George Nugent Grenville Nugent.

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

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Houses entirely independent of the Crown must soon become
the sovereign authority of the state. This was the famous
Act by which the Parliament declared itself indissoluble but
with its own consent. AVhat rendered this necessary was the
state'" of the treaty with the Scots; which, if hastily concluded,
would have placed at Charles's disposal a great army, the leaders
of which he was at the least countenancing in plots against the
Parliament.f But, that it was establishing a power which could
be justified only upon necessity, no man can deny.

It was not in ignorance that Charles had thus hung the fate
of his prerogative on the verge of the slippery precipice on
which he now stood. But he had disguised the danger to
himself, still looking forward to those false hopes with which
the ambitious boldness of Strafford and the wanton violence of
Laud had so long deceived him. His astonishment at the
threatened inroad on his darling prerogative (and he now saw
his difficulties in their full extent) deprived him of the power
of meeting it with prudence or with firmness. It was bc-idcs
a part of his character, as it is with many obstinate persons,
when driven to retract or qualify his course, to rush for a while
into the opposite extreme, as if it were to shame and spite the
fortune which had checked him.

In addition to these infirmities of temper and purpose, a
sanguine, but not very distinct, calculation of relief from his
army influenced him even in these concessions. They thus
became part of a temporary policy by which he expected to

* Commons' Journals, Feb. 3. f Guthrie.


amuse his parliament until the Scots army might be disbanded,
and his own left free for him to deal with.

Rapin believes that the King's compliances were further-
more occasioned by a belief that the Parliament might be
tempted by them into demands so plainly unreasonable as to
materially strengthen his case in the public opinion; and
M. Guizot inclines to the same notion. But this is surely
searching too deep for the solution of a conduct sufficiently to
be accounted for in a more obvious way. It is seldom the
custom with arbitrary princes to make any surrender of sub-
stantial power for the less important object of enlisting an
additional argument on their side. On the contrary, instead
of being led out of their way to strengthen their case in public
opinion, their mistake has usually been, when meditating an
assault upon liberty, rather to undervalue public opinion and
therefore too much to neglect all appeals to it. ]\ T or should
we be justified in lightly supposing Charles guilty of so foul
a crime as, among other compliances, to surrender his servant
to death, in order to decoy his opponents into demands which
might afterwards give him the means of destroying them also.

Whatever may have been the motives of Charles, this at
least is certain ; the plan of his opponents was more prudent
and more prosperous. Both King and Parliament were now
paying court to the Scots. Whatever the Scots might have
thought of the King, they were wise enough to see that it was
the interest of the Parliament to be sincere with them. On
the side of the Parliament then lay their safety. The Parlia-
ment, on their part, were more and more convinced that the
motives of the King's compliances were not sincere. They
therefore fortified themselves against his insincerity, in the
meanwhile by availing themselves of these compliances, and
extorting others ; until the King, when his blow was to have
been struck, found the weapon in his hands rendered powerless
by his own act, and new means of incalculable strength placed
in those of the bold and wary adversaries with whom he had
been dealing. He had not been prepared for the consequences
of the first assault. It had not only deprived him of the
counsels of his two chief advisers, Straflbrd and Laud, but it
had made wreck of their whole system, and had involved in
the same ruin almost all the inferior agents, striking speechless,
motionless, and hopeless, the few and insignificant that
remained. The greater number \vere permitted to escape from

To 1641.] His PARTY AND HIS TIMES. 189

personal arrest. Ratclifie was released, but retired beyond
sea, and the LorcTTveeper Pinch, and Secretary Sir Francis
Windebanke, fled.

