Edwin John James (1812-82) is amongst the most controversial barristers of the mid-nineteenth century, a long career in the law ending with his disbarment by royal decree from practice at the bar. He was also a politician and made one of his many attempts to enter the House of Commons in Southampton in 1856. He ultimately became MP for Marylebone in 1859, but had to resign when news broke of his legal malfeasance. James first came to the notice of the Liberal party in Southampton in May 1842 when he defended the two defeated Liberal candidates in the general election of the previous year. In 1853 James successfully defended the Liberal candidates in the general election of 1852, charged with electoral bribery and treating, before a House of Commons select committee. Two years later he was leading defence attorney in ‘Bradshaw versus the proprietor and publisher of the Hampshire Independent’, a petty squabble over the election of the Reverend Bradshaw as chaplain of Southampton Workhouse that became a national issue involving the freedom of the press.

Further reading:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 29
  • ‘Edwin James (1812-82): the Southampton connections of a colourful and controversial barrister' (Southampton Occasional Papers No. 9)


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