DE CRESPIGNY, Sir William Champion, 2nd Bt. (1765-1829), Kingrew, Fawley, Hants and Champion Lodge, Camberwell, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 1 Jan. 1765, o.s. of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny, 1st Bt., by 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. 5da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 28 Jan. 1818.
Lt. N. Glos. militia 1789, capt. 1793, 2nd maj. 1798, 1st maj. 1799; lt.-col. commdt. Fawley vols. 1803.
De Crespigny, residing five miles from Southampton, tentatively canvassed the borough in 1812, but did not persist. In 1818 he succeeded in a contest. On the hustings he was critical of the ministry and eulogized Henry Brougham*, but there was some political ambiguity about the support that gained him the seat.1 Apropos of his maiden speech on 2 Feb. 1819, Lord Malmesbury wrote:
Sir W. de Crespigny, who came in on government interest, made an attempt to speak, but failed completely—he gesticulated like a maniac and the little he said was unintelligible. The editors of the papers probably did not know his name, and he is not noticed in any of the papers.
This was confirmed by John George Lambton, who informed Earl Grey, 3 Feb. that de Crespigny’s speech, after Vansittart’s and before Castlereagh’s, ‘was nothing’.2 But a speech is reported to the effect that the fate of the country depended on the Bank question, that he objected to paper currency and was in favour of immediate inquiry into the resumption of cash payments. He voted for it, as well as for Brougham’s inclusion in the committee, 8 Feb. He was alleged to be sitting with the Grenvillite squad at that time.3 He went on to vote against the Windsor establishment, 22, 25 Feb. On 3 Mar. he called for the cleansing of the ‘Augean stable’ of defaulting and fraudulent tax officials. He voted for the reduction of the Admiralty board, 18 Mar. He was in favour of the London clergy bill, 24 Mar. He voted for burgh reform, 1 Apr. and 6 May. On 11 May he secured information on the war in Ceylon, which he maintained had been carried on with scant respect for humanity. He opposed the foreign enlistment bill from the outset, 11 May, as damaging to British commercial endeavours in South America and voted against it thereafter. He voted for Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and divided against ministerial budget proposals, 7 and 25 June. He voted for Brougham’s motion for inquiry into the abuse of charitable foundations, 23 June and for Burdett’s reform motion, 1 July.
On 25 Sept. 1819 Tierney informed Grey: ‘My worthy friend Sir William de Crespigny, who lives near Southampton, is quite eager for a meeting ...’, apropos of a county meeting to complain of the tragedy at Peterloo.4 In the next session de Crespigny was prominent in opposition. He attempted to secure an adjournment, 23 Nov., and next day (amid coughing) denounced ‘an illegal attack upon an unarmed multitude’ at Peterloo, quoting a clerical eye-witness in support of his contention. He proceeded to support the amendment to the address. He was shouted down in attempting to give voice to his opposition to the seditious meetings prevention bill, 2 Dec. He subsequently opposed coercive legislation and on 16 Dec., though indisposed, moved for a select committee to inquire into Robert Owen’s plan for ameliorating the condition of the lower classes. He praised Owen’s model establishment at New Lanark and read letters in commendation of it. An idealist minority of 16 Members (including David Ricardo) voted for a committee, but 141 against. De Crespigny, who had the day before insisted on the superiority of Owen’s plan over William Salisbury’s, asked ministers if they had a better plan for poor relief. Answer came there none. On 21 Dec., supporting Hamilton’s motion for inquiry into the state of the labouring poor in Scotland, de Crespigny said that he hoped that the political economists who had scorned his promotion of Owen’s plan would devise another for the relief of the poor. On 17 Dec. John William Ward had written of him, ‘By the bye he has cut a great figure this year. His speech in answer to Mackintosh was among the most perfect replies I ever heard.’5 He died 28 Dec. 1829.