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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 1 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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Catholics, after having regained and abused their old ascendency
submitted patiently to the severe rule of Elizabeth. Neither
Protestants nor Catholics engaged in any great and well-organized
scheme of resistance. A few wild and tumultuous risings,
suppressed as soon as they appeared, a few dark conspiracies in
which only a small number of desperate men engaged, such were the
utmost efforts made by these two parties to assert the most
sacred of human rights, attacked by the most odious tyranny.

The explanation of these circumstances which has generally been
given is very simple but by no means satisfactory. The power of
the crown, it is said, was then at its height, and was in fact
despotic. This solution, we own, seems to us to be no solution at
all. It has long been the fashion, a fashion introduced by Mr.
Hume, to describe the English monarchy in the sixteenth century
as an absolute monarchy. And such undoubtedly it appears to a
superficial observer. Elizabeth, it is true, often spoke to her
parliaments in language as haughty and imperious as that which
the Great Turk would use to his divan. She punished with great
severity members of the House of Commons who, in her opinion,
carried the freedom of debate too far. She assumed the power of
legislating by means of proclamations. She imprisoned her
subjects without bringing them to a legal trial. Torture was
often employed, in defiance of the laws of England, for the
purpose of extorting confessions from those who were shut up in
her dungeons. The authority of the Star-Chamber and of the
Ecclesiastical Commission was at its highest point. Severe
restraints were imposed on political and religious discussion.
The number of presses was at one time limited. No man could print
without a licence ; and every work had to undergo the scrutiny of
the Primate, or the Bishop of London. Persons whose writings were
displeasing to the Court, were cruelly mutilated, like Stubbs, or
put to death, like Penry. Nonconformity was severely punished.
The Queen prescribed the exact rule of religious faith and
discipline; and whoever departed from that rule, either to the
right or to the left, was in danger of severe penalties.

Such was this government. Yet we know that it was loved by the
great body of those who lived under it. We know that, during the
fierce contests of the seventeenth century, both the hostile
parties spoke of the time of Elizabeth as of a golden age. That
great Queen has now been lying two hundred and thirty years in
Henry the Seventh's chapel. Yet her memory is still dear to the
hearts of a free people.

The truth seems to be that the government of the Tudors was, with
a few occasional deviations, a popular government, under the
forms of despotism. At first sight, it may seem that the
prerogatives of Elizabeth were not less ample than those of Lewis
the Fourteenth, and her parliaments were as obsequious as his
parliaments, that her warrant had as much authority as his
lettre de cachet. The extravagance with which her courtiers
eulogized her personal and mental charms went beyond the
adulation of Boileau and Moliere. Lewis would have blushed to
receive from those who composed the gorgeous circles of Marli and
Versailles such outward marks of servitude as the haughty
Britoness exacted of all who approached her. But the authority of
Lewis rested on the support of his army. The authority of
Elizabeth rested solely on the support of her people. Those who
say that her power was absolute do not sufficiently consider in
what her power consisted. Her power consisted in the willing
obedience of her subjects, in their attachment to her person and
to her office, in their respect for the old line from which she
sprang, in their sense of the general security which they enjoyed
under her government. These were the means, and the only means,
which she had at her command for carrying her decrees into
execution, for resisting foreign enemies, and for crushing
domestic treason. There was not a ward in the city, there was not
a hundred in any shire in England, which could not have
overpowered the handful of armed men who composed her household.
If a hostile sovereign threatened invasion, if an ambitious noble
raised the standard of revolt, she could have recourse only to
the trainbands of her capital and the array of her counties, to
the citizens and yeomen of England, commanded by the merchants
and esquires of England.

Thus, when intelligence arrived of the vast preparations which
Philip was making for the subjugation of the realm, the first
person to whom the government thought of applying for assistance
was the Lord Mayor of London. They sent to ask him what force the
city would engage to furnish for the defence of the kingdom
against the Spaniards. The Mayor and Common Council, in return
desired to know what force the Queen's Highness wished them to
furnish. The answer was, fifteen ships, and five thousand men.
The Londoners deliberated on the matter, and, two days after,
"humbly intreated the council, in sign of their perfect love and
loyalty to prince and country, to accept ten thousand men, and
thirty ships amply furnished."

People who could give such signs as these of their loyalty were
by no means to be misgoverned with impunity. The English in the
sixteenth century were, beyond all doubt, a free people. They had
not, indeed, the outward show of freedom; but they had the
reality. They had not as good a constitution as we have; but they
had that without which the best constitution is as useless as the
king's proclamation against vice and immorality, that which,
without any constitution, keeps rulers in awe, force, and the
spirit to use it. Parliaments, it is true, were rarely held, and
were not very respectfully treated. The great charter was often
violated. But the people had a security against gross and
systematic misgovernment, far stronger than all the parchment
that was ever marked with the sign-manual, and than all the wax
that was ever pressed by the great seal.

It is a common error in politics to confound means with ends.
Constitutions, charters, petitions of right, declarations of
right, representative assemblies, electoral colleges, are not
good government; nor do they, even when most elaborately
constructed, necessarily produce good government. Laws exist in
vain for those who have not the courage and the means to defend
them. Electors meet in vain where want makes them the slaves of
the landlord, or where superstition makes them the slaves of the
priest. Representative assemblies sit in vain unless they have at
their command, in the last resort the physical power which is
necessary to make their deliberations free, and their votes

The Irish are better represented in parliament than the Scotch,
who indeed are not represented at all. But are the Irish better
governed than the Scotch? Surely not. This circumstance has of
late been used as an argument against reform. It proves nothing
against reform. It proves only this, that laws have no magical,
no supernatural, virtue; that laws do not act like Aladdin's lamp
or Prince Ahmed's apple; that priestcraft, that ignorance, that
the rage of contending factions, may make good institutions
useless; that intelligence, sobriety, industry, moral freedom,
firm union, may supply in a great measure the defects of the
worst representative system. A people whose education and habits
are such that, in every quarter of the world they rise above the
mass of those with whom they mix, as surely as oil rises to the
top of water, a people of such temper and self-government that
the wildest popular excesses recorded in their history partake of
the gravity of judicial proceedings, and of the solemnity of
religious rites, a people whose national pride and mutual
attachment have passed into a proverb, a people whose high and
fierce spirit, so forcibly described in the haughty motto which
encircles their thistle, preserved their independence, during a
struggle of centuries, from the encroachments of wealthier and
more powerful neighbours, such a people cannot be long oppressed.
Any government, however constituted, must respect their wishes
and tremble at their discontents. It is indeed most desirable
that such a people should exercise a direct influence on the
conduct of affairs, and should make their wishes known through
constitutional organs. But some influence, direct or indirect,
they will assuredly possess. Some organ, constitutional or
unconstitutional, they will assuredly find. They will be better
governed under a good constitution than under a bad constitution.
But they will be better governed under the worst constitution
than some other nations under the best. In any general
classification of constitutions, the constitution of Scotland
must be reckoned as one of the worst, perhaps as the worst, in
Christian Europe. Yet the Scotch are not ill governed. And the
reason is simply that they will not bear to be ill governed.

In some of the Oriental monarchies, in Afghanistan for example,
though there exists nothing which an European publicist would
call a Constitution, the sovereign generally governs in
conformity with certain rules established for the public benefit;
and the sanction of those rules is, that every Afghan approves
them, and that every Afghan is a soldier.

The monarchy of England in the sixteenth century was a monarchy
of this kind. It is called an absolute monarchy, because little
respect was paid by the Tudors to those institutions which we
have been accustomed to consider as the sole checks on the power
of the sovereign. A modern Englishman can hardly understand how
the people can have had any real security for good government
under kings who levied benevolences, and chid the House of
Commons as they would have chid a pack of dogs. People do not
sufficiently consider that, though the legal cheeks were feeble,
the natural checks were strong. There was one great and effectual
limitation on the royal authority, the knowledge that, if the
patience of the nation were severely tried, the nation would put
forth its strength, and that its strength would be found
irresistible. If a large body of Englishmen became thoroughly
discontented, instead of presenting requisitions, holding large
meetings, passing resolutions, signing petitions, forming
associations and unions, they rose up; they took their halberds
and their bows; and, if the sovereign was not sufficiently
popular to find among his subjects other halberds and other bows
to oppose to the rebels, nothing remained for him but a
repetition of the horrible scenes of Berkeley and Pomfret, He had
no regular army which could, by its superior arms and its
superior skill, overawe or vanquish the sturdy Commons of his
realm, abounding in the native hardihood of Englishmen, and
trained in the simple discipline of the militia.

