HC Deb 14 July 1851 vol 118 cc656-61

said, he must refer to the subject of the charges which had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Horsman) against the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, with reference to the leasing of the Horfield Manor estate. The hon. Member for Cocker-mouth had, in support of his charges, quoted certain documents and papers which were on the table of the House, but that nevertheless the subject had been taken from that House, and some explanations had been made in another place, and where those documents were not forthcoming. The hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. P. Miles) had written a letter to one of the newspapers on this subject; and he (Mr. Hume) thought it would be desirable, if he or any other hon. Member could give any explanation on this subject, that they should do so. He begged to ask the hon. Member for Bristol whether it was his intention to make any statement to the House in explanation of the charges which had been made against the right rev. Prelate?


said, that his object in writing the letter to which reference had been made, was to ask the House and the public to suspend their judgment until a reply to these charges should have been obtained from the right rev. Prelate. That reply had been obtained from him, and had been published in the newspapers. Hon. Gentlemen would form their own opinion as to whether that was or was not a sufficient reply to the charges which had been brought forward. He (Mr. Miles) had his own view of that question. He had stated to the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Horsman), that if he brought the subject before the House, as he stated that he would on Wednesday last, he should be prepared to reply to any charges he might bring forward; and whenever that hon. Member did so, he (Mr. Miles) should be prepared to reply. But if the House considered that, after what had passed upon the subject, any explanation was due from him, he was quite prepared to give it them.


said, that he had made a statement in that House as publicly as he could, of circumstances which were to be found detailed in evidence given before a Committee of that House, and which was in the possession of that House. He had made that statement in the presence of various members of the Ecclesiastical Commission. There had been, as far as he aware, no answer or explanation whatever given of those charges. That House knew nothing of any letter written by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, or of any other explanation which had been given elsewhere, on any part of the subject. When he saw the letter which was written by the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. P. Miles), whose reasons for writing it in the absence of the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, and before any communication could be had with him, were to his (Mr. Horsman's) mind quite satisfactory, he immediately saw the hon. Gentleman, and stated to him that, with his views, he felt he was quite justified in the course that he was taking, and that he (Mr. Horsman) would give him every facility for that course. He also said that it was unnecessary for him (Mr. Horsman) to repeat the statement which he had made, but that he thought it would be satisfactory to him (Mr. P. Miles) if he pointed out the specific part of the evidence from which he had drawn his statement. It was unnecessary for him to repeat that statement, but he wished to give the hon. Member and that House the fullest knowledge of the source from whence he drew his inference. They agreed, if possible, to bring the question before the House on Monday before the public business; but it was found impossible to do so, as it was inconvenient to the Government in the first instance, and besides that, there were Members on each side of the House who had Motions on going into Committee of Supply, and who would have been obliged to postpone them had this question been brought forward. It was found equally difficult to bring it on in Committee of Supply, as there were ten or a dozen Motions that had precedence before the Committee; and further than that, every notice day up to the 29th of July was filled up, so that it was impossible for him, however anxious he might be, to bring forward this question any more. He might, no doubt, on going into Committee of Supply, have made a statement, but that was already before the public. It had not been answered, and he should have put himself in a wrong position with the House if he had reiterated a statement of which no explanation and to which no answer had been attempted. The hon. Member for Bristol said that as soon as a letter had been received from the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, he felt that the responsibility was taken from his shoulders, and that unless he (Mr. Horsman) made a move on the subject, it was not his intention to bring the question forward. He must say, that he heard with surprise that when a statement was made in that House on evidence before the House, it was not considered expedient to give any answer to it there, but that a right rev. Prelate should be set up to give an explanation elsewhere to an assembly which had never heard the statement, and had not before them the evidence on which it was founded. It appeared to him that the friends of the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol had chosen the most unintelligible and inconsistent course which they could have pursued. If they had chosen, they might have said that the statement made by an hon. Member of that House was so improbable that it was not worth answering, or that an answer had been given by the letter of the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol in the public newspapers, and that that settled the question. That would be intelligible; but the course which was not intelligible was, that they should say that further explanation was necessary, and that another answer was required; but that the explanation should be given and the answer should be afforded, not in the place where the statement was made, and where the evidence was in existence in order to substantiate that statement, but in another place, where any one who chose to make an answer to that statement could make it before an assembly who were necessarily ignorant of the circumstances, and where he might speak with all the fearlessness of a man who knew that he could not be contradicted. As far as he was concerned, he thought the public would draw their own conclusions. He had expressed himself ready and anxious to substantiate the accuracy of the statement which he had made; and not only that, but in some points the circumstances turned out stronger than what he had stated. If, when he stated that publicly, and when he had no opportunity of going into that subject, no answer was to be given and no explanation was to be afforded, but the question and the discussion were removed to another assembly, which was necessarily ignorant of the circumstances, all he could say was, that the public might draw their own conclusions; but at any rate he (Mr. Horsman) was in this position, that he had brought before the House an abuse of a very serious character, and if the House did not think it necessary that any further explanation or answer should be given, he did not feel that he was called upon to endeavour to enforce it. The hon. Member for Bristol had told him very fairly, that his motive in writing his letter was to ask the public to suspend their judgment until some further answer was given; and also that he was not aware, and was not a party to any such proceeding as that of which he complained—the removal of the explanation from that to another House. He (Mr. Horsman) was sure that the hon. Member for Bristol was not a party to, and was not aware of that proceeding, but he must say, that a more evasive or unsatisfactory retiring from a charge, or a more full and complete acknowledgement of the correctness of that charge, it was difficult for him to conceive.


