George Nugent Grenville Nugent.

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

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ments should be holden at intervals of not longer than three
years. By the Triennial Bill it was endeavoured to secure the
country from the arbitrary courses which the King had been
enabled to pursue during the long intermission of parliaments.
But precarious and ineffectual would such an enactment be as
a security against any King who might resolve to govern
without parliaments and in opposition to law. Tor the pro-
visions of the bill itself could only be guarded by the parlia-
mentary power of impeaching the minister under whose advice
the King should infringe them ; and the very act of infringing
them by governing without parliaments would be the minister's
protection against impeachment. This law provided, indeed,
that if the king should refuse to summon a parliament within


the time prescribed, the Chancellor or Keeper of the Great
Seal might issue writs for summoning the Peers, and for the
election of the Commons; and that, if the Chancellor or
Keeper should neglect to do it, any twelve of the Peers might
summon the parliament, and that if the Peers should neglect
to issue the necessary summons, the sheriffs of the counties
and other magistrates respectively might proceed to the
election; and should they refuse, then that the freeholders
of each county might elect their members; and that the
members so chosen should be obliged under severe penalties to

The passing of this bill was received with public rejoicings,
and the thanks of both houses were solemnly tendered to the
King as soon as he had pronounced the Royal assent. It,
doubtless, was giving a large power to the people. But it was
at best a law which, in extreme cases, (and it was a law intended
to meet extreme cases only,) would have failed before a tyran-
nical King, and a resolute minister, with an army to back
I them. Por in those times during a cessation of parliaments,
the public voice spoke through but imperfect organs. The
press had not influence to assist it either by calling public
meeTmgs of the people or by directing their deliberations when

The Bill affecting the Bishops' votes was, even separately
considered, a measure of primary importance in the eyes of the
country party. Apart from every vindictive feeling, which
could not but have had its influence against an order under
whose intolerance the separatists of England and the church-
men of Scotland had so severely suffered, and apart from all
considerations of the character and deportment of the persons
then composing the Hierarchy, the political functions of
churchmen were regarded by the Puritans generally as founded
on an abuse, and tending to a profanation, of the Ecclesiastical
Institution. It was so considered, doubtless, by the Presbyte-
rians, in whose estimation the temporalities of the prelates
were, like their spiritual powers, an ample remnant of the
abhorred discipline of Rome. It was considered so, in an

I equal degree, by the Independents, who had grafted their love
of civil liberty on the profession of a religion ' whose kingdom
is not of this world/

* Parl. Hist. Gutlirie.


There was no country, except the papal dominions themselves,
where an alliance with the state had led the Churchmen into
such shameless servility as in England. The established
Church of England had, although possessing some of the
ablest ministers of any time, become exceedingly corrupt. In
proportion to what she felt to be the growing distaste in which
her corruptions were held by the people did she seek support
from the Crown, by making her sacred functions subservient to
its arbitrary purposes, and by offering to the person of the
Sovereign the basest and most impious measure of adulation.
Pluralities, also, had long been matter of grievous and very
general complaint. ' For the Bill/ says Archbishop Bancroft,
in a letter to James the First, in 1610, ' that is in hand against
' pluralities, it is the same that, for above forty years, from
' parliament to parliament, hath been rejected ; and that very
' worthily/ 'Religio peperit Divitias, et Filia devoravit Matrem/
said Lord Falkland in his speech concerning episcopacy. And
in no history has the truth of this saying been oftener or more
strikingly shown than in that of England both before and
since the Reformation. Even the Reformation was rendered
popular, not so much by the pressure of the Church revenues
on the wealth and industry of the country, as by the laxity of
habits among the Churchmen, which it was believed that the
overgrown amount of those revenues had tended to promote.
The reforming of long established canons of faith and dis-
cipline is an enterprise too bold for the generality of men to
contemplate with cheerfulness, unless under the excitement
of some practical grievance which is seen and felt. Few
undertake to decide on controversial points of belief; all can
judge of the accordance or discrepancy of the manners of the
clergy with true religion. Indeed no hierarchy, and no creed,
has ever been overthrown by the people, on account only of its
theoretical dogmas, so long as the practice of the clergy was
incorrupt and conformable with their professions.

