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chief: he " imagineth mischief as a law ;" a lawlike mischief.
As for the defence which they do make, it doth aggravate the sin, and tiirneth it from a cruelty towards man to n blasphemy towards God. For to say that all this is "in ordine ad spirituale," and to a good end, and for the salvation of souls, it is directly to make God author of evil, and to draw him in the likeness of the prince of darkness; and to say with those that St. Paul speaketh of, " Let us do evil that good may come thereof;" of whom the apostle saith definitively, " that their damnation is just."
For the destroying of government universally, it is most evident, that it is not the case of protestant princes only, but of catholic princes likewise; as the king hath excellently set forth. Nay, it is not the case of princes only, but of all subjects and private persons. For touching princes, let history be perused, what hath been the causes of excommunication; and namely, this tumour of it, the deposing of kings; it hath not been for heresy and schism alone, but for collation and investitures of bishoprics and benefices, intruding upon ecclesiastical possessions, violating of any ecclesiastical person or liberty. Nay. generally they maintain it, that it may be for any sin: so that the difference wherein their doctors vary, that some hold that the pope hath his temporal power immediately, and others but "in ordine ad spirituale," is but a delusion and an abuse. For all Cometh to one. What
is there that may not be made spiritual by consequence; especially when he that giveth the sentence may make the case? and accordingly hath the miserable experience followed. For this murdering of kings hath been put in practice, as well against papist kings as protestant: save that it hath pleased God so to guide it by his admirable providence, as the attempts upon papist princes have been executed, and the attempts upon protestant princes have failed, except that of the Prince of Orange: and not that neither, until such time as he had joined too fast with the duke of Anjou and the papists. As for subjects, I see not, nor ever could discern, but that by infallible consequence it is the case of all subjects and people, as well as of kings; for it is all one reason, that a bishop upon an excommunication of a private man, may give his lands and goods in spoil, or cause him to be slaughtered, as for the pope to do it towards a king; and for a bishop to absolve the son from duty to the father, as for the pope to absolve the subject from his allegiance to his king. And this is not my inference, but the very affirmative of pope Urban the second, who in a brief to Godfrey, bishop of Lucca, hath these very words, which cardinal Baronius reciteth in his Annals, " Non illos homicidas arbilramur, quiadversusexcommunicatoszelocatho- lomgJ^1 p Here matris ardentes eorum quoslibet trucidare contigerit," speaking generally of all excommunications.
THE KING'S ATTORNEY-GENERAL,
MR. LUMSDEN, SIR JOHN WENTWORTH, AND SIR JOHN HOLMES.
FOR SCANDAL AND TRADUCING THE KING'S JUSTICE IN THE PROCEEDINGS AGAINST WESTON IN THE
STAR-CHAMBER, NOVEMBER, 1615.
The offence wherewith I shall charge the three offenders at the bar, is a misdemeanor of a high nature, tending to the defacing and scandal of justice in a great cause capital. The particular charge is this:
The king amongst many his princely virtues is known to excel in that proper virtue of the imperial throne, which is justice. It is a royal virtue, which doth employ the other three cardinal virtues in her service: wisdom to discover, and discern nocent or innocent; fortitude to prosecute and execute; temperance, so to carry justice as it be not passionate in the pursuit, nor confused in involving persons upon light suspicion, nor precipitate in time. For this his Majesty's virtue of justice God hath of late
raised an occasion, and erected as it were a stage or theatre, much to his honour, for him to show it, and act it in the pursuit of the untimely death of Sir Thomas Overbury, and therein cleansing the land from blood. For, my lords, if blood spilt pure doth cry to heaven in God's ears, much more blood defiled with poison.
This great work of his Majesty's justice, the more excellent it is, your lordships will soon conclude the greater is the offence of any that have sought to affront it or traduce it. And therefore, before 1 descend unto the charge of these offenders, I will set before your lordships the weight of that which they have sought to impeach; speaking somewhat of the general crime of imprisonment, and then of the particular circumstances of this fact upon Overbury; and thirdly and chiefly, of the king's great and worthy care and carriage in this business.
