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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
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Sir Henry Hawkins

Raised to the peerage as Lord Brampton, eminent English lawyer and judge, b. at Hitchin, Hertfordshire, September 14, 1817; d. at London, October 12, 1907

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Hawkins, SIR HENRY, raised to the peerage as LORD BRAMPTON, eminent English lawyer and judge, b. at Hitchin, Hertfordshire, September 14, 1817; d. at London, October 12, 1907. He was the eldest son of John Hawkins, a solicitor of Hitchin. Educated at Bedford School, he was articled to an uncle, a country solicitor, but, "hating the drudgery of an attorney's office", he went to London, studied at the Middle Temple, and was called to the Bar in May, 1843. Without either money or influence to help him, he made his mark as an advocate by sheer hard work, and in 1858 became a Queen's Counsel. He was engaged in many famous lawsuits, including the great Tichborne case, in which his cross-examination of the leading witnesses for the false claimant of the estates completely exposed the fraudulent nature of the claim. He then successfully conducted the prosecution of the claimant. He was appointed a judge of the Queen's Bench and was knighted in November, 1876. Next year he married a Catholic lady, Jane Louisa, daughter of H. F. Reynolds of Hulme, Lancashire. The decisions of Judge Hawkins were noted for their combination of sound law and shrewd common sense. Stern where his duty required it, he was kindly and merciful to mere human weakness, and was opposed to long or vindictive sentences. His kindly disposition was also shown in his love of animals, and he was strongly opposed to vivisection. His country education made him find his recreation in outdoor sports; he was often seen at the races, though he did not bet, and was a prominent member of the Jockey Club. He retired from the Bench in 1898, and the next year was raised to the peerage, taking his title from Brampton, Huntingdonshire, where he had some property. Among his many friends was Cardinal Manning. "He never tried to proselytize me", wrote Lord Brampton, "he left me to my own free uncontrolled and uncontrollable action. My reception into the Church of Rome was purely of my own free choice and will, and according to the exercise of my own judgment. I thought for myself and acted for myself or I should not have acted at all. I have always been and am satisfied that I was right." He was received into the Church by Cardinal Vaughan in the summer of 1898. Three years after, in reply to an inquiry, he wrote: "It was the result of my deliberate conviction that the truth—which was all I sought—lay within the Catholic Church. I thought the matter out for myself, anxiously and seriously, uninfluenced by any human being, and I have unwavering satisfaction in the conclusion at which I arrived." In thanksgiving for his conversion he founded the beautiful chapel of Sts. Gregory and Augustine in the new cathedral of Westminster; altogether he contributed some £10,000 to the building of the cathedral. He left no heir to his title.

A. HILLIARD ATTERIDGE


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