CRAMPTON, Philip Cecil (1782-1862), of Merrion Square, Dublin

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

26 Feb. 1831 - 1831
15 July 1831 - 1832

Family and Education

b. May 1782, 4th s. of Rev. Cecil Crampton, rect. of Headford, co. Galway and Nicola Mary, da. of Rev. Jeremy Marsh. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1797, BA 1802, MA 1807, fellow 1807-16, LLB 1809, LLD 1810; King’s Inns 1804; called [I] 1810. m. (1) 1817, Sidney Mary Browne (d. 1839), s.p.; (2) 15 Aug. 1844, Margaret, da. of John Duffy, 1s. d. 29 Dec. 1862.

Offices Held

Professor of oratory, Trinity, Dublin 1814, of common law 1816-34; solicitor-gen. [I] Dec. 1830-Oct.1834; bencher, King’s Inns 1831; puisne judge, k.b. [I] 1834-59; PC [I] 1858.

Biography

Crampton, a cousin of the celebrated Dublin surgeon Sir Philip Crampton, gained a considerable practice at the Irish bar through his ‘pleasing manner and ready tact’ and ‘diligent use of respectable talents’, while politically he was ‘something more than a Whig during a large portion of his life’.1 On the formation of Lord Grey’s ministry in 1830 he was recommended for the post of Irish solicitor-general by the lord lieutenant, Lord Anglesey, who believed him to be ‘a perfect gentleman, and likely to do well’ in the Commons, where he had agreed to sit.2 Grey initially hoped to bring him in on the Russell interest for Bletchingley, where £1,500 was immediately required, on the understanding that he must provide £800 with the remainder coming from the secret service fund. Nothing came of this and by February 1831 Grey was growing anxious, warning Anglesey that ‘it is very necessary that Crampton should be in the ... Commons as soon as possible, as Smith Stanley [the chief secretary] will be greatly in want of his assistance on all Irish matters ... particularly after O’Connell’s return’. Anglesey engineered a vacancy at Milborne Port, which he controlled, but this had to be assigned to another Irish lawyer wanted in the Commons, Sheil, and Crampton was eventually returned at the end of the month for Saltash on the Russell interest.3

Shortly after his appointment, Crampton observed to Smith Stanley that ‘it is difficult to exaggerate the power exercised at this time over the public mind by the press of Dublin’, and he hoped steps would be taken to secure the adhesion of the Evening Mail and Evening Post to the new government, which would involve ‘less expense than the movement of half-a-dozen regiments from England to Ireland’.4 He declined to offer an opinion on a motion for revaluation of Irish property liable to annates, 14 Mar. 1831, in case he was required to give a formal legal opinion in his official capacity. Supporting inquiry into the Irish courts, 16 Mar., he admitted that ‘great abuses’ existed but said this was true of the United Kingdom as a whole, where ‘justice is now sold at so high a price as to make it entirely unattainable to any poor man’. He presented a petition from the senior proctor of the Irish prerogative court complaining of the charges made against his character by the judicial commissioners’ report, 19 Apr. Introducing a bill to assimilate Irish judicial procedures to those in England, 12 Apr., he repudiated O’Connell’s assertion that disturbances in Ireland had been caused by maladministration of the law; the dissolution killed the bill. He approved of John Campbell’s plan to amend the laws of inheritance and descent and hoped they would be applied to Ireland, 14 Apr. He of course divided for the second reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. He denied that the Irish bill was a revolutionary measure, 24 Mar., arguing that it was ‘founded on law and equity and ... the true principles of the constitution’, and that it was necessary to ‘accede to the just demands of the people’. Responding to a Dublin petition in defence of slavery, 29 Mar. 1831, he observed that ‘the want of parliamentary reform and the continuance of negro slavery are the two great spots which disfigure the political character of this country’. He offered for Dublin University at the ensuing general election but was confronted by tumultuous ‘No Popery’ demonstrations. He described himself as a ‘radical reformer’, in the sense that a radical solution was needed for the defects of the constitution, to save the country from ‘gliding down into the abyss of revolution’. He personally considered the proposed £10 Irish borough franchise too low and favoured raising it in order to satisfy ‘the Protestant mind’, but he could not promise such a change. He was defeated by the anti-Catholic Thomas Lefroy.5 Anglesey was willing to make a seat available to him at Milborne Port, but local difficulties arising from the borough’s impending disfranchisement meant that his return was delayed until July.6 He joined Brooks’s Club, 25 Sept. 1831.

