HC Deb 25 July 1836 vol 35 cc519-23
Mr. Benett

requested the patience of hon. Members on a matter relating to his personal character; which, though not of any importance to the House, was of some consequence to the ends of justice. He had been informed by letters from his friends, as well as by reports in the newspapers, that while he was absent attending the assizes, and upon other business, Mr. Nicholas Wilcox Cundy had been brought to the Bar. There he underwent a long examination, and made certain answers to questions put by the Speaker and by other Members. He held those answers in his hand, and he begged the House to allow him briefly to go over them, that he might show how incorrect and void of truth some of them were. If he did not take this course, he knew not how he could do more than repeat what he had strongly stated in his letter to Sir Charles Burrell. Mr. Cundy had been asked, whether he had solicited the attendance of any Member on the third reading of the Brighton Railway Bill, and had replied in the negative; when the fact was, that he had called upon him (Mr. Benett) and solicited his attendance. No such conversation took place, as had been mentioned by Mr. Cundy, on the Southwestern Railroad; but he had canvassed him (Mr. Benett) to be in his place, and informed him of reports of which he (Mr. Benett) was until then ignorant; and the conversation was commenced by Mr. Cundy. He declared most solemnly, that he had never heard any reports respecting the compensation to be given to landowners on the Brighton Railroad; and that he never asked Mr. Cundy any questions regarding them. Mr. Cundy had never spoken of compensation for "navigation;" but had said, that for about six acres of land, Sir Charles Burrell was to receive 15,000l. This sum, he asserted, was to be given as a bribe to induce him to support Stephenson's line; which he had done accordingly with the utmost zeal. In his examination at the Bar, Mr. Cundy had introduced the name of the Duke of Norfolk; but he had not heard Mr. Cundy speak of that nobleman, and did not know that he had the slightest interest in the question: not one word on the subject had passed between him and Mr. Cundy. On the point of tampering with the Committee, Mr. Cundy distinctly stated, that the majority had been obtained by tampering; and added, that the chairman of the Committee was a most partial person, because he was connected with the Duke of Richmond, whose interest it was, that Stephenson's line should be adopted. In consequence of what Mr. Cundy had asserted, he (Mr. Benett) had asked Sir Charles Burrell whether he was to receive any and what compensation; and Sir Charles had informed him, that he was to be paid for a few acres of land, but that he did not know the sum; and that his remuneration would not altogether amount to 3,000l. On the morning after he had seen Sir Charles Burrell in the lobby of the House of Lords, Mr. Cundy called again upon him (Mr. Benett), when he said that, as what he (Mr. Cundy) had told him respecting Sir Charles Burrell was not true, he would have no farther conversation with him. Mr. Cundy entreated him to hear what he had to say. He had answered, that he had heard that he (Mr. Cundy) had denied to Sir C. Burrell in the lobby of the House of Lords, what he had stated to him (Mr. Benett). Mr. Cundy's reply was, "I did not deny it—I avowed my belief in the truth of it;" and from thence he went over the circumstances, the principal of which was, that Sir Charles Burrell was to receive 15,000l., another landowner 20,000l., and two others 8,000l. each. "The whole of this," he said, "is true; but the case will come before the Committee of the House of Peers, where it will be investigated, and there justice will be done." He (Mr. Benett) most positively and solemnly asserted that these were the words used by Mr. Cundy. Other things in the evidence of Mr. Cundy were contrary to the fact, but it was not necessary to advert to them; and he could assure the House, that instead of overstating the case in his letter to Sir Charles Burrell, he had understated it, and nothing on earth should ever induce him to overstate. He did not at any time wish to bring an individual to the Bar of the House, for words spoken of himself; it was a tribunal of which, however powerful, he did not approve; and he wanted nothing upon the present occasion but to show the House and the country that he had not misrepresented Mr. Cundy. He had been exceedingly cautious to understate the case to Sir Charles Burrell, and did not mention any persons but himself. If the report had gone no farther than this House, he should not have thought it necessary to detain hon. Members upon a merely personal matter, for he was sure that not one of those who surrounded him would think him capable of misrepresenting. Neither did he think that where Mr. Cundy was known, his assertions would have much weight. He had considered it his duty to make this statement as early as possible, since it had gone out to the country that he had overstated the case against Mr. Cundy; and where his character was not known, it might possibly suffer, even from the evidence of a man who had imprisonment before his eyes, if he did not contradict that with which he was charged. He might regret, that as Mr. Cundy's evidence was on the Journals, his (Mr. Benett's) refutation would not also be recorded there; but he did not wish again to have Mr. Cundy at the Bar, or subjected to punishment for what he had said of him.

Sir Charles Burrell

adverted to a petition in the hands of a Member affecting his reputation, and expressed his readiness at the present moment to meet any charge it contained. He was sorry that the subject could not now be regularly brought before the House.

Lord George Lennox, having been alluded to by the hon. Member for Wilts, was anxious to say only a few words. He understood that hon. Gentleman to say, that Mr. Cundy had charged him with partiality as Chairman of the Committee, having been influenced by his brother. His purpose in rising was, not to vindicate himself, but the Duke of Richmond, who was absent. He assured the House, upon his honour and word, that he had never directly or indirectly had any communication with his brother until long after the Bill was in Committee, excepting on one occasion. Mr. Clerk, an attorney at Brighton, had called at Good wood, thinking to find him (Lord George Lennox) while he was abroad. His brother had written to him, stating that Mr. Clark wished him to bring in the Bill, and desiring him to be cautious how he pledged himself to support the measure. After the Bill had been before the Committee a fortnight, the agents wished him (Lord George Lennox) to ask the Duke of Richmond to undertake the care of it in the House of Lords. He had, therefore, written to the Duke of Richmond, and his answer was, that he would not pledge himself, as he was not at that time convinced which line would be best for the interests of the county of Sussex. It was not until the evidence had been printed and published that he had given his assent. He (Lord George Lennox) firmly-believed that Stephenson's line did not go within twenty miles of any of the Duke of Richmond's property. As to himself, he left his conduct to the Committee. The hon. Member for Surrey, who had opposed the line adopted, had moved a vote of thanks for his impartiality in the chair, and he was proud to say, that during a very full attendance, it had been carried unanimously.

Subject dropped.