Bryce, James, Viscount Bryce 1838-1922, jurist, historian, and politician, born 10 May 1838 in Arthur Street, Belfast, was the eldest son of James Bryce the younger (1806-1877) [qv.], schoolmaster and geologist, and grandson of James Bryce the elder (1767-1857) [qv.], divine. His mother was Margaret, daughter of James Young, of Abbeyville, co. Antrim, a Belfast merchant. James Bryce spent the first eight years of his life in Belfast and at the country house of his maternal grandfather, James Young, on the shores of Belfast Lough. The Bible, The Arabian Nights, and Baron von Humboldt's Aspects of Nature were among the books of his childhood. Already at the age of eight he was putting questions to his uncle, Reuben John Bryce, on the British constitution. In 1846 his father was appointed a master in the Glasgow high school. The family lived for some time in Lansdowne Crescent, Glasgow, and then removed to a house in the country at Blantyre. James attended the high school until the age of fourteen, when he went to live with his uncle Reuben, then headmaster of the Belfast Academy, attended classes at the Academy, and learnt from his uncle the elements of Erse. In 1854 he entered Glasgow University, where he studied Latin under William Ramsay [qv.] and Greek under Edmund Law Lushington [qv.]. In his second year he obtained the gold medal for Greek, besides a prize in mathematics. Among his college acquaintances were John Nichol [qv.], afterwards professor of English at Glasgow, and George Monro Grant [qv.], afterwards principal of Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Much of the vacation time was spent in rural wanderings in the west of Scotland and the north of Ireland, in which Bryce acquired a love of botany and a taste for climbing.
This taste for climbing endured in later life, and he pursued it in many places. Besides several peaks in the Alps and Dolomites, he ascended Hekla in Iceland with (Sir) Courtenay Ilbert in 1872, the Maladetta and the Vignemale in the Pyrenees with Ilbert in 1873, Mount Ararat with Aeneas Mackay in 1878, when he climbed the last 5,000 feet alone, the Tatra Ridge in the Carpathians in 1878 with (Sir) Leslie Stephen, Mauna Loa in Hawaii in 1883, when he nearly fell into the volcano, Machache in Basutoland in 1895, Etna in 1903, and Myogi-san in Japan in 1913. The triple-peaked Mount Bryce of the Canadian Rockies was named after him in 1898. When chief secretary for Ireland in 1906 he took his officials up Croagh Patrick and Croaghaun for exercise. He was elected in 1879 a member of the Alpine Club, of which he was president from 1899 to 1901. He wrote on Mountaineering in Far-away Countries in the Badminton Library (3rd ed. 1900).
In June 1857 Bryce was elected to a scholarship at Trinity College, Oxford. One of the competitors, George Gilbert Ramsay, who was also successful, described him as ‘that awful Scotch fellow, who outwrote everybody’. With the sympathy of some of the younger fellows of Trinity he successfully resisted, on the ground that he was a presbyterian, an attempt of the president, John Wilson, to make him qualify for the scholarship by signing the Thirty-nine Articles, an episode which Lewis Campbell [q.v.], of Queen's College, characterized as ‘the triumph of liberalism in Oxford’. He obtained a first class in classical moderations in 1859, and won the Gaisford prize for Greek prose in 1860. In 1861 he gained ‘distinctly the best’ of the two first classes in literae humaniores at Easter, a first class in the school of law and modern history at Michaelmas, the Gaisford prize for Greek verse, and the Vinerian law scholarship. In 1862 he obtained the Craven scholarship and the Chancellor's Latin essay prize. He was in succession librarian and president of the Union Society, although he spoke there comparatively seldom. He had many friends at Oxford. In 1857 he became a member of the Old Mortality Society, founded by his Glasgow contemporary, John Nichol, which included among its members A. V. Dicey, A. C. Swinburne, Birkbeck Hill, T. H. Green, T. E. Holland, Henry Nettleship, C. L. Shadwell, J. R. Magrath, Ingram Bywater, and Walter Pater. Dicey was for a few months his tutor and always his close friend. Other friends, outside the Old Mortality Society, were Arthur Butler, George Brodrick, and Aeneas Mackay. Among his seniors were Benjamin Jowett, Mark Pattison, and Matthew Arnold; slightly junior was Courtenay Ilbert. Bryce graduated B.A. in 1862, and D.C.L. in 1870, and was elected a fellow of Oriel College in 1862. He retained his fellowship until his marriage in 1889. He was re-elected professor fellow in 1890, resigned in 1893, and was made an honorary fellow in 1894. He was also elected an honorary fellow of Trinity College in the last-named year.
