1st Baron Abinger (1835-1844)
Born 1760 Died 1844
James Scarlett, English judge, was born on the 13th of December 1760 in Jamaica, where his father, Robert Scarlett, had property. In the summer of 1785 he was sent to England to complete his education, and went to Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his B.A. degree in 1789. Having entered the Inner Temple he was called to the bar in 1791, and joined the northern circuit and the Lancashire sessions.
Though he had no professional connections, by steady application he gradually obtained a large practice, ultimately confining himself to the Court of King's Bench and the northern circuit. He took silk in 1816, and from this time till the close of 1834 he was the most successful lawyer at the bar; he was particularly effective before a jury, and his income reached the high-water mark of £18,500, a large sum for that period.
He began life as a Whig, and first entered parliament in 1819 as member for Peterborough, representing that constituency with a short break (1822-1823) till 1830, when he was elected for the borough of Malton. He became attorney-general, and was knighted when Canning formed his ministry in 1827; and though he resigned when the Duke of Wellington came into power in 1828, he resumed office in 1829 and went out with the Duke of Wellington in 1830. His opposition to the Reform Bill caused his severance from the Whig leaders, and having joined the Tories he was elected, first for Colchester and then in 1832 for Norwich, for which borough he sat until the dissolution of parliament. He was appointed Lord chief baron of the exchequer in 1834, and presided in that court for more than nine years. While attending the Norfolk circuit on the 2nd of April he was suddenly seized with apoplexy, and died in his lodgings at Bury on the 7th of April 1844. He had been raised to the peerage as Baron Abinger in 1835, taking his title from the Surrey estate he had bought in 1813.
The qualities which brought him success at the bar were not equally in place on the bench; he was partial, dictatorial and vain; and complaint was made of his domineering attitude towards juries. But his acuteness of mind and clearness of expression remained to the end. Lord Abinger was twice married (the second time only six months before his death), and by his first wife (d. 1829) had three sons and two daughters, the title passing to his eldest son Robert (1794-1861). His second son, General Sir James Yorke Scarlett (1799-1871), leader of the heavy cavalry charge at Balaclava, is dealt with in a separate article; and his elder daughter, Mary, married John, Baron Campbell, and was herself created Baroness Stratheden (Lady Stratheden and Campbell) (d. 1860). Sir Philip Anglin Scarlett (d. 1831), Lord Abinger's younger brother, was chief justice of Jamaica.
See P. C. Scarlett, Memoir of James, 1st Lord Abinger (1877); Foss's Lives of the Judges; E. Manson, Builders of our Law (1904).
Being the entry for ABINGER, JAMES SCARLETT, 1ST BARON in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.