DE CRESPIGNY, Sir William Champion, 2nd bt. (1765-1829), of Kingsrew, Fawley, Hants; Champion Lodge, Camberwell, Surr., and Anspach House, Southampton, Hants.
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Family and Educationb. 1 Jan. 1765, o.s. of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny, 1st bt., and Mary, da. and h. of Joseph Clarke. educ. ?Eton 1777-80; Trinity Hall, Camb. 1783, LLB 1786. m. 5 Aug. 1786, Lady Sarah Windsor, da. of Other Lewis, 4th earl of Plymouth, 5s. (3 d.v.p.) 5da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 28 Jan. 1818. d. 28 Dec. 1829.
Lt. N. Glos. militia 1789, capt. 1793, 2nd maj. 1798, 1st maj. 1799; lt.-col. commdt. Fawley vols. 1803.
At the 1820 general election De Crespigny offered again for Southampton, where George Tierney, the Whig leader in the Commons, feared that his seat was ‘in jeopardy’. After a seven-day contest forced by a ministerialist he was returned at the head of the poll.1 A regular attender and speaker, evidently not noted for the clarity of his diction, he continued to vote with the opposition to the Liverpool ministry on most major issues, including economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation.2 He presented a petition for reform of the assessed taxes, 3 July, and questioned the chancellor of the exchequer on the subject, 24 July 1820.3 He added ‘a few words’ to protests against the siting of a cavalry barracks in Regent’s Park, 10 July 1820. He raised no objection to the prorogation of Parliament, 17 Oct. 1820, which he saw as an expedient whereby ministers could quietly drop the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline, and made a robust speech in her defence at a Hampshire county meeting, 12 Jan. 1821, accusing government apologists of looking to ‘preferment not principle’.4 Endorsing the resulting petition presented in her support, 26 Jan., he deplored the use of the words ‘farce’ and ‘mob’ by the duke of Wellington, the lord lieutenant, to describe the gathering and prophesied that soon ‘all bodies would be looked on as mobs, except battalions of infantry and squadrons of horse’. Wellington’s brother, William Wellesley Pole, rebuked him, but conceded that the duke’s choice of words had been unfortunate. De Crespigny protested against a Hampshire loyal address from supporters of the ministry on the grounds that it masqueraded as a county address, ‘a most unfair and improper proceeding ... intended to prevent the expression of public feeling’, 26 Jan., and claimed that county meetings were the only means by which the people’s voice could be heard, 8 Feb. He presented petitions urging government to address agricultural distress, 26 Jan., 13 Feb.5 He complained about abuses in the system of tax collection, 9 Feb., and asked ministers to investigate the problem, 19 Mar.6 He paired for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar. 1825. He spoke in support of the enfranchisement of Leeds as a scot and lot borough in place of Grampound, 2 Mar., and voted for parliamentary reform, 18 Apr., 9 May 1821, 20 Feb., 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr. 1823. He presented a London merchants’ petition demanding better protection from foreign competition and attacking the East India Company’s monopoly, the level of military expenditure and the corn laws, 27 Mar. 1821.7 To laughter, he expressed the hope that it would not lie on the table until the day of judgement. In the debate on the timber duties bill, 16 Apr., he stressed the need to encourage colonial trade. That day he questioned the need for the volunteer corps in the ‘peaceable town of Southampton’. He gave vocal support, inaudible in the gallery, to Hume’s motion on the cost of dockyard works, 7 May. He supported Grey Bennet’s complaint against John Bull as a necessary defence of parliamentary privilege and seconded his motion to commit the author of the offending article to Newgate, 11 May. His presentation of petitions from four men injured by the yeomanry at Peterloo provoked laughter on the ministerial benches, to which he issued a stern reproof, 15 May. He spoke for inquiry into this ‘disgraceful transaction’ the following day, when he was reprimanded by the Speaker for an unspecified charge of bias against George Holme Sumner, chairman of the committee on the Newington select vestry bill, of which he was a member, during another speech against abuses in the system of tax collection. He presented a petition for criminal law reform, 17 May, and expressed dissatisfaction with the ambassador to Persia, 28 May. In a debate on the poor laws, 4 June, he recommended inquiry into Robert Owen’s scheme to give ‘permanent power of production to the lower classes’ and on 26 June he defended the right of Parliament to discuss Owen’s ideas. He presented a petition in favour of the bill against cruelty to horses and voiced his personal concern over this issue in a debate on the extra post bill, 29 June. That day, during discussion of the London police bill, he called for action against the ‘daring wickedness’ perpetrated at fairs. He introduced a motion complaining of the conduct of one Brook, a member of the preventive service, but withdrew it when the chancellor of the exchequer, who complained of the lack of notice, promised to investigate, 2 July 1821.8
