De Gex, John Peter (DNB00)

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DE GEX, Sir JOHN PETER (1809–1887), law reporter, eldest son of John de Gex of Leicester Place, Middlesex, was of Swiss extraction, his father having settled in England about the beginning of the century. He graduated B.A. at Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1831, and proceeded M.A. in 1834. Having entered Lincoln's Inn on 4 Nov. 1831, he was called to the bar there on 30 Jan. 1835. His name first appears in the ‘Law List’ in 1837. For many years he had next to no practice, and devoted himself to reporting. In this work he collaborated with Basil Montagu [q. v.] and Edward Deacon, the result being the reports known by the names of Montagu, Deacon, and De Gex, three volumes of ‘Cases in Bankruptcy argued and determined in the Court of Review, and on Appeal before the Lord Chancellor,’ London, 1842–5, 8vo. In 1852 he published a volume of ‘Cases in Bankruptcy decided by the Court of Review, Vice-chancellor Knight-Bruce, and the Lord-chancellors Lyndhurst and Cottenham,’ reported by himself alone, London, 8vo. At the same time he was reporting cases in chancery, in conjunction with John Smale. The result of their joint labours was ‘Reports of Cases decided in the High Court of Chancery, by Knight-Bruce, V.C., and Parker, V.C.,’ 1849–1853, 5 vols. London, 8vo. He was associated with Steuart Macnaghten (who had previously been co-author of ‘Macnaghten and Gordon's Reports’) in the authorship of the reports of ‘Cases in the Court of Appeal in Chancery,’ known as ‘De Gex, Macnaghten, and Gordon's Reports,’ 1851–7, 8 vols. London, 8vo, a series continued after Mr. Macnaghten ceased to report in collaboration, first with Mr. H. Cadman Jones (‘De Gex and Jones's Reports,’ 1857–9, 2 vols. London, 8vo), then with both Mr. Cadman Jones and Mr. F. Fisher (‘De Gex, Fisher, and Jones's Reports,’ 1859–62, 4 vols. London, 8vo), and finally with Mr. Cadman Jones and Mr. R. Horton Smith, now Q.C. (‘De Gex, Jones, and Smith's Reports,’ 1863–5, 4 vols. London, 8vo). De Gex was called within the bar on 28 March 1865, in company with Joshua Williams and George Jessel, afterwards master of the rolls. On 19 April following he was elected a bencher of his inn. In 1867 De Gex published, in conjunction with Mr. R. Horton Smith, ‘Arrangements between Debtors and Creditors under the Bankruptcy Act, 1861,’ London, 8vo. The work consisted of a collection of precedents of deeds of arrangement, with an introduction and notes, and a digest of cases. A supplement appeared in 1868, and another in 1869. In 1871 De Gex became a director of the Legal and General Insurance Office, of which in 1867 he had been appointed auditor. For many years he had an extensive practice in bankruptcy, a kind of business which, while affording scope for refined reasoning, does not usually excite much general interest. A case, however, in 1869, in which he played a leading part, viz. that of the Duke of Newcastle (L. R. 5 Ch. App. 172), belongs as much to constitutional as to private law. The question was whether the Duke of Newcastle, not being engaged in trade, was exempt from the operation of the law of bankruptcy on the ground of his being a peer. The bankruptcy court held that he was exempt. The case was elaborately argued before the court of appeal, De Gex being the leading counsel for the appellant, Sir Roundell Palmer (now Lord Selborne) representing the duke. Lord-justice Giffard decided in favour of the appeal. In 1882 De Gex was elected treasurer of Lincoln's Inn, and in December of the same year he received the honour of knighthood on occasion of the opening of the new law courts. He had then recently retired from practice. De Gex married in 1880 Alice Emma, eldest daughter of Sir John Henry Briggs. He died on 14 May 1887 at his residence, 20 Hyde Park Square. He was buried on 19 May at Kensal Green cemetery.

[Times, 18 May 1887; Law Times, 28 May 1887; Solicitors' Journal, 21 May 1887; Inns of Court Calendar, 1878; Foster's Men at the Bar; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

J. M. R.