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Some memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times online

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* Commentaries on the Life and Reign of Charles the First, vol. ii.
p. 292. But Mr. D'Israeli, as we have already seen, is not always careful
in his references. At the close of the same passage, he says of Pytn, ' one
' would have wished that the man whose character has incurred the taint
' of a suspicion of having taken a heavy bribe from a French minister, had
' been graced with purer hands.' He says, in a note, ' I write this down
' from recollection, and cannot immediately recover my authority.' It
might be superfluous to offer any remarks on the propriety of making such
a charge as that of corruption on authority which he who makes it ' cannot
' immediately recover.' The authority on the recollection of which it is
. made, (for there is no other,) is Lord Clarendon's, who thus states the
f grounds of the imputation. 'And some said boldly, and (an obscure person
J 'or two) have since affirmed it, as upon their knowledge, that Mr. Pym
' received five thousand pounds from that French minister to hinder that
'apply to Spain.' The words inserted in Italics, and which bear so
importantly on the credibility of the charge, had been suppressed by the
committee who first published Lord Clarendon's History, but were restored
from the manuscript, in the uugarbled edition which, much to the credit
of the University of Oxford, was published by that body in 1826.


' Bucks/* directing the one to deliver, and the other to
receive, the original warrant, as well as all accompts and
returns concerning the levy of the former year. This return
was accordingly made by the assessors of the different
parishes ; and, among others where payment had been
delayed, by those of the parish of Great Kimble, a village at
the foot of the Chiltern Hills, round which the principal
property of John Hampden lay, and in the immediate neigh-
bourhood of his house. The return f contains the names of
those who, with him, had tendered their refusal to the con.
stables and assessors, together with an account of the sums
charged upon each person. Among the names of the pro-
testors it is to be observed that the constables and assessors
have the courage to return their own ; and, at the head of the
list, stands that of John Hampden, as a passport for the rest
to an honourable memory, so long as the love of liberty shall
retain a place in the hearts of the British nation.

A protest thus made by a private gentleman, although
backed by the concurrent conduct of the Lord Say and Sele,
and some others of lesser note, was not likely to be an
effectual warning to a temper like Charles's, or to deter him
from pursuing an enterprise so long and so maturely arranged.
By a warrant, therefore, from Hampton Court (dated June 24,
and signed by Laud, Coventry, Juxon, Manchester, Went-
worth, Yane, Cottington, and Windebank), the late High
Sheriff was summoned to answer for default of arrears ; and
it appears that, he being unable, from ill health, to give his
personal attendance on the appointed day, such were the
jealousy and rage of the Court, that he was kept for a
considerable time in custody of a messenger, at his own house
at Stowe. A letter, written by Sir Peter to his mother, while
he was suffering under this grievance, and expecting worse,
gives a lively picture of his disconsolate condition, and of the
relentless rigour with which the Government proceeded against
its own helpless and unoS'euding officer.

' DEARE MOTHER, In haste I write to you. I, hauinge my
' bandes full, cannot write to you with my owne handes, I hauinge
' byne latelye ill at London, and takeing physicke. Yet muste I

* See Appendix D.

+ The origi nal of this interesting document was preserved among the
papers of Sir Peter Temple at Stowe.

H 2


' leaue the means of my health to doe the Kinge seruice. I was seute
'for on the 30th of June, by a messenger, to attend the Kinge on
' Sundaye the 3d of July, about the shippe-moneye ; wherein I am
4 blamed for the Sherriffe's actions that nowe is, and am compelled
' w^ a messenger, nowe wayteing on me, with all the distresses and
' imprisoneings that maye be imposed on the countrye. But the
' Sherriffe muste answere what is done by me in the future tyme.
' I am to atteude the Kinge at Theobaldes, on the 17th daye of
' July, to giue an accompte to him what I have done in the seruice,
' and as he likes my proceedinges, I am to continue in the messenger's
' hande, or be releassed, or worsse. My lyfe is nothing but toyle,
' and hath byne for many yeares, to the Commonwealth, and nowe
' to the Kinge. The change is somethinge amended for the pressent,
' but yet released of neither. Not soe much tyme as to doe my
' dutye to my cleere parentes, nor to sende to them. Yett I hoped
' that they wolde haue sente for a bucke or what Stowe wolde
' afforde, before thys tyme. But seeinge they will not, I will spare
' myselfe soe much tyme as to presente nowe unto them one by thys
' bearer.