He voted for the details of the reintroduced reform bill and for its passage, 21 Sept. 1831, when he described the rotten and nomination boroughs as ‘an excrescence’ and ‘an offence against the law and the constitution’. He believed the Commons ‘ought to be the mirror of the national mind’, representing ‘the wealth ... talent ... intelligence and ... sense of the great body of the people’. He adduced an argument founded on common law that the Lords had ‘no connection with and no control over the privileges of the ... Commons’, and suggested that if they rejected the bill it would be open to the Commons and the crown together to abolish most of the schedule A boroughs by discontinuing their writs and issuing them for new boroughs. This statement provoked opposition protests and was repudiated by the embarrassed leader of the House, Lord Althorp; Crampton explained that he was expressing a private opinion and had ‘merely mentioned the matter as a speculative case’.7 Discussing the possible successors to Smith Stanley at about this time, Anglesey noted of Crampton that he ‘has, I imagine, the real good principle, but does not appear to be powerful in Parliament. He would make a good judge’.8 He divided for the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept, and for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He presented a Galway petition for the retention of that borough’s peculiar franchise, 11 Oct. 1831.

He accused O’Connell of presenting an ‘overdrawn and highly exaggerated picture’ of the state of Ireland, 25 July 1831, arguing that conditions were improving and that the ministry had ‘done more for the benefit of Ireland in a short time than any which preceded it for years’. He agreed that the law on subletting required modification to protect tenants and promised legislation as soon as possible, 5 Aug. Speaking as a private Member, 10 Aug., he saw no objection to introducing to Ireland those parts of the English poor law system providing for the sick and the elderly, but he was unwilling to risk the experiment of providing employment or support for the able-bodied. He denied that the Act of Union was to blame for Irish distress and warned that its repeal would lead ‘in a very short time to the ruin’ of both countries, 16 Aug. He divided with the minority for O’Connell’s motion that the 11 Members originally chosen for the Dublin election committee should be sworn, 29 July. He supported the issue of a new writ, 8 Aug., asserting that there was no evidence of general corruption and rejecting the charges of undue influence by the government. He dismissed Lord Stormont’s demand for a pledge of no ministerial interference as ‘a mere election trick on the part of the corporation of Dublin’, designed ‘to produce an effect against the reform candidates’, 20 Aug. He said it should be left to the law officers’ discretion whether any legal proceedings should be taken, 23 Aug., when he voted to punish only those guilty of giving bribes. He directly contradicted the accusation of interference made against Gossett, the Irish under-secretary, 25 Aug., but presented a Dublin voters’ petition complaining of the conduct of the election, 5 Sept. 1831.

Crampton repudiated claims that the government had tried to rig the juries in the recent Kilkenny trials, 9, 16 Aug. 1831. He opposed printing the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry in the wake of the Newtownbarry massacre, as the case had not yet been investigated, 11 Aug., rejected criticisms of government inaction, 31 Aug., and declared that the ministry would be influenced solely by the interests of the country and not by the representations of petitioners, 26 Sept. He defended the Irish lord lieutenants bill, as it was necessary to have a single person in each county responsible for the discharge of various duties, 15 Aug. He maintained that the government had acted ‘fairly, discreetly and for the public good’ in its subsequent selections, 6 Oct. He defended the Irish attorney-general, Blackburne, from O’Connell’s charge of political bias in the appointment of crown prosecutors, 31 Aug. He reluctantly deferred the order that day to go into committee on the reintroduced Irish administration of justice bill, but it was later carried and received royal assent, 5 Oct. He provided a lengthy account of the dispute between the Irish lord chancellor and master of the rolls over the appointment of the latter’s secretary, 16 Sept., explaining that he had previously acted as counsel for the master, who was in the right. He rejected O’Connell’s demand for communications between the judge and the Irish administration in the case of the conspirator O’Leary to be laid on the table, 27 Sept., thinking ‘nothing would be more dangerous’. He maintained that the sole object of the Whiteboy offences bill was to limit the death penalty, since the severity of punishment had often led to the failure of prosecutions, 3 Oct. He defended the Cork magistrates from an allegation of corrupt use of the Trespass Act made by four labourers, but did not object to an inquiry, 5 Oct. He thought Catholics tended to exaggerate the financial burden placed on them for the building of new churches under the Irish Vestries Act, 29 Aug., although they had a grievance. He agreed that there had been a ‘gross misapplication’ of funds by the trustees of the church of St. George, Dublin, 30 Sept. He felt that the Dublin coal-meters had an ‘equitable claim’ for compensation, 13 Sept. He was a majority teller against abolition of the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. He presented and endorsed a petition from the Royal Dublin Society against the reduction in its parliamentary grant, ‘a piece of miserable economy’ inflicted on an institution which ‘affords the greatest encouragement to the progress of knowledge’, 29 Sept. He defended the Sale of Beer Act, believing that it was better to encourage working men to drink ‘wholesome beer’ rather than gin in ‘poison shops’, 24 Aug. He welcomed Campbell’s general register bill, observing that a similar land registry in Ireland had worked well, 20 Sept., and likewise supported his arbitration bill, although more time for consideration was needed before it could be extended to Ireland, 29 Sept. 1831.

