Humphreys, James (DNB00)

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HUMPHREYS, JAMES (d. 1830), legal writer, a native of Montgomeryshire, was articled to a solicitor named Yeomans at Worcester, but determining to go to the bar, he entered at Lincoln's Inn in November 1789, read with Charles Butler (1750-1832) [q. v.], was called to the bar (25 June 1800), and obtained a good practice as a conveyancer. It is said that Brougham and Denman proposed that he and Charles Butler should be made benchers of their inn, but that the motion was lost, owing to the opposition of Sugden and Sir A. Hart. In politics Humphreys was a liberal, and was friendly with Fox, Clifford, Sir James Mackintosh, and Sir Francis Burdett. He was often present at Horne Tooke's parties at Wimbledon, and delivered a course of lectures on law at the newly founded university of London. He died on 29 Nov. 1830, in Upper Woburn Place, London.

Humphreys's chief work, 'Observations on the Actual State of the English Laws of Real Property, with the outlines of a Code' (London, 1826, 8vo, 2nd edit. 1827), gave him a high reputation as a legal reformer. Fox is said to have suggested the work, but it was really the fruit of its author's association with Charles Butler and with the new school of analytical jurists of which Bentham and Austin were the leaders. Bentham, in an elaborate notice of the book in 'The Westminster Review,' remarked that 'the publication forms an epoch, in law certainly; I had almost said in history.' The changes which Humphreys proposed excited much opposition at the time, but the majority have been since adopted: shortened forms of conveyance, registration of title, abolition of copyhold tenure, increase in the number of judges, improvement of procedure, the alteration of the law of descents, and the like. Sugden, John James Park, and others published adverse criticisms of Humphreys's proposals, but his scheme was praised by Kent in America, and the need for radical change in the land laws was admitted in this country by the appointment in 1827 of the real property commission. Humphreys also wrote 'Suggestions respecting the Stamp Duties affecting Real and Personal Property,' published posthumously in 1830, and a few other pamphlets.

[Gent. Mag. 1830 ii. 571, 1831 i. 181; Law Mag. i. 613, v. 258; Westminster Rev. No. xii.; October 1826; Bentham's Works, ed. Bowring, v. 387, &c., vi. 203; American Jurist and Law Mag. i. 58; Kent's Commentaries, iv. 8n; Martin's Conveyancing, ed. 1837, p. 39; Quarterly Rev. xxxiv. 520; Edinb. Rev. March 1827; Butler's Reminiscences, pp. 56, 284; Lincoln's Inn MS. Register.]

W. A. J. A.