Memories of John Westlake

Memories of John Westlake

Bibliographic Details

London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1914

Book Review

This beautifully printed volume of 157 pages is an affectionate memorial to Professor Westlake, compiled, at the suggestion and with the cooperation of Mrs. Westlake, by his friends and associates in many lands. It consists of eleven chapters (three of them in French), each by a scholar of eminence, dealing with some phase of Dr. Westlake's many beneficent activities and services. The introductory chapter, biographical and appreciative, is by J. Fisher Williams. A. V. -Dicey writes the second chapter on “His Book and His Character.” Professor Ernest Nys' chapter is headed “La Science du Droit des Gens.” Chapter IV, by Lord Courtney of Penwith, is entitled “Public Affairs.” Chapter V, by Prof. A. de Lapradelle, “L'Oeuvre de John Westlake.” Chapter VI, by Norman Bentwich, “John Westlake as Teacher.” Chapter VII, “Extraits de la Notice consacrce d John Westlake,” by Ed. Rolin-Jaequemyns. Chapter VIII, “The Balkan Committee 1905-1913,” by Arthur G. Symonds, Secretary to the Balkan Committee. Chapter IX, “Finland” by Dr. J. N. Reuter, Professor at the University of Helsingfors. Chapter X, “The Working Men's College,” by Sir C. P. Lucas, K. C. M. G., C. B. Chapter XI, “Tregerthen” (Dr. Westlake's interesting country house on the Cornish coast), by Marian Andrews and Gertrude Phillpotts. There is an appendix of eight pages giving “A list of the Writings of John Westlake,” and an index.

Introduction to Memories of John Westlake

Such memorial volumes made up from diverse sources and by diverse hands, are in general perfunctory or extravagant without proportion or sequence and therefore inadequate, disorderly and disappointing. The present volume is a conspicuous exception to this general rule. It draws a strong, clear, affectionate but convincing portrait of a very great scholar and a marked and distinctive personality; one whose life was protracted and whose attachments and connections were tenacious, unswerving and unselfish, and whose courage, energy and zeal “age could not wither nor custom stale.” John Westlake was born at Lostwithiel in Cornwall in 1828, his father a wool-stapler, his mother the daughter of a North Devon clergy-man, a sporting parson who kept his own hounds but who was described by a rustic parishioner as “as good as a Methody.” He was first taught at home and in the local grammar school. He never went to a public school but was later educated by private tutors at Cambridge.

Context of Memories of John Westlake

Colenso and Harvey Goodwin taught him mathematics, Bateson, and Shilleto the classics. He entered Trinity and took his B. A. in 1848, bracketed sixth wrangler and sixth in the first class of the Classical Tripos, and was elected a fellow of Trinity in 1851. He kept terms at Lincoln's Inn and was called to the bar in 1854. In 1864 he married Alice, daughter of Thomas Hare, the famous advocate of proportional representation. In 1874 he took silk and was elected a bencher of Lincoln's Inn. In 1888 he was appointed Whewell Professor of International Law at Cambridge, and this chair he filled for twenty years with great distinction, resigning in 1908. The book that first made Westlake's name widely known was a Treatise on Private International Law or the Conflict of Laws, first published in 1858.

Thesis Statement

This was almost wholly rewritten and brought out in a second edition in 1880, a third edition in 1890, a fourth in 1905 and a fifth in 1912. It was translated into German by Von Holzendorf in 1884 and into French by Paul Goule in 1914. It showed extended familiarity not only with English law and practice but also with the Continental law of Europe and tended to impress various of the Continental doctrines on English law, as, for instance, the exclusive character of the jurisdiction of the courts of the matrimonial domicile in certain cases of divorce and the dominance of the law of domicile generally. It became the leading English authority and for a time powerfully affected the decisions of the British courts. Dicey calls Westlake “the instructor of judges.” Westlake's work on international law he published in two volumes, that on Peace in 1904 and that on War in 1907, and de Lapradelle is now preparing a French translation of both volumes. In 1913 Westlake edited for the Carnegie Institution of Washingtorn Ayala De Jure et Offiji's Bellicis et Disciplina Militari, in two volumes. He published Chapters on the Principles of International Law in 1894, which was translated into French and Japanese. He wrote the article on ” International Law (Private)” for the supplement to the fifth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, “The Church in the Colonies” for Essays on Church Policy in 1868, and an Introductory Lecture on International Law in 1888, translated by Rolin into French. He was a frequent and constant contributor to the proceedings of various societies and many reviews and periodicals, especially the Revue de Droit International et de Legislation Comparee. As a result of these activities he received an honorary fellowship from Trinity College, Cambridge. Oxford gave him the honorary D. C. L., Edinburgh an LL.D., and the Free University of Brussels made him an honorary Docteur en Droit.

