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.
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