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I. Introdfctory 1

By J. Fischer Williams.

II. His Book and His Character .... 17
By A. V. DioBY, K.C.

III. La Science du Droit des Gens ... 43

By Ernest Nys, Profeaseur k 1' University de Bruxelles,
Conseiller k la Cour d'Appel, Membre de la Cour penna-
nente d' Arbitrage (La Haye).

IV. PuBUC Affairs . . . . . .69

By Lord Courtney op Penwith.

V. L'CEijvre de John Westlakb .... 71

By A. DE Lapradellb, Professeur de Droit International
k la Faculty de Droit de Paris.

VI. John Westlakb as Teacher .... 91
By Norman Bentwich.


Westlake 101

By Ed. Rolin- Jabquemyns, Conseiller au Conseil Colonial
(Belgique), R^dacteur en Chef de la Reviis de Droit
International et de Legislation Comparie.

VIII. The Balkan Committee, 1905-1913 . . .107

By Arthur 6. Symonds, Secretary to the Balkan Com-




IX. Finland . . 116

By Dr. J. N. Rbuter, Professor at the University of

X. The Working Men's College . . . .130
By Sm 0. P. Lucas, K.C.M.G., C.B.

XI. Tregerthen . . . . , . . 138
By Marian Andrews and Gertrude Phillpotts.

Appendix 147

Index . 166


John Wbstlake, 1896 Frontispiece

From a painting by his wife.

John Westlake, circa 1853 . . . .To face p. 59
From a daguerrotype.

John Westlake, 1909 „ 109

From a photograph by Fredk. Hollyer.

Alice Westlake, 1887 „ 139

From a photograph by J. Thomson.

Mrs. Westlake gratefully acknowledges the kindness of the Master and Fellows of
Trinity College, Cambridge^ in allowing the arms of the College to be engraved on the
cover of the book.





The pages that follow are not a formal biography.
John Westlake's long and honoured life was not filled
with events personal to himself that the political
historian would chronicle. On the other hand, were
a reasoned exposition of the leading ideas that
formed and influenced his character to be attempted
now, the writer should be one in full sympathy.
But, indeed, the history of those ideas is not yet
ripe for the writing. Of men of ideas, grandchildren
or contemporaries are, perhaps, better biographers
than the men of the next generation. Contem-
poraries sympathise and understand ; children are
apt to react ; the third generation is better placed
to throw into a reasonable perspective.

But, at Mrs. Westlake's suggestion and with her
active co-operation, some of John Westlake's many


friends in this country and on the Continent of
Europe, wishing to preserve a short record of the
manner of his life and influence, have brought
together either personal memories of his character
and career from the points of view from which
they knew him, or studies of the different aspects
of his work which they are peculiarly qualified to
estimate. He said himself, on the occasion of
the presentation by his friends of his portrait to
Trinity College, Cambridge, that ' his life was in
the list of those who had joined in procuring the
portrait — including, as it did, early contemporaries
at Cambridge, many who had joined in welcoming
him when he returned to university life in 1888, old
members of his classes, and names which recorded
friendships made at the Bar, in politics, at the
Working Men's College, and among colleagues and
students of International Law in both continents.'
This little volume is an attempt to carry out the
idea that underlies these words. The fact that the
contributions are in two languages may serve to
suggest the wide ambit of John Westlake's influence.
But the book would not, perhaps, be fully intelligible
without a brief summary of the main events of his
life by way of introduction.

John Westlake was born on February 4, 1828,
at Lostwithiel in Cornwall. His father was a wool-
stapler, a business now practically extinct in the
South of England. His mother — ^to whom, in his
own words, he owed ' a very great deal ' — was


Eleanora, daughter of the Rev. George Burgess,
Rector of Atherington in North Devon, a clergyman
of a type rare then and now scarcely possible. He
kept his own hounds, but when he remarked to a
parishioner that there were no Methodists at Ather-
ington, he got for an answer : ' Why, your honour,
you be as good as a Methody yourself.'

John Westlake was an only son, having an only
sister, Mary Elizabeth, some fifteen months his
senior ; she died of cholera at Sandgate in 1854.

