7 June he took the degree of serjeant-at-law, and on the 9th his seat in the English court. On the resignation of Thomas Parker, lord Macclesfield, he was appointed a commissioner for the custody of the great seal, and was knighted (7 Jan. 1724–5). The commissioners delivered the seal to Lord King on 1 June. On 3 June Gilbert was appointed lord chief baron of the court of exchequer. On 12 May 1726 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. He was prevented from presiding in the court of exchequer by a severe illness, of which he died at Bath on 14 Oct. 1726. He was buried in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, commonly known as the Abbey Church, Bath. A monument to his memory was placed in the Temple Church, with an elaborate inscription said to have been written by one of his executors, Phillips Gibbon. He left no children, and probably did not marry.
Gilbert is said to have beguiled his leisure with mathematical studies. As a legal author he achieved permanent though only posthumous distinction. Among his papers were found the following works, which were published at various dates during the last century:
- ‘Law of Uses and Trusts,’ London, 1734, 1741, 1811, 8vo. The last edition was by E. B. Sugden, afterwards Lord St. Leonards.
- ‘Law and Practice of Ejectments,’ London, 1734, 1741, 1781, 8vo (the last edition being by Runnington).
- ‘Reports of Cases argued and decreed in the Courts of Chancery and Exchequer from 4 Queen Anne to 12 Geo. I,’ London, 1734, 1742, fol.
- ‘History and Practice of Civil Actions in the Common Pleas,’ London, 1737, 1761, 1779, 8vo. A brief treatise on the constitution of England is prefixed to this work.
- ‘Historical View of the Court of Exchequer,’ London, 1738, 8vo, a first instalment of a work published in its entirety in 1758 under the title of ‘A Treatise on the Court of Exchequer,’ London, 8vo.
- ‘Treatise of Tenures,’ Dublin, 1754; another edition in 1757; the 5th edition, in 1824, by Charles Watkins, and R. S. Vidal, 8vo.
- ‘Law of Devises, Revocations, and Last Wills,’ London, 1756, 1773.
- ‘Treatise on Rents,’ London, 1758, 8vo.
- ‘History and Practices of the High Court of Chancery,’ London, 1758, 8vo; an edition also appeared in Ireland in the same year.
- ‘Cases in Law and Equity, argued, debated, and adjudged in the King's Bench and Chancery in the 12th and 13th years of Queen Anne, during the time of Lord-chief-justice Parker. With two treatises, the one on the Action of Debt, the other on the Constitution of England,’ London, 1760, 8vo.
- ‘The Law of Evidence,’ London, 1761, 8vo. An edition, known as the 4th, enlarged, appeared in 1777, others in 1791, 1792, 1796, the last in four volumes, royal octavo, by Capel Lofft, with a life of the author prefixed, also, by way of introduction, an abstract of Locke's ‘Essay concerning Human Understanding.’ The first volume was reprinted in 1801, with notes and references to contemporary and later cases by J. Sedgwick, 8vo.
- ‘The Law of Executions, with the History and Practice of the Court of King's Bench, and some cases touching Wills of Lands and Goods,’ London, 1763, 8vo.
- ‘Law and Practice of Distress and Replevin,’ London, 1780, 1794 (ed. Hunt), 1823 (4th edit. by Impey).
Gilbert also wrote ‘A History of the Feud,’ which came into the possession of Hargrave, but has remained in manuscript. A manuscript treatise on ‘Remainders’ has also been ascribed to him.
Gilbert's published works are marked by precision and lucidity of style, and very considerable mastery of his subject, and evince a real desire to exhibit it in a logical shape. The treatise on evidence, which is referred to by Blackstone as a classic, ‘which it is impossible to abstract or abridge without losing some beauty and destroying the chain of the whole’ (Comm. 12th edit. bk. iii. c. 23, p. 367), remained the standard authority on the subject throughout the eighteenth century. Blackstone also praises the ‘History and Practice of Civil Actions in the Court of Common Pleas’ as a work which ‘has traced out the reason of many parts of our modern practice from the feudal institutions and the primitive construction of our courts in a most clear and ingenious manner’ (ib. c. 18, p. 272). There is evidence in the ‘History and Practice of the High Court of Chancery’ (1758) of some acquaintance with Roman law, and of a very clear perception of the analogy between the prætorian code and English equity. Gilbert may thus fairly claim to have used, with eminent success, both the historical and the analytic methods, and even to have discerned the importance of the study of the Roman law, then generally neglected in England.
[Howell's State Trials, xv. 1302–23; Lords' Journ. (Ireland), ii. 625–7; Hist. Reg. Chron. Diary (1720), pp. 85–108, (1722) pp. 28–9, (1725) p. 28, (1726) p. 39; Bunbury's Rep. p. 113; Lord Raymond's Rep. 1380–1, 1420; Life by Capel Lofft, prefixed to Law of Evidence, ed. 1796; Foss's Lives of the Judges.]
GILBERT, GEORGE (1559?–1583), founder of the Catholic Association in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, was born in Suffolk