Garrow, William (DNB00)

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GARROW, Sir WILLIAM (1760–1840), baron of the exchequer, was the third son of the Rev. David Garrow of Hadley, Middlesex, where he was born on 13 April 1760. He was educated by his father, who kept a school at Hadley, and at the age of fifteen was articled to Thomas Southouse, an attorney, whose offices were in Milk Street, Cheapside. Here he showed such ability that, on the recommendation of the attorney, he commenced studying for the bar. He was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 27 Nov. 1778, and was for some time a pupil of Mr. Crompton, an eminent special pleader. He was called to the bar on 27 Nov. 1783. Garrow was already known as an orator in debating societies. In January 1784 his able prosecution of John Henry Aikles, who had been indicted for feloniously stealing a bill of exchange (Sessions Papers, 1783–4, No. ii. pt. vii.), quickly secured him plenty of business at the Old Bailey. At the general election in the spring of 1784 he acted as assessor to the sheriff of Hertfordshire, and afterafterwards was retained in the London scrutiny for Sawbridge, and in the Westminster scrutiny for Fox, on whose behalf he addressed the House of Commons in an able speech for nearly two hours (Parl. Hist. xxiv. 857-8). Garrow joined the home circuit, of which Erskine was then the leader, and in a remarkably short time established a great reputation at nisi prius as well as in criminal cases. He was appointed a king's counsel in Hilary term 1793, and at a by-election in April 1805 was returned to parliament for the borough of Gatton. In Hilary term 1806 he became attorney-general to the Prince of Wales, and at the general election in the autumn of that year was elected one of the members for the borough of Callington. Garrow was appointed solicitor-general in Lord Liverpool's administration in the place of Sir Thomas Plumer on 27 June 1812, and was knighted on 17 July following. At the general election in October 1812 he was returned for the borough of Eye, and upon the appointment of Plumer to the new office of vice-chancellor of England was made attorney-general on 4 May 1813. In Hilary vacation 1814 Garrow also received the appointment of chief justice of Chester in the place of Sir Richard Richards, made a baron of the exchequer. Sir Samuel Romilly protested in the House of Commons against the second appointment on the ground that the offices of attorney-general and judge were incompatible (ib. xxvii. 330-2). After being a law officer of the crown for nearly five years Garrow accepted the post of baron of the exchequer on 6 May 1817. He remained a puisne baron in that court for nearly fifteen years, retiring in the Hilary vacation 1832. He was admitted a member of the privy council on 22 Feb. 1832, and died at Pegwell Cottage, near Ramsgate, on 24 Sept. 1840, in the eighty-first year of his age.

Garrow was a consummate advocate. Remarkable alike for his acuteness and tact, he was unrivalled in the art of cross-examination. 'No man more clearly, more continuously presjnted his case to those he was addressing. His language was plain, but it was well strung together. He reasoned little, he jested less; he not rarely declaimed, and he had sufficient force to produce his effect. . . . His discretion, his perfect judgment, and entire self-command exceeded that of most men' (Law Review, i. 322). The rapidity with which he gained one of the foremost positions at the bar was remarkable, and it is doubtful 'whether Erskine or Gibbs ever had such a hold as Garrow of the common business of the court. It is certain that lie retained it far longer than either of them' (ib. p. 325). As attorney-general he used his extraordinary powers with great leniency, and the single instance of a prosecution for libel during his tenure of that office contrasts most favourably with the number of ex officio informations in the time of Gibbs (Parl. Debates, xxxiv. 392). As a judge his powers were not conspicuous, but were shown to most advantage in the criminal court. His ignorance of the more abstruse branches of the law was remarkable, and Sir Samuel Romilly relates that in two cases before the House of Lords Garrow read a written argument, which somebody else had composed for him, 'without venturing to add a single observation or expression of his own' (Memoir of Romilly, 1840, iii. 128). Garrow made his maiden speech in the House of Commons during the debate on the charge against the Marquis of Wellesley, though he had 'not intended to speak that night, and had made a sort of league and covenant with himself to remain silent' (Parl. Debates, vi. 864-5). As a parliamentary speaker, however, he had little or no success. Garrow was elected a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, Easter term 1793, and acted as treasurer of the society in 1801.

By his wife, who died on 30 June 1808, he had two children, viz. the Rev. David Garrow, D.D., rector of East Barnet, who died on 11 April 1827, aged 45, and Eliza, who married on 6 April 1802 Samuel Fothergill Lettsom.

[Foss's Judges of England, 1864, ix. 86-90; Law Review, i. 3 1 8-28; Legal Observer, iii. 253-6; The Georgian Era, 1833, ii. 322; Ann. Reg. 1840, app. to chron. p. 177; Gent. Mag. vol. Ixxii. pt. i. p. 373, vol. Ixxv. pt. i. p. 386, pt. ii. p. 1238, vol. Ixxviii. pt. ii. p. 658, vol. xcvii.pt. i. p. 474,newser.xiv. 657-8; Whishaw's Synopsis of the Bar, 1835, p. 279; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1851; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, ii. 222, 230, 264; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. vii. 194; Lincoln's Inn Registers.]

G. F. R. B.