Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Whitelocke, James

WHITELOCKE, Sir JAMES (1570–1632), judge, was born on 28 Nov. 1570, the younger of posthumous twin sons of Richard Whitelocke, merchant, of London, by Joan Brockhurst, widow, daughter of John Colte of Little Munden, Hertfordfordshire. His twin-brother, William, served under Drake, and fell at sea in an engagement with the Spaniards. Of two other brothers, the elder, Edmund, is separately noticed. For a liberal education and the means of starting in life Whitelocke was indebted to his mother, whose care and prudence surmounted the difficulties in which she was involved by an unfortunate third marriage with a spendthrift merchant named John Price. She placed Whitelocke in 1575 at Merchant Taylors' school, whence, on 11 June 1588, he was elected probationer at St. John's College, Oxford. He matriculated on 12 July following, and was elected fellow of his college in November 1589. Besides the classics and logic, in which his tutor was Rowland Searchfield [q. v.] (afterwards bishop of Bristol), he studied Hebrew and the cognate tongues, and under Alberico Gentili [q. v.] the civil law, in which he graduated bachelor on 1 July 1594. Among the contemporaries at Oxford with whom he formed lasting friendship were Laud, Humphrey (afterwards Sir Humphrey) May [q. v.] and Ralph (afterwards Sir Ralph) Winwood [q. v.] In London his taste and aptitude for learned research drew him into the circle of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton [q, v.], and about 1600 he joined the Society of Antiquaries. His professional studies he pursued first at New Inn, afterwards at the Middle Temple, where he was admitted on 2 March 1592-3, called to the bar in August 1600, elected bencher in Hilary term 1618-19, and reader in the following August. His reading on the statute against pluralities, 21 Henry VIII, c. B, is in Ashmolean MS. 1150, ff. 1-8.

Whitelocke was appointed steward of the St. John's College estates in 1601, steward of and counsel for Eton College on 6 Dec. 1609, and joint steward of the Westminster College estates on 7 May 1610. On 1 Aug. 1606 he was chosen recorder of Woodstock, for which borough he was returned to parliament on 9 Feb. 1609-10. He represented the same constituency in the parliaments of 1614 and 1621-2. In parliament he took the popular side, and especially distinguished himself in the debates on impositions in 1610. He also acted as the mouthpiece of the commons on the presentation (24 May) of the remonstrance against the royal inhibition which terminated the discussion (see his speech in Stowe MS. 298, if. 84 et seq.) The subsequent proceedings drew from him (2 July) the masterly defence of the rights of the subject and delimitation of the royal prerogative which was long attributed to Sir Henry Yelverton [q. v.] A reprint of the argument (from an edition of 1658) is in 'State Trials' (ed. Cobbett, ii. 477 et seq.) A contemporary summary ascribed to Whitelocke is in 'Parliamentary Debates in 1610' (Camden Soc., pp. 103 et seq.; cf. Stowe MS. 297, ff. 89 et seq.)

In 1613 Whitelocke's jealousy of prerogative brought him into sharp collision with the crown. The administration of the navy stood in urgent need of reform, and in the winter of 1612-13 a preliminary step was taken by the issue of a commission investing the lord high admiral (Earl of Nottingham), the lord chancellor (Ellesmere), the lord privy seal and lord chamberlain with extraordinary powers for the investigation of abuses and the trial of offenders. As legal adviser to Sir Robert Mansell [q. v.], who was interested in defeating the investigation, Whitelocke drew up a series of 'exceptions' to the commission, in which he very strictly circumscribed the prerogative. A copy of the exceptions came into the hands of the crown lawyers, who at once suspected that they were Whitelocke's. Evidence was wanting; but his contemporaneous opposition to the transfer of a cause in which he was retained from the chancery to the court of the earl marshal furnished a pretext for his committal to the Fleet prison (18 May); and he was not released until he had made full submission in writing (13 June). The detailed account which Whitelocke wrote of this affair is, unfortunately, lost; and, as the text of the commission is also missing, it is impossible to pronounce whether his exceptions were tenable or no. In any case, however, his incarceration was a flagrant breach of counsel's privilege, which greatly increased his popularity.

