Frederick Edwin Smith 1st earl of Birkenhead

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Smith, Frederick E., 1st Lord Birkenhead (1872–1930). Lord chancellor. Educated at Birkenhead and Oxford, Smith made a name for himself as a barrister in Liverpool where (1906) he was elected as a Conservative MP. His rhetorical onslaughts against the Liberal government brought him to the attention of the Tory die-hards, and in 1911 he joined the opposition front bench. In 1915 he became solicitor-general and then attorney-general in the wartime coalition government, and in 1919 was appointed lord chancellor; from 1924 to 1928 he served as secretary of state for India. Smith has been unfairly characterized as an unmitigated reactionary. Though a supporter of Ulster's right to opt out of Home Rule, Smith did his best to bring about a compromise in the Irish question, and played a key part in the negotiations which led to the Irish treaty of 1921. He also devoted much energy to law reform; the passage of the Law of Property Act (1922) was largely due to his efforts.

Geoffrey Alderman

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Frederick Edwin Smith Birkenhead, 1st earl of (bûr´kənhĕd´), 1872–1930, British statesman and jurist. He was called to the bar in 1899 and entered the House of Commons as a Conservative in 1906. A brilliant orator, he soon gained prominence as a Conservative spokesman, particularly in the fight against Irish Home Rule. He was solicitor general (1915), attorney general (1915–19), in which capacity he prosecuted Sir Roger Casement, and lord chancellor (1919–22). Created earl in 1922, he was (1924–28) secretary of state for India. His books include International Law (4th ed. 1911), Famous Trials of History (1927), Law, Life, and Letters (1927).

See biography by his son, Frederick, 2d earl of Birkenhead (1933–35, rev. ed. 1959).