Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Hall, William Edward

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1398990Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement, Volume 2 — Hall, William Edward1901Thomas Erskine Holland

HALL, WILLIAM EDWARD (1835–1894), writer on international law, born at Leatherhead on 22 Aug. 1835, was the only child of William Hall, a descendant of a junior branch of the Halls of Dunglass, and of Charlotte, daughter of William Cotton. The father having been at one time physician to the king of Hanover, and subsequently to the British legation at Naples, much of Hall's childhood was spent upon the continent, whence perhaps his taste in after life for art and for modern languages. He matriculated from University College, Oxford, on 1 Dec. 1852, and graduated B. A. in 1856, taking a first class in the then recently instituted school of law and modern history. In 1859 he graduated MA. and gained the chancellor's prize for an English essay, 'The effect produced by the precious metals of America upon the greatness and prosperity of Spain.' He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1861, but in law as a profession he took no great interest, nor had he the patience to await its tardy favours. His energies were thrown rather into foreign travel, sport, and the study of history, art, languages, botany, and strategy. He was an enthusiastic climber and member of the Alpine Club, making several first ascents, notably that of the Lyskamm, and contributing both with pen and pencil to the 'Alpine Journal.' In 1864 he was under fire during the defence of Sonderborg by the Danes, as he was also, twenty years later, during some of the operations in the neighbourhood of Suakim. In his early days at the bar he visited South America to collect evidence on behalf of the Tichborne claimant, and in later years travelled in Lapland, Norway, Egypt, Bulgaria, India, Burmah, and Japan. From these expeditions, undertaken not merely for pleasure or sport, but also with a view to acquiring information on social, political, and especially on military questions, Hall never failed to bring home numbers of water-colour sketches of a very high order of merit, as well as additions to what became a valuable collection of Greek vases, Arab weapons, Etruscan urns, Japanese sculptures, and other typical illustrations of the archaeology of art. These he was able to arrange to advantage in the fine old Elizabethan mansion which he occupied in the seventies at Llanfihangel, Monmouthshire, and at another fine old house, Coker Court, Somersetshire, whither he removed in the eighties. Though thus versatile in tastes, Hall was a strenuous and methodical writer. In an early pamphlet he anticipated much that has since been said about the defects of the British army, and advocated a scheme of compulsory military service. He had at one time amassed materials and had formed plans for ambitious treatises upon such topics as the history of civilisation and the history of the British colonies; but was at length led, almost by accident, to concentrate his efforts upon that department of thought upon which he was destined to become an acknowledged master. A thin octavo, published in 1874, upon 'The Rights and Duties of Neutrals' was followed up in 1880 by Hall's magnum opus, 'International Law,' the publication of which marks an epoch in the literature of the subject. No work so well proportioned, so tersely expressed, so replete with common-sense, so complete, had ever appeared in this country. It has won its way even among continental jurists, to whom as a rule Hall's adherence to what they call l'école historico-pratique is distasteful. It reached a fourth edition in 1895. He was elected in 1875 associe, and in 1882 membre, of the 'Institut de Droit International.' Nor were his merits overlooked by his own government. He had made inquiries, and drawn up reports, in 1871–7, for the education office and for the board of trade; he delivered several courses of lectures at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, and he was selected to be one of the British arbitrators under the convention of 1891, unfortunately not yet ratified, for the settlement of the conflicting claims of Great Britain and France with reference to the Newfoundland fisheries. This occurred only a year or two before his death, which took place quite suddenly at Coker Court on 30 Nov. 1894. Hall married, first in 1886, Imogen Emily, daughter of Sir William Robert Grove [q. v. Suppl.] (she died in 1886); and secondly, in 1891, Alice Constance, youngest daughter of Colonel Arthur Charles Hill of Court of Hill, Shropshire, but had no children. Hall's premature death deprived his friends of a charming companion, and legal science of one of its ablest exponents.

Besides the works already mentioned he wrote: 1. 'A Plan for the Reorganisation of the Army' (pamphlet), London, 1867. 2. 'A Treatise on the Foreign Powers and Jurisdiction of the British Crown,' Oxford, 1894.

[Alpine Journal, i. 92, 141, 209, iii. 200, iv. 327, v. 23, vii. 169, xvii. 443; Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers, 2nd ser. ii. 383-96; Law Quarterly Review, xi. 113; private information.]

T. E. H.