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ASSIZE INTELLIGENCE NORTHERN CIRCUIT, YORK DEFAMATION -HORSINGTON v BEAUMONT AND WIFE This cause, which had excited great interest, came on at ten o'clock. The Court was excessively crowded in every part. Lord Howdon, who was one of the principal witnesses, sat on the Bench near the Judge. Mr Brougham addressed the Jury. The Plaintiff was a Gentleman who had been land-agent of Colonel and Mrs Beaumont for the last fourteen years. When he entered upon his office, he found the situation of affairs a perfect chaos : he reduced them into order, cut off a number of exhorbitant charges which the tenants had been in the habit of making against the estate, and greatly increased the rent-roll of Colonel and Mrs Beaumont. This could not fail to excite the enmity of a great number of persons, whose unjust practices he had put a stop to. But though his professional business with Mrs Beaumont was confined to the Yorkshire estates, he had been employed by her upon a business of great difficulty and delicacy, - namely, to settle the bills for the Northumberland election. In this business he had to contend against the most gross and barefaced imposition; but he manifested so much zeal, activity, and ability in this business, as to save Mrs Beaumont many thousand pounds. These services, however beneficial to his employers, were productive of considerable unpopularity to himself; some of which, no doubt, would be transferred to his principals, who, though they were not unwilling to profit by his great zeal and activity, did not like to have any portion of the unpopularity - and, as it was the wish of the Beaumont family to preserve their influence in Northumberland, it was thought a good stroke of policy to make Mr Horsington the 'scape-goat, and he accordingly received notice of dismissal. Of this, however, the plaintiff would not have the right to complain. But, not content of depriving him of her agency, Mrs Beaumont took effectual care to blast all his prospects by slanders intimately connected with his profession, by charging him with fraud and peculation in the discharge of his duty as her agent. The calumny was successful, and the consequence was that Mr Horsington lost his appointment as agent under Lord Howden. All his prospects were blasted, and he became a ruined man; and it was only by the verdict of a Jury that he could hope once more to lift up his head as a professional man. MR BROUGHAM then proceeded to state the nature of the following evidence:- The appointment of Mr. HORSINGTON, under the hand and seal of Colonel and Mrs Beaumont, having been proved, and the fact of his acting as such established, Lord HOWDEN, after stating his first knowledge of Mr Horsington, in 1811 said - On the 4th or 5th of July, 1827, I received a note from Mrs Beaumont, requesting that I would call upon her. I accordingly called upon her on the following day. I found her alone. Mrs Beaumont began a long conversation, reprobating the whole of Mr Horsington's conduct. I paid attention to what she was saying, though. I was not interested in it, as it did not affect me in any way whatever. She then came to some matters, which did interest me; for, at the close of her conversation, she said, ‘What is worse than all, he has taken money of the tenants.’ There may be a discrepancy between these words and those in my letter, but the words I have just stated are the precise words she used. I was so shocked at this, that I made no reply. I went down into Yorkshire the latter end of July or the beginning of August, and in a few days after I received a letter from Mrs Beaumont. Lord HOWDEN produced the letter, which was read by the Clerk of the Court, and was as follows;- ‘MY DEAR LORD - after a conversation I had with up your Lordship the other day in London, you will not be surprised to hear that Col. Beaumont and I have come to the resolution of removing Mr Horsington from our agency. Having been induced to place the management of Yorkshire property in his hands, chiefly from the confidence we put in your friend Sir G SHEE'S recommendation, by whom he had been previously employed, I think it but a proper attention to communicate to you the fact, and the immediate cause that led to it. His improper conduct with a girl, the daughter of one of our tenants, has become notorious, by his suffering her, with her child, to take up her lodgings at a short distance from the house. The duty I owe to me family and my tenantry renders it impossible to overlook an affair so disgraceful to him as a principal agent, and giving so much scandal to the neighbourhood. Mr HORSINGTON has had notice from our law agent to quit his agency at the termination of three months, and the farm that he holds under us at May-day next. (The letter concludes with some complimentary matters.) I remain, my dear Lord, your's most faithfully, DIANA BEAUMONT. Bretton hall, July 26, 1827.’ To this letter I returned an answer, of which I have a copy. Mr WILLIAMS produced the original, which was read:- ‘Grimstone Park, Tadcaster, Aug. 4, 1827. ‘MY DEAR MADAM I had the honour of receiving your letter of the 26th Ult, and deferred answered it until I had seen Mr Horsington. I lament very much he should have given you any cause for displeasure by indiscretion with a woman. Saturated as the world is, and with so much of the same sort going on in every direction, amongst the very highest as well as those of an humble class, I cannot bring myself to consider it as an inexpiable offence; but had he done what you suspected that he had - brought and fixed the person in your village , as it may be said, at your very door- I should, as you did, have deemed it a crime and insult not to be pardoned - an act of insanity scarcely to be conceived. He utterly denies this, and avers in the most solemn manner that the person was then at her mother's house, naturally, as it may be thought, as a place of refuge, without his knowledge in any way. Whoever took up the story in this shape ought to have had the candour to state whether he ever visited her or not. It would be great presumption in me, my dear Madam, to advert to the many points whereon you signified your displeasure against Mr H., as they related solely to yourself and his general conduct in the transaction of your business; but there was one circumstance you mentioned that so intimately concerns me, who employ Mr Horsington, that I cannot divest my mind of the serious impression it made upon me; and which I conceived must be substantiated or cleared up for your interest, for mine, and his character, namely - ‘That he had taken money from