He continued to be active in promoting government measures affecting Ireland, frequently acting as a teller and serving on various committees. He introduced the Subletting Act amendment bill, which was necessary because of the ‘ruinous effects’ of the present system on the tenantry, 12 Dec. 1831, and explained that its object was to make landlord-tenant contracts binding and prevent fraud, 20 Feb.; it gained royal assent, 24 Mar. 1832. He attended a dinner meeting of ministers to settle the membership of the Lords and Commons select committees on Irish tithes, 12 Dec. 1831, when he reportedly sided with Smith Stanley, Lord Lansdowne and Edward Littleton* in opposing the appointment of any Catholics, ‘because ... O’Connell must be one’.9 He did not think it possible to produce a return of the tithes received by clergymen and bishops, 14 Dec., but claimed that if the information was available it would falsify the ‘exaggerated statements’ being made about church property. Early in February 1832 he reported to Smith Stanley on the ‘truly alarming’ effects of the tithes war in Ireland, fearing that ‘the infection is diffusing rapidly’.10 He defended Smith Stanley’s decision to bring forward resolutions on the subject before the select committee’s report, 13 Mar., as immediate action was required to prevent ‘anarchy and disorder ... a total abandonment of government and the investment of the executive in the hands of an infuriated mob’. He believed that payment must be enforced, but was open-minded as to whether tithes might be commuted in future for some form of land tax. He attacked the critics of the resulting bill as ‘the representatives of the fevered imagination ... the worked up factions and diseased opinions of a portion only of the [Irish] people’, 6 Apr., and spoke on its details in committee. He denied that the purpose of the separate tithes composition bill was to despoil church property, 13 July, dismissed accusations that the government had the ‘unconstitutional notion’ of trying to prevent anti-tithes meetings, 20 July, and made numerous interventions in committee, 1, 2 Aug. He defended the proposed system of educating Protestants and Catholics together, 26 Jan., maintaining that by avoiding persecution ‘sound doctrine and sound opinions [would] work their own way’. He expressed strong feelings about ‘the spread of education and the dissipation of the intellectual darkness prevailing in Ireland’, 6 Mar. He warned that the Catholic marriages bill would encourage clandestine marriages, but agreed that the existing penalty for clergymen performing marriages between Protestants and Catholics was too severe, 2 Apr. He subsequently brought in an Irish clandestine marriages bill, 21 May, but it did not complete its committee stage. He agreed with Dublin petitioners that the state of Sabbath observance there was ‘much to be lamented’ and hoped a suitable measure might be adopted by Parliament, 3 Aug. He supported Ireland’s inclusion in the anatomy bill to prevent the export of scarce cadavers to England, 6 Feb., 11 Apr. He did not oppose the Dublin paper stainers’ petition against the excise duty on paper hangings, 9 Feb., but denied it was solely an Irish grievance. He explained that the Dublin coal trade bill did not affect the rights of the coal-meters to compensation, 10 Feb., 9 Mar. 1832.

He introduced the Irish juries bill, 12 Dec. 1831, stated that it was founded on ‘substantially the same’ principles as the English Act of 1825, 22 Feb., and successfully resisted an amendment for selection by lot, 28 Feb. 1832; it passed the Commons but did not reach the Lords. He explained the legal requirement for Irish justices of the peace to pay a fee for their new warrants on the demise of the crown, 17 Jan., but favoured Ireland being put on the same footing as England, 7 Feb. He unsuccessfully opposed a motion for returns from Coleraine corporation giving the title to its estates, which would set an ‘objectionable’ precedent, 23 Jan. He introduced the Dublin nisi prius court bill, 27 Jan., and declared that Maurice O’Connell’s description of it as a job was ‘the grossest libel ... ever uttered’, 3 Apr.; it passed and received royal assent, 23 May. He made a robust defence of the Irish chancellor Lord Plunket from ‘baseless and unfounded’ accusations motivated by party spite and ‘bigotry’, 6 Mar. He supported the amendment to the Irish registry of deeds bill giving an increased salary to the registrar, who had an ‘equitable title’ to this, 3 Apr., but opposed one requiring his permanent presence in his office, 24 July. He said it was desirable but impracticable that a process by an Irish judge should be served on English subjects anywhere in the world, 4 Apr. He repudiated O’Connell’s ‘unjust’ charges against the Irish judges in relation to punishment for forgery, maintaining that they had a ‘uniform wish to administer the laws with the utmost mildness’, 17 May. He supported the motion for inquiry into the disturbed counties, 31 May, being ‘decidedly of opinion that the common law is sufficient to restore tranquillity in Ireland’. He felt it his ‘imperative duty’ to oppose the Irish chancery bill, which was withdrawn on the understanding that reforms planned by the lord chancellor would be ‘speedily settled’, 6 June. He defended the party processions bill, which only aimed to stop gatherings where bloodshed regularly occurred, 14 June, and advised caution in discussing a Clonfert petition complaining of military interference at a public meeting, 10 Aug.; such petitions invariably had a ‘poetic character’. He denied Hume’s claim that as solicitor-general he received a fee for every criminal prosecution in Ireland whether he was present in court or not, 18 July 1832.

