Tag Archives: Francis Bacon

London’s Inns of Court and the Founding of the United States of America

London’s Inns of Court

The right of Englishmen to trial by jury was  established in the late twelfth century, and  codified in the  Magna Carta in  the early thirteenth; and the right to legal counsel and representation, by attorneys (solicitors) and pleaders before court (barristers), at the turn of the  thirteenth and  fourteenth.

Formal training of pleaders before court, in the so-called Inns of Court,  strategically situated between the Cities of London to the east and Westminster to the west,  began in the fourteenth century.

The Inns of Court of the Inner and Middle Temple were founded in the early fourteenth century, on a site south of Fleet Street that had been occupied by the Knights Templar up until the time of their suppression in 1307.  No  Medieval buildings remain standing on the site today, although the post-Medieval Inner Temple Gate-House and  Middle Temple Hall do.

Gray’s Inn was founded in the late fourteenth century, on a site north and immediately south of High Holborn.  No   Medieval buildings remain standing on the site today, although the associated Barnard’s Inn Hall does, as does the associated post-Medieval Staple Inn Buildings.

Lincoln’s Inn was founded in its present location in the fifteenth century, on a site south of High Holborn (it was originally founded in a remote location in the fourteenth century).    No Medieval buildings remain standing on the site today, although the post-Medieval Gate-House, Old Hall and Chapel do.

The Founding of the United States of America

Historically, London’s Inns of Court played a formative, though little-known, role in the founding of the United States of America.   William Taft (1857-1930), the sometime Chief Justice and President of the United States, noted that “many of the law officers of the Colonies … , appointed by the Crown before the Revolution, were members of … [the Inns of Court]”, and that the Inns were thus instrumental in “instilling in the communities of the Colonies the principles of Common Law”.  Others have even suggested that the principles of secession also came from the Inns.

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The famous lawyer, statesman, philosopher and “natural philosopher” (what we would now call a scientist), all-round Renaissance Man Francis Bacon (1561-1626) received his legal training in Gray’s Inn, and went on to become a “Master of the Bench”, or member of the governing body, there (among other things).  He was one of those instrumental in the creation of the first English colonies in the Americas in the early seventeenth century, and set out his egalitarian vision of how things should be there in his book “New Atlantis”.  The historian William Hepworth Dixon (1821-1879) considered Bacon one of the Founding Fathers  of the United States.   Thomas Jefferson    (1743-1826), one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, and the third President of the United States, went as far as to describe Bacon as one of “the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception”.  Incidentally, both Francis and his father Nicholas Bacon, as sometime Lords Keeper of the Great Seal, once lived in York House, not far from  Whitehall.   Francis  also once  lived in Canonbury House in Islington.

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In the eighteenth century, Peyton Randolph (1723-1775) received his legal training in Middle Temple, before going  on to become the first President of the Continental Congress in 1774.  The so-called “Penman of the Revolution” John Dickinson (1732-1808) also received his legal training in Middle Temple, before going on to help draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Articles of Confederation in 1781 (he was also very possibly the person who coined the famous phrase “no taxation without representation”).  A further five Middle Templars signed the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Heyward Jr.; Thomas Lynch Jr.; Thomas McKean; Arthur Middleton; and Edward Rutledge (*).  And John Rutledge (1739-1800) received his legal training in Middle Temple, too, before going on to chair the committee that drafted  the Constitution in 1787.  Seven Middle Templars signed the Constitution: John Blair; the aforementioned John Dickinson;  Charles Jared Ingersoll; William Livingstone; Charles Cotesworth Pinckney; Charles Pinckney; and John Rutledge himself.

(*) An Inner Templar also signed the document: William Paca.

Francis Bacon is made Lord Chancellor (1618)

On this day in 1618, Francis Bacon was made Lord Chancellor of England by James I.

Bacon was something of a Renaissance Man, a “natural philosopher” (what we would now call a scientist) and philosopher as well as a lawyer and statesman.  He was one of those instrumental in the creation of the colonies in the Americas, and set out his egalitarian vision of how things should be there in his book “New Atlantis”.

Statue of Bacon

He  is commemorated by a statue in Gray’s Inn, where he received his legal training. Both he and his father Nicholas, as sometime Lords Keeper of the Great Seal, once lived in York House, not far from  Whitehall.   Francis  also once  lived in Canonbury House in Islington.

 

Francis – and Nicholas – Bacon

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban,  died on this day in 1626.  Bacon was something of a Renaissance Man, a “natural philosopher”  – or what we would now call a scientist – and philosopher as well as a lawyer and statesman (and one of those instrumental in the creation of the colonies in the Americas).  Ironically, it was evidently his scientific curiosity that led to his death – he caught a chill while experimenting with freezing a chicken with snow!

Statue of Francis Bacon

He  is commemorated by a statue in Gray’s Inn, where he received his legal training.

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Both he and his father Nicholas, as sometime Lords Keeper of the Great Seal, once lived in York House, not far from  Whitehall.   Francis  also once  lived in Canonbury House in Islington.

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Incidentally, Nicholas Bacon died in 1579, and is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral. His memorial shows signs of charring from the Great Fire of 1666!

 

Far-Flung Lost London III – Islington

Islington was first recorded as Gislandune in around 1000, taking its name from the Old English personal name “Gisla” and “dun”, or down, meaning an area of high and dry ground.

Prior William Bolton of the Priory of St Bartholomew the Great built Canonbury House in Canonbury Square here in 1509, of which the tower still stands.   The house was later occupied at one time or another by Thomas Cromwell, by the one-time Lord Mayor of London John Spencer, and by Francis Bacon (not to mention, in the eighteenth century, by Goldsmith).

Canonbury Tower

Canonbury Tower (photograph by Bob Jones)

How “Of Alley” Got its Name

 

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The story may be said to have begun at least as long ago as 1237 or thereabouts, when a house was built on the banks of the Thames for the Bishops of Norwich.  The  house was later handed over by Henry VIII to his brother-in-law Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk,  during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, and then by Queen Mary to the Archbishop of York  in 1556, at which point it  came to be known as “York House”.  York House was then in turn owned or occupied by Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, from 1558; by his son Francis Bacon, from 1617;  by  George Villiers Senior, the First Duke of Buckingham, from 1621; by Villiers’s widow, from 1628;  by General Sir Thomas, Lord Fairfax, during the Civil War; and eventually by Villiers’s son, George Junior, the Second Duke of Buckingham, after the Restoration  (by which time he had married Fairfax’s daughter Mary).  The house  survived the Great Fire of 1666.  However, it was substantially demolished in the 1670s, whereupon Nicholas Barbon re-developed the site, and in deference to its former owner set out new streets named George, Villiers, Duke and Buckingham –  and an alley named Of!

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(Incidentally, of York House, only the Water Gate, believed to have been designed and built by the master-mason Nicholas Stone in 1626, survives to this day, in  Victoria  Embankment Gardens).

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