' Although I am debarred from father, mother, wife, and chilldreu,
' and state, though some of them farre absente, wyth thys I
1 presente my dutye, wyth these unhappye lynes, and reinayne

' Yo r Sonne, that loues and honoures

' my father and you, PETER TEMPLE.

' STOWE, thys 8th of July, 1636.

' To his deere mother, the Lady Hester Temple, at Dorsett, theis
' presseute.'

By advice of Chief Justice Finch, the King now required
the opinion of the twelve judges. The queries were pro-
pounded in a form not unusual with those who, in putting
their case, desire only to strengthen their own preconceived
opinions or determinations with the sanction of a learned
authority. There is a mode in which Kings may so propose
their questions to lawyers as clearly to show what is the
answer that will best meet the Koyal purpose. It was
demanded, ' Whether, when the general safety was concerned,
' and the whole state in danger, he might not, by writ under
' the great seal, legally compel his subjects to furnish as large
' a number of ships for its defence, and for as long a period,
' as he might think necessary ; and whether, in such a case,
' he were not the sole judge of the danger, as well as of the


' means of preventing it?'* Thus assuming not only this
vast prerogative, but also the whole discretionary power of
declaring its limits, and of determining the occasions on which
it should have the force of law ; a compendious definition of
purely arbitrary power.

After much solicitation, and not without certain hopes of
preferment held out to some, and threats to others, an answer
was obtained, February 14, 1636-7, in favour of these
propositions in every particular.f But, although this opinion
was signed by all the judges, they were not unanimous in
their decision. Croke and Button, who had strongly opposed
it in a long and solemn argument, had the weakness to be at
last prevailed upon to sign it, as the opinion of the majority ;
an assurance being given by their brethren that they should
not be held bounden thereby in giving judgment, whenever
such a question might be tried by them in Court. J A plain
inconsistency. On whatever principle they w r ere bound to
subscribe to the opinion of the majority as law, they would in
like manner have been bound to lay it down as law upon trial
also. But, notwithstanding the assurance which had been
given them, the opinion was instantly enrolled in all the courts
of A\ est minster Hall as an unanimous one, and directed to be
so published throughout the realm.

Whilst this proceeding was distasteful to many, both
lawyers and others, as being new in principle and of evil
tendency in respect of precedent, it was loudly applauded by
the Court party, who cared not to dissemble their joy. ' It is
' plain indeed/ said Lord AVenhvorth, ' that the judges,
' declaring the lawfulness of the assignment for the shipping,
' is the greatest service that profession hath done the Crown
' in my time. But, unless his Majesty hath the like power
' declared to raise a land army upon the same exigent of state,
' the Crown seems to me to stand but upon one leg at home,
' and to be considerable but by halves to foreign princes
' abroad/ .And, again, after some pregnant advice respecting
the foreign policy, he adds, ' and hereby also insensibly gain a
' precedent, and settle an authority and right in the Crown to
' levies of that nature ; which thread draws after it many huge
' and great advantages, more proper to be thought on at some
' other seasons than now/

* Rushworth. + Whitelocke.

Rushworth. Strafford's Letters.


Bat, although this impure and collusive decision of the
judges was thus regarded with complacency by Wentworth,
and hailed by him as the forerunner of further ' huge and
' great advantages/ it increased the uneasiness of the country.
The exaction of the ship-money, after this declaration of its
legality, was even more generally and systematically opposed
than before.* With whatever joy the courtiers received this
' rescue/ as they termed it, of the prerogative royal, and
re-establishment of the power and glory of the Crown, the
indignation of the country party was not slow in manifesting
what was, on their side, felt respecting the part taken by the
lawyers in efforts so clearly tending to bring the Monarchy
itself into weakness and jeopardy. A sovereign more calmly
observant of the course of the times than Charles was, would
sooner have taken warning of the great danger of tainting the
administration of justice, and thus diminishing the honour
and reverence of the bench. For, as a corrupt judicature is
the most formidable engine of arbitrary sovereignty, so long as
the judicial authority is still owned and obeyed through the
realm, fearful indeed, when its moral influence has been
thoroughly impaired, becomes the condition of the sovereign
through whose wicked and short-sighted policy it was

