John Hampden

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John Hampden

The English statesman John Hampden (1594-1643) was a leader of Parliament in its resistance to Charles I.

John Hampden was one of the largest landowners in Buckinghamshire. By his mother he was related to Oliver Cromwell. He received a Latin grammar school education and attended Magdalen College, Oxford. His principal interest was the reading of classical and modern history, from which he derived his political principles.

Hampden's estate would have fitted him to take up a peerage during the reign of James I, but he had already become opposed to the court. He sat in the Parliament of 1621 and in all succeeding parliaments until his death. In 1625 he opposed a loan to Charles I not sanctioned by Parliament. He was also the ally and literary executor of Sir John Eliot, the most ideologically extreme leader of the opposition in Charles I's early parliaments.

In 1632 the Earl of Warwick granted lands to Hampden and others in Connecticut, which showed Hampden's continued alliance with the leaders of the parliamentary opposition. When the refusal of Warwick and Lord Saye to pay ship money did not provoke the King to prosecute them, Hampden refused to pay his assessment in 1635. The King did prosecute Hampden. He was represented by Oliver St. John, and in the momentous decision of the case 5 of the 12 judges refused to uphold the government. This was a grave blow to the King's legal position; it became the most famous event in Hampden's career.

When Parliament met in 1640, Hampden was the spokesman of opposition to ship money. His chief importance in the Long Parliament, however, became that of a master political organizer and tactician. He never led in debate but always waited until the issues had been discussed at length before making a short and pithy speech to bring the issue to an apparently agreed conclusion, but one which actually conformed to his own policy. He worked closely with Lord Saye, the most effective opposition member of the House of Lords.

The attempt of Charles I to arrest Hampden, John Pym, and the other "Five Members" of the Commons determined Hampden on a militant course of resistance to the King. He raised troops in Buckinghamshire and was active in campaigning against the King. Although Parliament's lord general, the Earl of Essex, was more hesitant in his opposition to the King than Hampden, Essex relied heavily on Hampden's military and political advice. But Hampden's political leadership was cut short. In a typically vigorous attack on Prince Rupert's forces on June 18, 1643, Hampden received a wound in his shoulder at Chalgrove Field in his native Buckinghamshire. The wound became gangrenous, and he died a few days later.

Basically it was Hampden's principled support of Parliament which won the support of the political nation between 1635 and 1642. The same principles were adhered to by his son, Richard, and grandson, John Hampden, who were leading opponents of the later Stuarts and architects of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Further Reading

G. N. Grenville, Baron Nugent, Some Memorials of John Hampden (1832; 2d ed. 1854), remains the basic study. Hugh Ross Williamson, John Hampden (1933), is a popularized biography. John Drinkwater, John Hampden's England (1933), presents a highly favorable account of the man.

Additional Sources

Adair, John Eric, A life of John Hampden, the patriot (1594-1643), London: Macdonald and Jane's, 1976. □

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Hampden, John (1594–1643). Hampden, a parliamentarian, sat in every Parliament from 1621 until his death. He was imprisoned in 1627 for refusing the forced loan and became a close friend of Sir John Eliot. He rose to national fame by providing the test case of the legality of ship money (1637–8), and in the Short and Long Parliaments his reputation was second only to Pym's. But he was more moderate than Pym—he would not vote for Strafford's attainder, and defused an explosive confrontation over the Grand Remonstrance—and his great influence stemmed partly from his conciliatory spirit. He had no doubts, however, over Parliament's cause in the Civil War. He raised his own foot regiment in his native Buckinghamshire, fought at Edgehill, and fell mortally wounded in a skirmish with Rupert's horse at Chalgrove Field. Compared with Pym, his great standing derived less from sheer oratory and managerial skill than from his human touch in debate and his evidently charismatic moral authority.

Austin Woolrych

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John Hampden (hămp´dən, hăm´–), 1594–1643, English parliamentary leader; cousin of Oliver Cromwell. He entered Parliament in 1621, became closely associated with Sir John Eliot, and was imprisoned (1627) for refusing to pay the forced loan demanded by Charles I. With Viscount Saye and Sele, John Pym, and other parliamentary leaders, he involved himself in various colonization schemes. In 1637, Hampden challenged the king's right to raise revenue by the device of ship money, a tax originally levied on ports for defense purposes but extended by Charles to inland counties. He was convicted (1638) by a very narrow margin for his refusal to pay the tax, and the case inflamed popular resentment against the king. Conspicuous as a leader of both the Short and Long Parliaments, Hampden was one of the five members whose attempted arrest by Charles (1642) helped to precipitate the English civil war. He raised a regiment for the parliamentarians and was mortally wounded at Chalgrove Field, fighting Prince Rupert.

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Hampden, John (1594–1643) English parliamentarian, a leader of the opposition to Charles I. As a result of his criticism and role in the Grand Remonstrance, Hampden was one of five members whom the king tried to arrest in the House of Commons in 1642, an act that spurred the English Civil War. As a result of his criticism and his part in drawing up the Grand Remonstrance, Hampden was one of the five members whom the king tried to arrest in the House of Commons in 1642, an act that precipitated the English Civil War.