In the short parliament of 1614 Whitelocke was nominated with Sir Thomas Crew [q. v.] and others to represent the commons in the projected conference with the lords. By reason of the sudden dissolution (7 June) the conference never met; and on the day following Whitelocke and his colleagues were summoned to the council chamber, and compelled to make a holocaust of the notes of their intended speeches. Thus was lost a rich collection of material illustrative of the constitutional history of England during the reigns of the first three Edwards. In consequence of the disfavour in which he stood at court Whitelocke was compelled to surrender (18 Nov. 1616) the reversion of the king's bench enrolments' office which he held jointly with Robert (afterwards Sir Robert) Heath [q. v.], by whom he was also defeated in the contest for the recordership of London in November 1618. Meanwhile, however, his professional reputation and gains increased. In 1616 he purchased the fine estate of Fawley Court, Buckinghamshire, which gave him the rank of a county magnate. He was placed on the commission of the peace for Buckinghamshire on 27 Nov. 1617, and for Oxfordshire on 7 May 1618. On 12 Jan. 1618-19 he was appointed deputy custos rotulorum for the liberties of Westminster and St. Martin's-le-Grand.

Notwithstanding political jars, Whitelocke stood, on the whole, well with Bacon, to whom he owed his investiture with the coif (29 June 1620) and subsequent advancement (29 Oct.) to the then important position of chief justice of the court of session of the county palatine of Chester, and the great sessions of the counties of Montgomery, Denbigh, and Flint; upon which he was knighted. Shortly afterwards he was elected recorder by each of the four boroughs of Bewdley in Worcestershire, Ludlow and Bishop's Castle in Shropshire, and Poole in Cheshire. Differences with the president of the council in the Welsh marches (Lord Northampton) led to Whitelocke's transference from the Chester court to the king's bench, where he was sworn in as justice on 18 Oct. 1624. He had also a commission to hear causes in chancery, and sat once in the Star-chamber. He was continued in office by Charles I, by whom he was much respected. In the following autumn it fell to him, as junior judge in his court, to discharge the hazardous duty of adjourning term during the plague. To escape from the contagion he drove, halting only at Hyde Park Corner to dine, in his coach from Horton, near Colnbrook, Buckinghamshire, to Westminster Hall, and, after hurrying through the necessary forms, re-entered his coach and drove back to Horton.

In November 1626 Whitelocke concurred with Sir Ranulph Crew [q. v.] in declining to certify the legality of forced loans. He did not, however, scruple to give the king the benefit of the doubt in the case of the five knights [see Darnell, Sir Thomas]. The bench at that date enjoyed as little independence of parliament as of the crown; and the remand was not allowed to pass without the citation of the judges to the House of Lords to answer for their conduct. They obeyed, and through Whitelocke's mouth condescended to put a false gloss on their order by representing it as only intended to allow time for further consideration (see Cobbett, State Trials, iii. 161, and Parl. Hist. ii. 289). In February 1628-9 the House of Commons saw fit to inquire into the release of the supposed Jesuits recently discovered in Clerkenwell. Whitelocke, as one of the judges who had examined them, was cited to justify the release, which he did on the ground that there was no evidence that the prisoners were in priest's orders. The stormy scenes which preceded the dissolution of this parliament (10 March) and the subsequent committal of Sir John Eliot [q. v.] and his friends to the Tower brought the judges once more into close and delicate relations both with the crown and with parliament. The evasion by the three common-law chiefs of the issues submitted to them by the king [see Heath, Sir Robert, and Walter, Sir John] was followed by the reference of substantially the same questions to the entire common-law bench (25 April). The points of law were again evaded, but eleven out of the twelve judges sanctioned proceedings in the Star-chamber. Of the eleven Whitelocke was one. He also concurred in the pusillanimous course taken after the argument upon the writs of habeas corpus, the application by letter to the king for directions, and the remand of the prisoners pending his answer (June). This was much against Whitelocke's grain, and at a private audience of the king at Hampton Court on Michaelmas day he obtained his consent to the enlargement of the prisoners upon security given for their good behaviour, a concession which they unanimously rejected. On the trial Whitelocke concurred in the judgment. He died at Fawley Court on 22 June 1632. His remains were interred in Fawley churchyard, and honoured by filial piety with a splendid marble monument. His estates were exempted by the Long parliament from liability to contribute to the fund for making reparation to Eliot and his fellow-sufferers.