No sooner was this decision recorded than directions were
given to the crown lawyers to proceed against Hampden as
the principal defaulter. He had cast himself behind the
defences of the law. The lines were still entire ; the watch-
towers- and ramparts stood, but dismantled ; and the garrison,
for the most part, were corrupted or dismayed. A writ of
Certiorari was, on the 9th of March, directed from Chancery
to Sir Heneage Proby ; and, on the 5th of May, a writ of
Mittimus was sent into the Court of Exchequer, commanding
that proceedings should be commenced there. In consequence,
on the 20th of the same month, a writ of Scire Facias was
awarded against Hampden, requiring him to show cause why
the sum assessed upon him by the late sheriff of Bucks should
not be satisfied ; and further, enjoining him to abide the order
of the court. The case selected for trial was an assessment of
twenty shillings, charged upon him in respect of his lands in
tin- parish of Stoke Maudeville, adjoining to Great Kimble.
To this he appeared in Trinity Term, and prayed over of the

* Clarendon Hist. Reb.


original writ, and of each subsequent proceeding. On their
being read to him, he demurred generally in law, complaining
that, by such proceedings, he had been unjustly and grievously
disquieted, and that the matters contained in the divers writs
and returns were not sufficient to legally oblige his complying

O J 1 / O

with them, or his accounting in any other way for his refusal
to do so. The Attorney-General having joined issue on the
demurrer, the record was made up, and the barons, adjourning
the argument to the Exchequer Chamber, desired the assistance
and judgment of the whole bench.

The point of law was argued in Michaelmas Term, from the
6th of November to the 18th of December;* on the part of
Hanipden, by Oliver St. John and Robert Melbourne; and,
for the Crown, by the Attorney- General, Sir John Bankes, of
Corfe Castle, and the Solicitor, Sir Edward Littleton.f The
crown lawyers insisted on precedents of ancient writs, from
the Saxon times downwards, which required ships for the
defence of the nation, sometimes at the charge of a county,
sometimes of a port only. They cited precedents from the
rolls of the early Parliaments of Edward I. and Kichard II.
to show that the Commons had acknowledged the right in the
King not only to impress men, but to levy money in aid ' as
' belonging to the war?/ They put the argument, ' ad
' absurdum/ thus : ' Is the King to direct the war. and yet
' shall he have neither men nor money without asking his
' subjects' leave ? ' They argued the fairness and equality of
the levy,, and the wealth and station of Mr. Hampden, con-
trasting it with the insignificant amount of the sum charged
upon him in respect of each of his estates. 'If he be too
' highly assessed/ it was urged, ' he might call the sheriff in
' question. But the sheriff of Bucks is rather to be fined for
' setting him at so low a rate as twenty shillings. AVe know
' what house Mr. Hampden is of, and his estate too. For
' anything I know, it might as well be twenty pounds. But,
' to the legal part, some one must be trusted with it, and who
1 should be but the sheriff ? and the parties not without
'remedy, if over-rated.' J These, with accumulated precedents

* Rushworth.

+ St. John find Bankes each took three days, and Holboiirne four, for his
argument. Their speeches alone occupy one hundred and seventeen
in Jtushworth. Important as they are, I ffo a better part by the reader in
ivfVrring to 'them than I should by quoting them at length.
J State Trials.


