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The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Charge to Justice Hutton

By Francis Bacon (1561–1626)

From ‘Letters and Life,’ by James Spedding

Mr. Serjeant Hutton:
THE KING’S most excellent Majesty, being duly informed of your learning, integrity, discretion, experience, means, and reputation in your country, hath thought fit not to leave you these talents to be employed upon yourself only, but to call you to serve himself and his people, in the place of one of his Justices of the court of common pleas.

The court where you are to serve, is the local centre and heart of the laws of this realm. Here the subject hath his assurance by fines and recoveries. Here he hath his fixed and invariable remedies by præcipes and writs of right. Here Justice opens not by a by-gate of privilege, but by the great gate of the King’s original writs out of the Chancery. Here issues process of outlawry; if men will not answer law in this centre of law, they shall be cast out of the circle of law. And therefore it is proper for you by all means with your wisdom and fortitude to maintain the laws of the realm. Wherein, nevertheless, I would not have you head-strong, but heart-strong; and to weigh and remember with yourself, that the twelve Judges of the realm are as the twelve lions under Solomon’s throne; they must be lions, but yet lions, under the throne; they must shew their stoutness in elevating and bearing up the throne.

To represent unto you the lines and portraitures of a good judge:—The first is, That you should draw your learning out of your books, not out of your brain.

2. That you should mix well the freedom of your own opinion with the reverence of the opinion of your fellows.

3. That you should continue the studying of your books, and not to spend on upon the old stock.

4. That you should fear no man’s face, and yet not turn stoutness into bravery.

5. That you should be truly impartial, and not so as men may see affection through fine carriage.

6. That you be a light to jurors to open their eyes, but not a guide to lead them by the noses.

7. That you affect not the opinion of pregnancy and expedition by an impatient and catching hearing of the counselors at the bar.

8. That your speech be with gravity, as one of the sages of the law; and not talkative, nor with impertinent flying out to show learning.

9. That your hands, and the hands of your hands (I mean those about you), be clean, and uncorrupt from gifts, from meddling in titles, and from serving of turns, be they of great ones or small ones.

10. That you contain the jurisdiction of the court within the ancient merestones, without removing the mark.

11. Lastly, That you carry such a hand over your ministers and clerks, as that they may rather be in awe of you, than presume upon you.

These and the like points of the duty of a Judge, I forbear to enlarge; for the longer I have lived with you, the shorter shall my speech be to you; knowing that you come so furnished and prepared with these good virtues, as whatsoever I shall say cannot be new unto you. And therefore I will say no more unto you at this time, but deliver you your patent.