^LgamsTAViiulcbanke divers petitions had been presented,
complaining of illegal warrants issued by him, particularly for
the discharge of prosecutions against Roman Catholic Seminary
Priests. It was also known, that the Secretary had been, for
a while covertly, and afterwards openly, in communion with
their Church. Finch was brought to the bar of the Commons,
and there arraigiiecTbf his practices against privilege and law,
in articles setting forth his refusal, while Speaker, to put
certain resolutions of the House to the vote, and his advice to
thefCrown, and his charges on the Circuit, while Chief Justice,
in the matter of the ship-money. He was admitted to speak
in reply. On his knees he pleaded to the jurisdiction of the
House, and,' in a speech of eloquent but piteous apology,
professed his devotion to the privileges of Parliament, and his
sorrow if in any sort he had offended against them. The
triumph of the popular party thus far was complete. Finch
was impeached by an unanimous vote. It was moved by
Lord Falkland, with an asperity, says Lord Clarendon, ' con-
' trary to the usual gentleness of his nature/ calling him ' a
' silent speaker, an unjust judge, and an unconscionable
' keeper ; bringing all law from His Majesty's courts into His
' Majesty's breast, and giving our goods to the King, and our
' liberties to the sheriffs ; so that there was no way by which
' we had not been oppressed and destroyed, if the power of
' this person had been equal to his will, or the will of the
' King equal to his power/ *

Windebanke did not even face his accusers with any answer
to their charge. Holland was chosen by him as a place of
refuge, and France by Finch. The letters which, from their
exile, they both addressed to the Parliament, were in accord-
ance with their deportment under accusation ; Finch excusing
himself, as he had done in his speech, by humble expressions
of submission, and Windebanke by laying the whole blame on
the King.

M. Guizot concludes that their escape was countenanced by
the ' Junto ; ' and with good reason. To pardon them, and
to proceed to the utmost extent of penalty against Strafford,

* Falkland's Speech on the articles brought up by him to the Lords.
Jail. 14th.


would have been impracticable ; yet, on the other hand, much
more was to be gained for the popular cause by the abject
submission and pusillanimous flight of its enemies than by the
shedding of their blood. The event justified the policy ; nor
can there be a doubt that the court was as much discredited in
the eyes of all men by the self- degradation of the keeper and
secretary, as was the popular cause by the courageous bearing
of Strafford, and, afterwards, of Laud. It would have been
better for the Parliament if the lieutenant and the archbishop
had also been of a temper to barter reputation for life.

Chief Justice Bramston, Chief Baron Davenport, and Judge
Crawley, were helcttoTJail for their appearance to answer to
charges^ principally on ship-money ; and Judge Berkeley was
fapprehended upon Speaker LenthalFs warrant while sitting in
Ihis own court of King's Bench;* such was the pervading and
irresistible power of the House. Smart, prebendary of Durham,
and Alexander Jennings, a gentleman of Buckinghamshire, the
latter of whom had'oeen imprisoned for resisting payment of
ship-money, and whose bail had been refused, had now repara-
tion made to them of all costs and damages ; and the Chief
Justice of the Common Pleas, Sir^JJklward Littleton, was
entrusted with the great seal, 'fhis^was probably not an
improper, and certainly not an unpopular, appointment. AYith

I the single exception of Selden, with w^om he had lived and
studied long, Littleton was, perhaps, the greatest lawyer in
England. Without the energy or firmness of St. John, and,
perhaps, with less of natural ability, he was a man of more
moderation, and better qualified by rank in his profession, as
well as by his political character, to be a mediating minister,
in such times, between King and people. His early bias, like
that of most lawyers, had been to the side ofTitferty but his
ione in defence of it had been qualified and subdued by the
nearer prospect of professional advancement. Littleton had,
during two eventful sessions, sided vehemently with the country
party in Parliament. He had, with Sir John Eliot, undertaken
to manage the charge "against the Duke of Buckingham of
poisoning the late King, and was appointed, with Coke and
Sir Dudley Digges, to carry the Petition of Eight to the Lords.
But he was saved, by preferment, from continuing to render
himself conspicuous in a course which brought upon several

* Whitelocke. Parliamentary History.


of those with whom he had been associated such frequent and
severe persecutions. On his father's death, he was rapidly
advanced, through a Welch judgeship, to the office of Solicitor-
general, and, in 1639, to the chief justiceship of the Common

Though Littleton cannot with truth be accused of having
changed his politics, they were of an undefined and temporising
sort. Itrequired a lofty sensr of public duty, in those days,
to save "a lawyer from corruption; and Littleton never was
corrupt! tie never was prevailed upon, for the sake of
acquiring office or retaining it, to devote himself to the pur-
poses of the court; and, when Chief Justice, he was selected
by both Houses to lay before the King their Address of Thanks
for the passing of the Triennial Bill. Noj^_even after he had <
placed himself by the King's side at ^Oxfor^with the great <
seal, did he ever entirely abandon the" cau"se for which the
Parliament were contending, or ever acquire the entire favour
of his master.

