1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cottenham, Charles Christopher Pepys

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

COTTENHAM, CHARLES CHRISTOPHER PEPYS, 1st Earl of (1781–1851), lord chancellor of England, was born in London on the 29th of April 1781. He was the second son of Sir William W. Pepys, a master in chancery, who was descended from John Pepys, of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, a great-uncle of Samuel Pepys, the diarist. Educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, Pepys was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1804. Practising at the chancery bar, his progress was extremely slow, and it was not till twenty-two years after his call that he was made a king’s counsel. He sat in parliament, successively, for Higham Ferrars and Malton, was appointed solicitor-general in 1834, and in the same year became master of the rolls. On the formation of Lord Melbourne’s second administration in April 1835, the great seal was for a time in commission, but eventually Pepys, who had been one of the commissioners, was appointed lord chancellor (January 1836) with the title of Baron Cottenham. He held office until the defeat of the ministry in 1841. In 1846 he again became lord chancellor in Lord John Russell’s administration. His health, however, had been gradually failing, and he resigned in 1850. Shortly before his retirement he had been created Viscount Crowhurst and earl of Cottenham. He died at Pietra Santa, in the duchy of Lucca, on the 29th of April 1851.

Both as a lawyer and as a judge, Lord Cottenham was remarkable for his mastery of the principles of equity. An indifferent speaker, he nevertheless adorned the bench by the soundness of his law and the excellence of his judgments. As a politician he was somewhat of a failure, while his only important contribution to the statute-book was the Judgments Act 1838, which amended the law for the relief of insolvent debtors.

The title of earl of Cottenham descended in turn to two of the earl’s sons, Charles Edward (1824–1863), and William John (1825–1881), and then to the latter’s son, Kenelm Charles Edward (b. 1874).

Authorities.—Campbell, Lives of the Lord Chancellors (1869); E. Foss, The Judges of England (1848–1864); E. Manson, Builders of our Law (1904); J. B. Atlay, The Victorian Chancellors (1906).