It has been said that the Tudors were as absolute as the Caesars.
Never was parallel so unfortunate. The government of the Tudors
was the direct opposite to the government of Augustus and his
successors. The Caesars ruled despotically, by means of a great
standing army, under the decent forms of a republican
constitution. They called themselves citizens. They mixed
unceremoniously with other citizens. In theory they were only the
elective magistrates of a free commonwealth. Instead of
arrogating to themselves despotic power, they acknowledged
allegiance to the senate. They were merely the lieutenants of
that venerable body. They mixed in debate. They even appeared as
advocates before the courts of law. Yet they could safely indulge
in the wildest freaks of cruelty and rapacity, while their
legions remained faithful. Our Tudors, on the other hand, under
the titles and forms of monarchical supremacy, were essentially
popular magistrates. They had no means of protecting themselves
against the public hatred; and they were therefore compelled to
court the public favour. To enjoy all the state and all the
personal indulgences of absolute power, to be, adored with
Oriental prostrations, to dispose at will of the liberty and even
of the life of ministers and courtiers, this nation granted to
the Tudors. But the condition on which they were suffered to be
the tyrants of Whitehall was that they should be the mild and
paternal sovereigns of England. They were under the same
restraints with regard to their people under which a military
despot is placed with regard to his army. They would have found
it as dangerous to grind their subjects with cruel taxation as
Nero would have found it to leave his praetorians unpaid. Those
who immediately surrounded the royal person, and engaged in the
hazardous game of ambition, were exposed to the most fearful
dangers. Buckingham, Cromwell, Surrey, Seymour of Sudeley,
Somerset, Northumberland, Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, perished on
the scaffold. But in general the country gentleman hunted and the
merchant traded in peace. Even Henry, as cruel as Domitian, but
far more politic, contrived, while reeking with the blood of the
Lamiae, to be a favourite with the cobblers.

The Tudors committed very tyrannical acts. But in their ordinary
dealings with the people they were not, and could not safely be,
tyrants. Some excesses were easily pardoned. For the nation was
proud of the high and fiery blood of its magnificent princes, and
saw in many proceedings which a lawyer would even then have
condemned, the outbreak of the same noble spirit which so
manfully hurled foul scorn at Parma and at Spain. But to this
endurance there was a limit. If the government ventured to adopt
measures which the people really felt to be oppressive, it was
soon compelled to change its course. When Henry the Eighth
attempted to raise a forced loan of unusual amount by proceedings
of unusual rigour, the opposition which he encountered was such
as appalled even his stubborn and imperious spirit. The people,
we are told, said that, if they were treated thus, "then were it
worse than the taxes Of France; and England should be bond, and
not free." The county of Suffolk rose in arms. The king prudently
yielded to an opposition which, if he had persisted, would, in
all probability, have taken the form of a general rebellion.
Towards the close of the reign of Elizabeth, the people felt
themselves aggrieved by the monopolies. The Queen, proud and
courageous as she was, shrank from a contest with the nation,
and, with admirable sagacity, conceded all that her subjects had
demanded, while it was yet in her power to concede with dignity
and grace.

It cannot be imagined that a people who had in their own hands
the means of checking their princes would suffer any prince to
impose upon them a religion generally detested. It is absurd to
suppose that, if the nation had been decidedly attached to the
Protestant faith, Mary could have re-established the Papal
supremacy. It is equally absurd to suppose that, if the nation
had been zealous for the ancient religion, Elizabeth could have
restored the Protestant Church. The truth is, that the people
were not disposed to engage in a struggle either for the new or
for the old doctrines. Abundance of spirit was shown when it
seemed likely that Mary would resume her father's grants of
church property, or that she would sacrifice the interests of
England to the husband whom she regarded with unmerited
tenderness. That queen found that it would be madness to attempt
the restoration of the abbey lands. She found that her subjects
would never suffer her to make her hereditary kingdom a fief of
Castile. On these points she encountered a steady resistance, and
was compelled to give way. If she was able to establish the
Catholic worship and to persecute those who would not conform to
it, it was evidently because the people cared far less for the
Protestant religion than for the rights of property and for the
independence of the English crown. In plain words, they did not
think the difference between the hostile sects worth a struggle.
There was undoubtedly a zealous Protestant party and a zealous
Catholic party. But both these parties were, we believe, very
small. We doubt, whether both together made up, at the time of
Mary's death, the twentieth part of the nation. The remaining
nineteen twentieths halted between the two opinions, and were not
disposed to risk a revolution in the government, for the purpose
of giving to either of the extreme factions an advantage over the

We possess no data which will enable us to compare with exactness
the force of the two sects. Mr. Butler asserts that, even at the
accession of James the First, a majority of the population of
England were Catholics. This is pure assertion; and is not only
unsupported by evidence, but, we think, completely disproved by
the strongest evidence. Dr. Lingard is of opinion that the
Catholics were one-half of the nation in the middle of the reign
of Elizabeth. Rushton says that, when Elizabeth came to the
throne, the Catholics were two-thirds of the nation, and the
Protestants only one-third. The most judicious and impartial of
English historians, Mr. Hallam, is, on the contrary, of opinion,
that two-thirds were Protestants and only one-third Catholics. To
us, we must confess, it seems, incredible that, if the
Protestants were really two to one, they should have borne the
government of Mary, or that, if the Catholics were really two to
one, they should have borne the government of Elizabeth. We are
at a loss to conceive how a sovereign who has no standing army,
and whose power rests solely on the loyalty of his subjects, can
continue for years to persecute a religion to which the majority
of his subjects are sincerely attached. In fact, the Protestants
did rise up against one sister, and the Catholics against the
other. Those risings clearly showed how small and feeble both the
parties were. Both in the one case and in the other the nation
ranged itself on the side of the government, and the insurgents
were speedily put down and punished. The Kentish gentlemen who
took up arms for the reformed doctrines against Mary, and the
great Northern Earls who displayed the banner of the Five Wounds
against Elizabeth, were alike considered by the great body of their
countrymen as wicked disturbers of the public peace.

The account which Cardinal Bentivoglio gave of the state of
religion in England well deserves consideration. The zealous
Catholics he reckoned at one-thirtieth part of the nation. The
people who would without the least scruple become Catholics, if
the Catholic religion were established, he estimated at four-
fifths of the nation. We believe this account to have been very
near the truth. We believe that people, whose minds were made up
on either side, who were inclined to make any sacrifice or run
any risk for either religion, were very few. Each side had a few
enterprising champions, and a few stout-hearted martyrs; but the
nation, undetermined in its opinions and feelings, resigned
itself implicitly to the guidance of the government, and lent to
the sovereign for the time being an equally ready aid against
either of the extreme parties.

We are very far from saying that the English of that generation
were irreligious. They held firmly those doctrines which are
common to the Catholic and to the Protestant theology. But they
had no fixed opinion as to the matters in dispute between the
churches. They were in a situation resembling that of those
Borderers whom Sir Walter Scott has described with so much

"Who sought the beeves that made their broth
In England and in Scotland both."

And who

"Nine times outlawed had been
By England's king and Scotland's queen."

They were sometimes Protestants, sometimes Catholics; sometimes
half Protestants half Catholics.

The English had not, for ages, been bigoted Papists. In the
fourteenth century, the first and perhaps the greatest of the
reformers, John Wicliffe, had stirred the public mind to its
inmost depths. During the same century, a scandalous schism in
the Catholic Church had diminished, in many parts of Europe, the
reverence in which the Roman pontiffs were held. It is clear
that, a hundred years before the time of Luther, a great party in
this kingdom was eager for a change at least as extensive as that
which was subsequently effected by Henry the Eighth. The House of
Commons, in the reign of Henry the Fourth, proposed a
confiscation of ecclesiastical property, more sweeping and
violent even than that which took place under the administration
of Thomas Cromwell; and, though defeated in this attempt, they
succeeded in depriving the clerical order of some of its most
oppressive privileges. The splendid conquests of Henry the Fifth
turned the attention of the nation from domestic reform. The
Council of Constance removed some of the grossest of those
scandals which had deprived the Church of the public respect. The
authority of that venerable synod propped up the sinking
authority of the Popedom. A considerable reaction took place. It
cannot, however, be doubted, that there was still some concealed
Lollardism in England; or that many who did not absolutely
dissent from any doctrine held by the Church of Rome were jealous
of the wealth and power enjoyed by her ministers. At the very
beginning of the reign of Henry the Eighth, a struggle took place
between the clergy and the courts of law, in which the courts of
law remained victorious. One of the bishops, on that occasion,
declared that the common people entertained the strongest
prejudices against his order, and that a clergyman had no chance
of fair play before a lay tribunal. The London juries, he said,
entertained such a spite to the Church that, if Abel were a
priest, they would find him guilty of the murder of Cain. This
was said a few months before the time when Martin Luther began to
preach at Wittenburg against indulgences.