Soon after the first settlement of the Reformation, at all
events from the beginning of James's reign, the prelates had
adopted a mistaken view not only of the duties but of the
interests also of the body which they represented. They were
startled at the natural and inevitable workings of the spirit
which their immediate predecessors had evoked to assist them
in their great work. They looked back instead of forward,
and neglected to cultivate to advantage those improving


resources which the disenthralled genius of free discussion
now opened before them and before the people. Though
willing, from time to time, to call in the vices of popular
enthusiasm, to abet them in persecuting the religion over which
the virtuous energies of the people had helped the reformers to
triumph, they yet looked back to the pomp and power which
the unreformed church had possessed, and occasionally took
not only the persons of the Roman Catholics under their
protection, but their ceremonies also into observance. Above
all, finding that the principles of the Reformation had tended
to bring matters of civil right also into debate, they had
unwisely persisted in siding with the Crown in the controversy.
With the doctrine of a divine right of Kings to their preroga-
tive, they combined that of a divine right of Bishops to their
temporalities ; plainly incompatible with the King's supremacy
as recognised at the head of the first enacting clause of every
act of Parliament, and incompatible equally with the tenure by
which every Bishop admits in the form of homage that he
holds his temporalities of the King. They had openly asserted
their divine origin in their sermons and charges, and had
significantly glanced at it in the new canon of 1640. It was

I boldly and well remarked in Parliament that ' even a Pope at
' Rome was more tolerable than a Pope at Lambeth/ *

The Roman Catholics, on their part, had been scarcely less
improvident. They were elated with the protection and con-
nivance which they received. ' They were not/ says Lord Claren-
don, ' prudent managers of their prosperity ' but, putting
themselves forward to make and to boast their converts, and to
show their zeal, as a body, for the King, when it was dangerous
for them to be seen as a body at all, they became conspicuous
opponents of the leading party in the House of Commons who
were backed by a merciless penal code and urged forward by
the cherished intolerance of the people. Thus the Roman
Catholics brought increasing hatred and danger on themselves,
and, by implication, on their friends also. Meanwhile the
Court of Rome could not be expected to adopt a wiser policy.
Its views were formed upon the sanguine representation of its
|| English adherents. The approaching downfall of the Arch
| Heresy of the west was openly proclaimed. The name and

* Sir Benjamin Rudyerd's speech, Collection of Speeches, published


influence of the Queen were rendered still more odious to the
Protestants by an exaggerated estimate of her power in religious
matters over the mind of her husband. Charles was announced
to the Eoman Catholics of Europe as favourable to their faith,
and it is said that a Cardinal's hat was more than once offered
to Laud himself. If this be true, credulous indeed was the
Court of Rome to suppose that the time was ripe for engaging
the Primate of England to bow his ambition before that of
a foreign church, and ill indeed informed not to know that
Henrietta Maria was to the full as jealous of Laud as she was
of Straflbrd, and had been of Buckingham ; and for the same
reason ; a natural antipathy to any Minister who might be
powerful enough to interfere with her influence over the King.
Panzani and Rosetti were successively received, contrary to the
law of England, as Nuncios from Rome, and another Priest, a
Scotchman, was deputed to be the Queen's confessor. It was,
besides, known as a secret to the friends of the court, and,
therefore, as such secrets usually are, to its opponents also, that
Brett was, likewise, contrary to law, residing at Rome as an
envoy and agent from Charles.*

To a spirit and ambition hereditary in a daughter of Henry
the Fourth, the Queen joined none of her father's prudence or
moderation. In vain was she warned by the advice of her
mother, who, during a visit of more than a year in England,
had by the modesty of her demeanour, particularly with refer-
ence to religious observances, called forth, in spite of popular
animadversion, a willing testimony of approbation from some
of the country party. f Mary of Medicis, it is true, has been
represented by many writers as having been deeply engaged in
the popish intrigues ; but, as it appears, without sufficient
evidence. She was on one occasion assaulted by a mob as she
returned from mass, and was finally driven out of England by
popular clamour but these insults were brought upon her
rather by her daughter's imprudence than by any act of her
own. Resolutions were passed complaining of the encroach-
ments of Henrietta upon law and treaty; and these remon-
strances were made all the more significant by the warm and
lavish support given by the leaders of the country party to an
increase of her civil establishment, in return for her promise

* Clarendon Papers.

t Journals, 12th May See Lord Holland's Speech. Collection of
Speeches, published 1648.


of being more cautious in future not to give scandal by an
ostentatious and illegal display of the pomps of her religion.

