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a principal part, were of scarcely less service to the country than his keen sagacity and his dauntless courage. On the 30th of January, 1621, Hampden took his seat in the House of Commons. His mother was exceedingly desirous that her son should obtain a peerage. His family, his possessions, and his personal accomplishments were such as would, in any age, have justified him in pretending to that honour. But, in the reign of James the First, there was one short cut to the House of Lords. It was but to ask, to pay, and to have. The sale of titles was carried on as openly as the sale of boroughs in our times. Hampden turned away with contempt from the degrading honours with which his family desired to see him invested, and attached himself to the party which was in opposition to the court. It was about this time, as Lord Nugent has justly remarked, that parliamentary opposition began to take a regular form. From a very early age, the English had enjoyed a far larger share of liberty than had fallen to the lot of any neighbouring people. How it chanced that a country conquered and enslaved by invaders, a country of which the soil had been portioned out among foreign adventurers, and of which the laws were written in a foreign tongue, a country given over to that worst tyranny, the tyranny of caste over caste, should have become the seat of civil liberty, the object of the admiration and envy of surrounding states, is one of the most obscure problems in the philosophy of history. But the fact is certain. Within a century and a half after the Norman Conquest, the Great Charter was conceded. Within two centuries after the Conquest, the first House of Commons met. Froissart tells us, what indeed his whole narrative sufficiently proves, that of all the nations of the fourteenth century, the English were the least disposed to endure oppression. “C'est le plus perilleux peuple qui soit au monde, et plus outrageux et orgueilleux.” The good Canon probably did not perceive that all the prosperity and internal peace which this dangerous people enjoyed were the fruits of the spirit which he designates as proud and outrageous. He has, however, borne ample testimony to the effect, though he was not sagacious enough to trace it to its cause. “En le royaume d'Angleterre,” says he, “toutes gens, laboureurs et marchands, ont appris de vivre en pays, et à mener leurs marchandises paisiblement, et les laboureurs labourer.” In the fifteenth century, though England was convulsed by the struggle between the two branches of the royal family, the physical and moral condition of the people continued to improve. Villanage almost wholly disappeared. The calamities of war were little felt, except by those who bore arms. The oppressions of the government were little felt, except by the aristocracy. The institutions of the country, when compared with the institutions of the neighbouring kingdoms, seem to have been not undeserving of the praises of Fortescue. The government of Edward the Fourth, though we call it cruel and arbitrary, was humane and liberal, when compared with that of Louis the Eleventh, or that of Charles Wel, IL–20
the Bold. Comines, who had lived amidst the
wealthy cities of Flanders, and who had visited
Florence and Venice, had never seen a people so well governed as the English. “Or selon | mon advis,” says he, “entre toutes les seigneuries du monde, dont j'ay connoissance, ou la chose publique est mieux traitée, et ou regne moins de violence sur le peuple, et ou il n'y a nuls édifices abbatus n'y demolis pour guerre, c'est Angleterre: et tombe le sort et le malheur sur ceux qui font la guerre.”
