Anderson, Edmund (DNB00)

ANDERSON, Sir EDMUND (1530–1605), lord chief justice of the court of Common Pleas, was descended from a Scotch family which, after a long settlement in Northumberland, migrated to Lincolnshire, and was born in 1530 at Flixborough or Broughton, in the latter county. After spending a short time at Lincoln College, Oxford, Anderson became in June 1550 a student of the Inner Temple, and ‘by indefatigable study,’ says Anthony à Wood, 'obtained great knowledge of laws.’ In 1567 he was appointed both Lent and Summer ‘reader’ at his inn of court, and a reference to him in Plowden's reports of the chief contemporary cases proves him to have aquired a considerable practice before 1571, Three years later he was nominated ‘double reader’ at the Inner Temple, and in Michaelmas term, 1577, he became a serjeant-at-law. In 1579 he was advanced to the highest dignity attainable at the bar, that of serjeant-at-law to the queen.

As an assistant judge on circuit, Anderson began to exercise judicial functions soon after this promotion, and in 1581 he conducted cases of importance in both the eastern and western counties. At Bury, in the Norfolk circuit, Robert Brown, the founder of the sect of Brownists, or Independents, was brought before him on a charge of nonconformity, and in sentencing him to a term of imprisonment Anderson emphatically expressed his intention, fully carried out in his subsequent judicial career, of upholding the Establishment against puritan dissent by every means in his power. On the western circuit, in November of the same year, Anderson presided at the trial of Campion and other seminary priests, charged with ‘compassing and imagining the queen's death,’ and here, as in many similar cases with which he was connected, lie assumed an attitude of personal hostility to the prisoners. The evidence adduced against Campion and his followers was somewhat slender, but the judge in an introductory speech ‘with grave and austere countenance dismayed the prisoners,’ and secured their conviction by his rhetorical invective.

Anderson's vigorous support of the crown's authority against its various opponents did not go unrewarded. The Bishop of Norwich requested Lord Burghley to call the queen's attention to his energy in the conviction of Brown, and the government showed themselves grateful for his action towards the catholic conspirators. Soon after the death of Sir James Dyer, the lord chief justice of the Common Pleas, Anderson was promoted to the vacant office, and he took his seat on the bench on 2 May 1582, receiving at the same time the honour of knighthood. Fleetwood, the recorder of London, in a letter to Lord Burghley describing his investiture, writes in the highest terms of the learning and facility he displayed on that occasion in arguing some very difficult points of law, which were proposed for his decision by leading members of the bar. ‘And thus one thing,’ the recorder proceeds, ‘was noted in him, that he despatched more orders and answered more difficult cases in that one forenoon than were despatched in a whole week in the time of his predecessors.’

As lord chief justice of the Common Pleas, Anderson took part in all the famous state trials that kept England in a frenzy of excitement during the last years of Elisabeth's reign. In September 1586 he was a member of the commission appointed to try Babington and his associates, and in very aggressive language he interrogated the prisoners, and ‘spoke their condemnation.’ A month later he proceeded to Fotheringay Castle to assist at the arraignment of the Queen of Scots, and he took a very prominent part in the trial of Secretary Davison on the charge of improperly carrying out the order for Mary Stuart's execution. When pronouncing sentence in the case, Anderson made a subtle distinction between the act and its performance, acquitting the prisoner, as Fuller states, of malice, but censuring him for indiscretion. In 1588 he was chosen to proceed to Ireland on judicial business, and remained there from 25 July to 1 Oct. (Lansd. MS. 57, f. 15). In the following year Anderson took part in the trial of the Earl of Arundel; and at the trials of Sir John Perrot, lord deputy of Ireland, on 17 April 1590, of the Earl of Essex on 19 Feb. 1600-1, and of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1603, Anderson made himself notorious by his harsh bearing towards the prisoners. In the case of Cuffe, who was charged with abetting Essex in his conspiracy, the lord chief justice treated Coke, the attorney-general, who conducted the prosecution, with the same bluntness as the prisoner. They were both, he said, indifferent disputants, and, addressing himself to Coke, reminded him that he sat on the bench to judge of law and not of logic (Camden, Annales, iii. 866, ed. Hearne).

Anderson's conduct towards the puritans was marked by excessive severity, and in 1596, in a charge to the jury on the northern circuit, he attempted to justify his attitude by declaring that all those who opposed the established church opposed her majesty's authority, were enemies to the state and disturbers of the public peace. But no general statement of this Kind can excuse Anderson for his action in the case of John Udall, a puritan minister, charged, before himself and other judges, with libelling the bishops and with being concerned in the authorship of the Martin Marprelate pamphlets. By a series of brutal interrogations Anderson successfully endeavoured to trap Udall into a confession of guilt, ‘as to which,’ writes Hallam (Const. Hist i. 206), ‘the proof was deficient,’ and to another judge, who urged some milder treatment of the prisoner, he replied, ‘I pray you let us make short work with him.’ The chief justice's speeches throughout the trial seem to justify the charge made against him by a nonconformist writer, that he ‘desired to trick the poor man out of his life’ (Peirce, Vindication of the Dissenters (1717), part i. pp. 129-131). Nor was Udall's case the only one in which Anderson allowed his personal feelings to get the better of his judgment. According to Strype, he frequently used ‘many oaths and reproachful revilings on the bench’ against the protestant sectarians, and at the trial of a clergyman charged at Lincoln in 1596 with omitting some prayers in the liturgy, he is described as standing up, bending himself towards the prisoner ‘with a strange fierceness of countenance,’ and calling ‘him “knave” oftentimes, and “rebellious knave” with manifold reproaches besides.’

