« AnteriorContinuar »
however, is certain, that Hampden showed himself a fat better officer than Essex, and Cromwell than Lesley.
The military errors of Essex were probably in some degree produced by political timidity. He was honestly, but not warmly, attached to the cause of the Parliament; and next to a great defeat, he dreaded a great victory. Hampden, on the other hand, was for vigorous and decisive measures. When he drew the sword, as Clarendon has well said, he threw away the scabbard. He had shown that he knew better than any public man of his time, how to value and how to practise moderation. But he knew that the essence of war is violence, and that moderation in war is imbecility. On several occasions particularly during the operations in the neighbourhood of Brentford, he remonstrated earnestly with Essex. Wherever he commanded separately, the boldness and rapidity of his movements presented a striking contrast to the sluggishness of his superior.
In the Parliament he possessed boundless influence. His employments towards the close of 1642 have been described by Denham in some lines, which, though intended to be sarcastic, convey in truth the highest eulogy. Hampden is described in this satire, as perpetually passing and repassing between the military station at Windsor and the House of Commons at Westminster; overawing the general, and giving law to that Parliament which knew no other law. It was at this time that he organized that celebrated association of counties, to which his party was principally indebted for its victory over the king.
In the early part of 1643, the shires lying in the neighbourhood of London, which were devoted to the cause of the Parliament, were incessantly annoyed by Rupert and his cavalry. Essex had extended his lines so far, that almost every point was vulnerable. The young prince, who, though not a great general, was an active and enterprising partisan, frequently surprised posts, burned villages, swept away cattle, and was again at Oxford, before a force sufficient to encounter him could be assembled.
The languid proceedings of Essex were loudly condemned by the troops. All the ardent and daring spirits in the parliamentary party were eager to have Hampden at their head. Had his life been prolonged, there is every reason to believe that the supreme command would have been intrust.
ed to him. But it was decreed that, at this conjuncture, England should lose the only man who united perfect disinterestedness to eminent talents-the only man who, being capable of gaining the victory for her, was incapable of abusing that victory when gained.
In the evening of the 17th of June, Rupert darted out of Oxford with his cavalry on a predatory expedition. At chree in the morning of the following day, he attacked and dispersed a few parliamentary soldiers who were quartered at Postcombe. He then flew to Chinnor, burned the village, killed or took all the troops who were posted there, and prepared to hurry back with his booty and his prisoners to Oxford.
Hampden had, on the preceding day, strongly represented to Essex the danger to which this part of the line was exposed. As soon as he received intelligence of Rupert's incursions, he sent off a horseman with a message to the general. The Cavaliers, he said, could return only by Chiselhampton bridge. A force ought to be instantly despatched in that direction, for the purpose of intercepting them. In the mean time, he resolved to set out with all the cavalry that he could muster, for the purpose of impeding the march of the enemy till Essex could take measures for cutting off their retreat. A considerable body of horse and dragoons volunteered to follow him. He was not their commander. He did not even belong to their branch of the service. But "he was," says Lord Clarendon, "second to none but the general himself in the observance and application of all men." On the field of Chalgrove he came up with Rupert. A fierce skirmish ensued. In the first charge, Hampden was struck in the shoulder by two bullets, which broke the bone, and lodged in his body. The troops of the Parlia ment lost heart and gave way. Rupert, after pursuing them for a short time, hastened to cross the bridge, and made his retreat unmolested to Oxford.
Hampden, with his head drooping, and his hands leaning on his horse's neck, moved feebly out of the battle. The mansion which had been inhabited by his father-in-law, and from which in his youth he had carried home his bride, Elizabeth, was in sight. There still remains an affecting tradition, that he looked for a moment towards that beloved house, and made an effort to go thither to die. But the
enemy lay in that direction. He turned his horse towards Thame, where he arrived almost fainting with agony. The surgeons dressed his wounds. But there was no hope. The pain which he suffered was most excruciating. But he endured it with admirable firmness and resignation. His first care was for his country. He wrote from his bed several letters to London concerning public affairs, and sent a last pressing message to the head-quarters, recommending that the dispersed forces should be concentrated. When his last public duties were performed, he calmly prepared himself to die. He was attended by a clergyman of the Church of England, with whom he had lived in habits of intimacy, and by the chaplain of the Buckinghamshire Green-coats, Dr. Spurton, whom Baxter describes as a famous and excellent divine.