About the close of the fifteenth and the commencement of the sixteenth century, a great portion of the influence which the aristocracy had possessed passed to the crown. No English king has ever enjoyed such absolute power as Henry the Eighth. But while the royal prerogatives were acquiring strength at the expense of the nobility, two great revolutions took place, destined to be the parents of many revolutions—the discovery of printing and the reformation of the Church. The immediate effect of the Reformation in
England was by no means favourable to political liberty. The authority which had been exercised by the Popes was transferred almost entire to the king. Two formidable powers which had often served to check each other, were united in a single despot. If the system on which the founders of the Church of England acted could have been permanent, the Reformation would have been, in a political sense, the greatest curse that ever fell on our country. But that system carried within it the seeds of its own death. It was possible to transfer the name of Head of the Church from Clement to Henry; but it was impossible to transfer to the new establishment the veneration which the old establishment had inspired. Mankind had not broken one yoke in pieces only in order to put on another. The supremacy of the Bishop of Rome had been for ages considered as a fundamental principle of Christianity. It had for it every thing that could make a prejudice deep and strongvenerable antiquity, high authority, general consent. It had been taught in the first lessons of the nurse. It was taken for granted in all the exhortations of the priest. To remove it was to break innumerable associations, and to give a great and perilous shock to the mind. Yet this prejudice, strong as it was, could not stand in the great day of the deliverance of the human reason. And as it was not to be expected that the public mind, just after free ing itself, by an unexampled effort, from a bondage which it had endured for ages, would patiently submit to a tyranny which could plead no ancient title. Rome had at least pre scription on its side. But Protestant intole. rance, despotism in an upstart sect, infallibility claimed by guides who acknowledged that they had passed the greater part of their lives in error, restraints imposed on the liberty cf private judgment by rulers who could vindicate their own proceedings only by asserting the liberty of private judgment—these things could not long be borne. Those who had pulled down the crucifix could not long continue we persecute for the surplice. It required uo great
sagacity to perceive the inconsistency and dis
honesty of men who, dissenting from almost all Christendom, would suffer none to dissent from themselves; who demanded freedom of conscience, yet refused to grant it; who execrated persecution, yet persecuted; who urged reason against the authoritv of one opponent, and authority against the reasons of another. Bonner at least acted in accordance with his own principles. Cranmer could vindicate himself from the charge of being a heretic, only by arguments which made him out to be a murderer. Thus the system on which the English #. acted with respect to ecclesiastical af. airs for some time after the Reformation, was a system too obviously unreasonable to be lasting. The public mind moved while the government moved; but would not stop where the government stopped. The same impulse which had carried millions away from the Church of Rome, continued to carry them forward in the same direction. As Catholics had become Protestants, Protestants became Puritans; and the Tudors and Stuarts were as unable to avert the latter change as the Popes had been to avert the former. The dissenting party increased, and became strong under every kind of discouragement and oppression. They were a sect. The government persecuted them, and they became an opposition. The old constitution of England furnished to them the means of resisting the sovereign without breaking the laws. They were the majority of the House of Commons. They had the power of giving or withholding supplies; and, by a judicious exercise of this power, they might hope to take from the Church its usurped authority over the consciences of men; and from the Crown some part of the vast prerogative which it had recently acquired at the expense of the nobles and of the Pope. The faint beginnings of this memorable contest may be discerned early in the reign of Elizabeth. The conduct of her last Parliament made it clear that one of those great revolutions which policy may guide, but cannot stop, was in progress. It was on the question of Monopolies that the House of Commons gained its first great victory over the throne. The conduct of the extraordinary woman who then governed England is an admirable study for o who live in unquiet times. It shows ow thoroughly she understood the people whom she ruled, and the crisis in which she was called to act. What she held, she held firmly. What she gave, she gave graciously. She saw that it was necessary to make a concession to the nation: and she made it, not grudgingly, not tardily, not as a matter of bargain and sale, not, in a word, as Charles the First would have made it, but promptly and cordially. Before a bill could be framed or an address presented, she applied a remedy to the evil of which the nation complained. She ex}. in the warmest terms her gratitude to er faithful Commons for detecting abuses which interested persons had concealed from her Is her successors had inherited her wisdom with her crown, Charles the First might nave died of old age, and James the Second would never have seen St. Germains.
