John Pym

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For the Australian rugby player, see John Pym (rugby union).
John Pym.

John Pym (1584 – 8 December 1643) was an English parliamentarian, leader of the Long Parliament and a prominent critic of Kings James I and then Charles I. He was one of the Five Members whose attempted arrest by King Charles I in the House of Commons of England in 1642 sparked the Civil War. In addition to this Pym went ahead and started to accuse William Laud (the king's adviser) of trying to convert England back to Catholicism.

Early life and education[edit]

Pym was born in Brymore, Cannington, Somerset,[1] into minor nobility. His father died when he was very young and his mother remarried, to Sir Anthony Rous. Pym was educated in law at Broadgates Hall (now Pembroke College, Oxford) in 1599 and went on to the Middle Temple in 1602.[2] In May 1614, he married Anne Hooke of Bramshott in Hampshire, aunt of Robert Hooke and daughter of John Hooke and Anthony Rous's sister Barbara, who bore five of his children.[3] This marriage established Pym as a member of the Rous circle, which in turn influenced the development of his strong Puritanism and fierce opposition to Catholicism and Arminianism.

John Pym was the son of a lesser landowner of Somerset. When he was a boy, Pym's views on religion were molded by his stepfather, Sir Anthony Rous, who was a devout Puritan. The defeat of the Spanish Armada was his first memory of public events, and the Gunpowder Plot occurred when he reached his majority. These high points of foreign and domestic Catholic aggression were determinants of Pym's public career. In 1599 he entered Oxford and in 1602 took up his legal studies at Middle Temple.

Work in government[edit]

He entered Parliament in 1614, probably in the interest of the Earl of Bedford. The earl's family had long favored the Pyms, and the 4th earl remained John Pym's patron until the earl's death in 1641. In the Parliament of 1614 and again in 1621, Pym was most active in the matter of enforcing penalties against Catholics. He advocated an oath of loyalty by all Englishmen. A popular defense of English liberties was also a hallmark of Pym's political life. After Charles I dissolved Parliament in 1629, Pym became treasurer of the Providence Company, which projected colonies in Connecticut and then on Providence Island (Isla de Providencia) off the coast of Central America. Although the company had religious and economic ends, its chief importance was as a political rallying point for the opposition during Charles I's personal government. When Charles called Parliament in 1640, Pym was the most experienced leader of the Commons, and he immediately assumed leadership of that body. In the "Short" Parliament, Pym stressed the desire of the Commons for legal security, but when Parliament was summarily dissolved by the King, Pym keynoted the "Long" Parliament with a speech which stressed that the country was in danger because of its Catholic queen and its proto-Catholic clergy. It was an inflammatory call for the widest popular support for Parliament in a mortal struggle with the King. Pym's first order of business was the impeachment of the Earl of Strafford. Charles went to Scotland in August 1641 in order to find evidence of the complicity of Pym and others in the 1638 Scots invasion of England. When Charles returned to England in November 1641, Pym faced his greatest trial as leader of the Commons. There was a wave of support for the King, and the rebellion of the Irish in October gave Charles an excuse to raise an army which might have destroyed Parliament before it suppressed the Irish. Pym narrowly gained approval for the Grand Remonstrance, which recited the old faults of the King. Then, on Jan. 4, 1642, he maneuvered the King into making an unconstitutional entry into the House of Commons in order to arrest Pym and the other "Five Members." In that moment popular initiative returned to Pym and Parliament. They, not the King, were able to raise troops to suppress the Irish and prepare to meet the inevitable attempt of Charles to forcibly regain political mastery, which came on Aug. 14, 1642. Pym secured the passage of the militia and assessment ordinances by Parliament despite their flagrant violation of strict legality. He also secured the passage of the unpopular excise tax to finance the parliamentary war effort and organized associations of counties to administer the war; Cromwell's Eastern Association became the most famous and effective of these. Politically, he was also able to keep persons of such diverse values as the Earl of Essex, Oliver Cromwell, and Oliver St. John steady in their combined defense of Parliament. Pym's last act was to arrange for the entry of the Scots into the war on the side of the hard-pressed parliamentary forces in September 1643. That alliance was sealed by the covenant which bound all Englishmen to support Parliament. With that final program of popular unity, Pym succumbed to cancer and was buried in Westminster Abbey on Dec. 15, 1643.

English Civil War[edit]

When the English Civil War began in 1642, Pym became involved in solving the financial problems of the Parliamentary side, heading the Committee of Safety from 4 July 1642. He was a key organizer of the loans and taxes that Parliament needed to fund its army and fight the King, and he negotiated the Solemn League and Covenant that gained the support of Scottish Presbyterians.[2] These two things laid firm foundations for Parliament's success in 1645–6 because it now had financial and military resources far beyond those of the Royalists. Pym died, probably of cancer, at Derby House on 8 December 1643 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Following the Restoration of 1660 his remains were exhumed, despoiled and finally re-buried in a common pit.


  1. ^ "History of Brymore". Brymore School. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "John Pym, 1584-1643". British Civil Wars and Commonwealth. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "John Pym Member of the English Parliament". Family Ancestry. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Edward Carey
John Noyes
Member of Parliament for Calne
With: Richard Lowe 1614
John Duckett 1621-1622
Succeeded by
John Duckett
Sir Edward Howard
Preceded by
(Sir) Francis Glanville
Sir Baptist Hicks, Bt
Member of Parliament for Tavistock
With: Sampson Hele
Sir Francis Glanville
Sir John Ratcliffe
Sir Francis Glanville
Succeeded by
Parliament suspended until 1640
Preceded by
Parliament suspended since 1629
Member of Parliament for Tavistock
With: Lord Russell
Hon. John Russell
Succeeded by
Elisha Crimes
Edward Fowell