His and his sister's early education was mainly
his mother's work : her plan was not to make her
children learn anything by heart — not even hymns :
' saying ' a lesson meant repeating its substance in
the child's own words. At four years and seven
months the boy began to learn Latin from his mother,
she, in turn, learning from his father. The old * Eton
Latin Grammar ' and the * Delectus ' were the vehicles
of instruction. At the age of seven (1835), he began
to go to the Lostwithiel Grammar School, an old
school then maintained without any permanent
endowment by means of an annual grant by the
public-spirited corporation of the little Cornish town.
At the Grammar School the boy was plunged at once
into Phaedrus.

John Westlake's mother did not limit her
education to imparting knowledge. She and her
husband had at first brought up their child in the
belief of the verbal inspiration of the Bible; but
geology (a study in which John Westlake took a

B 2


lifelong interest) reached even remote Lostwithiel
before boyhood was over, and Mrs. Westlake
acquiesced in the view, then new, that ' inspiration '
was an influence guarding the sacred writers only
against spiritual error.

Until illness incapacitated him, John Westlake's
father shared in his education and gave him his
earliest impressions of Greek by teaching the boy
to read the Iliad aloud to him in Greek every
morning while he was shaving.

John Westlake never went to a boarding or
' public ' school : he was a delicate boy and it was
not thought wise to send him away from home;
but in 1841, as Mr. Westlake senior had given up
his business on account of ill-health, the family
proposed to remove to Harrow in order to send
John Westlake to Harrow School as a day-boarder.
This proposal was never carried out : young West-
lake did, in fact, spend the autumn of 1841 on a
visit to the Rev. J. W. Colenso, then mathematical
master at Harrow School, and afterwards the famous
Bishop of Natal and Westlake's lifelong friend and
client, for teaching in mathematics ; but at Christmas,
1841, Colenso gave up his Mastership and returned
to St. John's College, Cambridge, as a mathematical
private tutor. Thereupon the Westlakes moved, in
April 1842, to Cambridge instead of Harrow, and
John Westlake was educated privately at Cambridge.
Colenso, until he left Cambridge for a college living,
was Westlake's tutor in mathematics, and Bateson,


afterwards Master of St. John's, in classics. Bate-
son was followed by Shilleto, the famous scholar,
and Colenso by Harvey Goodwin, afterwards Bishop
of Carlisle.

Westlake entered as an undergraduate at Trinity
College, Cambridge, in October 1846, living at first
in lodgings and then in College ; he got his scholarship
at Easter 1848, and took his B.A. degree in January
1850, bracketed sixth wrangler and sixth in the
first class of the Classical Tripos. He was elected
fellow of Trinity in October 1851, and took his M.A.
degree in 1853. His father died in 1849, his mother
lived on to 1866.

In 1852 John Westlake, his mother and sister,
moved from Cambridge to London, where he was
already keeping his terms at Lincoln's Inn. In
1854, he was called to the Bar. On October 13, 1864,
he married Alice, the daughter of Mr. Thomas Hare,
well remembered as the founder of the British school
of proportional representation. In the autumn of
1873, he bought his Cornish home, Tregerthen, on
the north coast of Cornwall about four miles west
of St. Ives ; in 1874, he was made Q.C. and elected
a bencher of Lincoln's Inn ; in 1878, his native
town of Lostwithiel paid him the compliment of
electing him Recorder ; in 1881, he moved his London
residence to the River House, Chelsea Embankment ;
in 1888, he was appointed Whewell Professor of Inter-
national Law at Cambridge, an office which he
resigned in 1908. He died on April 14, 1913, at


the River House. His ashes rest in Zennor church-
yard in Cornwall, under a Celtic cross.

During his long life he received many honours
from learned bodies and from governments : he
was created Honorary LL.D. of the University of
Edinburgh in 1877 ; in 1910, he was elected an
honorary fellow of his old College of Trinity^ — an
honour he prized above all others — and shortly
after his resignation of his professorship in 1908, his
portrait, by Mr. Charles Shannon, was hung in Trinity
College Hall. In February 1908, he received the
Honorary D.C.L. from the University of Oxford ; he
was a member of the Academic Royale of Brussels,
and in November 1909 was made an honorary
Docteur en Droit at the Free University of that
city. He also had the Italian Order of the Iron
Crown, and the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun.
From 1900 to 1906, he was one of the members for
the United Kingdom of the International Court of
Arbitration under the Hague Convention.