As the Reformation did not find the English bigoted Papists, so
neither was it conducted in such a manner as to make them zealous
Protestants. It was not under the direction of men like that
fiery Saxon who swore that he would go to Worms, though he had to
face as many devils as there were tiles on the houses, or like
that brave Switzer who was struck down while praying in front of
the ranks of Zurich. No preacher of religion had the same power
here which Calvin had at Geneva and Knox in Scotland. The
government put itself early at the head of the movement, and thus
acquired power to regulate, and occasionally to arrest, the

To many persons it appears extraordinary that Henry the Eighth
should have been able to maintain himself so long in an
intermediate position between the Catholic and Protestant
parties. Most extraordinary it would indeed be, if we were to
suppose that the nation consisted of none but decided Catholics
and decided Protestants. The fact is that the great mass of the
people was neither Catholic nor Protestant, but was, like its
sovereign, midway between the two sects. Henry, in that very part
of his conduct which has been represented as most capricious and
inconsistent, was probably following a policy far more pleasing
to the majority of his subjects than a policy like that of
Edward, or a policy like that of Mary, would have been. Down even
to the very close of the reign of Elizabeth, the people were in a
state somewhat resembling that in which, as Machiavelli says, the
inhabitants of the Roman empire were, during the transition from
heathenism to Christianity; "sendo la maggior parte di loro
incerti a quale Dio dovessero ricorrere." They were generally, we
think, favourable to the royal supremacy. They disliked the
policy of the Court of Rome. Their spirit rose against the
interference of a foreign priest with their national concerns.
The bull which pronounced sentence of deposition against
Elizabeth, the plots which were formed against her life, the
usurpation of her titles by the Queen of Scotland, the hostility
of Philip, excited their strongest indignation. The cruelties of
Bonner were remembered with disgust. Some parts of the new
system, the use of the English language, for example, in public
worship, and the communion in both kinds, were undoubtedly
popular. On the other hand, the early lessons of the nurse and
the priest were not forgotten. The ancient ceremonies were long
remembered with affectionate reverence. A large portion of the
ancient theology lingered to the last in the minds which had been
imbued with it in childhood.

The best proof that the religion of the people was of this mixed
kind is furnished by the Drama of that age. No man would bring
unpopular opinions prominently forward in a play intended for
representation. And we may safely conclude, that feelings and
opinions which pervade the whole Dramatic Literature of a
generation, are feelings and opinions of which the men of that
generation generally partook.

The greatest and most popular dramatists of the Elizabethan age
treat religious subjects in a very remarkable manner. They speak
respectfully of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. But
they speak neither like Catholics nor like Protestants, but like
persons who are wavering between the two systems, or who have
made a system for themselves out of parts selected from both.
They seem to hold some of the Romish rites and doctrines in high
respect. They treat the vow of celibacy, for example, so
tempting, and, in later times, so common a subject for ribaldry,
with mysterious reverence. Almost every member of a religious
order whom they introduce is a holy and venerable man. We
remember in their plays nothing resembling the coarse ridicule
with which the Catholic religion and its ministers were assailed,
two generations later, by dramatists who wished to please the
multitude. We remember no Friar Dominic, no Father Foigard, among
the characters drawn by those great poets. The scene at the close
of the Knight of Malta might have been written by a fervent
Catholic. Massinger shows a great fondness for ecclesiastics of
the Romish Church, and has even gone so far as to bring a
virtuous and interesting Jesuit on the stage. Ford, in that fine
play which it is painful to read and scarcely decent to name,
assigns a highly creditable part to the Friar. The partiality of
Shakspeare for Friars is well known. In Hamlet, the Ghost
complains that he died without extreme unction, and, in defiance
of the article which condemns the doctrine of purgatory, declares
that he is

"Confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes, done in his days of nature,
Are burnt and purged away."

These lines, we suspect, would have raised a tremendous storm In
the theatre at any time during the reign of Charles the Second.
They were clearly not written by a zealous Protestant, or for
zealous Protestants. Yet the author of King John and Henry the
Eighth was surely no friend to papal supremacy.

There is, we think, only one solution of the phaenomena which we
find in the history and in the drama of that age. The religion of
the English was a mixed religion, like that of the Samaritan
settlers, described in the second book of Kings, who "feared the
Lord, and served their graven images"; like that of the
Judaizing Christians who blended the ceremonies and doctrines of
the synagogue with those of the church; like that of the Mexican
Indians, who, during many generations after the subjugation of
their race, continued to unite with the rites learned from their
conquerors the worship of the grotesque idols which had been
adored by Montezuma and Guatemozin.

These feelings were not confined to the populace. Elizabeth
herself was by no means exempt from them. A crucifix, with wax-
lights burning round it, stood in her private chapel. She always
spoke with disgust and anger of the marriage of priests. "I was
in horror," says Archbishop Parker, "to hear such words to come
from her mild nature and Christian learned conscience, as she
spake concerning God's holy ordinance and institution of
matrimony." Burleigh prevailed on her to connive at the marriages
of churchmen. But she would only connive; and the children sprung
from such marriages were illegitimate till the accession of James
the First.

That which is, as we have said, the great stain on the character
of Burleigh is also the great stain on the character of
Elizabeth. Being herself an Adiaphorist, having no scruple about
conforming to the Romish Church when conformity was necessary to
her own safety, retaining to the last moment of her life a
fondness for much of the doctrine and much of the ceremonial of
that church, yet she subjected that church to a persecution even
more odious than the persecution with which her sister had
harassed the Protestants. We say more odious. For Mary had at
least the plea of fanaticism. She did nothing for her religion
which she was not prepared to suffer for it. She had held it
firmly under persecution. She fully believed it to be essential
to salvation. If she burned the bodies of her subjects, it was in
order to rescue their souls. Elizabeth had no such pretext. In
opinion, she was little more than half a Protestant. She had
professed, when it suited her, to be wholly a Catholic. There is
an excuse, a wretched excuse, for the massacres of Piedmont and
the Autos da fe of Spain. But what can be said in defence of a
ruler who is at once indifferent and intolerant?

If the great Queen, whose memory is still held in just veneration
by Englishmen, had possessed sufficient virtue and sufficient
enlargement of mind to adopt those principles which More, wiser
in speculation than in action, had avowed in the preceding
generation, and by which the excellent L'Hospital regulated his
conduct in her own time, how different would he the colour of the
whole history of the last two hundred and fifty years! She had
the happiest opportunity ever vouchsafed to any sovereign of
establishing perfect freedom of conscience throughout her
dominions, without danger to her government, without scandal to
any large party among her subjects. The nation, as it was clearly
ready to profess either religion, would, beyond all doubt, have
been ready to tolerate both. Unhappily for her own glory and for
the public peace, she adopted a policy from the effects of which
the empire is still suffering. The yoke of the Established Church
was pressed down on the people till they would bear it no longer.
Then a reaction came. Another reaction followed. To the tyranny
of the establishment succeeded the tumultuous conflict of sects,
infuriated by manifold wrongs, and drunk with unwonted freedom.
To the conflict of sects succeeded again the cruel domination of
one persecuting church. At length oppression put off its most
horrible form, and took a milder aspect. The penal laws which had
been framed for the protection of the established church were
abolished. But exclusions and disabilities still remained. These
exclusions and disabilities, after having generated the most
fearful discontents, after having rendered all government in one
part of the kingdom impossible, after having brought the state to
the very brink of ruin, have, in our times, been removed, but,
though removed have left behind them a rankling which may last
for many years. It is melancholy to think with what case
Elizabeth might have united all conflicting sects under the
shelter of the same impartial laws and the same paternal throne,
and thus have placed the nation in the same situation, as far as
the rights of conscience are concerned, in which we at last
stand, after all the heart-burnings, the persecutions, the
conspiracies, the seditions, the revolutions, the judicial
murders, the civil wars, of ten generations.