But, in spite of his habitual harshness and impatience, Anderson had many of the qualities of a great judge. Although his treatment of catholics and nonconformists was in strict accordance with the policy of Elizabeth's ministers, a spirit of sturdy independence marked his relations with the court. In April 1587, when the Earl of Leicester had procured from the queen letters-patent granting a subordinate office in the court of Common Pleas to one of his creatures, Anderson, with his brother judges, refused to ratify the appointment on the ground that the sovereign could not by any exercise of prerogative dispose of the office. Similarly, in Easter term 1592, Anderson drew up a protest in behalf of the judges against the frequent imprisonment of ‘her highness's subjects... by commandment of any nobleman or counsellor,’ and urged the lord chancellor and lord treasurer to secure for every suspected person a fair trial in a court of law (Anderson's Reports, i. 297; Hallam's History, i. 234-6, 387). The protest, which is somewhat obscurely worded so far as it limits the personal power of the crown itself, has an interesting history. Its meaning was much debated by lawyers and politicians in 1627. The attorney-general, Sir Robert Heath, on the part of the king, quoted it in a mangled form to support the arbitrary imprisonment by Charles I of the five knights who had refused to contribute to the loan of that year; but Coke produced Anderson's own manuscript in the House of Commons on 1 April 1628, and Anderson's words were incorporated in a resolution giving all prisoners the right to a writ of habeas corpus. The resolution afterwards formed a clause of the petition of right (Gardiner's History (1884), vi. 215, 244). Nor would Anderson tolerate the ‘insolence of office’ that often characterised the conduct of petty magistrates. At the Leicester assizes of 1599 the chief justice was informed that a shoemaker had been committed to prison by the mayor for saying, after the maypole of the town had been pulled down, that he hoped to see ‘more morrice dancing and maypoles,’ and Anderson peremptorily ordered the offender's release. Anderson likewise endeavoured to diminish as far as possible ‘the law's delays,’ and he is justly credited with considerable personal courage. When an affray took place in his presence on the Somersetshire circuit in 1602, ‘the Lord Anderson himselfe,’ at the age of seventy-two, writes Manningham in his ‘Diary,’ ‘onely with his cap in his hande, took a sworde from a very lustie fellow,’ and so quelled the disturbance (Manningham's Diary, p. 41, Camden Soc).

In civil cases, Anderson's conduct was almost always patient and impartial, and he was renowned for his knowledge of law and his readiness in applying it. His reports, which were first published in 1664, consist of notes of cases taken by him while at the bar and on the bench between 1574 and 1603, and show great industry and learning. The book was long regarded as an authority by lawyers; a manuscript copy of it, in French, is preserved in the British Museum (Addit. MS, 25193). Lloyd, in his ‘State Worthies’ (p. 803), writing about 1665, describes Anderson as ‘a pure legist, that had little skill in the affairs of the world, always alleging a decisive case or statute on any matter or question, without that account of a moderate interpretation, some circumstances of things require, being so much the less useful as he was incompliant.’ But beside this verdict may be placed the well-supported statement of a reporter of Anderson's judgments, that he was never bound down by precedents, that he always gave judgment according to reason, and if there was no reason in the old law-books, he disregarded them (Goldesborough's Reports, 1653, p. 96).

Anderson died on 1 Aug. 1605, and was buried at Eyworth in Bedfordshire, where an elaborate monument was erected to his memory. Francis Bacon, writing at the time of his death, speaks of him as ‘the late great judge’ (Spedding's Life of Bacon, iii. 257). Anderson married Magdalen, daughter of Christopher Smyth, of Annables, in Hertfordshire, by whom he had nine children, and from him in the male line are descended the Earls of Yarborough. He amassed a considerable fortune by his practice at the bar, according to Lloyd, and multiplied many times the thousand pounds that he inherited from his father; he lived in some splendour first at Flixborough, probably his native village, then at Asbury in Warwickshire, and afterwards at Harefield Place in Middlesex, and at Eyworth in Bedfordshire. Foss states that Anderson entertained the queen at Harefield, and was presented by her with a diamond ring, but, according to Nichols, Anderson had sold Harefield Place to Sir Thomas Egerton, the lord keeper, in 1601, and by him Elizabeth was entertained on her only recorded visit to the house, in July 1602 (Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, iii. 581). Although Anderson's judicial career of twenty-three years' duration was not rewarded by a peerage, Elizabeth ordered him to preside over the House of Lords during an illness of the lord chancellor in 1587 (Lords' Journal ii. 1276).

Besides Anderson's law reports, published after his death, he drew up several expositions of statutes enacted in Elizabeth's reign which remain in manuscript at the British Museum (Lansd. MSS. 37 fol. 21, 38 fol. 6). Goldesborough's 'Reports,' published in 1653, have often been attributed to Anderson, but they are merely records of his judgments in the chief cases brought before him, and were collected by the lawyer whose name they bear.

[Biographia Britannica; Foss's Judges of England, vi. 51; Wood's Athen. Oxon. (ed. Bliss), i. 753; S. D. U. K. Biog. Dict.; Fuller's Worthies, ed. Nichols, ii. 15; Lloyd's State Worthies, pp. 803–5; State Trials, i. 1051, 1128. 1167, 1235, 1251, 1271, 1315, 1333, 1334, ii. 1; Strype's Annals, iii. and iv.; Notes and Queries, (1st series) xii. 8, (3rd series) ix. 217, 269, 309; Addit. MSS. 5756 f. 110, 5845 p. 331, 6704 f. 136; Lansd. MS. 57, f. 15.]

S. L. L.