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

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sense of the importance of popular representation, as an
engine of public liberty. The purpose, however, of Mr. Hume
becomes tolerably clear, where he insinuates that the resolution
of the House was founded on nothing better than a ' rumour
' spread abroad concerning Undertakers/ The Journals shew
that it was not mere rumour ; evidence had been taken before
several committees on this matter; and the words of the
resolution itself, alluded to but not quoted by Mr. Hume, set
forth the evidence in detail.

This Parliament also, manifesting a spirit of resistance to
monopolies, and to grants illegally charged on the revenue,
and, moreover, questioning sharply certain words alleged to
have been spoken against its privileges by Neile, Bishop of
Lincoln, who had already commenced his career of court
favour, was dissolved after a session of two months ; * and
James, not caring to submit his measures again to such
control, forbore for many years from calling another.

In the THSSEwhile the demands upon the Treasury became
more urgent, the revenue was falling off and in arrears, and
the general state of public affairs was disastrous and discredit-
able to England. Nor was there anything in prospect that
promised better. The period of her strength and glory had
been suffered to pass fruitlessly away ; while her ancient rivals,
improving their means, and practising upon the pusillanimity
of James, had gradually assumed a new tone of boldness; and
her honour was tarnished at a great political crisis, by a
display alike of feebleness and bad faith.

Such was the position of this country, when the King,
having governed for near seven years without a Parliament,
and being pressed by absolute want of money for the public
service to summon a new one, January 30, 1620-1, Hampden

* The Speaker, on one occasion, left the chair without consent of the
House, and was rebuked for it by several members. Mallory, opening the
debate, says, ' his mouth open, and his heart free, will spare none, though
' they sit in chairs, whereof Mr. Speaker is likely to have a share.'
Commons' Journals.




first took his seat in the House of Commons. It was for a
borough which has become in our day a byword in the ears of
such as love the sound of public virtue and popular representa-
tion. Gramppund, which was then a place, as we shall here-
after hate- 1 occasion to see, of no inconsiderable wealth and
importance, had the glory of first sending John Hampden to
Parliament. It appears that about this time certain of his
friends were desirous that he should seek other means of
advancement. His mother was very urgent with him to look
to adding a peerage to the dignity of his family. ' If ever/
says this lady, in a letter preserved in the British Museum,
' if ever my sonn will seek for his honor, tell him nowe
' to come ; for heare is multitudes of lords a makinge
' Vicount Mandvile Lo. Thresorer, Yicount Dunbar, which
' was Sr. Ha. Constable, Yicount Faukland which was Sr.
1 Harry Carew. These two last of Scotland, of Ireland divers,
' the deputy a vicount, and one Mr. Fitzwilliams a Barron of
' Ingland, Mr. Yillers a Yicount, and Sr. Will. Filding a

' Barron I am ambitious of my sonn's honor, which I

' wish were nowe conferred upon hime, that he mighte not
' come after so many new creations/ * But this counsel was
not followed. In whatever course of public service her son
may, thus early, have thought that the path of his honour lay,
it is most certain that he did not seek it in the presence-
chamber of James I. It might, not improbably, hence occur
to some persons who have made themselves commentators on
the secret motives of Hampden, and who profess to see in his
acts no nobler aim than to advance the ends of his private
ambition, to ascribe his active patriotism in after life to early
disappointment in a negotiation for a peerage. This would,
however, be the reverse of truth. He never sought one. On
the contrary, he declined both the means and the object sug-
gested ; and when it is recollected how titles were at this
time obtained, it wih 1 not be thought that such an object, if
desired, could have been difficult of attainment to a young
man at the head of so ancient, and powerful, and, above all,
so wealthy a family. When it is remembered, also, that it
was by advancement of this sort that the court afterwards
reconciled several of its most powerful opponents, it will not
seem probable that James or his successor would have neglected

* HarL Coll. Brit. Mus. ; Mrs. Eliz. Hampden to Mr. Anthony Knyvctt.



to win over, if it had been possible, at such a rate, so powerful
a foe as Hampden.