She died; and the kingdom passed to one who was, in his own opinion, the greatest master of kingcraft that ever lived; who was, in truth, one of those kings whom God seems to send for the express purpose of hastening revolutions. Of all the enemies of liberty whom Britain has produced, he was at once the most harmless and the most provoking. His office resembled that of the man who, in a Spanish bull-fight, goads the torpid savage to fury, by shaking a red rag in the air, and now and then throwing a dart, sharp enough to sting, but too small to injure. The policy of wise tyrants has always been to cover their violent acts with popular forms. James was always obtruding his despotic theories on his subjects without the slightest necessity. His foolish talk exasperated them infinitely more than forced loans or benevolences would have done. Yet, in practice, no king ever held his prerogatives less tenaciously. He neither gave way gracefully to the advancing spirit of liberty, nor took vigorous measures to stop it, but retreated before it with ludicrous haste, blustering and insulting as he retreated. The English people had been governed for nearly a hundred and fifty years by princes who, whatever might be their frailties or their vices, had all possessed great force of character, and who, whether beloved or hated, had always been feared. Now, at length, for the first time since the day when the sceptre of Henry the Fourth dropped from the hand of his lethargic grandson, England had a king whom she despised. The follies and vices of the man increased the contempt which was produced by the feeble policy of the sovereign. The indecorous gallantries of the Court, the habits of gross intoxication in which even the ladies indulged, were alone sufficient to disgust a people whose manners were beginning to be strongly tinctured with austerity. But these were trifles. Crimes of the most frightful kind had been discovered; others were suspected. The strange story of the Gowries was not forgotten. The ignominious fondness of the king for his minions, the perjuries, the sorceries, the poisonings, which his chief favourites had planned within the walls of his palace, the pardon which, in direct violation of his duty, and of his word, he had granted to the mysterious threats of a murderer, made him an object of loathing to many of his subjects. What opinion grave and moral persons residing at a distance from the court entertained respecting him, we learn from Mrs. Hutchinson's Memoirs. England was no place, the seventeenth century no time, for Sporus and Locusta. This was not all. The most ridiculous weaknesses seemed to meet in the wretched Solomon of Whitehall; pedantry, buffoonery, garrulity, low curiosity, the most contemptible personal cowardice. Nature and education. had done their best to produce a finished specimen of all that a king ought not to be. His awkward figure, his rolling eye, his rickety walk, his nervous tremblings, his slobbering mouth, his broad Scotch accent, were impe . fections which might have been found in the best and greatest man. Their effect, however, was to make James and his office objects of contempt; and to dissolve those associations which had been created by the noble bearing of preceding monarchs, and which were in themselves no inconsiderable fence to royalty. The sovereign whom James most resembled was, we think, Claudius Caesar. Both had the same feeble and vacillating temper, the same childishness, the same coarseness, the same poltroonery. Both were men of learning; both wrote and spoke—not, indeed, well—but still in a manner in which it seems almost incredible that men so foolish should have written or spoken. The follies and indecencies of James are well described in the words which Suetonius uses respecting Claudius: “Multa talia, etiam privatis deformia, necdum principi, neque infacundo, neque indocto, immo etiam rtinaciter liberalibus studiis dedito.” The escription given by Suetonius of the manner in which the Roman prince transacted business, exactly suits the Briton. “In cognoscendo ac decernendo mira varietate animi suit, modo circumspectus et sagax, modo inconsultus ac praeceps, non nunquam frivolus amentigue similis.” Claudius was ruled successively by two bad women; James successively by two bad men. Even the description of the person of Claudius, which we find in the ancient memoirs, might, in many points, serve for that of James. “Ceterum et ingredientem destituebant poplites minus firmi, et remisse quid vel serio agentem multa dehonestabant: risus indecens; ira turpior, spumante fictu, praeterealingua titubantia.” The Parliament which James had called toon after his accession had been refractory. tlis second Parliament, called in the spring of 1814, had been more refractory still. It had been dissolved after a session of two months; and during six years the king had governed without having recourse to the legislature. During those six years, melancholy and disgraceful events, at home and abroad, had followed one another in rapid succession;–the divorce of Lady Essex, the murder of Overbury, the elevation of Williers, the pardon of Somerset, the disgrace of Coke, the execution of Raleigh, the battle of Prague, the invasion of the Palatinate by Spinoia, he ignominicus flight of the son-in-law of the English king, the depression of the Protestant interest all over the Continent. All the extraordinary modes by which James could venture to raise money had been tried. His necessities were greater than ever; and he was compelled to summon the Parliament in which Hampden made his first appearance as a public man. This Parliament lasted about twelve months. During that time it visited with deserved punishment several of those who, during the preceding six years, had enriched themselves by peculation and monopoly. Michell, one of those grasping patentees, who had purchased of the favourite the power of robbing the nation, was fined and imprisoned for life. Mompesson, the original, it is said, of Massinger's . “Overreach,” was outlawed and deprived of his ill-gotten wealth. Even Sir Edward Viltiers, the brother of Buckingham, found it
