Amos, Sheldon (DNB01)

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AMOS, SHELDON (1835–1886), jurist, fourth son of Andrew Amos [q. v.], by Margaret, daughter of William Lax [q. v.], born in 1835, was an alumnus of Clare College, Cambridge, in which university he graduated B.A. in 1859 (senior optime in mathematics, second class in classics), having in the preceding year taken the members’ prize for Latin prose. He was admitted on 2 June 1859 member of the Inner Temple, where he was called to the bar on 11 June 1862. The honours which he had taken in the previous examination did not bring briefs to his chambers, but procured him a readership at the Temple, which he held until his election in 1869 to the chair of jurisprudence in University College. In 1872 he was elected reader under the Council of Legal Education, and examiner in Constitutional Law and History to the University of London. He vacated the readership in 1875, the examinership in 1877, and the chair of jurisprudence in 1879. His health was then gravely impaired, and a voyage to the South Seas failed to restore it; nor did he find colonial society congenial, and after a short residence at Sydney he settled in Egypt, practising as an advocate in the law courts and devoting his leisure time to the study of the complicated social and political problems which were then pressing for solution. He was resident at Alexandria on the eve of the British occupation, and suffered the loss of his library by the bombardment (July 1882). On the subsequent reorganisation of the Egyptian judicature he was appointed judge of the court of appeal (native tribunals). The duties of the office proved exceptionally onerous to one who, though an accomplished jurist, was without experience of administration. Amos’s health proved unequal to the strain. A furlough in England in the autumn of 1885 failed to restore his powers, and on his return to Egypt he died suddenly, 3 Jan. 1886, at his residence at Ramleh, near Alexandria.

Amos married in 1870 Sarah Maclardie, daughter of Thomas Perceval Bunting, of Manchester, by whom he left issue.

In early life Amos was a frequent contributor to the ‘Westminster Review,’ and well known as an earnest advocate of the higher education and political emancipation of women, and as a leader in the crusade against the Contagious Diseases Acts. He was a friend and admirer of Frederick Denison Maurice, with whom he was associated as a lecturer at the Working Men’s College in Great Ormond Street, London. He was widely read in theology and philosophy, and found Coleridge and Comte equally congenial. He never attempted any formal exposition of his philosophical position, and is understood to have remained a devout and essentially orthodox churchman. As a thinker he is best known by his ‘Systematic View of the Science of Jurisprudence,’ London, 1872, 8vo, and his ‘Science of Law,’ 1874, and ‘Science of Politics,’ 1883 (International Scientific Series). These works, however, have less of the method than of the terminology of science, are suggestive rather than illuminative, and are marred by irrelevant detail and rhetorical rhapsody. Amos is seen to better advantage in his less ambitious ‘Lectures on International Law,’ London, 1873, 8vo, his scholarly edition of Manning’s ‘Commentaries on the Law of Nations,’ London, 1875, 8vo (cf. Manning, William Oke), and his misnamed ‘Political and Legal Remedies for War,’ London, 1880, 8vo, which, by the suppression of a few visionary passages, might be readily reduced to a sober treatise on the rights and duties of belligerents and neutrals. Other works by Amos are:

  1. ‘An English Code: its Difficulties and the Modes of overcoming them: a Practical Application of the Science of Jurisprudence,’ London, 1873, 8vo.
  2. ‘Fifty Years of the English Constitution, 1830–80,’ London, 1880, 8vo.
  3. ‘Primer of the English Constitution and Government,’ London, fourth edition, 1883, 8vo.
  4. ‘History and Principles of the Civil Law of Rome as aid to the study of scientific and comparative Jurisprudence,’ London, 1883, 8vo.

He was also author of the following pamphlets:

  1. ‘Capital Punishment in England viewed as operating in the Present Day,’ London, 1864, 8vo.
  2. ‘Codification in England and the State of New York,’ London, 1867, 8vo.
  3. ‘Modern Theories of Church and State: a Political Panorama,’ London, 1869, 8vo.
  4. ‘Difference of Sex as a Topic of Jurisprudence and Legislation,’ London, 1870, 8vo.
  5. ‘The Present State of the Contagious Diseases Controversy,’ London, 1870, 8vo.
  6. ‘A Lecture on the best Modes of studying Jurisprudence,’ London, 1870, 8vo
  7. ‘The Policy of the Contagious Diseases Acts of 1866 and 1869, tested by the Principles of Ethical and Political Science,’ London, 1870, 8vo.
  8. ‘The Existing Laws of Demerara for the Regulation of Coolie Immigration,’ London, 1871, 8vo.
  9. ‘A Concise Statement of some of the Objections to the Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869,’ London, 1876, 8vo.
  10. ‘The Purchase of the Suez Canal Shares and International Law,’ London, 1876, 8vo.
  11. ‘A Comparative Survey of the Laws in force for the Prohibition, Regulation, and Licensing of Vice in England and other Countries,’ London, 1877, 8vo.

[Foster’s Men at the Bar; Grad. Cant. 1800–1884; Law List, 1863; Times, 4 Jan. 1886; Law Times, 9 Jan. 1886; Law Journ. 9 Jan. 1886; Solicitors’ Journ. 28 Jan. 1886; Law Mag. and Rev. iii. 691; Saturday Rev. xxxiv. 55; Athenæum, 1872 i. 557, 1873 i. 245, 1874 ii. 342, 1880 i. 180, 595, 1883 i. 271; Academy, 1883, i. 234; Remembrances of Sheldon Amos (privately printed, Leeds, 1889).]

J. M. R.