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Predicting Civil War Allegiances: The Lawyers' Case Considered*

  • Wilfrid Prest


Conrad Russell has recently asked, not for the first time, how far the divided allegiances of members of the Long Parliament were anticipated in the parliaments of the 1620s. Many who sat as M.P.s in the third decade of the seventeenth century had died by the early 1640s, while not all those who still survived were either sufficiently vocal before 1629 or politically active after 1641 to be classifiable for the purposes of this exercise. Nevertheless, Professor Russell manages to assemble a small bloc of members whose earlier politico-religious sympathies and civil war alignments are both more or less known. This group of twenty-six men splits neatly 50:50 between Royalists and Parliamentarians. According to Russell, all that distinguished one from the other in the 1620s, and the sole effective predictor of their later allegiances, was religion. More specifically, the crucial variable turns out to be commitment to further godly reformation, strong in the case of future Parliamentarians, weak in the case of future Royalists. But for Russell's explicit rejection of any “supposed correlation between ‘Puritanism and Revolution,’” the casual reader might conclude that something resembling the Puritan Revolution was sneaking back into historio-graphical favor.



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The advice and criticism of several friends, including Chris Brooks, Trish Crawford, and John Reeve, is gratefully acknowledged. I accept full responsibility for residual errors of fact or judgment, and thank Irene Cassidy for her help in checking references.



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1 Russell, C.S. R., “Issues in the House of Commons, 1621-1629: Predictors of Civil War Allegiance,” Albion 23, 1 (1991): 2239 (hereafter cited as “Issues”). There is some overlap with Russell's 1987-88 Ford lectures, now published as The Causes of the English Civil War (Oxford, 1990), pp. 142–44. Cf. idem, Parliaments and English Politics 1621-1629 (Oxford, 1979), pp. 427-30, and Appendix, pp. 434-36 (“Political Views in the 1620s and Allegiance in the Civil War”).

2 Russell, , Causes, pp. 85, 9192.

3 “Issues,” p. 26.

4 Ibid., p. 26. The term “lawyer” is left undefined, but from the context it seems clear that Russell has in mind barristers or counsellors professing the common law.

5 DNB, s.v. Wilde, John; Keeler, M. F., The Long Parliament, 1640–1641 (Philadelphia, 1954), p. 394; Prest, W. R., The Rise of the Barristers (Oxford, 1986). p. 404.

6 >Keeler, Long Parliament, p. 147; Register of Admissions to Gray's Inn, 1521–1889, ed. Foster, Joseph (London, 1889), p. 136; The Pension Book of Gray's Inn 1569–1669, ed. Fletcher, R. J. (London, 1901), p. 264. Some confusion of the Crew(e)s, father and son, is apparent from the index references in Russell, , Parliaments and English Politics, p. 441, and idem, Unrevolutionary England (London, 1990), p. 310.

7 Ibid., p. 329; Prest, , Rise of the Barristers, p. 410. Bell, H. E., An Introduction to the History of the Court of Wards and Liveries (Cambridge, 1953), pp. 2122.

8 Cf. Aubrey's Brief Lives, ed. Dick, O. L. (Harmondsworth, 1962), p. 331: “I remember my Sadler (who wrought many years to that Family) told me that Mr. Selden had got more by his Prick than he had done by his practise. He was no eminent practiser at Barre.” The recondite nature of Selden's legal practice is brought out by Berkowitz, D. S., John Selden's Formative Years (Washington, D.C., 1988), ch. 6.

9 “Issues,” pp. 24-25; Causes, p. 143.

10 “Issues,” pp. 24-25; cf. Causes, p. 143.

11 Prest, , Rise of the Barristers, p. 276; cf. Herrup's, Cynthia comments, Albion 19, 4 (1987): 607–08.

12 Lords Journal, 8: 575; DNB, s.v. Hakewill, William, which refers to his taking the Solemn League and Covenant, although I cannot verify this claim.