In pursuing the story of the proceedings against Strafford,
it was necessary to pass by several transactions of great
importance, concurrent with it in respect of time. Among
these was the negotiation, slightly alluded to before, for
admitting the principal leaders of the country party into pro-
minent and responsible ^office. The design, as is well known,
was broken off by the death of the Earl of Bedford, who seems
to have indulged the notion that Strafford might have been
saved by the compromise ; a weak and groundless expectation,
to provide for Strafford' s safety by raising to power men
who knew that their own safety, as well as that of the cause
for which they had risked everything, depended upon bringing
him to public execution. Pym was to have been Chancellor
of the Exchequer in the room of Cottington ; Holies Secretary
of State; and Lord Essex Governor, and John Hampden
tutor, to the Prince of Wales.

It must be always an unprofitable and an endless occupation
to speculate upon what might have been the event of an
arrangement which never took place, and which, if it bad taken
place, must have given a totally different course to public
affairs. The enquiry with which some writers have amused
themselves, as to how far the vices of a character so mean and
so depraved as that of Charles the Second were vices of nature,
or how far of education, is of small consequence either to the


historian or philosopher. None of the facts or lessons of
history are affected by such an enquiry. We have already seen,
faintly shadowed out by Hampden himself, in his letters to
Eliot, his own views of the fit education of a young man of
quality destined for public occupations. This, then, may be
safely predicated, nor is it worth while to go further ; that, by
the failure of an arrangement, by which Hampden would have
been appointed to form the habits of the future Sovereign of
his country, one of the worst of pupils was taken from one of
the greatest of masters. The difficulty must be spared to
posterity of determining whether or not Charles the Second
could have come forth, such as he afterwards was, from the
hands of John Hampden.

The object of such of the country party as had any views
or interests in these projects was to effect a great change in
.the administration, not only about the person and court of the
King, but principally in the revenue. The King perceived
this design, and thwarted it, even before Bedford's death ; and
this was seen in the result, in the arrangements that failed,
and in those that were effected. The Treasurership was only
transferred to one of the court party, the Earl of Middleton ;*
the Chancellorship of the Exchequer remained in the hands
which before had held it ; the Privy Council was increased ; the
Court of Wards and the Solicitor-generalship were made peace-
offerings to the people. The King had no violent repugnance
to admitting persons from the popular side to his presence ; but
he kept the responsible offices of the revenue in hands which
he could control.

Thus a negotiation, supposed by the Tory writers to have
been begun for the purpose of saving Lord Strafford, and
according to the insinuations of some, to have nearly triumphed
over the virtue of the country party, ended, not in conciliating
that party, not in delaying them from their object, but in
giving them the additional power of pursuing it with the
agency of a crown lawyer. All levies of ship-money were
declared for the future to be illegal ; ^he Star Chamber was
utterly abolished; its judgments were struck off the file; and
above all, the levying of the revenue of Customs placed by

* Juxon desired leave to resign the treasurership. With the utmost
fidelity to his master throughout, even to that master's last moments,
Juxon never intermeddled in politics or faction ; and, says Sir Philip
Warwick, during all the troubles was never questioned or molested.