The offence of impoisonment is most truly figured in that device or description, which was made of the nature of one of the Roman tyrants, that he was "lutum sanguine maceratum," mire mingled or cemented with blood : for as it is one of the highest offences in guiltiness, so it is the basest of all others in the mind of the offenders. Treasons " magnum aliquidspectant:" they aim at great things; but this is vile and base. I tell your lordships what I have noted, that in all God's book, both of the Old and New Testament, I find examples of all other offences and offenders in the world, but not any one of an impoisonment or an impoisoner. I find mention or fear of casual impoisonment: when the wild vine was shred into the pot, they came complaining in a fearful manner; Master, " mors in olla." And I find mention of poisons of beasts and serpents ; " the poison of asps is under their lips." But I find no example in the book of God of impoisonment. I have sometime thought of the words in the psalm, "let their table be made a snare." Which certainly is most true of impoisonment; for the table, the daily bread, for which we pray, is turned to a deadly snare: but I think rather that that was meant of the treachery of friends that were participant of the same table.
But let us go on. It is an offence, my lords, that hath the two spurs of offending; spes perficiendi, 'and spes celandi; it is easily committed, and easily concealed.
It is an offence that is " tanquam sagitta nocte volans ;" it is the arrow that flies by night. It discerns not whom it hits: for many times the poison is laid for one, and the other takes it; as in Sander's case, where the poisoned apple was laid for the mother, and was taken up by the child, and killed the child: and so in that notorious case, whereupon the statute of 22 Hen. VIII. cap. 9, was made, where the intent being to poison but one or two, poison was put into a little vessel of barm that stood in the kitchen of the bishop of Rochester's house; of which barm pottage or gruel was made, wherewith seventeen of the bishop's family were poisoned: nay, divers of the poor that came to the bishop's gate, and had the broken pottage in alms, were likewise poisoned. And therefore if any man will comfort himself, or think with himself, Here is great talk of impoisonment, I hope I am safe; for I have no enemies; nor I have nothing that any body should long for: Why, that is all one; for he may sit at table by one for whom poison is prepared, and have a drench of his cup, or of his pottage. And so, as the poet saith, " concidit infelix alieno vulnere;" he may die another man's death. And therefore it was most gravely, and judiciously, and properly provided by that statute, that impoisonment should be high treason; because whatsoever offence tendeth to the utter subversion and dissolution of human society, is in the nature of high treason.
Lastly, it is an offence that I may truly say of it, "non est nostri generis, nec sanguinis." It is, thanks
be to God, rare in the isle of Britain: it is neither of our country, nor of our church; you may find it in Rome or Italy. There is a region, or perhaps a religion for it: and if it should come amongst us, certainly it were better living in a wilderness than in a court.
For the particular fact upon Overbury. First, for the person of Sir Thomas Overbury: I knew the gentleman. It is true, his mind was great, but it moved not in any good order; yet certainly it did commonly fly at good things; and the greatest fault that I ever heard of him was, that he made his friend his idol. But I leave him as Sir Thomas Overbury.
But take him as he was the king's prisoner in the Tower; and then see how the case stands. In that place the state is as it were respondent to make good the body of a prisoner. And if any thing happen to him there.it may, though not in this case, yet in some others, make an aspersion and reflection upon the state itself. For the person is utterly out of his own defence; his own care and providence can serve him nothing. He is in custody and preservation of law; and we have a maxim in our law, as my lords the judges know, that when a state is in preservation of law nothing can destroy it, or hurt it. And God forbid but the like should be for the persons of those that are in custody of law; and therefore this was a circumstance of great aggravation.
Lastly, To have a man chased to death in such manner, as it appears now by matter of record; for other privacy of the cause I know not; by poison after poison, first roseaker, then arsenick, then mercury sublimate, then sublimate again; it is a thing would astonish man's nature to hear it. The poets feign, that the furies had whips, that they were corded with poisonous snakes; and a man would think that this were the very case, to have a man tied to a post, and to scourge him to death with snakes: for so may truly be termed diversity of poisons.
Now I will come to that which is the principal; that is, his Majesty's princely, yea, and as I may truly term it, sacred proceeding in this cause. Wherein I will first speak of the temper of his justice, and then of the strength thereof.