During the first year he took no very forward part in public
business, except by serving upon the Committee on the Bill
of Informers,"* and managing, at the age of twenty-seven, a
conference with the Lords on the same matter.t Though not
a frequent speaker, he was diligent and eager in discharge of
the more ordinary and less inviting duties of a parliamentary
life. We find him concurring in the general measures for
restraining abuses, and joining in the remonstrances against
the marriage of Prince Charles with the Infanta, and in favour
of the Protestant cause in Germany, over-matched, as it was,
by the power and connexion of the House of Austria.

The perseverance of the leading members in detecting
delinquencies among some of the highest officers in the state,
and their boldness and eagerness in exposing them, had
inflamed the indignation of the King. But_this Parliament
was also famous as having been the first to discover and apply
the only true means possessed by a deliberative body for con-
trolling a bad government. It is to this period, and to these
men, that we trace the formation of the system of Parliamentary
Party, and the first workings of that spirit of political union on
which it depends; a spirit plainly, and in the highest degree
important to liberty, and which it has therefore been ever since
the great business of arbitrary politicians to discredit in the esti-
mation of the country. A system of association, founded not
upon the surrender of principles, but upon the compromise of
extreme opinions, and which, while it affords to the people the
only effectual defence against the corrupt influences of a
government, raises up for the sovereign the only lasting
security against those violent enterprises which, -where parlia-
mentary party is unknown, are the ordinary and only effectual
checks upon regal power.];

To i liis first party, thus formed, and considerable as it was
in the wealth, talents, and reputation of most of its principal

Martis, 5 Feb. 18 Jac. An Act against certain troublesome persons,
relators, informers, and promoters. Commons' Journals.

f- Commons' Journals.

J The following definition, profoundly conceived and wittily expressed,
was given of the mightiest arbitrary Government in the North of Europe,
by a very celebrated person of our own times, and may be generally
predicated of all sovereignties under which there is no spirit of popular
party ' C'est une monarchic, presque absolue, limite'e par Tassassinat.'


members, Hampden early and closely attached himself.
Among them were Selden and Pym : the first eminent above
all others for prudence and deep" learning to direct and temper
the efforts of his public virtue ; the latter almost his equal in
parliamentary lore fully his equal in shrewdness, courage, and
perseverance. With these was St. John, crafty, enterprising,
inveterate, and^ndefatigable ; with u zeal uncompromising "in
the pursuit of its objects, and an inscrutable reserve in his
manner of pursuing them, and a disgust to the court, con-
firmed by his having been the first person marked out to pay,
by fine and imprisonment, under a Star Chamber decree, the
penalty of his former opposition. Of this party, entering Par-
liament in the same year with Hampden, was WentwQith,
who, with the most brilliant qualities of a vigorous mind, a
commanding eloquence, and a lofty and dauntless spirit, in due
season betrayed his willingness to bend to the terms insinuated
by the court ; and at last surrendered his constancy to the love
of power and to the allurements of a bad ambition, with as
much ease as other men made sacrifice of their smaller reputa-
tion in barter for the mere rewards of title and subordinate
office. Of Sir Edward Coke, also prominent in this party, it
must be susp"ecTect, notwithstanding his immortal services to
his profession and to his country, that much of his opposition
was attributable to his jealousy of the Chancellor and of
Yilliers, the latter of whom he had, beforetime, vainly endea-
voured to propitiate by the most base and impious adulation.
To these may be added the eminent name of JElipt, and with
it are to be reckoned many, such as Mallory, Saville. Sir
Dudley Digges, and Sir Jtobert Phillips, who, though not
considered in any respect as leaders in that memorable asso-
ciation, yet, from their station in their respective counties, and
from the acknowledged reputation of some of them for high-
mindedness and integrity, were of great importance to the
public cause. Admitted to an intimate share in their councils,
with such as were not in after times detached by the court,
Hampden maintained through life the closest personal friend-

