day, though certainly they do not appear worthy of very much credit.
The notes bearing upon the interview which he obtained with the king show that he had begun to see more clearly the nature and extent of the offences with which he was charged, that he now felt it impossible altogether to exculpate himself, and that his hopes were directed towards obtaining some mitigation of his sentence. The long roll of charges made upon the 19th of April finally decided him; he gave up all idea of defence, and wrote to the king begging him to show him favour in this emergency. The next day he sent in a general confession to the Lords, trusting that this would be considered satisfactory. The Lords, however, decided that it was not sufficient as a ground for their censure, and demanded a detailed and particular confession. A list of twenty-eight charges was then sent him, to which an answer by letter was required. On the 30th of April his “confession and humble submission” was handed in. In it, after going over the several instances, he says, “I do again confess, that on the points charged upon me, although they should be taken as myself have declared them, there is a great deal of corruption and neglect; for which I am heartily and penitently sorry, and submit myself to the judgment, grace, and mercy of the court.” On the 3rd of May, after considerable discussion, the Lords decided upon the sentence, which was, That he should undergo fine and ransom of £40,000; that he should be imprisoned in the Tower during the king’s pleasure; that he should be for ever incapable of any office, place or employment in the state or commonwealth; that he should never sit in parliament, or come within the verge of the court. This heavy sentence was only partially executed. The fine was in effect remitted by the king; imprisonment in the Tower lasted for about four days; a general pardon (not of course covering the parliamentary censure) was made out, and though delayed at the seal for a time by Lord Keeper Williams, was passed probably in November 1621. The cause of the delay seems to have lain with Buckingham, whose friendship had cooled, and who had taken offence at the fallen chancellor’s unwillingness to part with York House. This difference was finally smoothed over, and it was probably through his influence that Bacon received the much-desired permission to come within the verge of the court. He never again sat in parliament.
So ends this painful episode, which has given rise to the most severe condemnation of Bacon, and which still presents great and perhaps insuperable difficulties. On the whole, the tendency of the most recent and thorough researches has been towards the opinion that Bacon’s own account of the matter (from which, indeed, our knowledge of it is chiefly drawn) is substantially correct. He distinguishes three ways in which bribes may be given, and ingenuously confesses that his own acts amounted to corruption and were worthy of condemnation. Now, corruption strictly interpreted would imply the deliberate sale of justice, and this Bacon explicitly denies, affirming that he never “had bribe or reward in his eye or thought when he pronounced any sentence or order.” When we analyse the specific charges against him, with his answers to them, we find many that are really of little weight. The twenty-eighth and last, that of negligence in looking after his servants, though it did him much harm, may fairly be said to imply no moral blame. The majority of the others are instances of gratuities given after the decision, and it is to be regretted that the judgment of the peers gives us no means of determining how such gifts were looked upon, whether or not the acceptance of them was regarded as a “corrupt” practice. In four cases specifically, and in some others by implication, Bacon confesses that he had received bribes from suitors pendente lite. Yet he affirms, as we said before, that his intention was never swayed by a bribe; and so far as any of these cases can be traced, his decisions, often given in conjunction with some other official, are to all appearance thoroughly just. In several cases his judgment appears to have been given against the party bestowing the bribe, and in at least one instance, that of Lady Wharton, it seems impossible to doubt that he must have known when accepting the present that his opinion would be adverse to her cause. Although, then, he felt that these practices were really corrupt, and even rejoiced that his own fall would tend to purify the courts from them, he did not feel that he was guilty of perverting justice for the sake of reward. How far, then, is such defence or explanation admissible and satisfactory? It is clear that two things are to be considered: the one the guilt of taking bribes or presents on any consideration, the other the moral guilt depending upon the wilful perversion of justice. The attempt has sometimes been made to defend the whole of Bacon’s conduct on the ground that he did nothing that was not done by many of his contemporaries. Bacon himself disclaims a defence of this nature, and we really have no direct evidence which shows to what extent the offering and receiving of such bribes then prevailed. That the practice was common is indeed implied by the terms in which Bacon speaks of it, and it is not improbable that the fact of these gifts being taken by officials was a thing fairly well known, although all were aware of their illegal character, and it was plain that any public exposure of such dealings would be fatal to the individual against whom the charge was made out. Bacon knew all this; he was well aware that the practice was in itself indefensible, and that his conduct was therefore corrupt and deserving of censure. So far, then, as the mere taking of bribes is concerned, he would permit no defence, and his own confession and judgment on his action contain as severe a condemnation as has ever been passed upon him. Yet in the face of this he does not hesitate to call himself “the justest chancellor that hath been in the five changes since Sir Nicholas Bacon’s time”; and this on the plea that his intentions had always been pure, and had never been affected by the presents he received. His justification has been set aside by modern critics, not on the ground that the evidence demonstrates its falsity, but because it is inconceivable or unnatural that any man should receive a present from another, and not suffer his judgment to be swayed thereby. It need hardly be said that such an a priori conviction is not a sufficient basis on which to found a sweeping condemnation of Bacon’s integrity as an administrator of justice. On the other hand, even if it be admitted to be possible and conceivable that a present should be given by a suitor simply as seeking favourable consideration of his cause, and not as desirous of obtaining an unjust decree, and should be accepted by the judge on the same understanding, this would not entitle one absolutely to accept Bacon’s statement. Further evidence is necessary in order to give foundation to a definite judgment either way; and it is extremely improbable, nay, almost impossible, that such can ever be produced. In these circumstances, due weight should be given to Bacon’s own assertions of his perfect innocence and purity of intention; they ought not to be put out of court unless found in actual contradiction to the facts, and the reverse of this is the case, so far as has yet appeared.
The remaining five years of his life, though he was still harassed by want of means, for James was not liberal, were spent in work far more valuable to the world than anything he had accomplished in his high office. In March 1622 he presented to Prince Charles his History of Henry VII.; and immediately, with unwearied industry, set to work to complete some portions of his great work. In November 1622 appeared the Historia Ventorum; in January 1622/3, the Historia Vitae et Mortis; and in October of the same year, the De Augmentis Scientiarum, a Latin translation, with many additions, of the Advancement. Finally, in December 1624, he published his Apophthegms, and Translations of some of the Psalms, dedicated to George Herbert; and, in 1625, a third and enlarged edition of the Essays.Busily occupied with these labours, his life now drew rapidly to a close. In March 1626 he came to London, and when driving one day near Highgate, was taken with a desire to discover whether snow would act as an antiseptic. He stopped his carriage, got out at a cottage, purchased a fowl, and with his own hands assisted to stuff it with snow. He was seized with a sudden chill, and became so seriously unwell that he had to be conveyed to Lord Arundel’s house, which was near at hand. Here his illness increased, the cold and chill brought on bronchitis and he died, after a few days’ suffering, on the 9th of April 1626.
Bacon’s Works and Philosophy.
A complete survey of Bacon’s works and an estimate of his place in literature and philosophy are matters for a volume. It is here proposed merely to classify the works, to indicate their general character and to enter somewhat more in detail upon what he himself regarded as his great achievement,—the reorganization of the sciences and the exposition of a new method by which the human mind might proceed with security and certainty towards the true end of all human thought and action.
Putting aside the letters and occasional writings, we may conveniently distribute the other works into three classes, Professional, Literary, Philosophical. The Professional works include the Reading on the Statute of Uses, the Maxims of Law and the treatise (possibly spurious) on the Use of the Law. “I am in good hope,” said Bacon himself, “that when Sir Edward Coke’s reports and my rules and decisions shall come to posterity, there will be (whatsoever is now thought) question who was the greater lawyer.” If Coke’s reports show completer mastery of technical details, greater knowledge of precedent, and more of the dogged grasp of the letter than do Bacon’s legal writings, there can be no dispute that the latter exhibit an infinitely more comprehensive intelligence of the abstract principles of jurisprudence, with a richness and ethical fulness that more than compensate for their lack of dry legal detail. Bacon seems indeed to have been a lawyer of the first order, with a keen scientific insight into the bearings of isolated facts and a power of generalization which admirably fitted him for the self-imposed task, unfortunately never completed, of digesting or codifying the chaotic mass of the English law.
Among the literary works are included all that he himself designated moral and historical pieces, and to these may be added some theological and minor writings, such as the Apophthegms. Of the moral works the most valuable are the Essays, which have been so widely read and universally admired. The matter is of the familiar, practical kind, that “comes home to men’s bosoms.” The thoughts are weighty, and even when not original have acquired a peculiar and unique tone or cast by passing through the crucible of Bacon’s mind. A sentence from the Essays can rarely be mistaken for the production of any other writer. The short, pithy sayings have become popular mottoes and household words. The style is quaint, original, abounding in allusions and witticisms, and rich, even to gorgeousness, with piled-up analogies and metaphors. The first edition contained only ten essays, but the number was increased in 1612 to thirty-eight, and in 1625 to fifty-eight. The short tract, Colours of Good and Evil, which with the Meditationes Sacrae originally accompanied the Essays, was afterwards incorporated with the De Augmentis. Along with these works may be classed the curiously learned piece, De Sapientia Veterum, in which he works out a favourite idea, that the mythological fables of the Greeks were allegorical and concealed the deepest truths of their philosophy. As a scientific explanation of the myths the theory is of no value, but it affords fine scope for the exercise of Bacon’s unrivalled power of detecting analogies in things apparently most dissimilar. The Apophthegms, though hardly deserving Macaulay’s praise of being the best collection of jests in the world, contain a number of those significant anecdotes which Bacon used with such effect in his other writings. Of the historical works, besides a few fragments of the projected history of Britain there remains the History of Henry VII., a valuable work, giving a clear and animated narrative of the reign, and characterizing Henry with great skill. The style is in harmony with the matter, vigorous and flowing, but naturally with less of the quaintness and richness suitable to more thoughtful and original writings. The series of the literary works is completed by the minor treatises on theological or ecclesiastical questions. Some of the latter, included among the occasional works, are sagacious and prudent and deserve careful study. Of the former, the principal specimens are the Meditationes Sacrae and the Confession of Faith. The Paradoxes (Characters of a believing Christian in paradoxes, and seeming contradictions), which was often and justly suspected, has been conclusively proved by Grosart to be the work of another author.
