George Nugent Grenville Nugent.

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

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abandoning the dearest possession of his public life, his reputa-
tion for honesty,) carries with it its moral to posterity, and,
for the moral's sake, ought to be recorded. The verdict of many
generations has been passed upon the memory of Hampden,
and upon that of his reviler ; and they must indeed be very
sanguine enemies to the liberties of their country who can now
hope to see that judgment reversed.

It was but a short time before this that those bloody scenes
of human agony and mutilation, which formed a part of
the ordinary punishment of the pillory, had been revived
by Laud. It was in the summer of 1637 that the sentence,
of which we have before spoken, was executed upon Burton
and Bastwick, and renewed, with horrible circumstances of
further cruelty, upon Prynne ; and it was in the next
winter that Lilburne also suffered the same punishment,
under an order signed by Laud ; the whipping being inflicted
with a rigour which endangered his life. This was, in all
probability, the very instance, because it had been the most
recent, which prompted Wentworth's jest.

* Stafford's Letters.

+ I know that Mr. Brodie believes tbat, in many of the early votes of the
country party, the name of Sir Thomas Wentworth has bceu confounded
with that of Mr. Thomas Wentworth, member for Oxford. But that Sir
Thomas Wentworth was imprisoned for his opposition to the Court, that
he joined in the impeachment of the Duke of Buckingham, in the protesta-
tions against illegal imposts, and moved one of the most important clauses
in the Petition of Right, is certain, from the testimony of Ratcliffe, as well
as of lluehworth and the Journals.


Again, the hopes of the country party almost died within
them. Had it not been for a fresh act of cruel and unwise
compulsion, which bereft the persecuted Puritans of the power
of leaving to Charles, by their flight, an undisputed triumph
over la\v and liberty, the whole struggle in this country would
have been abandoned, at least by that generation, in despair.
Many eminent persons were induced, by their sufferings, or
by their fears, to sell their estates at a great loss, in order to
seek a shelter, which, by its distance from home, promised at
least security from the vindictive spirit of the government,
and from the stormy threatenings of the times. The planta-
tions of New England, held under royal patents granted by
James, offered a place of refuge to such as might be
driven by hatred of the great tyranny that reigned in
their own country to look for peace and freedom among
the wildernesses of another hemisphere. Such a retreat had
been prepared there by the foresight of the Lord Say and the
Lord Brook, by whose directions a little town, now the capital
of the nourishing province of Connecticut, had been built, in
16-35, under the name of Saybrook. They had from their
boyhood, lived together as brothers, and the ties of their affec-
tion had been strengthened by a close and constant agreement
in public life. To this wild and distant settlement they had
determined to retreat, in failure of their efforts for justice
and peace at home, and there they were jointly to become the
founders of a patriarchal community. Of this new settlement
liberty of conscience was to be the first law, and it was after-
wards to be governed according to their darling scheme of a
free commonwealth. Thither several persons of rank and fortune
had already led the way.

The Crown had laid claim to the power of taxing, in
whatever measure, and on whatever exigents of state, it should
please to determine ; and tin's had been confirmed by the ship-
money judgment, which had given up to the discretion of the
King the whole property of the country. All cases of libel
against the Government, or any of the great officers of state,
were taken out of the courts below, to be tried and punished
by the offended parties themselves, in the Star Chamber ; and,
of the Puritans, or Precisians, as they now began to be called,
those who withstood these powers were pursued by all manner
of penalties, and those who were patient by mockery and insult
no less intolerable. The spirit of emigration spread daily


among the Puritans ; the views of the greater number of that
party were entirely directed to that object ; thus leaving their
leaders without any further hope to cherish, and, indeed, with-
out any further duties to fulfil, in England. But even tliis
refuge from a persecution which appeared irresistible, and from
which there remained no other means of escape, was refused
them.* This project, which would also have relieved ,the
Government from the embarrassment of their presence, and of
all their further plans, was defeated by an order of the King
in council, dated April 6, 1638, by which all masters and
owners of ships were restrained from setting forth any vessel
with passengers for America, without special licence.!

