|20 September 1859||The late Sir James Stephen, K.C.B. — We announced yesterday the death, on Wednesday last, at Coblentz, in his 71st year, of the Right Hon. Sir James Stephen, K.C.B., Professor of Modem History at the University of Cambridge, and formerly Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, The deceased was the son of Mr. James Stephen, Master of Chancery (well known for his writings and exertions between 1815 and 1830 on the subject of colonial slavery), and was born about the year 1790.
"He was educated," says a biographical sketch, in the English Cyclopaedia, "at Trinity-hall, Cambridge, where he graduated B. A. in 1812. Having chosen the legal profession, he was called to the bar at Lincoln's-inn. He had hardly begun practice as a Chancery barrister when, in 1812 or 1813, he became connected officially with the public service as counsel of the Colonial department, For 11 years he was at once counsel for this department and a Chancery barrister in extensive practice. He then retired from the bar, and became at the same time both counsel to the Colonial Department and counsel to the Board of Trade. He held these offices jointly for 10 years; after which, during the Whig Government which succeeded the Reform Bill, he left the Board of Trade and became Assistant Under-Secretary for the Colonies. From the Assistant Under-Secretaryship he was subsequently promoted to the permanent Under-Secretaryship, spending 14 years in the two offices together. He was thus connected with the civil service 35 years in all, during the whole of which time his relations were mainly with the Colonial Department. His impressions of the state of our Government offices, and of the Colonial-office in particular, derived from this long experience, were published, with other opinions on the same subject, in a Blue-book in 1855, when the question of the reorganization of the civil service, by the adoption of the system of appointments by competitive examination, instead of by patronage, was first agitated. The opinion there expressed on the condition of the public service, as regards the intellectual capacity and culture of the majority of those comprising it, is by no means favourable, but the writer speaks of splendid exceptions. Of these exceptions the writer himself was certainly one. While in the Colonial-office he was one of the ablest and most efficient public servants the State possessed, and his final retirement from the Colonial Under-Secretaryship in 1847 was a great loss to the department. He then received the honour of knighthood. It was not only, however, as a public official that he had up to that time distinguished himself. A man of general thought and culture, he had all along employed his leisure in studies ranging beyond the topics that interested him as an official; and he had latterly contributed extensively to the Edinburgh Review on subjects relating to the history of the Church and the development of religious opinions. A collection of these articles, already widely known and appreciated in their scattered shape, was published in two volumes in 1849s under the title of 'Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography.' In the same year Sir James Stephen was appointed to succeed William Smyth, H.A., as Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Cambridge, which office he still holds. In 1851 he published two volumes, 'Lectures on the History of France.' This work is now in a third edition, and there have been several editions of its predecesser. The two together have given the author a high and peculiar place in our graver contemporary literature. Among other slighter things which Sir James has published are one or two lectures delivered to popular institutions. One of Sir James’s sons, who has followed the legal profession, is likewise known by various writings. His brother, Sir George Stephen, is also known as the author of 'Adventures of a Gentleman in Search of a Horse,' 'Adventures of an Attorney,’ '' The Juryman’s Guide,' 'The Clerk,' and 'The Governess,' in C. Knight's series of 'Guides to Trade;' of a novel entitled, 'The Jesuit at Cambridge', and of a pamphlet on 'The Niger Trade and the American Blockade,' as connected with the slave trade, a subject in which he has always taken much interest.”|