Philosophical Works.—The great mass of Bacon’s writings consists of treatises or fragments, which either formed integral parts of his grand comprehensive scheme, or were closely connected with it. More exactly they may be classified under three heads: (A) Writings originally intended to form parts of the Instauratio, but which were afterwards superseded or thrown aside; (B) Works connected with the Instauratio, but not directly included in its plan; (C) Writings which actually formed part of the Instauratio Magna.
(A) This class contains some important tracts, which certainly contain little, if anything, that is not afterwards taken up and expanded in the more elaborate works, but are not undeserving of attention, from the difference in the point of view and method of treatment. The most valuable of them are: (1) The Advancement of Learning, of which no detailed account need be given, as it is completely worked up into the De Augmentis, and takes its place as the first part of the Instauratio. (2) Valerius Terminus, a very remarkable piece, composed probably about 1603, though perhaps retouched at a later period. It contains a brief and somewhat obscure outline of the first two parts in the Instauratio, and is of importance as affording us some insight into the gradual development of the system in Bacon’s own mind. (3) Temporis Partus Masculus, another curious fragment, remarkable not only from its contents, but from its style, which is arrogant and offensive, in this respect unlike any other writing of Bacon’s. The adjective masculus points to the power of bringing forth fruit possessed by the new philosophy, and perhaps indicates that all previous births of time were to be looked upon as feminine or imperfect; it is used in a somewhat similar sense in Letters and Life, vi. 183, “In verbis masculis, no flourishing or painted words, but such words as are fit to go before deeds.” (4) Redargutio Philosophiarum, a highly finished piece in the form of an oration, composed probably about 1608 or 1609, and containing in pretty full detail much of what afterwards appears in connexion with the Idola Theatri in book i. of the Novum Organum. (5) Cogitata et Visa, perhaps the most important of the minor philosophical writings, dating from 1607 (though possibly the tract in its present form may have been to some extent altered), and containing in weighty and sonorous Latin the substance of the first book of the Organum. (6) The Descriptio Globi Intellectualis, which is to some extent intermediate between the Advancement and the De Augmentis, goes over in detail the general classification of the sciences, and enters particularly on some points of minor interest. (7) The brief tract De Interpretatione Naturae Sententiae Duodecim is evidently a first sketch of part of the Novum Organum, and in phraseology is almost identical with it. (8) A few smaller pieces, such as the Inquisitio de Motu, the Calor et Frigus, the Historia Soni et Auditus and the Phaenomena Universi, are early specimens of his Natural History, and exhibit the first tentative applications of the new method.
(B) The second group consists of treatises on subjects connected with the Instauratio, but not forming part of it. The most interesting, and in many respects the most remarkable, is the philosophic romance, the New Atlantis, a description of an ideal state in which the principles of the new philosophy are carried out by political machinery and under state guidance, and where many of the results contemplated by Bacon are in imagination attained. The work was to have been completed by the addition of a second part, treating of the laws of a model commonwealth, which was never written. Another important tract is the De Principiis atque Originibus secundum Fabulas Cupidinis et Caeli, where, under the disguise of two old mythological stories, he (in the manner of the Sapientia Veterum) finds the deepest truths concealed. The tract is unusually interesting, for in it he discusses at some length the limits of science, the origin of things and the nature of primitive matter, giving at the same time full notices of Democritus among the ancient philosophers and of Telesio among the modern. Deserving of attention are also the Cogitationes de Natura Rerum, probably written early, perhaps in 1605, and the treatise on the theory of the tides, De Fluxu et Refluxu Maris, written probably about 1616.
(C) The philosophical works which form part of the Instauratio must of course be classed according to the positions which they respectively hold in that scheme of the sciences.
The great work, the reorganization of the sciences, and the restoration of man to that command over nature which he had lost by the fall, consisted in its final form of six divisions.
I. Partitiones Scientiarum, a survey of the sciences, either such as then existed or such as required to be constructed afresh—in fact, an inventory of all the possessions of the human mind. The famous classification on which this survey proceeds is based upon an analysis of the faculties and objects of human knowledge. This division is represented by the De Augmentis Scientiarum.
II. Interpretatio Naturae.—After the survey of all that has yet been done in the way of discovery or invention, comes the new method, by which the mind of man is to be trained and directed in its progress towards the renovation of science. This division is represented, though only imperfectly, by the Novum Organum, particularly book ii.
III. Historia Naturalis et Experimentalis.—The new method is valueless, because inapplicable, unless it be supplied with materials duly collected and presented—in fact, unless there be formed a competent natural history of the Phaenomena Universi. A short introductory sketch of the requisites of such a natural history, which, according to Bacon, is essential, necessary, the basis totius negotii, is given in the tract Parasceve, appended to the Novum Organum. The principal works intended to form portions of the history, and either published by himself or left in manuscript, are Historia Ventorum, Historia Vitae et Mortis, Historia Densi et Rari, and the extensive collection of facts and observations entitled Sylva Sylvarum.
IV. Scala Intellectus.—It might have been supposed that the new philosophy could now be inaugurated. Materials had been supplied, along with a new method by which they were to be treated, and naturally the next step would be the finished result. But for practical purposes Bacon interposed two divisions between the preliminaries and the philosophy itself. The first was intended to consist of types or examples of investigations conducted by the new method, serviceable for keeping the whole process vividly before the mind, or, as the title indicates, such that the mind could run rapidly up and down the several steps or grades in the process. Of this division there seems to be only one small fragment, the Filum Labyrinthi, consisting of but two or three pages.
V. Prodromi, forerunners of the new philosophy. This part, strictly speaking, is quite extraneous to the general design. According to the Distributio Operis, it was to contain certain speculations of Bacon’s own, not formed by the new method, but by the unassisted use of his understanding. These, therefore, form temporary or uncertain anticipations of the new philosophy. There is extant a short preface to this division of the work, and according to Spedding some of the miscellaneous treatises, such as De Principiis, De Fluxu et Refluxu, Cogitationes de Natura Rerum, may probably have been intended to be included under this head. This supposition receives some support from the manner in which the fifth part is spoken of in the Novum Organum, i. 116.
VI. The new philosophy, which is the work of future ages, and the result of the new method.
Bacon’s grand motive in his attempt to found the sciences anew was the intense conviction that the knowledge man possessed was of little service to him. “The knowledge whereof the world is now possessed, especially that of nature, extendeth not to magnitude and certainty of works.” Man’s sovereignty over nature, which is founded on knowledge alone, had been lost, and instead of the free relation between things and the human mind, there was nothing but vain notions and blind experiments. To restore the original commerce between man and nature, and to recover the imperium hominis, is the grand object of all science. The want of success which had hitherto attended efforts in the same direction had been due to many causes, but chiefly to the want of appreciation of the nature of philosophy and its real aim. Philosophy is not the science of things divine and human; it is not the search after truth. “I find that even those that have sought knowledge for itself, and not for benefit or ostentation, or any practical enablement in the course of their life, have nevertheless propounded to themselves a wrong mark, namely, satisfaction (which men call Truth) and not operation.” “Is there any such happiness as for a man’s mind to be raised above the confusion of things, where he may have the prospect of the order of nature and error of man? But is this a view of delight only and not of discovery? of contentment and not of benefit? Shall he not as well discern the riches of nature’s warehouse as the beauty of her shop? Is truth ever barren? Shall he not be able thereby to produce worthy effects, and to endow the life of man with infinite commodities?” Philosophy is altogether practical; it is of little matter to the fortunes of humanity what abstract notions one may entertain concerning the nature and the principles of things. This truth, however, has never yet been recognized; it has not yet been seen that the true aim of all science is “to endow the condition and life of man with new powers or works,” or “to extend more widely the limits of the power and greatness of man.” Nevertheless, it is not to be imagined that by this being proposed as the great object of search there is thereby excluded all that has hitherto been looked upon as the higher aims of human life, such as the contemplation of truth. Not so, but by following the new aim we shall also arrive at a true knowledge of the universe in which we are, for without knowledge there is no power; truth and utility are in ultimate aspect the same; “works themselves are of greater value as pledges of truth than as contributing to the comforts of life.” Such was the conception of philosophy with which Bacon started, and in which he felt himself to be thoroughly original. As his object was new and hitherto unproposed, so the method he intended to employ was different from all modes of investigation hitherto attempted. “It would be,” as he says, “an unsound fancy and self-contradictory, to expect that things which have never yet been done can be done except by means which have never yet been tried.” There were many obstacles in his way, and he seems always to have felt that the first part of the new scheme must be a pars destruens, a destructive criticism of all other methods. Opposition was to be expected, not only from previous philosophies, but especially from the human mind itself. In the first place, natural antagonism might be looked for from the two opposed sects, the one of whom, in despair of knowledge, maintained that all science was impossible; while the other, resting on authority and on the learning that had been handed down from the Greeks, declared that science was already completely known, and consequently devoted their energies to methodizing and elaborating it. Secondly, within the domain of science itself, properly so called, there were two “kind of rovers” who must be dismissed. The first were the speculative or logical philosophers, who construe the universe ex analogia hominis, and not ex analogia mundi, who fashion nature according to preconceived ideas, and who employ in their investigations syllogism and abstract reasoning. The second class, who were equally offensive, consisted of those who practised blind experience, which is mere groping in the dark (vaga experientia mera palpatio est), who occasionally hit upon good works or inventions, which, like Atalanta’s apples, distracted them from further steady and gradual progress towards universal truth. In place of these straggling efforts of the unassisted human mind, a graduated system of helps was to be supplied, by the use of which the mind, when placed on the right road, would proceed with unerring and mechanical certainty to the invention of new arts and sciences.