This is the dark side of her character. Yet she surely was a
great woman. Of all the sovereigns who exercised a power which
was seemingly absolute, but which in fact depended for support on
the love and confidence of their subjects, she was by far the
most illustrious. It has often been alleged as an excuse for the
misgovernment of her successors that they only followed her
example, that precedents might be found in the transactions of
her reign for persecuting the Puritans, for levying money without
the sanction of the House of Commons, for confining men without
bringing them to trial, for interfering with the liberty of
parliamentary debate. All this may be true. But it is no good
plea for her successors; and for this plain reason, that they
were her successors. She governed one generation, they governed
another; and between the two generations there was almost as
little in common as between the people of two different
countries. It was not by looking at the particular measures which
Elizabeth had adopted, but by looking at the great general
principles of her government, that those who followed her were
likely to learn the art of managing untractable subjects. If,
instead of searching the records of her reign for precedents
which might seem to vindicate the mutilation of Prynne and the
imprisonment of Eliot, the Stuarts had attempted to discover the
fundamental rules which guided her conduct in all her dealings
with her people, they would have perceived that their policy was
then most unlike to hers, when to a superficial observer it would
have seemed most to resemble hers. Firm, haughty, sometimes
unjust and cruel, in her proceedings towards individuals or
towards small parties, she avoided with care, or retracted with
speed, every measure which seemed likely to alienate the great
mass of the people. She gained more honour and more love by the
manner in which she repaired her errors than she would have
gained by never committing errors. If such a man as Charles the
First had been in her place when the whole nation was crying out
against the monopolies, he would have refused all redress. He
would have dissolved the Parliament, and imprisoned the most
popular members. He would have called another Parliament. He
would have given some vague and delusive promises of relief in
return for subsidies. When entreated to fulfil his promises, he
would have again dissolved the Parliament, and again imprisoned
his leading opponents. The country would have become more
agitated than before. The next House of Commons would have been
more unmanageable than that which preceded it. The tyrant would
have agreed to all that the nation demanded. He would have
solemnly ratified an act abolishing monopolies for ever. He would
have received a large supply in return for this concession; and
within half a year new patents, more oppressive than those which
had been cancelled, would have been issued by scores. Such was
the policy which brought the heir of a long line of kings, in
early youth the darling of his countrymen, to a prison and a

Elizabeth, before the House of Commons could address her, took
out of their mouths the words which they were about to utter in
the name of the nation. Her promises went beyond their desires.
Her performance followed close upon her promise. She did not
treat the nation as an adverse party, as a party which had an
interest opposed to hers, as a party to which she was to grant as
few advantages as possible, and from which she was to extort as
much money as possible. Her benefits were given, not sold; and,
when once given, they were never withdrawn. She gave them too
with a frankness, an effusion of heart, a princely dignity, a
motherly tenderness, which enhanced their value. They were
received by the sturdy country gentlemen who had come up to
Westminster full of resentment, with tears of joy, and shouts of
"God save the Queen." Charles the First gave up half the
prerogatives of his crown to the Commons; and the Commons sent
him in return the Grand Remonstrance.

We had intended to say something concerning that illustrious
group of which Elizabeth is the central figure, that group which
the last of the bards saw in vision from the top of Snowdon,
encircling the Virgin Queen,

"Many a baron bold,
And gorgeous dames and statesmen old
In bearded majesty."

We had intended to say something concerning the dexterous
Walsingham, the impetuous Oxford, the graceful Sackville, the
all-accomplished Sydney; concerning Essex, the ornament of the
court and of the camp, the model of chivalry, the munificent
patron of genius, whom great virtues, great courage, great
talents, the favour of his sovereign, the love of his countrymen,
all that seemed to ensure a happy and glorious life, led to an
early and an ignominious death, concerning Raleigh, the soldier,
the sailor, the scholar, the courtier, the orator, the poet, the
historian, the philosopher, whom we picture to ourselves,
sometimes reviewing the Queen's guard, sometimes giving chase to
a Spanish galleon, then answering the chiefs of the country party
in the House of Commons, then again murmuring one of his sweet
love-songs too near the ears of her Highness's maids of honour,
and soon after poring over the Talmud, or collating Polybius with
Livy. We had intended also to say something concerning the
literature of that splendid period, and especially concerning
those two incomparable men, the Prince of Poets, and the Prince
of Philosophers, who have made the Elizabethan age a more
glorious and important era in the history of the human mind than
the age of Pericles, of Augustus, or of Leo. But subjects so vast
require a space far larger than we can at present afford. We
therefore stop here, fearing that, if we proceed, our article may
swell to a bulk exceeding that of all other reviews, as much as
Dr. Nares's book exceeds the bulk of all other histories.


(December 1831)

Some Memorials of John Hampden, his Party, and his Times. By LORD
NUGENT. Two vols. 8vo. London: 1831.

We have read this book with great pleasure, though not exactly
with that kind of pleasure which we had expected. We had hoped
that Lord Nugent would have been able to collect, from family
papers and local traditions, much new and interesting information
respecting the life and character of the renowned leader of the
Long Parliament, the first of those great English commoners whose
plain addition of Mister has, to our ears, a more majestic sound
than the proudest of the feudal titles. In this hope we have been
disappointed; but assuredly not from any want of zeal or
diligence on the part of the noble biographer. Even at Hampden,
there are, it seems, no important papers relating to the most
illustrious proprietor of that ancient domain. The most valuable
memorials of him which still exist, belong to the family of his
friend Sir John Eliot. Lord Eliot has furnished the portrait
which is engraved for this work, together with some very
interesting letters. The portrait is undoubtedly an original, and
probably the only original now in existence. The intellectual
forehead, the mild penetration of the eye, and the inflexible
resolution expressed by the lines of the mouth, sufficiently
guarantee the likeness. We shall probably make some extracts from
the letters. They contain almost all the new information that
Lord Nugent has been able to procure respecting the private
pursuits of the great man whose memory he worships with an
enthusiastic, but not extravagant veneration.

The public life of Hampden is surrounded by no obscurity. His
history, more particularly from the year 1640 to his death, is
the history of England. These Memoirs must be considered as
Memoirs of the history of England; and, as such, they well
deserve to be attentively perused. They contain some curious
facts which, to us at least, are new, much spirited narrative,
many judicious remarks, and much eloquent declamation.

We are not sure that even the want of information respecting the
private character of Hampden is not in itself a circumstance as
strikingly characteristic as any which the most minute
chronicler, O'Meara, Mrs. Thrale, or Boswell himself, ever
recorded concerning their heroes. The celebrated Puritan leader
is an almost solitary instance of a great man who neither sought
nor shunned greatness, who found glory only because glory lay in
the plain path of duty. During more than forty years he was known
to his country neighbours as a gentleman of cultivated mind, of
high principles, of polished address, happy in his family, and
active in the discharge of local duties; and to political men as
an honest, industrious, and sensible member of Parliament, not
eager to display his talents, stanch to his party and attentive
to the interests of his constituents. A great and terrible crisis
came. A direct attack was made by an arbitrary government on a
sacred right of Englishmen, on a right which was the chief
security for all their other rights. The nation looked round for
a defender. Calmly and unostentatiously the plain Buckinghamshire
Esquire placed himself at the head of his countrymen, and right
before the face and across the path of tyranny. The times grew
darker and more troubled. Public service, perilous, arduous,
delicate, was required, and to every service the intellect and
the courage of this wonderful man were found fully equal. He
became a debater of the first order, a most dexterous manager of
the House of Commons, a negotiator, a soldier. He governed a
fierce and turbulent assembly, abounding in able men, as easily
as he had governed his family. He showed himself as competent to
direct a campaign as to conduct the business of the petty
sessions. We can scarcely express the admiration which we feel
for a mind so great, and, at the same time, so healthful and so
well proportioned, so willingly contracting itself to the
humblest duties, so easily expanding itself to the highest, so
contented in repose, so powerful in action. Almost every part of
this virtuous and blameless life which is not hidden from us in
modest privacy is a precious and splendid portion of our national
history. Had the private conduct of Hampden afforded the
slightest pretence for censure, he would have been assailed by
the same blind malevolence which, in defiance of the clearest
proofs, still continues to call Sir John Eliot an assassin. Had
there been even any weak part in the character of Hampden, had
his manners been in any respect open to ridicule, we may be sure
that no mercy would have been shown to him by the writers of
Charles's faction. Those writers have carefully preserved every
little circumstance which could tend to make their opponents
odious or contemptible. They have made themselves merry with the
cant of injudicious zealots. They have told us that Pym broke
down in speech, that Ireton had his nose pulled by Hollis, that
the Earl of Northumberland cudgelled Henry Martin, that St.
John's manners were sullen, that Vane had an ugly face, that
Cromwell had a red nose. But neither the artful Clarendon nor the
scurrilous Denham could venture to throw the slightest imputation
on the morals or the manners of Hampden. What was the opinion
entertained respecting him by the best men of his time we learn
from Baxter. That eminent person, eminent not only for his piety
and his fervid devotional eloquence, but for his moderation, his
knowledge of political affairs, and his skill in judging of
characters, declared in the Saint's Rest, that one of the
pleasures which he hoped to enjoy in heaven was the society of
Hampden. In the editions printed after the Restoration, the name
of Hampden was omitted. "But I must tell the reader," says
Baxter, "that I did blot it out, not as changing my opinion of
the person. . . . Mr. John Hampden was one that friends and
enemies acknowledged to be most eminent for prudence, piety, and
peaceable counsels, having the most universal praise of any
gentleman that I remember of that age. I remember a moderate,
prudent, aged gentleman, far from him, but acquainted with him,
whom I have heard saying, that if he might choose what person he
would be then in the world, he would be John Hampden." We cannot
but regret that we have not fuller memorials of a man who, after
passing through the most severe temptations by which human virtue
can be tried, after acting a most conspicuous part in a
revolution and a civil war, could yet deserve such praise as this
from such authority. Yet the want of memorials is surely the best
proof that hatred itself could find no blemish on his memory.

