Crispe, Sir Nicholas

, an eminent and loyal citizen in the reigns of king Charles the First, and king Charles the Second, the son of a very eminent merchant of London, was born in 1598, and bred, according to the custom of those times, in a thorough knowledge of business, though heir to a great estate. He made a considerable addition to this by marriage; and being a man of an enterprizing genius, ever active and solicitous about new inventions and discoveries, was soon taken notice of at court, was knighted, and became one of the farmers of the king’s customs. When the trade to Guinea was under great difficulties and discouragements, he framed a project for retrieving it, which required a large capital, but his reputation was so great, that many rich merchants willingly engaged with him in the prosecution of the design; and to | give a good example, as well as to shew that he meant to adhere to the work that he had once taken in hand, he caused the castle of Cormantyn upon the Gold Coast, to be erected at his own expence. By this judicious precaution, and by his wise and wary management afterwards, himself and his associates carried their trade so successfully, as to divide amongst them fifty thousand pounds a year. When the rebellion began, and the king was in want of money, sir Nicholas Crispe, and his partners in the farming of the customs, upon very short warning, and when their refusing it would have been esteemed a merit with the parliament, raised him one hundred thousand pounds at once.*


It will not, we hope, lessen the Value of the liberal patriotism of the present race of London citizens, when they are told, that their exertions and privations during the present disastrous war, are not without a precedent. The partners of sir Nicholas Crispe, mentioned above, were sir Abraham Dawes, sir John Jacob, and sir John Wohtenliohne. When the matter was proposed to sir Nicholas, he said, “it was a large sum, and short warning; but that Providence had made him able, and his duty made him willing, to lay down his proportion, whenever his majesty ealled for it.” Sir Abraham Dawes had some relations, whose affections leaned to the republican party, and who besides had great expectations from him: they magnified the sum that was desired, the uncertaitity of its being repaid, and the danger that it would be taken ill by parliament, who might insist upon the like sum. “Well,” said sir Abraham, “this then is the worst that can happen, and I bless God, who has made me able to pay my allegiance, and to pay for it.” Something of the same kind was insinuated to sir John Jacob, who was not only very sincerely loyal, but a man of a warm temper and a tender heart. “What,” said he in reply, “shall I keep my estate, and see the king want wherewithal to protect me in it? If it please God to bless the king, though I give him all I have, I shall be no loser; if not, though I keep all I have, I shall be no saver.” Sir John Wolstenholrue, a stout and plain man, advanced his proportion, as he afterwards did larger sums, without any speeches. He and sir Nicholas Crispe, lived to see the restoration, and to be farmers of the customs again under king Charles the Second, after they and the rest had paid deeply for this proof of their loyalty.