Such were to be the peculiar functions of the new method, though it has not definitely appeared what that method was, or to what objects it could be applied. But, before proceeding to unfold his method, Bacon found it necessary to enter in considerable detail upon the general subject of the obstacles to progress, and devoted nearly the whole of the first book of the Organum to the examination of them. This discussion, though strictly speaking extraneous to the scheme, has always been looked upon as a most important part of his philosophy, and his name is perhaps as much associated with the doctrine of Idols (Idola) as with the theory of induction or the classification of the sciences.
The doctrine of the kinds of fallacies or general classes of errors into which the human mind is prone to fall, appears in many of the works written before the Novum Organum, and the treatment of them varies in some respects. The classification in the Organum, however, not only has the author’s sanction, but has received the stamp of historical acceptation; and comparison of the earlier notices, though a point of literary interest, has no important philosophic bearing. The Idola (Nov. Org. i. 39) false notions of things, or erroneous ways of looking at nature, are of four kinds: the first two innate, pertaining to the very nature of the mind and not to be eradicated; the third creeping insensibly into men’s minds, and hence in a sense innate and inseparable; the fourth imposed from without. The first kind are the Idola Tribus, idols of the tribe, fallacies incident to humanity or the race in general. Of these, the most prominent are—the proneness to suppose in nature greater order and regularity than there actually is; the tendency to support a preconceived opinion by affirmative instances, neglecting all negative or opposed cases; and the tendency to generalize from few observations, or to give reality to mere abstractions, figments of the mind. Manifold errors also result from the weakness of the senses, which affords scope for mere conjecture; from the influence exercised over the understanding by the will and passions; from the restless desire of the mind to penetrate to the ultimate principles of things; and from the belief that “man is the measure of the universe,” whereas, in truth, the world is received by us in a distorted and erroneous manner. The second kind are the Idola Specus, idols of the cave, or errors incident to the peculiar mental or bodily constitution of each individual, for according to the state of the individual’s mind is his view of things. Errors of this class are innumerable, because there are numberless varieties of disposition; but some very prominent specimens can be indicated. Such are the tendency to make all things subservient to, or take the colour of some favourite subject, the extreme fondness and reverence either for what is ancient or for what is modern, and excess in noting either differences or resemblances amongst things. A practical rule for avoiding these is also given: “In general let every student of nature take this as a rule, that whatever his mind seizes and dwells upon with particular satisfaction is to be held in suspicion”. The third class are the Idola Fori, idols of the market-place, errors arising from the influence exercised over the mind by mere words. This, according to Bacon, is the most troublesome kind of error, and has been especially fatal in philosophy. For words introduce a fallacious mode of looking at things in two ways: first, there are some words that are really merely names for non-existent things, which are yet supposed to exist simply because they have received a name; secondly, there are names hastily and unskilfully abstracted from a few objects and applied recklessly to all that has the faintest analogy with these objects, thus causing the grossest confusion. The fourth and last class are the Idola Theatri, idols of the theatre, i.e. fallacious modes of thinking resulting from received systems of philosophy and from erroneous methods of demonstration. The criticism of the demonstrations is introduced later in close connexion with Bacon’s new method; they are the rival modes of procedure, to which his own is definitely opposed. The philosophies which are “redargued” are divided into three classes, the sophistical, of which the best example is Aristotle, who, according to Bacon, forces nature into his abstract schemata and thinks to explain by definitions; the empirical, which from few and limited experiments leaps at once to general conclusions; and the superstitious, which corrupts philosophy by the introduction of poetical and theological notions.
Such are the general causes of the errors that infest the human mind; by their exposure the way is cleared for the introduction of the new method. The nature of this method cannot be understood until it is exactly seen to what it is to be applied. What idea had Bacon of science, and how is his method connected with it? Now, the science which was specially and invariably contemplated by him was natural philosophy, the great mother of all the sciences; it was to him the type of scientific knowledge, and its method was the method of all true science. To discover exactly the characteristics and the object of natural philosophy it is necessary to examine the place it holds in the general scheme furnished in the Advancement or De Augmentis. All human knowledge, it is there laid down, may be referred to man’s memory or imagination or reason. In the first, the bare facts presented to sense are collected and stored up; the exposition of them is history, which is either natural or civil. In the second, the materials of sense are separated or divided in ways not corresponding to nature but after the mind’s own pleasure, and the result is poesy or feigned history. In the third, the materials are worked up after the model or pattern of nature, though we are prone to err in the progress from sense to reason; the result is philosophy, which is concerned either with God, with nature or with man, the second being the most important. Natural philosophy is again divided into speculative or theoretical and operative or practical, according as the end is contemplation or works. Speculative or theoretical natural philosophy has to deal with natural substances and qualities and is subdivided into physics and metaphysics. Physics inquires into the efficient and material causes of things; metaphysics, into the formal and final causes. The principal objects of physics are concrete substances, or abstract though physical qualities. The research into abstract qualities, the fundamental problem of physics, comes near to the metaphysical study of forms, which indeed differs from the first only in being more general, and in having as its results a form strictly so called, i.e. a nature or quality which is a limitation or specific manifestation of some higher and better-known genus. Natural philosophy is, therefore, in ultimate resort the study of forms, and, consequently, the fundamental problem of philosophy in general is the discovery of these forms.
- “On a given body to generate or superinduce a new nature or natures, is the work and aim of human power.... Of a given nature to discover the form or true specific difference, or nature-engendering nature (natura naturans) or source of emanation (for these are the terms which are nearest to a description of the thing), is the work and aim of human knowledge.”:
The questions, then, whose answers give the key to the whole Baconian philosophy, may be put briefly thus—What are forms? and how is it that knowledge of them solves both the theoretical and the practical problem of science? Bacon himself, as may be seen from the passage quoted above, finds great difficulty in giving an adequate and exact definition of what he means by a form. As a general description, the following passage from the Novum Organum, ii. 4, may be cited:—
“The form of a nature is such that given the form the nature infallibly follows. . . . Again, the form is such that if it be taken away the nature infallibly vanishes. . . . Lastly, the true form is such that it deduces the given nature from some source of being which is inherent in more natures, and which is better known in the natural order of things than the form itself.”
From this it would appear that, since by a nature is meant some sensible quality, superinduced upon, or possessed by, a body, so by a form we are to understand the cause of that nature, which cause is itself a determinate case or manifestation of some general or abstract quality inherent in a greater number of objects. But all these are mostly marks by which a form may be recognized, and do not explain what the form really is. A further definition is accordingly attempted in Aph. 13:—
“The form of a thing is the very thing itself, and the thing differs from the form no otherwise than as the apparent differs from the real, or the external from the internal, or the thing in reference to the man from the thing in reference to the universe.”
This throws a new light on the question, and from it the inference at once follows, that the forms are the permanent causes or substances underlying all visible phenomena, which are merely manifestations of their activity. Are the forms, then, forces? At times it seems as if Bacon had approximated to this view of the nature of things, for in several passages he identifies forms with laws of activity. Thus, he says—
“When I speak of forms I mean nothing more than those laws and determinations of absolute actuality which govern and constitute any simple nature, as heat, light, weight, in every kind of matter and subject that is susceptible of them. Thus the form of heat or the form of light is the same thing as the law of heat or the law of light.” “Matter rather than forms should be the object of our attention, its configurations and changes of configuration, and simple action, and law of action or motion; for forms are figments of the human mind, unless you will call those laws of action forms.” “Forms or true differences of things, which are in fact laws of pure act.” “For though in nature nothing really exists besides individual bodies, performing pure individual acts according to a fixed law, yet in philosophy this very law, and the investigation, discovery and explanation of it, is the foundation as well of knowledge as of operation. And it is this law, with its clauses, that I mean when I speak of forms.”