| convenient to leave England. A greater name is to be added to the ignominious list. By this Parliament was brought to justice that illustrious philosopher, whose memory genius has half redeemed from the infamy due to servility, to ingratitude, and to corruption. After redressing internal grievances, the Commons proceeded to take into consideration the state of Europe. The king flew into a rage with them for meddling with such matters, and, with characteristic judgment, drew them into a controversy about the origin of the House and of its privileges. When he found that he could not convince them, he dissolved them in a passion, and sent some of the leaders of the Opposition to ruminate on his logic in prison. During the time which elapsed between this dissolution and the meeting of the next Parliament, took place the celebrated negotiation respecting the Infanta. The would-be despot was unmercifully browbeaten. The would-be Solomon was ridiculously overreached. “Steenie,” in spite of the begging and sobbing of his dear “dad and gossip,” carried off “baby Charles” in triumph to Madrid. The sweet lads, as James called them, came back safe, but without their errand. The great master of kingcraft, in looking for a Spanish match, found a Spanish war. In February, 1624, a Parliament met, during the whole sitting of which James was a mere puppet in the hands of his “baby,” and of his “poor slave and dog.” The Commons were disposed to support the king in the vigorous policy which his son and his favourite urged him to adopt. But they were not disposed to place any confidence in their feeble sovereign and his dissolute courtiers. or to relax in their efforts to remove public grievances. They therefore lodged the money which they voted for the war in the hands of parliamentary commissioners. They impeached the treasurer, Lord Middlesex, for corruption, and they passed a bill by which patents of monopoly were declared illegal. Hampden did not, during the reign of James, take any prominent part in public affairs. It is certain, however, that he paid great attention to the details of parliamentary business, and to the local interests of his own county. It was in a great measure owing to his exertions, that Wendover and some other boroughs, on which the popular party could depend, recovered the elective franchise, in spite of the opposition of the court. The health of the king had for some time been declining. On the 27th of March, 1625, he expired. Under his weak rule, the spirit of liberty had grown strong, and had become equal to the great contest. The contest was brought on by the policy of his successor. | Charles bore no resemblance to his father. | He was not a driveller, or a pedant, or a buf soon, or a coward. It would be absurd to deny that he was a scholar and a gentleman, a man of exquisite taste in the fine arts, a man of strict morals in private life. His talents for business were respectable; his demeanour was kingly. But he was false, imperious, otstinate, narrowminded, ignorant of the temper ! of his people, unobservant of the signs of his times. The whole principle of his government was resistance to public opinion; nor did he make any real concession to that opinion till it mattered not whether he resisted or conceded ; till the nation, which had long ceased to love him or to trust him, had at last ceased to fear him. His first Parliament met in June, 1625. Hampden sat in it as burgess for Wendover. The king wished for money. The Commons wished for the redress of grievances. The war, however, could not be carried on without funds. The plan of the Opposition was, it should seem, to dole out supplies by small sums in order to prevent a speedy dissolution. They gave the king two subsidies only, and proceeded to complain that his ships had been employed against the Huguenots in France, and to petition in behalf of the Puritans who were persecuted in England. The king dissolved them, and raised money by letters under his privy seal. The supply fell far short of what he needed; and, in the spring of 1626, he called together another Parliament. In this Parliament, Hampden again sat for Wendover. The Commons resolved to grant a very liberal supply, but to defer the final passing of the act for that purpose till the grievances of the nation should be redressed. The struggle which followed far exceeded in violence any that had yet taken place. The Commons impeached Buckingham. The king threw the managers of the impeachment into prison. The Commons denied the right of the king to levy tonnage and poundage without their consent. The king dissolved them. They put forth a remonstrance. The king circulated a declaration vindicating his measures, and committed some of the most distinguished members of the Opposition to close custody. Money was raised by a forced loan, which was apportioned among the people according to the rate at which they had been respectively assessed to the last subsidy. On this occasion it was that Hampden made his first stand for the fundamental principle of the English constitution. He positively refused to lend a farthing. He was required to give his reasons. He answered, “unat he could be content to lend as well as others, but feared to draw upon himself that curse in Magna Charta which should be read twice a year against those who infringe it.” For this noble answer the Privy Council committed him close prisoner to the Gate-House. After some time, he was again brought up; but he persisted in his refusal, and was sent to a place of confinement in Hampshire. The government went on, oppressing at home, and blundering in all its measures abroad. A war was foolishly undertaken against France, and more foolishly conducted. Buckingham led an expedition against Rhé, and failed ignominiously. In the mean time, soldiers were billeted on the people. Crimes, of which ordinary justice should have taken cognisance, were punished by martial law. Nearly eighty gentlemen were imprisoned for refusing to contribute to the sorced loan. The lower people, who showed any signs of insubriination, were pressed into the fleet, or com
pelled to serve in the army. Money, however, came in slowly ; and the king was compelled to summon another Parliament. In the hope of conciliating his subjects, he set at liberty the persons who had been imprisoned for refusing to comply with his unlawful demands. Hampden regained his freedom; and was immediately re-elected burgess for Wendover.