The immediate effect of this monstrous edict is rendered
remarkable by an event, which has thrown over the whole an
air of strange fatality. Eight ships, with respectable emigrants
on board, were, at this time, lying in the Thames, bound for
the new colony. In one of these had actually embarked, for
their voyage across the Atlantic, two no less considerable
persons than John Hampden and his kinsman Oliver
Cromwell : the latter then little distinguished, except for an
opposition which he had conducted with great spirit and
ability, in his native county of Huntingdon, against the
project of the Bedford level ; a work which, like all the other
great schemes of improvement, had been converted into a
monopoly which was to give new means of influence to the

But the Court was unwilling that its opponents should, any-
where, enjoy or communicate the systems of freedom which they
sought, or should peaceably withdraw themselves, even at the
hazard of the total confiscation of their estates at home, from a
contest of whose success they despaired, and from a country
which they deemed to be hopelessly enslaved. A special order
was therefore issued that these vessels, by name, should be
detained, and the provisions landed which had been shipped for
the voyage. J Thus, in the alternative between flight and
resistance, the Government, as it were, bound down these
eminent men to an opposite condition to that which they had

* Rushworth. Neale's Hist, of the Puritans.

t Bancroft, in his early persecution of the Puritans, under James, seeing
that great numbers of them were emigrating to Virginia, obtained a pro-
clamation enjoining them not to depart without the King's license.
Scale's Hist, of Puritans. Rush worth. Dugdale's Troubles.





choseii for themselves. Pride, character, and obligation to
party and to principle, pledged them, so long as they should
inhabit the country of their birth, to pursue the course they
had begun. Hampden and Cromwell remained; to act,
probably with very different views, certainly in very different
circumstances ; the one to be the first mover of resistance in
arms against the power of the King, the other to finally defeat
and ruin that power in the field, to overthrow the monarchy,
and to bring the Sovereign, by whom he was now arbitrarily
detained, to a public scaffold.*

Mr. Hume avers that Hampden, and the rest, were going to
New England for the privilege of hearing sermons of seven
hours long. No vindication this for detaining them from that
enjoyment, if such were their sober and innocent taste. But,
unfortunately for a jest at any rate ill-suited to the character
of just and impartial history, it appears, first, that the total
infraction of all the conditions of the Petition of Right, and the
hazard to which the persons and property of these men had
been brought, were motives sufficient to account for the desire
of emigration, without the necessity of imputing it to a mere
passion for long sermons. Secondly, the Presbyterians were
the long preachers, and not the Independents ; and Hampden
and Cromwell, and their followers, were Independents," and EoT

The real separation between these two sects had begun to
show itself as early even as the conference at Hampton Court,
and had, for some time before that of which we are now
treating, been distinctly marked; although, as is well known,
they did not form themselves into opposite parties in the state,
till after the assembly of divines on Church Government, and
the publishing of the ' Apologetical Narration/ in 1641. In
truth, nothing can have tended more to give an unfair view
of the different motives of those who were acting together to
resist the encroachment of monarchy and prelacy, than the
mode, introduced by the Court of James I., and since care-
lessly adopted by writers on these times, of classing all the
opposers of the Hierarchy under the general, undistinguishing
denomination of Puritans. Prom the earliest days of their

* [This alleged incident has been shown to rest on no reliable authority.

', i: For.ster'.s Statesmen "/ the Commonwealth, vol. ii., p. 81. But agaii^t

the passage in the text Lord Nugent affixed no mark for modification or

erasure, and it is therefore left as first written.]


common sufferings and resistance, no two codes of civil
conduct on religious matters could be more opposite to each
other than that of the Independents from that of the Pres-
byterians. At the beginning, the Presbyterians were much
the more powerful, and, indeed, the only recognised, sect;
for they possessed those two vast elements of power, unity of
discipline, and original establishment by law in a very import-
ant portion of this island. With that establishment, they had
cherished a spirit thoroughly intolerant of all other sects.
Not content without an entire uniformity of church govern-
ment throughout the land, they claimed for their synod a
power, as absolute as that which the Episcopalians claimed for
the Bishops, over the pulpit and the press :

' New Presbyter was but Old Priest writ large.'