Several important conclusions may be drawn from these passages. In the first place, it is evident that Bacon, like the Atomical school, of whom he highly approved, had a clear perception and a firm grasp of the physical character of natural principles; his forms are no ideas or abstractions, but highly general physical properties. Further, it is hinted that these general qualities may be looked upon as the modes of action of simple bodies. This fruitful conception, however, Bacon does not work out; and though he uses the word cause, and identifies form with formal cause, yet it is perfectly apparent that the modern notions of cause as dynamical, and of nature as in a process of flow or development, are foreign to him, and that in his view of the ultimate problem of science, cause meant causa immanens, or underlying substance, effects were not consequents but manifestations, and nature was regarded in a purely statical aspect. That this is so appears even more clearly when we examine his general conception of the unity, gradation and function of the sciences. That the sciences are organically connected is a thought common to him and to his distinguished predecessor Roger Bacon. “I that hold it for a great impediment towards the advancement and further invention of knowledge, that particular arts and sciences have been disincorporated from general knowledge, do not understand one and the same thing which Cicero’s discourse and the note and conceit of the Grecians in their word circle learning do intend. For I mean not that use which one science hath of another for ornament or help in practice; but I mean it directly of that use by way of supply of light and information, which the particulars and instances of one science do yield and present for the framing or correcting of the axioms of another science in their very truth and notion.” In accordance with this, Bacon placed at the basis of the particular sciences which treat of God, nature and man, one fundamental doctrine, the Prima Philosophia, or first philosophy, the function of which was to display the unity of nature by connecting into one body of truth such of the highest axioms of the subordinate sciences as were not special to one science, but common to several. This first philosophy had also to investigate what are called the adventitious or transcendental conditions of essences, such as Much, Little, Like, Unlike, Possible, Impossible, Being, Nothing, the logical discussion of which certainly belonged rather to the laws of reasoning than to the existence of things, but the physical or real treatment of which might be expected to yield answers to such questions as, why certain substances are numerous, others scarce; or why, if like attracts like, iron does not attract iron. Following this summary philosophy come the sciences proper, rising like a pyramid in successive stages, the lowest floor being occupied by natural history or experience, the second by physics, the third, which is next the peak of unity, by metaphysics. The knowledge of the peak, or of the one law which binds nature together, is perhaps denied to man. Of the sciences, physics, as has been already seen, deals with the efficient and material, i.e. with the variable and transient, causes of things. But its inquiries may be directed either towards concrete bodies or towards abstract qualities. The first kind of investigation rises little above mere natural history; but the other is more important and paves the way for metaphysics. It handles the configurations and the appetites or motions of matter. The configurations, or inner structure of bodies, include dense, rare, heavy, light, hot, cold, &c.,—in fact, what are elsewhere called simple natures. Motions are either simple or compound, the latter being the sum of a number of the former. In physics, however, these matters are treated only as regards their material or efficient causes, and the result of inquiry into any one case gives no general rule, but only facilitates invention in some similar instance. Metaphysics, on the other hand, treats of the formal or final cause of these same substances and qualities, and results in a general rule. With regard to forms, the investigation may be directed either towards concrete bodies or towards qualities. But the forms of substances “are so perplexed and complicated, that it is either vain to inquire into them at all, or such inquiry as is possible should be put off for a time, and not entered upon till forms of a more simple nature have been rightly investigated and discussed.” “To inquire into the form of a lion, of an oak, or gold, nay, even of water or air, is a vain pursuit; but to inquire the form of dense, rare, hot, cold, &c., as well configurations as motions, which in treating of physic I have in great part enumerated (I call them forms of the first class), and which (like the letters of the alphabet) are not many, and yet make up and sustain the essences and forms of all substances—this, I say, it is which I am attempting, and which constitutes and defines that part of metaphysic of which we are now inquiring.” Physics inquires into the same qualities, but does not push its investigations into ultimate reality or reach the more general causes. We thus at last attain a definite conclusion with regard to forms, and it appears clear that in Bacon’s belief the true function of science was the search for a few fundamental physical qualities, highly abstract and general, the combinations of which give rise to the simple natures and complex phenomena around us. His general conception of the universe may therefore be called mechanical or statical; the cause of each phenomenon is supposed to be actually contained in the phenomenon itself, and by a sufficiently accurate process could be sifted out and brought to light. As soon as the causes are known man regains his power over nature, for “whosoever knows any form, knows also the utmost possibility of superinducing that nature upon every variety of matter, and so is less restrained and tied in operation either to the basis of the matter or to the condition of the efficients.”
Nature thus presented itself to Bacon’s mind as a huge congeries of phenomena, the manifestations of some simple and primitive qualities, which were hid from us by the complexity of the things themselves. The world was a vast labyrinth, amid the windings of which we require some clue or thread whereby we may track our way to knowledge and thence to power. This thread, the filum labyrinthi, is the new method of induction. But, as has been frequently pointed out, the new method could not be applied until facts had been observed and collected. This is an indispensable preliminary. “Man, the servant and interpreter of nature, can do and understand so much, and so much only, as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature; beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything.” The proposition that our knowledge of nature necessarily begins with observation and experience, is common to Bacon and many contemporary reformers of science, but he laid peculiar stress upon it, and gave it a new meaning. What he really meant by observation was a competent natural history or collection of facts. “The firm foundations of a purer natural philosophy are laid in natural history.” “First of all we must prepare a natural and experimental history, sufficient and good; and this is the foundation of all.” The senses and the memory, which collect and store up facts, must be assisted; there must be a ministration of the senses and another of the memory. For not only are instances required, but these must be arranged in such a manner as not to distract or confuse the mind, i.e. tables and arrangements of instances must be constructed. In the preliminary collection the greatest care must be taken that the mind be absolutely free from preconceived ideas; nature is only to be conquered by obedience; man must be merely receptive. “All depends on keeping the eye steadily fixed upon the facts of nature, and so receiving their images simply as they are; for God forbid that we should give out a dream of our own imagination for a pattern of the world; rather may He graciously grant to us to write an apocalypse or true vision of the footsteps of the Creator imprinted on his creatures.” Concealed among the facts presented to sense are the causes or forms, and the problem therefore is so to analyse experience, so to break it up into pieces, that we shall with certainty and mechanical ease arrive at a true conclusion. This process, which forms the essence of the new method, may in its entirety, as a ministration to the reason, be called a logic; but it differs widely from the ordinary or school logic in end, method and form. Its aim is to acquire command over nature by knowledge, and to invent new arts, whereas the old logic strove only after dialectic victories and the discovery of new arguments. In method the difference is even more fundamental. Hitherto the mode of demonstration had been by the syllogism; but the syllogism is, in many respects, an incompetent weapon. It is compelled to accept its first principles on trust from the science in which it is employed; it cannot cope with the subtlety of nature; and it is radically vitiated by being founded on hastily and inaccurately abstracted notions of things. For a syllogism consists of propositions, propositions of words, and words are the symbols of notions. Now the first step in accurate progress from sense to reason, or true philosophy, is to frame a bona notio or accurate conception of the thing; but the received logic never does this. It flies off at once from experience and particulars to the highest and most general propositions, and from these descends, by the use of middle terms, to axioms of lower generality. Such a mode of procedure may be called anticipatio naturae (for in it reason is allowed to prescribe to things), and is opposed to the true method, the interpretatio naturae, in which reason follows and obeys nature, discovering her secrets by obedience and submission to rule. Lastly, the very form of induction that has been used by logicians in the collection of their instances is a weak and useless thing. It is a mere enumeration of a few known facts, makes no use of exclusions or rejections, concludes precariously, and is always liable to be overthrown by a negative instance. In radical opposition to this method the Baconian induction begins by supplying helps and guides to the senses, whose unassisted information could not be relied on. Notions were formed carefully, and not till after a certain process of induction was completed. The formation of axioms was to be carried on by a gradually ascending scale. “Then and only then may we hope well of the sciences, when in a just scale of ascent and by successive steps, not interrupted or broken, we rise from particulars to lesser axioms; and then to middle axioms, one above the other; and last of all to the most general.” Finally the very form of induction itself must be new. “The induction which is to be available for the discovery and demonstration of sciences and arts must analyse nature by proper rejections and exclusions; and then, after a sufficient number of negatives, come to a conclusion on the affirmative instances, which has not yet been done, or even attempted, save only by Plato. . . . And this induction must be used not only to discover axioms, but also in the formation of notions.” This view of the function of exclusion is closely connected with Bacon’s doctrine of forms, and is in fact dependent upon that theory. But induction is neither the whole of the new method, nor is it applicable to forms only. There are two other grand objects of inquiry: the one, the transformation of concrete bodies; the other, the investigation of the latent powers and the latent schematism or configuration. With regard to the first, in ultimate result it depends upon the theory of forms; for whenever the compound body can be regarded as the sum of certain simple natures, then our knowledge of the forms of these natures gives us the power of superinducing a new nature on the concrete body. As regards the latent process (latens processus) which goes on in all cases of generation and continuous development or motion, we examine carefully, and by quantitative measurements, the gradual growth and change from the first elements to the completed thing. The same kind of investigation may be extended to many cases of natural motion, such as voluntary action or nutrition; and though inquiry is here directed towards concrete bodies, and does not therefore penetrate so deeply into reality as in research for forms, yet great results may be looked for with more confidence. It is to be regretted that Bacon did not complete this portion of his work, in which for the first time he approaches modern conceptions of change. The latent configuration (latens schematismus) or inward structure of the parts of a body must be known before we can hope to superinduce a new nature upon it. This can only be discovered by analysis, which will disclose the ultimate constituents (natural particles, not atoms) of bodies, and lead back the discussion to forms or simple natures, whereby alone can true light be thrown on these obscure questions. Thus, in all cases, scientific explanation depends upon knowledge of forms; all phenomena or secondary qualities are accounted for by being referred to the primary qualities of matter.
