Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 54.djvu/169

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private information to support the cause. In 1794 he returned to England and obtained practice at the prize appeal court of the privy council, where for some years he had a large share of the leading business.

Stephen had upon his return openly identified himself with the agitation against the slave trade. His wife died in 1796; and Wilberforce's kindness upon the occasion brought the two into closer familiarity, which was increased by Stephen's marriage in 1800 to Wilberforce's sister, widow of the Rev. Dr. Clarke of Hull. Stephen had also accepted the religious views of his allies, and was henceforward one of the most active of Wilberforce's supporters. His ardent temperament led him to regard the abolition of the slave trade as the one great aim of his life, and he was inclined to reproach his leader for attending to anything else. He made his chief mark, however, by a pamphlet called ‘War in Disguise,’ published in 1805, to denounce the evasions of our regulations by neutral traders. His experience at the English and colonial bar had made him familiar with the facts. The pamphlet produced a great effect, and was supposed to have suggested the orders in council, the first of which were made in 1807. Brougham calls him the ‘father’ of the system thus adopted. Perceval, with whom he sympathised on religious and political grounds, wished to bring him into parliament to support the government policy. He was elected for Tralee on 21 Feb. 1808, and in the parliament of 1812 sat for East Grinstead.

In parliament Stephen was chiefly known as defender of the orders in council. His want of education and his fiery temper prevented him from doing justice to considerable natural powers of eloquence. He spoke, however, occasionally with much effect, especially (12 March 1810) upon a proposal which had been made by the benchers of Lincoln's Inn to exclude from the bar any one who had written in a newspaper. Stephen excited admiration by frankly confessing that he had himself been guilty of journalism, and the rule was withdrawn. He steadily defended the government against Brougham's attack in the matter of the orders in council. He never lost sight of the slavery question, and spoke with great energy upon various points which arose after the abolition of the slave trade. The refusal of government to take up a measure for the registration of slaves induced him to retire from parliament; and, in spite of many entreaties, he accepted the Chiltern Hundreds on 14 April 1815.

Stephen had been appointed master in chancery in 1811, having, it was said, a claim in consequence of the diminution of his practice due to the orders in council. He lived for many years in Kensington Gore, where Wilberforce was his neighbour; and from 1819 had a small house at Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where the name ‘Wilberforce's Walk’ commemorates the visits of his brother-in-law. The second Mrs. Stephen died in 1816. Her widower and brother kept up their intimacy to the end; and Stephen to the last took a prominent part in the agitation for the abolition of slavery. He wrote an elaborate treatise upon West Indian laws and practice, and was a leading member of the society which carried on the agitation. Failure of health forced him to resign his mastership in 1831, and he died at Bath on 10 Oct. 1832. He was buried at Newington Green, by the side of his parents and his first wife. Wilberforce had promised to be buried there too, but was claimed by Westminster Abbey.

Stephen was a handsome man, and a very active worker till his last years. In early years he had been a liberal, and thought of joining Washington. In later life he became a tory and an evangelical; and he was one of the most ardent and devoted adherents of the party which became known as the ‘Clapham Sect.’ He left six children by his first wife: William, for nearly sixty years vicar of Bledlow, Buckinghamshire, who died on 8 Jan. 1867; Henry John [q. v.]; Sir James (1789–1859) [q. v.]; Sibella (1792–1869), who married W. A. Garratt, barrister; Sir George [q. v.]; and Anne Mary (1796–1878), who married Thomas Edward Dicey, and was mother of Mr. Edward Dicey and Professor Albert Venn Dicey. James Stephen's chief works are ‘War in Disguise’ (1805, several editions) and ‘Slavery in the British West India Colonies delineated’ (vol. i. 1824, and vol. ii. 1830). He wrote also a number of pamphlets, the first of which, called ‘The Crisis of the Sugar Colonies,’ appeared in 1802. In 1815 he published ‘Reasons for establishing a Registry of Slaves …,’ a report drawn by him of a committee of the African Institution, and, it is said, three other pamphlets. A series of letters addressed to the allied sovereigns at Aix-la-Chapelle, and published in the ‘New Times,’ was translated into French and published in 1818. Another pamphlet (n.d.) about 1821 is ‘Strictures on the Charge of Cannibalism on the African Race,’ and in 1826 he published ‘England enslaved by her own Slave Colonies.’ Others were apparently anonymous, and cannot now be identified.