The committees on religion, and the resolutions concerning
copes and crosses, bowings and genuflexions, and tables put
altar-wise, and pictures in churches, were by no means idle or
capricious assaults upon the innocent forms under which
particular congregations sought to worship God. These things
were not harmless, as innovations on the discipline of the
reformed religion, or as symptoms of relapse into the discipline
of the old; they were the symbols under which the high
church, compromising with popery, was proceeding to scandalise,
discredit, and persecute, the Puritans. And he is but a careless
observer of the affairs of men and states who fails to see that
such are the means by which great passions are often set at
work, and great moral effects not unfrequently produced.
Political symbols are often of too much importance to be
neglected "by practical statesmen. But how formidable are
} they when they assume a religious shape, and appeal, through
| the outward senses of men, to things above the limits of this
world ?

Mr. Hume says that the different appellations of ' Sunday,
' which the Puritans affected to call the Sabbath,* were aTTtliat
' time known symbols of the different parties/ and he treats
the opposition to the innovations of the Court clergy as only a
' poisonous infusion of theological hatred/ ' On account of
' these/ says he, ' were the popular leaders content to throw
' the government into such violent convulsions ; and to the
' disgrace of that age and of this island, it must be acknow-
' ledged that the disorders in Scotland entirely, and those in
' England mostly, proceeded from so mean and contemptible
' an origin/ 1 What has been already said of the opposition
raised to certain compliances with popish discipline, may be
urged with equal fairness to justify the jealousy with which all
the relics of its ceremonial were regarded by a party still sore
from oppression and insult.

It is idle to contend that the means of persecution which
the high church had exercised were now destroyed by the
Puritans having become the dominant party in the House of
Commons, and by the House of Commons having become, in
some respects, the ruling power of the Parliament, and by the

* History of England, chap. L t Hist, of England, chap. liv.


Parliament having become strong enough to overawe the Court.
All this, doubtless, is true in part ; but, granting that it were
entirely so, how had this popular influence been secured ? By
calling in the reforming principle to act against church abuses.
These abuses were only checked, not crushed, while any political
power remained with a hierarchy whose intemperance had been
inflamed by successful resistance, and whose reign of active
persecution was so recent, and still ready, upon any opportunity,
to be renewed by the same hands. Hampden had, from the
beginning of his public life, opposed these innovations as a pure
and zealous Christian. But, on the principles of civil liberty
only, he would have been bound to guard against the revival of
the high church 'ascendancy, now MTf~sTlb^foed~J7r^s'atteTn'pts
to~ force _freo conscience. Archbishop IVcile, fortunately for
himself, was now dead. Pierce, bishop of Bath and Wells, and
Dr. Cozens, dean of Durham, had boldly proceeded to make
levies of public money in those dioceses for the building of
high altars, where they had established boys with tapers to
serve at the communion, a consecrated knife to cut the sacra-
mental bread, and almost all those outward appearances of
a mass which had some years before been introduced with so
much scandal at the consecration of St. Paul's, by Laud.
Cozens, indeed, had gone so far as to declare that the reformers,
' when they took away the mass, had instead of a reformed,
' made a deformed religion/ He had denied the King's
supremacy over the church, saying that 'the King had no more
' power over the church than the boy who rubbed his horse's
' heels/ And all these doctrines he had made practical by his
violent persecution of Smart the prebendary, whose case was
just now beginning to be subject of a Parliamentary inquiry,
conducted by Hainpden.* Hampden also undertook the case
against Wren, bishop of Ely; and served on the committee of
thirty whicTf TiatttJeen "appointed, February 10, to consider the
matter of church government.-)-

On these questions Selden's was a singular course. His
great mind, stored with profound learning, and guided by
a pure and lofty integrity, was not unfrequently capricious and
impracticable in the affairs of a party; sometimes, in spite of

* Parl. Hist. Rushworth.

