In the management of this business Bacon had the chief part. Yelverton, on his suspension, at once submitted. The obnoxious clauses are not said to have been of serious importance, but they were new clauses which the King had not sanctioned, and it would be a bad precedent to pass over such unauthorised additions even by an Attorney-General. “I mistook many things,” said Yelverton afterwards, in words which come back into our minds at a later period, “I was improvident in some things, and too credulous in all things.” It might have seemed that dismissal, if not a severe reprimand, was punishment enough. But the submission was not enough, in Bacon’s opinion, “for the King’s honour.” He dwelt on the greatness of the offence, and the necessity of making a severe example. According to his advice, Yelverton was prosecuted in the Star Chamber. It was not merely a mistake of judgment. “Herein,” said Bacon, “I note the wisdom of the law of England, which termeth the highest contempt and excesses of authority Misprisions; which (if you take the sound and derivation of the word) is but mistaken; but if you take the use and acception of the word, it is high and heinous contempt and usurpation of authority; whereof the reason I take to be and the name excellently imposed, for that main mistaking, it is ever joined with contempt; for he that reveres will not easily mistake; but he that slights, and thinks more of the greatness of his place than of the duty of his place, will soon commit misprisions.” The day would come when this doctrine would be pressed with ruinous effect against Bacon himself. But now he expounded with admirable clearness the wrongness of carelessness about warrants and of taking things for granted. He acquitted his former colleague of “corruption of reward;” but “in truth that makes the offence rather divers than less;” for some offences “are black, and others scarlet, some sordid, some presumptuous.” He pronounced his sentence—the fine, the imprisonment; “for his place, I declare him unfit for it.” “And the next day,” says Mr. Spedding, “he reported to Buckingham the result of the proceeding,” and takes no small credit for his own part in it.
It was thus that the Court used Bacon, and that Bacon submitted to be used. He could have done, if he had been listened to, much nobler service. He had from the first seen, and urged as far as he could, the paramount necessity of retrenchment in the King’s profligate expenditure. Even Buckingham had come to feel the necessity of it at last; and now that Bacon filled a seat at the Council, and that the prosecution of Suffolk and an inquiry into the abuses of the Navy had forced on those in power the urgency of economy, there was a chance of something being done to bring order into the confusion of the finances. Retrenchment began at the King’s kitchen and the tables of his servants; an effort