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In the parliament which met at Westminster, on the 19th of February, 1593, he was unanimously elected speaker. This honorable body was commanded by the Queen not to interfere with matters of Church or State. This injunction was by her communicated to the speaker, in person, and by him loyally delivered to the assembled parliament.
Sir Edward held the speakership but for one session; it being then not usual to hold it longer.
Almost immediately after the dissolution of the parliament of 1592, Sir Edward Coke was appointed the Queen's attorneygeneral; and he held that office during the rest of her reign.
In the year 1598, he lost his first wife, which may be regarded as the commencement of a series of misfortunes.
He soon again turned his thoughts to matrimony, prosecuting a successful treaty with Lady Elizabeth Hatton, the beautiful, young and wealthy widow of Sir William Hatton, the daughter of Thomas Cecil, first earl of Exeter, and granddaughter of the great Burleigh. This rash and ill-considered union commenced, , continued, and terminated most disastrously. Both parties were ill-tempered, talented and haughty, with too much obstinacy to give way to each other. Moreover, the ordinances of the church were not duly observed, in the solemnization of the marriage. For this they were prosecuted in the Archbishop's court.
In 1606, Coke became Lord Chief-Justice of the Court of Com. mon Pleas, and soon after was removed to the King's Bench.
Ss ce cannot be here given to the causes and progress of the rivalry between Coke and Bacon. This contributed to his embarrassments. Coke managed, however, to surpass Bacon in the favor of the Queen.
On the 22d of May, 1603, Coke received the honor of knighthood, from the hands of King James I.
In the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, which took place soon after, Coke appeared to little advantage. Such was his zeal in the service of bis royal master, that he indulged in coarse anguage, brutal observations and a savage temper.
Nor was he less guilty of religious bigotry. His zeal for the established religion far outran his sense of justice.
The last important trial, in which he appeared as pleader, was the trial of the conspiracy case, growing out of the celebrated gunpowder plot.
Soon afterward, Coke somewhat redeemed himself from the reputation of being a mere courtier, by the bold and courageous stand which he took in favor of the rights and liberties of the judiciary, against certain prerogatives claimed in the royal be half. It was in this contest that he acquired the reputation of being a reformer, and an advocate of liberty.
In 1614, Coke was elected high steward of the University of Cambridge. The next year he participated in a new series of state trials, of which there were so many during the reign of King James. These were the Overbury murder trials. About this time also he came in conflict with Bacon, in regard - to the King's prerogative in interfering with the proceedings of the courts; the prerogative being sustained by Bacon and denied by Coke. Whether this resistance upon his part was based upon principle or is to be attributed to the natural obstinacy of his character, we are not called upon to decide. It is but fair to credit him with valuable service in the cause of liberty.
His opposition was so strong, that he was finally summoned to the King's council chamber, and after being reproved for his obstinacy, he was sentenced to be sequestered the council chamber until his Majesty's pleasure be farther known—was forbidden to ride his summer circuit as justice of assize, and it was ordered, that during the vacation, while he had time to live privately, and dispose himself at home, he take into consideration and review his book of reports, "wherein, as his Majesty is informed, be many extravagant and exorbitant opinions, set down and published for positive and good law.” This sentence must be looked upon as the most honorable incident in the life of Sir Edward Coke.
On the 16th of November, 1616, not have made such changes in his reports as were satisfactory, Coke was, for this and for his obstinacy generally, dismissed from the Court of King's Bench. Six years afterward, he was even sent to the tower. When Lord Arundel was sent by the King to the prisoner
to inform him that he would be allowed “eight of the best learned in the law to advise him for his cause,” Coke, while thanking the King, sent for answer, “that he knew himself to be accounted to have as much skill in the law as any man in England, and therefore needed no such help, nor feared to be judged by the law.” The real crime was, objecting to the illegal and arbitrary imposition of ship-money. It is said he owed the loss of his place to Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.
In 1616, we find Cokė, at the age of 67, intriguing to be restored to the favor of the Court, and conspiring with Secretary Winwood against Chancellor Bacon, who had so long stood in
About the same time, he was involved in difficulty with his wife, Lady Hatton, in regard to the marriage of their daughter. It appears that Coke, in order to recover his interest at court; proposed to marry his daughter to Buckingham, then a royal favorite, and that, too, without consulting either mother or daughter. The opposition he encountered was to have been expected, and the whole affair places him in a very unfavorable light.