In 1858 appeared the first edition of the book
that made him famous ; he thus describes its origin :

' I had been trained by my father to take an
interest in foreign countries and affairs, and always
did so ; but my attention was first drawn to Inter-
national Law by Christie, the eminent conveyancer
of whom I was a pupil, . . . Christie suggested to
me to write a book on private international law
or the conflict of laws ; what was wanted, as he
described it, was " to make Story readable." I took


the advice but found that something more than he
had expressed was required, and the result was my
" Treatise on Private International Law or the
Conflict of Laws, with principal reference to its
practice in the English and other cognate systems of
Jurisprudence, 1858." This I almost entirely rewrote
for my *' Treatise on Private International Law, with
principal reference to its practice in England, being in
lieu of a second edition of the work published in
1858," 1880. The two books were so different that
I should have made no allusion to the former in the
title to the second, but for the urgent instance of
my publisher.' A third edition appeared in 1890 ; a
fourth, with important developments, in 1905,
and the fifth and last edition in 1912. The most
important of Westlake's writings after his work on
private international law is his treatise on inter-
national law proper, in two volumes, with the sub-
titles respectively of ' Peace ' and ' War,' published
in 1904 and 1907.

Westlake was not only a jurist of world-wide
reputation, he also attained considerable success
as a practising lawyer. As a draftsman the accuracy
of his mind, his great industry, and his trained
carefulness and succinctness of expression put him
in the very first rank ; his wide learning and his
knowledge of foreign systems of law — specially
French — made his ' opinion ' of very great value.
Hence, the main field of his professional activities
was in cases involving a knowledge of international


or foreign law, and in what may be called ' commercial
conveyancing ' : he was the originator of an early
set of forms often used in the reconstruction of
companies and devised by him in connection with
the unhappy Agra and Masterman's Bank ; and
in the late sixties and in the seventies he had a
considerable practice in the Privy Council. But
he had not the pliancy or adaptability of the
successful advocate, and, perhaps, English legal
machinery has no place exactly suited for one who
in Rome would have naturally been numbered with
the ' prudentes,' and whose opinion would have had
in his lifetime that authority which English practice
reserves for decisions in contested cases.

Westlake did not confine his work in the field
of international law to the publication of a treatise
and the development of a practice. He realised
that if international law is to play the powerful
part which is its due in the future organisation of
humanity, closer relations between the lawyers of
different countries must be established than can
result from the mere exchange of views in print.
In 1862, he made the acquaintance, which ripened
into a life-long friendship, of Rolin-Jaequemyns of
Belgium and Asser of Holland, and in 1869 the
three friends started together the ' Revue de Droit
International et de Legislation Comparee.' The
Institute of International Law was founded in 1873,
in Westlake 's words, ' mainly through the energy
of Rolin-Jaequemyns,' whom Westlake accompanied


to Heidelberg to confer with Bluntschli as to its
foundation. Westlake and his friends were among
the ' membres fondateurs ' of the Institute, but
his own recollection was that the idea first came
from Lieber. In 1895, Westlake was president of
the Institute at its Cambridge meeting.

It was his book on private international law
that introduced him to practice. Soon after the
appearance of the book, Mr. John Morris, of Ashurst,
Morris & Co., instructed him in a case arising
from the failure of a Nottingham firm that had
an establishment in New York, a case which
involved a visit, in 1860, to New York to examine
witnesses ' on commission,' and thenceforward his
professional position was assured. Of more general
interest was the case heard in 1861 of the Emperor
of Austria v. Day and Kossuth (reported 3 De G.
F. & J. 217) in which the Austrian Government
sued in our Court of Chancery to prevent Kossuth
and his English printers from manufacturing and
issuing paper-money in the name of the revolutionary
Government of Hungary ; Westlake was on the
popular but unsuccessful side. A few years later,
Westlake had the privilege of helping to assert
before the Privy Council and the Court of Chancery
the rights of his old tutor Colenso : the Judicial
Committee set aside as wrongful the attempted
deprivation and deposition of Colenso by the Bishop
of Capetown, and the Trustees of the Colonial
Bishoprics Fund were ordered by Lord Romilly


