1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Farnborough, Thomas Erskine May, Baron

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 10
Farnborough, Thomas Erskine May, Baron

FARNBOROUGH, THOMAS ERSKINE MAY, Baron (1815-1886), English Constitutional historian, was born in London on the 8th of February 1815 and educated at Bedford grammar school. In 1831 he was nominated by Manners Sutton, speaker of the House of Commons, to the post of assistant librarian, so that his long connexion with parliament began in his youth. He studied for the bar, and was called at the Middle Temple in 1838. In 1844 he published the first edition of his Treatise on the Law, Privilege, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament. This work, which has passed through many editions, is not only an invaluable mine of information for the historical student, but it is known as the text-book of the law by which parliament governs its proceedings. In 1846 Erskine May was appointed examiner of petitions for private bills, and the following year taxing-master of the House of Commons. He published his Remarks to Facilitate Public Business in Parliament in 1849; a work On the Consolidation of Election Laws in 1850; and his Rules, Orders and Forms of the House of Commons was printed by command of the House in 1854. In 1856 he was appointed clerk assistant at the table of the House of Commons. He received the companionship of the Bath in 1860 for his parliamentary services, and became a knight commander in 1866. His important work, The Constitutional History of England since the Accession of George III. (1760–1860), was published in 1861–1863, and it received frequent additions in subsequent editions. In 1871 Sir Erskine May was appointed clerk of the House of Commons. His Democracy in Europe: a History appeared in 1877, but it failed to take the same rank in critical esteem as his Constitutional History. He retired from the post of clerk to the House of Commons in April 1886, having for fifteen years discharged the onerous duties of the office with as much knowledge and energy as unfailing tact and courtesy. Shortly after his retirement from office he was raised to the peerage under the title of Baron Farnborough of Farnborough, in the county of Southampton, but he only survived to enjoy the dignity for a few days. He died in London on the 17th of May 1886, and as he left no issue the title became extinct.