law for evermore under the control of Parliament. Nor did
tlie Commons stop here. But the event which, falling out at
this time, went the furthest to colour, if not to justify, the
assumption of the whole power of the state by Parliament,
was the conduct and discovery of the Army Plot. How far
Charles was a party in the mam design of then marching a
portion of the northern army upon London to dissolve the
Parliament, is doubtful. That, at one time, he deterred the
conspirators from the attempt to put it into execution is
certain ; but it is equally so that he countersigned, with his
own initials, the ' Army Officers' Petition/ That he corre-
sponded with the principal conspirators, and continued his
countenance to them during a great part of the action of the
plot, appears under his own hand; and Newcastle's papers
sufficiently show that it had been part of his original project,
a very short time before, to bring up the army, and that he'
now maintained a secret communication with it through the
dangerous agency of these wild and desperate intriguers. The
royalist writers, indeed, generally do not deny this, but content
themselves with justifying it; and of the Queen's active
participation in the whole plot there is no doubt.* The
evidence of it, which appeared before Parliament, unquestion-
ably assisted the objects of the country party, and continued
to keep the public mind in a state of alarm which, though
perhaps oftencst found serviceable to the purposes of a govern-
ment, is sometimes of no small use to a party in opposition to
a government. But the imputation of fable and of artifice,
with which Lord Clarendon endeavours to dissemble the realities
of the whole transaction (confounding it with others less
genuine, and entirely passing by all that was important in the
confessions of Percy and Goring), is most disingenuous; the
more so in him, since he had, a short time before, himself been
eagerly employed in pursuing the evidence of another design
to be executed by the soldiery, and had, in consequence, taken
up the message of the Lords concerning the expected attempt
to rescue Lord Strafford from the Tower ; t both of which facts
he keeps out of sight in his history.

There was abundant evidence of a spirit in the army, in the
courtiers and in the King, jointly, which rendered some very
extraordinary and lasting measures necessary for providing for

* MaJaine de Motteville. + Commons' Journals, April 28.



the safety of the House. Accordingly, great pains have been
taken by the court party, in their writings, to draw attention
away from those outrages of which there was undeniable
evidence, in order to expose the over-coloured statements of
fanciful and groundless panic, of which, in. such times, and in
sucli a conflict of passions, there was not a little felt, and
perhaps not a little feigned. That many false alarms were
excited and many false plots bruited about, is unquestionably
true. True also, that the mind of the Parliament was so
harassed by the informations it was constantly receiving, that,
on one occasion, the breaking down of a bench in the gallery
under two corpulent gentlemen, Mr. Moyle and Mr. Chamber-
lay ne, threw the House, for a moment, into such a sudden
amazement, that a cry arose of a second gunpowder plot.* In
truth, the fair way of looking at the question of the reality of
the dangers, at different times and from different quarters
apprehended, is to rest the cases mainly on the testimony of
those who could not have been parties with the Parliament in
any exaggeration of them, and which show, beyond question,
the existence of a rash but deep-laid scheme to destroy the
Parliament by military force. The Marchioness of Newcastle
cannot be suspected of becoming intentionally a favourable
witness ; yet, in the ' Life of her Husband/ written by her, we
have the comment on the evidence which his own correspond-
ence affords of the King's settled intention being already
formed of ' securing his interests in the North/ against his
Parliament, by which he was ' unjustly and unmannerly

The information, it appears, had long been in the possession
of Pym. The principal agents in it were known ; but, because
theywere known (and a knowledge of the chieftains accounted
for the unscrupulous character of the enterprise), it was difficult
to make men believe in the real importance of it. Charles's
Presence Chamber and Council Board had been for some time
beset with soldiers of fortune and men of pleasure, who, from
the Queen's favour, soon found their way, if not into the
entire confidence of the King, at least into his good graces,
which they believed to be his entire confidence. And they
acted accordingly. The conspiracy was guided by two amatory
poets, two mere profligates, and two young men of family who



were only known to the country, the one as being a Roman
Catholic, whose uncle had been engaged in the Gunpowder
Treason, the other as having received his education amid the
morals and politics of the French court. Suckling; jmd
Davenant, Jennyu and Goring, Percy and Wilinot, with the
rash Jack Ashburnliam, and a few subordinate agents, were
the acTofs nf"a""plot which was to move a great army upon
London, capture the Parliament, secure the seaports, negotiate
foreign succours, and turn back from the footstool of the
Throne that flowing tide of popular power before which
Strafford, at the head of the councils of England and of the
government of Ireland, had stood in vain and had been over-

For the Parliamentary leaders to allow the King to see
that they were aware of the desperate nature of the scheme,
before they might be able to bring it to public proof, would
have been perilous in the highest degree. Still no time
was to be lost in deranging its machinery, and at all events
in providing for the Scots being kept together and on
good terms with the Parliament. A middle course therefore
was adopted.

