Open main menu

JAMES, Sir WILLIAM MILBOURNE (1807–1881), lord justice, son of Christopher James of Swansea, was born at Merthyr Tydvil, Glamorganshire, in 1807. He was educated at the university of Glasgow, where he graduated M.A., and afterwards became an honorary LL.D. He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1831. He read in Fitzroy Kelly's chambers, and attended the Welsh sessions, but afterwards confined his work almost entirely to the court of chancery. Ill-health, which before his call had compelled a two years' residence in Italy, at first retarded his progress; but in time he acquired a very large junior practice, and he became junior counsel to the treasury in equity, junior counsel to the woods and forests department, the inland revenue, and the board of works, and eventually in 1853 a queen's counsel and Bethell's successor as vice-chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He twice unsuccessfully contested Derby as a liberal, on the second occasion in 1859. Although not a brilliant speaker, he was a sound advocate, with a thorough knowledge of law. He was engaged in many well-known cases, such as those of Dr. Colenso against the Bishop of Cape Town, Mrs. Lyon v. Home, the spiritualist, the Baroda and Kirwee booty case, and Martin v. Mackonochie. In 1866 he was treasurer of Lincoln's Inn. In January 1869 he became a vice-chancellor of the court of chancery and a knight, and in 1870 a lord justice of appeal and a privy councillor. He was a most eminent judge, exceptionally learned, shrewd and strong, and gifted with a great power of terse and clear enunciation of principles. The court of appeal under him and Lord-justice Mellish was a very efficient court, and its decisions on the new and important questions arising under the Companies Acts and the Bankruptcy Act of 1869 were of the highest value. He was a member of the various commissions on equity procedure, of the Indian code commission and the army purchase commission, and as a member of the judicature commission was a strenuous reformer, and urged the total abolition of pleadings. On 7 June 1881 he died at his house, 47 Wimpole Street, London. He married in 1846 Maria (d. 1891), daughter of Dr. Otter, bishop of Chichester, and left two children: a son, Major W. C. James, of the 16th lancers; and a daughter, married to Colonel G. Salis Schwabe. He was a deep student of Indian history, and between 1864 and 1869 wrote a work, ‘The British in India,’ which was published by his daughter in 1882.

[Times, 9 June 1881; Solicitors' Journal, 11 June 1881; information kindly furnished by Mrs. Salis Schwabe; see also eulogium on James by Baron Bramwell, Times, 15 June 1881.]

J. A. H.