CAMPBELL, JOHN CAMPBELL, BARON lord chancellor of England, the second son of the Rev. George Campbell, D.D., was born on Sept. 17, 1779, at Cupar, Fife. He studied at the United college, St. Andrews. In i800 he was entered as a student at Lincoln's Inn, and, after a short connec tion with the Morning Chronicle, was called to the bar in 1806, and at once began to report cases decided at nisi Arius, i.e., on jury trial. Of these Reports he published altogether four vol umes, with learned notes; they extend from Michaelmas 1807 to Hilary 1816. He changed his circuit from the home to the Oxford, and was made K.C. in 1827. He unsuccessfully contested the borough of Stafford in 1826, but was elected for it in 1830 and again in 1831. In the House he showed an extraordinary zeal for public business, speaking on all subjects with practical sense, but on none with eloquence or spirit. His main object was the amelioration of the law, more by the abolition of cumbrous technicalities than by the assertion of new and striking principles.
Thus his name is associated with the Fines and Recoveries Abolition Act, 1833; the Inheritance Act, 1833; the Dower Act, 1833; the Real Property Limitation Act, 1833; the Wills Act, 1837; one of the Copyhold Tenure Acts, 1841; and the Judg ments Act, 1838. All these measures were important and were carefully drawn; but their merits cannot be explained in a bio graphical notice. His most important appearance as member for Stafford was in defence of Lord John Russell's first Reform Bill (1831) . The following year (183 2) found Campbell solicitor general, a knight and member for Dudley, which he represented till 1834. In that year he became attorney-general and was re turned by Edinburgh, for which he sat till 1841.
His political creed was that of a moderate Whig. In Parliament he continued to lend the most effective help to the Liberal party. At this time also he exerted himself for the reform of justice in the ecclesiastical courts, for the uniformity of the law of marriage (which he held should be a purely civil contract) and for giving prisoners charged with felony the benefit of counsel. His defence of The Times newspaper, which had accused Sir John Conroy, equerry to the duchess of Kent, of misappropri ation of money (1838), is chiefly remarkable for the confession —"I despair of any definition of libel which shall exclude no publications which ought to be suppressed, and include none which ought to be permitted." His own definition of blasphemous libel was enforced in the prosecution which, as attorney-general, he raised against the bookseller H. Hetherington, and which he justified on the singular ground that "the vast bulk of the population believe that morality depends entirely on revela tion ; and if a doubt could be raised among them that the ten commandments were given by God from Mount Sinai, men would think they were at liberty to steal, and women would con sider themselves absolved from the restraints of chastity." But his most distinguished effort at the bar was undoubtedly the speech for the House of Commons in the famous case of Stock dale v. Hansard, 1837, 7 C. and P. 731. The Commons had ordered to be printed, among other papers, a report of the in spectors of prisons on Newgate, which stated that an obscene book, published by Stockdale, was given to the prisoners to read. Stockdale sued the Commons' publisher, and was met by the plea of parliamentary privilege, to which, however, the judges did not give effect, on the ground that they were entitled to define the privileges of the Commons, and that publication of papers was not essential to the functions of Parliament. The matter was settled by an act of 184o.
In 184o Campbell conducted the prosecution against John Frost, one of the three Chartist leaders who attacked the town of Newport, all of whom were found guilty of high treason. In Lord Cardigan's trial before the House of Lords for murder in a duel —in which he was acquitted on a technicality—Campbell made the extraordinary declaration that to engage in a duel which could not be declined without infamy, i.e., social disgrace, was "an act free from moral turpitude," although the law properly held it to be wilful murder. Next year, as the Melbourne admin istration was near its close, Plunkett, the venerable chancellor of Ireland, was forced by discreditable pressure to resign, and the Whig attorney-general, who had never practised in equity, be came chancellor of Ireland, and was raised to the peerage with the title of Baron Campbell of St. Andrews in the county of Fife. His wife, Mary Elizabeth Campbell, had in 1836 been created Baroness Stratheden in recognition of the withdrawal of his claim to the mastership of the rolls. The post of chancellor Campbell held for only sixteen days, and then resigned it to his successor, Sir Edward Sugden (Lord St. Leopards).
BIBLIOGRAPHY.—Life of Lord Campbell, a Selection from his AutoBibliography.—Life of Lord Campbell, a Selection from his Auto- biography, Diary and Letters, ed. by Hon. Mrs. Hardcastle (188i) ; E. Foss, The Judges of England (5848-64) ; W. H. Bennet, Select Bio graphical Sketches from Note-books of a Law Reporter (1867) ; E. Manson, Builders of our Law (ed. 5904) ; J. B. Atlay, The Victorian Chancellors, vol. ii. (1908).