+ For Sir Ralph Verney's account of the proceedings of this Committee,
as given in his MS. notes in the possession of Sir Harry Veruey, see
Appendix B.


his mild and humble temper, sanctioning extreme propositions,
and sometimes deviating into scrupulous debates on points of
mere form and nicety, little suited to a time when a rapid and
determined spirit was so important lo the popular cau.-i . On
the examinaliuns and report of this committee lie look a decided
part, denying the sole power of ordination in the bishops, and
concurring in the report against their civil jurisdiction. Yet,
in the debates on the question of whether the bishops sat in
Parliament as barons or as prelates, he gave it as his opinion
that they sat as neither, but as representatives of the clergy.
This, opening up again the whole question of separate jurisdic-
tion, led to the reply, that the clergy were already represented
out of Parliament in convocation, and in the end, tended
powerfully to the exclusion of the spiritual Lords from Parlia-
i ment. Selden afterwards concurred with the leaders in framing
the Grand Protestation to maintain the Doctrine of the Church,
and the person and authority of the King, privileges of Parlia-
; ment, and rights of the Subject.

It is not true, as has been insinuated, that the bill to restrain
the clergy from the administration of secular affairs had the
purpose of debarring Strafford from the assistance of the votes
of persons favourable to his cause ; for, astounded at the com-
mitment of Laud, and at the proceedings announced against
certain of the judges, and willing to compound with the
popular party, the bishops had spontaneously declared that, as
spiritual persons, they could take no part in a matter of blood.
Besides, Pym, the great author and conductor of thejjroceedings
against the Earl, was but a faint supporter ot l tiuTl)iII to
re~strain thelxFshops from voting; and, on the further measures
for abolishing Episcopacy, he was openly opposed to Hampden,
Vane,, Ila/elrigge, Fiennes, Sir Edward Deering, Hairy Martin,
and Lord Say, by whom that course was urged in the two
houses. Nor can it be at all true, as Lord Clarendon would
have it believed upon the alleged authority of Lord Falkland,
that some persons, well-wishers to the church establishment,
were betrayed into voting for the first Bill against the Bishops
by false assurances as to the limits at which the attack upon
the temporal powers of the church was to stop.

According to Clarendon, Hampden's engagement to Lord
Falkland was, that he would proceed no further against the
clergy, if the bill respecting their votes in Parliament and their
holding of civil offices should pass. But the two universities


petitioned ; and the whole high church party, with "Williams at
their head, whose notions of ecclesiastical prerogative had risen
with his elevation to the archbishopric of York, determined to
abandon the wiser policy to which, for a short space, some of
them had inclined, and in their speeches declared that the
claims of the bishops to vote in Parliament rested on the
foundations of divine right. The wise and moderate com-
promise, proposed by Archbishop Usher, was scouted by his
brethren ; and that bill was accordingly rejected in the Lords
by a great majority. How, then, did Hampden depart from
his engagement to Falkland ? On the contrary, Hampden
seems, by Clarendon's showing, to have proceeded in conformity
with the very condition which he had proposed. Of the many
instances in which the grave and searching mind of Lord
Clarendon has blinded it self 1>\ looking at facts through the

^ a _ J ^_^^^^^M*^"* O

heated gfcrnv of its own resentments, there is none more
remarkable than this violent and self-contradicting charge,
insinuated, as is not unusual with him, on the words of another
person, loosely quoted. It is clear that, for some time, Hyde
had viewed, with the jealousy of a rival, Hampden's influence
over the mind of Falkland ; and this accounts for the uncon-
trollable bitterness with which he always speaks of Hampden.

