Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Character of Hampden
By Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon (16091674)
From the History of the Rebellion
MR. HAMPDEN 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 was used by men of the most jolly conversation. Afterwards, he retired to a more reserved and melancholy society, yet preserving his own natural cheerfulness 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 ecclesiastical 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 inquiring 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 began (being returned knight of the shire for the county where he lived), the eyes of all men were fixed on him, as their patriæ 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 mans in the kingdom, or than any man of his rank hath had at 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 in judgment, as if he brought no opinion 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 left his opinions with 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, to 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, that is 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 begat 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 up 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 combination soever had been originally with the Scots for the invasion of England, and what farther was entered into afterwards 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, any 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 were made; and was indeed much more relied on by that party, than the general himself. In the first entrance into the troubles, he undertook the command of a regiment of foot, and performed the duty of a colonel, on all occasions, most punctually. He was very temperate in diet, and a supreme governor over all his passions and affections, and had thereby a great power over other mens. 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 or 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 congratulated on 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 a head to contrive, and a tongue to persuade, and a hand to execute, any mischief. His death therefore seemed to be a great deliverance to the nation.