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Reign of Charles I. page 19

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He was born in 1594, and his father dying in his childhood, he came early into his estates. He was a student at Oxford when Laud was master of St. John's, and he afterwards studied law in the Inner Temple. Whilst he was a mere youth, his mother was very anxious that he should take advantage of king James's creation of peerages to become a lord; but he had the good sense steadily to decline honours given as the wages of court slavery, or sold to the highest bidder. He entered parliament in. 1621, at the same time with Wentworth, who for awhile was equally ranged on the side of liberty, and a much more forward and noisy champion of it than himself. In 1626, when Charles was illegally levying his forced loan, Hampden refused to contribute. He had during each successive parliament firmly supported the efforts of the patriots in the house - Pym, Selden, Elliot, and the rest, and he now declared that "he could be content to lend like others, but he feared to draw upon himself that curse in Magna Charta which should be read twice a year against those who infringe it." He was sent prisoner to the Gate House, and thence released, but ordered to confine himself to one of his manor-houses in Hampshire. He had, however, in parliament borne a decided share in the determined opposition to the king's proceedings, along with Selden, Elliot, Pym, St. John, Croke, and others. After the defection of Wentworth, Noye, Finch, and others, Hampden became still more prominent in his public support of the patriotic opposition. Amid the fierce bigotry of those dauntless but intolerant men, he was almost the only one who had arrived at the true idea of Christianity, that it was a tolerant and forbearing religion, allowing to others the same freedom of conscience that he claimed for himself. He was greatly annoyed at the religious acrimony which prevailed, and declared that he would renounce the church of England on the spot "if it obliged him to believe that any other Christians should be damned; and that nobody would conclude another man to be damned who did not wish him so."

In 1634, Hampden having lost his wife, to whom he was much attached, became additionally serious and religious, and at the same time devoted himself more sedulously to his public duties. He determined not only to resist the payment of ship-money, but to try the question, so as to make far and wide its illegality known. He consulted his legal friends, Holborne, St. John, Whitelock, and others, on the best means of dealing with it, and encouraged by his example, thirty freeholders of his parish of Great Kimble, in Buckinghamshire, also refused payment. No sooner, therefore, had Charles obtained the opinion of the judges, than he determined to proceed against Hampden in the court of Exchequer. The case was conducted for the crown by the attorney-general, Sir John Banks, and the solicitor-general, Sir Edward Littleton. The sum at which Hampden was assessed was only twenty shillings: the trial lasted for twelve days before the twelve judges, that is, from the 6th to the 18th of December, 1637.

It was argued on the part of the crown that the practice was sanctioned by the annual tax of Dane-gelt, imposed by the Saxons; by former monarchs having pressed ships into their service, and compelled the maritime counties to equip them; that the claim on the part of the king was most reasonable and patriotic, for if he did not exercise this right of the crown, in cases of danger, before the parliament could be assembled serious damage might accrue. The crown lawyers ridiculed the refusal of a man of Mr, Hampden's great estates to pay so paltry a sum as twenty shillings; and declared that the sheriff of Bucks ought to be fined for not putting upon him twenty pounds. But it was replied upon the part of Hampden, that the amount of the assessment was not in question, it was the principle of it. That the Dane-gelt could give no evidence in the case, the imperfect accounts to be drawn on the subject from our ancient writers being too vague and uncertain. Nor could the practice of any monarchs before or after Magna Charta, establish any law on the subject, for Magna Charta abrogated any arbitrary customs that had gone before, and strictly and clearly forbade them afterwards. That no breach of that great charter could be pleaded against it, for it was paramount and perpetual in its authority. That various statutes since, and last of all the Petition of Right, assented to by the king himself, made any such taxation without consent of parliament illegal and void. That the very asking of loans and benevolences of different monarchs was sufficient proof of this, for if they had the right to tax, they would have taxed, and not borrowed. That the most arbitrary prince that ever sate on the English throne, Henry VIII., when he had borrowed, and was not disposed to repay, did not consider his own fiat sufficient to cancel the debt, but called in parliament to release him from the obligation. They reminded the judges of the great Edward I.'s confirmation of the charters, and of the statute De Tallagio non concedendo. As to the plea of imminent danger from foreign invasion, as in the case of the great Armada, as the crown lawyers had instanced, such cases, they argued, were next to impossible; notices of danger, as in the case of the Armada itself, being obtained in almost every instance in ample time to call together parliament. That in this case, there was no urgency whatever to prevent the summoning of a parliament; for neither the insolence of a few Turkish pirates, nor even the threats of neighbouring states were of consequence enough to warrant the forestalling of the constitutional functions of parliament.