After the war broke out, and in the midst of all the distractions with which it was attended, he continued to carry on a trade to Holland, France, Spain, Italy, Norwaj', Moscovy, and Turkey, which produced to the king nearly one hundred thousand pounds a year, besides keeping most of the ports open and ships in them constantly ready for his service. All the correspondence and supplies of arms which were procured by the queen in Holland, and by the king’s agents in Denmark, were consigned to his care, and by his prudence and vigilance safely landed in the north, and put into the hands of those for whom they were intended. In the management of so many nice and difficult affairs, he was obliged to keep up a very extensive correspondence, for which he hardly ever made use of | cypher, but penned his letters in such a peculiar style, as removed entirely his intentions from the apprehension of his enemies, and yet left them very intelligible unto those with whom he transacted. He had also great address in bringing any thing to bear that he had once contrived, to which it contributed not a little, that in matters of secrecy and danger he seldom trusted to any hands but his own, and made use of all kinds of disguises. Sometimes, when he was believed to be in one place, he was actually at another; letters of consequence he carried in the disguise of a porter; when he wanted intelligence he would be at the water side, with a basket of flounders upon his head, and often passed between London and Oxford in the dress of a butter-woman on horseback, between a pair of panniers. He was the principal author of a well-laid design for publishing the king’s commission of array at London, in which there was nothing dishonourable, so far as sir Nicholas Crispe was concerned, which, however, Clarendon inadvertently confounds with another design, superinduced by Mr. Waller, of surprizing the parliament, in bringing which to bear he proceeded very vigorously at first, till, finding that he had engaged in a matter too big for his management, he suddenly lost his spirits, and some of the chief men in the house of commons gaining intelligence that something was in agitation to their prejudice, May 31st, 1643, they presently seized Mr. Waller, and drew from him a complete discovery, which, from the account they published, plainly distinguished these two projects. By the discovery of this business, sir Nicholas Crispe found himself obliged to declare openly the course he meant to take; and having at his own expence raised a regiment of horse for the king’s service, he distinguished himself at the head of it as remarkably in his military, as he had ever done in his civil capacity. When the siege of Gloucester was resolved on, sir Nicholas Crispe was charged with his regiment of horse to escort the king’s train of artillery from Oxford, which important service he very gallantly performed; but in the month of September following, a very unlucky accident occurred, and though the circumstances attending it clearly justified his conduct to the world, yet the concern it gave him was such as he could not shake off so long as he lived. He happened to be quartered at Rouslidge, in Gloucestershire, where one sir James Ennyon, bart. of Northamptonshire, and some | friends of his took up a great part of the house, though none of them had any commands in the army, which, however, sir Nicholas bore with the utmost patience, notwithstanding he was much incommoded by it. Some time after, certain horses belonging to those gentlemen were missing, and sir James Ennyon, though he had lost none himself, insinuating that some of sir Nicholas’s troopers must have taken them, insisted that he should immediately draw out his regiment, that search might be made for them. Sir Nicholas answered him with mildness, and offered him as full satisfaction as it was in his power to give, but excused himself from drawing out his regiment, as a thing improper and inconvenient at that juncture, for reasons which he assigned. Not content, however, sir James left him abruptly, and presently after sent him a challenge, accompanied with a message to this effect, that if he did not comply with it, he would pistol him against the wall. Upon this, sir Nicholas Crispe taking a friend of his with him, went to the place appointed, and finding sir James Ennyon and the person who brought him the challenge, sir Nicholas used his utmost endeavours to pacify him; but he being determined to receive no satisfaction, unless by the sword, they engaged, and sir James received a wound in the rim of the belly, of which he died in two days. Before this, however, he sent for sir Nicholas Crispe, and was sincerely reconciled to him. Upon the 2d of October following, sir Nicholas was brought to a court-martial for this unfortunate affair, and upon a full examination of every thing relating to it, was most honourably acquitted. He continued to serve with the same zeal and fidelity during 1644, and in the spring following; but when the treaty of Uxbridge commenced, the parliament thought fit to mark him, as they afterwards did in the Isle of Wight treaty, by insisting that he should be removed from his majesty’s presence; and a few months after, on April 16th, 1645, they ordered his large house in Breadstreet to be sold, which for many years belonged to his family. Neither was this stroke of their vengeance judged a sufficient punishment for his offences, since having resolved to grant the elector palatine a pension of eight thousand pounds a year, they directed that two thousand should be applied out of the king’s revenue, and the remainder made up out of the estates of lord Culpeper and sir Nicholas Crispe, Sir Nicholas finding himself no lon^ev | in a capacity to render his majesty any service, thought it expedient to preserve himself; and in April 1646 embarked with lord Culpeper and colonel Monk for France, but as he had many rich relations who had interest with those in power, they interposed in his favour; and as sir Nicholas perceived that he could be of no service to the royal cause abroad, h did not look upon it as any deviation from his duty, to return and live quietly at home. Accordingly, having submitted to a composition, he came back to London, to retrieve his shattered fortunes, and very soon engaged again in business, with the same spirit and success as before. In this season of prosperity he was not unmindful of the wants of Charles II. but contributed cheerfully to his relief, when his affairs seemed to be in the most desperate condition. After the death of Oliver Cromwell, he was instrumental in reconciling many to their duty, and so well were his principles known, and so much his influence apprehended, that when it was proposed that the royalists in and about London should sign an instrument signifying their inclination to preserve the public tranquillity, he was called upon, and very readily subscribed it. He was also principally concerned in bringing the city of London, in her corporate capacity, to give the encouragement that was requisite to leave general Monk without any difficulties or suspicion as to the sincerity and unanimity of their inclinations. It was therefore very natural, after reading the king’s letter and declaration in common-council, May 3d, 1660, to think of sending some members of their own body to preSent their duty to his majesty; and having appointed nine aldermen and their recorder, they added sir Nicholas Crispe, with several other worthy persons, to the committee, that the king might receive the more satisfaction from their sentiments being delivered by several of those who had suffered deeply in his own and in his father’s cause. His majesty accordingly received these gentlemen very graciously, as a committee, and afterwards testified to them separately the sense he had of their past services, and upon his return, sir Nicholas Crispe and sir John Wolstenholme, were re-instated as farmers of the customs. Sir Nicholas was now in years, and somewhat infirm, spent a great part of his time at his noble country seat near Hammersmith, where he was in some measure the founder of the chapel, and having an opportunity of returning the tbligation he had received from some of his relations, he | procured for them that indemnity from the king, gratis, for which he had so dearly paid during the rebellion. The last testimony he received of his royal master’s favour, was his being created a baronet, April 16th, 1665, which he did not long survive, dying February 26th, the next year, in the sixty-seventh year of his age, leaving a very large estate to his grandson, sir Nicholas Crispe. His corpse was interred with his ancestors, in the parish church of St. Mildred, in Bread-street, and his funeral sermon was preached by his reverend and learned kinsman Mr. Crispe, of Christ-church, Oxford. But his heart was sent to the chapel at Hammersmith, where there is a short and plain inscription upon a cenotaph erected to his memory; or rather upon that monument which himself erected in grateful commemoration of king Charles I. as the inscription placed there in sir Nicholas’s life-time tells us, under which, after his decease, was placed a small white marble urn, upon a black pedestal, containing his heart. 1

Biog. Brit.—Lloyd’s Memoirs.—Lysons’s Environs, vol. II. with a fine portrait.