HALE, Matthew (1609-76), of Alderley, Glos. and Lincoln's Inn.
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Family and Education
b. 1 Nov. 1609, o.s. of Robert Hale, barrister, of Lincoln’s Inn by Joan, da. of Matthew Poyntz of Alderley. educ. Wotton-under-Edge (John Stanton); Magdalen Hall, Oxf. 1626; L. Inn 1628, called 1636. m. (1) by 1640, Anne, da. of Sir Henry Moore, 1st Bt., of Fawley, Berks., 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 6da.; (2) 18 Oct. 1667, Anne, da. of Joseph Bishop of Fawley, s.p. suc. fa. 1614; kntd. 30 Jan. 1662.1
Governor, Covent Garden precinct 1646; bencher, L. Inn 1648; j.p. Glos. 1656-d., commr. for militia 1659, oyer and terminer, Oxford circuit July 1660, assessment, Glos. 1664-d., Mdx. 1673-d.
Chairman, law reform commission 1652-3; judge of probate 1653-4; serjeant-at-law 1654; j.c.p. 1654-8; commr. for trade 1655-7; chief baron of the Exchequer 7 Nov. 1660-71; c.j.K.b. 1671-6.2
Hale, the outstanding lawyer of his generation, inherited a small estate of £100 p.a. Receiving a puritan education, he took no part in the Civil War, but assisted in the defence of Archbishop Laud and other Royalists. He was appointed chairman of the law reform committee by the Rump and raised to the bench by Cromwell, serving at the same time for his county in the first Protectorate Parliament, but he relinquished his judgeship on Cromwell’s death.3
At the general election of 1660 Hale was invited to stand both for Oxford University and Gloucestershire, and returned for the county after a contest. Lord Berkeley ‘bore all the charge of the entertainments on the day of his election, which was considerable’. A very active Member, he was appointed to 87 committees and made 14 recorded speeches in the Lower House of the Convention. Lord Wharton marked him as a friend, to be approached by himself, and he was clearly in opposition on several important issues. On the receipt of the King’s letter, according to Burnet, he
moved that a committee might be appointed to look into the propositions that had been made and the concessions that had been offered by the late King during the war, particularly at the Treaty of Newport, that from thence they might digest such propositions as they should think fit to be sent over to the King.
The motion was unsuccessful, but Hale was appointed one of the managers of the conference with the Lords on the subject. He seconded the motion of Arthur Annesley for the admission of Edmund Ludlow to the House. He was named to the committees for the land purchases and indemnity bills, and helped to prepare for a conference on the regicides on 21 May. He was confirmed as serjeant-at-law on 22 June. He spoke in favour of naming a day to hear the petition from the intruded dons at Oxford, and was appointed to the committee. In a debate on the indemnity bill he moved ‘to cement differences’ by limiting the exceptions to 20, as originally drafted, and in accordance with the King’s desire and the faith of the House. His first wife had come from a Roman Catholic family, and he advised against pressing the Papists to take the oaths ‘for fear of making them desperate’. He opposed questioning lawyers who had appeared for the prosecution in the High Courts of Justice. He accepted the Thirty-Nine Articles, ‘but thought it not fitting’ to join them in the same paragraph with the Old and New Testaments, and urged the adjournment of the debate on 9 July without a division. He was given special responsibility for the tunnage and poundage bill and for bringing in a bill to appoint commissioners of sewers with Sir Anthony Irby and Edward King. On 28 July he moved for two bills to regularize Interregnum proceedings. The first, to confirm civil marriages, he brought in on 8 Aug., and two days later, with Nathaniel Bacon, he was directed to bring in a bill restraining grants of ecclesiastical leases. Perhaps his most impressive speech was in the debate of 17 Aug. on the Lords’ amendments to the indemnity bill. He agreed that ‘there was never so high a crime’ as the execution of Charles I.
If there should be cause shown by the Lords you may alter your vote, but the question ... was whether the Lords had shown that cause. But here is the case. Now they are in your power, you cannot let them go.
He moved for a committee to state the facts, which was immediately ordered and to which he was appointed. He continued to urge that the regicides who had surrendered themselves voluntarily should be pardoned, ‘for the honour of the King and the Houses’. To leave the decision to the King ‘was but to take a thorn out of our foot to put into the King’s’. He helped to manage the conference on 18 Aug., and was added to the committee to draft a petition on behalf of Lambert and Vane. On 5 Sept. he reported amendments to the ecclesiastical leases bill which he had prepared together with William Prynne and Heneage Finch. He was instructed to draft an order for preserving the timber in the Forest of Dean, and he took part in the conference on settling ministers on 10 Sept. After the autumn recess, his was the first name among those ordered to bring in the bill for modified episcopacy, and he was also named to the committee for the attainder bill. But on the same day he was removed from the Commons by his appointment as chief baron.4
Hale served as a judge with great distinction until a few months before his death. His behaviour in Church, according to Baxter, was ‘conformable but prudent’. He tried to mitigate the severity of the Conventicles Act wherever possible, and in 1668, together with Lord Keeper Bridgeman, drafted a comprehension bill. He died on 25 Dec. 1676, and was buried in the churchyard at Alderley. He had not greatly enriched his family, despite the studied simplicity of his life-style. His estate was worth under £900 p.a., and none of his descendants sat in Parliament.5