The crown lawyers, baffled by this unanswerable statement, then unblushingly took their stand on the doctrine that the king was bound by no laws, but all laws proceeded from the grace of the king, and that this was a right which all monarchs had reserved from time immemorial. It was a pitiful sight to see men to whom the nation looked for the sound and faithful maintenance of the constitution, - namely, the judges, following in this outrageous course, and echoing the barefaced violation of common sense uttered by the attorney and solicitor general; as if king John had made any reservation from the sweeping clauses of Magna Charta, which was wrung from him; or as if it were not in the knowledge of all men that Charles himself had assented fully and unequivocally to the very fact which they were denying. Justice Crawley declared that the right of such arbitrary impositions resided ipso facto in the king as king, that you could not have a king without these rights, no, not by act of parliament. "The law," said judge Berkeley, "knows no such king-yoking policy. The law is an old and trusty servant of the king's; it is his instrument or means which he useth to govern his people by. I never read or heard that Lex was Rex, but it is common and most true that Rex is Lex." The pliable Finch, who did not need anybody to sit on his skirts here, as they had done when he was speaker of the commons, said, u Acts of parliament are void to bind the king not to command the subjects, their persons, and goods, and, I say, their money, too, for no acts of parliament make any difference," Certainly they made no difference to him, and if these base lawyers could have talked away the rights of the people of England, they would have done it for their own selfish interests. When Holborne contended that it was not only for themselves, but for posterity, that they were bound to preserve the constitution intact, Finch testily exclaimed - "It belongs not to the bar to talk of future governments; it is not agreeable to duty to have you bandy what is the hope of succeeding princes, when the king hath a blessed issue so hopeful to succeed him in his crown and virtues," But Holborne replied, "My lord, for that whereof I speak, I look far off - many ages off; five hundred years hence!"

But all the judges were not of that stamp; Hutton and Croke, who had dissented when the opinion of the judges was first taken, now made a bold stand against the illegal practice. As the ruin of a judge who thus dared to act in upright independence, was pretty certain at that time, we may estimate the degree of virtue necessary to such decision, and the noble self-sacrifice of lady Croke, who bade her husband give no thought to the consequences of discharging his duty, for that she would be content to suffer want, or any misery with him, rather than he should do or say anything against his judgment and conscience,

The case was not decided till the Trinity Term, the third term from the commencement of the trial, when, on the 12th of June, 1638, judgment was entered against Hampden in the Court of Exchequer, But even then five of the judges had the courage to decide for Hampden, though three of them did this only on technical grounds, conceding the main and vital question. These were Brampton, chief justice of the King's Bench, Davenport, chief baron of the exchequer, and Durham, also an exchequer judge. Hutton and Croke pronounced decidedly against the right of the king to impose ship-money. The seven judges who pronounced for the destruction of the liberties of the nation and whoso names ought to be preserved, were Finch, chief justice of the Common Pleas, Jones, Berkeley, Vernon Crawley, Trevor, and Weston.