The several steps in the inductive investigation of the form of any nature flow readily from the definition of the form itself. For that is always and necessarily present when the nature is present, absent when it is absent, decreases and increases according as the nature decreases and increases. It is therefore requisite for the inquiry to have before us instances in which the nature is present. The list of these is called the table of Essence and Presence. Secondly, we must have instances in which the nature is absent; only as such cases might be infinite, attention should be limited to such of them as are most akin to the instances of presence. The list in this case is called table of Absence in Proximity. Thirdly, we must have a number of instances in which the nature is present in different degrees, either increasing or decreasing in the same subject, or variously present in different subjects. This is the table of Degrees, or Comparison. After the formation of these tables, we proceed to apply what is perhaps the most valuable part of the Baconian method, and that in which the author took most pride, the process of exclusion or rejection. This elimination of the non-essential, grounded on the fundamental propositions with regard to forms, is the most important of Bacon’s contributions to the logic of induction, and that in which, as he repeatedly says, his method differs from all previous philosophies. It is evident that if the tables were complete, and our notions of the respective phenomena clear, the process of exclusion would be a merely mechanical counting out, and would infallibly lead to the detection of the cause or form. But it is just as evident that these conditions can never be adequately fulfilled. Bacon saw that his method was impracticable (though he seems to have thought the difficulties not insuperable), and therefore set to work to devise new helps, adminicula. These he enumerates in ii., Aph. 21:—Prerogative Instances, Supports of Induction, Rectification of Induction, Varying the Investigation according to the Nature of the Subject, Prerogative Natures, Limits of Investigation, Application to Practice, Preparations for Investigation, the Ascending and Descending Scale of Axioms. The remainder of the Organum is devoted to a consideration of the twenty-seven classes of Prerogative Instances, and though it contains much that is both luminous and helpful, it adds little to our knowledge of what constitutes the Baconian method. On the other heads we have but a few scattered hints. But although the rigorous requirements of science could only be fulfilled by the employment of all these means, yet in their absence it was permissible to draw from the tables and the exclusion a hypothetical conclusion, the truth of which might be verified by the use of the other processes; such an hypothesis is called fantastically the First Vintage (Vindemiatio). The inductive method, so far as exhibited in the Organum, is exemplified by an investigation into the nature of heat.
Such was the method devised by Bacon, and to which he ascribed the qualities of absolute certainty and mechanical simplicity. But even supposing that this method were accurate and completely unfolded, it is evident that it could only be made applicable and produce fruit when the phenomena of the universe have been very completely tabulated and arranged. In this demand for a complete natural history, Bacon also felt that he was original, and he was deeply impressed with the necessity for it; in fact, he seems occasionally to place an even higher value upon it than upon his Organum. Thus, in the preface to his series of works forming the third part of the Instauratio, he says: “It comes, therefore, to this, that my Organum, even if it were completed, would not without the Natural History much advance the Instauration of the Sciences, whereas the Natural History without the Organum would advance it not a little.” But a complete natural history is evidently a thing impossible, and in fact a history can only be collected by attending to the requirements of the Organum. This was seen by Bacon, and what may be regarded as his final opinion on the question is given in the important letter to Jean Antoine Baranzano (“Redemptus”: 1590–1622):—“With regard to the multitude of instances by which men may be deterred from the attempt, here is my answer. First, what need to dissemble? Either store of instances must be procured, or the business must be given up. All other ways, however enticing, are impassable. Secondly, the prerogatives of instances, and the mode of experimenting upon experiments of light (which I shall hereafter explain), will diminish the multitude of them very much. Thirdly, what matter, I ask, if the description of the instances should fill six times as many volumes as Pliny’s History? ... For the true natural history is to take nothing except instances, connections, observations and canons”. The Organum and the History are thus correlative, and form the two equally necessary sides of a true philosophy; by their union the new philosophy is produced.
Summary.—Two questions may be put to any doctrine which professes to effect a radical change in philosophy or science. Is it original? Is it valuable? With regard to the first, it has been already pointed out that Bacon’s induction or inductive method is distinctly his own, though it cannot and need not be maintained that the general spirit of his philosophy was entirely new.
The value of the method is the separate and more difficult question. It has been assailed on the most opposite grounds. Macaulay, while admitting the accuracy of the process, denied its efficiency, on the ground that an operation performed naturally was not rendered more easy or efficacious by being subjected to analysis. This objection is curious when confronted with Bacon’s reiterated assertion that the natural method pursued by the unassisted human reason is distinctly opposed to his; and it is besides an argument that tells so strongly against many sciences, as to be comparatively worthless when applied to any one. There are, however, more formidable objections against the method. It has been pointed out, and with perfect justice, that science in its progress has not followed the Baconian method, that no one discovery can be pointed to which can be definitely ascribed to the use of his rules, and that men the most celebrated for their scientific acquirements, while paying homage to the name of Bacon, practically set at naught his most cherished precepts. The reason of this is not far to seek, and has been pointed out by logicians of the most diametrically opposed schools. The mechanical character both of the natural history and of the logical method applied to it resulted necessarily from Bacon’s radically false conception of the nature of cause and of the causal relation. The whole logical or scientific problem is treated as if it were one of co-existence, to which in truth the method of exclusion is scarcely applicable, and the assumption is constantly made that each phenomenon has one and only one cause. The inductive formation of axioms by a gradually ascending scale is a route which no science has ever followed, and by which no science could ever make progress. The true scientific procedure is by hypothesis followed up and tested by verification; the most powerful instrument is the deductive method, which Bacon can hardly be said to have recognized. The power of framing hypothesis points to another want in the Baconian doctrine. If that power form part of the true method, then the mind is not wholly passive or recipient; it anticipates nature, and moulds the experience received by it in accordance with its own constructive ideas or conceptions; and yet further, the minds of various investigators can never be reduced to the same dead mechanical level. There will still be room for the scientific use of the imagination and for the creative flashes of genius.
If, then, Bacon himself made no contributions to science, if no discovery can be shown to be due to the use of his rules, if his method be logically defective, and the problem to which it was applied one from its nature incapable of adequate solution, it may not unreasonably be asked, How has he come to be looked upon as the great leader in the reformation of modern science? How is it that he shares with Descartes the honour of inaugurating modern philosophy? To this the true answer seems to be that Bacon owes his position not only to the general spirit of his philosophy, but to the manner in which he worked into a connected system the new mode of thinking, and to the incomparable power and eloquence with which he expounded and enforced it. Like all epoch-making works, the Novum Organum gave expression to ideas which were already beginning to be in the air. The time was ripe for a great change; scholasticism, long decaying, had begun to fall; the authority not only of school doctrines but of the church had been discarded; while here and there a few devoted experimenters were turning with fresh zeal to the unwithered face of nature. The fruitful thoughts which lay under and gave rise to these scattered efforts of the human mind, were gathered up into unity, and reduced to system in the new philosophy of Bacon. It is assuredly little matter for wonder that this philosophy should contain much that is now inapplicable, and that in many respects it should be vitiated by radical errors. The details of the logical method on which its author laid the greatest stress have not been found of practical service; yet the fundamental ideas on which the theory rested, the need for rejecting rash generalization, and the necessity for a critical analysis of experience, are as true and valuable now as they were then. Progress in scientific discovery is made mainly, if not solely, by the employment of hypothesis, and for that no code of rules can be laid down such as Bacon had devised. Yet the framing of hypothesis is no mere random guesswork; it is left not to the imagination alone, but to the scientific imagination. There is required in the process not merely a preliminary critical induction, but a subsequent experimental comparison, verification or proof, the canons of which can be laid down with precision. To formulate and show grounds for these laws is to construct a philosophy of induction, and it must not be forgotten that the first step towards the accomplishment of the task was made by Bacon when he introduced and gave prominence to the powerful logical instrument of exclusion or elimination.
It is curious and significant that in the domain of the moral and metaphysical sciences his influence has been perhaps more powerful, and his authority has been more frequently appealed to, than in that of the physical. This is due, not so much to his expressed opinion that the inductive method was applicable to all the sciences, as to the generally practical, or, one may say, positive spirit of his system. Theological questions, which had tortured the minds of generations, are by him relegated from the province of reason to that of faith. Even reason must be restrained from striving after ultimate truth; it is one of the errors of the human intellect that it will not rest in general principles, but must push its investigations deeper. Experience and observation are the only remedies against prejudice and error. Into questions of metaphysics, as commonly understood, Bacon can hardly be said to have entered, but a long line of thinkers have drawn inspiration from him, and it is not without justice that he has been looked upon as the originator and guiding spirit of what is known as the empirical school.
Bacon’s Influence.—It is impossible within our limits to do more than indicate the influence which Bacon’s views have had on subsequent thinkers. The most valuable and complete discussion of the subject is contained in T. Fowler’s edition of the Novum Organum (introd. § 14). It is there argued that, both in philosophy and in natural science, Bacon’s influence was immediate and lasting. Under the former head it is pointed out (i.) that the fundamental principle of Locke’s Essay, that all our ideas are product of sensation and reflection, is briefly stated in the first aphorism of the Novum Organum, and (ii.) that the whole atmosphere of that treatise is characteristic of the Essay. Bacon is, therefore, regarded by many as the father of what is most characteristic in English psychological speculation. As he himself said, he “rang the bell which called the wits together.” In the sphere of ethics he is similarly regarded as a forerunner of the empirical method. The spirit of the De Augmentis (bk. vii.) and the inductive method which is discussed in the Novum Organum are at the root of all theories which have constructed a moral code by an inductive examination of human consciousness and the results of actions. Among such theories utilitarianism especially is the natural result of the application to the phenomenon of conduct of the Baconian experimental method. In this connexion, however, it is important to notice that Hobbes, who had been Bacon’s secretary, makes no mention of Baconian induction, nor does he in any of his works make any critical reference to Bacon himself. It would, therefore, appear that Bacon’s influence was not immediate.