of taillage, benevolences, and other such imposts, as well as
of impressments of men, and ships too, by warrant, in cases
of emergency, were the principal topics used in the case for
the Crown ; enforced always by strong appeals to the court on
the necessity of giving the King free use of such means as
might be necessary to vindicate the national honour, and
protect the trade, at sea, and particularly when they were
insulted by the pirates of the Barbary States, and menaced by
the navies of other nations. St. John, on the other part, well
justifying his already established reputation for learning and
boldness, supported his argument with great weight of
authorities; resting his case against the whole proceeding
upon the fundamental principles of the constitution, upon the
terms of the Great Charter, upon the statute de Tallagio, and
upon the declaratory matter of the Petition of Kight, so lately
passed, and so stoutly contested in all its clauses, confirmatory
of preceding acts. Melbourne followed, and argued on wider
grounds of history, ~Taw^ and civil policy. He rejected
precedents of emergency in remote times as explanatory of
statutes which had, in those extreme instances, been violated
or set aside ; and turned against the crown lawyers their cases
of illegal practices of ancient memory, now urged to take
away the force of Acts of Parliament. But, when he dis-
tinctly pointed towards the general principles of free
government, and towards the danger of these violent acts
of power to the Crown itself, he was, more than once,
checked from the bench. At length, the judges prepared
to deliver their opinions in court; and, to give the greater
solemnity to their judgment, they argued the matter largely
in the three succeeding Terms. Weston, Cra \vley, Berkeley,
and \ ernon, who gave judgment, two in a clay, in Hilary
Term, were unanimous in favour of the Crown. But
when, in Easter Term, the matter was resumed, a great
diversity of opinion arose. Trevor spoke for the legality
of the writ, but Croke concluded as directly against it.
According to Whitclocke, Croke was preparing, against
his own conscience and conviction, to give judgment for
the King. But he was reproached for his baseness by his
j wife. This noble lady cast the shield of her feminine virtue
before the honour of her husband, to guard it from the assaults
equally of interest and fear ; and, with that moral bravery
which is so often found the purest and brightest in her sex, she


exhorted him to do his duty, at any risk to himself, to her, or to
their children ; and she prevailed.

A fe\v days after, when Judge Jones, treating the case
somewhat doubtfully, decided foTThe King, but with the con-
dition that no part of the money should go in aid of the privy
purse, Hutton strenuously denied the validity of all claim on
pretence" of the prerogative ; and, maintaining that the scire
i'acias could not lie, advised that judgment should be given in
all respects for Hampden.* The deliberate opposition thus
made by two judges, whose expressed opinions from the first
had never varied, was productive of a very great effect. The
opposers of the ship-money everywhere took heart. It pro-
ceeded slowly and laboriously in the collection. The
assessments were made with hesitation and reluctance, and
the arrears were daily increasing. In Trinity Term, the two
remaining judges gave sentence. Denham,_ absent on two
certificates of ill health, declared, in writing, for Hainpden ;
and the Chief Baron Davenport in his argument followed the
same course. But the Chief Justices, Finch and Bramston,
having on the OtlTo! June, concluded against him, the sentence
of the majority was for the King. On the llth, therefore,
the Attorney-General moved that the decision should be entered
and prayed judgment on the record the following day.f

\Yhile this conflict of opinion among the Judges left the
result in doubt, the attention of the country was steadily at a
gaze. The great principle at issue was never lost sight of,
and, as the judgments proceeded in succession, the pervading
sense of a common interest, which the court might not have
been without hopes of wearying out by the great length and
slow pace of the discussion, became more and more intense.
Once declared, the award excited an equally general and deep
disgust. The Lord Sav, who had begun the same contest in
A V a r \v i e k shire7~"[where, under his influence, and that of the
Lord Brook, the popular principles had spread almost as
widely as they had in Buckinghamshire, under Hainpden,) now
attempted, but in vain, to procure a trial in his own case, ^By
' the choice of the King's counsel/ says Lord Clarendon,
' Hampden had brought his cause to be first heard and argued ;
' and with that judgment it was intended that the whole right

* Rushworth. Append, to Rushworth. State Trials. Whitelocke.
Claveudou Rub. t Stafford's Letters.