The decision of this most important trial was apparently in favour of the king, and there was, accordingly, much triumphing at court; but in reality, it was in favour of the people, for it had been so long before the public, and the arguments of Hampden's counsel were so undeniable, those of the crown so absolutely untenable, and opposed to all the history of the nation, that the matter was everywhere discussed, and men's opinions made up that, without a positive resistance to such claims and such doctrines as had here been advanced, the country was a place of serfdom, and the bloodshed and the labour of all past patriots had been in vain It was accordingly found that people were more averse than ever to pay these demands; and even the courtly Clarendon confesses that "the pressure was borne with much more cheerfulness before the judgment for the king than ever it was after." Lord Say made a determined stand against it in Warwickshire, and would fain have brought on another trial like that of John Hampden; but the king would not allow another damaging experiment; and events came crowding after it of such a nature, as showed how deep the matter had sunk into the public mind.

The course which matters were taking was exceedingly disgusting to the Gog and Magog of despotism, Laud and Wentworth. The latter had been appointed lord president of the north, where he had ruled with all the overbearing will of a king. The council of the north had been appointed by Henry VIII., to try and punish the insurgents concerned in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and it had been continued ever since on as lawless a basis as that of the star-chamber itself -In fact, it was the star-chamber of the five most northern counties of England, summoning and judging the subjects without any jury, but at the will of the council itself. Wentworth had risen on his apostacy from a simple baronet to be privy councillor, baron and viscount, and president of the north, with more rapidity than Buckingham himself had done. On accepting this last office, his power and jurisdiction were enlarged, and he displayed such an unflinching spirit in exercising the most despotic will, that on difficulties arising in Ireland, he was, without resigning his presidency of the north, transferred thither, where Charles had resolved to introduce the same subjection to his sole will as in England and Scotland.

When the unfortunate expedition to Cadiz had been made, and the king feared the Spaniards would retaliate by making a descent on Ireland, he ordered the lord deputy, lord Falkland, to raise the Irish army to five thousand foot and five hundred horse. There was no great difficulty in that, but the question how they were to be maintained was not so easy. Lord Falkland, who was one of the most honourable and conscientious of men, called together the great landed proprietors, and submitted the matter to their judgment. These, who were chiefly catholics, offered to advance the necessary funds on condition that certain concessions should be made to the people of Ireland. These were, that, besides the removal of many minor grievances, the recusants should be allowed to practise in the courts of law, and to sue the livery of their lands out of the court of wards on their taking the oath of allegiance without that of supremacy, That the undertakers should on the several plantations have time to fulfil the conditions of their leases. That the claims of the crown should be confined to the last sixty years, the inhabitants of Connaught being allowed a new enrolment of their estates; and finally, that a parliament should be held, to confirm these graces, as they were called.

Delegates were sent to London to lay these proposals before the king, and on the agreement to pay one hundred and twenty thousand pounds by instalments in three years, Charles readily granted these articles of grace, amounting to fifty-one. But meantime, a rumour of these concessions having got out, the Irish established church had made a great opposition, and though the parliament was called, nothing was done, nor did Charles intend to do more than get the money, As lord Falkland was the last man in the world to be a party to anything so dishonourable, he -was recalled, and Wentworth was sent over, in the July of 1632, to do the dirty work.

Wentworth's arrival in Ireland was tantamount to a revolution there. He introduced all the regulations of the English court at the castle, assumed a guard like the king, which no deputy before him had done, and carried himself with a haughty demeanour which made the Irish lords stand amazed. The only good which he effected was in putting down the multitude of minor tyrants, but then he combined all their tyranny and oppressions in himself. He was ready to bear any amount of odium, because he trusted to the king's support, and this Charles liked well enough, as it removed the odium from himself, The great object was to raise a large permanent revenue, and Wentworth soon informed Charles that if this was to be done, there must be an end to making large grants to needy English nobles, who absorbed that which should flow to the crown. Charles had promised such grants to the duke of Lennox, the earl of Arundel, and others; but on learning Wentworth's views, secretary Windebank wrote, at the king's command, that Wentworth was at liberty to refuse them these grants, so that he took "the refusing part" on himself. Of that Wentworth made no difficulty, not foreseeing that he would in time accumulate such an amount of hatred thereby, as would prove his destruction.

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