Hardinge Stanley Giffard, like many British then and now, is also known by the adopted name given to him by British royalty, first in 1885, when he took the name Baron of Halsbury and again in 1898 when he was promoted Earl of Halsbury.

Giffard studied law at Oxford and entered the profession through Inner Temple, toiling for decades as counsel of record of many notorious criminal trials, notably, the Tichborne case. His reputation was so great that the government often hired him to prosecute high profile criminal cases.

Gradually,  he became involved in politics as a Conservative, losing his first two elections.

Halsbury was 68 years old and still two decades away from his great life work when, in 1875, Prime Minister Disraeli appointed him Solicitor General and two years later, Giffard had his seat in the House of Commons. During his political career, he was thrice appointed Lord Chancellor (England's equivalent to a minister of justice or attorney general; 1885-1886, 1886-1892 and 1895-1905).

He had watched with great interest the sparks of codification of English law, especially when the government created a commission in this regard in 1866, Halsbury did not believe in the French "experiment" of codification of the civil law, quoting one contemporary commentator:

"France may well tremble for the future."

Halsbury

But the Commission petered out after its first report of May 13, 1867 and never heard from again.

England and those jurisdictions spawned from the common law, has a succession of commentaries: Bracton, Coke and Blackstone among them.

Still, since Blackstone, nothing and even that was contained to four volumes, hardly enough to cover in sufficient detail the whole of the laws of England.

Incredibly, in 1905, at the age of 82, Halsbury launched himself into his great work now known simply as Halsbury's. In virtually any common law court in the world, the mention of a reference to Halsburys bring instant credibility.

In the preface to his first edition, he bravely hoped that his work would become:

"... a complete statement of the laws of England."

Between 1907 and 1917, volume after volume was published, totaling 31 in all, the First Edition of Halsbury's Laws of England. It was followed by a 2nd Edition in 37 volumes between 1931 and 1942. The 3rd Edition came out in 1952-1964 and the 4th, between 1973 and 1987.

In his 1921 New York Times obituary, an endearing story of him was told of tobogganing down a hill, at the age of 90 after which:

"... a local statute forbade such tobogganing and it was found almost impossible to enforce the regulation against the youngsters of the place after the example set them by the foremost authority on English law."

REFERENCES:

  • Duhaime, Lloyd, The Law's Hall of Fame
  • Image, 1914, Hardinge S. Giffard, Earl of Halsbury, with his grandchildren
  • New York Times, "Earl of Halsbury Dies in 99th Year", December 11, 1921