Hampden, John, Esq.

, of Hamden, in Buckinghamshire, a celebrated political character in the reign of Charles I. was born at London in 1594. He was of as ancient (Whitlocke says the ancientest) extraction as any gentleman in his county; and cousin-german to Oliver Cromwell, his father having married the protector’s aunt. In 1609 he was sent to Magdalen college in Oxford whence, without taking any degree, be removed to the inns of court, and made a considerable progress in the study of the law. Sir Philip Warwick observes, that “he had great knowledge both in scholarship and the law.” In his entrance into the world, he is said to have indulged himself in all the licence of sports, and exercises, and company, such as were used by men of the most jovial conversation; but afterwards to have retired to a more reserved and | austere society, preserving, however, his natural cheerfulness and vivacity. In the second parliament of king Charles, which met at Westminster, February 1625-6, he obtained a seat in the house of commons, as he also did in two succeeding parliaments; but made no figure till 1636, when he became universally known, by a solemn trial at the king’s bench, on his refusing to pay the ship-money. He carried himself, as Clarendon tells us, through this whole suit with such singular temper and modesty, that he obtained more credit and advantage by losing it, than the king did service by gaining it. From this time he soon grew to be one of the most popular men in the nation, and a leading member in the long parliament. “The eyes of all men,” says the same writer, “were fixed upon him as their pater patrite, and the pilot that must steer the vessel through the tempests and rocks which threatened it.” After he had held the chief direction of his party in the house of commons against the king, he took up arms in the same cause, and was one of the first who opened the war by an action at a place called Brill, a garrison of the king’s, on the edge of Buckinghamshire, about five miles from Oxford. He took the command of a regiment of foot under the earl of Essex, and shewed such skill and bravery, that, had he lived, he would; probably, soon have been raised to the post of a general. But he was cut off early by a mortal wound, which he received in a skirmish with prince Rupert, at Chalgrove-field, in Oxfordshire, where, it is generally reported, he was shot in the shoulder with a brace of bullets, which broke the bone, June 18, 1643; and, after suffering much pain and misery, he died the 24th, an event which affected his party nearly as much as if their whole army had been defeated *. “Many men observed,” says Clarendon, “that the field in which this skirmish was, and upon which Hampden received his deathwound, namely, Chalgrove-field, was the same place in which he had first executed the ordinance of the militia, and engaged that county, in which his reputation was very great, in this rebellion: and it was confessed by the prisoners that were taken that day, and acknowledged by all,


So little is known of Hampden, that even the manner of his death has never been ascertained; some persons supposing that he was killed by the firing [??] of one of his own pistols. See Noble’s Memoirs of Cromwell, vol. II. p. 70, where there is a long account of his family and descendants; and Seward’s Anecdotes.

| that upon the alarm that morning, after their quarters were beaten up, he was exceeding solicitous to draw forces together to pursue the enemy; and, being a colonel of foot, put himself amongst those horse as a volunteer, who were first ready, and that, when the prince made a stand, all the officers were of opinion to stay till their body came up, and he alone persuaded and prevailed with them to advance: so violently did his fate carry him to pay the mulct in the place where he had committed the transgression about a year before. This was an observation made at that time;” but lord Clarendon does not adopt it as an opinion of his own.

Hampden, if we form our judgment of him only from the account of those who were engaged in the opposite party to him, was, perhaps, one of the most extraordinary men that ever lived; and is thus delineated by the noble historian already quoted. “He was a man of much greater cunning, and it may be of the most discerning spirit, and of the greatest address and insinuation to bring any thing to pass which he desired, of any man of that time, and who laid the design deepest. He was not a man of many words, and rarely began the discourse, or made the first entrance upon any business that was assumed, but a very weighty speaker; and after he had heard a full debate, and observed how the house was like to be inclined, took up the argument, and shortly, and clearly, and craftily, so stated it, that he commonly conducted it to the conclusion he desired. He was of that rare affability and temper in debate, and of thatseeming 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, and under the notion of doubts insinuating his objections, that he infused his own opinions into those from whom he pretended to learn and receive them. And even with them who were able to preserve themselves from his infusions, and discerned those opinions to be fixed in him with which they could not comply, he always left the character of an ingenuous and conscientious person. 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. For the first year of the parliament he seemed rather to moderate and soften the violent and distempered humours than to inflame them. But wise and | dispassionate men plainly discerned, that that moderation proceeded from prudence, and observation that the season was not ripe, rather than that he approved of the moderation and that he begot many opinions and notions, the education whereof he committed to other men so far disguising his own designs, that he seemed seldom to wish more than was concluded. And in many gross conclusions, which would hereafter contribute to designs not yet set on foot, when he found them sufficiently backed by a majority of voices, he would withdraw himself before the question, that he might seem not to consent to so much visible unreasonableness; which produced as great a doubt in some as it did approbation in others of his integrity. After he was among those members accused by the king of high treason, he was much altered; his nature and carriage seeming much fiercer than it did before: and without question, when he first drew his sword, he threw away the scabbard. He was very temperate in diet, and a supreme governor over all his passions and affections; and had thereby a great power over other men’s. He was 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 and of a personal courage equal to his best parts so that he was an enemy not to be wished wherever he might have been made a friend and as much to be apprehended where he was so, as any man could deserve to be. And therefore his death was no less pleasing to the one party than it was condoled in the other. In a word, what was said of Cinna might well be applied to him: he had ahead to contrive, a tongue to persuade, and a hand to execute, any mischief, or,‘-’ as the historian says elsewhere,” any good." Thus is Hampden described by Clarendon, agreeably to the notions usually formed of his character after the restoration; which was that of a great, rather than a good man. But as the characters of statesmen, commanders, or men acting in a public capacity, always vary with the times and fashions of politics, at the revolution, and since, he has been esteemed a good man as well as a great. 1

1 Cromwell. Brlt “~ Hume a ” d Rapin’s Hist.-Clarendon.-Noble’s Memoirs of