said, that the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Horsman) had intimated that the answer given, in the fullest manner, by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol to the charges made against him, and which had appeared in the public prints, was no answer to those charges. The hon. Gentleman had also expressed his great surprise that a further answer was attempted to be given, not in that House, but in some other place. Now, if the hon. Gentleman was so very strict in his observance of the rules of that House, he (Lord John Manners) thought he should in consistency decline to take notice of any debate that might be going on in another place. For his own part, he (Lord J. Manners) regarded the answer which had appeared in the columns of the public papers as an answer to the charges made against the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol by the hon. Member for Cocker-mouth; and he thought the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. P. Miles) was fully justified in considering that the charges were satisfactorily disposed of by the right rev. Prelate himself. If the forms of the House had permitted it, no doubt it might have been convenient to the hon. Member for Cockermouth to have supported the charges which he had made, and to have afforded his (Lord J. Manners's) hon. Friend (Mr. P. Miles) to reply to the charges in detail; but he considered that, under the circumstances, the convenience of the House and of the public was best consulted by the course his hon. Friend proposed to take. He (Lord J. Manners) would only say further that he regretted the hon. Member for Cockermouth should have taken that opportunity of again repeating in very strong, emphatic, and elaborately prepared terms, the charges in which he had before indulged against the right rev. Prelate.


said, that he thought it was not desirable that the House should enter on a question of this kind at that moment. In saying this he was not blaming the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Horsman), but was rather excusing himself for not entering upon it, upon this ground, that no notice having been given of the discussion, it would therefore be irregular and improper. Without meaning to go into the discussion, he must say that he thought the hon. Member was quite right in expressing his readiness to enter upon the further discussion of the question, because he was bound to say that his statements of facts had been most seriously impugned on most material points; and for his own sake therefore, as well as for that of other parties, he thought there should be some further discussion on this subject whenever a suitable occasion should arise. It was with great surprise and pain that he heard the detail of the circumstance that was given, he was sure without any intentional error, by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cockermouth, because he had a very strong recollection that, being much accustomed to hear of the dealings and transactions of different bishops in regard to charitable and eleemosynary objects, there was no man, so far as he was aware, on the episcopal bench who bore a more distinguished character for liberality than the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol. He (Mr. Gladstone) had no friendship or acquaintance with him, but he must confess that, under these circumstances, it came upon him with great surprise that he should be considered to have been implicated in misconduct of so grave a kind. He would state fairly his own opinion of the vindication of the right reverend Prelate, which, in his opinion, was complete—in some points indeed more than complete, because it established not only innocence, but liberality and high merit on his part. At the same time he admitted the fairness of the course pursued by the hon. Gentleman in challenging further discussion; for he thought it would be for the advantage of all parties that that should take place.

Subject dropped.

Main Question put, and agreed to.