John Hampden, an English statesman, born in London in 1594, died at Thame, Oxfordshire, June 24, 1643. He was the son of William Hampden, a member of Queen Elizabeth's parliament, and Elizabeth Cromwell, aunt of the protector. His father left him large estates, and after studying at Oxford he was admitted a student of the Inner Temple in 1613. In 1619 he married Elizabeth Symeon. For several years he freely engaged in field sports and other amusements, "from which," says Clarendon, "he suddenly retired to extraordinary sobriety and strictness, and to a more reserved and melancholy society." On Jan. 30, 1621, he took his seat in parliament as member for the borough of Grampound, Cornwall. In the first parliament of Charles I. he sat for Wen-dover. He had not hitherto taken any prominent part in public affairs; his attention had been given mainly to the details of parliamentary business and to the local interests of his own country. But when the king, after the angry dissolution of two parliaments (1625 and 1627), attempted to raise money by a forced loan, apportioned among the people according to a previous rate of assessment, Hampden refused to lend a farthing, and was imprisoned.
His example was followed by 76 other landed gentlemen, who were also arrested, while recusants of a lower rank were pressed into the fleet or forced to serve in the army. A new parliament was summoned; and Hampden, having been liberated, was immediately reelected for Wendover. The "Petition of Rights" and other important concessions having been extorted from the king, and parliament having been again dissolved for protesting against his violation of them, Hampden retired to rural life, and devoted himself to literary pursuits. Eleven years passed without a parliament; the royal promises were unscrupulously violated, and the Puritans were persecuted. Among other arbitrary measures, Charles resorted to "ship money," a tax which the maritime counties had sometimes paid in time of war instead of furnishing ships for the navy, but which was now, in time of peace, demanded from the inland counties. Hampden, the first to resist the forced loan, was also one of the first to resist this unjustifiable proceeding, and resolved to bring to a solemn hearing the great controversy between the people and their oppressor. Toward the close of the year 1636 the cause came on in the exchequer chamber before the twelve judges, seven of whom pronounced against the disputant.
The only effect of the decision of this small majority was to exasperate the people. Strafford meanwhile declared that Hampden, and others like him, should be " well whipped into their right senses;" and so intense became the hatred of the king's counsellors, that the person of Hampden was scarcely safe. This decision of the exchequer chamber placed the property of every individual at the disposal of the crown. The persecuted party felt that there was no alternative but to seek their homes in other countries; but an order was issued by Charles's council, prohibiting shipmasters from carrying passengers from the kingdom without special license. It has been said that Hampden and his cousin Oliver Cromwell had taken passage in a ship ready to sail for America, and were actually on board when they were stopped by this decree; seven other ships crowded with emigrants were stopped at the same time. The Scottish rebellion followed, and the expenses of the war rendered it imperative for the king to obtain larger supplies.
A parliament was summoned to meet in April, 1640; it was soon dissolved, and another, the long parliament, met in November. Hampden was at this time the most popular man in England, and by universal consent was the member who exercised a paramount influence alike over legislature and people. He was one of the committee of twelve to conduct the memorable trial which led to Strafford's execution. Ho was one of the five members accused of treason, whose persons were demanded by Charles; but he was not arrested, in spite of the most strenuous efforts of the king. Almost the entire people were ready to protect and conceal Hampden and his confederates. "From this moment," says Clarendon, "his nature and carriage seemed fiercer than before." He was made a member of the committee of public safety, and the power of the sword being at length asserted, he prepared to take the field as a soldier. The king raised his standard • against the parliamentary troops at Nottingham, Aug. 22, 1642. Hampden commanded a regiment of volunteer infantry, which he had raised in his native county, and was so distinguished by his intrepid conduct in the succeeding movements, that a wish was expressed that he should take command of the whole army.
On the evening of June 17, 1643, Prince Rupert set out for Oxford with 2,000 men, on one of his expeditions. Hampden hastened with a body of volunteers to intercept his return, and overtook the enemy at Chal-grove. A skirmish ensued, and in the first charge Hampden was struck in the shoulder by two balls, which lodged in his body. After six days of acute suffering he expired, uttering with his latest breath a prayer for England.