Letter – Robert Dillon Browne – 15 Dec 1838

Document Type: Letter
Date: 15 Dec 1838
Correspondent: Robert Dillon Browne
Archive Source: Misc Newspaper Cuttings
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To the Editor of the Sligo Champion.			Feuillade’s Hotel, Dec 15, 1838


       I beg to call the attention of the public to the circumstances connected with the late misunderstanding between Mr. Beaumont and Mr. Sanders, and to submit the following statement, which is supported by facts of which I am either myself cognizant or which are established by documentary evidence in my possession. The matter to which I refer has obtained an unenviable notoriety; but that feeling, based on the consciousness of the purity of Mr. Somers’s conduct, which has induced me to come to his assistance in the vindication of his honour, when it was first impeached by Mr. Beaumont, has now grown into an obligation of duty which forbids me to shrink from the ordeal of a public vindication, though by coming forward (this matter resting altogether upon the assertion of two gentlemen) the painful task devolves upon me of proving how far the word of either the one or the other is entitled to honourable estimation. I should have wished that my knowledge respecting this matter had appeared in evidence on the record of a court of justice, but this opportunity has been denied me: in the first place by Mr. Beaumont declining to appeal to a tribunal in this country, which would have been perfectly competent to adjudicate the case without detriment to the plaintiff; and in the second place, by the system of French jurisprudence, which in criminal matters deprives the accused, when not present, of the opportunity of defence, and which deterred  Mr. Somers from appearing, in consequence of entailing, as the minimum of punishment, for the offence of having given a premeditated blow, imprisonment for two years. I therefore submit this statement, which I trust is entitled to respect even from Mr. Beaumont, as he expressed to me in letters, the last of which I received after the late trial in Paris, that my conduct in this affair has been peaceable, conciliatory, and highly honourable, which terms would be flattering if they could be reciprocated.

       A few weeks ago Mr. Somers sought my advice, and having acquainted me with the preliminaries connected with the affair, placed in my hands a letter addressed by Mr. Beaumont to Mr. White, an officer in the British service, and a member of the Union Club, in which Mr. Beaumont stated that Mr. Somers had offered, on the part of the Hon. Mr. King, to compromise an affair of honour for a pecuniary consideration, of which compromise Mr. King must have been aware. I advised Mr. Somers to send to Mr. Beaumont to demand a retraction, and was deputed to wait on that gentleman. I saw Mr. Beaumont at the Union Club, where he refused to retract, refused to give any satisfaction, and aggravated the original offence by acknowledging (a matter with which he erroneously supposed I was acquainted) that he had written to a near relative of mine, residing in a province in Ireland – where Mr. Somers was at that time seeking the representation of the borough of Sligo – that Mr. Somers was engaged in gambling speculations, and that he had a distinct interest in a celebrated gaming-house in St. James’s-street. I returned to Mr. Somers, communicating to him the result of the interview with Mr. Beaumont, and stated to him at the same time that his character was most vitally affected; that the calumny had been in all probability circulated throughout one of the most fashionable clubs of London, and that he must seek a public justification of his conduct, either by a retractation from Mr. Beaumont, which it would be necessary to publish, or by forcing that gentleman to bring the matter before the public. Mr. Somers adopted by advice with an alacrity little indicative of a consciousness of guilt, and addressed the following letter to Mr. Beaumont.

[see letter from Somers to Beaumont, 2 Nov 1838]

	This letter elicited an answer from Mr. Beaumont, in which he acknowledges the misfortune and dishonour of his early life – circumstances to which, as the character of Mr. Somers is staked against Mr. Beaumont’s, and as the matter depends upon the relative credibility of either gentleman, I am forced to allude. In this letter Mr. Beaumont states that he had been compelled to withdraw his name from Brooke’s Club, and had withdrawn from him the acquaintance of his nearest friends; that he had on a former occasion accused Lady Swinburne of infidelity to her husband, grounding his accusation on facts received through a supernatural agency; and that though he was firmly convince of Mr. Somers’s intention, in alluding to money at Cowes, that he had drawn his deduction as to that intention from an unconcluded sentence. This letter was accompanied by another to me, of a conciliatory tone, in which Mr. Beaumont entreated me to procure an amicable meeting betwixt himself and Mr. Somers. Supposing that Mr. Beaumont would not have made such a request unless the tenacity of his memory had relaxed as to his recollection of the dishonourable charges against Mr. Somers, I again waited on that gentleman, when he refused to make the required concessions, but proffered the hand of friendship to Mr. Somers, provided he did not seek satisfaction. On the following day I received a letter from Mr. Beaumont, stating that he was just starting for Paris, and expressed a wish ‘that Somers and he should be upon the same terms as before,’ they having been in early life on terms of the most friendly intercourse.

