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Vol 21 No 11 Nov/Dec 2016

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The Last Political Law Lord: Lord Sumner (1859-1934)

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ISBN13: 9781847188779
Published: October 2008
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Country of Publication: UK
Format: Hardback
Price: £34.99



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2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of John Andrew Hamilton, Viscount Sumner (1859-1934), one of the greatest of English judges. His trenchant rulings, characterized by deep learning, wisdom and lucidity, and delivered with rare literary distinction and wit, are cited with respect and admiration as classics of the Common Law. Sumner's personality, assured, articulate, dominating -'an amazingly powerful person' (Harold Laski)-also marked his controversial interventions in British public life. Uniquely for a law lord, he was appointed a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, where he strenuously advocated and helped to frame the much criticized reparation chapter of the Treaty of Versailles. As one of the 'most formidable gladiators' on the 'Diehard' wing of the Conservative Party, Sumner aspired-unsuccessfully-to the Woolsack. He defied the growing convention that law-lords should remain silent on political issues, speaking out forcefully on such sensitive topics as the Amritsar 'massacre', the Irish settlement and the General Strike. He resigned from the Bench in 1930 to campaign, as president of the Indian Empire Society, against moves towards Indian independence, and he was a leading activist in the cause of House of Lords reform. With the abolition in 2009 of the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (the law lords), Sumner stands out in sharp historical relief as an outstanding judge, a remarkable individual and as 'the last political law lord'.