HC Deb 18 July 1836 vol 35 cc255-65

On the Order of the Day for the attendance of Mr. Nicholas Wilcox Cundy at the bar having been read,

Sir Charles Burrell

said, that with the permission of the House, he would state what had occurred between himself and Mr. Cundy after he had heard from the hon. Member for Wiltshire what Mr. Cundy had said respecting his conduct on the London and Brighton Railway Committee. He had seen Mr. Cundy in the House of Lords, where Mr. Cundy attended to give evidence, and he then said to him, "Mr. Cundy, I desire to speak with you. How dared you to state to Mr. Benett, that I was induced to vote in favour of Stephenson's line by a sum of 15,0001. being given me for my land?" In answer to that, Mr. Cundy had at first denied that he had said so, but he knew Mr. Benett was a man of too much honour to tell him what had no foundation in truth, and besides, that hon. Member had no conceivable motive for inventing a story of the kind, and, therefore, he asked Mr. Cundy whether he had not said something very like it. Mr. Cundy again answered, that he did not say so, but that he had heard other persons say so. He then said, "Mr. Cundy, you have no right to disparage the character of another man by making such statements, without having first ascertained the truth of what you said. It would have served you right if I had brought you to the bar of the other House; and I now warn you, that if you repeat what you have said, the consequences will be on your own head." This, as near as he could recollect, were the words which he had used. Mr. Cundy afterwards called on Mr. Benett at his own house, and there asserted what he had stated before respecting the 15,000l. It became, therefore, impossible for him to pass over the matter any longer, especially as the imputation which had been thrown upon him was not confined to himself, but Mr. Cundy had alleged that other members of the Committee, as well as he had been influenced, by corrupt motives in deciding in favour of Stephenson's line. Life would not be bearable if he were to rest under this imputation, and whether gentle or simple brought the charge against him, he denied that it was true. He challenged and courted an investigation, and any man, in or out of the House, who accused him of such conduct should be met by his prompt denial.

Mr. Goring

said, that as Mr. Cundy's behaviour had been complained of, it seemed right that he should state in what manner he had conducted himself towards him. [Cries of "Order" and "Chair," compelled the hon. Member to resume his seat.]

Mr. N. W. Cundy

was then called in and examined by the Speaker. The witness stated, that he was a civil engineer, and had been employed in making a survey of a railroad between London and Brighton. Had not solicited the votes of the attendance of Members of the House when the Brighton Railway Bill was under the consideration of a committee. Had a conversation with Mr. Benett, a Member of the House, on the subject of the South Western Railway. Had called on him fourteen or fifteen days ago on the subject of the South Western Railway, and a certain conversation then took place on the motion of Mr. Benett relative to the London and Brighton Railway.

The Speake

r: I wish to know distinctly, whether you have had any conversation with Mr. Benetton the subject of the London and Brighton Railway?—Mr. Cundy: Yes, when I called on Mr. Benett about the South Western Railway, which conversation was begun by Mr. Benett speaking about the landowners on the line. When I spoke of them I spoke of them as landowners only, not as Members of the House, and I mentioned the large remuneration they were said to have received.

The Speaker

Did you make any communication to Mr. Benett respecting the large compensation which Sir C. Burrell, a Member of this House, had received, or was to receive, for his land on the line?— Mr. Cundy: I have a paper here, in which the substance of the conversation I had with Mr. Benett is contained, if it should be the pleasure of this hon. House that I should read it.

Mr. Hume

said, that before that paper was read by the witness, he wished to ask whether it was written by another or by himself, and whether the statement was his own?—Mr. Cundy stated that the paper was written by himself, and was his own statement.

The Speaker

When was it drawn up?

—Mr. Cundy


The Speaker

If it was drawn up on this day only it cannot be read.

The examination by the Speaker was proceeded with. Mr. Cundy stated, that the conversation he had with Mr. Benett on the subject of the London and Brighton Railway Committee was solicited from him. Reports were abroad as to the large remuneration received by the landowners on Stephenson's line, and he said that he heard such reports were in circulation. Mr. Benett asked him if he could name the parties, who the landowners were, not referring, as he supposed, to Members of the House. He commenced by stating that Sir C. Burrell was to have remuneration of from 10,000l. to 15,000l. for the land he had on the line. He stated then, as he did now, that it was merely a report. It was spoken of in a Brighton paper, and. by other portions of the press. Had stated that other Gentlemen were to have large remuneration, who were not Members of that House. Had been asked whether the Duke of Norfolk was to have large remuneration, and replied then, as he did now, that he knew nothing about it. Had said nothing more respecting the conduct of the Members of the Committee, except that Sir Charles Burrell had taken one side. Did not say on what side he appeared to be inclined. Had a letter then written by Sir C. Burrell upon the subject of his line in 1835, which he was ready to read.

