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

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

HOBART, Sir HENRY (d. 1625), chief justice of the common pleas, of a family long settled in Norfolk and Suffolk, was great-grandson of Sir James Hobart [q. v.], attorney-general to Henry VII, and son of Thomas Hobart of Plumstead, Norfolk, by Audrey, daughter of William Hare of Beeston, Norfolk. He was admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn 10 Aug. 1575, and called to the bar 24 June 1584; he became a governor of the inn in 1591, and Lent reader in 1601 and 1603 (Black Book, v. 199, 359). He represented St. Ives, Cornwall, in parliament in 1588 and 1589, Yarmouth in 1597 and 1601, and Norwich from 1604 to 1610 (Members of Parliament, Official Returns, i. 422, 434, 439, 444). In 1595 he was steward of Norwich. In February 1603 with ten others he was made a serjeant-at-law, and was knighted on the accession of James I. On 2 Nov. 1605 he received a release from his office of serjeant-at-law, and next day was granted the attorney-generalship of the court of wards and liveries for life. He became attorney-general 4 July 1606, and continued in that office, barring Bacon's way to promotion, for seven years, to Bacon's intense annoyance. He was also chancellor to Henry, prince of Wales. He appeared for the plaintiffs in the case of the Post-nati (State Trials, ii. 609), and conducted the proceedings against Dr. Cowell's ‘Interpreter’ (Parl. Hist. ii. 1124). In May 1611 he was created a baronet. In 1613 he appeared against James Whitelocke, when Whitelocke was summoned before the council for contempt in giving an opinion on the navy commission. On the death of Sir Thomas Fleming, Coke was removed from the chief justiceship of the common pleas to that of the king's bench, and Hobart was appointed chief justice of the common pleas, 26 Nov. 1613. In 1617 he became chancellor and keeper of the great seal to Charles, prince of Wales, in succession to Bacon, and accordingly on 29 March he was discharged from so much of his oath of office as chief justice as prevented him from taking any fees except from the king. The Lord-chancellor Egerton being then ill, he, with Bacon and the Bishop of Winchester, was considered a possible successor (Green, Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1617). This was again the case on Bacon's disgrace in 1621 (Hacket, Bishop Williams, p. 201).

Hobart protested against the outrageous sentence which Coke proposed to inflict on the Earl of Suffolk in 1619, and carried the majority of the court with him. In November 1619 a petition of the justices of Norfolk against permitting the import of foreign grain until the price of corn, then much depressed by too plentiful harvests, should have risen again, was referred to him and the chief justice of the king's bench, and they advised that the petition should be granted. He was judge of assize in Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, and Warwickshire in the spring of 1620, and made inquiries of the various justices about the necessity of providing local magazines for the storage of corn, receiving adverse replies in every case. On 5 June 1624 he was appointed a commissioner to mediate with the creditors of poor prisoners for debt owing less than 200l. in and near London, except those in the King's Bench and Fleet prisons, who had been otherwise provided for. In September of that year he was joined as a law-assessor with the privy council in committee upon the Amboyna business. His patent was renewed on Charles's accession, but he died at his house at Blickling in Norfolk, 26 Dec. 1625. He was a very modest and learned lawyer, and as a judge escaped the charge of subserviency to the crown. He was ‘a great loss to the public weal,’ says Spelman; and Croke (Reports, temp. Car. 28) calls him ‘a most learned, prudent, grave, and religious judge.’ Bacon, however, accuses him of falsely affecting intimacy with great persons (Bacon, Life and Letters, Ellis and Spedding, iv. 93).

A volume of Hobart's reports was published in quarto in 1641, and subsequent editions appeared in 1650, 1671, 1678, and 1724.

Hobart married Dorothy, daughter of Sir Robert Bell of Beaupré Hall, Norfolk, lord chief baron under Elizabeth, by whom he had sixteen children, twelve sons and four daughters. From him descended John Hobart, first earl of Buckinghamshire [q. v.]

A portrait of Hobart in his judge's robes, by C. Jansen, is in the possession of Viscount Powerscourt (Cat. Tudor Exhibition, 1890, p. 110). Another, either by Mytens or Van Somer, was presented by Serjeants' Inn in 1877 to the National Portrait Gallery.

[Foss's Lives of the Judges; Blomefield's Norfolk, i. 359; Dugdale's Orig. pp. 254, 262; Green's Cal. State Papers, Dom.; Gardiner's Hist. Engl.; Bacon's Works; Modern Reports, vol. v. pref.]

J. A. H.