First, it pleased my lord chief justice to let me know, that which I heard with great comfort, which was the charge that his Majesty gave to himself first, and afterwards to the commissioners in this case, worthy certainly to be written in letters of gold, wherein his Majesty did fore-rank and make it his prime direction, that it should be carried, without touch to any that was innocent; nay more, not only without impeachment, but without aspersion: which was a most noble and princely caution from his Majesty; for men's reputations are tender things, and ought to be, like Christ's coat, without seam. And it was the more to be respected in this case, because it met with two great persons; a nobleman that his Majesty had favoured and advanced, and his lady being of a great and honourable house: though I think it be true that the writers say, That there is no pomegranate so fair or so sound, but may have a perished kernel. Nay, I see plainly, that in those excellent parts of his Majesty's own hand-writing, being as so many beams of justice issuing from that virtne which doth shine in him; I say, I see it was so evenly carried without prejudice, whether it were a true accusation of the one part, or a practice of a false accusation on the other, as showed plainly that his Majesty's judgment was tanqnam tabula rasa, as a clean pair of tables, and his ear tanqnam junua aperta, as a gate not side open, but wide open to truth, as it should be by little and little discovered. Nay, I see plainly, that at the first, till farther light did break forth, his Majesty was little moved with the first tale, which he vouchsafeth not so much as the name of a tale; but calleth it rumour, which is a heedless tale. to whose trust he hath committed this business. For it is the part of commissioners, as well to report the business, as to manage the business; and then his Majesty might have been sure to have had all things well weighed, and truly informed: and therefore it should have been far from M. L. to have presumed to have put forth his hand to so high and tender a business, which was not to be touched but by employed hands. Thirdly, I note to your lordships, that this infusion of a slander into a king's ear, is of all forms of libels and slanders the worst. It is true, that kings may keep secret their informations, and then no man ought to inquire after them, while they are shrined in their breast. But where a king is pleased that a man shall answer for his false information; there, I say, (he false information to a king exceeds in offence the false information of any other kind; being a kind, since we are in matter of poison, of impoisonment of a king's ear. And thus much for the offence of M. L.
As for the strength or resolution of his Majesty's justice, I must tell your lordships plainly; I do not marvel to see kings thunder out justice in cases of treason, when they are touched themselves; and that they arc vindicex doloru proprii; but that a king should, pro amore ju.ititia? only, contrary to the tide of his own affection, for the preservation of his people, take such care of a cause of justice, that is rare and worthy to be celebrated far and near. For, I think I may truly affirm, that there was never in this kingdom, nor in any other kingdom, the blood of a private gentleman vindicated cam tanto motu regni, or to say better, cum tanto pluu.su regni. If it had concerned the king or prince, there could not have been greater nor better commissioners to examine it. The term hath been almost turned into a juvtitium, or vacancy; the people themselves being more willing to be lookers-on in this business, than to follow their own. There hath been no care of discovery omitted, no moment of time lost. And therefore I will conclude this part with the saying of Solomon, "Gloria Dei celare rem. et gloria regis scrutari rem." And his Majesty's honour is much the greater, for that he hath showed to the world in this business as it hath relation to my lord of Somerset, whose case in no sort I do prejudge, being ignorant of the secrets of the cause, but taking him as the law takes him hitherto, for a subject. I say, the king hath to his great honour showed, that were any man, in such a case of blood, as the signet upon his right hand, as the Scripture says, yet would he put him off.
Now will I come to the particular charge of these gentlemen, whose qualities and persons I respect and love; for they are all my particular friends: but now I can only do this duty of a friend to them, to make them know their fault to the full.
And therefore, first, I will by way of narrative declare to your lordships the fact, with the occasion of it; then you shall have their confessions read, upon which you are to proceed, together with some collateral testimonies by way of aggravation: and lastly, I will note and observe to your lordships the material points which I do insist upon for their charge, and so leave them to their answer. And this I will do very briefly, for the case is not perplexed.
That wretched man Weston, who was the actor or mechanical pnrty in this impoisonment, at the first day being indicted by a very substantial jury of
selected citizens, to the number of nineteen, who found bilta rera, yet nevertheless at the first stood mute: but after some days intermission, it plehsed God to cast out the dumb devil, and that he did put himself upon his trial; and was by a jury also of great value, upon his confession, and other testimonies, found guilty: so as thirty-one sufficient jurors have passed upon him. Whereupon judgment and execution was awarded against him. After this, being in preparation for another world, he sent for Sir Thomas Overbury's father, and falling down upon his knees, with great remorse and compunction, asked him forgiveness. Afterwards, again, of his own motion, desired to have his like prayer of forgiveness recommended to his mother, who was absent. And at both times, out of the abundance of his heart, confessed that he was to die justly, and that he was worthy of death. And after again at his execution, which is a kind of sealing-time of confessions, even at the point of death, although there were tempters about him, as you shall hear by and by, yet he did again confirm publicly, that his examinations were true, and that he had been justly and honourably dealt with. Here is the narrative, which induceth the charge. The charge itself is this.