Sir C. Burrell

had no objection to offer against reading the letter which the witness held in his hand, except that it had nothing to do with the present question.

The examination was resumed.

The Speaker

Did you say anything respecting any change of conduct on the part of Sir C. Burrell with respect to the different lines of railway?

Mr. Cundy

No, I did not.

Mr. Hume

said, that it appeared to him that the witness had only repeated the reports which had circulated in the public press.

Mr. Cundy

in answer to questions put by the last named hon. Member, said that four or five weeks ago a statement was made in the Brighton Gazette, that the landowners on Stephenson's line were to have enormous remuneration. Sir C. Burrell's name was not mentioned in that paper as one of them, but it was reported that he was to receive a large amount of compensation.

Examined by Mr. Goring.—Did not say that any Member of the Committee had been tampered with. Did not state that money had been received, or was to be received, by any Member of the Committee for his vote. Did not say that any Member had voted in the Committee in consequence of receiving money for his land. Did not tell Mr. Benett so.

By Mr. Robinson

. Did not say, that the vote of the Committee was obtained by unfair means. When he heard that he had been reported by Mr. Benett to have said that Sir C. Burrell was to have 15,000l. for compensation, had waited on Mr. Benett and told him that he had never said any such thing. Did not say that Sir C. Burrell was at first against Stephenson's line, and afterwards supported it, because he was to have a large sum of money for his land. No other person was present when this conversation took place between himself and Mr. Benett. Saw Sir C. Burrell in the House of Lords when he was in attendance upon a Committee. Sir C. Burrell came up to him in what he might call rather a warm temper, and asked him if he had said what had already-been stated respecting his conduct on the London and Brighton Railway Committee, Had then said, what he repeated now, that he had said no such thing—never said so, and never meant to say so.

By Mr. Williams Wynn

. The second time you called on Mr. Benett, what took place?

Witness.—In consequence of what had occurred, I felt it my duty to call on Mr. Benett, and I said to him, "What have you been saying to Sir Charles Burrell about my charging him with voting for Stephenson's line for corrupt reasons? I assure you I said no such thing; all I said was, that I had heard that considerable remuneration was to be given to the landowners on the line." I commenced with the line, and mentioned the name of Sir G. Burrell, as he was one of the great landowners on the line. That was all I said. As to the facts, I know nothing about them, and only spoke from blind report.

Mr. Williams Wynn

. Did you tell Mr. Benett that you had heard what you have stated, and that you believed it to be true?

Mr. Cundy

. No.

Mr. Wynn

. Have you any reason whatever for believing the reports you mentioned to be true?

Mr. Cundy

. It is impossible for me to decide on that point. If the House shall please to appoint a Committee to investigate the subject, I shall be ready to attend their orders with all humility. The reports referred to were mentioned in The Morning Chronicle, The Morning Herald, The Morning Post, The Times and other papers. I do not like to call on Members of the Upper House.

Mr. Hume

observed, that from all that had been collected during the examination, it was plain that what Mr. Cundy had said was given as the reports of different papers, and it was evident he knew nothing of his own knowledge.

Captain Pechell

. Is the paper you first referred to published in Brighton? Mr. Cundy. Yes.

Mr. Wynn

. Did you ever say, that the majority in the Committee was procured by bribery?

Mr. Cundy

. I certainly never said so. Ordered to withdraw.

Sir C. Burrell

said, that if it were the pleasure of the House, the agents for the Bill were in attendance, and were ready to be examined. He was anxious to have the matter investigated in justice to him self. The absence of the hon. Member for Wiltshire unfortunately prevented him from availing himself of his testimony, but he had a letter from the hon. Member on the subject, which, as he himself was absent, he should move be now read.

