Copy of speeches made by Sir Nicholas Bacon before Parliament, the Star Chamber and elsewhere, ca. 1600, V.a.143

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This article features a transcription of a Folger Shakespeare Library manuscript, Copy of speeches made by Sir Nicholas Bacon before Parliament, the Star Chamber and elsewhere, V.a.143, (ca.1600) featured in the Age of Lawyers Exhibition, September 12, 2015-January 3, 2016.

Sir Nicholas Bacon was Queen Elizabeth's Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, the title given to a commoner who was granted the office of Lord Chancellor. In this speech in 1565, he speaks harshly to the justices of the peace—in town for a parliamentary session—for failing to have those convicted of lesser offenses whipped. Whipping a man for vagrancy is merciful, he argues, if it turns him away from worse crimes for which he would be hanged.


Below is a semi-diplomatic transcription of page 66 of Folger manuscript V.a.143. The transcription below was created by the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) project. To access an image of the original leaf, click on each transcription's heading.

V.a.143, page 66

Maiestie most gratiously hath taken order for the reforming

of this in her owne housholde, and amounge such as attend

vppon her owne person. The nobles and councellors hath

promysed to see it kepte in their famylies, now yf you shold

suffer this lawe to be broken by any within your chardge,

then might it be saide, that neyther example nor lawe can

make you doe your dutye, and that were not sufferable. /

And thus much towchinge the statute of apparrell. / And

as to the statute concerninge vacabondes.Who is soe blinde

that seeth not how by the not executing of the Lawes, Idlenes

the mother of all mischief is bredd, brought foorth, nourished &

maynteyned. Of this Roote springeth all manner of vice & disorder.

Of this foundacon bee the doinge of all ill men for the most parte

founded. But here some perchance will saye that it is a

pittifull thinge to see (whipping the honor of this presence saved)

meete for dogges by the appointment of this lawe imposed

vppon men. I for my part am very sorye to see a man whipped

but yet more sorye to see a man hanged, yea if by whipping

hanging might be taken awaie, then were it a great cruelty

not to whipp. Were it not much better trow you to see a

man whipped and therby vnhanged, then hanged because he

was vnwhipped. I am sorye to use theise termes but that the

matter requireth them. Butt to retorne yf you sawe as

I doe every haulf yeare the number of men that bee within

this Realme putt to death for Robberyes and other fellonyes

wherof in my Iudgment the one haulf should bee saved alyve,

if theise true lawes of apparrell & vacabondes weare well

executed Then I am sure you would not saye that it were

pittye by suche paynes to execute them, but greate Crueltye

not to execute them. And besides this many a mans lif

shoulde be saved by this, you should also by this meane bee

better provided of all sortes of laborers then you now are. And

those that you allready have sholde be better ordered which is noe

small matter. And thus much for the statute of vacabondes./

Then followes next the statute against all false rumors & tales,

A matter at the firste sight seeminge of small momentt, but indeed

to them