He of course voted with government on issues beyond his official brief. He divided for the second reading of the revised English reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, its details and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted for Ebrington’s motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers committed to carrying an unimpaired measure, 10 May. He presented Galway petitions for the preservation of its franchise, 19 Jan., 13 Mar. He voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, when he argued that the new county voters would be ‘fully as respectable ... wealthy and ... independent’ as the £10 freeholders. He was confident that after the inevitable early excitement in Ireland, ‘sound health will be established, tranquillity ... restored and these unfortunate differences between Protestants and Catholics ... forgotten’. He defended the increase in Dublin University’s representation, 13 June, attacked O’Connell’s inconsistency in moving to restore the 40s. county franchise when he had previously supported the £10 qualification, 18 June, and made numerous other interventions in committee on legal details. He opposed Hume’s bill to disqualify the recorder of Dublin from sitting in the Commons, 24 July, having ‘no wish to see the House stripped of those persons high in the law, whom it now possesses’. He defended the definition of bribery in the bribery at elections bill, 30 July. He presented two Milborne Port petitions for a protective duty against French gloves, 19 Jan., pointing to the ‘unprecedented distress’ in the English glove industry and hoping for a measure ‘compatible with those great principles of unshackled commerce’. He supported the principle of the births registration bill, 18 May, but advised its withdrawal because of the practical difficulties involved, 20 June. He expressed his ‘cordial support’ for Ewart’s death penalty abolition bill, 30 May, as severe punishments had no basis in common law and did not prevent crime. He approved of the dower bill, except for one clause which curtailed the rights of widows, 8 June. He was against requiring coroners to be trained in medical jurisprudence, 20 June, arguing that ‘free election is the best security ... for proper persons being chosen’. That day he dismissed O’Connell’s complaint of a breach of privilege by The Times. He was a majority teller against granting representative government to New South Wales, 28 June 1832.

Crampton offered again for Dublin University at the general election of 1832, but the contest was marked by ‘scenes and sounds of the most shocking and debased barbarity’, and he and the other ministerial candidate were heavily defeated.11 He was put forward unsuccessfully for Dungarvan at a by-election in February 1834,12 and remained in the anomalous position of Irish solicitor-general without a seat until October, when he was appointed to an Irish judgeship. O’Connell considered it ‘an irretrievable disgrace’ to promote ‘so incompetent a man’, who had ‘no character for high-mindedness or public integrity’ but did have a ‘close degree of relationship’ with other members of the bench.13 In fact, his judicial reputation proved to be ‘extraordinarily high’, as he was ‘ardent in pursuit of righteousness’, although politically he ‘became a Conservative ... probably in consequence of the violence of agitation in Ireland’. He was ‘a genuine Christian philanthropist’, an ‘Evangelical’, who always advocated ‘the fullest freedom of conscience’, and a ‘firm supporter of the temperance cause’. At his home at St. Valerie, near Bray in county Wicklow, ‘alcohol was ... banned’ and he ‘poured the contents of his cellars into the Dargle’.14 He retired from the bench in 1859. He died in December 1862, leaving an only child, Cecil Philip John Crampton (1847-66), who died while an undergraduate at Cambridge.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins

Notes

  • 1. F.E. Ball, Judges in Ireland, ii. 273; The Times, 1 Jan. 1863.
  • 2. PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/28C, Anglesey to Grey, 6 Dec.; 33A, Crampton to Gossett, 13 Dec. 1830.
  • 3. Ibid. 28A-B, Grey to Anglesey, 18, 25 Jan., 8 Feb.; 31D, Smith Stanley to same, 7, 21 Feb. 1831.
  • 4. Derby mss 920 Der (14) 120/4, Crampton to Smith Stanley, 30 Dec. 1830.
  • 5. Dublin Evening Post, 10 May 1831.
  • 6. Anglesey mss D619/28A-B, Grey to Anglesey, 17, 30 May 1831.
  • 7. Three Diaries, 133.
  • 8. Anglesey mss D619/27B, Anglesey to Holland, 3 Sept. 1831.
  • 9. Hatherton diary, 12 Dec. 1831.