Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Russell, Henry

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RUSSELL, Sir HENRY (1751–1836), first Baronet of Swallowfield, Indian judge, born at Dover, on 8 Aug. 1751, was third son of Michael Russell (1711–1793) of Dover, by his wife Hannah, daughter of Henry Henshaw. The Earl of Hardwicke nominated him in 1763 to the foundation of the Charterhouse, and he was educated there and at Queens' College, Cambridge (B.A. 1772, M.A. 1775). Having been admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn, 20 June 1768, he was appointed about 1775 by Lord Bathurst to a commissionership in bankruptcy; and was called to the bar on 7 July 1783. In 1797 he was appointed a puisne judge in the supreme court of judicature, Bengal, and was knighted. He reached Calcutta on 28 May 1798. In 1807 he was appointed chief justice of the supreme court in place of Sir John Anstruther. On 8 Jan. 1808 he pronounced judgment in a case that attracted much attention at the time. John Grant, a company's cadet, was found guilty of maliciously setting fire to a native's hut. In sentencing him to death, the chief justice said: ‘The natives are entitled to have their characters, property, and lives protected; and as long as they enjoy that privilege from us, they give their affection and allegiance in return’ (Asiatic Register, 1808; Calcutta: a Poem, London, 1811, p. 109). Russell's house at Calcutta stood in what is now called after him, Russell Street (Calcutta Review, December 1852). Here, on 2 March 1800, died his wife's niece, Rose Aylmer, whose memory is perpetuated in the poem of that name by Walter Savage Landor.

By patent dated 10 Dec. 1812 Russell was created a baronet. On 9 Nov. 1813 (Auber, Analysis) he resigned the chief justiceship, and on 8 Dec., at a public meeting in the town-hall, Calcutta, he was presented with addresses from the European and native residents; the latter comparing his attributes ‘with those of the great King Nooshirvan the Just’ (Calcutta Gazette, December 1813). Writing to him privately on 8 Nov. 1813, the governor-general, Lord Moira, spoke of his ‘able, upright, and dignified administration of justice,’ and like testimony to his merits was formally recorded in a general letter from the Bengal government to the court of directors, dated 7 Dec. 1813 (India Office Records). Russell left Calcutta two days later, and on his return to England the East India Company awarded him a pension of 2,000l. a year. After his retirement he declined his brother-in-law Lord Whitworth's offer of a seat in parliament, as member for East Grinstead, a pocket borough of the Sackville family, on the ground that he ‘did not choose to be any gentleman's gentleman.’ On 27 June 1816 he was sworn a member of the privy council. His remaining years were mainly spent at his country house, Swallowfield Park, Reading, where he died on 18 Jan. 1836.

He married, on 1 Aug. 1776, Anne, daughter of John Skinner of Lydd, Kent; she died in 1780, and, with her son Henry, who died in 1781, is buried at Lydd, where there is a monument to her memory by Flaxman. Russell married, secondly, on 23 July 1782, Anne Barbara (d. 1 Aug. 1814), fifth daughter of Sir Charles Whitworth, and sister of Charles, earl Whitworth; and by her had six sons and five daughters. Three of the sons entered the East India Company's service. Of Sir Henry (1783–1852), second baronet, who was resident at Hyderabad in 1810, Lord Wellesley said that he was the most promising young man he knew; he was father of Sir Charles Russell [q. v.] Charles (d. 1856), after leaving India, was member of parliament for Reading; and Francis Whitworth Russell (1790–1852) died at Chittagong on 25 March 1852.

There is a portrait of Russell, by George Chinnery, in the High Court, Calcutta; a replica is at Swallowfield Park, where also are portraits of him by Romney and John Jackson, R.A.

[Authorities cited; information supplied by the judge's grandson, Sir George Russell, bart., M.P.]

S. W.