The letter of Mr. Benett to Sir C. Burrell, dated July 8th, was then read at the table by the clerk, and was to this effect: — Mr. Cundy called on Mr. Benett to request that he would attend the debate, which was expected to ensue upon the recommittal of the London and Brighton Railway Bill. Mr. Cundy said, that the majority in the Committee was obtained by unfair means. Mr. Cundy stated, that Sir C.Burrell was at first hostile to Stephenson's line, but that he was in favour of it now, as he was to get 15,000l. for land which was not worth 2,000l. Mr. Cundy said, that the same means were adopted to gain the support of other Members of the Committee, and that one was to have 20,000l, and another 8,000l. for compensation. The writer concluded by stating, that Sir C. Burrell was at liberty to show the letter to any of his friends.

Captain Pechell

remarked, that something had come out of this inquiry, which the House was bound to follow up. There was no doubt that the decision of the London and Brighton Railway Committee had given great dissatisfaction to the public, and it was not surprising that reports should circulate to the disadvantage of the Members who sat on that Committee. He had himself been accused of being actuated by personal motives with reference to his conduct on the Thames and Medway Navigation Bill, and he had been charged with being influenced by his own interests, for bringing in the Bill relating to the tithes on turnips last session; but he disregarded such attacks. Every one must do the hon. Baronet (Sir. C. Burrell) the justice to believe, that he had been actuated while on the committee by the most pure, the most impartial motives. It appeared to him that what Mr. Cundy had stated in a mere conversation, had been stated by the newspapers on both sides of the question; and it should be remembered, in coming to a decision upon this question, that Mr. Cundy had suffered a bitter and most severe disappointment. The hon. Member opposite seemed to say, that that had nothing to do with the present question, but he maintained it had, for Mr. Cundy had the mortification to see his plan rejected, and adopted in other shape by Mr. Stephenson, whose line was supported by the hon. Baronet. Mr. Cundy evidently meant to speak of the landowners on the line, and not the Members of that House, and he did not impute corrupt motives to any one.

Sir C. Burrell, with reference to his alleged support of Mr. Cundy's line, said, that it had been represented to him by Mr. Cundy, that his line had the good wishes of Lord Egremont, and that he was supported by the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Surrey. But Lord Egremont told him in a letter not to attend to what Mr. Cundy said about his (Lord Egremont's) support of his line, as there was not a word of truth, in it; and Lord Surrey said, with respect to his promise to support Mr. Cundy, that it was totally false, and that he would oppose him to the utmost. After these two falsehoods, he (Sir C. Burrell) determined to have nothing more to do with him.

Sir Robert Peel

would submit to the House, that it would establish an inconvenient precedent if this matter were to be pursued further, unless some specific charge were made, as it would lead to the establishment of an inquisition into private life. The original charge brought against his hon. friend, the hon. Baronet was a charge of corrupt motives, and this charge was brought under the notice of the hon. Baronet in a manner that it was difficult to overlook. Mr. Cundy had therefore been called to the bar of the House, and he declared that he had not charged Sir C. Burrell with corrupt conduct; he submitted, then, that the House ought not to carry the matter further. A specific complaint had been made, and a specific answer had been given.

Lord John Russell

entirely agreed with what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman, respecting the propriety of not prosecuting this matter. He must say, that after the letter which had reached the hon. Baronet from the hon. Member for Wiltshire, he was in a manner bound to ascertain whether the party who was understood to have made the charge did make it. The examination of that person did away altogether with anything like an imputation on the hon. Baronet, and therefore he thought that the matter should not be carried any further.

Mr. Williams Wynn

suggested, that it would be convenient if the House could direct that the hon. Member for Wiltshire should attend in his place, and confirm the statement which he had made by letter. The examination of the witness, however, proved that any statement which had been made to the prejudice of the hon. Member's character was totally unfounded. He should be sorry if the House was to proceed to punish any one without the personal attendance of the person on whose evidence he was to be convicted, and as the hon. Member for Wiltshire was not present, and there was no one who could stand forward to prove the charges made, he thought it better that the matter should not be pressed. If the charges had been persisted in, it would have been the duty of the House to probe the matter; but as it was, he did not know that it had been presented in any tangible shape, from which they could examine into the truth or falsehood of the charges.

Mr. Hardy

observed, that there was one Member to whom the House had not done complete justice, and that was a Member for whom they all felt great respect—the hon. Member for Wiltshire. In the letter written by the hon. Member it was stated that, in the course of a conversation which took place between himself and Mr. Cundy, he was asked to attend at the debate, which was expected to take place on the recommittal of the Bill, Mr. Cundy assigning as a reason for making that request, that his line had not been fairly dealt with, and that a large sum of money had been paid to the landowners on the line for their lands as a consideration for their votes. The House would therefore not do justice to the hon. Member till his letter had been read to Mr. Cundy, and he had been asked whether he had made such a statement. Mr. Cundy had been asked what he said to Mr. Benett, but he had never been asked whether that precise conversation had taken place or not.

