George Nugent Grenville Nugent.

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

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the conduct and objects of the Long Parliament only with
reference to its three first years, that portion of its existence
which closed with the life of Hampden.

Immediately on the meeting, the table of the Commons
was loaded with petitions from the counties complaining of
the general sufferings of the country, and from individuals
setting forth cases of particular hardship. These were strongly
urged, on their several grounds, by most of the county
members. Committees were formed to consider of the several
grievances, and of the means of redress. These were divided
by Pym, on the_fouith. day of the session, into tliree clashes,
privilege, religion, and the liberty of the subject; and, two
days after, a grand committee was appointed on each, and out
of these a select one, to frame upon their reports a general
remonstrance on the state of the nation. The Crown also was
addressed that those persons who were still suffering imprison-

L 2


ment by censure of the Star Chamber might be brought to the bar
of the House. Nor was this a crisis at which it was possible for
the King to pause ; his treasury drained by the expenses of
two wasteful expeditions, his credit exhausted, two armies to
be maintained, a treaty pending, and the murmurs of a dis-
tracted country becoming daily louder and more significant.
No means were left to him to restore the finances or conclude
a pacification, but by addressing himself to the favour of a
party whom he saw determined, before supply, to dispose
thoroughly of those questions of grievance on which so many
former parliaments had suffered wreck. The Commons per-
ceived their advantage, and pursued it.* Leighton and Lil-
burne were brought up from the Elect Prison, and Prynne,
Burton, and Bastwick from their solitary captivity in different
fortresses ; and, by a solemn, and not hasty judgment,
obtained a reversal of their sentences, and an award of heavy
damages against their persecutors. These were the substantial
parts of their triumph. The more ornamental were furnished
by the enthusiasm of the people out of doors. The three who
had been banished were accompanied by an escort of many
thousands, from the place of their re-landing, with banners
and music, in gaudy and tumultuous procession. The spec-
tacle, in some respects, was a singularly touching one. Their
very different conditions, habits, and ages; the green and
ardent youtl^of Lilburne ; the infirmity of the hoary Leighton,
whoTiad lost in captivity both sight and hearing, and nearly
the use of his limbs ; and the dec]) and sullen energy of the
rest; equals in their fortitude and their sufferings, and
restored, under circumstances of such excitement, from a
lengthened penance, during which, though withdrawn from
sight, they had never been forgotten, and the traces of which
remained in the wasted forms of the elder, and in the scars
and brands still visible on all.

But there was one privilege which it was necessary for the
parliament at the outset to secure beyond reach of dispute,
and without which the struggle for any other would have been
premature, abortive, and dangerous. Its first efforts were bent
against the jSterJ^ajnber, HighCommission, and those other
courts by which the liberty 6T speech wTnin its walls had been
so often checked and punished.

And now, notice was given of a great judicial act which was

* Rushworth. WLitelocke. May.


to put its strength to proof; to arraign, before the highest I
tribunal of the realm, one whose very existence in the state was /
declared by an unanimous vote of the Commons to be incom- ]
patible with the public safety. On the llth of November, the
Earl of Strafford was impeached of TugE. treason at the Bar of
the Lords, and immediately sequestered from his seat in their
House, and committed. In Stratford's case, it is almost unne-
cessary to state, though very important to be remembered, that
the two different courses adopted to further the charges against
him were totally independent of, and almost at variance with,
each other in principle as well as in form. It would be quite
superfluous to bespeak attention to what thus lies on the sur-
face of the history of this great transaction, but that both the
Impeachment and the Bill of Attainder, having been founded
on the same evidence, and equally directed against the life of
this powerful person, have been too often confounded in one
common measure of blame or vindication. A select and secret
^committee was appointed,, consisting of twelve persons,
Pym, Hampden, Holies,"* Lord Digby, Strode, Sir Walter
Earlr, Selden, St. John, Maynard, Palmer, Glynne, and
Y\ "hitelocke.t These were to consider the information against
the Earl, to arrange the evidence, and, with the occasional
assistance of Lord Falkland, Colepepper, and Hyde, to manage
the conferences with the Lords, and conduct to its close this
solemn and long-protracted trial.