	I would have submitted Mr. Beaumont’s letters in full to the consideration of the public, only they are so voluminous, so unseemly, of so erratic a nature, and betray so many aberrations of intellect, that in charity to him and my readers, I am induced to withhold them. In these letters he confesses that he is unworthy of belief; one of the few declarations of his to which I do not hesitate to give credit. Two of those I subjoin; they will be found under (D) [letter from TWB to Robert King, 20 Jan 1837] and (E) [TWB to R.Dillon Browne, 4/11 Nov 1838].

	Mr. Somers and I then followed Mr. Beaumont to Paris, where I had a third interviews with Mr.Beaumont, at my own hotel, as ‘expressly’ appointed by that gentleman. At this interview Mr. Beaumont  distinctly stated that he was ‘doubtful as to the point’ of Mr. Somers’s expressions in allusions to money at Cowes, which induced him to write the letter complained of, and that he was ‘uncertain whether Mr. Somers meant to demand from him a future loan for Mr. King’ (which is set down in the affidavit of that gentleman), at a period when he was contemplating the dishonour of his wife. After this admission I called Mr. Beaumont’s attention to the infirmity of his recollection, and again implored him to retract. I even requested him to refer me to some gentleman who I might consult, pledging myself, that if that gentleman declared I ought not to seek an apology I would abide by his decision, provided Mr. Beaumont bound himself to abide by a contrary determination if resolved upon. Mr. Beaumont has affirmed upon oath, that during this interview I told him to prepare for some indignity, meaning ‘violence’. I solemnly pledge myself I did not use such terms, or any bearing a similar construction, and that Mr. Beaumont has written to me in explanation, that he has sworn to my expressions, and deducted my meaning, ‘not having heard me distinctly’. Can any man be so ignorant (for I must attribute it to ignorance) of the sacred obligations of an oath as to acknowledge that, as a sworn witness in a court of justice, he permitted, in giving his evidence, his imagination to assist his memory? Immediately after this interview Mr. Beaumont and Mr. Somers came into collision in the Tuilleries gardens, and I returned with the latter gentleman to London, after having remained two days in Paris, expecting to hear from Mr. Beaumont

	After this Mr. Beaumont instituted his ‘court of honour’ (etymologically curious as is the term), composed of Colonel Gallois and some other obscure persons – Colonel Gallois, who had been previously unacquainted with Mr. Beaumont, and who, though he saw him unassisted by the advice of an English gentleman, rallied round him with all the disinterested promptitude of Swiss sympathy, and had the good taste and courage to dishonour an Englishman, a senator of that country, and a stranger, in his eagerness to serve the kind friend of yesterday. Of course it would not serve the purpose of this ‘court’ to advise Mr. Beaumont to fight – a ‘court’ which was organised at a most untimely moment, which ought to have been created before Mr. Beaumont received the indignity, to decide whether he should give satisfaction or not – a ‘court’ which, considering Mr. Beaumont was an Englishman, was composed of most extraordinary materials – and a ‘court’ whose conduct throughout was of the most doubtful character.

	I arrived again in Paris, in order to give my evidence at the trial, and immediately after my arrival was accosted by an individual of the name of O’Brien, whom I had formerly known, and the honour of whose acquaintance I had some years abandoned, for reasons unnecessary to mention. It will be recollected that assertions injurious to Mr. Somers’s reputation, proceeding from that gentleman, had been repeated by a Colonel Gallois, in evidence upon the trial.

