Lord Russell – Harper’s Weekly v44 (1900)

Harper’s Weekly, v44 (1900)  p792

This obituary of Lord Russell (born Charles Russell) makes no mention of his chess activities, but probably has the most details about his life than any other I’ve seen. In particular, it contains his dob. Ironically, Steinitz died at nearly the same time, and Harper’s noted it with a picture of him on the same page as the Russell obit.


The Late Baron Russell

Baron Russell of Killowen, Lord Chief Justice of England, who died at Kensington on August 10, was the first Irishman and the first Roman Catholic who had filled the offices of Attorney-General and of Lord Chief Justice of England since the Reformation. He succeeded Lord Coleridge as Chief Justice. He was known not only in Great Britain as a clever lawyer and an able jurist, but his reputation and friendships extended to this country, where twice he had been a most welcome guest. Personally he was a thorough student in legal matters, was a lover of racing and other athletic sports, was fond of society lief, and withal was a keen and witty Irishman in whose makeup there was a delightful mixture of humor and of deep religious sentiment. He was born at Newry, County Down, on November 10, 1832, of a family of small gentry that had been settled in Ulster for six hundred years and had always retained its Catholic faith.

Young Russell begun the study of law in Belfast and then took a course in Trinity College, Dublin, an unusual step for a Catholic to take. He was admitted to the bar in 1859, and first attracted public attention as a cross-examiner in the notorious Irish case of Yelverton vs. Yelverton. After that he was employed in many cases that secured public notice. He was counsel for Mr. Labouchere in many libel suits against Truth, and he was retained by Lady Colin Campbell in her divorce suit. He defended Mrs. Maybrick and never ceased to believe in her innocence. He was one of the counsel of Great Britain on the Bering Sea arbitration case at Paris. His most celebrated was that of Mr. Parnell’s suit against the Times, in which he laid bare the famous Piggott forgeries. He was first elected to Parliment in 1880. In 1886 Mr. Gladstone made him Attorney-General and he was knighted. When the Gladstone administration returned to power in 1892, he again became Attorney-General. Lord Rosebery, in May, 1894, made him a Lord Justice of Appeal in Ordinary. He was then made a life peer with a title of Baron Russell of Killowen in the County of Down. A few weeks later, on the death of Lord Coleridge, he was made Chief Justice. His most conspicuous service that he rendered to Great Britain outside of his judicial duties was to act as one of the British arbitrators in the Venezuela boundary question.

As a judge Baron Russell instituted many practical reforms, and also established a court for commercial cases. He did away with much red-tape and had the distinction of applying the principles of common-sense rather than of involved legal procedure to the settlement of many cases. It was his hope to clear away a great deal of rubbish from the accumulation of precedent that abounds in the practice of law in England. He first visited the United States in 1883. The next visits was in 1896, when he delivered the chief address at the meeting of the American Bar Association in Saratoga. The subject of the address was “Arbitration,” and it attracted widespread attention as a scholarly effort. His kindly references to the United States and his confidence that a more cordial feeling would soon come to exist between this country and England pleased his auditors, and he the satisfaction of living to see that what he had predicted would occur had become a reality.


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