Yates, James (1789-1871) (DNB00)
|←Yates, James (fl.1582)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 63
Yates, James (1789-1871)
YATES, JAMES (1789–1871), unitarian and antiquary, fourth son of John Yates (1755–1826) by his wife Elizabeth (1750–1819), youngest daughter of John Ashton of Liverpool, and widow of John Bostock the elder [q. v.], was born in Toxteth Park, Liverpool, on 30 April 1789. His father, minister (1777–1823) of the dissenting congregation in Kaye Street, Liverpool, which was removed to Paradise Street (1791), was a man of great pulpit power, public enterprise, and literary cultivation. Receiving his early training from William Shepherd [q. v.], he entered Glasgow University in 1805, and proceeded thence for his divinity course (1808) to Manchester College, then at York, under Charles Wellbeloved [q. v.] While still a student he acted (1809–10) as assistant classical tutor, in room of John Kenrick [q. v.], not yet entered on office. From York he went to Edinburgh University (1810), and thence to Glasgow University again (1811). Before graduating M.A., Glasgow (1812), he became the unordained minister (October 1811) of a unitarian congregation, for which a new chapel was opened (15 Nov. 1812) in Union Place. His discourses, solid and didactic, were delivered with formal enunciation and an unimpassioned manner; but his industry and earnestness, and the force of his character, enabled him to create a stable congregation out of previously discordant elements. In conjunction with Thomas Southwood Smith [q. v.], he founded (28 July 1813) the Scottish Unitarian Association. In 1814 Ralph Wardlaw [q. v.] delivered the series of pulpit addresses afterwards published as ‘Discourses on the Principal Points of the Socinian Controversy’ (1814). Yates had heard the discourses as delivered, and, on their appearance in print, published his ‘Vindication of Unitarianism,’ 1815, 8vo (4th edit. 1850, 8vo). On this, ‘Strictures’ (1814) were published by John Brown (1784–1858) [q. v.] Wardlaw replied in ‘Unitarianism incapable of Vindication,’ 1816, 8vo, to which Yates rejoined in ‘A Sequel,’ 1816, 8vo. His position was one of greater breadth than was usual with theologians of his school, his aim being to take common ground on which Arians and Socinians could unite. His biblical conservatism, from which he never receded, was criticised in the ‘Prospective Review,’ 1851, p. 50.
On 6 April 1817 he succeeded Joshua Toulmin [q. v.] as colleague to John Kentish [q. v.] at the new meeting, Birmingham, a post which he resigned at the end of 1825, and for a time left the ministry, and resided at Norton Hall, near Sheffield. In 1827 he spent a semester at the university of Berlin, as a student of classical philology. In 1819 he was elected a fellow of the Geological Society; in 1822 of the Linnean; in 1831 of the Royal Society; and in 1831 was appointed secretary to the council of the British Association. In the same year he was elected a trustee of Dr. Williams's foundations (resigned 26 June 1861). In 1832 he succeeded John Scott Porter [q. v.] as minister of Carter Lane Chapel, Doctors' Commons, London. He issued (1833) proposals for an organisation of the unitarian congregations of Great Britain on the presbyterian model; the plan was abortive, though it obtained the support of some weighty names, including John Relly Beard [q. v.], Joseph Hunter [q. v.], and John James Tayler [q. v.] In the course of the Hewley case [see Hewley, Lady Sarah] Sir Lancelot Shadwell [q. v.] had severely condemned the ‘Improved Version’ of the New Testament, issued (1808) by unitarians. Yates wrote ‘A Letter to the Vice-chancellor,’ 1834, 8vo, defending the version, which produced a very able reply by Robert Halley [q. v.] His congregation was largely augmented by a secession (September 1834) from the ministry of William Johnson Fox [q. v.] at South Place, Finsbury. Regarding this as an unwelcome increase of responsibility, Yates resigned early in the following year. He remained a member of the presbyterian section of the ‘general body’ of ministers of the three denominations, and when other unitarians seceded in 1836, Yates retained his connection with the ‘general body.’ Soon, however, he finally left the ministry, and (being unordained) took the style of a layman. His interest in denominational history and controversy was unabated. He rendered great services to Dr. Williams's trust, introducing the system of competitive examinations for scholarships. A quarto manuscript containing 186 biographies of students at Glasgow on Dr. Williams's foundation, compiled by him, was presented to Dr. Williams's Library by his widow.