Hampden was also one of the Committee appointed, De-
cember 18th, to expedite the charges against Laud, which
were severally agreed to onJj^e 24th of February, and, two
days after, accompanied by (Pyimand Maynard, to deliver them
at the Bar of the Lords. On Monday, the 1st of March, the
Archbishop was finally committed by the Lords to the Tower,
and debarred all intercourse with the Earl of Strafford. In
this imprisonment he remained for two years,, without putting
in his answer or petitioning for trial. J

About the same time with the preparation of articles against
Strafford and Laud, several other Officers of State, Judges,
and Bishops, who had been concerned in the different illegal

* The appointment of Denzil Holies on the secret committee was a
singular one, connected as he was with Strafford by the nearest bond of
family alliance. It appears, however, that, acting faithfully with the
popular party in all its other euterprizes, he was excused from taking any
share in this. t Whitelocke's Memorials.

Rushworth. Neale's History of the Puritans.


sentences, were arraigned.* Of these, after Pinch and
Secretary Windebank, the chief were Sir George Rafcliffe (the
friend and b"i<5gTa*pher of Strafford), WrenTBisliop oIEly, and
JudgeBerkeley.t But the attention "oF Parliament was prin-
cipally lixed on the case against the Earl, as that without the
successful prosecution of which no proceedings against less
important delinquents could afford any security to public
liberty, and after the pursuing of which to legal judgment
public liberty would require no further atonement.^

The speed with which Parliament now gave effect to its
determination to proceed capitally against Lord Strafford, was
proportionate to the secrecy with which the country party had
conducted and arranged their councils. The fourth article of
the Treaty of Rippon, which was still in discussion, and which
referred only to the ' incendiaries ' in Scotland, required to be
countenanced by a corresponding proceeding in England.
But there is little doubt that, even if the leaders of the House
of Commons had had no other motive, there was a close and
urgent one, of personal safety, which made it absolutely
necessary that the blow aimed at Strafford should be struck
without delay. The courtiers, and even some of the ministers,
had already spoken of charges of high treason against Pym,
and Hampden, and the rest; Pym, and Hampden, and the
rest, were more discreet and as much in earnest as they, and
anticipated the arraignment which Strafford was actually pre-
paring, by a sudden and unanimous resolution of the House,
and twenty-eight charges of high treason against himself.

During the course of this great impeachment, which lasted,
from the presentation of the Articles at the Bar of the Lords,
just five months, so far was it from absorbing the attention of
those 'men who had thus engaged no less than their lives in
the enterprise, that two of the most important measures that
ever occupied the attention of any legislative assembly were
proceeding, separately and independently, at an equal pace
with it ; the curtailment of the political power of the Bishops,
and the securing of meetings of parliaments at short and
regular intervals. Important, however, as these objects were,
they formed but episodes in the history of the winter of 1640,
| and of the ensuing spring, the great act of which was the trial
I of Lord Strafford. The general outline of the facts charged is
well known, and the grounds on which it was endeavoured to

* Rusbworth. f Whitelocke. May. I Somers's Tracts.