as Master of the Rolls to pay to the heroic Bishop of
Natal his episcopal salary (see 3 Moore, P. C. (N. S.) 115
and L. R. 3 Eq. 1). In 1874 Westlake was engaged
in the once famous Guibord case {Brown v. Cure
de Montreal, L. R. 6 P. C. 157), where the right of
the Roman Catholic authorities to refuse ecclesi-
astical burial to the body of a person said to have
been subject to canonical penalties was in issue.
The case is of the first importance as to the legal
status of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada.

The study and practice of the law — whether
international or municipal — ^were far from exhausting
Westlake's interests. Already in 1854 (with a
characteristically valorous disregard of those nar-
rowing influences which are always at work at
the Bar to prevent a young barrister from being
known to have any other than professional interests),
he had become one of the founders, with F. D.
Maurice, of the Working Men's College, where the
Christian Socialists mingled with the later
Utilitarians ; and at some later date, he became
foreign secretarv of the National Association for
the Promotion of Social Science, whose annual
meeting he first attended in Dublin in 1861. In
1884, he was president of the Jurisprudence Depart-
ment at the Congress in Birmingham, and his
connection with the Association continued until
it ceased to exist. He was also up to his
death an active member of the Political Economy
Club. On social questions, Westlake was a con-
vinced individualist; he found the key to social


problems in the development of individual character.
He had a profound distrust of the extension of
the activities of the State and the municipality, not
from any lack of sympathy with the ends to be
achieved, but rather from an optimistic belief not
so much in the advantages likely to result from
the free play of individual self-interest, as in the
general right feeling of the individual man. But he
detested any attempt at individual self-aggrandise-
ment, more especially at the expense of the public,
and his love of natural scenery joined with his
concern for social welfare to make him an active
member of the Commons Preservation and Footpaths
Protection Society.

It will have been seen that in early life Westlake
was in close association with Colenso : he himself
writes of this association, and of his own ecclesiastical
opinions, thus : ' I never approved of the first part
of Colenso on the Pentateuch, though having no
higher opinion than the Bishop of the historical
character of the narrative, and I did my best to
persuade him at least to postpone its publication
till it could be accompanied by the second part.
Under his, among other, influences, I at that time
desired to see a wider comprehension in the Church
of England than I now believe to be possible in
any religious communion, established or voluntary.
And I contributed an essay on " The Church in
the Colonies " to a volume of " Essays on Church
Policy," edited by the Rev. W. L. Clay, 1868, in
which a policy of comprehension was advocated.


Having become convinced that this is impossible,
I declared for disestablishment (which I refuse to
distinguish from disendowment).'

A lawyer with an interest in social questions
as strong as was Westlake's is necessarily drawn
into politics — necessarily, because a true servant
of the law will neither undervalue its power nor
leave to others the task of its amendment. In
1885, he entered the House of Commons as Liberal
Member for the Romford Division of Essex, but
he voted and spoke against the first Home Rule
Bill and lost his seat to his former Tory opponent
in a three-cornered contest on the dissolution in
July 1886. In 1892, he stood as a Liberal Unionist
for the Mid or St. Austell Division of Cornwall —
upon the understanding that he was not to vote
for disestablishment if proposed — and was defeated.
In truth, he was not politically in a sufficiently
strong position to impose himself on party managers,
nor sufficiently adaptable to become an ordinary
subordinate member of a party. It may be doubted
whether his life lost either interest or usefulness even
in the sphere of politics by his electoral defeats. He
combined with his interest in social questions a
close study and knowledge of foreign affairs, for
which he would have had little scope in the House
of Commons, but which he could exercise in his
position as an international lawyer with more freedom
and at least equal effect.