Bryce entered Lincoln's Inn in 1862. In 1863 he studied law at Heidelberg under Karl Adolf von Vangerow, and in 1864 he visited Florence, Rome, and Naples. At the opening of that year he began life in London, sharing rooms with Kenelm E. Digby and working in the chambers of (Sir) John Holker [q.v.]. While resident in London he attended the Saturday evenings of Dean Stanley at Westminster, where, among others, he met George Grote and William Whewell. His experience of London, he said, enabled him for the first time to understand The Newcomes. After being called to the bar in 1867 he joined the Northern circuit. He obtained a respectable practice as a junior and was engaged in some important commercial cases; but his real interests lay outside current litigation. He gave up his practice in 1882 as he found that it interfered with other activities and with his love of travel.
In 1863 Bryce won the Arnold historical essay prize at Oxford with his essay on the Holy Roman Empire, perhaps the most famous of prize essays, which was published in 1864 in so altered a form that Professor Freeman remarked: ‘Mr. Bryce's book has been written since it gained the historical prize at Oxford.’ The work has undergone less subsequent modification than some of his other writings because, as originally published, it was a carefully finished presentation of a primary medieval conception. Nowadays more attention might be given to the varied aspects of the ideal of the Holy Roman Empire at different periods, but the essay will always be an example of masterly lucidity and simplicity in the treatment of a highly complex subject. The book has been translated into German, French, and Italian. The last edition, enlarged, appeared in 1922. The work secured for Bryce the friendship of Freeman and a European reputation. About 1898 he and his wife fell into conversation, in an Alpine pass, with a group of Swiss professors. On learning his name ‘the Professors all took off their hats exclaiming “Holy Roman Empire” and salaamed in the most impressive manner’ [Fisher, i, 71].
In 1865 and 1866 Bryce was largely employed as an assistant commissioner in making a report on the schools of Lancashire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Monmouthshire, and eight Welsh counties for the royal commission, known as the Schools Inquiry Commission (1864-1867), set up under the chairmanship of Henry Labouchere, first Baron Taunton, to report on the schools of England and Wales. In his report on Lancashire, published in 1867, Bryce emphasized the pressing need for educational co-ordination, and urged that any scheme for this purpose should be comprehensive and include universities and schools, boys' schools and girls' schools, elementary schools and secondary schools, as part of a single plan. He also urged the need for raising the standard of commercial education and of female education. In these recommendations he indicated three of the main lines of later development. He was himself associated with the beginnings of university education for women, being a friend of (Sarah) Emily Davies [q.v.] and an original member of Girton College. He was also associated with the development of university education at Manchester. In 1868 he accepted an invitation to lecture on law at Owens College, and continued to do so, first as lecturer, and then as professor until 1874. He also prepared the draft constitution for an enlarged college upon which was based the act of parliament for the incorporation of the college in 1871. In 1870 Bryce was appointed regius professor of civil law at Oxford, where he may be said to have begun the revival of the study of Roman law. He retained this post until 1893, when he was succeeded by Henry Goudy. Much of his teaching at Oxford, including his inaugural and valedictory lectures, is to be found in his Studies in History and Jurisprudence, published in 1901.
