Scott, John (1841-1904) (DNB12)

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SCOTT, Sir JOHN (1841–1904), judicial adviser to the Khedive, born at Wigan on 4 June 1841, was one of the family of three sons and a daughter of Edward Scott, solicitor of Wigan, by his first wife, Annie Glover. His father's second wife was Laura, sister of George Birkbeck Hill, who married a daughter of Scott by his first wife. There were two sons and two daughters of the second marriage.

From 1852 to 1860 John was educated at Bruce Castle School, Tottenham, of which Birkbeck Hill's father was headmaster; matriculating at Pembroke College, Oxford, he graduated B.A. in 1864 and proceeded M.A. in 1869. A fast left-hand bowler, he was captain of his college eleven, and in 1863 he played for Oxford against Cambridge.

Called to the bar by the Inner Temple on 17 Nov. 1865, he joined the northern circuit. He wrote on legal questions for ‘The Times,’ the ‘Law Quarterly,’ and other periodicals, and his ‘Bills of Exchange’ (1869) became a widely read text-book. Heart affection hampered him through life, and drove him to the Riviera for many months in 1871–2. There he mastered French and Italian and the French legal system. On medical advice he went to Alexandria, at the close of 1872, to pursue his profession there, and found his knowledge of French and Italian of essential service. In 1874, on the formation of a court of international appeal from the courts for foreign and native litigants, Scott was made, on the recommendation of the British agent and consul-general, the English judge. He won a high reputation in this post, and in Feb. 1881 was made vice-president of the court. George Joachim (afterwards Lord) Goschen, on his mission to Egypt in 1876, nominated Scott English commissioner of the public debt, but the Khedive, Ismail Pasha, declined to deprive the appeal court of his services, and the appointment went to Lord Cromer (then Major Baring). From 1873 onwards Scott regularly contributed to ‘The Times’ from Alexandria, and his letters form a useful record of Egyptian history of the period. He interested himself keenly in the condition of the fellaheen, and persistently used his influence to suppress slavery. In the Alexandria riots of June 1882 he narrowly escaped massacre, but remained at the court house day and night to assist in protecting the records.

In Oct. 1882, when the Khedive conferred on him the order of the Osmanie, he was appointed as puisne judge of the high court at Bombay. He quickly mastered the complex customs and usages of India. One of his judgments settled the law of partition among Hindus, and another defined the extent of Portuguese ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Roman catholics of Western India. Scott continued to write for the local and London press, frequently noticing Egyptian affairs. A letter of his to the ‘Times of India’ (26 Dec. 1884), signed ‘S,’ foreshadowed later political transitions in India. For a year from April 1890 his services were lent by the government of India to Egypt in order that he might examine the whole system of native jurisprudence in Egypt, and make proposals for its amendment. Despite the opposition of the Egyptian premier, Riaz Pasha, Lord Cromer induced the Khedive to accept Scott's recommendations and to appoint him judicial adviser to the Khedive. Thereupon Riaz Pasha resigned (May 1891) on the plea of ill-health.

Scott's impartiality and manifest goodwill towards the Egyptian people, combined with a constructive genius which enabled him to remould, instead of destroying, existing material and institutions, helped him to create in Egypt a sound judicial system (Cromer's Modern Egypt, chap. xl.; Milner's England in Egypt, 1892). In place of only three centres of justice, circuits were established, comprising forty stations. The procedure of the courts was simplified and accelerated; a system of inspection and control was carefully organised; incompetent judges were replaced by men of better education and higher moral character; and for the supply of judges, barristers, and court officials an excellent school of law was established. Scott did much of the inspection himself, travelling all over the country, and his annual reports from 1892 to 1898 are of profound interest. Even the critics of the British occupation have nothing but commendation for Scott's work (cf. H. R. Fox Bourne's Admn. of Justice in Egypt: Notes on Egyptian Affairs, pamph. No. 6, 1909).

Scott, who was made K.C.M.G. in March 1894, retired in May 1898 from considerations of health and other reasons. The Khedive conferred on him the order of the Mejidie of the highest class. In June 1898 Oxford bestowed the hon. D.C.L., and he became an honorary fellow of his old college, Pembroke. He was elected a member of the Athenæum under Rule II. Wigan, his native town, conferred upon him its freedom early in 1893. He was a vice-president of the International Law Association.

At the close of 1898 he was appointed deputy judge advocate-general of the army, an ordinarily light post which the South African war rendered onerous. With other ex-judges of India he joined in a memorial advocating the separation of judicial and executive functions in India, dated 1 July 1899. He died after long illness at his residence at Norwood on 1 March 1904. He was buried in St. John's churchyard, Hampstead.

He married on 16 Feb. 1867 Edgeworth Leonora—named after Maria Edgeworth [q. v.] —daughter of Frederic Hill (1803–1896), inspector of prisons for Scotland, a brother of Sir Rowland Hill [q. v.] (cf. Frederic Hill's Autobiography, 1893). Of four sons and four daughters, Leslie Frederic, K.C., became conservative M.P. for the Exchange division of Liverpool in Dec. 1910.

A portrait by Mr. J. H. Lorimer, R.S.A., presented by the courts in Egypt, is in Lady Scott's possession, and a portrait in chalks, showing him in judge's robes in India, by his sister-in-law, Miss E. G. Hill, is in the senior common room of Pembroke College.

[Works of Lord Cromer and Lord Milner; Sir A. Colvin's Making of Modern Egypt; Scott's reports as judicial adviser from 1892 to 1898; Encycl. Brit., 11th ed., art. Egypt; Oxford Mag., 9 March 1904; Indian Mag. and Rev., April 1904; The Times, 5 March 1894, 11 May 1898, 3 March 1904, and other dates; Wigan Observer, 7 Sept. 1892; Admn. of Justice in Egypt, pamphlet by H. R. Fox Bourne, London, 1909; information kindly given by Lady Scott.]

F. H. B.