Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smith, Montagu Edward

SMITH, Sir MONTAGU EDWARD (1809–1891), judge, was the eldest son of Thomas Smith, solicitor and town clerk of Bideford, Devonshire, by his wife, Margaret Colville, daughter of M. Jenkyn of St. Mawes, Cornwall, commander in the royal navy. He was born at Bideford on 25 Dec. 1809, and was educated at the grammar school of his native town. He started in life as an attorney, but was admitted to Gray's Inn on 11 Nov. 1830, and was called to the bar on 18 Nov. 1835. Smith joined the western circuit, and on 11 May 1839 was admitted to the Middle Temple. He was appointed a queen's counsel in Trinity vacation 1853, and was elected a bencher of the Middle Temple on 22 Nov. in that year. After unsuccessfully contesting Truro in January 1849 and July 1852, he was returned for that constituency in the conservative interest at the general election in April 1859. He occasionally spoke in the house on legal topics, but took little part in the debates. In the session of 1861 he brought in a bill for the limitation of crown suits (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. clxiii. 1584–6), which received the royal assent on 1 Aug. (24 & 25 Vict. cap. 62). In 1863, and again in 1864, he called the attention of the house to the insufficient accommodation in the law courts (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. clxxii. 605–7, clxxvi. 363–6). He served as the treasurer of the Middle Temple in 1863. He was appointed a justice of the common pleas by Lord Westbury on 7 Feb. 1865, and duly received the order of the coif. He was knighted on 18 May following. After sitting in the common pleas for six years and a half he was (November 1871) appointed, under the provisions of 34 & 35 Vict. cap. 91, a member of the judicial committee of the privy council, with a salary of 5,000l. a year. He was appointed a commissioner under the Courts of Justice Building Act, 1865, on 29 June in that year (Parl. Papers, 1871, vol. xx.), and a member of the universities committee of the privy council on 12 Dec. 1877 (London Gazette, 1877, ii. 7241). He resigned his judicial office on 12 Dec. 1881, and died, unmarried, at No. 32 Park Lane, London, on 3 May 1891.

Smith was a sound lawyer and a persuasive rather than an eloquent advocate. He excelled in clear analysis of facts and authorities, and made an accurate and painstaking judge.

[Ann. Reg. 1891, ii. 161; Men and Women of the Time, 13th edit. p. 832; Boase's Collect. Cornub. 1890, pp. 909–10; Foss's Biographia Juridica, 1870, p. 617; Foster's Register of Admissions to Gray's Inn, 1889, p. 441; Shaw's Inns of Court Calendar, 1878, p. 8; Foster's Men at the Bar, 1885, p. 434; Block's Table of Judges, &c., 1887, pp. 9, 16, 23; Times, 5 and 8 May 1891; McCalmont's Parliamentary Poll Book, 1879, p. 256; Dod's Parl. Companion, 1865, p. 290; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, ii. 446; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890.]

G. F. R. B.