In the autumn of 1876 Bryce, with Aeneas Mackay, visited St. Petersburg and Moscow, proceeded down the Volga by steam-boat, and travelled through Southern Russia, the Caucasus, and Armenia. On his return he found England absorbed in the Eastern question, and in September 1877 he published Transcaucasia and Ararat, an account of his travels and of the state of the countries through which he had passed. The interest which the book aroused called forth three subsequent editions. Bryce's travels gave him a deep and lasting interest in the affairs of the Near East. He was impressed with the hopelessness of Turkish government and the responsibility of England for the protection of Eastern Christians. He joined the Eastern Questions Association, formed to combat Disraeli's policy, and helped to draft the popular appeal which led to the famous conference at St. James's Hall on 8 December in that year, and to draw up the memorial from the Armenians resident in London which was circulated at that meeting. He became the principal advocate of the Armenian nation in England, the founder and first president of the Anglo-Armenian Society and, when he entered parliament, the chief spokesman for Armenia in the House of Commons. On 23 July 1880 he urged in parliament the appointment of a Christian governor for Armenia. In 1896 the Armenian massacres moved him to strong protest [The Times, 22 January, 2 October 1896]. In 1915, when the massacres were renewed on a greater scale, he suggested the compilation of Mr. A. J. Toynbee's Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, procured for it material information, and contributed a preface. His last public appearance on 20 December 1921 was as chairman of a meeting summoned at the Mansion House to promote the liberation of Christian natives from Turkish rule.
The Eastern Question had a large share in drawing Bryce into political life. By heredity, as well as by bent of mind, he was a liberal. While an undergraduate he contemplated joining Garibaldi, but found it incompatible with the tenure of his scholarship. In the general election of 1874 he unsuccessfully contested the borough of Wick. In 1880 he was returned to parliament for the Tower Hamlets division, a region of East London with a working-class population including a number of German sugar-bakers, whom he addressed in their own tongue. In the general election of 1885 he abandoned this constituency, which had been transformed by the Redistribution Bill, and was returned by a large majority for South Aberdeen, a seat which he held until he retired from the House of Commons in 1906.
In parliament Bryce was not at first entirely successful as a speaker. His speeches were ordered, logical, and ‘filled to overflowing with accurate information’. But he was fond of generalizations which, though fundamental, appeared to lesser minds irrelevant, and at any rate took up time. He had also the habit, dangerous in that assembly, of looking at both sides of the argument and meeting objections in advance instead of waiting for them to be raised. Joseph Chamberlain, to whom that kind of mind was antipathetic, termed him ‘the Professor’. Nevertheless, Bryce had a considerable measure of parliamentary success. From the first he established himself as an authority on the Eastern Question, and he carried weight on many other subjects. He generally filled the House, although he could not always persuade it. But in spite of his membership of three Cabinets it is doubtful whether he ever gave the first place in his thoughts to politics, and he certainly never became absorbed in the political and social atmosphere of the House of Commons. In later years many of the defects of his oratory disappeared, largely perhaps as a result of his successful experience in America, and he became a public speaker of the first order. In the House of Lords he attained a position of great influence.
In 1881 Bryce refused the post of legal member of the viceroy's council of India. Much of his attention was taken up by the Irish question. Although he had reluctantly voted for the Coercion Bill of 1881, he afterwards thought that he had made a mistake, and he voted against the Crimes Act of 1882. He began to form the opinion that Home Rule for Ireland was inevitable as the only alternative to continuous coercion, and his election address in 1885 foreshadowed Irish self-government under an imperial parliament. When Gladstone came into office in February 1886 Bryce was offered the post of under-secretary for foreign affairs.