	On meeting Mr. O’Brien, he stated to me that ‘he had no intention of giving evidence against Mr. Somers, that he had no evidence to give, and that his object in mingling in this matter was to procure money from Mr. Beaumont.’ Whatever might have been my estimation of Mr. O’Brien’s conduct after this admission, I thought it prudent to abstain from the expression of my opinion; and Mr. O’Brien having told me that Mr. Beaumont had made some admission favourable to Mr. Somers, I called upon Mr. O’Brien on the following day, when he again stated that his sole object was to seek money from Mr. Beaumont, and produced in corroboration of his assertion a check of Mr. Beaumont’s for £50, which he declared he had received with other moneys in consideration of anticipated services. Mr. O’Brien also told me upon this occasion that Mr. Beaumont had submitted the facts connected with this case to Sir Henry Hardinge, who advised him in reply that he ought ‘to fight’.

	There is another circumstance to which I beg to allude – it is the evidence of the witness Conti. He stated upon the trial that he was induced to give Mr. Somers credit for wine on Mr. Somers’s promise of procuring for him the patronage of Mr. Beaumont. I beg to remark that I was in Mr. Somers’s lodgings in Regent-street, accompanied by several other gentlemen, who are ready to come forward in evidence as to the fact which I state, when Mr. Somers had his first interview with Conti, who came to solicit for an order for wine; and on this occasion there was no allusion made to the name of Mr. Beaumont. This fact would be unworthy of notice, only it assists to prove that the case against Mr. Somers has been maintained by the most honourable means, which trust will not be assimilated by the uncharitable to suborning to perjury.

	Before I conclude, I beg to express my opinion (which I was precluded from expressing in the French journals) respecting the conduct of Colonel Gallois and Mr. Ledreu. They both have exceeded, in my humble opinion, the duty of the gentleman and the advocate, and in their persons have bowed down the noble and disinterested character of French gallantry before the idol of British gold. Considering that the former gentleman, on an acquaintance only contemporaneous with the insult Mr. Beaumont received from Mr. Somers, identified himself with Mr. Beaumont in a manner which evinced a total disregard for the feelings of the stranger and the absent, proving that some sinister motives influenced him, and that the latter gentleman dissipated Mr. Beaumont’s money with a profusion unprecedented at the French bar. I do not hesitate to pronounce as shamelessly venal the sword of the one and the toga of the other.

	This comprises all, and I feel confident that if this letter and the documents subjoined, are read, no doubt will be left in the mind of the public as to the highly honourable conduct of Mr. Somers throughout the whole proceeding.  Mr. King’s affidavit proves the object of Mr. Somers’s original mission to Mr. Beaumont. Mr. Beaumont’s admissions to me prove how doubtful he has been in his own mind as to the justness of the charges against Mr. Somers. Mr. Beaumont’s letters to me prove that he sought to be on terms of friendship with Mr. Somers, notwithstanding the charge preferred – leaving the world to conclude (supposing he thought the charges to be true) how careful he was in the selection of his associates; and, lastly, Lord Grey’s letters to Mr. Beaumont, and Mr. Beaumont’s to Mr. King, prove what a confidence is to be placed in Mr. Beaumont’s honour, and that he has not on this occasion appeared as a Neophyte in the ranks of slander.

	I have now done; I leave the characters of the respective parties connected with the affair in the possession of the public. My opinion respecting Mr. Somers is evident from the part I have cheerfully taken in this business; as to Mr. Beaumont, I don’t wish to judge him, but take the liberty of subjoining letters, containing the opinion of a high authority respecting the credit that should be attached to the assertions of that gentleman.

	I have the honour to remain your very obedient servant

		R. Dillon Browne.

[The subjoined letters referred to, all given elsewhere in DD under the original date, are

Grey to Beaumont, 31 Aug 1823 – subjoined letter (A)

Grey to Beaumont, 19 Jan 1824 – (B)

Grey to Carus Wilson, 5 Feb 1824 – (C)

Beaumont to King, 20 Jan 1837 – (D)

Beaumont to Dillon Browne, 4 Nov 1838 – (E) ]
Printed in the Morning Advertiser on 3rd Jan 1839. Browne (1811-50) had been an MP in Mayo for two years at the time of his involvement in this affair.

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