More about Memories of John Westlake

He was decorated with the Italian order of the Crown and the Japanese order of the Rising Sun. From 1900 to 1906 he was one of the representatives of the United Kingdom on the Hague Court of Arbitration. He met a considerable success also as a practicing lawyer, especially in cases involving foreign law, but he had not the equipment of a successful advocate, though often before the Privy Council. He, with Rolin-Jaequemyns and Asser, in 1869 founded the Revue de Droit International et de Legislation CQmparee, and in 1873, with-RolinJaequemyns and Bluntschli, and on the suggestion of Lieber, he took part in founding the Institute of International Law, whose president he became in 1895. In 1854, with Maurice, he took part in founding the Working Men's College, where the Christian Socialists mingled with the later Utilitarians, and was its stanch supporter to the end of his long life. In 1855 he was elected to the House of Commons from the Romford Division of Essex as a Liberal, but voted and spoke against the first home rule bill and lost his seat on the dissolution in 1886.

Analysis of the Text

He was able enough but not docile enough for a parliamentary career. In 1873 he bought an old stone house and garden on the Cornish coast near St. Ives, called Tregerthen, and in 1881 he made his London home at the River House, Chelsea Embankment, and in these dwellings he and Mrs. Westlake exercised a most generous, delightful and stimulating hospitality to a wide circle of scholars and to many relatives and friends of every age.

Other Aspects

The writer recalls a delightful week at Tregerthen with a house party of fifteen, with innumerable walks and talks in the fields yellow with gorse, teas on the heather, the treat for the village children with gifts and a wonderfully simple but inspiring little speech by Mrs. Westlake, the visit to St. Michaels Mount and the constant affectionate reference by Professor Westlake to the history of mythology of his ever dear Cornwall, the little church beautifully restored by his generosity, the immemorial and prescriptive field paths which he knew and whose antiquity delighted him. The essays of these distinguished friends picture Westlake as a wonderful advocate of reason, a believer in progress, refusing to be pessimistic even when an octogenarian and almost deprived of hearing.

More on this Book Review

The writer recalls a little dance at Tregerthen when Professor WestLake, then over 80, found the greatest pleasure in the joyousness of his young guests. Westlake twice visited America, and Mr. Williams thinks his suggestion of a “combination of mediative and judicial arbitration in the Venezuelan difficulty” averting “a fratricidal strife” was perhaps hi; most signal service. Mr. Bentwich writes of Westlake as his old instructor and tells how he gained from him the conception “that law, while being an exact science, was intimately concerned with the maintenance and the extension of just dealing between individuals and between nations,” and describes him as a dignified and impressive presence in the lecture room, informed by transparent knowledge and with an enthusiastic expression of it, and ” outside his class room he was the most helpful and approachable of professors.” His study was always conciseness and accuracy of statement. The cause of any oppressed nationality he made his own.

More Aspects of the Book

He succeeded Mr. Bryce as president of the Balkan Committee, which supported the cause of these communities against Turkish misrule, and in his advanced years he defended the liberties of Finland in the National Review and often in The Times. M. de Lapradelle, in his highly interesting chapter on “L'Oeuvre de John Westlake,” calls attention to the fact that other scholars have some of them been eminent in private jnternational law, others in public international law, but that Westlake alone was equally eminent in both. Such double eminence is certainly unusual, but not wholly unique. M. de Lapradelle mentions Storey and Wharton, two of our great American scholars, as eminent only in private international law. It is respectfully submitted that M. de Lapradelle has overlooked Wharton's invaluable Digest of International Law, published in three volumes in 1886 and republished in 1887, which is the foundation of Mr. John Bassett Moore's still more valuable and extended digest, and that Storey was regarded as an eminent international authority in public international law as well as in private, owing to his many -elaborate and erudite opinions rendered in cases involving principles of international law.

Lord Courtney of Penwith recounts many services of Westlake under the chapter of “Public Affairs.” lie says “He was to the fore in every movement-social, educational, political-for the improvement of his generation. It was not a mere accident that he was found an advocate in nearly every suit of his time for maintaining liberty of opinion within the Churches.” In 1861 Westlake published a paper in the Working Men's College Magazine declaring “That the election of Mr. Lincoln upon the Chicago platform was a righteous act.” In the debate on Mr. Gladstone's home rule bill, after the general election of 1885, Mr. Westlake made a weighty speech, following a powerful and passionate argument by Sir Charles Russell.

Last Remarks

He confined himself to pointing out the complete absence in the bill of any executive authority to enforce in Ireland the will of the Imperial Parliament and also the difficulty of overriding the determined resistance of the northeast corner of Ulster and Lord Courtney says “These are to this day (November, 1913) the critical issues of the controversy,” and it deserves to be noted how Westlake seized the points which remain outstanding. It is a gratification to all students of international law to see -that such a career can be made as was Westlake's, by one whose main occupation was in that branch. It is a satisfaction to see such a truly international memorial of his life, his work, and his writings, preserved and widely distributed.

We respectfully congratulate Mrs. Westlake and the learned and distinguished authors who -have contributed to it on the judgment, frankness, hearty affection as well as literary skill which has been devoted to the task. It dignifies with just appreciation the life of one who was perhaps England's greatest international scholar and ennobles the learning and service which filled his long life to its honored close.

Book Review Details

This legal book review was published in:

The American Journal of International Law,Vol. 8, No. 3 (Jul., 1914), pp. 691-695Published

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