HC Deb 21 June 1847 vol 93 cc756-61

was sorry to be obliged to ask the House to allow him to make a further explanation on a merely personal matter. He trusted the House would see that it was not his fault that public business was thus delayed, when he stated that the Member for Wolverhampton had not given any notice of his intention of again adverting to the matter in dispute between. On Thursday he had given a distinct denial to the statement previously made by the Member for Wolverhampton, that he bad asked Sir Frankland Lewis before the Committee on the Andover Union, an improper question as to the appointment of his son. He denied having done so; but notwithstanding his emphatic denial, the Member for Wolverhampton repeated his charge. He denied it again; but the Member for Wolverhampton, so far from being satisfied with these disclaimers, on Friday evening reiterated the statement which he had twice denied, and the hon. Member brought evidence to show that he had put the question attributed to him. If it were indeed true that he had put that question, notwithstanding his asser- tions to the contrary, or if it were true that whereas he had declared that it was he who had cleared the room, he was not the person who had done so—if either of these things were established as truths against him, he could not possibly escape from the imputation of having been guilty of wilful misrepresentation. Such was the issue which the Member for Wolverhampton raised on Friday in his absence, and without giving him any notice of his intention. Now, he would take leave briefly to relate what had taken place, without reference, in the first instance, to newspaper or other reports. Sir Frankland Lewis having expressed an exceedingly unfavourable opinion of Mr. Chadwick's character, he took occasion to ask Sir F. Lewis how it came that, regarding him with such feelings of disapprobation, he had retained him for four years in the office of Secretary to the Commission. That question Sir F. Lewis answered; and he was then proceeding to ask him whether, on his son succeeding him in the Commission, he had thought fit to caution his son against Mr. Chad-wick? In connecting the two questions, he made a preamble of this kind—"On your ceasing to he a Poor Law Commissioner, I believe an arrangement was made that your son should succeed you?" No sooner had the word "arrangement" escaped his lips than Sir F. Lewis became very much excited, interrupted him, and prevented him from going on with the question, to which this was hut the preamble, and was about to enter into an expiation, when he turned round to the noble Lord the Member for South Devon, chairman of the Committee, next to whom he was sitting, and requested the noble Lord to have the goodness to clear the room. The noble Lord immediately gave orders that the room should be cleared. Sir F. Lewis entreated to be permitted to answer the question. The hon. Member for Fins-bury said he thought that he ought to be permitted to answer it. Other hon. Members were of a different opinion, and joined in the call for clearing the room. During the interval which took place before the room was cleared, he (Mr. Christie) was quite silent; but as soon as the strangers had gone out he rose and addressed the chairman. That circumstance was in itself alone sufficient to show that his version of this transaction must be the correct one; for it was obvious that the person at whoso instance the room had been cleared, must have been the first to address the chairman after strangers had withdrawn. What he said was to the following effect: that he was much pained at what had occurred—that he very much regretted the misapprehension which had arisen—that he had used the word "arrangement" in no offensive sense, and without premeditation—that he had not intended to impute the least impropriety of conduct to Sir F. Lewis or his son—that if Sir F. Lewis still wished to enter into any explanation he should not oppose it—but that he wished that it should be expressly understood by that gentleman and by the Committee that it was not his wish, and that Sir Frankland would do so of his own free will and accord. The Member for Wolverhampton produced a letter from Sir F. Lewis, stating that he (Mr. Christie) did put the question attributed to him, and that other hon. Members objected to it; but the fact was that Sir F. Lewis was under a total misconception of his meaning at the time—a misconception which he had hoped had been long since removed. Owing to Sir F. Lewis's excitement, he was not the best witness of what occurred in the room before it was cleared, and of what happened afterwards he must of necessity be wholly unaware. The Member for Wolverhampton had referred to the shorthand writer's note as appearing in the blue book. The shorthand writer took his words before the room was cleared, and had made in his report not only a very incorrect but a very contradictory statement; and as the contradiction had not escaped the notice of the Member for Wolverhampton himself, it was to be regretted that he had not been slower in impeaching the veracity of another person on such questionable evidence. The Member for Wolverhampton also read, in corroboration of his position, the report which appeared in the Times, and which he described as the best which had been published. The reporter of the Times gave a long account of what occurred before the room was cleared, whereas the shorthand writer omitted all particulars whatsoever respecting the clearing of the room. He would read to the House the report which appeared in the Times. The Member for Wolverhampton had not read it at all, and he would presently direct attention to the portion the hon. Member had omitted. The report ran thus:— Mr. Christie: Did you not leave the Commission on an arrangement that your son should succeed you?—Sir F. Lewis (under great excitement): I particularly wish to answer that ques- tion. Mr. Wakley: I think it ought to be answered. The Times reporter, it should be observed, could not have heard his (Mr. Christie's) application to the noble Lord to clear the room, and had made a distinct question of the words he had used merely as the introduction to a question. Here four or five Members of the Committee began to speak all at once, and much confusion having ensued, Mr. M. Sutton, the Chairman, and other members proposed to clear the room. Sir F. Lewis: Oh! pray let me answer the question. I entreat, for my honour, that you let me clear up this point. Mr. Sheridan; Yes; but you had better clear the room first. Sir F. Lewis: I entreat you let me answer it. The Chairman and Mr. M. Sutton: We had better have the room cleared. Sir F. Lewis: Oh, let me answer it—pray let me answer it. The room was cleared notwithstanding Sir F. Lewis's very earnest appeal, in a tone which left no doubt of his earnestness, but which caused a great deal of laughter. The Chairman said the Committee were unanimously of opinion that he should have an opportunity of giving what answer he liked. The Member for Wolverhampton stopped there. The report, however, proceeded with a passage which in itself was quite sufficient refutation of the charge three times repeated. That passage commenced thus:—"Mr. Christie explained that he had cleared the room." So the Times reported him to have stated this at the time in question, and yet the Member for Wolverhampton had asserted in that House that he (Mr. Christie) had not stated the truth when he declared that he was the person who had caused the room to be cleared. But to revert to the report in the Times. It ran thus:— Mr. Christie explained that he had cleared the room because he wished to explain to the Committee before explaining to him that the question had been misunderstood by Sir F. Lewis. He had been much vexed at seeing the feeling displayed by Sir F. Lewis, and could assure him that he had meant to speak of no arrangement but what might have been made with perfect propriety, and without any imputation against either him or his son. His only object in referring to his son was to ask whether Sir F. Lewis had ever cautioned him against Mr. Chadwick. That passage from the report had been entirely omitted by the Member for Wolverhampton; but he trusted the House would acknowledge its importance. Once for all, on his honour as a gentleman, and as a Member of that House, he never did put to Sir F. Lewis the question which the Member for Wolverhampton persisted in charging him with having put. He never intended to have put it; and if he had proposed so irrelevant and offensive a question to Sir F. Lewis, he should himself be the first person to admit that his conduct was indefensible and justly incurred reprobation. In conclusion he had to request that the House would bear with him while he read, in corroboration of the statements he had already made, a letter that had been addressed to him by his Friend the hon. Member for Shaftesbury. The hon. Member, who had been obliged to leave town that day, on private business, wrote as follows:— I do not recollect the precise words you used in putting the question to Sir F. Lewis; but I perfectly remember the general expression of deep regret by the Committee at the time, and after the room was cleared—I think by yourself—that his feelings had been unintentionally wounded. In your explanation to the Committee you certainly stated that your question had been misunderstood by Sir F. Lewis, and, to the best of my recollection, you added, 'that you meant to speak of no arrangement but what might have been made with perfect propriety, and without any imputation against him or his son.' Your object in referring to his son, as I understood, was to ask whether Sir F. Lewis had ever cautioned him against Mr. Chadwick. This I considered a very natural inquiry to make, after the Committee had been told by Sir F. Lewis that he considered Mr. Chadwick as unscrupulous and as dangerous an officer as he ever saw within the walls of an office. The impression I had at the time of your meaning was in accordance with your explanation: and this I stated to the Committee after you had sat down. He would not further trespass on the attention of the House, but was extremely grateful for the opportunity of explanation which they had so kindly afforded to him.