Mr. L. whose offence stands alone single, the offence of the other two being in consort; and yet all three meeting in their end and centre, which was to interrupt or deface this excellent piece of justice; Mr. L. I say, meanwhile between Weston's standing mute and his trial, takes upon him to make a most false, odious, and libellous relation, containing as many untruths as lines, and sets it down in writing with his own hand, and delivers it to Mr. Henry Gibb, of the bed-chamber, to be put into the king's hand; in which writing he doth falsify and pervert nil that was done the first day at the arraignment of Weston; turning the pike and point of his imputations principally upon my lord chief justice of England; whose name, thus occurring, I cannot pass by, and yet I cannot skill to flatter. But this I will say of him, and I would say as much to ages, if I should write a story; that never man's person and his place were better met in a business, than my lord Coke and my lord chief justice, in the cause of Overbnry.
Now, my lords, in this offence of M. L. for the particulars of these slanderous articles, I will observe them unto you when the writings and examinations are read; for I do not love to set the gloss before the text. But in general I note to your lordships, first, the person of M. L. I know he is a Scotch gentleman, and thereby more ignorant of our laws and forms: but I cannot tell whether this doth extenuate his fault in respect of ignorance, or aggravate it much, in respect of presumption; that he would meddle in that he understood not: but I doubt it came not out of his quiver: some other man's cunning wrought upon this man's boldness. Secondly, I may note unto you the greatness of the cause wherein he being a private mean gentleman did presume to deal. M. L. could not but know to what great and grave commissioners the king had committed this cause; and that his Majesty in his wisdom would expect return of all things from them
For the offence of S. W. and H. I. which I said was in consort, it was shortly this. At the time and place of the execution of Weston, to supplant his christian resolution, and to scandalize the justice already past, and perhaps to cut off the thread of that which is to come, these gentlemen, with others, came mounted on horseback, and in a ruffling and facing manner put themselves forward to re-examine Weston upon questions j and what questions P Directly cross to that that had been trk-d and judged. For what was the point tried? That Weston had poisoned Overbury. What was S. W.'s question? Whether Weston did poison Overbury or no? A contradictory directly: Weston answered only, that he did him wrong; and turning to the sheriff, said, You promised me I should not be troubled at this time. Nevertheless, he pressed him to answer; saying he desired to know it, that he might pray with him. I know not that S. W. is an ecclesiastic, that he should cut any man from the communion of prayer. And yet for all this vexing of the spirit of a poor man, now in the gates of death, Weston nevertheless stood constant, and said, I die not unworthily; my lord chief justice hath my mind under my hand, and he is an honourable and just judge. This is S. W. his offence.
For H. I. he was not so much a questionest; but wrought upon the other's questions, and, like a kind of confessor, wished him to discharge his conscience, and to satisfy the world. What world? I
marvel! it was sure the world at Tyburn. For the world at Guildhall, and tlie world at London, was satisfied before; teste the bells that rung. But men have got a fashion now-a-days, that two or three busy-bodies will take upon them the name of the world, and broach their own conceits, as if it were a general opinion. Well, what more? When they could not work upon Weston, then I. H. in an indignation turned about his horse, when the other was turning over the ladder, and said, he was sorry for such a conclusion; that was, to have the state honoured or justified; but others took and reported his words in another degree: but that I leave, seeing it is not confessed.
H. I. his offence had another appendix, before this in time; which was, that at the day of the verdict given up by the jury, he also would needs give his verdict, saying openly, that if he were of the jury, he would doubt what to do. Marry, he saith, he cannot tell well whether he spake this before the jury had given up the verdict, or after; wherein there is little gained. For whether H. I. were a pre-juror or a post-juror, the one was to prejudge the jury, the other as to taint them.
Of the offence of these two gentlemen in general, your lordships must give me leave to say, that it is an offence greater and more dangerous than is conceived. I know well that as we have no Spanish inquisitions, nor justice in a corner; so we have no gagging of men's mouths at their death; but that they may speak freely at the last hour: but then it must come from the free motion of the party, not by temptation of questions. The questions that are to be asked ought to tend to farther revealing of their own or others' guiltiness; but to use a question in the nature of a false interrogatory, to falsify that which is ret judicata, is intolerable. For that were to erect a court or commission of review at Tyburn, against the king's bench at Westminster. And besides, it is a thing vain and idle: for if they answer according to the judgment past, it adds no credit; or if it be contrary, it derogateth nothing: but yet it subjecteth the majesty of justice to popular and vulgar talk and opinion.