13 Lincoln's Inn Library, MS. Black Book VII, fols. 517-531. Hakewill appeared in Chancery during Easter term 1642: C33/182, fols. 371v, 410, 431. There is a gap in the records between Michaelmas term 1642 and Hilary term 1643/44, but Hakewill's name does not appear among those counsel listed as practicing in the courts of Chancery, Exchequer of Pleas, or Wards during Easter term 1644 or 1645: Public Record Office, C33/183, fols. 99-160; C33/184, fols. 103v–169v; E125/30, fols. 200-203; Wards 9/556, pp. 623-75. Buckinghamshire Contributions for Ireland 1642, ed. Wilson, J., in Buckinghamshire Record Society 21 (1983): 80; Victoria County History of Buckinghamshire, ed. Page, F. W. (London, 1925): 3: 22.

14 Strafford originally nominated seven counsel, who were assigned to him by the Lords on 27 November 1640; Hakewill was added as an afterthought “upon the Humble Request of the Earl of Strafford” on 4 December: Lords Journal 4: 99, 104. For Cooke's letter, cf. Papers Relating to Thomas Wentworth, First Earl of Strafford, ed. Firth, C. H. (Camden Society, 1890), pp. 1420.

15 DNB, s.v. Chute, Challenor; Heme, John; D. Underdown, Pride's Purge (Oxford, 1971), pp. 70, 376; Williamson, J. B., The Middle Temple Bench Book (London, 1937), pp. 117, 119; P.R.O. London PROB11/209/145.

16 Of course such publications might be compatible with Russell's view of royalists as “not champions of arbitrary government, but sober defenders of the rule of law” (Causes, p. 132).

17 P.R.O., SP16/486/23; cf. SP16/483/43, draft of Lambe to Hakewill, 13 August 1641, where it appears that Lambe was seeking to tap Hakewill's expertise to defend “ye Ancient right of ye Qs court; wherin as I conceived yor knowledge was more than other mens….”

18 “Issues,” p. 37n; idem. Parliaments and English Politics, p. 233. Kopperman, P., Sir Robert Heath 1574–1649 (London, 1989), pp. 211, 237, and cf. Russell's review in Historical Journal 34 (1991): 225. Tyacke, N., Anti-Calvinists (Oxford, 1987), p. 140.

19 “Issues,” pp. 34-37; Kent Archives Office, U. 48 Z.3, 161 (R. Twysden, “Certain Considerations upon the Government of England”). This conclusion has been anticipated, at least in the case of Finch: cf. Everitt, A., The Community of Kent and the Great Rebellion 1640–60 (Leicester, 1966), p. 67.

20 DNB, s.v. Bankes, John; Glanville, John; Herbert, Edward; Littleton, Edward; Prest, , Rise of the Barristers, p. 342 (Ball). The dates of appointment point to a long-standing association in each case, except perhaps that of Glanville.

21 “The sample is too small to sustain a picture of a Parliamentarian court and a Royalist country, but at least it will do nothing to sustain the contrary picture” (“Issues,” pp. 25-26).

22 “Issues,” p. 25. Vane only became Secretary of State in 1640, although he previously held a series of offices in the royal household (DNB). Whitaker, one of the six clerks of the council extraordinary, failed to gain an ordinary clerkship in 1636 (Aylmer, G. E., The King's Servants [London, 1961], pp. 363, 470).

23 Kopperman, , Sir Robert Heath, pp. 278–81. Barnes, T. G., “Cropping the Heath: the Fall of a Chief Justice, 1634,” Historical Research 64 (1991): 331–43; The Diary of Sir Richard Hutton, ed. Prest, W. R., Selden Society, Supp. Ser. (1991): 110.

24 Cf. Aylmer, , King's Servants, p. 352.

25 Cf. Crew's 1628 letter to Buckingham, printed in Ormerod, G., History of Cheshire, ed. Helsby, G. (London, 1882), 3: 167; also his petition to Charles I, undated but after August 1628, in Cheshire Record Office, DAR D/98.