Lady Hatton carried off and secreted the daughter-Lord Coke, having discovered the place of her retreat, proceeded to the place and carried her away by force, he and his sons breaking through several doors, in order to obtain her. Lady Hatton complained to the privy council. But not long afterward a reconciliation was effected. This quarrel gave rise on the part of Coke's enemies. to many sarcastic observations. Thus it was said of him:
“Cum pari certare dụbium; cum rege stultum;
Cum puero clamor; cum muliere pudor.” Coke parted with a large portion of his estate for the endowment of his daughter, but did not thereby succeed in the accomplishment of his main object. Lady Hatton finally withdrew her opposition, and the marriage took place.
Coke's public life was not yet terminated, for though deprived of the Chief-Justiceship, he was again elected to the House of Commons; in which body he of course occupied a very high position.
In the trial of Chancellor Bacon, Coke was one of the ac
But he appears to have refrained from taking a very prominent part in the prosecution, actuated, as is supposed, by feelings of forbearance towards his old and talented, though fallen competitor.
A parliament was summoned to meet on the 12th of February, 1624. Coke was returned to it from Coventry, of wbich city he still continued Recorder. About this time, having exposed himself to the vengeance of the King, having been, us a member of parliament, one of those who were alluded to in the royal proclamation, as ill-tempered spirits” who had "sowed tares among the corn,” he was, in company with Sir Robert Phillips, arrested and committed to the tower. He was about seventy-five years of age when this outrage was committed. The severity of the proceeding was somewhat mitigated by the consideration shown him in searching among his papers ; special instruction having been given not to interfere with his valuable private papers. His imprisonment appears to have been of short duration ; its object being to search for documents of a political character.
In 1624, Coke represented the House of Commons in the impeachment of the Earl of Middlesex. The Earl was defended by the King, but he was nevertheless convicted.
At the age of seventy-five, Coke was now leading in the work of parliamentary reform, and withstanding the encroachments of the crown, with all the vigor of his earlier years. · In the first parliament of Charles I., we find him maintaining the struggle in which he had been so prominent in preceding parliaments. A specimen of this resistance to the royal prerogative, may be given:
On the 10th of April, 1627, the King sent a message to the House of Commons, desiring the members, in order to expedite the public business, not to make any recess as usual during the Easter holidays. Coke spoke of the King's message with dissatisfaction:
“I am as tender” said he, "of the privileges of this House as of my life, for they are the heart-strings of the commonwealth. The King makes a prorogation, but this House adjourns itself; the commission of adjournment we never read, but say, This
House adjourns itself.""—(Parl. Hist. vol. 7, p. 436.)
The malice of his enemies pursued Coke in his old age. While yet on his death bed, Sir Francis Windebank came to his house at Stoke, by virtue of an order from the Privy Council, in search of certain seditious papers—at least such was the pretense. In his search for these papers he seized and carried away Coke's will, his life of Judge Littleton in his own handwriting, his commentary upon Littleton's Book of Tenures, and upon Magna Charta, Pleas of the Crown, and Jurisdiction of Courts, besides fifty-one other manuscripts. Seven years afterward, upon the motion of Sir Edward Coke's son, the King was requested by the House of Commons to restore these valuable papers to his family. His will was never recovered, but the remainder were, in consequence of this address, principally returned.
Coke had for a neighbor in his old age, the great Hampden, who made so successfully the resistance to ship-money.
Sir Edward Coke died on the 3d of September, 1633, in the eighty-third year of his age. He was a very remarkable man, of a most pronounced character. He has been called the glory of the English law.
His faults, which were very serious, were of a political and religious character. Though in middle life and in his old age he was a strenuous advocate of the rights of the people as represented in parliament, and fought nobly against the encroachments of the royal prerogative, in earlier life he pandered to the arrogance and cruelty of the crown, and prosecuted patriots without the slightest compunction.
So, too, as an advocate of protestantism-as defender of the royal faith, he could write letters and treatises upon the burning of catholics, without the slightest sign of disapprobation. Though great in some respects, he was not sufficiently groat to free himself from the shackles of religious bigotry.
But Sir Edward Coke was never accused or even suspected of bribery or corruption. No orphan denomced him-ho widow execrated his name for a betrayal of trust. Ile hail the reputation, not only of being the greatest jurist of his age, but of acting uprightly and fearlessly in the administration of justice,