In the sphere of natural science, Bacon’s importance is attested by references to his work in the writings of the principal scientists, not only English, but French, German and Italian. Fowler (op. cit.) has collected from Descartes, Gassendi, S. Sorbière, Jean Baptiste du Hamel, quotations which show how highly Bacon was regarded by the leaders of the new scientific movement. Sorbière, who was by no means partial to things English, definitely speaks of him as “celuy qui a le plus puissamment solicité les interests de la physique, et excité le monde à faire des expériences” (Relation d'un voyage en Angleterre, Cologne, 1666, pp. 63-64). It was, however, Voltaire and the encyclopaedists who raised Bacon to the pinnacle of his fame in France, and hailed him as “le père de la philosophie expérimentale” (Lettres sur les Anglois). Condillac, in the same spirit, says of him, “personne n'a mieux connu que lui la cause de nos erreurs.” So the Encyclopédie, besides giving a eulogistic article “Baconisme,” speaks of him (in d'Alembert’s preliminary discourse) as “le plus grand, le plus universel, et le plus éloquent des philosophes.” Among other writers, Leibnitz and Huygens give testimony which is the more valuable as being critical. Leibnitz speaks of Bacon as “divini ingenii vir,” and, like several other German authors, classes him with Campanella; Huygens refers to his “bonnes méthodes.” If, however, we are to attach weight to English writers of the latter half of the 17th century, we shall find that one of Bacon’s greatest achievements was the impetus given by his New Atlantis to the foundation of the Royal Society (q.v.). Dr Thomas Sprat (1635–1713), bishop of Rochester and first historian of the society, says that Bacon of all others “had the true imagination of the whole extent” of the enterprise, and that in his works are to be found the best arguments for the experimental method of natural philosophy (Hist. of the Royal Society, pp. 35-36, and Thomas Tenison’s Baconiana, pp. 264-266). In this connexion reference should be made also to Cowley’s Ode to the Royal Society, and to Dr John Wallis’s remarks in Hearne’s Preface to P. Langtoft’s Chronicle (appendix, num. xi.). Joseph Glanvill, in his Scepsis Scientifica (dedication) says, “Solomon’s house in the New Atlantis was a prophetic scheme of the Royal Society”; and Henry Oldenburg (c. 1615–1677), one of the first secretaries of the society, speaks of the new eagerness to obtain scientific data as “a work begun by the single care and conduct of the excellent Lord Verulam.” Boyle, in whose works there are frequent eulogistic references to Bacon, regarded himself as a disciple and was indeed known as a second Bacon. The predominating influence of Bacon’s philosophy is thus clearly established in the generation which succeeded his own. There is abundant evidence to show that in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge (especially the latter) the new spirit had already modified the old curricula. Bacon has frequently been disparaged on the ground that his name is not mentioned by Sir Isaac Newton. It can be shown, however, that Newton was not ignorant of Bacon’s works, and Dr Fowler explains his silence with regard to them on three grounds: (1) that Bacon’s reputation was so well established that any definite mention was unnecessary, (2) that it was not customary at the time to acknowledge indebtedness to contemporary and recent writers, and (3) that Newton’s genius was so strongly mathematical (whereas Bacon’s great weakness was in mathematics) that he had no special reason to refer to Bacon’s experimental principles.
If the foregoing examples are held sufficient to establish the influence of Bacon on the intellectual development of his immediate successors, it follows that the whole trend of typically English thought, not only in natural science, but also in mental, moral and political philosophy, is the logical fulfilment of Baconian principles. He argued against the tyranny of authority, the vagaries of unfettered imagination and the academic aims of unpractical dialectic; the vital energy and the reasoned optimism of his language entirely outweigh the fact that his contributions to the stock of actual scientific knowledge were practically inconsiderable. It may be freely admitted that in the domain of logic there is nothing in the Organum that has not been more instructively analysed either by Aristotle himself or in modern works; at the same time, there is probably no work which is a better and more stimulating introduction to logical study. Its terse, epigrammatic phrases sink into the fibre of the mind, and are a healthy warning against crude, immature generalization.
While, therefore, it is a profound mistake to regard Bacon as a great constructive philosopher, or even as a lonely pioneer of modern thought, it is quite unfair to speak of him as a trifler. His great work consists in the fact that he summed up the faults which the widening of knowledge had disclosed in medieval thought, and in this sense he stands high among those who were in many parts of 16th-century Europe striving towards a new intellectual activity.
Bibliography. Editions.—The classical edition is that of R. L. Ellis, J. Spedding and D. D. Heath, 1st ed., 1857; 2nd ed., 1870 (vols. i.-iii., philosophical writings; iv.-v., translations; vi.-vii., literary and professional works). B. Montagu’s edition (17 vols., 1825–1834) is full but unscholarly. An extremely useful reprint (in one volume) of the philosophical works (with a few not strictly philosophical), based on the first Ellis-Spedding edition, was published by J. M. Robertson (London, 1905); besides the original introductions, it contains a useful summary by the editor of the various problems of Bacon’s life and thought. Numerous cheap editions have lately been published, e.g. in the “World’s Classics” (1901), and “New Universal Library” series (1905); Sidney Lee, English Works of Francis Bacon (London, 1905).
Of particular works there are numerous editions in all the chief languages. The following are the most important:—T. Fowler, Novum Organum (Oxford, 1878; ed. 1889), with notes, full introduction on Bacon’s philosophy in all its relations, and a most valuable bibliography. This superseded the edition of G. W. Kitchin (Oxford, 1855). The Essays have been edited more than twenty times since 1870; the following editions may be mentioned:—Archbishop Whately (6th ed., 1864); W. Aldis Wright (Lond., 1862); F. Storr and Gibson (Lond., 1886); E. A. Abbott (Lond., 1879); John Buchan (Lond., 1879); A. S. West (Cambridge, 1897); W. Evans (Edinburgh, 1897). A facsimile reprint of the 1st edition was published in New York (1904). Advancement of Learning:—W. Aldis Wright (Camb., 1866; 5th ed., 1900); F. G. Selby (1892–1895); H. Morley (1905); and, with the New Atlantis, in the “World’s Classics” series (introduction by Prof. T. Case, Lond., 1906). Wisdom of the Ancients and New Atlantis, in “Cassell’s National Library” (1886 and 1903). G. C. M. Smith, New Atlantis (1900). J. Fürstenhagen, Kleinere Schriften (Leipzig, 1884).
Biography.—J. Spedding, The Life and Letters of Lord Bacon (1861), Life and Times of Francis Bacon (1878); also Dr Rawley’s Life in the Ellis-Spedding editions, and J. M. Robertson’s reprint (above); W. Hepworth Dixon, Personal History of Lord Bacon (Lond., 1861), and Story of Lord Bacon’s Life (ib. 1862); John Campbell, Lives of the Chancellors (Lond., 1845), ii. 51; P. Woodward, Early Life of Lord Bacon (1902); T. Fowler, Francis Bacon in “English Philos.” series (Lond., 1881); R. W. Church’s Bacon, in “Men of Letters” series (1884).
Philosophy.—Beside the introductions in the Ellis-Spedding and T. Fowler editions, and general histories of philosophy, see:—Kuno Fischer, Fr. Bacon (1856, 2nd ed., 1875, Eng. trans. by John Oxenford, Lond., 1857); Ch. de Rémusat, Bacon, sa vie . . . et son influence (1857, ed. 1858 and 1877); G. L. Craik, Lord Bacon, his Writings and his Philosophy (3 vols., 1846–1847, ed. 1860); A. Dorner, De Baconis Philosophia (Berlin, 1867; London, 1886); J. v. Liebig, Über F. B. v. Verulam (Mannheim, 1863); Ad. Lasson, Über B. v. Verulam’s wissenschaftliche Principien (Berl., 1860); E. H. Böhmer, Über F. B. v. Verulam (Erlangen, 1864); Ch. Adam, Philos. de Francis Bacon (Paris, 1890); Barthélemy St Hilaire, Étude sur Francis Bacon (Paris, 1890); R. W. Church, op. cit.; H. Heussler, F. Bacon und seine geschichtliche Stellung (Breslau, 1889); H. Höffding, History of Modern Philosophy (Eng. trans., 1900); J. M. Robertson, Short History of Freethought (Lond., 1906); Sidney Lee, Great Englishmen of the 16th century (Lond., 1904). For the relations between Bacon and Ben Jonson see The Tale of the Shakespeare Epitaphs by Francis Bacon (New York, 1888); for Bacon’s poetical gifts see an article in the Fortnightly Review (March 1905).}
- See Nic. Eth. iv. 3. 3. 1123b.
