The Times/1921/Editorial/Sir John Macdonell

Sir John Macdonell

We announce to-day with profound regret the death of Sir John Macdonell, a great jurist and an honoured servant of The Times. Largely, perhaps, because of his modesty of bearing, the public were not fully aware of his services to this State and indeed to all nations. He was a jurist of vast knowledge and scholarship, but he was not one of those whom the great Lord Shaftesbury rebuked for confining their philosophy to cloistered cells. With a broad learning in European history, ancient and modern, and in the fundamental principles of the law and the customs of nations, he did not retire from the affairs of the world and content himself with the issue of occasional oracular theses, leaving his subject in nubibus. He had the gift, which no mere theorist possesses, of applying his erudition to practical issues. His achievements in this respect were all the more remarkable because throughout his life he was occupied in the Law Courts. Those who knew him marvelled at his activities, and they marvelled, too, how he found the time to stock his memory with law and literature, and how he acquired his readiness to show, almost unconsciously, that applied scholarship could be of incalculable advantage in the regulation of democratic and commercial communities. He had at one the idealistic fervour and the balanced mind of real genius. He was a great teacher of men, for he had both wisdom and humanity. To him learning was not a mere classification of facts. It was something with which to make the world not only richer but better. He had Hooker's devotional conception of the function of law and the spirit of the great jurists. To his death the words of Francis Bacon may well be applied :

But, above all, believe it, the sweetest canticle is Nune dimittis; when a man hath obtained worthy ends and expectations. Death hath this also, that it openeth the gate to good fame.

This work was published before January 1, 1924 and it is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 98 years or less since publication.