The story of his early life is soon told. He was the head of a
family which had been settled in Buckinghamshire before the
Conquest. Part of the estate which he inherited had been bestowed
by Edward the Confessor on Baldwyn de Hampden, whose name seems
to indicate that he was one of the Norman favourites of the last
Saxon king. During the contest between the houses of York and
Lancaster, the Hampdens adhered to the party of the Red Rose, and
were, consequently, persecuted by Edward the Fourth, and favoured
by Henry the Seventh. Under the Tudors, the family was great and
flourishing. Griffith Hampden, high sheriff of Buckinghamshire,
entertained Elizabeth with great magnificence at his seat. His
son, William Hampden, sate in the Parliament which that Queen
summoned in the year 1593. William married Elizabeth Cromwell,
aunt of the celebrated man who afterwards governed the British
islands with more than regal power; and from this marriage sprang
John Hampden.

He was born in 1594. In 1597 his father died, and left him heir
to a very large estate. After passing some years at the grammar
school of Thame, young Hampden was sent, at fifteen, to Magdalen
College, in the University of Oxford. At nineteen, he was
admitted a student of the Inner Temple, where he made himself
master of the principles of the English law. In 1619 he married
Elizabeth Symeon, a lady to whom he appears to have been fondly
attached. In the following year he was returned to parliament by
a borough which has in our time obtained a miserable celebrity,
the borough of Grampound.

Of his private life during his early years little is known beyond
what Clarendon has told us. "In his entrance into the world,"
says that great historian, "he indulged himself in all the
licence in sports, and exercises, and company, which were used by
men of the most jolly conversation." A remarkable change,
however, passed on his character. "On a sudden," says Clarendon,
"from a life of great pleasure and licence, he retired to
extraordinary sobriety and strictness, to a more reserved and
melancholy society." It is probable that this change took place
when Hampden was about twenty-five years old. At that age he was
united to a woman whom he loved and esteemed. At that age he
entered into political life. A mind so happily constituted as his
would naturally, under such circumstances, relinquish the
pleasures of dissipation for domestic enjoyments and public

His enemies have allowed that he was a man in whom virtue showed
itself in its mildest and least austere form. With the morals of
a Puritan, he had the manners of an accomplished courtier. Even
after the change in his habits, "he preserved," says Clarendon,
"his own natural cheerfulness and vivacity, and, above all, a
flowing courtesy to all men." These qualities distinguished him
from most of the members of his sect and his party, and, in the
great crisis in which he afterwards took a principal part, were
of scarcely less service to the country than his keen sagacity
and his dauntless courage.

In 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 paix, et a 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.
Villenage 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 Lewis the Eleventh, or that of Charles
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 mieulx traitee, et ou
regne moins de violence sur le peuple, et ou il n'y a nuls
edifices abbatus ny demolis pour guerre, c'est Angleterre; et
tombe le sort et le malheur sur ceulx 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,
distined to be the parents of many revolutions, the invention 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
everything that could make a prejudice deep and strong, venerable
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 principles. Yet this prejudice, strong as it was, could
not stand in the great day of the deliverance of the human
reason. And it was not to be expected that the public mind, just
after freeing 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
prescription on its side. But Protestant intolerance, 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 of private judgment
at the pleasure of 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 to persecute for the
surplice. It required no great sagacity to perceive the
inconsistency and dishonesty 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 authority of one opponent, and authority against the reasons
of another. Bonner acted at least 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

Thus the system on which the English Princes acted with respect
to ecclesiastical affairs 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 law.
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 politicians who live in unquiet times. It shows how
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 expressed in the warmest terms her
gratitude to her faithful Commons for detecting abuses which
interested persons had concealed from her. If her successors had
inherited her wisdom with her crown, Charles the First might have
died of old age, and James the Second would never have seen St.

She died; and the kingdom passed to one who was, in his own
opinion, the greatest master of king-craft that ever lived, but
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 by 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 during near 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
imperfections 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

The sovereign whom James most resembled was, we think, Claudius
Caesar. Both had the same feeble vacillating temper, the same
childishness, the same coarseness, the same poltroonery. Both
were men of learning; bath 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, nedum principi, neque infacundo, neque
indocto, immo etiam pertinaciter liberalibus studiis dedito." The
description given by Suetonius of the manner in which the Roman
prince transacted business exactly suits the Briton. "In
cognoscendo ac decernendo mira varietate animi fuit, modo
circumspectus et sagax, modo inconsultus ac praeceps, nonnunquam
frivolus amentique 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 rictu, praeterea linguae

The Parliament which James had called soon after his accession
had been refractory. His second Parliament, called in the spring
of 1614, 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 Villiers, the
pardon of Somerset, the disgrace of Coke, the execution of
Raleigh, the battle of Prague, the invasion of the Palatinate by
Spinola, the ignominious 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 first appeared 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. Mitchell, one of the 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 Villiers, 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 their 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
over-reached. 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 king-craft, in looking
for a Spanish match, had 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 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 country. 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
twenty-seventh of March 1625, he expired. Under his weak rule,
the spirit of liberty had grown strong, and had become equal to a
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 buffoon, or a coward. It would be
absurd to deny that he was a scholar and a gentleman, a man of
exquisite tastes 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, obstinate,
narrow-minded, 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, "that 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 spirited 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 Rhe, 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. Near eighty gentlemen were imprisoned for refusing
to contribute to the forced loan. The lower people who showed any
signs of insubordination were pressed into the fleet, or
compelled 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

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 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 had 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 field sports.

He was not in his retirement unmindful of his persecuted 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 length 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

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 study 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
greater 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; [Hall, Bishop of Exeter,
had written strongly, both in verse and in prose, against the
fashion of sending young men of quality to travel.] of whose
mind neither am I superstitiously. But had my opinion been asked,
I should, as vulgar conceits use me to do, have showed my power
rather to raise objections than to answer them. A temper 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 age were looked for in no other book but that of the
mind, would be found no ward if you should die tomorrow, 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 all 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 Shechem 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 homogeneal, 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 parts? I desire to learn. I dare not say.
The variations upon each particular seem many; all, I confess,
excellent. The fountain was full, the channel narrow; that may be
the cause; or that the author resembled Virgil, who made more
verses by many than he intended to write. To extract a just
number, had I seen all his, I could easily have bid him make
fewer; but if he had bade me tell him which he should have
spared, I had been posed."

This is evidently the writing not only of a man of good sense and
natural good taste, but of a man of literary habits. Of the
studies of Hampden little is known. But as it was at one time in
contemplation to give him the charge of the education of the
Prince of Wales, it cannot be doubted that his acquirements were
considerable. Davila, it is said, was one of his favourite
writers. The moderation of Davila's opinions and the perspicuity
and manliness of his style could not but recommend him to so
judicious a reader. It is not improbable that the parallel
between France and England, the Huguenots and the Puritans, had
struck the mind of Hampden, and that he already found within
himself powers not unequal to the lofty part of Coligni.

While he was engaged in these pursuits, a heavy domestic calamity
fell on him. His wife, who had borne him nine children, died in
the summer of 1634. She lies in the parish church of Hampden,
close to the manor-house. The tender and energetic language of
her epitaph still attests the bitterness of her husband's sorrow,
and the consolation which he found in a hope full of immortality.

In the meantime, the aspect of public affairs grew darker and
darker. The health of Eliot had sunk under an unlawful
imprisonment of several years. The brave sufferer refused to
purchase liberty, though liberty would to him have been life, by
recognising the authority which had confined him. In consequence
of the representations of his physicians, the severity of
restraint was somewhat relaxed. But it was in vain. He languished
and expired a martyr to that good cause for which his friend
Hampden was destined to meet a more brilliant, but not a more
honourable death.

All the promises of the king were violated without scruple or
shame. The Petition of Right to which he had, in consideration of
moneys duly numbered, given a solemn assent, was set at nought.
Taxes were raised by the royal authority. Patents of monopoly
were granted. The old usages of feudal times were made pretexts
for harassing the people with exactions unknown during many
years. The Puritans were persecuted with cruelty worthy of the
Holy Office. They were forced to fly from the country. They were
imprisoned. They were whipped. Their ears were cut off. Their
noses were slit. Their cheeks were branded with red-hot iron. But
the cruelty of the oppressor could not tire out the fortitude of
the victims. The mutilated defenders of liberty again defied the
vengeance of the Star-Chamber, came back with undiminished
resolution to the place of their glorious infamy, and manfully
presented the stumps of their ears to be grubbed out by the
hangman's knife. The hardy sect grew up and flourished in spite
of everything that seemed likely to stunt it, struck its roots
deep into a barren soil, and spread its branches wide to an
inclement sky. The multitude thronged round Prynne in the pillory
with more respect than they paid to Mainwaring in the pulpit, and
treasured up the rags which the blood of Burton had soaked, with
a veneration such as mitres and surplices had ceased to inspire.

