Romilly, Sir Samuel

Romilly, Sir Samuel rŏmˈĭlē [key], 1757–1818, English law reformer. Admitted to the bar in 1783, he soon developed a wide practice in the court of chancery. He was in sympathy with Rousseau's views, and he knew well several figures of the Enlightenment, including Diderot and Jean d'Alembert. Romilly's enthusiasm for the French Revolution inspired his Letters Containing an Account of the Late Revolution in France (1792). His work in reforming criminal law began with his Thoughts on Executive Justice (1786), which developed the views of Beccaria. As solicitor general (1806) in the cabinet of Lord Grenville, he ameliorated bankruptcy practice, and later, while in Parliament, he was instrumental in reducing the many comparatively trivial offenses (e.g., pickpocketing) that were subject to capital punishment. The immediate results of his efforts at reform were small, but during Victoria's reign many of his proposals were adopted.

See his memoirs (ed. by his sons, 1840); biography by P. Medd (1968); R. D. Henson, Landmarks of Law (1960).

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