De Crespigny endorsed a petition against the ‘obnoxious’ Irish window tax and demanded its abolition both there and in England, 25 Feb. 1822. He spoke for an amendment to government proposals for the reduction of navy five per cent stocks, proposing that more time be allowed for dissent to be heard, 8 Mar.9 In the debate on the Superannuation Act amendment bill, 11 Mar., he was scathing about reductions made in some official salaries, alleging that ministers had removed the lighter burdens of the country but ignored the heavier ones. He urged them to make military reductions to the ‘utmost possible extent’, 18, 20 Mar., and praised the efforts of the comptroller of the navy to that end.10 He welcomed the Irish poor employment bill, hoping ‘that the benefits of this measure should be rendered permanent’, 16 May. He denounced the navigation bill, 20 May, 4 June, and supported a protectionist petition, 30 May. He presented a petition against the beer licensing bill and made some inaudible observations on the corn bill, 3 June. He expressed some anti-clerical sentiment during the debate on grants for Irish churches, protesting at the irrelevance of the topic to the fight against famine, 22 July. He was reported to have complained of the Irish gentry’s unwillingness to give assistance, 30 July 1822, but denied this in the House the following day, when he commended their efforts to relieve suffering.11 He voted for inquiry into the Irish church establishment, 4 Mar. 1823. Unlike some Whigs, he favoured strict British neutrality in the Franco-Spanish conflict, 7 Mar., and he expressed disquiet at a prediction that another war with France was inevitable, 10 Mar. He made clear his disgust at the conduct of France, but opposed any involvement on the grounds of expense, 28 Apr., telling a Member who tried to drown his speech by coughing to go home and nurse himself, prompting laughter. He endorsed a petition against the window tax, 7 Mar., seconded Maberly’s motion for repeal of the asessed taxes, 18 Mar., when he told of an old lady frightened into fits by the tax collector, and spoke in support of a petition presented on behalf of a tax collector allegedly dismissed because he had exposed fraud, 28 Apr. He presented a petition from Middlesex against ‘alarming’ increases in the poor rates, 10 Mar., opposed state lotteries, 18 Mar., and spoke in favour of a petition against taxes on West Indian trade, 19 Mar. 1823.12
De Crespigny’s only known vote of 1824 was for repeal of the assessed taxes, 10 May, though he spoke occasionally. He asked ministers whether they intended to increase the size of the army, 4 Feb., receiving a qualified positive answer, and urged moderation in the West Indian army estimates, 20 Feb.13 He welcomed the usury laws repeal bill, 16 Feb. In spite of his earlier opposition to dockyard works, he spoke in favour of the St. Katharine’s Dock bill as beneficial to commerce, 17 May.14 Speaking on Owen’s petition on the education of the poor in Ireland, he observed that he had advised him not to submit the plan to Parliament, despite his earlier support for such schemes, 20 May. Next day he criticized the method of selecting committees and members of them who allowed themselves to be canvassed and who voted without hearing previous proceedings.15 He defended the character of John Adam, temporary governor-general of India, after he was attacked in a petition on freedom of the press, 25 May. De Crespigny’s attendance almost completely lapsed from this point and in November 1824 the local press reported that owing to recurrent bouts of sickness he would not offer again.16 He spoke at a Southampton inhabitants’ meeting against the house and window taxes, 14 Feb., and presented the resulting petition for repeal of the assessed taxes and against the coal duties, 25 Feb. 1825.17 He was recorded as having voted against the Irish unlawful societies bill ‘in some of its stages’. On 17 Mar. The Times reported that he was ‘dangerously ill’ at Southampton. In his last known speech he opposed Hume’s motion to abolish flogging in the navy, arguing that it was necessary to maintain discipline, 9 June 1825.18
At the 1826 dissolution De Crespigny, who had been widowed in December 1825, retired on account of ill health, citing ‘palsy and apoplexy’ in his parting constituency address and likening himself to a dying swan on the hustings.19 He died in December 1829. By his will, dated 27 Feb. 1829, the proceeds from the sale of his leasehold estates and the residue of his personal estate, sworn under £14,000, was distributed among his surviving children. The baronetcy and entrusted family properties passed to his grandson Claude William Champion de Crespigny (1818-68).20