Far from setting up for their intolerance the excuse which the
Papists have claimed, they had founded their religious tenets
on the assumed right of free inquiry, and yet became as
unwilling as the Papists 'of the worst times to admit either
the freedom of discussion or the innocence of error. They had
rejected human infallibility, and yet they persecuted dissent.
"When brought into conflict with the Church of England, by
the monstrous attempt to establish Episcopalian Ascendency
and the Liturgy in Scotland, the spirit of intolerance grew
warmer in the followers of both modes of discipline. The
Independents rose between them. They stood between the
Convocation and the Synod; not for Ascendency, but for
Freedom. Neither the Episcopalians nor the Presbyterians
had yet advanced so far as to consider religious toleration a
duty. The Independents began by proclaiming religious
liberty to be a right. In this doctrine, and in this practice,
the Independents of England have ever continued. In the
American settlements, towards the end of the seventeenth
century, they unhappily followed the example of others in
endeavouring to reform spiritual error by force ; and by their
persecution of the Anabaptists there, have sealed the
melancholy truth, that no large sect has ever been uniformly
and thoroughly innocent of the great folly and great crime of
religious persecution. But, as far as English history goes,
the proud exception may be claimed for them. The Erastians
had no church government at all, but ' reduced the pastoral
' functions to exhortation and prayer/ c considering the office


' as only persuasive, without any power of censures/ * The
Independents established their church government on the
basis of a free Commonwealth ; but it was a government still ;
regular and strict, though mild. The Erastians and the
Independents, with the sect then called Antipsedobaptists,t
a small society, differing from the latter only with respect to
infant baptism, acted together in civil matters without
difficulty or dispute. They had struggled together for liberty ;
and, above all, for liberty of conscience and of worship.

The assembling of a Parliament, which might interpose its
authority to stay the dreadful extremities towards which the
measures of the Court were clearly and rapidly advancing, was
now the only prospect of deliverance to the people from the
miseries which they suffered, and from those greater calamities
which they dreaded. On the other hand, the King and his
advisers, availing themselves of the apparent calm, and not
content unless the means as well as the spirit of resistance were
effectually subdued, continued to prosecute, without stop or
intermission, their dangerous career-.

But the attention of the nation was unexpectedly called to

another quarter, by the course of a struggle which had begun,
during the year before, in a remote part of the island, where
Discontent had already ripened into open Insurrection. The
pretensions and persecutions of the prelatical faction in
Scotland had long kept that country in a state of unceasing
religious feud, and, of late, the furious elements of the
Episcopalian and Presbyterian warfare had broken forth, from
many magazines of confederacy and cabal, into alarming civil
broils. The religious disputes between England and Scotland,
which were afterwards, with little intermission, for about
sixty years, and through four successive reigns, contested in
arms, (until a wise and healing policy, at length conciliating
the jealous spirit which it had been before in vain attempted
to subdue, re-established in Scotland by law the religion of
the people), had begun as early as the junction of the two
crowns. The memorable assembly of Perth had introduced
and established the High Commission Court, the book of
Canons, and Rites and Ceremonies, offensive on many accounts
to the Scots. King Charles, soon after his accession, following

* Laing's Hist, of Scotland. Neale's Hist, of Puritans,
f Now called, generally, Baptists.