Early in 1628 the Parliament met. During its first session, the Commons prevailed on the king, after many delays and much equivocation, to give, in return for five subsidies, his full and solemn assent to that celebrated instrument, the second great charter of the liberties of England, known by the name of the Petition of Right. By agreeing to this act, the king bound himself to raise no taxes without the consent of Parliament, to imprison no man except by legal process, to billet no more soldiers on the people, and to leave the cognisance of offences to the ordinary tribunals.
In the summer this memorable Parliament was prorogued. It met again in January, 1629. Buckingham was no more. That weak, violent, and dissolute adventurer, who, with no talents or acquirements but those of a mere courtier, had, in a great crisis of foreign and domestic politics, ventured on the part of prime minister, had fallen, during the recess of Parliament, by the hand of an assassin. Both before and after his death, the war had been feebly and unsuccessfully conducted. The king had continued, in direct violation of the Petition of Right, to raise tonnage and poundage, without the consent of Parliament. The troops had again been billeted on the people; and it was clear to the Commons, that the five subsidies which they had given, as the price of the national liberties, had been given in vain.
They met accordingly in no complying humour. They took into their most serious consideration the measures of the government concerning tonnage and poundage. They summoned the officers of the custom-house to their bar. They interrogated the barons of the exchequer. They committed one of the sheriffs of London. Sir John Eliot, a distinguished member of the opposition, and an intimate friend of Hampden, proposed a resolution condemning the unconstitutional imposition. The speaker said that the king had commanded him to put no such question to the vote. This decision produced the most violent burst of feeling ever seen within the walls of Parliament. Hayman remonstrated vehemently against the disgraceful language which had been heard from the chair. Eliot dashed the paper which contained his resolution on the floor of the House. Valentine and Hollis held the speaker down in his seat by main force, and read the motion amidst the loudest shouts. The door was locked; the key was laid on the table. Black Rod knocked for admittance in vain. After passing several strong resolutions, the House adjourned.—On the day appointed for its meeting, it was dissolved by the king, and several of its most eminent members, among whom were Hollis and Sir John Eliot, were committed to prison.
