« PreviousContinue »
Character of Hampden.
Mr. Hampden 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 a gentleman of a good extraction, and a fair fortune; who, from a life of great pleasure and licence, had on a sudden retired to extraordinary sobriety and strictness, and yet retained his usual cheerfulness and affability; which, together with the opinion of his wisdom and justice, and the courage he had shewed in opposing the ship-money, raised his reputation to a very great height, not only in Buckinghamshire, where he lived, but generally throughout the kingdom. He was not a man of many words, and rarely begun 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; and if he found he could not do that, he was never without the dexterity to divert the debate to another time, and to prevent the determining any thing in the negative, which might prove inconvenient in the future. He made so great a shew of civility, and modesty, and humility, and always of mistrusting his own judgment, and esteeming his with whom he conferred for the present, that he seemed to have no opinions or resolutions, but such as he contracted from the information and instruction be received upon the discourses of others : whom he had a wonderful art of governing, and leading into his principles and inclinations, whilst they believed that he wholly depended upon their counsel and advice. No man had ever a greater power over himself, or was less the man that he seemed to be: which shortly after appeared to every body, when he cared less to keep on the masque.
And again :
He was a gentleman of a good family in Buckinghamshire, and born to a fair fortune, and of a most civil and affable deportment. In his entrance into the world, he indulged to himself all the license in sports and exercises, and company, which were used by men of the inost jolly conversation. Afterwards he retired to a more reserved and melancholy society, yet preserving his own natural chearfulness and vivacity, and above all, a flowing courtesy to all men ; though they who conversed nearly with him, found him growing into a dislike of the eccle
siastical government of the church, yet most believed it rather a dislike of some churchmen, and of some introducements of theirs, which he apprehended might disquiet the public peace. He was rather of reputation in his own country, than of public discourse, or fame in the kingdom, before the business of ship-money; but then he grew the argument of all tongues, every man enquiring who and what he was, that durst, at his own charge, support the liberty and property of the kingdom, and rescue his country, as he thought, from being made a prey to the court. His carriage, throughout this 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. And the judgment that was given against him, infinitely more advanced him, than the service for which it was given. When this parliament begun, (being returned knight of the shire for the county where he lived) the eyes of all men were fixed upon him, as their patrice 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, was 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 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 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 ingenious 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 dispassioned 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 motions, 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 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. What combinanation soever had been originally with the Scots for the invasion of England, and what farther was entered into afterward in favour of them, and to advance any alteration of the government in parliament, no man doubts was at least with the privity of this gentleman.
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; for he passionately opposed the overture made by the king for a treaty from Nottingham, and as eminently, all expedients that might have produced any accommodations in this that was at Oxford; and was principally relied on, to prevent any
infusions which might be made into the earl of Essex towards peace, or to render them ineffectual, if they