up the project conceived by his father, had endeavoured, by
order of that commission, to introduce the English service-
book of Common Prayer. But the main cause of grievance
was the establishment of the Commission of Superiority and
Tythes, under the pretext of a revocation, as it was
called, of certain rights and dues of the Crown, which,
during the late minorities of the Scottish Kings, had
been alienated into the hands of several opulent families.
The powers of this commission were exercised far from
the reach of appeal, and entrusted to violent and rapacious
favourites, whose chief recommendations were attachment to
the forms of a church of which the people were jealous, and
feudal enmity towards those influential persons, the means of
whose wealth they now became the ready instruments to
abridge.* While the prelates were violently and indiscreetly
putting themselves into conflict with the great lay proprietors,
the high church ceremonials, advancing at an equal pace with
these temporal innovations, shocked the feelings and habits of
the lower orders. All the smaller matters of controversy
between the parties were forgotten in the great division of
Covenant on the one hand, and Liturgy and Diocesan Episco-
pacy on the other. New levies of men and money, more
than ever oppressive upon the English part of the King's
dominions, were raised to enforce obedience to ordinances
more than ever hateful to the Scotch.f To Scotland the
discipline of John Kiiox Avas dear, not only as a memorial of
her religious reformation, but also as one of the few remaining
badges of her independent sovereignty. Prom Charles she
had conceived the best hopes of protection for both ; for she
had given him birth ; her ancient palace had been his cradle,
and that of his ancestors ; and she had received from him the
oath to defend the Presbyterian rites, when, (four years
before,) she placed her ancient crown upon his head. On
Sunday, the 23rd of July, 1637, these jealousies first broke
out into open resistance. The service-book was publicly read
in the great church at Edinburgh. ' What ! ' exclaimed an
old woman, provoked beyond measure at the portentous sound
of prayers and canticles, translated from the missal, and issuing
from what had been the pulpit of the first apostle of the
Scottish reformation, ' What, ye villain ! do you say mass in
' my lug ? ' and, hurling the stool on which she had been

* But-net Own Times. t Heath's Chronicle.


sitting at the head of the reader, she gave the signal of uproar.
The Bishop of Edinburgh, who officiated, the Archbishop of
St. Andrews, the Lord Chancellor, and the Provost, and City
Council, were driven from the church by the enraged populace,
and, among the cries of ' A pape ! a pape ! stane him;
' stane him ! ' narrowly escaped the martyrdom which was
threatened by these fearful words. In consequence of tliis
commotion, by a proclamation of the English Privy Council,
with Archbishop Laud at its head, all concourses of people
were prohibited within the city of Edinburgh, under pain of
death. So irritating a measure only produced corresponding
violences on the part of the people in the Scottish metropolis.
The City Council was forcibly dissolved, the members of it
obliged to crave protection from the leaders of the insurgent
party, and in 1638, under the auspices of the Earls of Hume
and Lindsey, the ' National Covenant ' was published and
subscribed to by great masses of the people throughout the
whole kingdom of Scotland.* The Marquis of Hamilton was
now commissioned by the King to act with full powers to
allay these growing distempers. t Under the more moderate
councils of this eminent person, a declaration was put forth,
dated June 30, 1638, dispensing with the service-books and
canons, promising a parliament, and calling back the King's
subjects to their allegiance. But the tyranny and bad faith
of the English Government had already produced an impression
which it was difficult to counteract. All confidence in the
royal promise had been shaken. At length, through the

* Laing's History of Scotland. Heath's Chron.

f Hamilton was a Presbyterian, and descended from one of the early
martyrs of the Reformation. Nor was his personal popularity among his
countrymen impaired even by the recollection that it was his father who
published the obnoxious Articles of Perth. It is, indeed, sadly difficult to
find among the rest of the political leaders, on either side, in Scotland,
during this period of her history, a character unstained by cruelty or
treachery. But Hamilton seems, on the whole, to have been a sincere and
faithful servant to the King, and an ardent well-wisher to his country ;
but prudent, and perhaps timid, as a statesman, to a degree which, in
violent times, brought upon him misrepresentation and obloquy, and
caused some dishonourable imputations, such as the having purloined, and
transmitted to the Covenanters, Montrose's letter of offers to the King,
for which shameful slander there seems not to have been the smallest
foundation. No man could, at the crisis of which we are now treating,
have more honestly done his duty between an incensed King and an
aroused people, nor could, afterwards, in the great civil war, have more
faithfully stood by the royal cause to which he attached himself; more
courageously encountered danger in the field, or gone with greater firmness
to the scaffold. i 2


