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Stephen, Sir James Fitzjames

Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, 1829–94, English jurist and journalist; brother of Sir Leslie Stephen. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge and was admitted to the bar in 1854. After 1855 he wrote many articles on ethics, literature, and current topics for periodicals, and he was (1865–70) an important contributor to the Pall Mall Gazette. The study of jurisprudence, however, was his chief interest. He wrote A General View of the Criminal Law (1863) to expose certain legal anomalies. He served (1869–72) as the legal member of the viceroy's council in India, preparing a draft codification (later adopted) of the law relating to contracts, crime, and evidence. Parliament, however, never enacted his proposed codification of English criminal law. Stephen contrasted what he considered the efficient British rule of India with the inept government at home, and in Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873) he deplored the extension of democracy in place of a more autocratic government. Stephen was (1879–91) a criminal court judge. He was made a baronet in 1891. His most famous work is his History of the Criminal Law of England (1883).

See biography by his brother Leslie Stephen (1895, repr. 1972); H. Potter, Historical Introduction to English Law and Its Institutions (4th ed. 1958).

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Stephen, James FitzJames

Stephen, James FitzJames (1829–94). Stephen was the son and grandson of distinguished lawyers and educated at Eton, which he disliked, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He embarked on a legal career, but augmented his income with articles in the Saturday Review, the Cornhill Magazine, and the Pall Mall Gazette. After 2½ years in India on the council, which he described as a second university education, he was appointed a judge in 1879. His baronetcy came in 1891 when ill-health forced him to retire early. Large and formidable, he expressed his views trenchantly, was hostile to democracy, and mistrustful of sentiment: ‘the French way of loving the human race is one of their many sins which it is most difficult to forgive.’ He was a great admirer of Hobbes, the apostle of strong government. Stephen's most important works were Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873), a critique of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, and a History of the Criminal Law (1883). His candour is frequently refreshing, sometimes brutal. His younger brother Leslie Stephen was the founding editor of the Dictionary of National Biography and father of Virginia Woolf.

J. A. Cannon

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