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The Founders of Canterbury

Reigate, 19th October, 1850

page 340
Reigate, 19th October, 1850.

My Dear Godley,

—There will be nothing uncommon if it should fall to my lot to stand alone in telling you fully of the most disagreeable circumstance that has yet happened in the Canterbury affair. This is the discovery that Mr. Jackson is as loose and reckless about money-matters as can well be imagined. His state of mind on the subject of money may be compared to that of the late Duke of Marlborough, of whom it is related, that having got his carriage with post horses to the door for a grouse-shooting journey to Scotland, he recollected that he was without money; that he walked out to borrow or beg some, and at last persuaded Drummonds to let him have £500; and that having, on his way back from Charing Cross to Hertford Street, spent £300 in Christie's Auction Room, and given £200 to a woman in St. James's Street, he had after all to send away his travelling carriage, and remain in town on the 12th of August. The anecdote, whether true or not, implies that the Duke was pecuniarily out of his mind, as indeed he was. The unquestionable facts in Mr. Jackson's money-matters lead to the same conclusion with regard to him. Some of the particulars will get before yoa officially; all those, that is, which appear from the dire disorder of his so-called accounts. But these are facts which you ought to know, that will not be communicated to you officially. The partners and clerks in two Banking establishments know that, after Jackson had left Town for Plymouth, his cheque for over £300 was dishonoured, with the answer "no effects." I hear that Cocks and Co., having given cash for the cheque to Mr. Jackson, not as Bankers to the Association but as between man and man, have to bear the loss. The fact is known to eight or ten members of the Association and all the clerks. Perhaps not less than fifty people knew it at the time; and as it was a fact to move wonder and gossip, it has become what may be termed public, short of appearing in the newspapers. An outfitting firm in the City which deals for "cash" is out of page 341pocket over £300, and comes to the Association for payment, which is refused. The same firm talks of orders to a much larger amount, and will not execute the same without a guarantee from the Association, which is refused. Hence, talk, talk about the "Bishop Designate," which cannot be stopped. A hungry, vulgar, chattering ship-broker has been, to use his own kind of language, "let in" for something under £50, and demands payment from the Association, which is refused. This man was warned in the City to beware of Mr. Jackson, whose looseness about money is no secret there. There are other claims which appear equally well founded as claims on Mr. Jackson, but not on the Association, which has already paid (so I hear in general terms) somewhere about a thousand pounds, to or for Mr. Jackson, more than it was justified in paying as a trustee for dealing with the money of the colonist land-buyers. All this broke upon the Committee suddenly, after Mr. Jackson had left London, though not too late for satisfactory explanation and adjustment if either had been possible. In answer to calls for both, Mr. Jackson's letters are most unsatisfactory; and those of his Secretary, Mr. Calvert, would be called shuffling, if they were not ludicrous from a mixture of childishness and absurdity. One of Mr. Calvert's, addressed to the aforesaid ship-broker, must be seen in order to believing that it was written by one in his responsible position about money-matters, who is also the Designated Professor of Mathematics in Christchurch College, and Bursar thereof. I would add some more melancholy details of the same kind if it were worth while.

The effect has been to dumbfound the Committee. Two impressions in particular are made on them; first, that these circumstances are evidence of a habit of mind in Mr. Jackson, which renders him totally unfit to have the chief part in dealing with a fund (the Ecclesiastical and Educational Fund) which, if the plan of the Association should be carried out, will amount to two millions and a half; secondly, that the notoriety of the facts is such as to render it impossible that page 342the plan of the Association should be carried out if Mr. Jackson is to be at the head of the Ecclesiastical and Educational Administration. The bluntest conscience has become afraid to receive money (in payment for land) which it believes will be recklessly squandered: the dullest apprehension perceives that the character of the Bishop Designate is blasted, so as to render his connection with the colony a stigma and a fatal impediment to success in the colonizing operation. Turn the matter how you will, these two conclusions are inevitable. Those of us who are most in earnest hold down our heads when the Bishop is mentioned by a stranger. This applies to intending colonists as well as members of the Association. We are ashamed of the very feature of the plan, to which the most importance has been attached, and the most prominence has been given. Two or three leading members of the Committee, whose retirement would break up the Association, declare in private that they will retire if Mr. Jackson is to be the Bishop. They say that if he is to be the Bishop, they shall not only lose all interest in the undertaking, but shall decline to take part in a great delusion, not to say a great cheat. They are disgusted and ashamed: they would jump out now if they could do so without deserting and leaving in the lurch those who have embarked their fortunes and whole future in the colony on the faith of the character and pledges of these same men, and some of their colleagues. In one word, the Committee, such as it now is in the absence of Lord Lyttelton, the Bishop of Norwich, Sir Walter James, John Simeon, Adderley, &c., is completely paralyzed.