For the misgovernment of this disastrous period Charles himself
is principally responsible. After the death of Buckingham, he
seems to have been his own prime minister. He had, however, two
counsellors who seconded him, or went beyond him, in intolerance
and lawless violence, the one a superstitious driveller, as
honest as a vile temper would suffer him to be, the other a man
of great valour and capacity, but licentious, faithless, corrupt,
and cruel.

Never were faces more strikingly characteristic of the
individuals to whom they belonged, than those of Laud and
Strafford, as they still remain portrayed by the most skilful
hand of that age. The mean forehead, the pinched features, the
peering eyes, of the prelate, suit admirably with his
disposition. They mark him out as a lower kind of Saint Dominic,
differing from the fierce and gloomy enthusiast who founded the
Inquisition, as we might imagine the familiar imp of a spiteful
witch to differ from an archangel of darkness. When we read His
Grace's judgments, when we read the report which he drew up,
setting forth that he had sent some separatists to prison, and
imploring the royal aid against others, we feel a movement of
indignation. We turn to his Diary, and we are at once as cool as
contempt can make us. There we learn how his picture fell down,
and how fearful he was lest the fall should be an omen; how he
dreamed that the Duke of Buckingham came to bed to him, that King
James walked past him, that he saw Thomas Flaxney in green
garments, and the Bishop of Worcester with his shoulders wrapped
in linen. In the early part of 1627, the sleep of this great
ornament of the church seems to have been much disturbed. On the
fifth of January, he saw a merry old man with a wrinkled
countenance, named Grove, lying on the ground. On the fourteenth
of the same memorable month, he saw the Bishop of Lincoln jump on
a horse and ride away. A day or two after this he dreamed that he
gave the King drink in a silver cup, and that the King refused
it, and called for glass. Then he dreamed that he had turned
Papist; of all his dreams the only one, we suspect, which came
through the gate of horn. But of these visions our favourite is
that which, as he has recorded, he enjoyed on the night of
Friday, the ninth of February 1627. "I dreamed," says he, "that I
had the scurvy: and that forthwith all my teeth became loose.
There was one in especial in my lower jaw, which I could scarcely
keep in with my finger till I had called for help." Here was a
man to have the superintendence of the opinions of a great

But Wentworth,--who ever names him without thinking of those
harsh dark features, ennobled by their expression into more than
the majesty of an antique Jupiter; of that brow, that eye, that
cheek, that lip, wherein, as in a chronicle, are written the
events of many stormy and disastrous years, high enterprise
accomplished, frightful dangers braved, power unsparingly
exercised, suffering unshrinkingly borne; of that fixed look, so
full of severity, of mournful anxiety, of deep thought, of
dauntless resolution, which seems at once to forebode and to defy
a terrible fate, as it lowers on us from the living canvas of
Vandyke? Even at this day the haughty earl overawes posterity as
he overawed his contemporaries, and excites the same interest
when arraigned before the tribunal of history which he excited at
the bar of the House of Lords. In spite of ourselves, we
sometimes feel towards his memory a certain relenting similar to
that relenting which his defence, as Sir John Denham tells us,
produced in Westminster Hall.

This great, brave, bad man entered the House of Commons at the
same time with Hampden, and took the same side with Hampden. Both
were among the richest and most powerful commoners in the
kingdom. Both were equally distinguished by force of character
and by personal courage. Hampden had more judgment and sagacity
than Wentworth. But no orator of that time equalled Wentworth in
force and brilliancy of expression. In 1626 both these eminent
men were committed to prison by the King, Wentworth, who was
among the leaders of the Opposition, on account of his
parliamentary conduct, Hampden, who had not as yet taken a
prominent part in debate, for refusing to pay taxes illegally

Here their path separated. After the death of Buckingham, the
King attempted to seduce some of the chiefs of the Opposition
from their party; and Wentworth was among those who yielded to
the seduction. He abandoned his associates, and hated them ever
after with the deadly hatred of a renegade. High titles and great
employments were heaped upon him. He became Earl of Strafford,
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, President of the Council of the
North; and he employed all his power for the purpose of crushing
those liberties of which he had been the most distinguished
champion. His counsels respecting public affairs were fierce and
arbitrary. His correspondence with Laud abundantly proves that
government without parliaments, government by the sword, was his
favourite scheme. He was angry even that the course of justice
between man and man should be unrestrained by the royal
prerogative. He grudged to the courts of King's Bench and Common
Pleas even that measure of liberty which the most absolute of the
Bourbons allowed to the Parliaments of France. In Ireland, where
he stood in place of the King, his practice was in strict
accordance with his theory. He set up the authority of the
executive government over that of the courts of law. He permitted
no person to leave the island without his licence. He established
vast monopolies for his own private benefit. He imposed taxes
arbitrarily. He levied them by military force. Some of his acts
are described even by the partial Clarendon as powerful acts,
acts which marked a nature excessively imperious, acts which
caused dislike and terror in sober and dispassionate persons,
high acts of oppression. Upon a most frivolous charge, he
obtained a capital sentence from a court-martial against a man of
high rank who had given him offence. He debauched the daughter-
in-law of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and then commanded that
nobleman to settle his estate according to the wishes of the
lady. The Chancellor refused. The Lord Lieutenant turned him out
of office and threw him into prison. When the violent acts of the
Long Parliament are blamed, let it not be forgotten from what a
tyranny they rescued the nation.

Among the humbler tools of Charles were Chief-Justice Finch and
Noy the Attorney-General. Noy had, like Wentworth, supported the
cause of liberty in Parliament, and had, like Wentworth,
abandoned that cause for the sake of office. He devised, in
conjunction with Finch, a scheme of exaction which made the
alienation of the people from the throne complete. A writ was
issued by the King, commanding the city of London to equip and
man ships of war for his service. Similar writs were sent to the
towns along the coast. These measures, though they were direct
violations of the Petition of Right, had at least some show
of precedent in their favour. But, after a time, the government
took a step for which no precedent could be pleaded, and sent
writs of ship-money to the inland counties. This was a stretch
of power on which Elizabeth herself had not ventured, even at a
time when all laws might with propriety have been made to bend
to that highest law, the safety of the state. The inland counties
had not been required to furnish ships, or money in the room of
ships, even when the Armada was approaching our shores. It seemed
intolerable that a prince who, by assenting to the Petition of Right,
had relinquished the power of levying ship-money even in the
out-ports, should be the first to levy it on parts of the kingdom
where it had been unknown under the most absolute of his

Clarendon distinctly admits that this tax was intended, not only
for the support of the navy, but "for a spring and magazine that
should have no bottom, and for an everlasting supply of all
occasions." The nation well understood this; and from one end of
England to the other the public mind was strongly excited.

Buckinghamshire was assessed at a ship of four hundred and fifty
tons, or a sum of four thousand five hundred pounds. The share of
the tax which fell to Hampden was very small; so small, indeed,
that the sheriff was blamed for setting so wealthy a man at so
low a rate. But, though the sum demanded was a trifle, the
principle involved was fearfully important. Hampden, after
consulting the most eminent constitutional lawyers of the time,
refused to pay the few shillings at which he was assessed, and
determined to incur all the certain expense, and the probable
danger, of bringing to a solemn hearing, this great controversy
between the people and the Crown. "Till this time," says
Clarendon, "he was rather of reputation in his own country than
of public discourse or fame in the kingdom; but then he grew the
argument of all tongues, every man inquiring who and what he was
that durst, at his own charge, support the liberty and prosperity
of the kingdom."

Towards the close of the year 1636 this great cause came on in
the Exchequer Chamber before all the judges of England. The
leading counsel against the writ was the celebrated Oliver St.
John, a man whose temper was melancholy, whose manners were
reserved, and who was as yet little known in Westminster Hall,
but whose great talents had not escaped the penetrating eye of
Hampden. The Attorney-General and Solicitor-General appeared for
the Crown.

The arguments of the counsel occupied many days; and the
Exchequer Chamber took a considerable time for deliberation. The
opinion of the bench was divided. So clearly was the law in
favour of Hampden that, though the judges held their situations
only during the royal pleasure, the majority against him was the
least possible. Five of the twelve pronounced in his favour. The
remaining seven gave their voices for the writ.

The only effect of this decision was to make the public
indignation stronger and deeper. "The judgment," says Clarendon,
"proved of more advantage and credit to the gentleman condemned
than to the King's service." The courage which Hampden had shown
on this occasion, as the same historian tells us, "raised his
reputation to a great height generally throughout the kingdom."
Even courtiers and crown-lawyers spoke respectfully of him. "His
carriage," says Clarendon, "throughout that agitation, was with
that rare temper and modesty, that they who watched him narrowly
to find some advantage against his person, to make him less
resolute in his cause, were compelled to give him a just
testimony." But his demeanour, though it impressed Lord Falkland
with the deepest respect, though it drew forth the praises of
Solicitor-General Herbert, only kindled into a fiercer flame the
ever-burning hatred of Strafford. That minister in his letters to
Laud murmured against the lenity with which Hampden was treated.
"In good faith," he wrote, "were such men rightly served, they
should be whipped into their right wits." Again he says, "I still
wish Mr. Hampden, and others to his likeness, were well whipped
into their right senses. And if the rod be so used that it smart
not, I am the more sorry."