A short time before his death, the sacrament was administered to him. He declared that, though he disliked the government of the Church of England, he yet agreed with that Church as to all essential matters of doctrine. His intellect remained unclouded. When all was nearly over, he lay murmuring faint prayers for himself and for the cause in which he died. "Lord Jesus," he exclaimed, in the moment of the last agony, "receive my soul-0 Lord, save my country-O Lord, be merciful toIn that broken ejaculation passed away his noble and fearless spirit.
He was buried in the parish church of Hampden. His soldiers, bareheaded, with reversed arms and muffled drums and colours, escorted his body to the grave, singing, as they marched, that lofty and melancholy psalm, in which the fragility of human life is contrasted with the immutability of Him, in whose sight a thousand years are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
The news of Hampden's death produced as great a consternation in his party, according to Clarendon, as if their whole army had been cut off. The journals of the time amply prove that the Parliament and all its friends were filled with grief and dismay. Lord Nugent has quoted a remarkable passage from the next Weekly Intelligencer. "The loss of Colonel Hampden goeth near the heart of every man that loves the good of his king and country, and makes some conceive little content to be at the army now that he
gone. The memory of this deceased colonel is such, that in no age to come but it will more and more be had in honour and esteem ;—a man so religious, and of that prudence, judgment, temper, valour, and integrity, that he hath left few his like behind him."
He had indeed left none his like behind him. There still remained, indeed, in his party, many acute intellects, many eloquent tongues, many brave and honest hearts. There still remained a rugged and clownish soldier, halffanatic, half-buffoon, whose talents, discerned as yet only by one penetrating eye, were equal to all the highest duties of the soldier and the prince. But in Hampden, and in Hampden alone, were united all the qualities which, at such a crisis, were necessary to save the state-the valour and energy of Cromwell, the discernment and eloquence of Vane, the humanity and moderation of Manchester, the stern integrity of Hale, the ardent public spirit of Sidney. Others might possess the qualities which were necessary to save the popular party in the crisis of danger; he alone had both the power and the inclination to restrain its excesses in the hour of triumph. Others could conquer; he alone could reconcile. A heart as bold as his brought up the cuirassiers who turned the tide of battle on Marston Moor. As skilful an eye as his watched the Scotch army descending from the heights over Dunbar. But it was when, to the sullen tyranny of Laud and Charles, had succeeded the fierce conflict of sects and factions, ambitious of ascendency and burning for revenge; it was when the vices and ignorance which the old tyranny had generated, threatened the new freedom with destruction, that England missed that sobriety, that self-command, that perfect soundness of judgment, that perfect rectitude of intention, to which the history of revolutions furnishes no parallel, or furnishes a parallel in Washington alone.
NARES'S MEMOIRS OF LORD BURGHLEY.*
THE work of Doctor Nares has filled us with astonishment similar to that which Captain Lemuel Gulliver feit, when first he landed in Brobdignag, and saw corn as high as the oaks in the New Forest, thimbles as large as buckets, and wrens of the bulk of turkeys. The whole book, and every component part of it, is on a gigantic scale. title is as long as an ordinary preface. The prefatory matter would furnish out an ordinary book; and the book contains as much reading as an ordinary library. We cannot sum up the merits of the stupendous mass of paper which lies before us, better than by saying, that it consists of about two thousand closely printed pages, that it occupies fifteen hundred inches cubic measure, and that it weighs sixty pounds avoirdupois. Such a book might, before the deluge, have been considered as light reading by Hilpa and Shallum. But unhappily the life of man is now threescore years and ten; and we cannot but think it somewhat unfair in Doctor Nares to demand from us so large a portion of so short an existence.
Compared with the labour of reading through these volumes, all other labour-the labour of thieves on the tread-mill, of children in factories, of negroes in sugar plan
Memoirs of the Life and Administration of the Right Honourable William Cecil Lord Burghley, Secretary of State in the Reign of King Edward the Sixth, and Lord High Treasurer of England in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. Containing an Historical View of the Times in which he lived, and of the many eminent and illustrious Persons with whom he was connected; with extracts from his Private and Official Correspondence and other Papers now first published from the Originals. By the Reverend EDWARD NARES, D. D., Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Oxford. 3 vols. 4to. London, 1828, 1832.