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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 dehonesta“bart, risus indecens, ira turpior, spumante rictu, — præterea linguæ titubantia.”
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 made his first appearance as a public man.
This parliament lasted about twelve months. During that time it visited with deserved punishment several of those who, during the preceding six years, had enriched themselves by peculation and monopoly. Michell, one of those grasping patentees, who had purchased of the favorite 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 few 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 brow-beaten. The would-be Solomon was ridiculously overreached. “Steenie,” in spite of the begging and sobbing of his dear “ dad and gossip,” carried off“ baby Charles” in triumph to Madrid. The sweet lads, as James called them, came back safe, but without their errand. The great master of king-craft, in looking for a Spanish match, found a Spanish war. In February, 1624, a Parliament met, during the whole sitting of which James was a mere puppet in the hands of his “ baby," and of his “ poor slave and dog. The Commons were disposed to support the king in the vigorous policy which his son and his favorite urged him to adopt. But they were not disposed to place any confidence in their feeble sovereign and his dissolute courtiers, or to relax in their efforts to remove public grievances. They therefore lodged the money which they voted for the war in the hands of Parliamentary Commissioners. They impeached the treasurer, Lord Middlesex, for corruption, and they passed a bill by which patents of monopoly were declared illegal.
Hampden did not, during the reign of James, take any prominent part in public affairs. It is certain, however, that he paid great attention to the details of Parliamentary business, and to the local interests of his own county. It was in a great measure owing to his exertions, that Wendover and some other boroughs, on which the popular party could depend, recovered the elective franchise, in spite of the opposition of the Court.
The health of the king had for some time been declining. On the 27th of March, 1625, he expired. Under his weak rule, the spirit of liberty had grown strong, and had become equal to 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 genıleman, a man of exquisite taste in the fine arts, a man of strict morals in private life. His talents for business were respectable ; his demeanour was kingly. But he was false, imperious, 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 bis 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 Wend
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 noble answer, the Privy Council committed him close prisoner to the Gate House. After some time, he was again brought up; but he persisted in his refusal, and was sent to a place of confinement in Hampshire.
The government went on, oppressing at home, and blundering in all its measures abroad. A war was foolishly undertaken against France, and more foolishly conducted. Buckingham led an expedition against Rhé, and failed ignominiously. In the mean time, soldiers were billeted on the people. Crimes, of which ordinary justice should have taken cognizance, were punished by martial law. Nearly 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 Par
liament. 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 reëlected 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 cognizance 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 humor. They took into their most serious consideration the measures of the government concerning tonnage and poundage. They summoned the officers of the custom-house to their bar. They interrogated the barons of the exchequer. They committed one of the sheriffs of London. Sir John Eliot, a distinguished member of the Opposition, and an intimate friend of Hampden, proposed a resolution condemning the unconstitutional imposition. The speaker said, that the king had commanded him to put no such question to the vote. This decision produced the most violent burst of feeling ever seen within the walls of Parliament. Hayman remonstrated vehemently against the disgraceful language which had been heard from the chair. Eliot dashed the paper which contained his resolution on the floor of the House. Valentine and Hollis held the speaker down in his seat by main force, and read the motion amidst the loudest shouts. The door was locked — the key was laid on the table. Black Rod knocked for admittance in vain. After passing several strong resolutions, the
House adjourned. On the day appointed for its meeting, it was dissolved by the king, and several of its most eminent members, among whom were Hollis and Sir John Eliot, were committed to prison.
Though Hampden had as yet taken little part in the debates of the House, he had been a member of many very important committees, and had read and written much concerning the law of Parliament. A manuscript volume of Parliamentary Cases, which is still in existence, contains many extracts from his notes.
He now retired to the duties and pleasures of a rural life. During the eleven years which followed the dissolution of the Parliament of 1628, he resided at his seat in one of the most beautiful parts of the county of Buckingham. The house, which has, since his time, been greatly altered, and which is now, we believe, almost entirely neglected, was then an old English mansion, built in the days of the Plantagenets and the Tudors. It stood on the brow of a hill which overlooks a narrow valley. The extensive woods which surround it were pierced by long avenues. One of those avenues the grandfather of the great statesman cut for the approach of Elizabeth ; and the opening, which is still visible for many miles, retains the name of the Queen's Gap. In this delightful retreat Hampden passed several years, performing with great activity all the duties of a landed gentleman and a magistrate, and amusing himself with books and with 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