HC Deb 15 February 1859 vol 152 c402

said, that with reference to the question he had put yesterday to the right hon. Gentleman on this subject, he had to state that he was not aware that it was customary to give private notice of a question on occasions of this kind. It was only at half-past four of the previous afternoon that he had resolved to take the course of asking the question. He endeavoured to speak to the Home Secretary early in the evening on the matter, and did, indeed, find him in the lobby, but the right hon. Gentleman seemed too busy to attend to him. The question he now desired to repeat was, whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware whether Mr. William Francis Higgins had been appointed to the office of Master in Lunacy?


Sir, since the question was addressed to me yesterday with respect to transactions of which I had then no knowledge, I have had a communication from the Lord Chancellor, in which he has informed me that he should not have appointed Mr. Francis Higgins to the office in question unless he had been thoroughly convinced of his competency to fulfil the duties of that office. But, at the same time, the Lord Chancellor adds that it is unnecessary to enter into any controversy as to the merits of that gentleman, since, without, I believe, any consultation, certainly unconditionally and spontaneously—the moment Mr. Higgins was apprised of what had taken place yesterday in the House of Commons, he resigned the office which had been offered to him. He took that step, I am bound to say for him, not from any belief that he was unable to fulfil the duties of the office, but because, after what had occurred, he did not find it consistent with his feelings any longer to hold the appointment. I am bound to say that, in my opinion, in taking that course Mr. Higgins has acted with a due sense of self-respect; anti from what I have heard of that gentleman from many hon. Members of this House, some of whom have had official relations with him during a number of years, I am bound to say that, in taking that course, he acted consistently with the tenor of an honourable life.