HL Deb 04 July 1865 vol 180 cc1139-42

My Lords, I wish to claim indulgence for a few minutes on a matter personal to myself. I regret to find this morning, in a report of something which occurred elsewhere last night, in answer to a question put on the subject of Mr. Winslow's pension, that my name was introduced, and it is in connection with this that I desire now to offer an explanation. The report is as follows:— MR. WINSLOW'S PENSION. Major KNOX asked the Attorney General whether it was true that a pension had been granted by the Lord Chancellor to Mr. Winslow, late one of the Masters in Lunacy? and, if so, the amount of such pension, the grounds upon which it was granted, and whether it was refused by a former Chancellor? The ATTORNEY GENERAL: The pension granted by the present Lord Chancellor to Mr. Winslow is one of £1,000 a year, by an order made upon the 3rd of February 1863. The grounds upon which it was granted were these:—Mr. Winslow served for nearly thirty years, thirteen of which were in the office of Commissioner of Lunacy, and seventeen more as Master in Lunacy. On the 4th of February, 1859, he presented a petition to Lord Chancellor Chelmsford, stating, that he was labouring under serious permanent infirmities. That petition was supported by unexceptional certificates from two physicians and one surgeon. Mr. Winslow was obliged to resign his office owing to the presure of pecuniary difficulties. Before Lord Chancellor Chelmsford had taken that petition into consideration he left office without making any order. Therefore, according to the information I have received, it is not true, as stated by the hon. Gentleman, that any former Lord Chancellor ever refused this pension. Under the circumstances I have stated there was a delay of rather more than two years before the petition was presented to the present Lord Chancellor, and it was then supported by high testimonials, urging the propriety of Mr. Winslow's claims, from Lord Lyndhurst, Lord Brougham, Lord Justice Knight Bruce, Vice Chancellor Stuart, the Lord Chief Baron, Mr. Montague Smith, Mr. Bovill, Mr. Malins, and Mr. Commissioner Holroyd. Lord Chelmsford also wrote a letter to Mr. Commissioner Holroyd, saying, that it would give him great pleasure to see that the Lord Chancellor had taken a favourable view of Mr. Winslow's petition, and that he believed it would be gratifying to the whole profession. With these papers before him the Lord Chancellor, with the concurrence of the Law Officers of the Crown, and after deliberate consideration, granted a pension, not at the maximum of £1,200 a year, but at £1,000, or £200 less. I need not tell your Lordships that it is with regret I enter into this subject, at what I will call a most painful moment, but it is necessary for the vindication of my own conduct that I should do so, and I trust your Lordships will listen to me for a few moments with patience. It is quite true that Mr. Winslow, formerly one of the Masters in Lunacy, was, as the Attorney General states, in pecuniary difficulties. He was afraid of coming to his office, and absented himself for a considerable time; and I also heard that he had borrowed a considerable sum of money from the keeper of a lunatic asylum. I thought this highly unbecoming and improper in a person who stood in the character of visitor of houses of that description, and I therefore desired my principal Secretary to write to him calling his attention to the fact that he had been absent for a considerable time without leave and must return to his duties, and also requesting an explanation of the circumstance to which I have already alluded. A very short time after that letter was sent, Mr. Winslow came to my room—I am happy to state that both then and on a subsequent occasion my Secretary was present—and he stated that, having served a considerable time, he was most anxious to resign his office, and hoped I would recommend him for a pension. I told him that, however painful it might be to refuse such a request, it was quite impossible for me, under the circumstances, to give any such recommendation. Mr. Winslow went away; but he came back again in about a week—the exact number of days does not signify—but he then said that he was prepared to resign his office, provided I would recommend him to a pension. I told him then most distinctly, as I had told him before, "Mr. Winslow, understand this; if you resign, you do as you please, but it must be with the perfect understanding that I cannot, and will not, recommend you to a pension." About a week after that my principal Secretary told me that he had received a petition from Mr. Winslow, desiring to resign his office on the ground of ill-health, and sending a certificate to that effect. Without looking at the petition I told my Secretary that this was clearly an afterthought, that Mr. Winslow had never contemplated resigning on the ground of ill-health, that therefore I could not look either at the petition or the certificate, and I desired them to be returned. They were returned; and Mr. Winslow resigned his office without further communication and without having been recommended for a pension. Some time afterwards—I forget whether in the time of Lord Chancellor Campbell or of the present Chancellor—Mr. Winslow wrote several letters entreating me to certify that he had retired on the ground of ill-health; but I positively refused to do so, saying that in making any such declaration I should be stating what was untrue, and therefore I could not yield to the application. Among others who communicated with me on the subject was my very old friend Mr. Commissioner Holroyd. Unfortunately the letters which Mr. Winslow wrote to me I no longer possess. About a year and a half ago I thought there could be no further occasion for them, and I threw them into the waste-paper basket; and I am not in the habit of keeping copies of my own letters. It is possible, however, that Mr. Commissioner Holroyd may have the letter which I wrote to him about the same time on the same subject. Mr. Winslow subsequently wrote to me a very earnest petition, begging that I would do anything I could to help him to get a pension, upon which I wrote a letter to Mr. Commissioner Holroyd, and to the best of my recollection what I said was that I should be very glad if the Chancellor could see any reason for granting him a pension. I certainly did not say that such a step would be gratifying to the whole profession, because I knew that the profession were very little acquainted with Mr. Winslow, who had been out of their ranks for thirty years. I hope Mr. Holroyd has my letter, for I believe that if it can be produced it will establish the accuracy of my statement. I am not now complaining that this pension has been granted, and I was, I confess, very glad to know, considering the utter ruin which might otherwise fall on Mr. Winslow and his family, that the Lord Chancellor had deemed it to be consistent with his duty to grant him a pension. I am not at all disposed to quarrel with that course being pursued, and I am simply now desirous of explaining my own position in the matter. I have been the more anxious to do this, because the office in question is that to which, on the occurrence of the vacancy, I appointed my own son-in-law, a gentleman of the highest character, and a man whom I conscientiously believe to have been perfectly competent to the performance of the duties of the office. I have been blamed for withdrawing that appointment, inasmuch the doing so seemed like admitting—but which I never can admit—that I made a wrong appointment. I do not now want to enter into the painful pressure which was put upon me on that occasion, or to speak of the determination of my son-in-law not to hold an appointment on which there could be the slightest reflection. I am only anxious to vindicate the course I pursued. I have no wish to impute blame in the matter to anybody, while I am desirous that everything connected with the granting of the pension to Mr. Winslow should, so far as I am concerned, be fully understood by the public, so that they might see that I did not only not encourage any expectation that he would receive a pension, but that I in every possible way discouraged the idea.


My Lords, I do not rise to make any comments on the statement of the noble and learned Lord. He spoke of a letter which he wrote to Mr. Commissioner Holroyd. I would simply ask the permission of the House to read the letter, of which a copy has been placed in my hand since the noble and learned Lord began speaking. It is as follows:— July 25, 1862. My dear Holroyd,—It would give me very great pleasure to hear that the Chancellor had taken a favourable view of Mr. Winslow's case, and had recommended him for a pension. I was very much distressed when the position of his affairs compelled him to resign his office, and I was anxious to do everything in my power, consistently with my duty, to prevent the unfortunate necessity. After so many years' faithful service it seems hard that he should lose the retiring pension which many who have served less and not more zealously should now be enjoying. I am sure that the acknowledgment of Mr. Winslow's claim would be gratifying to the whole profession.