|Sir Courtenay Ilbert|
June 12, 1841|
Kingsbridge, Devon, England
|Died||May 14, 1924
Penn, Buckinghamshire, England
|Alma mater||Balliol College, Oxford|
|Occupation||Lawyer, Civil servant|
|Known for||Ilbert Bill
Legislative Methods and Forms
Sir Courtenay Peregrine Ilbert GCB KCSI CIE (12 June 1841 – 14 May 1924) was a distinguished British lawyer and civil servant who served as legal adviser to the Viceroy of India's Council for many years until his eventual return from India to England. His later career included appointments as the Parliamentary Counsel to the British Treasury and as Clerk of the House of Commons from 1902 to 1921.
Ilbert was born at Kingsbridge to Reverend Peregrine Arthur Ilbert and Rose Anne (daughter of George Welsh Owen) on 12 June 1841. He was educated at Marlborough College (1852–60) and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was Hertford, Ireland, Craven, and Eldon law scholar. He graduated with first class honours in Literae Humaniores and was elected a fellow of Balliol in 1864.
Ilbert married Jessie, daughter of Reverend Charles Bradley and niece of George Bradley, former headmaster of Marlborough College in 1874. They had five daughters, the oldest, Lettice Fisher became the first to head the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child. His fourth daughter Margaret Peregrina Ilbert (1882–1952) married Sir Arthur Cochrane of the College of Arms.
Ilbert was an outdoorsman in his youth and he climbed in the Chamonix (1871 with Leslie Stephen and M. Loppe) the Hekla in Iceland and the Vignemale in the Pyrenees in 1872-73 with James Bryce. When Ilbert lived in Simla, at Chapslee house, he founded a Simla Natural History Society around 1885 but the organization dissolved when he left Simla in 1886.
Ilbert died a few months after the death of his wife at his home in Troutwells, Buckinghamshire on 14 May 1924.
Ilbert was called to bar (Lincoln's Inn) in 1869. He joined the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, the department for drafting parliamentary bills. His expertise in drafting bills attracted the attention of Sir Henry Thring who invited him to help prepare bills. The first marquess of Ripon sought a Liberal and an imaginative lawyer who could succeed the likes of Lord Macaulay, Sir Henry Maine, and Sir James Fitzjames Stephen. Ilbert was identified in this role and made a legal member of the Council of Governor-General of India from 1882-6. During this period he introduced a draft which came to be called the Ilbert Bill in 1883 for British India that proposed an amendment for existing laws in the country at the time to allow Indian judges and magistrates the jurisdiction to try British offenders in criminal cases at the District level, something that was disallowed at the time. This faced much opposition from Europeans in India as well as influential figures in England like Sir Fitzjames Stephen. The extent of Ilbert's personal beliefs in preparing this document are unknown but this draft led to a major discussions on the purpose of colonialism, the welfare of subjects, and racial equality resulting in the draft bill being modified greatly.
He was appointed assistant parliamentary counsel to Treasury in 1886 and parliamentary counsel in 1899. In February 1902, Ilbert was appointed Clerk of the House of Commons, and he served as such until 1921.
Ilbert was invested as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India in 1895, as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1908, and as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1911. He was a founding fellow of the British Academy (1903).
Ilbert reflected on laws and law-making and wrote several books on parliamentary and legislative procedure and history that were highly regarded. Jurists like Sir Carleton Kemp Allen praised his knowledge of parliamentary procedure but felt he was outdated. He pointed out to how government initiatives were modified into legally actionable forms but many considered Ilbert to be outdated and old-fashioned in putting faith in public opionion to exert corrective action on legislative abuses.
- The Government of India (1922)
- The New Constitution of India (1903)
- Legislative Methods and Forms. 1901. Scanned version
- Montesquieu, the Romanes Lecture for 1904. Oxford. Scanned version
- Parliament: Its History, Constitution and Practice. 1st ed, 1911. 2nd ed, 1920. 3rd ed, Oxford, 1948.
- The Mechanics of Law Making. Columbia University Press. 1914.
- Methods of legislation (1912)
- Cocks, R.C.J. (2004). "Ilbert, Sir Courtenay Peregrine". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34090. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Maitland, Frederic William (1906). The life and letters of Leslie Stephen. London: Duckworth & Co. p. 94.
- Carlyle, E.I. (1937). "Bryce, James". Dictionary of National Biography (1922-1930). Oxford University Press. pp. 127–135.
- Buck, Edward J. (1904). Past and Present. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co. pp. 33, 195.
- The London Gazette: . 18 February 1902.
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