said, that his recollection substantially agreed with the statement made by the hon. Gentleman. He could now have no doubt whatever that his hon. Friend was the person who suggested that the room should be cleared, and on the parties having withdrawn, he took the earliest opportunity of explaining that his question had been misunderstood, and that he deeply regretted the pain which had been inflicted upon Sir Frankland Lewis. Of the ability with which the examination by his hon. Friend the Member for Weymouth was conducted, every person spoke highly. It should be recollected that two gentlemen appeared there as advocates, which rendered it necessary to give to the examination more of a personal character than was usual on such investigations as these. But during the whole of that inquiry he was bound to say that his hon. Friend had conducted his inquiries with an entire absence of personal feeling, and with the utmost desire to exhibit fairness towards all concerned.


had no desire to prolong the discussion, particularly in the absence of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton; but it was due to the hon. Member for Weymouth that he should make one remark not personal to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. It should be borne in mind that during the long inquiry which was instituted before the Andover Committee, more than thirty thousand questions were proposed. A large proportion of them were put by the hon. Member for Weymouth; but in no one instance had he put a question which any witness ever resented. He stated this because he believed that great misapprehension prevailed relative to the course which had been pursued in the Committee; and he the more desired to say it because he believed that nobody could have acted with more fairness than the hon. Member for Weymouth. He displayed remarkable ability on that occasion, and showed himself not only master of his subject, but master of his temper—a very important quality in the transaction of public affairs.


corroborated the statements made by the hon. Member for Weymouth, and bore favourable testimony to the conduct of the hon. Gentleman. He did not think either with reference to the particular question complained of, that it was made, or that his general mode of examination was unfair.


observed, that the reason why he did not feel himself called on to give to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton any notice of his intention to make this explanation was, that the question at issue was merely a matter of veracity on his (Mr. Christie's) part, and did not involve any one but himself.

Subject dropped.

Back to