bring them within the Statute of Treasons. The arrangement
of the evidence, and afterwards the pleadings before the Lords,
occupied a space of time, and led to a complication of detail,
through which it would be as needless to travel, in order to
obtain a just view of the nature of the process, as it would be
a course, to most people, uninviting and tedious. Nor is this
prolixity to be wondered at in a work so new and difficult as
was the attempt to convict a Minister of high treason, in con-
spiring with his Sovereign to accomplish an unexecuted plan to
destroy parliaments and introduce an arbitrary power by means
of an army ; in levying, of his own power, taxes on divers mer-
chandises ; in establishing, of his own power, a criminal juris-
diction beyond the law; and all this by acts spread over a
series of years, and out of which, taken together, the offence
against the statute was to be compounded. The long suspense
in which, during the early part of these proceedings, the Earl
was kept, on a matter affecting his life, has been by some
enumerated among the cruelties of this transaction; by
others, the haste with which, after a certain period, it was
urged on to its close. In whatever manner the proofs of the
treason may be considered, surely nothing can be less just than
to impute to the parliament either the delay at first or the
haste at last, as a charge of unnecessary severity. If Lord
Struiford were to be impeached of high treason at all, surely
the suspense, and afterwards the great length, of the trial, are
not truly to be made matter of accusation against the pro-
secutors. From the beginning, it was their interest to proceed
more summarily, and thus to baffle the intrigues of Charles, the
address and eloquence of the Earl repeatedly displayed, and
the conspiracies among the leaders of the northern army to
.save him. The frequent endeavours of the Commons to urge
forward the proceedings, resisted as often by the Earl on the
ground of his ill-health and the difficulties of his defence, as
well as the eagerness of the Court party to hasten the Scottish
Treaty (by the conclusion of which the King would fain have
put himself in possession of the services of his army before the
Lords should be in a condition to pass judgment upon his
Minister), equally tend to show that delay was the policy of
those who would have saved Straftbrd, while that of the parlia-
ment, from the beginning, would have been to proceed with
that haste which was at last imputed to them as indecent and


Overbearing and tyrannical as was the temper of Strafford,
no one can refuse admiration to that commanding ability and
haughty courage of demeanour which forsook him not at any
time in this great trial. The energies of his mind increased in
vigour and capacity, his natural spirit broke forth into greater
fervour and brightness, as he beheld himself more and more
closely encompassed by the toils of his bold and indefatigable
prosecutors. From the hour when the first proceedings
against him were announced, he must have seen that his
danger was great, and his defences, at the best, precarious.
The popular powers of three countries were against him ; and
heloiew too well the faithlessness of his master to look with
any confidence for that support which, by every conceivable
obligation, the closest and most sacred, of feeling, honour, con-
science, and renewed and written promise, Charles had bound
himself in the sight of God and man, at every hazard, to give
him. Scarcely had the measure taken root in the House of
Commons, when all who felt, in person or in property, the
grievances of the late war ; all who had suffered from the arbi-
trary courts, from illegal taxes, or quarterings of troops ; all
who resented the usurped supremacy of the presidency of the
North, or who had groaned under the absolute government of
the Irish Lieutenancy ; saw in Strafford a public enemy put
upon his deliverance, and in the success of the impeachment
their only chance of relief and retribution. The Scottish
Commissioners petitioned for justice against him on the
ground of his inveterate counsels for war against their country
and their religion ; the Irish Parliament, now relieved both
from his presence and from that of his army,* revoked the
subsidies which they had voted, and sent Deputies also to
London, to join with the Scots in arraigning their proud and
dauntless victim.f

The first order for his attendance found him at York.
Several of his friends would have persuaded him to avoid the
storm, or at least not to meet it until its fury might have been
spent. But it was not in Strafford' s temper to shrink from a
conflict which his ambition had provoked. He instantly came
up to London ; and, on the day when the Articles were read
by the managers to the Lords, attempted by a sudden display
of pride and passion, to frown down, as he had been wont, the
assaults of his enemies. But Pym, and Hampden, and

* Commons' Journals. f Carte's Life of Ormond. Rushworth.


St. John, had now, for the first time, come fairly to the conflict
with him ; and it was in the name of the Commons of England.
They maintained the station which was assigned them; and ,
Strafford was forbidden to speak until the appointed time should 1
arrive for his defence against each separate charge.

