Hargrave, Francis (DNB00)

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HARGRAVE, FRANCIS (1741?–1821), legal antiquary, son of Christopher Hargrave of Chancery Lane, London, was born about 1741. He entered as a student at Lincoln's Inn in 1760. In 1772 he attained considerable prominence at the bar in the habeas corpus case of the negro, James Sommersett. Soon afterwards he was appointed one of the king's counsel. In 1797 he was made recorder of Liverpool, and for many years was treasurer of Lincoln's Inn and a leading parliamentary lawyer. He published the following works: 1. ‘An Argument in the case of James Sommersett, a Negro, wherein it is attempted to demonstrate the present unlawfulness of Domestic Slavery in England,’ 1772; 3rd edit. 1788. Also in Howell's ‘State Trials,’ vol. xx. 2. ‘An Argument in Defence of Literary Property,’ 1774, 8vo. 3. ‘Coke upon Lyttleton,’ edited by F. Hargrave and Charles Butler, 1775. 4. ‘State Trials from Henry IV to 19 George III,’ 1776, 11 vols. fol. 5. ‘A Collection of Tracts relative to the Law of England, from manuscripts by Hale, Norburie, Blackstone, Hargrave, and others,’ 1787, 4to. 6. ‘Opinion on the case of the Duke of Athol in respect of the Isle of Man,’ 1788. 7. ‘Brief Deductions relative to the Aid and Supply of Executive Power in cases of Infancy, Delirium, or other incapacity of the King,’ 1788, anonymous. 8. ‘Collectanea Juridica: consisting of Cases, Tracts,’ &c., 2 vols. 1791–2, 8vo. 9. ‘Sir M. Hale's Jurisdiction of the Lords' House of Parliament, with Preface by F. H.,’ 1796, 4to. 10. ‘Juridical Arguments and Collections,’ 1797–9, 2 vols. 4to. The arguments in the Thellusson will case were reprinted from this work separately in 1799, and a new edition by J. F. Hargrave was published in 1842. 11. ‘Address to the Grand Jury at the Liverpool Sessions on the present Crisis of Public Affairs,’ 1804, 8vo. 12. ‘Jurisconsult Exercitations,’ 1811–13, 3 vols. 4to.

In 1813 his mind broke down, and parliament was petitioned by his wife, Diana Hargrave, to purchase his valuable library of legal manuscripts and printed books, many of the latter containing copious annotations; and on the recommendation of the House of Commons committee, who fully acknowledged Hargrave's eminent services to the public, especially in his published works, his library was purchased by government for 8,000l., and deposited in the British Museum. A catalogue of the manuscripts was compiled by Sir Henry Ellis, and published in 1818.

Hargrave died on 16 Aug. 1821, and was buried in the vault under the chapel of Lincoln's Inn. Lord Lyndhurst, in a speech delivered in the House of Lords, 7 Feb. 1856 said of him that ‘no man ever lived who was more conversant with the law of the country.’

[Gent. Mag. 1821, ii. 282; Commons' Journal, lxviii. 944; Edwards's Founders of the Brit. Mus. 1870, p. 443; Allibone's Dict. of Authors, i. 786; Liverpool Mercury, 31 Aug. 1821, p. 70; information from Mr. J. Nicholson, librarian of Lincoln's Inn.]

C. W. S.