mediation of Hamilton, after many harassing journeys and
negotiations, a reconciliation seemed to be approaching, and
an Assembly, elected by the people, from which Bishops were
excluded, was held, November, 1638, at Glasgow. The
demands, however, of this body, which assumed to itself the
right of spiritual excommunication, as well as very effectual
temporal securities for the preservation of Kirk and Covenant,
were of a nature little likely to be tolerated by the Privy
Council in London. At the end of a session of only seven
days, it was dissolved by a proclamation which the Lord
Commissioner was directed to issue ; and this proclamation
was met by a protestation from the members, declaring the
assembly undissolved, and indissoluble, until such satisfaction
as had been demanded should have been fully attained.
Meanwhile, the Earl of Argyle having declared for the
Covenant, negotiations "were opened by the Scotch with the
Court of France for assistance, which was readily promised.
Nor was Richelieu, probably, an unapproving spectator of a
quarrel which promised to enable him the more easily to obtain
vengeance or reparation for the part which Charles had, in
the early part of his reign, taken in behalf of the Eochellers,
and for the opposition which he had lately given to the joint
efforts of the French and Dutch in the Spanish Netherlands.
About the beginning of 1639, in consequence of this encou-
ragement, the Scotch had proceeded, by ordinance of the
Assembly, to get together a competent army ; and the co-
operation of the friends of religious liberty in England was
anxiously sought, not only by the Presbyterians, but by others
also, who, on more general grounds of displeasure with the
Court, had joined the malcontents. But many considerations
deterred that party in England, notwithstanding all solicita-
tions from without and provocations at home, from yet
countenancing any project of open insurrection. Nor does it
appear that any hopes were held out from England, or any
pains taken at that time, to excite the feelings of the Scotch,
or even- to enter into communication with them.* The

Anthony Wood states that Hampden had made more than one journey
into Scotland, about this time, iu order to ascertain the feelings of the
Covenanters, and to negotiate with them on the part of the Country party
in England. It does not appear on what authority he states this, and it
eeems to refer to a later period. For it is probable that, otherwise, it would
have been specially made matter of charge against him at the time of the
accusation of the five members.


parliamentary leaders of this country may have felt that
things were not yet sufficiently ripe for such an enterprise ;
and that, immaturely undertaken, it might endanger or destroy
the hopes of successful resistance at last ; that, although the
intention of their adversaries to destroy public right, to its
very foundations, might be sufficiently manifest, still it had not
yet been displayed in such a manner as to establish a clear
moral case for recourse to those last means which remain to
the oppressed for the recovery of freedom. They may have
felt that, even after resistance shall have been morally justified
by the tyranny of a government, there are still many consider-
ations, not aft'ecting themselves only, which it is the duty of
good men very scrupulously to balance ; and that complete
success should, upon calculation, appear at the least probable,
before it jean behove those who love their country, or mankind,
to commit the fortunes and lives of thousands to the fearful
issue of arms. Moreover, the intentions of France were very
doubtful, and her resentment against the English Court
had been excited by a set of feelings and principles bearing
no sympathy with those of the Puritans in Scotland ; while it
clearly was not the part of the leaders in England to raise the
standard of civil war for the hazardous chance of giving
liberty to the English people, the great body of whom,
perhaps, had not the spirit of liberty, or, at least, might not
be prepared to join in the only means by which liberty was to
be attained,

In the meanwhile, the King had equipped a large armament
by dint of forced loans under a precept of the Privy Council.
In this he was assisted, also, by the voluntary contributions of
many of the nobility, of the clergy, influenced by Laud, and
of the Itoman Catholics, instigated by the Queen.* He then
proclaimed the Scotch insurgents rebels, marched upon York,
and, at the beginning of May, arrived at Berwick. The Earl
of Arumlcl he appointed General in Chief of his forces in the
north, the Earl of Essex Lieutenant-General of the foot, and
the Earl of Holland of the horse. The Scotch Assembly, on
their part, replied from Glasgow by an ordinance repeating
their demands for a parliament, and liberty of conscience, and

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 18 of 45)