Sir Thomas Troubridge

said, that not only the hon. Baronet, but other Members of the Committee, had been accused of corrupt motives, and justice would not be done unless the letter was read to Mr. Cundy, and he was asked whether he had said so or not. The hon. Member then moved that Mr. Cundy be called in, and that the letter of the hon. Member for Wiltshire be read to him.

Lord J. Russell, after what he had before stated, felt it necessary to meet that motion by an amendment, "that the order of the day be read."

Mr. Goring

remarked, that the opinion of the Committee was only formed by the engineering evidence, and it was not till they felt that Stephenson's line was the best that they decided in favour of it.

Sir Edward Knatchbull

expressed a hope that the House would take the same view of the question as had been taken by the noble Lord. The question was, what was the object of this proceeding? The answer was easy—the vindication of his character by a Member of that House. If any man doubted whether his character had been sufficiently vindicated, then he would say go on; but if there was no doubt, then let the House proceed with the other orders of the day. It might be argued that a small portion of time would be consumed in reading the letter, but who would believe that only a small portion of time would be spent in the debate which might follow?

Mr. Robinson

said, that the House must either believe or disbelieve the statement of the hon. Member for Wiltshire. Mr. Cundy denied that the conversation which the hon. Member for Wiltshire stated to have been held between them did take place, and therefore, if the House exculpated Mr. Cundy, it must inculpate Mr. Benett. Knowing, then, as he did, the unquestionable veracity and integrity of his hon. Friend, he was certainly disposed to prefer his statement; but if the business was to stop where it was, the hon. Member for Wiltshire would be left in a situation unpleasant to his friends.

Mr. Wakley

observed, that an individual had been brought to the bar as an accused party, and he had not heard the indictment which was prepared. He had not been asked whether the statement in the letter was true or not true. The matter had better be deferred till the hon. Mem- ber for Wiltshire was able to attend in his place, and then Mr. Cundy having been asked whether he had made those statements, might be, if necessary, again summoned to the bar. He did hope, then, that the noble Lord would withdraw his amendment to the motion that had been made.

Lord J. Russell

said, that if the hon. Member had asked him a question, he must say that the letter of the hon. Member for Wiltshire had put the charge in a distinct and specific form. He had not the smallest doubt that the hon. Member believed those statements to be correct, and supposing that to be the case, the witness at the bar, in his examination, had retracted what he had said. If, on the other hand, the hon. member for Wiltshire had fallen into a mistake, then the witness was exculpated, and it would not be necessary to proceed further.

Mr. A. Trevor

said, that the witness had not given a single straight forward answer to any question that had been put to him.

Viscount Castlereagh

observed, that further inquiry was, in his judgment, necessary; and if it should be found that Mr. Cundy had stated that which was false, he ought to be again called to the bar and at least reprimanded.

Mr. Maclean

thought, that at all events Mr. Cundy should be called back, and be allowed an opportunity of answering the specific terms of the letter of the hon. member for Wiltshire which had just been read to the House.

Sir George Strickland

remarked, that from the examination which had already taken place, it appeared that Mr. Cundy had spoken merely from common report, and had brought no specific charge against any hon. Member of the Committee. He thought, that if hon. Members exhibited any degree of soreness at the imputation, the effect would be to strengthen a feeling already existing in the public mind, that hon. Members were actually remunerated for their services on committees of this kind.

The Attorney-General

thought, that no benefit could be derived to the hon. Baronet the Member for Shoreham, by again calling Mr. Cundy to the bar; neither could the House receive any satisfaction from that course. It would be much better to take no further notice of the matter.

Mr. Hardy

said, that as Mr. Cundy had not yet been informed of the contents of the letter of the hon. Member for South Wiltshire, he ought to be recalled for the purpose of hearing and answering its statements.

Lord G. Lennox

was also desirous that Mr. Cundy should be recalled, if for no other reason than that the letter had been read since the examination at the bar of that gentleman; and further, that the letter inculpated Mr. Cundy, with respect to charges made by him against two Members of the Committee, other than the hon. Baronet the Member for Shoreham. He, as a member of the Committee, was desirous that the two individuals alluded to should, if possible, be pointed out.

