Pym, John

, a noted republican in the time of Charles I. was descended of a good family in Somersetshire, and born in 1584. In his fifteenth year he entered as a gentleman-commoner of Broadgate’s-hall, now Pembroke-college, Oxford, where he had for his tutor Degory Wheare, but appears to have left the university without taking a degree, and, as Wood supposes, went to one of the inns of court. | He appears, indeed, to have been intended for public business, as he was very early placed as a clerk in the office of the exchequer. He was likewise not far advanced when he was elected member of parliament for Tavistock, in the reign of James I. He uniformly distinguished himself by his opposition to the measures of the court, both in the reign of that king and of his successor. In 1626 he was one of the managers of the articles of impeachment against the duke of Buckingham, and in 1628 brought into the House of Commons a. charge against Dr. Main waring, who held some doctrines which he conceived to be equally injurious to the king and the kingdom. He was likewise a great opponent of Arnainianism, being himself attached to Calvinistic principles. In 1639, he, with several other cominoners and lords, held a very close correspondence with the commissioners sent to London by the Scotch covenanters; and in the parliament which met April 13, 1640, was one of the most active and leading members. On the meeting of the next, which is called the Long Parliament, he made an elaborate speech concerning the grievances of the nation, and impeached the earl of Strafford of high treason, at whose trial he was one of the managers of the House of Commons. His uncommon violence led the king to the unhappy measure of coming to the parliament in person, to seize him and four other members. Pym, however, continued firm to the interests of the parliament, but thought it necessary, some time before his death, to draw up a vindication of his conduct, which leaves it doubtful what part he would have taken, had he lived to see the serious consequences of his early violence. In Nov. 1643, he was appointed lieutenant of the ordnance, and probably would have risen to greater distinction, but he died at Derby-house, Dec. 8 following, and was interred with great solemnity in Westminster- abbey. He left several children by his lady, who died in 1620, and is said to have been a woman of rare accomplishments and learning. Many of his speeches were printed separately, and are inserted in the annals and histories of the times.

It is affirmed by lord Clarendon and some others, that he died in great torment of that loathsome disease called morbus pediculosus; that he was a very sad spectacle; and that none but select friends were admitted to him. But Mr. Stephen Marshal, in the sermon preached at his fune* fal, affirms, that no less than eight doctors of physic, of | unsuspected integrity, and some of them strangers to Mr. Pym, if not of religion different from him, who were present at the opening of his body, and near a thousand people, who saw it, were witnesses to the falsehood of the report above mentioned; the disease of which he died, being no other than an imposthume in his bowels.

Lord Clarendon observes, that “his parts were rather acquired by industry, than supplied by nature, or adorned by art; but that, besides his exact knowledge of the forms and orders of the House of Commons, he had a very comely and grave way of expressing himself, with great volubility of words natural and proper. He understood likewise the temper and affections of the kingdom as well as any man, and had observed the errors and mistakes in government, and knew well how to make them appear greater than they were. At the first opening of the Long Parliament, though he was much governed in private designing by Mr. Hampden and Mr. Oliver St. John, yet he seemed of all men to have the greatest influence upon the House of Commons and was at that time, and for some months’ after, the most popular man in that or any other age. Upon the first design of softening and obliging the most powerful persons in both Houses, when he received the king’s promise for the chancellorship of the exchequer, he made in return a suitable profession of his service to*1iis majesty; and thereupon, the other being no secret, declined from that sharpness in the House, which was more popular than any man’s, and made some overtures to provide for the glory and splendour of the crown; in which he had so ill success, that his interest and reputation there visibly abated, and he found, that he was much more able to do hurt than good; which wrought very much upon him to melancholy, and complaint of the violence nd discomposure of the people’s affections and inclinations. In the prosecution of the earl of Strafford, his carriage and language was such, as expressed much personal animosity; and he was accused of having practised some arts in it unworthy of a good man; which, if true, might make many other things, that were confidently reported afterwards of him, to be believed; as that he received a great sum of money from the French ambassador, to hinder the transportation of those regiments of Ireland into Flanders, upon the disbanding that army there, which had been prepared by the earl of Strafford for the business of Scotland in which, if | his majesty’s directions and commands had not been diverted and contradicted by both Houses, many believed, that the rebellion in Ireland had not happened. From the time of his being accused of high treason by the king, he opposed all overtures of peace and accommodation and when the earl of Essex was disposed, in the summer of 1643, to a treaty, his power and dexterity wholly changed the earl’s inclination in that point. He was also wonderfully solicitous for the Scots coming-in to the assistance of the parliament. In short, his power pf doing shrewd turns was extraordinary, and no less in doing good offices for particular persons, whom he preserved from censure, when they were under the severe displeasure of the Houses of parliament, and looked upon as eminent delinquents; and the quality of many of them made it believed, that he sold that protection for valuable considerations.1


Ath. Ox, vol. II. Birch’s Lives. Marshall’s Sermon at his Funeral, 1644,. 4to.