Williams, Edward Vaughan (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

WILLIAMS, Sir EDWARD VAUGHAN (1797–1875), judge, born in 1797 at Queen's Square, Bayswater, was the eldest surviving son of Serjeant John Williams (1757–1810) [q. v.] He was educated first at Winchester, entering the school in 1808, but was removed thence to Westminster school in 1811; here he proved himself an apt classic. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a scholar in 1816, and thence graduated B.A. 1820 and M.A. 1824. On leaving Cambridge Williams entered Lincoln's Inn as a student, and, after reading in the chambers of Patteson and Campbell, was called to the bar on 17 June 1823. In 1824, in conjunction with Patteson, he brought out a fifth edition of his father's notes on ‘Saunders's Reports,’ and established his reputation as a lawyer by the publication of this main repository of common-law learning. He first joined the Oxford circuit, where he soon found work; but when South Wales was detached and became an independent circuit, he travelled on that and the Chester circuit. In 1832 appeared the first edition of Williams's ‘Treatise on the Law of Executors and Administrators;’ this great legal work passed through seven editions during its author's lifetime, and remains still the standard authority on the subject; it has justly been described as one of the most able and correct works that have ever been published on any legal subject (Chitty, Practice, p. 510). In October 1846 Williams was made a puisne judge of the court of common pleas, and received knighthood on 4 Feb. 1847. At Westminster Hall, sitting in banco, he was soon acknowledged to be one of the most powerful constituents of the court, and he probably gave occasion to fewer new trials on the ground of misdirection than any of his brethren, his profound learning combined with an unusual amount of common-sense making it almost impossible for him to go wrong (Times, 10 Nov. 1875). His judgments were generally short and almost invariably accurate and concise, and, with the caution of a wise judge, he decided nothing unnecessarily. Some of his more important judgments may be found in the following cases: Earl of Shrewsbury v. Scott, 6 CB. NS. 1 (Roman Catholic Disabilities); Behn v. Burness, 1 B. & S. 877 (warranties in charter parties); Johnson v. Stear, 15 CB. NS. 30 (measures of damages in trover); and Spence v. Spence, 31 L. J. C. P. 189 (application of rule in Shelley's case).

Williams retired from the bench in 1865 owing to increasing deafness; this affliction alone prevented his further advancement. On his retirement he was created a privy councillor and a member of the judicial committee. He died on 2 Nov. 1875 at Queen Anne's Gate, Westminster, and was buried at Wootton, near Dorking. He married, in 1826, Jane Margaret, eighth daughter of the Rev. Walter Bagot, brother to the first Lord Bagot of Blithfield, Staffordshire, by whom he left six sons. His fifth son, Sir Roland Vaughan Williams, became lord justice of appeal in 1897.

In his choice of words Williams was fastidious, and his delivery was somewhat laboured and embarrassed. In addition to his great legal attainments he was a fine scholar and man of letters, and at Westminster lived much in the society of Dean Milman, Buckland, Trench, and Liddell.

A portrait of the judge in oils, by Sant, passed into the possession of the Rev. Edward Vaughan Williams.

Williams edited Burn's ‘Justice of the Peace’ in conjunction with Serjeant D'Oyley in 1836, and ‘Saunders's Reports’ in 1845 and 1871, in addition to his works mentioned above.

[Times, 5 Nov. 1875; Law Mag. Rev. 1876, p. 302; Alumni Westmonasterienses, p. 481; Woolrych's Lives of Eminent Serjeants, vol. ii.; information kindly afforded by Sir Roland Vaughan Williams.]

W. C.-r.