Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hinchliffe, John

HINCHLIFFE, JOHN (1731–1794), bishop of Peterborough, was born in Westminster in 1731. His father kept a livery stable in Swallow Street, but had sufficient influence to get his son appointed on the foundation of Westminster School in 1746. In 1750 he was elected as one of the Westminster scholars to proceed to Trinity College, Cambridge. He was admitted scholar on this foundation on 26 April 1751, graduated B.A. in 1754, was elected fellow on 2 Oct. 1755, proceeded M.A. in 1757, and D.D. by royal letters in July 1764. After taking his degree Hinchliffe was for seven years assistant-master at Westminster School. Here he had John Crewe [q. v.] (afterwards first Lord Crewe) as one of his pupils, with whom he subsequently travelled, and whose sister he married. In 1763, when travelling with Crewe, he made acquaintance with the Duke of Grafton, who was afterwards his patron. On his return from his travels Hinchliffe was chosen head-master of Westminster School on 8 March 1764, in succession to Dr. Markham, but resigned the post three months later on account of ill-health. For the next two years he was tutor to the Duke of Devonshire. In 1766 the Duke of Grafton presented him to the living of Greenwich, and procured his appointment as chaplain in ordinary to the king. In 1768 Hinchliffe was appointed master of Trinity College, Cambridge, in succession to Dr. Smith, was installed on 3 March 1768, and was chosen vice-chancellor of the university in the same year. On 17 Dec. 1769 he was consecrated bishop of Peterborough, when he resigned the vicarage of Greenwich, though he still retained the mastership of Trinity. The bishop took a prominent part in the debates in the House of Lords on the American war. In 1775, when the force of the American opposition to the tariff was undervalued, he advocated coercion, and drew upon himself an indignant reproach from the Duke of Richmond. But the next year, when it was apparent that the spirit of the American people was fairly roused, the bishop recommended conciliation. On the Duke of Grafton's motion for conciliatory measures, he said: ‘There is no earthly government but in a great measure is founded on opinion. When once the whole mass of the people think themselves oppressed, it is the wisest, because it is the only safe way, for those who govern to change their system.’ In a like spirit he continued to speak in many subsequent debates. He protested eloquently against the employment of the savage natives on the side of the government. In the debate in 1778 on the repeal of certain obnoxious laws against the Roman catholics, Hinchliffe supported toleration, but expressed a fear that hasty measures of relief might produce an outburst of fanaticism, a forecast justified by the riots of 1780. Hinchliffe's liberal opinions offended the government of the day, and it was thought inexpedient that he should remain at the head of the most important college in Cambridge. When, therefore, a good opportunity arose, by the vacancy of the rich deanery of Durham, it was offered to Hinchliffe on condition of his resigning the mastership of Trinity. To this deanery he was appointed on 24 Sept. 1788. Hinchliffe died at Peterborough 11 Jan. 1794 of paralysis, after a long illness. By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Crewe of Crewe Hall, he had two sons and three daughters, who survived him. Hinchliffe was famous in his day as a speaker and preacher, being noted for his musical voice and fine delivery. His speeches as reported are good specimens of polished oratory. His only publications were: 1. ‘A Sermon before the House of Lords,’ 30 Jan. 1773. 2. ‘A Sermon before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel,’ 1776. 3. ‘A Sermon at the Annual Gathering of Charity Schools,’ 1786. 4. A volume of collected ‘Sermons’ was published in 1796.

[Gent. Mag. 1794, i. 93, 99; Parliamentary History, vols. xviii. xix. xx.; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, ix. 487; Welch's Westminster Scholars, ed. 1852; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

G. G. P.