1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eversley, Charles Shaw Lefevre, Viscount

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 10
Eversley, Charles Shaw Lefevre, Viscount
17439291911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 10 — Eversley, Charles Shaw Lefevre, Viscount

EVERSLEY, CHARLES SHAW LEFEVRE, Viscount (1794–1888), speaker of the British House of Commons, eldest son of Mr Charles Shaw (who assumed his wife’s name of Lefevre in addition to his own on his marriage), was born in London on the 22nd of February 1794, and educated at Winchester and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was called to the bar in 1819, and though a diligent student was also a keen sportsman. Marrying a daughter of Mr Samuel Whitbread, whose wife was the sister of Earl Grey, afterwards premier, he thus became connected with two influential political families, and in 1830 he entered the House of Commons as member for Downton, in the Liberal interest. In 1831 he was returned, after a severe contest, as one of the county members for Hampshire, in which he resided; and after the passing of the Reform Act of 1832 he was elected for the Northern Division of the county. For some years Mr Shaw Lefevre was chairman of a committee on petitions for private bills. In 1835 he was chairman of a committee on agricultural distress, but as his report was not accepted by the House, he published it as a pamphlet addressed to his constituents. He acquired a high reputation in the House of Commons for his judicial fairness, combined with singular tact and courtesy, and when Mr James Abercromby retired in 1839, he was nominated as the Liberal candidate for the chair. The Conservatives put forward Henry Goulburn, but Mr Shaw Lefevre was elected by 317 votes to 299. The period was one of fierce party conflict, and the debates were frequently very acrimonious; but the dignity, temper and firmness of the new speaker were never at fault. In 1857 he had served longer than any of his predecessors, except the celebrated Arthur Onslow (1691–1768), who was speaker for more than 33 years in five successive parliaments. Retiring on a pension, he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Eversley of Heckfield, in the county of Southampton. His appearances in the House of Lords were very infrequent, but in his own county he was active in the public service. From 1859 he was an ecclesiastical commissioner, and he was also appointed a trustee of the British Museum. He died on the 28th of December 1888, the viscountcy becoming extinct.

His younger brother, Sir John George Shaw Lefevre (1797–1879), who was senior wrangler at Cambridge in 1818, had a long and distinguished career as a public official. He was under-secretary for the colonies, and had much to do with the introduction of the new poor law in 1834, and with the foundation of the colony of South Australia; then having served on several important commissions he was made clerk of the parliaments in 1855, and in the same year became one of the first civil service commissioners. He helped to found the university of London, of which he was vice-chancellor for twenty years, and also the Athenaeum Club. He died on the 20th of August 1879.

The latter’s son, George John Shaw Lefevre (b. 1832), was created Baron Eversley in 1906, in recognition of long and prominent services to the Liberal party. He had filled the following offices:—civil lord of the admiralty, 1856; secretary to the board of trade, 1869–1871; under-secretary, home office, 1871; secretary to the admiralty, 1871–1874; first commissioner of works, 1881–1883; postmaster-general, 1883–1884; first commissioner of works, 1892–1893; president of local government board, 1894–1895; chairman of royal commission on agriculture, 1893–1896.