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The Fall of Robert Tresilian, chief Justice of England, and

other his fellows, for miscontruing the laws, and expounding them to serve the Prince's affections. *

1. In the rueful register of mischief and mishap,

Baldwin, we beseech thee, with our names to begio, Whom unfriendly Fortune did train unto a tráp,

u Having in the preceding extracts copied the old spelling, I shall now adopt the modern orthography, as the specimens given seem sufficient; and to continue them might only deter and disgust the modern reader.

w Rapin says King Richard attempted to deprive the people of their right of freely electing their Representatives in Parliament. The Sheriffs would not execute his orders. But the Judges, Sir Robert Tresilian, Chief Justice; Sir Robert Belknap, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; Sir John Holt, Sir Roger Fulthorp, Sir William Burgh; together with Sir William Lockton, the King's Serjeant at Law, were not so scrupulous in what related to them. The King asked them whether he had not power to turn out the fourteen Commissioners appointed by Parliament, and to annul such acts as were prejadicial to him. They replied, the King was above the Laws. Nevertheless when they were required to subscribe their opinions, some endeavoured to be excused, but were compelled to it by the menaces of the Favourites. It is affirmerl, one of the Judges said aloud after signing, “ That never did action better deserve hanging than that he had just done." Sir Robert Belknap said upon signing “ Now want I nothing but a ship or nimble horse, or an halter to bring me to that death I deserve; if I had not done this, I should have been killed by your hands,” (for it seems the Duke of Ireland and Earl of Suffolk threatened to kill him if he refused to sign) “and now I have gratified the King's pleasure and yours in doing it, I have well deserved to die for treason against the nobles of the land."

When the Parliament met in February 1389, several persons were accused of High Treason, and sentenced to diverse punishments. Tresilian and some other knights and gentlemen were hanged at Tyburn : Brembar was beheaded. The rest of the Judges, with the Bishop of Chichester, received the same sentence; but had their lives granted them, and were banished to Ireland, having allowances made them out of the Excbequer, for their main. tenance, as follows: Fulthorp, forty pounds per ann.; Burgh, forty marks ; Belknap, forty pounds ; Holt, forty marks ; and Cary and Lockton, twenty pounds per ann. a piece. (See Rym. Fæd. 7. P: 591.) Tindal's Raping i « Anno 1388" adds cdit. 1578.


1. 465.

When we thought our state' most stable to have been;

So lightly leese they all, which all do ween to win! Learn by us, ye lawyers and judges of the land, Uncorrupt and uprightz in doom alway to stand!


And print it for a. precedent to remain for ever;

Enroll and record it in tables made of brass ; Engrave it in marble that may be razed never;

Where judges and justicers b may sce, as in a glass,

What fee is for falsehood, and what our wages was, Who, for our prince's pleasure, corrupt with meed and

awe, Wittingly and wretchedly did wrest the sense of law!

3. A change more new and strange seldom hath be seen,

Than from the bench above to come down to the Bar; Was never state so turned, in no time as I ween, h

As they to become clients that counsellors erst were

But such is Fortune's play, which featly can preferi The Judge that sat above, full low beneath to stand, At the bar as prisoner holding up his hand.i


4. Which in others causek could stoutly speak and plead,

Both in court and country, careless of the trial, Stand mute like mummers without advice or read,

y Our state esteem’d. z Upright and uncorrupt. a Print yee this president.

b of the lawe. Guerdon. d Guile.

e Filthy lucre. f When was there ever seen?

8 Judges from the bench.
And counsellors that were most nigh to King and Queen
Exiled their country from court and council far.
i That can both make and mar.
Exalting to most high, that was before most low,
And turning tail again, the lofty down to throw.
k And such as late afore.



Unable to utter a true plea of denial :1

Which have seen the day, when, for half as ryal, We could by very art have made the black seem white; And matters of mosto wrong to have appear'd most



Bebold me unfortunate foreman of this flock,

Tresilian, sometime chief justice of this land,
By descent a gentleman;' no stain was in my stock;

Loketon, Holte, and Belkenap, with other of my band,

Which the law and justice had wholly in our hand,
Under the second Richard, a prince of great estate,
To whom froward Fortune gave a foul check-mate..

All to seek of shifting by traverse or denial. n By finess and cunning could. • Most extorted.

m For a golden.
Ć Omit « Mosť."

9 Insert two stanzas.
Whilst thus on bench above we had the highest places

Our rçasons were too strong for any to confute,
But when at bar beneath we came to plead our case,

Our wits were in the wane, our pleading very brute;

Hard it is for prisoners with Judge: to dispute,
When mariy against one, and none for one shall speak,...
Who weens himself most wise, shall baply be too weak.
To you therefore that sit; these few words will I say,

That no man sits so sure but may be brought to stand ;
Wherefore whilst you have place and bear the swing and sway;

By favour without rigoor let points of law be scán'd :

Pity the poor prisoners that holdeth up bis haud;
Ne lade him not with law, who least of law hath known;
Remember ere ye die, the case may be your own.

* A gentleman by birth.
• To whom and us also blind Fortune gave the mate.

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6. In the common laws our skill was so profound,

Our credit and authority such and so esteemid, That whatso we concluded was taken for a ground,

Allowed was for law, whatso to us best seem'd ;

Life, death, lands, goods, and all by us was deem'd; Whereby, with easy pain, so great gain we did get, Thalv every thing was fish, that came unto our net.

7. At Sessions and at Sizes we bare the stroke and sway,

In patents and commission of Quorum always chief; So that to whether side soever we did weigh,

Were it right or wrong it pass'd without reprief;

We let hang the true man y somewhiles to save a thief; Of gold and of silver our hands were never empty, Offices, farms, and fees fell to us in great plenty.


But what thing may suffice unto the greedy man?

The more he hath in hold, the more he doth desire: Happy and twice happy is he, that wisely can

Content himself with that, which reason doth require,

And moileth for no more than for his necdful hire: But greediness of mind doth never2 keep the size, Which though it have enough yet doth it not suffice.

9. For, lyke, as dropsy patients drink and still be dry,

Whose unstaunched thirst no liquor cap allay, And drink they never so much, yet still for more they

cry, b Omit « so." u In fet. v And. w Omit « at.” * Add " by." y The true man we let hang. z Seldom. a To whom enough and more at no time doth suffice.

Thirst they by and by.


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Se So covetous catchersd toil both night and day,

Greedy, and ever needy, prowling for their prey !
O endless thirst of gold, corrupter of all laws,
What mischief is on mould whereof thou art not cause !


Thou madest us forget the faith of our profession, f

When Serjeants we were sworn to serve the common laws, Which was that in no point we should make digression

From approved principles in sentence nor in saw:

But we unhappy wretches h without all dread and awe Of the Judge Eternal, for world's vain promotion i More to man than God did bear our whole devotion. k

The laws we interpreted and statutes of the land,

Not truly by the text, but newly by a glose;
And words that were most plain, when they by us were

We turned by construction like a Welshman's hose ;

Whereby manym one both lyfe and land did lose:
Yet this we made an mean to mount aloft on mules,
To serve Kings in all points men must somewhile break



Thus climbing and contending alway to the top,

From bigh unto higher, and then to be most high, The honey.dew of Fortune so fast on us did drop,

d So catchers and snatchers. e Not needy but greedy. We did professe.

Making a solemme oath in no poynt to dygresse.
h Wyghts. i More high to be promoted.
k To Mummon more than God, all wholly were devoted..

I Did interprete. m Add " a." n Our.
. And serving times and turnes, perverted lawes and rules.


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