Other contributors to this volume will give some
account of Westlake as a jurist, as a politician, as a


friend of oppressed nationalities, as a social worker,
and in other capacities, but it may be not out of place
here to illustrate his character by briefly mentioning
his devotion to the cause of the enfranchisement of
women. Throughout his life he held the view that
the exclusion of woman from fields of activity where
she is no less generally competent to do good work
than is man, is a legacy from past conditions of
society for which there is no justification. And he
worked steadily for the propagation and realisation of
his view, confirmed and strengthened by the example
of Mrs. Westlake's fruitful activities as a member of
the School Board for London.

He held no official position in any of the societies
for women's suffrage, but he was always ready to
speak for the women's cause, and to help it with
his legal know^ledge or financial aid, and he gave to
the women's movement the invaluable moral support
of a sane judgment and balanced mind. The methods
of other supporters of the cause never affected in
the least his unwavering support. If the public
weigh the soundness of a cause by the acts and
character of its supporters, Westlake's name should
be laid in the balance as one not inconsiderable
element in arriving at a just conclusion.

Throughout his life, he was an eager and, in the
technical sense, a ' good ' traveller, having that
rigorous simplicity of habit which is the main
condition of ' good ' travelling ; but with the excep-
tion of two visits to America, an expedition to the
Asiatic side of the Dardanelles, and a journey in


Algeria and Tunis, he confined himself to Europe.
His European journeys included a visit to Dalmatia
and a long stay at Athens and in the Peloponnese,
where his sympathies with the Greek and Balkan
peoples generally were confirmed. He rarely missed
the annual meetings of the Institute of International
Law. His profound knowledge of history, and his
lively interest both in architecture and geology,
stimulated and were in turn increased by his travels.

A list of Westlake's writings will be found in an
appendix: the list includes much that, written by
another man, would have been dashed off as journalism,
but whatever the occasion, he never either wrote or
spoke with haste or superficiality ; whatever he
wrote bears the stamp of an intellect accurate and
profound. In all that he wrote he put forward his
full powers. He was almost over-conscientious in
any mental work, however trivial. Carelessness in
thought or looseness in expression were abhorrent to
his mind. He never spared himself.

To this skeleton of dates and facts a few personal
impressions may be added. John Westlake must have
struck all his friends with his passionate and at
the same time reasonable enthusiasm of reason.
His mind was up to the very last keen, balanced,
in the best sense judicial. A casual acquaintance
might have thought him far away from any form
of enthusiasm. But, in fact, his intellect was at the
service of a personality devoted romantically to high
ends, and sympathetic to every deeper call of
humanity. Cultivating himself a great clarity of


speech, he was yet fully responsive to the music of

eloquent and stately language. The mysterious names

of the headlands of his Cornish coast — names some of

them pre-Celtic in origin — ^were, as he said himself,

' music to his ears ' ; and to hear him quote the famous

Where the great vision of the guarded mount
Looks toward Namancos and Bayona's hold

was to understand how the spirit of a great poet

will speak directly across the centuries at the call

of a congenial mind.

Perhaps one of the happiest moments of his
later years was the evening when the news reached
London of the finding of the Court of Inquiry as
to the affair of the North Sea fishing-boats and the
Russian Baltic Fleet. \^Tien he heard the news, his
face and all his figure was alive with keen personal
enjoyment. He rejoiced for his country ; and he
rejoiced, too, for the study to which he had given his
life. An international tribunal had settled a grave
question, of which the issues were war or peace ;
International Law had made another step forward
in what may yet prove to be a rapid conquest of a
civilised world.

Westlake was a believer in human progress. He
held unswervingly that the general conditions of
human life were improving. He was absolutely
free, in his old age, from the common and pardonable
tendency to believe that the world had been better
in the prime of his own life. He asked for light
and welcomed it. He had a reverent faith in reason.
His powerful intellect never led him to an impatient


or contemptuous estimate of mankind. He erred
rather by crediting all the world with an anxious
desire to act reasonably. To differ from him on
any serious subject was an exercise both in humility
and self-knowledge ; his good faith shamed any
baser motive ; his powerful reason revealed unsus-
pected weakness on the opposing side and new
strength on his own. One might differ from him in
his premises, in his estimate of a character or a situa-
tion, but, the basis of his argument once accepted,
assent was compelled to his conclusions. A man

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Online LibraryJohn Fischer WilliamsMemories of John Westlake .. → online text (page 1 of 10)