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Bacon's impeachment - another cause?

Guest Ryan Murtha

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Guest Ryan Murtha

I just came across a statement by Parker Woodward that Bacon was so efficient at clearing cases as Lord Chancellor, he was causing the lawyers for the Common Law courts to lose money:

At this period judges and officials of the Common Law Courts had lost and were losing valuable fees and emoluments by reason of plaintiffs and petitoners to the much safer and speedier proceedings in the Court of the Lord Chancellor and his assistants . . . He had in effect taken away the work of the Common Law Courts for more speedy progression in the Chancery.

This sounds plausible and likely but I had not read anything along these lines, and haven't turned up supporting statements; does anyone know more about this?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks, Ryan. Sorry, I missed that you had sent me that before. I just read that article.

Parker Woodward seems to be saying there was some overlapping initial jurisdiction between the Chancery and the courts of law under Bacon's chancellorship (Jan. 4, 1618 to May 1, 1621 (Chronology in Daniel R. Coquillette, Francis Bacon (Stanford: Stanford U. Press, 1992), appendix 1, from Dictionary of National Biography).  Not just debtors having judgment taken against them in a court of law and running to the court of chancery to plead equity, as was the case in 1616. It is a fascinating question, and I do not know the answer offhand. If you want to look into the history of English court jurisdiction, you might start with J. H. Baker, An Introduction to English Legal History, 4th ed. (London: Butterworth's, 2002). Especially chapters 3, 6, 7, and 8, and follow up with the sources he cites. I looked at chapter 3, though, and did not find the answer. Woodward makes a similar statement on p. 116 of his book, Sir Francis Bacon: Poet, Philosopher, Statesman, Lawyer, and Wit (London: Grafton & Co., 1920) (pp. v-vi on Spedding's fallibility). Woodward was a British solicitor, as stated on the title page of this book of his, Francis Bacon's Works and this catalogue description in the National Archives, so presumably he knew something of British legal history. Sorry this is all I have time for right now.

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