Viscount Castlereagh

rose to order. The noble Lord opposite was not speaking to the question immediately before the House, a question which involved the honour of one of its Members. Mr. Cundy, when examined, had denied that he had solicited the attendance of hon. Members on railway Committees, whereas the hon. Member for Wiltshire, in his letter, distinctly stated that Mr. Cundy waited upon him for that purpose.

The House divided on the motion, that Mr. Cundy be again called in: Ayes 56; Noes 114—Majority 58.

List of the AYES.
Alsager, Captain Lennox, Lord G.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Lennox, Lord A.
Ashley, Lord Lowther, hon. Col.
Boldero, H. G. Lowther, Lord Visc.
Borthwick, P. Lowther, J. H.
Brownrigg, S. Mackenzie, S.
Burrell, Sir C. Maunsell, T. P.
Canning, rt. hon. Sir S. Miles, W.
Castlereagh, Lord Visc. North, F.
Chapman, A. Palmer, G.
Childers, J. W. Parker, M.
Chisholm, A. W. Parker, J.
Clive, Lord Visc. Penruddocke, J. H.
Corbett, T. G. Robinson, G. R.
Darlington, Earl of Ross, C.
Denison, W. J. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Duncombe, hon. W. Sanford, E. A.
Elley, Sir J. Sheppard, T.
Forester, hon. G. Stormont, Lord Visc.
Forster, C. S. Surrey, Earl of
Gaskell, J. Milnes Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Gordon, hon. W. Vere, Sir C. B.
Greisley, Sir R. Vesey, hon. T.
Hamilton, Lord C. Wakley, T.
Harvey, D. W. Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.
Hay, Sir J. Yorke, E. T.
Hope, H. T. TELLERS.
Knightley, Sir C. Mr. Hardy
Langton, W. G. Mr. A. Trevor
List of theNOES.
Angerstein, J. Baring, F.
Bagshaw, J. Baring, W. B.
Baines, E. Barnard, E. G.
Barclay, D. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Barclay, C. Kemp. T. R.
Beauclerk, M. Knatchbull, rt. hon. Sir E
Beckett, rt. hon. Sir J. Knox, hon. J. J.
Bentinck, Lord W. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Berkeley, hon. Craven Leader, J. T.
Bernal, R. Lefevre, C. S.
Biddulph, R. Lincoln, Earl of
Blamire, W. Loch, J.
Brady, D. C. M'Namara, Major
Bridgeman, H. Maule, hon. F.
Brodie, W. B. Nagle, Sir R.
Brotherton, J. O'Connell, M. J.
Bruce, Lord E. O'Connell, M.
Buller, C. O'Loghlin, M.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.
Byng, G. Parrott, J.
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. Pattison, J.
Callaghan, D. Pechell, Capt.
Campbell, Sir J. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Chalmers, P. Ponsonby, hon. W.
Chetwynd, Captain Potter, Richard
Churchill, Lord C. Poulter, J. S.
Clerk, Sir G. Power, J.
Clive, E. B. Price, Sir R.
Codrington, C. W. Price, R.
Codrington, Sir E. Pringle, A.
Cookes, T. H. Pryme, G.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Reid, Sir J. R.
Crawford, W. Rice, right hon. T. S.
Curteis, H. B. Robarts, A. W.
Curteis, E. B. Russell, Lord J.
Dalbiac, Sir C. Ruthven, E.
Donkin, Sir R. Seymour, Lord
Duncombe, T. Smith, R. V.
Eastnor, Lord Visc. Somerset, Lord E.
Ewart, W. Stanley, E. J.
Ferguson, Sir R. Steuart, R.
Ferguson, R. Strickland, Sir G.
Fergusson, rt. hon. R.C. Strutt, E.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Stuart, V.
French, F. Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.
Gore, O. Tyrrell, Sir J. T.
Goring, H. D. Wall, C. B.
Goulburn, rt. Hon. H. Wallace, R.
Grey, Sir G. Walter, J.
Harland, W. C. Warburton, H.
Hawkes, T. Westenra, hon. H. R.
Hawkins, J. H. Williams, Robert
Heathcoat, J. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Hindley, C. Wrightson, W. B.
Horsman, E. Young, G. F.
Humphery, J. TELLERS.
Hurst, R. H. Mr. Baring
Hutt, W. Sir A. L. Hay
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