This Parliament, soon feeling its own strength, pursued,
but with increased energy, the same course as the preceding
one ; and the King, anxious to relieve himself from all further
importunity, dissolved it by proclamation, January 0, l(>;21-2,
after rather less than a year's duration. Within that short


time, however, much had been done towards effecting a system
of reformation of abuses, and a control of the expenditure,
which had been attempted with less success by the former
Parliaments of this reign. Sir Giles Mompesson, jmd Sir
Henry Yelverton, Attorney-General, with some other offenders
of" less note, were sentenced to fine and imprisonment ; some
for malversation in office, and others for private pecuniary
frauds upon the revenue. But the storm, as it swept on,
assailed higher places in the court and state.* Among others
convicted of peculation was Sir Edward Villiers, brother to the
favourite whose rapid rise and boundless influence had already
become so distasteful to the country. Nor could the high
station nor the matchless renown of Lord Bacon himself save
from the even-handed severity of the Parliament this illustrious
victim to the temptations of a corrupt time. Mompesson fled
from judgment, t and Villiers obtained also, through his bro-
ther's influence, the means of retiring beyond seas. But
Bacon was doomed, after a long and melancholy exposure, to
expiate in poverty and dishonour what it is fit to observe never
amounted to~a~"perversion of justice for personal emolument.
It is no defence, and but a poor palliation ; and yet the load
of this great man's disgrace is somewhat lightened by de-
scribing his offence truly. He accepted gratuities from suitors
to hasten the decision of their causes in chancery ; a sale, as
he himself pleaded, ( of justice, but not of injustice : ' aggra-
vated doubtless by the facilities which his indolence afforded
to the frauds of others, and countenanced only by long-
prevailing practice in that court, and by such examples as it
would be shameful to urge in excuse of such a man. He was
forbidden by the King to defend himself; a condition to
which his wounded spirit easily bowed itself; and his un-
qualified submission was presented by Prince Charles to the
Lords, in order that, wholly occupied with so great a sacri-
fice, the Parliament might be led from pursuing the much
deeper corruptions of others nearer to the person and the
partialities of the King. Of this motive no doubt can remain

* ' Funditus expellant monopolos et nomopolos,' said Sir Edward Coke.
Commons' Journals.

f- Sir Edward Coke reports, March 27, from the conference with the
Lords on Mornpesson's case, that the Lord Treasurer said that ' As the
Jews' hearts brent when they spake with Him going to Emmaus, so they to
hear the King yesterday in His Royal Seat.' Commons' Journals.


since the publication of his correspondence with Buckingham.
"We are left, however, to mourn over what is too plainly
admitted by himself, where he confesses, with an eloquence so
touching, his abject sense of his own degradation, concluding
with the^e sad words to the commissioners appointed to
receive his confession and humble submission : ( My Lords,
' it is my act, my hand, and my heart. I beseech your Lord-
' ships to be merciful to a broken reed/ *

The great and salutary works, achieved by the boldness of
the popular party, were strengthened by the vigour of their
remonstrances. They strenuously insisted upon the danger of
the growing power of Austria to the liberties of Europe, and
to the Protestant interest ; they spoke of the surrender which
had been made of the cause of the Elector ; they represented
the growth of Popery in England, and complained of the
countenance which would be afforded to it by the projected
marriage of Prince Charles, t The King's reply, in which he
plainly told the Commons that these matters were 'beyond
' their reach and capacity/ and sharply warned them against
' meddling in future with what concerned his honour and
' government alone/ J was of a sound ill calculated to reconcile
the high spirit of a body which was not to be subdued. In
the resolution which followed, upon Sir Edward Sandys' s com-
mitment by the privy council for words spoken in the House,
they asserted their privilege to advise on all matters of state,
and claimed liberty of speech, for the use of which they con-
tended that each member was answerable to the House alone.
So new to James was this doctrine, and so unexpected the
tone in which it was propounded, that upon hearing of the
vote which directed that a committee of twelve members should
present the remonstrance to him, he straightway commanded
that as many chairs should be brought into the presence-
chamber, ' Chairs!* cried he, ' chairs! a' God's name, here
be twelve kings a coming !'|| But his ;ins\ver to them was in
very serious earnestness. He disallowed their phrase of
' undoubted right and inheritance/ and told them that their

* Parliamentary History Lords' Journals.

+ Parliamentary History. J Ibid.