As early as the 7th of January a committee had been estab-
lished, 'Concerning the Public Safety/ of which Hampden

was a memBer ana manager. "A'iTd now it was that the vote

of f a brotherly assistance' of 300,000^. to the Scots was
passed;* the King was addressed in general terms on the
subject of plots and dangers ; on the Irish army ; on the public
discontents, and against the introduction of foreign troops ;
and, at length, on the 9th of May, an unanimous Declaration
was obtained, signed and sworn to by a!THie""mem1jeTST)f 'the
Commons, and by all the Lords but two, for the defence of
religion, privilege, and liberty. At one blow the army plot

* Clarendon, in his account of these transactions, complains much of
this vote, saying that ' foreigners were paid, and the English not.' What
can be thought of the honesty or the value of Clarendon's nnimadversions,
when it is seen that, in this case, as in that of the conference with the
Lords concerning the plot to rescue Strafford from the Tower, Clarendon
has kept back in his History the whole fact of his having himself borne
a very considerable part in it ? It was Hyde himself who brought up the
report of the Committee recommending the 'brotherly assistance,' and
managed the conference upon it. Couim. Journ. 20 Martii, post inerid.
He was afterwards on the Committee, with Hampden and others, to
negotiate with the City the loan of 120,000?. in part of this ' assistance.'
Comm. Journ. 25 Martii, post merid.

o 2


was ruined. The King saw that it was known to the Junto ;
that they were preparing to make it known to the country
that the Scottish army, which he hoped would disband for
want of money, was supplied with means to keep itself entire j
and that his own army, which he hoped to have at his disposal,
was still to be occupied for a renewed period in watching it.
The conspirators took the alarm. Jermyn fled to France, and
Percy to concealment in the house of his brother the Duke of
Northumberland ; Wilmot and Pollard were committed to the

(Gate-house, together with Ashburnham, who never undertook
any design that he did not help to ruin by his indiscretion ;
and the infamous Goring, who never joined in any cause that
he dicTTioT Help to Win by his"Tfeacnery7 saved himself by
giving early intimation to Pym of his willingness to divulge
all.* Lord Kimbolton and two others were accordingly sent
to Portsmouth, where Goring commanded, to take his informa-
tion ; and Hampden and Holies to Alnwick, to examine the
Duke of NortnTrrntrerlimd touching his brother's correspond-
ence : directions were despatched by the Speaker's warrant to
secure the other ports in Hants, Dorsetshire, Guernsey, and
Jersey, and to put the train bands in readiness; Sir John
Hotham and Sir Hugh Cholmley were sent to the north,
Sir Walter Earle to the West, and the King was addressed to
appoint the Earl of Essex Lieutenant of York, ' in this time of
' danger/ t A letter was moreover directed by the Speaker to
Sir John Coniers and Sir Jacob Asteley, commanding the army
in the north. It was prepared by Hampden, as Chairman of
the Committee of Seven. It set forth the general ' causes of
'jealousy that there have been some secret attempts and
' practices ' with the army ; that the House intends to inquire
into the conspiracy, 'for the purpose of proceeding especially
' against the principal actors therein/ promising freedom from
all punishment to such as had been worked upon by such
conspirators, ' if they shall testify their fidelity to the State '
by ' a timely discovery of what they knowy and can certify
'therein/ engaging to 'satisfy all such arrears as this
' House hath formerly promised to discharge/ and directing

* ' Goring.' says Sir Philip Warwick, 'is said to have betrayed them all,
' as he did ; but he swore to me (which was no great assurance), that he
' never revealed it till he certainly knew that the chief members of both
' houses were before acquainted with it.'

t Sir R Jph Yeruey's Notes.


the generals to communicate these things to all under their

To whatever extent the connexion of Charles with the rash
scheme of the Army Plot had gone, it affords a clue to all the
concessions that he was now making to his Parliament.
A\ itliout his army, all attempts to recover his lost ground were
hopeless, except by casting himself frankly upon his Parlia-
ment and people, which was the only course he never could

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 26 of 45)