The person of Hampden was now scarcely safe. His prudence and
moderation had hitherto disappointed those who would gladly have
had a pretence for sending him to the prison of Eliot. But he
knew that the eye of a tyrant was on him. In the year 1637
misgovernment had reached its height. Eight years had passed
without a Parliament. The decision of the Exchequer Chamber had
placed at the disposal of the Crown the whole property of the
English people. About the time at which that decision was
pronounced, Prynne, Bastwick, and Burton were mutilated by the
sentence of the Star-Chamber, and sent to rot in remote dungeons.
The estate and the person of every man who had opposed the court
were at its mercy.

Hampden determined to leave England. Beyond the Atlantic Ocean a
few of the persecuted Puritans had formed, in the wilderness of
Connecticut, a settlement which has since become a prosperous
commonwealth, and which, in spite of the lapse of time and of the
change of government, still retains something of the character
given to it by its first founders. Lord Saye and Lord Brooke were
the original projectors of this scheme of emigration. Hampden had
been early consulted respecting it. He was now, it appears,
desirous to withdraw himself beyond the reach of oppressors who,
as he probably suspected, and as we know, were bent on punishing
his manful resistance to their tyranny. He was accompanied by his
kinsman Oliver Cromwell, over whom he possessed great influence,
and in whom he alone had discovered, under an exterior appearance
of coarseness and extravagance, those great and commanding
talents which were afterwards the admiration and the dread of

The cousins took their passage in a vessel which lay in the
Thames, and which was bound for North America. They were actually
on board, when an order of council appeared, by which the ship
was prohibited from sailing. Seven other ships, filled with
emigrants, were stopped at the same time.

Hampden and Cromwell remained; and with them remained the Evil
Genius of the House of Stuart. The tide of public affairs was
even now on the turn. The King had resolved to change the
ecclesiastical constitution of Scotland, and to introduce into
the public worship of that kingdom ceremonies which the great
body of the Scots regarded as Popish. This absurd attempt
produced, first discontents, then riots, and at length open
rebellion. A provisional government was established at Edinburgh,
and its authority was obeyed throughout the kingdom. This
government raised an army, appointed a general, and summoned an
assembly of the Kirk. The famous instrument called the Covenant
was put forth at this time, and was eagerly subscribed by the

The beginnings of this formidable insurrection were strangely
neglected by the King and his advisers. But towards the close of
the year 1638 the danger became pressing. An army was raised;
and early in the following spring Charles marched northward at
the head of a force sufficient, as it seemed, to reduce the
Covenanters to submission.

But Charles acted at this conjuncture as he acted at every
important conjuncture throughout his life. After oppressing,
threatening, and blustering, he hesitated and failed. He was bold
in the wrong place, and timid in the wrong place. He would have
shown his wisdom by being afraid before the liturgy was read in
St. Giles's church. He put off his fear till he had reached the
Scottish border with his troops. Then, after a feeble campaign,
he concluded a treaty with the insurgents, and withdrew his army.
But the terms of the pacification were not observed. Each party
charged the other with foul play. The Scots refused to disarm.
The King found great difficulty in re-assembling his forces. His
late expedition had drained his treasury. The revenues of the
next year had been anticipated. At another time, he might have
attempted to make up the deficiency by illegal expedients; but
such a course would clearly have been dangerous when part of the
island was in rebellion. It was necessary to call a Parliament.
After eleven years of suffering, the voice of the nation was to
he heard once more.

In April 1640, the Parliament met; and the King had another
chance of conciliating his people. The new House of Commons was,
beyond all comparison, the least refractory House of Commons that
had been known for many years. Indeed, we have never been able to
understand how, after so long a period of misgovernment, the
representatives of the nation should have shown so moderate and
so loyal a disposition. Clarendon speaks with admiration of their
dutiful temper. "The House, generally," says he, "was exceedingly
disposed to please the King, and to do him service." "It could
never be hoped," he observes elsewhere, "that more sober or
dispassionate men would ever meet together in that place, or
fewer who brought ill purposes with them."

In this Parliament Hampden took his seat as member for
Buckinghamshire, and thenceforward, till the day of his death,
gave himself up, with scarcely any intermission, to public
affairs. He took lodgings in Gray's Inn Lane, near the house
occupied by Pym, with whom he lived in habits of the closest
intimacy. He was now decidedly the most popular man in England.
The Opposition looked to him as their leader, and the servants of
the King treated him with marked respect.

Charles requested the Parliament to vote an immediate supply, and
pledged his word that, if they would gratify him in this request,
he would afterwards give them time to represent their grievances
to him. The grievances under which the nation suffered were so
serious, and the royal word had been so shamefully violated, that
the Commons could hardly be expected to comply with this request.
During the first week of the session, the minutes of the
proceedings against Hampden were laid on the table by Oliver St.
John, and a committee reported that the case was matter of
grievance. The King sent a message to the Commons, offering, if
they would vote him twelve subsidies, to give up the prerogative
of ship-money. Many years before, he had received five subsidies
in consideration of his assent to the Petition of Right. By
assenting to that petition, he had given up the right of levying
ship-money, if he ever possessed it. How he had observed the
promises made to his third Parliament, all England knew; and it
was not strange that the Commons should be somewhat unwilling to
buy from him, over and over again, their own ancient and
undoubted inheritance.

His message, however, was not unfavourably received. The Commons
were ready to give a large supply; but they were not disposed to
give it in exchange for a prerogative of which they altogether
denied the existence. If they acceded to the proposal of the
King, they recognised the legality of the writs of ship-money.

Hampden, who was a greater master of parliamentary tactics than
any man of his time, saw that this was the prevailing feeling,
and availed himself of it with great dexterity. He moved that the
question should be put, "Whether the House would consent to the
proposition made by the King, as contained in the message." Hyde
interfered, and proposed that the question should be divided;
that the sense of the House should be taken merely on the point
whether there should be a supply or no supply; and that the
manner and the amount should be left for subsequent

The majority of the House was for granting a supply, but against
granting it in the manner proposed by the King. If the House had
divided on Hampden's question, the court would have sustained a
defeat; if on Hyde's, the court would have gained an apparent
victory. Some members called for Hyde's motion, others, for
Hampden's. In the midst of the uproar, the secretary of state,
Sir Harry Vane, rose and stated that the supply would not be
accepted unless it were voted according to the tenor of the
message. Vane was supported by Herbert, the Solicitor-General.
Hyde's motion was therefore no further pressed, and the debate on
the general question was adjourned till the next day.

On the next day the King came down to the House of Lords, and
dissolved the Parliament with an angry speech. His conduct on
this occasion has never been defended by any of his apologists.
Clarendon condemns it severely. "No man," says he, "could imagine
what offence the Commons had given." The offence which they had
given is plain. They had, indeed, behaved most temperately and
most respectfully. But they had shown a disposition to redress
wrongs and to vindicate the laws; and this was enough to make
them hateful to a king whom no law could bind, and whose whole
government was one system of wrong.

The nation received the intelligence of the dissolution with
sorrow and indignation, The only persons to whom this event gave
pleasure were those few discerning men who thought that the
maladies of the state were beyond the reach of gentle remedies.
Oliver St. John's joy was too great for concealment. It lighted
up his dark and melancholy features, and made him, for the first
time, indiscreetly communicative. He told Hyde that things must
be worse before they could be better, and that the dissolved
Parliament would never have done all that was necessary. St.
John, we think, was in the right. No good could then have been
done by any Parliament which did not fully understand that no
confidence could safely be placed in the King, and that, while he
enjoyed more than the shadow of power, the nation would never
enjoy more than the shadow of liberty.

As soon as Charles had dismissed the Parliament, he threw several
members of the House of Commons into prison. Ship-money was
exacted more rigorously than ever; and the Mayor and Sheriffs of
London were prosecuted before the Star-Chamber for slackness in
levying it. Wentworth, it is said, observed, with characteristic
insolence and cruelty, that things would never go right till the
Aldermen were hanged. Large sums were raised by force on those
counties in which the troops were quartered. All the wretched
shifts of a beggared exchequer were tried. Forced loans were
raised. Great quantities of goods were bought on long credit and
sold for ready money. A scheme for debasing the currency was
under consideration. At length, in August, the King again marched

The Scots advanced into England to meet him. It is by no means
improbable that this bold step was taken by the advice of
Hampden, and of those with whom he acted; and this has been made
matter of grave accusation against the English Opposition. It is
said that to call in the aid of foreigners in a domestic quarrel
is the worst of treasons, and that the Puritan leaders, by taking
this course, showed that they were regardless of the honour and
independence of the nation, and anxious only for the success of
their own faction. We are utterly unable to see any distinction
between the case of the Scotch invasion in 1640, and the case of
the Dutch invasion in 1688; or rather, we see distinctions which
are to the advantage of Hampden and his friends. We believe Charles
to have been a worse and more dangerous king than his son. The
Dutch were strangers to us, the Scots a kindred people speaking
the same language, subjects of the same prince, not aliens in the
eye of the law. If, indeed, it had been possible that a Scotch
army or a Dutch army could have enslaved England, those who
persuaded Leslie to cross the Tweed, and those who signed the
invitation to the Prince of Orange, would have been traitors to
their country. But such a result was out of the question. All that
either a Scotch or a Dutch invasion could do was to give the
public feeling of England an opportunity to show itself. Both
expeditions would have ended in complete and ludicrous
discomfiture, had Charles and James been supported by their
soldiers and their people. In neither case, therefore, was the
independence of England endangered; in both cases her liberties
were preserved.

