Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lushington, Stephen (1782-1873)

LUSHINGTON, STEPHEN (1782–1873), civilian, was second son of Sir Stephen Lushington (d. 1807), of South Hill Park, Berkshire. His father, who was for some years director of the East India Company, and chairman in 1790, was created a baronet in 1791. His mother was Hester, daughter of John Boldero of Aspenden Hall, near Buntingford, Hertfordshire. Stephen, born in Harley Street, London, on 14 Jan. 1782, was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he matriculated on 26 Oct. 1797. He was elected a fellow of All Souls, and graduated B.A. 1802, M.A. 1806, B.C.L. 1807, D.C.L. 1808. On 28 Jan. 1801 he was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn, but migrated in the following November to the Inner Temple. He was called to the bar on 7 Feb. 1806, and on 3 Nov. 1808 became a member of the College of Advocates. At the general election in November 1806 he was returned to the House of Commons in the whig interest for the borough of Great Yarmouth, and on 23 Feb. 1807 spoke in favour of the Slave Trade Abolition Bill (Parl. Debates, viii. 962–3). Lushington was again returned for Great Yarmouth at the general election in May following, and on 15 March 1808 took part in the debate on the Oude charge against the Marquis Wellesley, whose conduct he severely censured (ib. x. 1038–1041). His motion on 31 May 1808 with regard to the award of prize-money to Sir Home Popham, whom he accused of disgracing the character of a British officer, was defeated by a majority of 69 (ib. xi. 721–34, 763). In the following month he resigned his seat in the House of Commons, and for some years devoted himself entirely to his practice in the courts of civil and ecclesiastical law. At the general election in March 1820 Lushington was returned for the borough of Ilchester, and on 11 July following brought forward a motion in favour of the recognition of the independence of South America (ib. 2nd ser. ii. 376–82). At the reform dinner on 4 May 1821 at the London Tavern he is said to have distinguished himself ‘for the vigour or rather the violence of [his] language’ (Walpole, Hist. of England, 1878, ii. 282). In February 1822 he opposed the Irish Insurrection Bill, and maintained that the state of Ireland had never been thoroughly investigated (Parl. Debates, 2nd ser. vi. 171–5). His motion on 12 July in the same year for the rejection of the lords' amendments to the Marriage Act Amendment Bill was defeated by 122 to 20 (ib. vii. 1639–40, 1648). On 16 March 1824 he supported the introduction of Canning's bill for ‘the more effectual suppression of the African slave-trade’ (ib. x. 1169–75), and on 9 April following spoke in favour of Robinson's motion for a grant of 50,000l. for the erection of additional churches (ib. xi. 346–50). On 11 June he made an elaborate vindication of the character of John Smith, a missionary, whose irregular conviction by a Demerara court-martial had aroused a great deal of just indignation in this country (ib. pp. 1206–45). He was returned for the borough of Tregony, Cornwall, at the general election in June 1826. On 12 June 1827 he presented several petitions from ‘people of colour in the West Indies,’ and urged that they should be admitted to the full protection of the law, and to all the privileges of British subjects (ib. xvii. 1242–9), which was carried out by an order of council issued in the following year. On 17 July 1828 he defended Sir John Nicholl, the judge of the prerogative court of Canterbury, from the attacks made upon him by Joseph Hume in the House of Commons (ib. xviii. 1754–9), and on 16 Feb. 1829 pronounced a high eulogium on Peel's conduct in relation to the Roman catholic emancipation question (ib. xx. 368–72). On 23 Feb. 1830 he supported Lord John Russell's motion for leave to bring in a bill conferring the right of parliamentary representation on Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham (ib. xxii. 881–4), and on 5 April spoke in favour of the repeal of the civil disabilities of the Jews (ib. xxiii. 1325–8). Lushington unsuccessfully contested Reading at the general election in the summer of 1830, but was returned for Winchelsea a few days before the dissolution of parliament, and on 15 April 1831 supported Fowell Buxton's resolution pledging the house to adopt the best means of effecting the abolition of slavery in the British colonies (ib. 3rd ser. iii. 1455–7). At the general election in this month he was returned both for Winchelsea and Ilchester, but elected to sit for Ilchester. On 15 March 1832 he spoke in favour of an inquiry into the Peterloo massacre (ib. xi. 268–9), and at the general election in December 1832 was returned at the head of the poll for the new constituency of the Tower Hamlets, for which he continued to sit until his retirement from the House of Commons at the dissolution in June 1841. On 25 April 1833 he supported Grote's resolution for the adoption of the ballot, which he considered ‘was indisputably necessary to secure a beneficial exercise of the elective franchise’ (ib. xvii. 645–8), and on 23 July 1833 declared himself in favour of triennial parliaments (ib. xix. 1141–2). In supporting Lord Morpeth's amendment to the address on 25 Feb. 1835, Lushington defended himself from Colonel Sibthorpe's attack upon a speech which he had recently made to his constituents in Tower Hamlets (ib. xxvi. 263–71).