Paralyzed, I am afraid, to no less an extent than that of being incapable of doing aught but let matters take their own course. And what does that mean? It means, I fancy, the worst that can be. If nothing be done by the Committee, by way of remedy, there will come gradually, but not very slowly, a sort of public discredit and disgrace which must ruin both Mr. Jackson and the Association. If he and his personal page 343friends here, and those who recommended him, who are the Venerable Society represented by its organ, Mr. Hawkins, are left in ignorance of the real impressions made on Committee and Colonists by this money mess—if the scandal be allowed to work its own way, the Association being merely passive—Mr. Jackson will, I say, be destroyed along with the Association. What then would I do were I master? I would tell Mr. Hawkins and other friends of Mr. Jackson the whole truth, showing them distinctly the impossibility of going on with him as Bishop, and the unavoidableness of scandal, and ruination if he were not withdrawn by them. I would say to them, "Withdraw him, and so avert the scandal. He has some talents of a high order, which qualify him for important office in the Church, if it be office unconnected with finance. He could walk through such a colony as Upper Canada, and, as the Bishop of Nancy did with the habitans of the Lower Province, preach the public-houses empty and ruin the distilleries by an episcopal crusade against intemperance; but if large money-matters should be in his way, he would ruin them and himself. Take him from this most unsuitable field of labour, and place him in one where his talents would be highly useful and his honour would be safe. Do it promptly, so as to avoid scandal. Let the act be that of his friends, which is the same as his own: write to him by the first ship, and tell him all. If you do this bravely, without wavering, and promptly so as to stop the detraction which can be stayed in no other way, you will save your friend, and spare the Church a heavy blow which, if it be not averted, will be of your infliction. If you will not do this promptly and quietly, we must wash our hands of responsibility by laying the whole case officially before the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will then become respousible by having to determine what shall be done." This course would be the best for everybody—for the Association, for the Church, for the Archbishop himself, and most of all for Mr. Jackson: it would be the best, that is, provided Mr. Hawkins and the Society adopted the proposal. page 344If they should reject it, the appeal to the Archbishop would be doing execution upon Mr. Jackson: whereas the present course, or rather no course—will be an assassination of Mr. Jackson. If it were not killing him yourself, it would be letting him be killed by stabs in the back, which you consciously allowed to be given without warning him and his friends of the danger.

If I were to write for a month, I do not think it would be possible for me to express more clearly my own clear and deliberate view of the question. As respects the Committee it is a question of moral courage; for (though I speak only of those with whom I have conversed on the subject) J know that they take precisely the same view of what ought to be done. But what an individual thinks ought to be done, and what a corporation will do, are very different matters. So again, for those who hold the above view of what it would be right to do, the question is merely one of resolution. You and I have often argued that many of the worst things that happen in the world, arise rather from timidity than from either vice or error.

After my letter to you of the 17th September, I need not acknowledge a strong prejudice against Mr. Jackson on grounds unconnected with finance: but I now refer to that prejudice in order to say that my consciousness of its strength has prompted careful deliberation, including counsel with Rintoul, in arriving at my present conclusions on the finance question.

21st October.

Having slept on it since the above was written, I wish to add what will follow. If my present fear of the Committee's infirmity of purpose should be realized, it may be your task to determine the very question which now puzzles them: you may have to decide whether you will make Mr. Jackson fully aware of his own position, by letting him know all that I tell you, or will only go with him into that "settlement of accounts" which the Committee call for officially, but which page 345they are quite sure beforehand will be neither settlement nor explanation, but merely authenticated defalcation and disgrace. Know then, that since Jackson's departure we hear of stories about money to his prejudice, which concern the Association indirectly. Take for sample a complaint by people who at his instance got up a "Lyttelton Bishopric" meeting for him, and whom he saddled with the "expenses" by taking all the money subscribed at the doors. Heedlessness, I have no doubt, but such heedlessness as amounts to a sort of money madness: for being "left in the lurch" in this way is apt to make people sore to vindictiveness. Such people cry out to such a colonist as Captain Simeon (and a first-rate colonist he is; the best hitherto, by far), who, knowing the other facts, holds his tongue, but looks and sighs assent to a charge which implies more than heedlessness. Thus Jackson's vast power of begging, which has been noticed in former letters, becomes the ground-work of horrid sneers. Mrs, Candour has plenty to do. The two places of business, where Canterbury people congregate, are schools for scandal. Of course in other places (for Canterbury has plenty of very Low Church and Dissenting enemies, spread over the country) the same sort of thing goes on. Nobody any where, that J see or hear of, stands up for Jackson. His proper defenders, who are the Canterbury people, confirm the worst that is said, and imply worse still, by their mournful silence. Even Ernest Hawkins produces a letter from Jackson, begging him to pay £20 which he was under the necessity of borrowing at the last moment from a clergyman at Plymouth, Rintoul, one of the last men to indulge in scandal or report idle gossip, says he hears that Battersea Training College (which is dead) died of Finance and Jackson. If Ernest Hawkins knew this at the time, he has been deeply to blame. I have a dread, and Rintoul partakes of it, that some of our unfriends (and to those mentioned above must be added the under-class of officials represented in the Examiner) will be letting fly at us in the newspapers; first, perhaps, with nice little paragraphs, page 346and then with pleasant articles. I think you may be quite certain when you receive this, that if things have been allowed to take their own course, Jackson is thoroughly blown upon. This is the deliberate opinion of some of our soberest judgments.

But suppose it is not so bad as this: suppose that Jackson returns with the requisite documents from Selwyn, and sets to work, as he fully intends, on a grand begging agitation by sermons and meetings: a grand blow-up and break-up would then be inevitable. Suppose less evil than this; that the Committee and such colonists as we can influence, manage somehow to put down the stories, and resolve to go on cordially with Jackson for better or worse (as I think they are bound on their honour to do if they do not act on their convictions) still they must, by means of bye-laws, put him in chains with respect to the Ecclesiastical and Educational Funds. In other words, they must make the Bishop a cypher with regard to, I was going to say this or that, but it really means everything. I can see no way out of this wood of disasters except the one above indicated: and if the Committee do not take it from fear of lions in the path (there are lions in all paths which lead to much good) the least bad of the others will, I think, be for you to tell Jackson all, and so give him the opportunity of retiring instead of being dismissed, as, sooner or later, if he should not be withdrawn and will not retire, he most assuredly will be, unless I and others, not donkeys, are afflicted with judicial blindness.