My lords, these are great and dangerous offences; for if we do not maintain justice, justice will not maintain us.
But now your lordships shall hear the examinations themselves, upon which I shall have occasion to note some particular things, &c.
HIS MAJESTY'S ATTORNEY-GENERAL,
FRANCES COUNTESS OF SOMERSET,
INTENDED TO HAVE BEEN SPOKEN BY HIM AT HER ARRAIGNMENT, ON FRIDAY, MAY 24, 1616, IN CASE SHE HAD PLEADED NOT GUILTY*
IT MAY PLEASE YOUR GRACE, MY LORD HIGH STEWARD OF ENGLAND,! AND YOU, MY LORDS, THE PEERS;
You have heard the indictment against this lady well opened; and likewise the point in law, that might make some doubt, declared and solved ; wherein certainly the policy of the law of England is much to be esteemed, which reqtiireth and respecteth form in the indictment, and substance in the proof.
This scruple it may be hath moved this lady to plead not guilty, though for the proof 1 shall not need much more than her own confession, which she hath formerly made, free and voluntary, and therein given glory to God and justice. And certainly confession, as it is the strongest foundation of justice, so it is a kind of corner-stone, whereupon justice and mercy may meet.
The proofs, which I shall read in the end for the ground of your verdict and sentence, will be very short j and as much as may serve to satisfy your honours and consciences for the conviction of this lady, without wasting of time in a case clear and confessed j or ripping up guiltiness against one, that hath prostrated herself by confession; or preventing or deflowering too much of the evidence. And therefore the occasion itself doth admonish me to spend this day rather in declaration than in evidence, giving God and the king the honour, and your lordships and the hearers the contentment, to set before you the proceeding of this excellent work of the king's justice, from the beginning to the end; and so to conclude with the reading the confession and proofs.
My lords, this is now the second time J within the space of thirteen years reign of our happy sovereign, that this high tribunal-seat of justice ordained for the trial by peers, hath been opened and erected; and that, with a rare event, supplied and exercised by one and the same person, which is a great honour to you. my lord steward.
In all this mean time the king hath reigned in his white robe, not sprinkled with any drop of blood of any of his nobles of this kingdom. Nay, such have been the depths of his mercy, as even those noble
• She pleaded guilty, on which occasion the attorney-general *P°ke a charge somewhat different from this, t1 homas Egerton, viscount Ellesmere, lord high chancellor.
men's bloods, against whom the proceeding was at ■Winchester, Cobham and Grey, were attainted and corrupted, but not spilt or taken away; but that they remained rather spectacles of justice in their continual imprisonment, than monuments of justice in the memory of their suffering.
It is true, that the objects of his justice then and now were very differing. For then, it was the revenge of an offence against his own person and crown, and upon persons that were malcontents, and contraries to the state and government. But now, it is the revenge of the blood and death of a particular subject, and the cry of a prisoner. It is upon persons that were highly in his favour; whereby his Majesty, to his great honour hath showed to the world, as if it were written in a sun-beam, that he is truly the lieutenant of Him, with whom there is no respect of persons; that his affections royal are above his affections private: that his favours and nearness about him are not like popish sanctuaries to privilege malefactors: and that his being the best master of the world doth not let him from being the best king of the world. His people, on the other side, may say to themselves, " I will lie down in peace; for God and the king and the law protect me against great and small." It may be a discipline also to great men, especially such as are swoln in fortunes from small beginnings, that the king is as well able to level mountains, as to fill valleys, if such be their desert
But to come to the present case; the great frame of justice, my lords, in this present action, hath a vault, and it hath a stage: a vault, wherein these works of darkness were contrived; and a stage with steps, by which they were brought to light. And therefore I will bring this work of justice to the period of this day; and then go on with this day's work.
Sir Thomas Overbury was murdered by poison in the 15th of September, 1613, 11 Reg. This foul and cruel murder did, for a time, cry secretly in the
% The first time was on the trials of the lords Cobham aud Grey, in November, 1603.