His motion for leave to bring in a bill for the abolition of capital punishment was defeated on 5 March 1840 by 161 to 91 votes (ib. lii. 929–35, 946). He supported Easthope's motion in May 1841 for the introduction of a bill for the abolition of church rates (ib. lviii. 794–7), and on 2 June following spoke for the last time in the House of Commons during the debate on the motion of want of confidence, when he availed himself of the opportunity ‘of avowing himself to be still a party man, and strongly attached to those principles which he had hitherto professed’ (ib. lviii. 1008–14). Lushington's share in the separation of Lord and Lady Byron in 1817 is noticed under Byron, George Gordon (cf. Moore, Life of Byron, vi. 279). With Brougham and Denman Lushington was retained as counsel for Queen Caroline before the House of Lords, and made a masterly speech in her defence on 26 Oct. 1820 (Nightingale, Trial of Queen Caroline, 1820, iii. 293–342). He was present at the queen's death on 7 Aug. 1821, and as one of her executors made the arrangements for the removal of her body from Brandenburgh House, Hammersmith, to Brunswick, where he attended the funeral (see Parl. Debates, 2nd ser. vi. 949–62). In June 1822 Lushington appeared before Sir John Nicholl in the prerogative court as counsel for Mrs. Serres, the soi-disant Princess Olive of Cumberland, in support of her claim to a legacy under the will of George III (Addams, Eccl. Reports, i. 255–73). On 16 Feb. 1828 he was appointed judge of the consistory court of London in the place of Sir Christopher Robinson, and took his seat the fourth session of Hilary term (Haggard, Eccl. Reports, i. xx). He succeeded Nicholl as judge of the high court of admiralty on 17 Oct. 1838, and was sworn a member of the privy council on 5 Nov. following. The courts over which he presided went through several changes in his time. In 1840 and 1861 the powers of the admiralty court were extended by 3 & 4 Vict. c. 65, and 24 Vict. c. 10; and by the former act the jurisdiction of the prize court, which was formerly constituted by a special commission issued under the great seal in the time of war, was vested in the admiralty judge. By another act passed in 1840 (3 & 4 Vict. c. 66), a salary of 4,000l. a year was assigned to this judge, who was to be disqualified from sitting in the House of Commons after the dissolution of the then existing parliament. In 1858 the voluntary and contentious jurisdiction of granting probate of wills or letters of administration was transferred from the ecclesiastical courts to the new court of probate by 20 & 21 Vict. c. 77, while the jurisdiction of the same courts in matters matrimonial was transferred to the new court for divorce and matrimonial causes by 20 & 21 Vict. c. 85, and it was provided that upon the next vacancy the judge of the probate court should also be the judge of the admiralty court. Finally, by an act passed in 1859, serjeants, barristers, attorneys, and solicitors were allowed to practise in the admiralty court (22 & 23 Vict. c. 6). On 2 July 1858 Lushington was appointed dean of arches in the place of Sir John Dodson, and was succeeded in the London consistory court by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Travers Twiss. Owing to the infirmities of age he resigned both his seat in the admiralty court and his post as dean of arches in July 1867. He died at Ockham Park, Surrey, on 19 Jan. 1873, in his ninety-second year, and was buried at Ockham.