But, from the time of the rejection of that bill by the
Lords, it appears that Hampden, quitting the more moderate (
course, was considered to be of the party who supported the >
London Petition for the abolishing of Episcopacy, ' root and |
' branch/ To say merely that an extreme resistance to a more
moderate proposition generally provokes to those which are
more violent, is not enough ; it is not putting this case fairly
or truly. If, as Falkland maintained, it M'ere really necessary
for the well being of both Church and State that the temporal
power of the clergy should be curtailed, it is difficult to see
what other course was left, after the determination of the Lords,
but to proceed by ' root and branch.' If, with Lord Falkland,
we admit the first position, we cannot easily avoid the conclu-
sion to which, under altered circumstances, Hampden came
with respect to the second.

Among those by whom, in conjunction with Hampden, the (
abolition of Episcopacy now began to be urged in the two I
houses, Lord Say, Lord Kimbolton, Nathaniel Fiennes, and the
younger Vane, were prominent.

Lord Saj is generally described as of a shrewd iniiid, and


\ a persevering and resolute temper. It is difficult to come to a
' true conclusion as to the moral character of a man whose
motives it was the business of the contending writers of those
times to extol or vilify in an almost equally exaggerated mea-
sure. And, by even the writers in these times in which we
live, the history of Charles and of his Parliaments seems as
though it were fated never to be approached but as a contested
field on which the battles of liberty and prerogative are to be
in dispute still and for ever. Nor is this all : each particular
character is considered as it were a vantage ground to be
fiercely assailed or obstinately maintained ; and as each, in its
turn, surrenders to the assault, or repels it, the victorious
party sends up a cry of triumph as though the flag of a great
cause were planted upon the outwork of an enemy. The lapse
of almost two centuries has scarcely mitigated this spirit ; and
every historian who will deal truly, must own, as he proceeds,
how hard it is to quell this spirit in himself, and how doubtful
he must be, in the end, whether he have succeeded in the first
moral duty which he has deliberately undertaken, that of being,
to the utmost of his power, impartial. The safest way to form
his judgment of disputed facts, and especially of disputed
characters, is to rely rather on the admissions of adverse than
on the assertions j)t friendly parties ; and, above all, he must
fc remember, in his endeavour to unravel the truth, that many
I more passions were at work in those times unfairly to break
I down reputations than undeservedly to extol them.

Clarendon suggests a doubt of the sincerity of Lord Say's
advice to Charles to urge the Lords in person to spare the life
of Strafford; but without stating a reason to support the
doubt, or to justify the suggestion. The noble historian, in
like manner, insinuates against Lord Say a charge of avarice
and corruption in his acceptance of the Mastership of the
Court of Wards ; confessing, however, that that high office
was afterwards thrown up by him, under an impulse of party
zeal, when refusing to obey the summons to attend the King
at Oxford. Clarendon also admits that he was of ' good

1' reputation with many who were not discontented/ May and
Viccars speak of his great abilities and unimpeached honour,
in terms which show that the party to which they belonged
considered him as one with whom it might be proud to associate
its own character and that of its cause ; and Whitelocke,
writing after the .Restoration, represents him as ' a person of


' great parts, wisdom, and^ integrity/ imbued with the loftiest
spinr of patriotism! His appointment to the privy seal, under
Charles the Second, he obtained and held without taint or
suspicion of change of principle, and as far as can be traced,
without any of those unworthy compliances which have cast
a shade over the memories of many who only transferred their
.-vi'vices from the Commonwealth to thrive in office under the
restored King; and whose inconstancy, 'under change of
' times, r "It "was ever the inclination of their new master rather
to display than to assist them in disguising.

\Ve are left then to conclude that a man so praised and so /
blackened was one with qualities of mind and courage sufficient [
to make him deeply revered and violently hated.

Nathaniel riennes, his son, who had already risen, at an i'
early agepfo great consideration and eminence in the country '
party, was, in the common admission of all, a jperson of
abilities at least equal to his father's. Like his father, after a
youtli spent m an active and uncompromising support of the
popular cause, he enjoyed favour under the restored govern-
ment, without any imputation of dishonourable compliance

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 24 of 45)