James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce

James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce

Infobox revolution biography
name = The Rt. Hon. The Viscount Bryce
lived = May 10, 1838 - January 22, 1922
dateofbirth = birth date|1838|5|10|mf=y
placeofbirth = Belfast, Ireland
dateofdeath = death date and age|1922|1|22|1838|5|10|mf=y
placeofdeath = Sidmouth, Devon, South West England

caption = Lord Bryce, left, with Andrew Carnegie; Bryce served as a trustee of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.
alternate name =
movement =
organizations =

James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce, OM, GCVO, FRS, PC, FBA (May 10,1838 – January 22,1922) was a British jurist, historian and politician.


He was the son of James Bryce (LL.D. of Glasgow) and was born at Belfast on May 10 1838. He was educated under his uncle Reuben John Bryce at the Belfast Academy and then continued his education in the University of Glasgow. He went to Trinity College, Oxford, and in 1862 was elected a fellow of Oriel. He went to the bar and practised in London for a few years, but he was soon called back to Oxford as Regius professor of civil law (1870-1893). His reputation as a historian had been made as early as 1864 by his work on the Holy Roman Empire. In 1872 he travelled to Iceland to see the land of the Icelandic sagas as he was a great admirer of Njals saga.


He was an ardent Liberal in politics, and in 1880 he was elected to parliament for the Tower Hamlets constituency of London; in 1885 he was returned for South Aberdeen, where he was re-elected on succeeding occasions and remained a Member of Parliament until 1907.

His intellectual distinction and political industry made him a valuable member of the Liberal party. As soon as the late 1860s, he acted as chairman of the royal commission on secondary education. In 1885 he was made Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs but he had to leave office after the electoral defeat of Gladstone in the same year; in 1892 he joined the last cabinet of Gladstone as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, i.e. as Minister without distinct portfolio; in 1894 he was appointed President of the Board of Trade in the new cabinet of Lord Rosebery, but had to leave this office with that whole Liberal cabinet as soon as 1895. After a decade of parliamentary opposition, in Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's cabinet in 1905 he was made Chief Secretary for Ireland; but even this time his cabinet post was held only for a brief period, because as soon as February 1907 Bryce was appointed British Ambassador to the United States of America . He kept this diplomatic office until 1913) and was very efficient in strengthening the Anglo-American friendship. The German ambassador in Washington, Graf Heinrich von Bernstorff, later admitted how relieved he felt that Bryce was not his competitor for American sympathies during the World War period, when Bernstorff managed to secure the neutrality of the USA at least until 1917.

Later life

As an author, Bryce was already well known in America. His work "The American Commonwealth" (1888) was the first in which the institutions of the United States had been thoroughly discussed from the point of view of a historian and a constitutional lawyer, and it at once became a classic. His "Studies in History and Jurisprudence" (1901) and "Studies in Contemporary Biography" (1903) were republications of essays, and in 1897, after a visit to South Africa, he published a volume of "Impressions" of that country, which had considerable weight in Liberal circles when the Second Boer War was being discussed. As member of the Liberal opposition in Parliament, Bryce figured as one of the harshest critics of British repressive policy against Boer civilians in the South African partisan War. Taking the risk of being very unpopular for a certain moment, he condemned the systematic burning of farms and the imprisonment of old people, women and children in British concentration camps.

Bryce had a lot of American friends in politics and science. One of the most prominent was US President Theodore Roosevelt.

Meanwhile his academic honors from home and foreign universities multiplied, and he became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1894. In earlier life he was a notable mountain-climber, ascending Mount Ararat in 1876, and publishing a volume on Transcaucasia and Ararat in 1877; in 1899-1901 he was president of the Alpine Club. From his Caucasian journey he brought back a deep distrust of Ottoman rule in Asia Minor and a distinct sympathy for the Armenian people. In 1907 he was made a Member of the Order of Merit by King Edward VII, and after his retirement as ambassador and his return to Great Britain he was created Viscount Bryce of Dechmount in the County of Lanark in 1913. Thus he became a member of the House of Lords - that contested parliamentary body his own Liberal Party had bitterly fought the previous years, the powers of which had been curtailed in the Liberal Parliamentary Reform of 1911. He was President of the British Academy from 1913 to 1917.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Lord Bryce was commissioned by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to give the official Bryce Report on alleged German atrocities in Belgium. The report was published in 1915, and was damning of German behavior against civilians; Lord Bryce's accounts were confirmed by Vernon Lyman Kellogg, director of the American Commission for Relief in Belgium, who told the New York Times that the German military enslaved hundreds of thousands of Belgian workers, and abused and maimed many of them in the process.

Bryce also strongly condemned the Armenian Genocide that took place in the Ottoman Empire mainly in the year 1915. Bryce was the first to speak on that subject in the British parliament (House of Lords) in July 1915, and later - with the assistance of the historian Arnold J. Toynbee - he produced a documentary record of the massacres, published by the British government in 1916 as the "Blue Book". In 1921, former Ambassador Bryce wrote that the Armenian genocide had also claimed half of the population of Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire, because "similar cruelties" were perpetrated upon them.

During the last years of his life, Bryce served at the International Court at The Hague, supported the establishment of the League of Nations, and published a book about Modern Democracy in 1921 with quite critical remarks about post-war mass democracy; e.g. he strongly opposed the new right to vote for women.

He died on January 22, 1922 in Sidmouth, Devon, on the last of his lifelong travels.


*"The Flora of the Island of Aran", 1859
*"The Holy Roman Empire", 1862
*"Report on the Condition of Education in Lancashire", 1867
*"The Trade Marks Registration Act, with Introduction and Notes on Trade Mark Law", 1877
*"Transcaucasia and Ararat", 1877
*"The American Commonwealth", 1888
*"Impressions of South Africa", 1897
*"Studies in History and Jurisprudence", 1901
*"Studies in Contemporary Biography", 1903
*"The Hindrances to Good Citizenship", 1909
*"South America: Observations and Impressions", 1912
*"University and Historical Addresses", 1913
*"Essays and Addresses on War", June 1918
*"Modern Democracies", 1921

Famous Quotations

*"Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong."

Further reading

* H. A. L. Fisher, "James Bryce: Viscount Bryce of Dechmont, O.M.", 2 vols. London resp. New York (1927).
*John T. Seaman Jr., "A Citizen of the World: The Life of James Bryce", London/New York (2006).



External links

* [http://socserv2.mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/bryce/TwoHistoricalStudies.pdf James Bryce, "Two Historical Studies: The Ancient Roman Empire and the British Empire in India; Diffusion of Roman and English Law Throughout the World" (1914)]
* [http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/brycereport.htm Text of the Bryce report on German atrocities ]
*gutenberg author| id=Bryce+James+Bryce+Viscount | name=James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce
* [http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Fperson=230&Itemid=28 Viscount James Bryce] at "The Online Library of Liberty"
*James Bryce, preface to "Shall This Nation Die?", by Joseph Naayem, New York: 1921, quoted in [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=950428 Native Christians Massacred, The Ottoman Genocide of the Assyrians during World War I] , 1.3 Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal 326 (2006)
* [http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9804E2DD1F3FE433A25753C2A9629C946996D6CF&oref=slogin "Atrocities Cured Pacifist"] , The New York Times, Apr. 20, 1918, at 11

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