Except Leonhard Schmitz [q. v.], Yates was the largest contributor to the ‘Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities,’ 1842, 8vo, edited by (Sir) William Smith (1813–1893) [q. v.]; he furnished drawings for one half of the woodcuts, and wrote one-eighth of the text. His ‘Textrinum Antiquorum,’ 1843, of which only the first part, with valuable appendices, was published, illustrates the minuteness and accuracy of his research. Numerous papers on archæological subjects were contributed by him to the learned societies of London and Liverpool; among reprints of these are papers on ‘The Use of the terms Acanthus, Acanthion,’ 1845, 8vo (from the ‘Classical Museum’); ‘Account of a Roman Sepulchre at Geldestone,’ 1849, 8vo; ‘The Use of Bronze Celts,’ 1849, 8vo; and ‘Observations on the Bulla worn by Roman Boys,’ 1851, 8vo (from the ‘Archæological Journal’); ‘Some Account of a Volume containing Portions of “Ptolemy's Geography,”’ 1864, 8vo (from ‘Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature’). He became a strong advocate of the decimal system; among many tracts on this subject, he published a ‘Narrative of the … Formation of the International Association for … a Uniform Decimal System,’ 1856, 8vo (two editions); ‘What is the Best Unit of Length,’ Hackney, 1858, 8vo; ‘Handbook to … Synoptic Table … of the Metric System,’ Edinburgh, 1864, 8vo.
His later years were spent in learned leisure at Lauderdale House, Highgate (now included in Waterlow Park), where he had a noble library and a fine collection of works of art. His hospitality was profuse (though his own habits were of the simplest), and his conversation, aided by his marvellous memory, was full of interest. Few men of small stature had a more courtly dignity; his power of caustic remark was all the more effective from the unvarying calmness of his measured speech. The ‘Inquirer’ of 13 May 1871 contains a letter from him (4 May) on a favourite subject, the vindication of Socinus; the same issue announces his death. He died at Lauderdale House on 7 May 1871, and was buried at Highgate cemetery on 11 May. He married (about 1820) Dorothea, daughter of John William Crompton of Edgbaston, who survived him without issue. His will left considerable benefactions, including endowments for chairs in University College, London, but his property did not realise the estimated amount.
Among his publications, additional to the above, may be noted: 1. ‘Thoughts on the Advancement of Academical Education,’ 1826, 8vo; 2nd ed. 1827, 8vo. 2. ‘Outlines of a Constitution for the University of London,’ 1832, 8vo. 3. ‘Observations on Lord John Russell's Bill … with the Outlines of a Plan for registering Births, Deaths, and Marriages,’ 1836, 8vo; ‘Postscript,’ 1836, 8vo. 4. ‘Preces e Liturgiis Ecclesiæ Catholicæ Romanæ desumptæ: cum earundem Versione Anglica … Accedunt Versiones … novæ … Germanica et Polonica,’ 1838, 12mo (the Polish version by Stephen Mazoch). 5. ‘Memorials of Dr. Priestley’ , 8vo (a descriptive catalogue of portraits and relics of Priestley, exhibited that year at Dr. Williams's Library, Red Cross Street, including Yates's own collection, which was presented to the Royal Society by his widow in June 1871). 6. ‘Descriptive Catalogue of … Current Coins of all Countries in the International Exhibition,’ 1862, 8vo.
His eldest brother, Joseph Brooks Yates [q. v.], is separately noticed. Another brother, Richard Vaughan Yates (b. 4 Aug. 1785; d. 30 Nov. 1856), was the donor of Prince's Park to the inhabitants of Liverpool.[Obituary, by W. [Charles Wicksteed], in Inquirer, 13 May 1871; Notice [by Sir James Allanson Picton [q. v.] ] in Proceedings of Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society, 1872, p. xxxi; Monthly Repository, 1819, p. 119, 1826, p. 693; Wreford's Hist. of Presb. Nonconformity in Birmingham, 1832, p. 92; Roll of Students Manchester College, 1868; Davis's Ancient Chapel of Toxteth Park, 1884, p. 54; Jeremy's Presbyterian Fund, 1885, pp. 90, 200; Thompson Yates's Memorials of the Family of Rev. John Yates, 1890; information from W. Innes Addison, esq., Glasgow University, T. Gilbert, esq., Edinburgh University, and Rev. F. H. Jones, Dr. Williams's Library.]