Though Hampden had as yet taken little part in the debates of the House, he had been a member of many very important committees, and had read and written much concerning the law of Parliament. A manuscript volume of Parliamentary Cases, which is still in existence, contains many extracts from his notes. He now retired to the duties and pleasures of a rural life. During the eleven years which followed the dissolution of the Parliament of 1628, he resided at his seat in one of the most beautiful parts of the county of Buckingham. The house, which has, since his time, been greatly altered, and which is now, we believe, almost entirely neglected, was then an old English mansion, built in the days of the Plantagenets and the Tudors. It stood on the brow of a hill which overlooks a narrow valley. The extensive woods which surround it were pierced by long avenues. One of those avenues the grandfather of the great statesman cut for the approach of Elizabeth; and the opening, which is still visible for many miles, retains the name of the Queen's Gap. In this delightful retreat Hampden passed several years, performing with great activity all the duties of a landed gentleman and a magistrate, and amusing himself with books and with fieldsports. He was not in his retirement unmindful of his prosecuted friends. In particular, he kept up a close correspondence with Sir John Eliot, who was confined in the Tower. Lord Nugent has published several of the letters. We may perhaps be fanciful; but it seems to us that every one of them is an admirable illustration of some part of the character of Hampden which Clarendon has drawn. Part of the correspondence relates to the two sons of Sir John Eliot. These young men were wild and unsteady; and their father, who was now separated from them, was naturally anxious about their conduct. He at sength resolved to send one of them to France, and the other to serve a campaign in the Low Countries. The letter which we subjoin shows that Hampden, though rigorous towards himself, was not uncharitable towards others, and that his puritanism was perfectly compatible with the sentiments and the tastes of an accomplished gentleman. It also illustrates admirably what has been said of him by Clarendon: “He was of that rare affability and temper in debate, and of that seeming humility and submission of judgment, as if he brought no opinion of his own with him, but a desire of information and instruction. Yet he had so subtle a way of interrogating, and, under cover of doubts, insinuating his objections, that he infused his own opinions into those from whom he pretended to learn and receive them.” The letter runs thus: “I am so perfectly acquainted with your clear insight into the dispositions of men, and ability to fit them with courses suitable, that, had you bestowed sons of mine as you have done your own, my judgment durst hardly have called it into - question, especially when, in laying the design, you have prevented the objections to be made against it. For if Mr. Richard Eliot
will, in the intermissions of action, add stud, to practice, and adorn that lively spirit with flowers of contemplation, he will raise our expectations of another Sir Edward Vere, that had this character—all summer in the field, all winter in his study—in whose fall fame makes this kingdom a great loser; and, having taken this resolution from counsel with the highest wisdom, as I doubt not you have, I hope and pray that the same Power will crown it with a blessing answerable to our wish. The way you take with my other friend shows you to be none of the Bishop of Exeter's converts;" of whose mind neither am I superstitiously. But had my opinion been asked, I should, as vulgar conceits use to do, have showed my power rather to raise objections than to answer them. A temperf between France and Oxford might have taken away his scruples, with more advantage to his years. . . . . . . For although he be one of those that, if his were looked for in no other book but that of the mind, would be found no ward if you should die to-morrow; yet it is a great hazard, methinks, to see so sweet a disposition guarded with no more, amongst a people whereof many make it their religion to be superstitious in impiety, and their behaviour to be affected in ill manners. But God, who only knoweth the periods of life and opportunities to come, hath designed him, I hope, for his own service betime, and stirred up your providence to husband him so early for great affairs. Then shall he be sure to find Him in France that Abraham did in Sechem and Joseph in Egypt, under whose wing alone is perfect safety.’ Sir John Eliot employed himself, during his imprisonment, in writing a treatise on government, which he transmitted to his friend. Hampden's criticisms are strikingly characteristic. They are written with all that “flowing courtesy” which is ascribed to him by Clarendon. The objections are insinuated with so much delicacy, that they could scarcely gall the most irritable author. We see, too, how highly Hampden valued in the writings of others that conciseness which was one of the most striking peculiarities of his own eloquence. Sir John Eliot's style was, it seems, too diffuse, and it is impossible not to admire the skill with which this is suggested. “The piece,” says Hampden, “is as complete an image of the pattern as can be drawn by lines —a lively character of a large mind—the subject, method, and expression, excellent and homogenial, and to say truth, sweetheart, somewhat exceeding my commendations. My words cannot render them to the life. Yet— to show my ingenuity rather than wit—would not a less model have given a full representation of that subject—not by diminution but by contraction of #. l desire to learn. I dare not say—The variations upon each pal
* Lord Nugent, we think, has misunderstood this pas sage. Hampden seems to allude to Bishop Hall's sixth satire, in which the custom of sending young men ahroad is censured, and an academic life recommended. We have a general recollection that there is something to the same effect in Hall's prose works; but we have not time to search them.
# "A middle course—a compromise.”