Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Horsman, Edward

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HORSMAN, EDWARD (1807–1876), politician, born on 8 Feb. 1807, was son of William Horsman of Stirling, who died 22 March 1845, aged 86. His mother was Jane, third daughter of Sir John Dalrymple, bart., and sister of the seventh and eighth earls of Stair; she died in 1833. Edward was entered at Rugby at Midsummer 1819, and afterwards proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, but did not take a degree. He was admitted an advocate of the Scottish bar in 1832, but did not long continue to practise his profession. As a moderate liberal he unsuccessfully contested Cockermouth in 1835, but was successful at the following election on 15 Feb. 1836, and continued to represent the constituency till 1 July 1852. Defeated at the general election of that date, he was returned unopposed on 28 June 1853 for Stroud, and sat for that town till 11 Nov. 1868. From 11 May 1869 to his death he was member for Liskeard, but he had then so far separated himself from the liberal party that he was opposed on both occasions by more advanced members of his own party—in 1869 by Sir F. Lycett, and in 1874 by Mr. (now the Right Hon.) Leonard Henry Courtney.

Early in his political career (January 1840) Horsman, when addressing his constituents at Cockermouth, denounced James Bradshaw, M.P. for Canterbury, for speaking ill of the queen, and for secretly sympathising with the chartists. A bitter correspondence was followed by a duel at Wormwood Scrubbs, which was without serious results. Finally Bradshaw apologised. Horsman was from September to August 1841 a junior lord of the treasury in Lord Melbourne's administration. He criticised severely, and at times with personal bitterness, the ecclesiastical policy of Lord John Russell's ministry of 1847, as being far too favourable to the bishops. A vote of censure on the ecclesiastical commissioners was moved by him and rejected 14 Dec. 1847. On 26 April 1850, in the discussion on the Ecclesiastical Commission Bill, Horsman smartly attacked the bishops, and roused Goulburn to denounce him as ‘a disappointed man’ foiled of his hopes of office. In March 1855, when Lord Palmerston became prime minister and the Peelites withdrew from the cabinet, Horsman was made chief secretary for Ireland, and was sworn a member of the privy council. He resigned the chief secretaryship after the general election in April 1857, and thenceforth assumed a more independent position in the House of Commons. With Robert Lowe, afterwards Viscount Sherbrooke, he resisted the Reform Bill brought in by Mr. Gladstone in March 1866. John Bright, speaking on the second reading (13 March 1866), ascribed Mr. Lowe's hostility to Horsman's influence, and depicted Horsman retiring ‘into what may be called his political cave of Adullam, to which he invited every one who was in distress, and every one who was discontented.’ According to Bright Horsman's party, to which Bright's sobriquet of the ‘cave’ has since adhered, consisted only of himself and Mr. Lowe, but thirty-three liberal members voted against the second reading of the bill upon which the ministry was afterwards defeated in committee (18 June). Horsman maintained his independent attitude to the last. He best served the public by exposing jobs and other weak points in the ecclesiastical system.

He died at Biarritz on 30 Nov. 1876, and was buried there on 2 Dec. His wife, whom he married on 18 Nov. 1841, was Charlotte Louisa, only daughter of John Charles Ramsden, M.P., and sister of Sir John William Ramsden, bart., of Longley Hall, Huddersfield.

Horsman published: 1. ‘Speech on the Bishopric of Manchester Bill,’ 1847, two editions. 2. ‘Five Speeches on Ecclesiastical Affairs delivered in the House of Commons, 1847, 1848, and 1849.’ 3. ‘Speech on the Present State of Parties and Public Questions,’ 1861. His views and assertions were criticised in ‘Mr. Horsman's Statement respecting the Horfield Manor Lease,’ by J. H. Monk, bishop of Gloucester, 1852; in ‘Mr. Horsman's Motion in the House of Commons [on the institution of Bennett to vicarage of Frome], tested by Extracts from “Letters to my Children,”’ by the Rev. W. J. E. Bennett, 1852 (Hansard, 20 April 1852, pp. 895–916); and in ‘An Usurious Rate of Discount limits and prevents the Working Classes from obtaining Employment. Being a reply to Mr. Horsman,’ by R. Wason, 1866.

[Times, 2 Dec. 1876, p. 9; Walpole's Life of Lord John Russell, 1889, i. 425, ii. 26; Hansard's Parl. Debates, 17 May 1836, p. 1036 et seq.; Traill's The New Lucian, 1884, pp. 183–201; Illustrated London News, 16 May 1857, pp. 478, 482, with portrait, 16 Dec. 1876 p. 581, with portrait; Graphic, 16 Dec. 1876, pp. 592, 595, with portrait.]

G. C. B.