Lushington was an ardent reformer and a staunch churchman, an able advocate, and a forcible parliamentary speaker. Throughout the anti-slavery struggle he warmly supported Buxton in his conduct of the campaign, and ‘every idea and every plan was originated and arranged between them’ (Charles Buxton, Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1850, p. 133). As the judge of the admiralty court for nearly twenty-nine years he acquired a high reputation for the legal soundness and the substantial accuracy of his decisions, which were seldom appealed against, and but rarely reversed. As an ecclesiastical judge he had several cases before him of great interest. He gave judgment as judge of the consistory court of London in the case of Westerton v. Liddell (church ornaments) on 5 Dec. 1855, as assessor to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the case of Ditcher v. Denison (the doctrine of the real presence) on 12 Aug. 1856, and as dean of arches in the case of Burder v. Heath (false doctrine) on 2 Nov. 1861, and in the case of the Bishop of Salisbury v. Williams (‘Essays and Reviews’) on 25 June 1862, while he formed one of the judicial committee of the privy council on the hearing of the appeals in Gorham v. Bishop of Exeter (doctrine of baptismal regeneration), Long v. Bishop of Capetown (church discipline in the colonies), and the case of Bishop Colenso (jurisdiction of colonial metropolitans). His judgments will be found in Haggard (‘Ecclesiastical Reports’), Carter's ‘Notes of Cases in the Ecclesiastical and Maritime Courts,’ Robertson, Spinks (ecclesiastical and admiralty), Deane, William Robinson, Spinks (prize cases), Swabey, Lushington, Browning and Lushington, ‘Law Reports, Admiralty and Ecclesiastical Cases,’ vol. i., the ‘Law Times Reports,’ and Moore's ‘Privy Council Cases.’ A few of his speeches and judgments have been published separately.

With Brougham he was one of the founders of the Society for Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in April 1825. He was elected a bencher of the Inner Temple in 1840, and acted as treasurer of his inn in 1851. He served on a great number of royal commissions, and was for many years chancellor of the diocese of Rochester, official to the archdeacon, and commissary of Westminster, Essex, and Hertfordshire, and of the deaneries of Essex and Barking.

Lushington married, on 8 Aug. 1821, Sarah Grace, daughter of Thomas William Carr of Frognal, Hampstead, Middlesex. Of five sons and five daughters, his fourth son, Vernon Lushington, Q.C., was (1877–1900) county court judge for Surrey and Berkshire, while a twin brother, Sir Godfrey Lushington (1832–1907), was permanent under-secretary for the home department. Lushington's wife died on 20 Sept. 1837, and was buried in Bushey Church, Hertfordshire. His portrait, painted by W. Holman Hunt in 1862, is in the possession of Judge Lushington. There are engravings of Lushington by Walker (1834) after Newton, and by Holl after Wivell.

Lushington's younger brother, Charles Lushington (1785–1866), entered the civil service of the East India Company in 1800, and served in Bengal till 1827. Returning to England, he was M.P. for Ashburton in the liberal interest from 1833 to 1841, and for Westminster from 1847 to 1852. He resided for many years at Edgware, but died at Brighton 23 Sept. 1866. He published a ‘History of Calcutta's Religious Institutions,’ Calcutta, 1824; ‘Remonstrance addressed to the Bishop of London in behalf of the Dissenters,’ 1838; and ‘Dilemmas of a Churchman,’ 1838. His first wife Sarah, daughter of Colonel Joseph Gascoyne, whom he married in 1805, was author of ‘A Journey from Calcutta to Europe in 1827–8,’ London, 8vo, and died in 1839; his second wife Julia Jane, widow of Thomas Teed of Stanmore, died in February 1866.

[Times, 21 and 22 Jan. 1873; Law Times, 13 July 1867 and 25 Jan. 1873; Illustrated London News, 1 Feb. 1873 (with portrait); Charles Buxton's Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1850; Ann. Reg. 1873, pt. ii. pp. 123–4; Gent. Mag. 1821, pt. ii. pp. 176, 177–9, 269; Georgian Era, 1833, ii. 359–60; Random Recollections of the House of Commons, 1836, pp. 255–7; Temple Bar, xxvi. 364–93; Cussans's Hist. of Hertfordshire. Hundred of Edwinstree, 1872, pp. 94–6; Hundred of Dacorum, 1879, p. 227; Whishaw's Synopsis of the Members of the English Bar, 1835, pp. 88–9; Masters of the Bench of the Inner Temple, 1883, p. 104; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886, iii. 883; Stapylton's Eton School Lists, 1864, p. 8; Dod's Peerage, &c., 1873, pp. 433–4; Burke's Peerage, &c., 1890, p. 886; Lists of Members of Parliament; Admissions to Lincoln's Inn.]

G. F. R. B.