- “I wax now somewhat ancient; one-and-thirty years is a great deal of sand in the hour-glass. . . . I ever bare a mind (in some middle place that I could discharge) to serve her majesty; not as a man born under Sol, that loveth honour; nor under Jupiter, that loveth business (for the contemplative planet carrieth me away wholly); but as a man born under an excellent sovereign, that deserveth the dedication of all men’s abilities. . . . Again the meanness of my estate doth somewhat move me; for though I cannot accuse myself that I am either prodigal or slothful, yet my health is not to spend, nor my course to get. Lastly, I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends as I have moderate civil ends; for I have taken all knowledge to be my province; and if I could purge it of two sorts of rovers, whereof the one with frivolous disputations, confutations and verbosities, the other with blind experiments and auricular traditions and impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in industrious observations, grounded conclusions and profitable inventions and discoveries—the best state of that province. This, whether it be curiosity, or vain-glory, or nature, or (if one take it favourably) philanthropia, is so fixed in my mind as it cannot be removed. And I do easily see, that place of any reasonable commandment doth bring commandment of more wits than of a man’s own. . . .And if your lordship shall find now, or at any time, that I do seek or affect any place whereunto any that is nearer to your lordship shall be convenient, say then that I am a most dishonest man. And if your lordship will not carry me on, . . . this I will do, I will sell the inheritance that I have, and purchase some lease of quick revenue, or some office of gain that shall be executed by deputy, and so give over all care of service, and become some sorry bookmaker, or a true pioneer in that mine of truth.”—Spedding, Letters and Life, i. 108-109.
- Spedding, Letters and Life, i. 234-235, cf. i. 362. This letter, with those to Puckering or Essex and the queen, i. 240-241, should be compared with what is said of them by Macaulay in his Essay on Bacon, and by Campbell, Lives, ii. 287.
- See Letters and Life, i. 289, ii. 34.
- See Macaulay’s Essay on Bacon.
- The whole story of Essex is given in Spedding’s Letters and Life. It is vigorously told by J. Bruce in the introduction to his Correspondence of James VI. with Sir Robert Cecil (Camden Society, 1861).
- See Letters and Life, iv. 177, vi. 38, vii. 116, 117.
- In October 1608 he became treasurer of Gray’s Inn. The tercentenary was celebrated in 1908.
- Letters and Life, iv. 380.
- Ibid. iv. 365-373.
- Ibid. iv. 375-378.
- Ibid. v. 81-83.
- Not to be confounded with any of those of the same name who held the title of Baron St John of Bletsho (see Dict. of Nat. Biog. vol. 1. p. 150 ad fin.).
- Circa 1554–1616; educated at Cambridge; ordained priest 1581; vicar of Ridge, Herts, 1581; rector of Hinton St George, Somerset, 1587; eventually condemned to death at the Taunton Assizes (7th August 1615). The sentence was not carried out, and Peacham is said to have died in gaol (March 1616). See Gardiner’s Hist. of England, ii. 272-283; State Trials, ii. 869; Calendar of State Papers (1603–1606); Hallam’s Constitutional Hist. i. 343; T. P. Taswell-Langmead, English Constitutional History (5th ed., 1896), p. 425. Nearly all works on constitutional law and history discuss the case.
- Letters and Life, v. 101
- Ibid. v. 121, n.
- Ibid. v. 124.
- Macaulay’s Essay.
- Campbell, Lives, ii. 344.
- The mysterious crimes supposed to be concealed under the obscure details of this case have cast a shadow of vague suspicion on all who were concerned in it. The minute examination of the facts by Spedding (Letters and Life, v. 208-347) seems to show that these secret crimes exist nowhere but in the heated imaginations of romantic biographers and historians.
- A somewhat similar case is that of the writ De Rege inconsulto brought forward by Bacon. See Letters and Life, v. 233-236.
- Ibid. vi. 6, 7, 13-26, 27-56.
- Ibid. vi. 33.
- A position which Bacon in some respects approved. See Essays, “Of Ambition.” “It is counted by some a weakness in princes to have favourites; but it is of all others the best remedy against ambitious great ones; for when the way of pleasuring and displeasuring lieth by the favourite, it is impossible any other should be over great.”
- Letters and Life, vi. 278, 294-296, 313.
- Ibid. vii. 579-588, analysis of the case by D. D. Heath, who expresses a strong opinion against Bacon’s action in the matter.
- Ibid. vi. 444.
- For a full discussion of Bacon’s connexion with the monopolies, see Gardiner, Prince Charles, &c. ii. 355-373. For his opinion of monopolies in general, see Letters and Life, vi. 49.
- Letters and Life, vii. 213: “I know I have clean hands and a clean heart, and I hope a clean house for friends or servants. But Job himself, or whosoever was the justest judge, by such hunting for matters against him as hath been used against me, may for a time seem foul, specially in a time when greatness is the mark and accusation is the game.”
- Ibid. vii. 215-216.
- Ibid. vii. 225-226. From the letter to the king (March 25, 1621)—“When I enter into myself, I find not the materials of such a tempest as is comen upon me. I have been (as your majesty knoweth best) never author of any immoderate counsel, but always desired to have things carried suavibus modis. I have been no avaricious oppressor of the people. I have been no haughty or intolerable or hateful man in my conversation or carriage. I have inherited no hatred from my father, but am a good patriot born. Whence should this be? For these are the things that use to raise dislikes abroad.... And for the briberies and gifts wherewith I am charged, when the book of hearts shall be opened, 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 abuse of the times.”
- Ibid. vii. 227, and Gardiner, Prince Charles, &c. i. 450.
- Letters and Life, vii. 236, 238.
- Ibid. vii. 241.
- Ibid. vii. 242-244; “It resteth therefore that, without fig-leaves, I do ingenuously confess and acknowledge, that having understood the particulars of the charge, not formally from the House but enough to inform my conscience and memory, I find matter sufficient and full, both to move me to desert the defence, and to move your lordships to condemn and censure me.”
- Ibid. vii. 252-262.
- Ibid. vii. 261.
- Ibid. vii. 270.
- Letters and Life, vii. 235-236: “The first, of bargain and contract for reward to pervert justice, pendente lite. The second, where the judge conceives the cause to be at an end, by the information of the party or otherwise, and useth not such diligence as he ought to inquire of it. And the third, where the cause is really ended, and it is sine fraude without relation to any precedent promise.... For the first of them I take myself to be as innocent as any born upon St Innocent’s Day, in my heart. For the second, I doubt on some particulars I may be faulty. And for the last, I conceived it to be no fault, but therein I desire to be better informed, that I may be twice penitent, once for the fact and again for the error.”
- Ibid. vii. 242.
- Ibid. vii. 244: “Neither will your lordships forget that there are vitia temporis as well as vitia hominis, and that the beginning of reformations hath the contrary power to the pool of Bethesda, for that had strength to cure only him that was first cast in, and this hath commonly strength to hurt him only that is first cast in.”
- See, among many other passages, Essays, “Of Great Place”: “For corruptions do not only bind thine own hands or thy servant’s hands from taking, but bind the hands of suitors also from offering; for integrity used doth the one; but integrity professed, and with a manifest detestation of bribery, doth the other; and avoid not only the fault but the suspicion.”
- Cf. Letters and Life, vii. 560: “I was the justest judge that was in England these fifty years; but it was the justest censure in Parliament that was these two hundred years.”
- Or on the ground that there was a distinct rule forbidding chancellors and the like officials to take presents. This does not seem to have been the case, if we may judge from what Bacon says Letters and Life, vii. 233.
- Not only do the cases, so far as they are known, support Bacon’s plea of innocence, but it is remarkable that no attempt at a reversal of any of his numerous decrees appears to have been successful. Had his decrees been wilful perversions of justice, it is scarcely conceivable that some of them should not have been overturned. See Letters and Life, vii. 555-562.
- The peculiarities of Bacon’s style were noticed very early by his contemporaries. (See Letters and Life, i. 268.) Raleigh and Jonson have both recorded their opinions of it, but no one has characterized it more happily than his friend, Sir Tobie Matthews, “A man so rare in knowledge, of so many several kinds, endued with the facility and felicity of expressing it all in so elegant, significant, so abundant, and yet so choice and ravishing a way of words, of metaphors, of allusions, as perhaps the world hath not seen since it was a world.”—“Address to the Reader” prefixed to Collection of English Letters (1660).
- The division of the sciences adopted in the great French Encyclopédie was founded upon this classification of Bacon’s. See Diderot’s Prospectus (Œuvres, iii.) and d’Alembert’s Discours (Œuvres, i.) The scheme should be compared with later attempts of the same nature by Ampère, Cournot, Comte and Herbert Spencer.
- See also “Letter to Fulgentio,” Letters and Life, vii. 533.
- Fil. Lab.; Cog. et Visa. i.; cf. Pref. to Ins. Mag.
- Val. Ter. 232; cf. N. O. i. 124.
- Letters, i. 123.
- N. O. i. 116.
- Fil. Lab. 5; cf. N. O. i. 81; Val. Ter. (Works, iii. 235); Advancement, bk. i. (Works, iii. 294).
- Fil. Lab. 5; cf. N. O. i. 81; Val. Ter. (Works, iii. 222-233); New Atlantis (Works, iii. 156).
- N. O. i. 116.
- Ibid. i. 124.
- Ibid. i. 6.
- The word Idola is manifestly borrowed from Plato. It is used twice in connexion with the Platonic Ideas (N. O. i. 23, 124) and is contrasted with them as the false appearance. The εἴδολον with Plato is the fleeting, transient image of the real thing, and the passage evidently referred to by Bacon is that in the Rep. vii. 516 A, καὶ πρῶτον μὲν τὰς σκιὰς ἂν ῥᾷστα καθορῴη, καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο ἐν τοῖς ὕδασι τά τε τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ τὰ τῶν ἄλλων εἴδωλα, ὕστερον δὲ αὐτά. It is explained well in the Advancement, bk. i. (Works, iii. 287). (For valuable notes on the Idola, see T. Fowler’s Nov. Org. i. 38 notes; especially for a comparison of the Idola with Roger Bacon’s Offendicula.)