The second campaign of Charles against the Scots was short and
ignominious. His soldiers, as soon as they saw the enemy, ran
away as English soldiers have never run either before or since.
It can scarcely be doubted that their flight was the effect, not
of cowardice, but of disaffection. The four northern counties of
England were occupied by the Scotch army and the King retired to

The game of tyranny was now up. Charles had risked and lost his
last stake. It is not easy to retrace the mortifications and
humiliations which the tyrant now had to endure, without a
feeling of vindictive pleasure. His army was mutinous; his
treasury was empty; his people clamoured for a Parliament;
addresses and petitions against the government were presented.
Strafford was for shooting the petitioners by martial law; but
the King could not trust the soldiers. A great council of Peers
was called at York; but the King could not trust even the Peers.
He struggled, evaded, hesitated, tried every shift, rather than
again face the representatives of his injured people. At length
no shift was left. He made a truce with the Scots, and summoned a

The leaders of the popular party had, after the late dissolution,
remained in London for the purpose of organizing a scheme of
opposition to the Court. They now exerted themselves to the
utmost. Hampden, in particular, rode from county to county,
exhorting the electors to give their votes to men worthy of their
confidence. The great majority of the returns was on the side of
the Opposition. Hampden was himself chosen member both for
Wendover and Buckinghamshire. He made his election to serve for
the county.

On the third of November 1640, a day to be long remembered, met
that great Parliament, destined to every extreme of fortune, to
empire and to servitude, to glory and to contempt; at one time
the sovereign of its sovereign, at another time the servant of
its servants. From the first day of meeting the attendance was
great; and the aspect of the members was that of men not disposed
to do the work negligently. The dissolution of the late
Parliament had convinced most of them that half measures would no
longer suffice. Clarendon tells us, that "the same men who, six
months before, were observed to be of very moderate tempers, and
to wish that gentle remedies might be applied, talked now in
another dialect both of kings and persons; and said that they
must now be of another temper than they were the last
Parliament." The debt of vengeance was swollen by all the usury
which had been accumulating during many years; and payment was
made to the full.

This memorable crisis called forth parliamentary abilities such
as England had never before seen. Among the most distinguished
members of the House of Commons were Falkland, Hyde, Digby, young
Harry Vane, Oliver St. John, Denzil Hollis, Nathaniel Fiennes.
But two men exercised a paramount influence over the legislature
and the country, Pym and Hampden; and by the universal consent of
friends and enemies, the first place belonged to Hampden.

On occasions which required set speeches Pym generally took the
lead. Hampden very seldom rose till late in a debate. His
speaking was of that kind which has, in every age, been held in
the highest estimation by English Parliaments, ready, weighty,
perspicuous, condensed. His perception of the feelings of the
House was exquisite, his temper unalterably placid, his manner
eminently courteous and gentlemanlike. "Even with those," says
Clarendon, "who were able to preserve themselves from his
infusions, and who discerned those opinions to be fixed in him
with which they could not comply, he always left the character of
an ingenious and conscientious person." His talents for business
were as remarkable as his talents for debate. "He was," says
Clarendon, "of an industry and vigilance not to be tired out or
wearied by the most laborious, and of parts not to be imposed
upon by the most subtle and sharp." Yet it was rather to his
moral than to his intellectual qualities that he was indebted for
the vast influence which he possessed. "When this parliament
began"--we again quote Clarendon--"the eyes of all men were fixed
upon him, as their patriae pater, and the pilot that must steer
the vessel through the tempests and rocks which threatened it.
And I am persuaded his power and interest at that time were
greater to do good or hurt than any man's in the kingdom, or than
any man of his rank hath had in any time; for his reputation of
honesty was universal, and his affections seemed so publicly
guided, that no corrupt or private ends could bias them. . . . He
was indeed a very wise man, and of great parts, and possessed
with the most absolute spirit of popularity, and the most
absolute faculties to govern the people, of any man I ever knew."

It is sufficient to recapitulate shortly the acts of the Long
Parliament during its first session. Strafford and Laud were
impeached and imprisoned. Strafford was afterwards attainted by
Bill, and executed. Lord Keeper Finch fled to Holland, Secretary
Windebank to France. All those whom the King had, during the last
twelve years, employed for the oppression of his people, from the
servile judges who had pronounced in favour of the crown against
Hampden, down to the sheriffs who had distrained for ship-money,
and the custom-house officers who had levied tonnage and
poundage, were summoned to answer for their conduct. The Star-
Chamber, the High Commission Court, the Council of York, were
abolished. Those unfortunate victims of Laud who, after
undergoing ignominious exposure and cruel manglings, had been
sent to languish in distant prisons, were set at liberty, and
conducted through London in triumphant procession. The King was
compelled to give the judges patents for life or during good
behaviour. He was deprived of those oppressive powers which were
the last relics of the old feudal tenures. The Forest Courts and
the Stannary Courts were reformed. It was provided that the
Parliament then sitting should not be prorogued or dissolved
without its own consent, and that a Parliament should be held at
least once every three years.

Many of these measures Lord Clarendon allows to have been most
salutary; and few persons will, in our times, deny that, in the
laws passed during this session, the good greatly preponderated
over the evil. The abolition of those three hateful courts, the
Northern Council, the Star-Chamber, and the High Commission,
would alone entitle the Long Parliament to the lasting gratitude
of Englishmen.

The proceeding against Strafford undoubtedly seems hard to people
living in our days. It would probably have seemed merciful and
moderate to people living in the sixteenth century. It is curious
to compare the trial of Charles's minister with the trial, if it
can be so called, of Lord Seymour of Sudeley, in the blessed
reign of Edward the Sixth. None of the great reformers of our
Church doubted the propriety of passing an act of Parliament for
cutting off Lord Seymour's head without a legal conviction. The
pious Cranmer voted for that act; the pious Latimer preached for
it; the pious Edward returned thanks for it; and all the pious
Lords of the council together exhorted their victim to what they
were pleased facetiously to call "the quiet and patient suffering
of justice."

But it is not necessary to defend the proceedings against
Strafford by any such comparison. They are justified, in our
opinion, by that which alone justifies capital punishment or any
punishment, by that which alone justifies war, by the public
danger. That there is a certain amount of public danger which
will justify a legislature in sentencing a man to death by
retrospective law, few people, we suppose, will deny. Few people,
for example, will deny that the French Convention was perfectly
justified in placing Robespierre, St. Just, and Couthon under the
ban of the law, without a trial. This proceeding differed from
the proceeding against Strafford only in being much more rapid
and violent. Strafford was fully heard. Robespierre was not
suffered to defend himself. Was there, then, in the case of
Strafford, a danger sufficient to justify an act of attainder? We
believe that there was. We believe that the contest in which the
Parliament was engaged against the King was a contest for the
security of our property, for the liberty of our persons, for
everything which makes us to differ from the subjects of Don
Miguel. We believe that the cause of the Commons was such as
justified them in resisting the King, in raising an army, in
sending thousands of brave men to kill and to be killed. An act
of attainder is surely not more a departure from the ordinary
course of law than a civil war. An act of attainder produces much
less suffering than a civil war. We are, therefore, unable to
discover on what principle it can be maintained that a cause
which justifies a civil war will not justify an act of attainder.

Many specious arguments have been urged against the retrospective
law by which Strafford was condemned to death. But all these
arguments proceed on the supposition that the crisis was an
ordinary crisis. The attainder was, in truth, a revolutionary
measure. It was part of a system of resistance which oppression
had rendered necessary. It is as unjust to judge of the conduct
pursued by the Long Parliament towards Strafford on ordinary
principles, as it would have been to indict Fairfax for murder
because he cut down a cornet at Naseby. From the day on which the
Houses met, there was a war waged by them against the King, a war
for all that they held dear, a war carried on at first by means
of parliamentary forms, at last by physical force; and, as in the
second stage of that war, so in the first, they were entitled to
do many things which, in quiet times, would have been culpable.

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