By his wife (married 9 Sept. 1602) Eliza beth, eldest daughter of Edward Bulstrod of Hedgerly Bulstrode, Buckinghamshire Whitelocke had, with female issue, a son Bulstrode, who is separately noticed.

Whitelocke retained throughout life the tastes and accomplishments of the scholar His son records that on one occasion his Latin served him to expound from the bench with perspicuity and elegance the course of legal proceedings to some distinguished foreigners who happened to be present at the assizes (Whitelocke, Memorials, ed. 1732, p. 18) Several papers by him, communicated to the Society of Antiquaries, are printed in Hearne's 'Collection of Curious Discourses' (ed. 1771). Their titles are: (1) 'Of the Antiquity and Office of Heralds in England;' (2) 'Of the Antiquity, Use, and Privilege of Places for Students and Professors of the Common Laws of England;' (3) 'Of the Antiquity, Use, and Ceremony of Lawful Combats in England;' (4) 'Our Certain and Definite Topographical Dimensions in England compared with those of the Greeks and Latins set down in order as they arise in quantity.' His 'Liber Famelicus,' or journal, was edited by John Bruce, F.S.A., for the Camden Society in 1858. He was also author of 'A History of the Parliament of England and of some Resemblances to the Jewish and other Councils,' which is preserved among the Ashburnham manuscripts (see Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. App. iii. 20). His charge to the grand jury of Chester, 10 April 1621, is in Harleian MS. 583, f. 48.

[The Liber Famelicus; Le Neve's Pedigrees of Knights (Harl. Soc.), p. 426; Croke's Geneal. Hist. of the Croke Family, i. 630; Croke's Rep. ed. Leach, Car. pp. 117, 268; Whitelocke's Mem. ed. 1732, pp. 13-15, 37; Wood's Athenae Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 537, Fasti, i. 266; Merchant Taylors' School Reg. ed. Robinson; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Fam. Min. Gent. (Harl. Soc.) iii. 1125, Registers (Harl. Soc.) v. 133; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, iii. 561; Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire, i. 204; Cussans's Hertfordshire, ii. (Broadwater) 136; Ormerod's Cheshire, ed. Helsby, i. 65; Members of Parl. (Official Lists); Winwood's Mem. iii. 460; Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. App. p. 312, 8th Rep. App. i. 638, 12th Rep. App. i. 172, 207, ii. 68, and 13th Rep. App. vii. 72; Spedding's Life of Bacon, iv. 346-57; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611-33; Nichols's Progr. James I, iii. 618; Documents connected with the History of Ludlow, &c., p. 240; Camden Misc. vols. ii. and iv.; Chetham Misc. ii. 35; Court and Times of James I, i. 121, ii. 105,214; Court and Times of Charles I, i. 164; Cobbett's State Trials, iii. 287, 307; Parl. Hist. i. 1173; Stowe MS. 1045, ff. 58, 182; Vitae Selectae quorundam Eruditissimorum ac Illustrimi Virorum (1711),p. 455; Forster's Life of Sir John Eliot; Foss's Lives of the Judges; Gardiner's Hist. of England.]

J. M. R.