- N. O. i. 58.
- N. O. i. 79, 80, 98, 108.
- On the meaning of the word form in Bacon’s theory see also Fowler’s N. O. introd. § 8.
- N. O. ii. 1.
- This better known in the order of nature is nowhere satisfactorily explained by Bacon. Like his classification of causes, and in some degree his notion of form itself, it comes from Aristotle. See An. Post. 71 b 33; Topic, 141 b 5; Eth. Nic. 1095 a 30. It should be observed that many writers maintain that the phrase should be notiora natura; others, notiora naturae. See Fowler’s N. O. p. 199 note.
- N. O. ii. 17.
- Ibid. i. 51.
- Ibid. i. 75.
- Ibid. ii. 2.
- Valerius Terminus, iii. 228-229.
- Cf. N. O. ii. 27. Bacon nowhere enters upon the questions of how such a science is to be constructed, and how it can be expected to possess an independent method while it remains the mere receptacle for the generalizations of the several sciences, and consequently has a content which varies with their progress. His whole conception of Prima Philosophia should be compared with such a modern work as the First Principles of Herbert Spencer.
- It is to be noticed that this scale of nature corresponds with the scale of ascending axioms.
- Cf. also for motions, N. O. ii. 48.
- The knowledge of final causes does not lead to works, and the consideration of them must be rigidly excluded from physics. Yet there is no opposition between the physical and final causes; in ultimate resort the mind is compelled to think the universe as the work of reason, to refer facts to God and Providence. The idea of final cause is also fruitful in sciences which have to do with human action. (Cf. De Aug. iii. cc. 4, 5; Nov. Org. i. 48, ii. 2.)
- De Aug. iii. 4. In the Advancement (Works, iii. 355) it is distinctly said that they are not to be inquired into. One can hardly see how the Baconian method could have applied to concrete substances.
- Thus the last step in the theoretical analysis gives the first means for the practical operation. Cf. Aristotle, Eth. Nic. iii. 3. 12, τὸ ἔσχατον ἐν τῇ ἀναλύσει πρῶτον εἶναι ἐν τῇ γενέσει. Cf. also Nov. Org. i. 103.
- Cogitationes (Works, iii. 187).
- N. O. ii. 10.
- Pref. to Instaur. Cf. Valerius Term. (Works, iii. 224), and N. O. i. 68, 124.
- Pref. to Inst.
- Bacon’s summary is valuable. “In the whole of the process which leads from the senses and objects to axioms and conclusions, the demonstrations which we use are deceptive and incompetent. The process consists of four parts, and has as many faults. In the first place, the impressions of the sense itself are faulty, for the sense both fails us and deceives us. But its shortcomings are to be supplied and its deceptions to be corrected. Secondly, notions are all drawn from the impressions of the sense, and are indefinite and confused, whereas they should be definite and distinctly bounded. Thirdly, the induction is amiss which infers the principles of sciences by simple enumeration, and does not, as it ought, employ exclusions and solutions (or separations) of nature. Lastly, that method of discovery and proof according to which the most general principles are first established, and then intermediate axioms are tried and proved by them, is the parent of error and the curse of all science.”—N. O. i. 69.
- N. O. i. 105.
- Ibid., i. 104; cf. i. 19-26.
- This extract gives an answer to the objection sometimes raised that Bacon is not original in his theory of induction. He certainly admits that Plato has used a method somewhat akin to his own; but it has frequently been contended that his induction is nothing more than the ἐπάγωγη of Aristotle (see Rémusat’s Bacon, &c., pp. 310-315, and for a criticism, Waddington, Essais de Logique, p. 261. sqq.) This seems a mistake. Bacon did not understand by induction the argument from particulars to a general proposition; he looked upon the exclusion and rejection, or upon elimination, as the essence of induction. To this process he was led by his doctrine of forms, of which it is the necessary consequence; it is the infallible result of his view of science and its problem, and is as original as that is. Whoever accepts Bacon’s doctrine of cause must accept at the same time his theory of the way in which the cause may be sifted out from among the phenomena. It is evident that the Socratic search for the essence by an analysis of instances—an induction ending in a definition—has a strong resemblance to the Baconian inductive method.
- N. O. i. 105.
- That is to say, differing in nothing save the absence of the nature under investigation.
- Distrib. Op. (Works, iv. 28); Parasceve (ibid. 251, 252, 255-256); Descrip. Glob. Intel. ch. 3.
- Works, ii. 16; cf. N. O. i. 130.
- A Barnabite monk, professor of mathematics and philosophy at Annecy.
- Letters and Life, vii. 377.
- For a full discussion of Bacon’s relation to his predecessors and contemporaries, see Fowler’s N. O. introd. § 13.
- Cf. what Bacon says, N. O. i. 130.
- Brewster, Life of Newton (1855) (see particularly vol. ii. 403, 405); Lasson, Über Bacon von Verulam’s wissenschaftliche Principien (1860); Liebig, Über Francis Bacon von Verulam, &c. (1863). Although Liebig points out how little science proceeds according to Bacon’s rules, yet his other criticisms seem of extremely little value. In a very offensive and quite unjustifiable tone, which is severely commented on by Sigwart and Fischer, he attacks the Baconian methods and its results. These results he claims to find in the Sylva Sylvarum, entirely ignoring what Bacon himself has said of the nature of that work (N. O. i. 117; cf. Rawley’s Pref. to the S. S.), and thus putting a false interpretation on the experiments there noted. It is not surprising that he should detect many flaws, but he never fails to exaggerate an error, and seems sometimes completely to miss the point of what Bacon says. (See particularly his remarks on S. S. 33, 336.) The method he explains in such a way as to show he has not a glimpse of its true nature. He brings against Bacon, of all men, the accusations of making induction start from the undetermined perceptions of the senses, of using imagination, and of putting a quite arbitrary interpretation on phenomena. He crowns his criticism by expounding what he considers to be the true scientific method, which, as has been pointed put by Fischer, is simply that Baconian doctrine against which his attack ought to have been directed. (See his account of the method, Über Bacon, 47-49; K. Fischer, Bacon, pp. 499-502.)
- Mill, Logic, ii. pp. 115, 116, 329, 330.
- Whewell, Phil. of Ind. Sc. ii. 399, 402-403; Ellis, Int. to Bacon’s Works, i. 39, 61; Brewster, Newton, ii. 404; Jevons, Princ. of Science ii. 220. A severe judgment on Bacon’s method is given in Dühring’s able but one-sided Kritische Gesch. d. Phil., in which the merits of Roger Bacon are brought prominently forward.
- Although it must be admitted that the Baconian method is fairly open to the above-mentioned objections, it is curious and significant that Bacon was not thoroughly ignorant of them, but with deliberate consciousness preferred his own method. We do not think, indeed, that the notiones of which he speaks in any way correspond to what Whewell and Ellis would call “conceptions or ideas furnished by the mind of the thinker”; nor do we imagine that Bacon would have admitted these as necessary elements in the inductive process. But he was certainly not ignorant of what may be called a deductive method, and of a kind of hypothesis. This is clear from the use he makes of the Vindemiatio, from certain hints as to the testing of axioms, from his admission of the syllogism into physical reasoning, and from what he calls Experientia Literata. The function of the Vindemiatio has been already pointed out; with regard to axioms, he says (N. O. i. 106), “In establishing axioms by this kind of induction, we must also examine and try whether the axiom so established be framed to the measure of these particulars, from which it is derived, or whether it be larger or wider. And if it be larger and wider, we must observe whether, by indicating to us new particulars, it confirm that wideness and largeness as by a collateral security, that we may not either stick fast in things already known, or loosely grasp at shadows and abstract forms, not at things solid and realized in matter.” (Cf. also the passage from Valerius Terminus, quoted in Ellis’s note on the above aphorism.) Of the syllogism he says, “I do not propose to give up the syllogism altogether. S. is incompetent for the principal things rather than useless for the generality. In the mathematics there is no reason why it should not be employed. It is the flux of matter and the inconstancy of the physical body which requires induction, that thereby it may be fixed as it were, and allow the formation of notions well defined. In physics you wisely note, and therein I agree with you, that after the notions of the first class and the axioms concerning them have been by induction well made out and defined, syllogism may be applied safely; only it must be restrained from leaping at once to the most general notions, and progress must be made through a fit succession of steps.”—(“Letter to Baranzano,” Letters and Life, vii. 377). And with this may be compared what he says of mathematics (Nov. Org. ii. 8; Parasceve, vii.). In his account of Experientia Literata (De Aug. v. 2) he comes very near to the modern mode of experimental research. It is, he says, the procedure from one experiment to another, and it is not a science but an art or learned sagacity (resembling in this Aristotle’s ἀγχίνοια), which may, however, be enlightened by the precepts of the Interpretatio. Eight varieties of such experiments are enumerated, and a comparison is drawn between this and the inductive method; “though the rational method of inquiry by the Organon promises far greater things in the end, yet this sagacity, proceeding by learned experience, will in the meantime present mankind with a number of inventions which lie near at hand.” (Cf. N. O. i. 103.)
- See the vigorous passage in Herschel, Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy, § 105; cf. § 96 of the same work.
- Bacon himself seems to anticipate that the progress of science would of itself render his method antiquated (Nov. Org. i. 130).
- Nov. Org. i. 127.