Booth, James (d.1778) (DNB00)

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BOOTH, JAMES (d. 1778), conveyancer, was born at St. Germain-en-Laye, where his father, who was a Roman catholic and a Jacobite, resided. Roman catholics being disabled by the statute 7 and 8 William III cap. 24 from practising at the bar, Booth, who adhered to the faith in which he had been educated, took out a license to practise as a conveyancer, and early acquired a considerable amount of business, owing partly to his own skill and ingenuity, and partly to the advantage which, in consequence of the various penal laws then in force, the Roman catholics of that day supposed that they derived from consulting a member of their own sect. On the death of Nathaniel Pigott, the most eminent conveyancer of his day, and also a Roman catholic, Booth succeeded to his position. His conveyances enjoyed the highest possible repute with the profession, and being often copied and used as precedents by inferior practitioners, they set the fashion in conveyancing during a great part of the last century. In one respect, however, they contrasted very unfavourably with those of his predecessor Pigott. Whereas Pigott's deeds had been models of conciseness, Booth's were remarkably prolix. He wrote no treatise on the subject, nor did he publish a collection of precedents. His knowledge of the statute of uses, however, was unique in his time. He is said to have been consulted by the Duke of Cumberland whether he could recover a legacy left him by his father, George II, the new king having torn up the will, and to have advised that 'a king of England has by the common law no power to bequeath personal property;' he is also said to have drafted George III's will. He was for some years an intimate friend of Lord Mansfield. His disposition was genial and his habits convivial. In politics he was a tory. Rather late in life he married the daughter of the titular archbishop Sharp, from whom he was subsequently separated. In his later years he suffered considerably from cataract. He died on 14 Jan. 1778.

[Butler's Hist. Mem. Eng. Ir. and Scot. Cath. (3rd ed.), iv. 360; Reminisc. (4th ed.) ii. 274; institutions considered with reference to Gent. Mag. lv. pt. i. 243, 340; Law and Lawyers, ii. 84.]

J. M. R.