Of all the accounts of this most memorable transaction, that
by Baillie, who was present with the Scotch Commissioners,
is given" "vrith the greatest power and minuteness, and he pro-
ceeds, through his compressed journal of the trial, with a
shrewdness of observation and a liveliness of description which
lighten details otherwise varied only by the almost endless
niceties of legal ingenuity. Stafford's tyrannies during his
presidency of the North, the general course of his government
in Ireland, his arbitrarily raising duties on articles of trade for
purposes of secret service or private profit, his illegal attempts
to ruin the Earl of Cork and to destroy the Lord Mountnorris,
his advice as to the Scotch war, and as to using the Irish army
to reduce this kingdom, (a phrase, the ambiguity of which was
not removed either by the paper furnished by the younger
Vane, or the unwilling evidence of his father,) were the main
points insisted on by the managers. The inference as to the
treasonable intentions respecting the army was surely justified
by the propositions for ' the bridling of parliaments and for the
' encrease of the revenue^ and has been since proved, beyond
doubt, by the published correspondence of Strafford. But the
evidence at the trial was clearly defective on this point ; and
the ' intent to subvert the fundamental laws ' is no treason by
statute. It is impossible, besides, not to observe the vagueness
and generality of two or three of the charges, and the strained
and quibbling conclusions by which the lawyers of the com-
mittee of management endeavoured to maintain such a proposi-
tion, for instance, as that the establishing of a private monopoly
in the duties on tobacco, and on the exportation of hides and
wool, is high treason, as ' depriving the King of his revenue,
' and so depriving him of his government/ * It would be a
very poor vindication of such reasoning as this in such men as
St. John and Maynard to say, however truly, that the practice
of the courts in these times was fertile in judgments of con-
structive treason, and that by none had the intent of penal
statutes been more distorted than by Strafford himself.f

* For observations on the evidence on these charges, see Phillips's State
Trials. t Lords' Journals.


Strafford, before his great speech in defence,* had spoken at
the close of each separate charge, and had lost no occasion to
challenge the support of the peers by the shrewdness and
vigour of his reasoning, or to enlist on his side the sympathies
of an assembled audience of almost all the first persons in the
land by his forcible and sometimes deeply pathetic eloquence.f
With such as are swayed in their judgment of guilt by their
admiration of a courageous heart, and a nobly gifted mind
struggling against danger and dishonour,, Strafford's acquittal
is always sure. And to these feelings he frequently and power-
fully appealed.

After a long and hard-fought argument upon evidence, in
which he had singly and with great energy encountered
St. John, Maynard, and a host of their witnesses, on charges
relating to his Irish government, and had disputed the ground
step by step, sometimes involving the managers in great diffi-
culties, on their proceeding to another article, Lord Strafford
declared himself unable to endure more fatigue. ' Turn your
' eye inwards/ said he, ' look into the recesses of your own
' hearts, and then judge whether you will not allow a respite
' for . a few short hours in so weighty a cause, which involves
' my life, my honour, the fate of my children, and all I have \ }
Upon this the court adjourned.

Upon the treasonable words deposed to by Bristol,
Northumberland, Holland, and Newburgh, he thus declaimed :
' Shall words/ said he, ' spoken by way of argument in com-
' mon discourse between man and man, when nothing has been
' done upon them, shall such bare words be brought against a
' man, and charged on him as high treason ? God forbid that
' we should ever live to see such an example in this kingdom.
' If words spoken to friends in familiar discourse, spoken in
' one's chamber, spoken at one's table, spoken in one's sick-
' bed, spoken perhaps to gain clearer light and judgment by
' reasoning, if these can be brought against a man as treason,
' all intercourse, all confidence, all the comfort of human
' society, are destroyed. Let no man henceforth venture to
' impart his solitary thoughts to his friend or neighbour/
Never, it must be confessed, was an ordinary artifice managed
with more masterly address than in the construction of this
noble appeal to the highest and most generous passions of a

* Parliamentary History. f Phillips's State Trials.


noble audience. Nothing can be more different from the
supposed situations or circumstances described, (the chamber,
the table, or the sick-bed,) than * those which were in
evidence; phrases used by a minister in deliberation with
officers and statesmen on acts of state to be done by them. And
yet, manifest as is the fallacy, it is an appeal against which, the
heart is with difficulty guarded.

