in 1640 as member for Wootton Bassett. Respect and veneration for the law and constitution of England were already fundamental principles with Hyde, and the flagrant violations and perversions of the law which characterized the twelve preceding years of absolute rule drove him into the ranks of the popular party. He served on numerous and important committees, and his parliamentary action was directed chiefly towards the support and restoration of the law. He assailed the jurisdiction of the earl marshal’s court, and in the Long Parliament, in which he sat for Saltash, renewed his attacks and practically effected its suppression. In 1641 he served on the committees for inquiring into the status of the councils of Wales and of the North, distinguished himself by a speech against the latter, and took an important part in the proceedings against the judges. He supported Stafford’s impeachment, and did not vote against the attainder, subsequently making an unsuccessful attempt through Essex to avert the capital penalty. Hyde’s allegiance, however, to the church of England was as staunch as his support of the law, and was soon to separate him from the popular faction. In February 1641 he opposed the reception of the London petition against episcopacy, and in May the project for unity of religion with the Scots, and the bill for the exclusion of the clergy from secular office. He showed special energy in his opposition to the Root and Branch Bill, and, though made chairman of the committee on the bill on the 11th of July in order to silence his opposition, he caused by his successful obstruction the failure of the measure. In consequence he was summoned to the king’s presence, and encouraged in his attitude, and at the beginning of the second session was regarded as one of the king’s ablest supporters in the Commons. He considered the claims put forward at this time by parliament as a violation and not as a guarantee of the law and constitution. He opposed the demand by the parliament to choose the king’s ministers, and also the Grand Remonstrance, to which he wrote a reply published by the king.
He now definitely though not openly joined the royal cause, and refused office in January 1642 with Colepeper and Falkland in order to serve the king’s interests more effectually. Charles undertook to do nothing in the Commons without their advice. Nevertheless a few days afterwards, without their knowledge and by the advice of Lord Digby, he attempted the arrest of the five members, a resort to force which reduced Hyde to despair, and which indeed seemed to show that things had gone too far for an appeal to the law. He persevered, nevertheless, in his legal policy, to which Charles after the failure of his project again returned, joined the king openly in June, and continued to compose the king’s answers and declarations in which he appealed to the “known Laws of the land” against the arbitrary and illegal acts of a seditious majority in the parliament, his advice to the king being “to shelter himself wholly under the law,. . . presuming that the king and the law together would have been strong enough for any encounter.” Hyde’s appeal had great influence, and gained for the king’s cause half the nation. It by no means, however, met with universal support among the royalists, Hobbes jeering at Hyde’s love for “mixed monarchy,” and the courtiers expressing their disapproval of the “spirit of accommodation” which “wounded the regality.” It was destined to failure owing principally to the invincible distrust of Charles created in the parliament leaders, and to the fact that Charles was simultaneously carrying on another and an inconsistent policy, listening to very different advisers, such as the queen and Digby, and resolving on measures (such as the attempt on Hull) without Hyde’s knowledge or approval.
War, accordingly, in spite of his efforts, broke out. He was expelled the House of Commons on the 11th of August 1642, and was one of those excepted later from pardon. He showed great activity in collecting loans, was present at Edgehill, though not as a combatant, and followed the king to Oxford, residing at All Souls College from October 1642 till March 1645. On the 22nd of February he was made a privy councillor and knighted, and on the 3rd of March appointed chancellor of the exchequer. He was an influential member of the “Junto” which met every week to discuss business before it was laid before the council. His aim was to gain over some of the leading Parliamentarians by personal influence and personal considerations, and at the Uxbridge negotiations in January 1645, where he acted as principal manager on the king’s side, while remaining firm on the great political questions such as the church and the militia, he tried to win individuals by promises of places and honours. He promoted the assembly of the Oxford parliament in December 1643 as a counterpoise to the influence and status of the Long Parliament. Hyde’s policy and measures, however, all failed. They had been weakly and irregularly supported by the king, and were fiercely opposed by the military party, who were jealous of the civil influence, and were urging Charles to trust to force and arms alone and eschew all compromise and concessions. Charles fell now under the influence of persons devoid of all legal and constitutional scruples, sending to Glamorgan in Ireland “those strange powers and instructions inexcusable to justice, piety and prudence.”
Hyde’s influence was much diminished, and on the 4th of March 1645 he left the king for Bristol as one of the guardians of the prince of Wales and governors of the west. Here the disputes between the council and the army paralysed the proceedings, and lost, according to Hyde, the finest opportunity since the outbreak of the war of raising a strong force and gaining substantial victories in that part of the country. After Hopton’s defeat on the 16th of February 1646, at Torrington, Hyde accompanied the prince, on the 4th of March, to Scilly, and on the 17th of April, for greater security, to Jersey. He strongly disapproved of the prince’s removal to France by the queen’s order and of the schemes of assistance from abroad, refused to accompany him, and signed a bond to prevent the sale of Jersey to the French supported by Jermyn. He opposed the projected sacrifice of the church to the Scots and the grant by the king of any but personal or temporary concessions, declaring that peace was only possible “upon the old foundations of government in church and state.” He was especially averse to Charles’s tampering with the Irish Romanists. “Oh, Mr Secretary,” he wrote to Nicholas, “those stratagems have given me more sad hours than all the misfortunes in war which have befallen the king and look like the effects of God’s anger towards us.” He refused to compound for his own estate. While in Jersey he resided first at St Helier and afterwards at Elizabeth Castle with Sir George Carteret. He composed the first portion of his History and kept in touch with events by means of an enormous correspondence. In 1648 he published A Full answer to an infamous and traiterous Pamphlet. . ., a reply to the resolution of the parliament to present no more addresses to the king and a vindication of Charles.
On the outbreak of the second Civil War Hyde left Jersey (26th of June 1648) to join the queen and prince at Paris. He landed at Dieppe, sailed from that port to Dunkirk, and thence followed the prince to the Thames, where Charles had met the fleet, but was captured and robbed by a privateer, and only joined the prince in September after the latter’s return to the Hague. He strongly disapproved of the king’s concessions at Newport. When the army broke off the treaty and brought Charles to trial he endeavoured to save his life, and after the execution drew up a letter to the several European sovereigns invoking their assistance to avenge it. Hyde strongly opposed Charles II.’s ignominious surrender to the Covenanters, the alliance with the Scots, and the Scottish expedition, desiring to accomplish whatever was possible there through Montrose and the royalists, and inclined rather to an attempt in Ireland. His advice was not followed, and he gladly accepted a mission with Cottington to Spain to obtain money from the Roman Catholic powers, and to arrange an alliance between Owen O’Neill and Ormonde for the recovery of Ireland, arriving at Madrid on the 26th of November 1649. The defeat, however, of Charles at Dunbar, and the confirmation of Cromwell’s ascendancy, influenced the Spanish government
- Clarendon St. Pap. ii. 337.
- Hist. of the Rebellion, iii. 164, the account being substantially accepted by Gardiner, in spite of inaccuracies in details (Hist. ix. 341, note).