The debate on this memorable resolution appears to have been the
first occasion on which caudles were brought into the House of Commons,
' they having sat late, even to six of the clock in that evening.' Parlia-
| mentary History. || Kennet, Rapin, Wilson.


privileges were derived to them ' from the grace and permission
f of his ancestors/ and ' rested rather on toleration than in-
' heritance/ Then passed unanimously that renowned protes-
tajion, called by Selden the second Magna Charta, declaring
that the liberties, franchises, privileges, and jurisdictions of
' Parliament are the ancient and undoubted birthright and
' inheritance of the subjects of England ; and that the arduous
' and urgent affairs concerning the King, state, and defence of
1 the realm, and Church of England, and the maintenance and
' making of laws and redress of mischiefs and grievances which
' daily happen within this realm, are proper subject and matter
' of counsel and debate in Parliament ; and that in the
1 handling and proceeding of those businesses every member of j
' the House of Parliament hath, and of right ought to have, ''
' freedom of speech to propound, treat, reason, and bring to
' conclusion the same; and that the Commons in Parliament
' have like liberty and freedom to treat of these matters in
' such order as in their judgments shall seem fittest. And
' that every member of the said House hath like freedom from .
' all impeachment, imprisonment, and molestation, (otherwise
' than by censure of the House itself,) for or concerning any
' speaking, reasoning, or declaring any matter or matters
' touching the Parliament or parliament business. And that
' if any of the said members be complained of and questioned
' for anything done or said in Parliament, the same is to be
' shewed to the King by the advice and assent of all the
' Commons assembled in Parliament before the King give
' credence to any private information/*

A House of Commons breathing such a spirit was not to be
expected long to survive this protestation. The King dissolved
it, and with his own hand struck the entry off the Journals.
But his vengeance pursued its members even beyond its dis-
solution ; Coke, Phillips, Selden, Pym, and Mallory, Sir
Dudley Digges, Sir Thomas Crew, Sir Nathaniel Rich, and
Sir James Perrott, were all committed under one warrant to
prison ; the four last (for a lighter punishment, as Rushworth
oddly phrases it) being afterwards put upon a commission in
Ireland. A desperate measure ; ensuring, whenever again a
Parliament should meet, the confirmation of the very doctrine
in dispute, which no king could hope to see formally ceded to

* Parliamentary History.


him, but which a wiser one might have contrived to leave for
some time longer in doubt between himself and his people.
Nature had not designed James to act the part of a tyrant
with dignity. His passion for absolute authority, when
opposed, was restless and querulous; powerless when in-
dulged. Unable to rule but by first enslaving himself to
some unworthy minion, he had substituted for the influence of
Somerset one of much greater public mischief. The power of
Somerset had been felt in the disgraceful advancement and
burthensome charge of his creatures and dependants, and by
tliree foolish, corrupt, and ineffective projects of finance,"*
Villiers at once grasped the helm of the whole state, and
adventured the newest and most dangerous courses, at a more
difficult crisis than till then had ever befallen England in her
domestic policy. As a statesman, he displayed neither genius
nor moderation ; but, as a courtier, he had every quality for
distinction and advancement. To an admirable person and
address he joined an unwearied spirit of intrigue, and a
boundless ambition. The first introduction of Villiers at
court is an imputation upon the otherwise blameless memory
of the upright and venerable Archbishop Abbott. He placed
him near the King's person ; he urged his promotion ; he
reconciled the Queen to it. Of this misuse of a well-deserved
influence the only apology is, that it was to break down the
shameful power of Somerset; and the penalty was soon
suffered by the good archbishop in the jealousy and ingratitude
of the favourite, advanced with a ceaseless rapidity to the
highest rank which a subject can attain, and to offices for the
duties of which he was totally unfit.