Upon the words alleged by Yane to have been spoken at the
Council Board, 'These words/ said he, 'were not wantonly or
' unnecessarily spoken, or whispered in a corner ; but they
' were spoken in full council, where, by the duty of my oath, I
' was obliged to speak, according to my heart and conscience,
' in all things concerning the King's service. If I had forborne
' to speak what I conceived to be for the benefit of the King
' and the people, I had been perjured towards Almighty God.
' And for delivering my mind openly and freely, shall I be in
' danger of my life as a traitor ? If that necessity be put upon
' me, I thank God by his blessing I have learned not to stand
' in tear of him who can only kill the body. If the question be
' whether I must be traitor to man, or perjured to God, I will
' be faithful to my Creator. And whatsoever shall befall me
' from popular rage or from my own weakness, I must leave it
' to that Almighty Being, and to the justice and honour of my
' judges. My Lords, I conjure you not to make yourselves
' so unhappy as to disable yourselves and your children from
' undertaking the great charge and trust of the Common-
' wealth. You inherit that trust from your fathers; you are
' born to great thought ; you are nursed up for the great and
' weighty employments of the kingdom. But if it be once
' admitted that a counsellor, delivering his opinion with
' others at the council table, candide et caste, under an oath
' of secrecy and faithfulness, shall be brought into question
' upon some misapprehension or ignorance of law, if every
' word that he speaks from a sincere and noble intention
' shall be drawn against him, for the attainting of him, his
' children, and posterity, I know not (under favour I speak
' it) any wise or noble person of fortune who will, upon
' such perilous and unsafe terms, adventure to be counsellor
' to the King. Therefore I beseech your lordships so to look
' on me, that my misfortune may not bring an inconvenience
' upon yourselves. And, though my words were not so advised
' and discreet, or so well weighed, as they ought to be, yet, I


' trust, your lordships are too honourable and just to lay them
' to my charge as high treason/

On one occasion hie naturally impetuous and arrogant
temper broke forth, and he charged the parliaments of
England and Ireland with, cqnspjring against him. For this he
was instantly rebuked by Maynard, and he apologised. But by
this, and by the reading of the Irish Remonstrance, (which he
objected to as if it had been offered in evidence, when in fact
it was not offered in evidence, but read as part of the charge,)
' he lost/ says Baillie, ' much reputation/

What, however, prejudiced him the most in the eyes
! of his judges, on the first day, was the personal interfer-
ence which was attempted on the part 'of the King, who,
though prevented from sitting on his throne to influence the
lords or managers by his presence, sat, with the Queen and
Court, ' full in the eyes of all/ having with his own hands
removed the ' tirlie ' (curtain) which concealed the Royal

It is now fit to considjer the second course of proceedings

I against him. What was the immediate motive for the change
from the judicial to the legislative mode has never yet appeared.
The charges were closed, and the lords had voted the facts.
The judges were preparing to declare them treason by law. It

(is not true, therefore, that the Bill of Attainder arose out of
any failure of the impeachment, or out of any misunderstanding
between the Houses. For, in the end, it must be remembered,
the bill declaring the treason required the consent of the Lords ;
and the Lords were as competent to conclude against it legisla-
tively as they had been to acquit judicially on the evidence ;
besides the increased moral difficulties in the way of their
doing by means so questionable what it appears that they
were prepared to do by the ordinary course of trial and judg-
ment. Nor, if it be supposed that the Lords were influenced in
passing that bill by the fear of popular tumult, can that be
alleged as having been a motive with the Commons for forcing
the Lords with a bill. For the cries of ' Justice ! Justice ! '
from the populace would have sounded as fearfully to the Lords
proceeding to judgment in Westminster Hall as when they were
proceeding with the bill in their house of parliament, and thus the
same conclusions would have been obtained from them without
the indelible and just odium attached to an ex post facto declara-

* Baillie.


tion of a highly penal law. Some reason beyond any Avhich
has hitherto been imputed, some supposed necessity arising
out of the discovered intrigue for the escape of the prisoner and
for the bringing up of the army, is wanting to account for the
determination by such means to hasten in so small a degree the
issue of this long-protracted trial.

For this and for every other reason, the view of all the
circumstances under which this change of the proceedings took
place ought to be approached with the utmost coolness and
candour. The act is not to be dealt with, for a moment, in the
profligate terms in which Macpherson half apologises for the
illegality of the trial of Argyle under the restored government,
when he says that ' the informality of the proceedings against

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 22 of 45)