26 Thomas Malbon's Memoirs of the Civil War in Cheshire, ed. Hall, J., in Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society 19 (1889): 193–94.

27 “Issues,” pp. 28-30; Causes, ch. 6 (“The Rule of Law: Whose Slogan?”); idem, Unrevolutionary England (London, 1990), p. xii. Judson, Margaret A., The Crisis of the Constitution (1949; New York, 1976), p. 45 and ch. 2, passim. Gardiner, S. R., History of England from the accession of James I to the outbreak of the Civil War 1603–1642, 10 vols. (London, 1886), 7: 221–22.

28 Cf. Dicey, A. V., Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, Wade, E. C. S. (1885; London, 1959), pp. vi-vii, xcvicll, and Part II, passim; Walker, G. de Q., The Rule of Law (Melbourne, 1988).

29 Cf. Huntington Library, MS. Ellesmere 1182A, unfoliated: “The Lawes of England, which now wee enjoy, were not first framed and fashioned after the Lawes of the Romans and other heathens…but after ye pure and undefiled Lawes of God…”; Beinecke Library, Osbom Shelves, Tracts Box 1, Nos. 13-15, disbound folio, unpaginated: “The common Lawe of England which ys grounded uppon ye Lawe of God and true reason….”

30 As Russell has pointed out in relation to the Petition of Right (Parliaments and English Politics, pp. 348-49, 357-58).

31 Cf. Reeve, L. J., Charles I and the Road to Personal Rule (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 125-26, 145-49, 191–92; Sommerville, J. P., Politics and Ideology in England, 1603–1640 (London, 1986), pp. 3439. For a revealing earlier instance of covert official tampering with the judiciary, see Croft, P., “Fresh Light on Bate's CaseThe Historical Journal 30 (1987): 535–36.

32 Causes, pp. 156-57.

33 Cf. Malcolm, J. L., Caesar's Due (London, 1983), pp. 142–43. In this respect the ring mottoes chosen by newly-called Serjeants at law in 1637 (“Rex animat legem”) and 1640 (“Gratia Regis floret lex”) contrast strikingly with that used in the general call of 1648 (“Legem servire libertas”) (Baker, , Serjeants, pp. 469, 471, 473).

34 Elton, G. R., “The Rule of Law in Sixteenth-Century England,” in Tudor Men and Institutions, ed. Slavin, A. J. (Baton Rouge, 1972), pp. 265–94.

35 Hill, C., Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England (London, 1964), p. 9.

36 Littleton's own clerical connections (his brother John was a DD who became Master of the Temple Church in 1638) may be part of the answer (Prest, W. R., The Inns of Court under Elizabeth I and the Early Stuarts 1590–1640 [Totowa, N.J., 1972], pp. 189, 201). John Whistler, the barrister-M.P. for Oxford 1640-44, whom Russell notes as also opposing this measure, but excludes from his main sample on the grounds that his speaking record during the 1620s was insufficient “to permit classification on the parliamentary record,” is usually classed as a civil-war Royalist. However, Whistler himself claimed that his presence in Oxford during the war was involuntary, and he appears to have been imprisoned in December 1642 for “adhering to the Parliament and…by letters advising the Citizens not to take up Arms, or be helping or contributing towards the fortifying their City for the King” (Keeler, , Members of the Long Parliament, pp. 387–88; A'Wood, A., The History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford, 2 vols. [Oxford, 1796], 2: 457).

* The advice and criticism of several friends, including Chris Brooks, Trish Crawford, and John Reeve, is gratefully acknowledged. I accept full responsibility for residual errors of fact or judgment, and thank Irene Cassidy for her help in checking references.

Predicting Civil War Allegiances: The Lawyers' Case Considered*

  • Wilfrid Prest


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