f of the matter should be concluded, and all other cases over-
' ruled.'* The record already obtained on this memorable
occasion, (on which, says a ^court writer, 'Monarchy and
' Liberty were permitted to plead at the same bar/ 1
had been much too valuable to the pretensions of the
King to be put to the hazard of a fresh and doubtful
issue. But the question could not be thus set at rest, nor the
strong excitement which it had occasioned subdued. It is
seldom the inclination of a multitude to support one man in
resisting a grievance which they have collectively been forced
or persuaded to endure. Nay more. There is sometimes in
our nature a sense of personal triumph, a very base one, which
is gratified by seeing others fail in an attempt to withstand that
to which we before have tamely submitted. Thus it is, that
the first enterprises of this sort are usually rather regarded
with jealousy than accompanied by any lively demonstrations
of countenance or applause; and this is a vice of which a
crafty government is seldom slow in availing itself to its own
advantage. But, on this occasion, the minds of men reasoned
more largely, and their hearts were influenced by a purer feel-
ing. It was fortunate for freedom that, after all particular
precedent set up on the King's part had been shown J to fail
him, his case was argued on general principles easy to be
weighed and understood, and upon lapsed notions of preroga-
tive royal which a succession of numerous statutes, from
Henry the Third's time downwards, had been framed to cancel
and supersede. Every low and unworthy sentiment of
personal jealousy, every short-sighted calculation of more or
less personal grievance or advantage, gave place to a convic-
tion that, together with the doctrines of which Hampden had
now become the champion, and by dint of those with which
.Finch had so wantonly overlaid the case of the King, Jhe_
dearest rights of all were placed in jeopardy. This feeling, as
one which had been gravely adopted, and which had gradually
and deliberately advanced among the people, was not likely
to be lightly abandoned, or irresolutely pursued. JXor did
those persons with whose concurrence the first stand was
made, (after a successful resistance on the broader ground had
become no longer practicable,) fail to oppose and thwart the
measure in its details by all the means which exhortation,

* Hist. Reb. t Royal Martyr.

Clarendon Hist. Reb. Rushworth, App.


example, and the influence of character or station, could
supply. St. John, although renowned for prodigious parts
and industry among his own party in Parliament, had not
risen to any extensive practice in Westmitister Hall until after
the fame of his argument in Hampden' s case. This, however,
gained him so much reputation, that he was afterwards
engaged in all the different courts and causes in which the
claims of the royal prerogative were contested.* Meanwhile,
with the increasing disaffection towards the measures of the
King and his advisers, did the conduct of Hampden daily
advance in public admiration and honour. 'The eyes of all
' men/ according to Lord Clarendon, ' were fixed upon him as
' their Pater Patriae, and the pilot who must steer the vessel
'through the tempests and rocks that threatened it/ With
qualities of heart and mind well matched to do service and
honour to each other, the modesty, discretion, and composure,
with which, (always bearing onwards in his steady course,) he
mastered in himself every allurement of personal vanity, are
parts of his character more admirable even than the courage
which all contemporary testimony agrees in so eminently
ascribing to him. It has been well observed, that the highest
praise which has been bestowed on Hampden is to be found
in the acknowledgment of one of his most jealous enemies.
Lord Clarendon, who had known him both as a colleague and
as a competitor, and, in each position, had learned to respect
his deportment, admits that he behaved himself with a temper
and modesty such as marvellously to win the hearts of men,
and to deprive his adversaries of all occasion, which they
diligently sought, of impeaching the conduct, while they
blamed the motive, of his opposition. Far different, however,
was the spirit of the inveterate Wentworth. His xeal was
overflowing against those who still stood for the principles and
party which he had, without any assignable motive or excuse,
but the basest, betrayed. ' Mr. Hampden/ says he in a letter
to Archbishop Laud, ( is a great Brother;' (Puritan;) 'and
' the very genius of that nation of people leads them always
'to oppose, both civilly and ecclesiastically, all that ever
' Authority ordains for them. But, in good faith, were the\
' rightly served, they should be whipped home into their right
'wits; and much beholden they should be to any that would
' thoroughly take pains with them in that sort/ Again, with

* Clart-ndon- Hist. Reb. Weekly Account, July 310, 1643.


the same soberness and propriety of metaphor, he says, ' In
' truth I still wish Mr. Hampden, and others to his likeness,
' were well whipped into their right senses. And, if the rod be
' so used that it smart not, I am the more sorry/* Such is the
language of one who well knew the person and the party of
whom he spoke. For he once had shared deeply in their coun-
cils, and, 'whether' (as his friend and biographer Ratcliffe
says of him) 'animated by patriotism, or led by a skilful
' ambition/ had also shared with them their sufferings and
their fame, in resisting those very schemes of taxation of which
he had now become an active and forward instrument, f The
bitterness of such a man, 'odisse quos Iseserit/ (who,
accomplished as he was, both in statesmanship and letters,
illustrious for his abilities, his station, and afterwards for his
misfortunes, yet felt that, in deserting his party, he was

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 17 of 45)