1887 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. John Hinchliffe

Charles J. Abbey, in The English Church and its Bishops (1887) 2:243-45.



John Hinchcliffe (Peterborough 1769-94) was frequently associated with Shipley both in society and politics. Like him, he belonged to the Literary Club, a society of wits, statesmen, and authors, to which none were admitted who were not in some way conspicuous in, birth or talent. Hinchcliffe was not only "a most pleasing preacher, with a clear and melodious elocution," but also a skilled and graceful orator. It may be added that a bright, sociable manner made him a welcome companion. He often spoke in Parliament, and, like Shipley, was exceedingly anxious that war in America should not be pushed to extremities. In the earliest stage of the quarrel he had thought that although conciliation on the easiest terms should never be lost sight of, and though self-taxation might afterwards be conceded, yet that rights of legislature could not properly be surrendered to armed resistance. This was in 1774. But the next year, and so long as the war continued, he used all his admitted powers of eloquence in favour of peace. He earnestly deprecated warring for pre-eminence, or on a bare point of honour. He could not believe that absolute independence was the object of the colonies. If England would give up all idea of exacting unconditional submission, it would not yet be too late to win back loyalty. But if loyalty should go, who would wish to rest on military force? In 1778 he asked permission to address the House, not as a statesman only, but as a Christian, and earnestly implored the Lords not to carry out a system of reprisals, nor encourage the tomahawk and the scalping-knife, and establish desolation as a system. If Great Britain had any hope in the justice of her cause, she did ill to defeat that hope. In these debates Hinchcliffe was anxious to make it clear that he had no thought of being a busy meddler in political matters. But surely, where right, justice, and mercy were at stake, and not only questions, however important, of political, expedience, the Church did well to speak. It must be conceded with regret that some who sat with him on the episcopal bench were not of the same mind.

Hinchcliffe was a decided Whig, and is said to have declined the tuition of the Prince of Wales, on the ground that his political principles were not sufficiently in accord with those of the court. Like most or all of his party, though a great advocate of tolerance in general, he was very jealous of any concession of further liberty to the Roman Catholics.

We hear little of him on purely Church questions and in his pastoral capacity, and may conclude that in these points he was neither more nor less than the average bishop of his age.