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HAMPDEN, Richard (aft.1674-1728), of Great Hampden, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. aft. 1674, 1st s. of John Hampden, M.P., of Great Hampden by his 1st w. Sarah, da. of Thomas Foley of Witley Court, Worcs., wid. of Essex Knightley of Fawsley, Northants; bro. of John Hampden. m. 1701, his cos. Isabella, da. of Sir William Ellis, 2nd Bt., M.P., of Wyham and Nocton, Lincs., sis. of Sir Richard Ellis, 3rd Bt. suc. fa. 1696.
Chairman of committee of privileges and elections 1715-22; teller of the Exchequer 1716-18; treasurer of the navy 1718-20.
Richard Hampden, whose great-grandfather had resisted ship-money, succeeded to the family estates and interest at Wendover on his father’s death by his own hand. At George I’s accession he insisted on standing for the county, in spite of an appeal from the head of the Buckinghamshire Whigs, Lord Wharton, to
be contented with having been the wilful occasion of this shameful compromise with the Tories ... without forcing of us to divide amongst ourselves and to tear one another to pieces ... I am to tell you from Mr. Stanhope, that he keeps open for you an employment abroad which is the best the King hath in his gift and which he apprehended would have been agreeable to you, the embassy to Constantinople.1
Returned unopposed with a Tory, he was chosen to be chairman of the elections committee of the Commons and to be a member of the secret committee set up to inquire into the late Tory Administration. Next year he moved the impeachment of Lord Winton for his part in the rebellion; supported the septennial bill in a long speech, which he sent to a periodical for publication;2 and obtained a lucrative sinecure, which did not prevent him from joining the Duke of Argyll in caballing against the Government (see under Lechmere, Nicholas). In 1717, according to auditor Edward Harley,
Mr. Hampden, one of the secret committee, nine days before the trial [of the Earl of Oxford in June] told me that there never had been produced to the committee any evidence to prove the articles, that the Lord Oxford’s answer had never been read in the secret committee, and that it was a most scandalous proceeding, which he was resolved to expose in the House. Notwithstanding he had said this to me and so many others, yet he becomes the first man that opens the impeachment.3
Exchanging his sinecure in 1718 for the still more lucrative office of treasurer of the navy, which he obtained through the King’s mistress, the Duchess of Kendal, he spoke in support of the peerage bill in 1719. In the year of the South Sea bubble, 1720, he used naval funds to speculate in the stock of the South Sea Company with a view to making a personal profit, incurring losses later stated in the Commons to be £90,000, of which only £47,941 was secured. Dismissed from his office, he appealed to the Duchess of Kendal, 17 Nov. 1720, admitting that
tant que le saison du profit prodigieux que chacun y faisait a continué, j’ai acheté des terres et des maisons, et j’ai fait d’autres dépenses, n’ayant pas le moindre soupçon que je ne pusse trouver les occasions de me retirer hors de ces actions sans que les affaires du Roy sous mon inspection en reçussent le moindre tort. Mais la chute prompte, inopprimée, et surprennante de ces actions m’a absolument privé du dessein que j’avais formé de replacer l’argent que j’y avois employé, et par ce malheureux baissement du crédit je suis devenu incapable de fournir les sommes qui en peu de semaines seront dues à la marine. Et pour surcroit de malheur, à peine avois-je commencé à travailler par mon crédit à procurer l’argent que j’y devois fournir, que j’ai reçu la nouvelle de ma disgrace, et que le Roy avoit trouvé à propos de mettre un autre en ma place.4
After being returned for Wendover in 1722, he applied unsuccessfully to Sunderland for the Constantinople embassy, offering part of the salary and half or two thirds of the annual value of his estates towards the discharge of his debt to the Government.5 His next move was to petition Parliament for relief in March 1726. The debate on the petition is described as having ‘run on the merit and antiquity of the family, and that it was necessary to show some compassion to that, though none to him’.6 In the end an Act was passed vesting the estates in trustees, provision being made for preserving Great Hampden in the family, while securing the debts to the Crown.
On George II’s accession Hampden wrote several begging letters to the new King’s mistress, his cousin, Mrs. Howard. Offering through her a seat at Wendover to the Crown, he attributed his position solely to the so-called
bill for my relief ... I did hope to find a little more protection from ruin in this reign than in the last, when I was persecuted incessantly by Sir Robert, but on what ground I am yet ignorant of.
At the general election he was ‘unresolved till the country [i.e. county] being in distress for a proper person to set up against the compromise, declared for him without his knowledge’. Estimating his prospective expenses at nearly £600, he suggested to Mrs. Howard that if help were not forthcoming he would be obliged to travel abroad ‘with any young gentleman at £100 salary ... and by that means avoid going to gaol’.7 Returned for both Wendover and the county, he sat for the latter till his death, 27 July 1728.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: R. S. Lea
- 1. Verney Letters of 18th Cent. i. 317-20; Wharton to Hampden, 9 Oct., 29 Nov. 1714, Glynde mss, E. Suss. RO.
- 2. Pol. State xi. 463; xxxvii. p. vii.
- 3. HMC Portland, v. 668-69.
- 4. Glynde mss.
- 5. April 1722, Sunderland (Blenheim) mss.
- 6. Knatchbull Diary, 11 Mar. 1726; CJ, xx. 597.
- 7. Hampden to Mrs. Howard, undated, 30 June, July and Aug. 1727, Add. 22629, ff. 18, 20, 21, 23; Verney Letters, ii. 101.