At the head of a government at open variance with the
Parliament, and of a court which spared nothing to a beggared
treasury, and denied nothing to its own profuse magnificence,
this minister displayed a character full of strange vanities and
vices, yet shrouded in a blaze of shewy qualities. Without
eloquence in Parliament or knowledge in diplomacy, he yet
had a certain quickness of perception and decision, assisted by

* His schemes were, 1st, creating the new order of baronets and selling
the dignity ; 2d, raising the price of English coined gold ten per cent.,
having before prohibited the exporting of it, so that the Unity, which
before passed at 20s , was raised to 22s. ' Yet this,' says Stow, ' was no
' more than what English coin was valued at abroad, so that much of it was
' exported ; ' and 3rd, the establishment of the first State Lottery, which
was for royal grants in Virginia ; but all failed as means of revenue.


a loftiness of carriage, which often gave him an undue
ascendancy in both. He had, besides, a high and dauntless
courage which recommended him for command. But, even in
the most eager pursuits of ambition or policy, his personal
vanity was always sufficient to divert him to any trifling project
for mortifying a rival or gaining a woman's favour, and would
lead him into enterprizes of difficulty from which he had not
resources of mind to extricate him with glory, or even with
credit. In addition to these failings, he early fell into the
error, so common among arbitrary politicians, of not adapting
his measures to the improving character of the times. His
shrewdness in judging of men was employed only to enable
him to found his influence upon their weaknesses and vices :
so that, when opposed to men of capacity, or thwarted by what
remained of public virtue in the country, he found himself in
conflict with weapons of which he knew not the use ; and his
counsels were dangerous, and his administration unprosperous.
His only wisdom was the craft with which he managed weak
or bad men ; and his only virtue the courage with which he
overawed timid ones.

His government, however, in some important passages of
this reigii was not altogether unpopular. The project of the
Spanish match was throughout fruitful to him in the means of
greatness. Long the subject of King James's eager wishes,
that negotiation first afforded to Buckingham the opportuni-
ties which he desired of access to the Prince of Wales ; nor
did he fail to improve these, until by administering to the
romantic sallies of the young Prince, and by obsequiously for-
warding all his objects with the King his father, he had
succeeded in changing the aversion, which, according to Lord
Clarendon, had been felt and declared by Charles, into the
most devoted and lasting partiality. When the expedition to
Spain was proposed by Charles to his father, his father
remonstrated, stormed, and refused ; when urged by the
favourite, he wept, swore he was undone, and consented.
After the departure, he revoked his consent, remonstrated by
letter, and wept again. But again urged by the favourite,
he supplied the Prince and his followers in almost bound-
less measure with the means of outshining Philip and his
court in the Escurial itself. Finally, Buckingham, when,
to gratify his own wounded pride, he determined that the
match should be broken off, managed that intrigue also in a


manner which flattered the feelings of the Prince, and, at the
same time, gave satisfaction to the country, and a triumph to
the popular party. A war with Spain followed, which
Buckingham never could put upon justifiable grounds, and
which, by his ill management, was made to arise out of a
breach of treaty on the part of England. But its recommen-
dation in men's opinions was the experience which they had
had that James could not remain at peace with Spain without
being her slave ; and, therefore, by the declaration of war, the
minister still further addressed himself to public favour. But

Ia popularity thus acquired by the accidental agreement of his
own passions with the general desire of the nation, was not of
very durable materials ; and he saw that he had no sure pro-
tection against the hostility of Parliament or the inconstancy
of the King, but in the general support which Charles was now
prepared to give him. To confirm this bond upon the heir
apparent by a measure which might also be agreeable to the
country, he next engaged the Prince to favour the project of a
treaty with Louis XIII. against Austria, by the tempting pro-
posal of a marriage with Henrietta, whom Charles, while on his
way to Spain, had, by Buckingham's contrivance, seen in all
her beauty and sprightliness ; but this scheme was not yet to
meet with success.

Meanwhile the Austrian government, ever ambitious, crafty,
and well served in its diplomacy, neither lost sight of its design
upon Bohemia, nor relaxed its activity in the pursuit ; and the
assistances on which the cause of Frederick entirely depended
were delayed until that wretched prince, the Protestant
husband of his daughter Elizabeth, had been forced to
surrender his last fortress, and, with it, all hopes of gaining the
crown to which he had aspired, or recovering the electorate
which he had lost.

Amused and thwarted in turn by keen-witted diplomatists,
whom he thought keenly to outwit, James vainly endeavoured
to obtain leave from France for his army under Count Mans-
feldt to pass, according to articles, into the Palatinate ; and,

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 9 of 45)