the tenants upon their leases;’ which can have but one meaning - that he sacrificed your interest to benefit himself. If such be the case, he is unworthy of all confidence, and would justly forfeit the good opinion of every person. I have mentioned this supposition to M Horsington, who repeals the notion in the most sacred manner, and dares the whole body of your tenantry to adduce a single proof: as his reputation, and even existence as an agent, depend upon the truth of this denial, I cannot be surprised, and indeed it is my advice to him, to pursue his vindication to the utmost. I shall only, my dear Madam, take up your time longer, to say, that in my humble concerns I have ever found Mr Horsington faithful, disinterested, capable, and zealous in the most remarkable degree, and that no instance, in the course of fifteen years, have I discovered any fault. From all the observations that I have been enabled to make, I conceived he pursued the same active honest conduct throughout your extensive trial, and that he was ever devoted to your interest in no common degree; and I chiefly rested such opinion upon his late proceedings in Northumberland, where he evinced an assiduity of judgement worthy of the highest praise, and by indefatigable exertions produced something like order and effect in the payment of bills of the most unprecedented extortion ever known in the annals of election, originating in a recklessness of expence and the most incautious profusion. Had he not persevered with devoted attention and spirit, in deviance of every obstacle, the absolute loss of many thousands must have been the consequence. This entirely devoted conduct doubtless made him many enemies, and possibly may have contributed to his present misfortune - your displeasure. I have the honour to be, etc, etc., HOWDEN. ‘To Mrs Beaumont.’ The terms which I used in my letter, continued his Lordship, were the meaning I affixed to the words at the time Mrs Beaumont used them. I conceived that she intended to insinuate that Mr Horsington had been bribed by the tenants to give them advantageous leases, prejudicial to her interest. This was the meaning I attached to the words. I remained in the country over November, and I never received from Mrs Beaumont any letter in answer to mine, nor any communication from her of any sort. I was in hopes every day of receiving from her an explanation of what she had said to me , but I received none, and I concluded that she persisted in her original declaration. I waited until the expiration of Mr Horsington's agency with Mrs Beaumont before I took any steps respecting him. His agency expired in the month of October, and on the 13th of November I dismissed Mr Horsington from my service - it being impossible for me to retain a person lying under such an imputation, until he cleared himself. His Lordship was cross-examined by Mr WILLIAMS. Was not the great thing of which Mrs Beaumont complained in Mr Horsington's conduct, his seduction of a tenant's daughter, sixteen years of age? - I am not sure that she said that the girl was the daughter of her tenant; but I am sure that she did not mention her age, nor was the word ‘seduced ‘ used. Witness said, that Mrs Beaumont mentioned it, as a great aggravation of Mr Horsington's offence, that he had brought the woman within a mile of her house at Bretton. When Mrs Beaumont had done making this statement, said his Lordship, I told her that such things were of common occurrence, and that among ladies in high life too, and that she knew that as well as I did. I endeavoured to persuade her out of her notion that she was a perfect saint. I did not say to Mrs Beaumont that I would not turn Mr Horsington away if he had a mistress in every village in the country. It was a jocular conversation in my part. Mrs Beaumont seemed very vehement about the girl. His Lordship said, he considered the letter he had received from Mrs Beaumont as releasing from his promise not to mention the conversation which she had with him in London. His Lordship was asked whether, in parting with Mrs Beaumont, he had not shaken hands with her; he replied, ‘I dare say I did; ladies in London are fond of shaking hands.’ Mr Williams pressed His Lordship whether he did not intend to have a steward again; he at last said he did intend it , but he had not then made up his mind who it was to be. Witness, in re-examination by Mr BROUGHAM, said, the small talk was before Mrs Beaumont made the great charge against Mr Horsington; witness was afraid that what Mrs Beaumont said about the delinquency of Mr Horsington in respect to the girl, had not made the impression it ought to have done upon his mind; and, he added, he did not pretend to be a saint; on which Mr WILLIAMS said, he was sure he did not intend to throw out any such imputation against his Lordship. His Lordship, in conclusion, said, ‘When Mrs Beaumont stated that Mr Horsington took money from the tenants, I was so shocked that I cut short the conversation and came away.’ Mr Crawhorne [sic; Crawhall] is the manager of Mrs Beaumont's lead concerns in Northumberland. He spoke to a conversation with Mrs Beaumont, in which she had said that Mr Horsington kept two rentals, one of which he had not given up. Mr Raine, the house-steward of Mrs Beaumont, proved that upon one occasion she called Mr Horsington a profligate, dishonest agent. Matthew Mason was farmer-bailiff at Bretton. Mrs Beaumont said to him that Horsington had defrauded her of sums of money; that he had a balance of 550l in his hands, and which ought to have been a great deal more; but that he refused to pay over, and that he had not given up his accounts and papers. Robert Morris was in the service of Mrs Beaumont until last Tuesday , in the capacity of groom of the chamber; Mrs Beaumont said to him when she returned home, she had to prosecute her agent for the embezzlement of sums of money. Witness had been discharged in consequence of his having mentioned this conversation. This finished the case on the part of the Plaintiff. Mr WILLIAMS addressed the Jury at considerable length; his principal object was to show that the great thing of which Mrs Beaumont had complained to Lord Howden, in respect to the conduct of Mr Horsington, was his treatment of the daughter of a tenant of Mrs Beaumont; and that the other matter was only incidentally mentioned at the close of a long conversation. The Jury retired for 20 minutes, and on their return into Court, found a verdict for the Plaintiff - Damages 1,700l.
Account of court proceedings in the case brought by Horsington against Diana Beaumont, as given in the London Morning Post, 8 April 1828