Charles Bowen, 1st Baron Bowen

From Academic Kids

Charles Synge Christopher Bowen (January 1, 1835 - April 10, 1894) was an English judge.

He was born at Woolaston in Gloucestershire, his father, the Rev. Christopher Bowen, originally of Hollymount, County Mayo, being then curate of the parish. He was educated at Lille, Blackheath and Rugby schools, leaving the latter in 1853 with a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. There, he made good the promise of his earlier youth, winning the principal classical scholarships and prizes of his time. He was made a fellow of Balliol in 1858. From Oxford, Bowen went to London, where he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1861, and while studying law he wrote regularly for the Saturday Review, and also later for The Spectator.

For a time he had little success at the bar, and came near to exchanging it for the career of a college tutor, but he was persuaded by his friends to persevere. Soon after he had begun to make his mark he was briefed against the claimant in the famous Tichborne Case. Bowen's services to his leader, Sir John Coleridge, helped to procure for him the appointment of junior counsel to the treasury when Sir John had passed, as he did while the trial proceeded, from the office of solicitor-general to that of attorney-general; and from this time his practice became a very large one.

The strain, however, of the Tichborne trials had been great, so that his physical health became unequal to the tasks which his zeal for work imposed upon it, and in 1879 his acceptance of a position as a High Court judge in the Queen's Bench division, on the retirement of Mr Justice Mellor, gave him the opportunity of comparative rest. The character of Charles Bowen's intellect hardly qualified him for some of the duties of a puisne judge; but it was otherwise when, in 1882, in succession to Lord Justice Holker, he was raised to the Court of Appeal. As a Lord Justice of Appeal, he was conspicuous for his learning, his industry and his courtesy to all who appeared before him; and in spite of failing health he sat regularly until August 1893, when, on the retirement of Lord Hannen, he was made a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, and a baron for life, with the title of Baron Bowen of Colwood. By this time, however, his health had finally broken down; he never sat as a law lord to hear appeals, and he gave but one vote as a peer, while his last public service consisted in presiding over the commission which sat in October 1893 to inquire into the Featherstone riots.

Lord Bowen was regarded with great affection by all who knew him either professionally or privately. He had a polished and graceful wit, of which many instances might be given, although such anecdotes lose force in print. For example, when it was suggested on the occasion of an address to Queen Victoria, to be presented by her judges, that a passage in it, "conscious as we are of our shortcomings," suggested too great humility, he proposed the emendation "conscious as we are of one another's shortcomings"; and on another occasion he defined a jurist as "a person who knows a little about the laws of every country except his own". Lord Bowen's judicial reputation will rest upon the series of judgments delivered by him in the court of appeal, which are remarkable for their lucid interpretation of legal principles as applied to the facts and business of life.

Among good examples of his judgment may be cited that given in advising the House of Lords in Angus v. Dalton (6 App. Cas. 740), and those delivered in Abrath v. North Eastern Railway (7 Q.B.D. 440); Thomas v. Quartermaine (18 Q.B.D. 685); Vagliano v. Bank of England (23 Q.B.D. 243) (in which he prepared the majority judgment of the court, which was held to be wrong in its conclusion by the majority of the House of Lords); and the Mogul Steamship Company v. McGregor (23 Q.B.D. 598). He is credited with quoting, and thus bringing to prominence, the phrase "the man on the Clapham omnibus" in the case of McQuire v. Western Morning News ([1903] 2 KB 100).

Of Lord Bowen's literary works besides those already indicated may be mentioned his translation of Virgil's Eclogues, and Aeneid, books i.-vi., and his pamphlet, The Alabama Claim and Arbitration considered from a Legal Point of View. Lord Bowen married in 1862 Emily Frances, eldest daughter of James Meadows Rendel, F.R.S., by whom he had two sons and a daughter.



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