The defeat of the ministry three months later left Bryce free to resume his literary activities. Already in January 1883, while contemplating a work on Justinian, he had made a contribution to the study of medieval history by identifying in the Barberini library at Rome the text of a life of Justinian which Nicolaus Alemannus, in 1623, in his first edition of the Anecdota of Procopius, had ascribed to a certain Theophilus Abbas, said to have been Justinian's preceptor. Bryce published the text of the fragment in the English Historical Review for October 1887 with a commentary in which he maintained that the biographical details, though accepted by Gibbon, are drawn from late Slavonic tradition and are historically worthless, and that there is nothing to show that Theophilus Abbas ever existed. His views have been accepted by Professor J. B. Bury in his edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall (Introduction, lix, lx).
Bryce was also at this time associated with the foundation of the English Historical Review. He had discussed the project with John Richard Green as far back as 1872, but financial support was lacking. In 1885 Messrs. Longman came to the rescue, and on 15 July the general policy of the Review was settled at a dinner given by Bryce in Bryanston Square at which were present, among others, Lord Acton, Dean Church, Mandell Creighton, Richard Garnett, (Sir) Adolphus Ward, and Robertson Smith. Bryce suggested Creighton as editor, and contributed a prefatory note to the first number which appeared in January 1886.
On his release from office in May 1886, Bryce turned to the completion of The American Commonwealth which occupied him for the next two years. He had first visited the United States with Dicey in 1870. This visit was confined to the North-Eastern states and did not extend farther south than Washington. In 1881 he made a second tour, visiting the Pacific coast and the Southern states. He returned with his early impressions profoundly modified, and a third visit in 1883, when he crossed from San Francisco to Hawaii and back, further ripened his views. On his return he began writing The American Commonwealth, the first edition of which was published in 1888. A second edition, revised, appeared in 1889. In 1890 he paid his fourth visit, and a third edition, completely revised throughout, was issued in 1893 and 1895. A new edition, which was to some extent a new book, was published in 1910.
The aim of The American Commonwealth was to portray ‘the whole political system of the country in its practice as well as its theory’, to explain ‘not only the National Government, but the State Governments, not only the constitution, but the party system, not only the party system, but the ideas, temper, habits of the sovereign people’. Apart from its grasp, its keen insight into American life, and its literary fascination, the striking feature of the work is that its author deliberately rejects the temptation, to which the acute forensic mind is liable, to set out his own general ideas. A vast mass of detail is presented with attractive lucidity and in such a manner that the reader is able, in a large measure, to make his generalizations for himself. Although the work of a visitor, the reputation of The American Commonwealth has stood very high in the United States. It has been continually quoted as a standard authority by contemporary American historians, and was used as a text-book throughout the country for over thirty years. It is much better known there than in England. When Edward Lawrence Godkin of the New York Nation was asked by an English member of parliament whether he had ever heard of a book called The American Commonwealth he answered ‘You bet’.
During the concluding stage of his work on The American Commonwealth Bryce paid a visit to Egypt in December 1887 and January 1888. When the book had been finally published he started for India in October, returning in January 1889. In Egypt the past absorbed him, but he found that ‘India is of the present’, and that he could only get politics out of his head and discover the Arabian Nights in the native states of Rajputana.
When Gladstone formed his last administration in August 1892, Bryce was brought into the Cabinet as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and was a member of the Cabinet committee which prepared the Irish Home Rule Bill. He also took a substantial part in defending that measure in parliament. As chancellor of the duchy he provoked conservative criticism by insisting on an increased proportion of liberals among the magistrates of the duchy and by appointing some working men among the number. In March 1893 he accompanied Queen Victoria to Florence as minister in attendance. Randall Davidson, then bishop of Rochester, who was also in attendance, says that Bryce tried to talk with the queen quietly concerning Home Rule in Ireland, ‘but found the pitch had been queered by Mr. Gladstone's sermonizing to her’ on the subject [Fisher, i, 220]. But she had prepared herself by reading The Holy Roman Empire, and approved of Bryce who could, when required, talk to her fluently in German. ‘I like Mr. Bryce. He knows so much and is so modest’ [Ibid., i, 295].
In 1894, when Gladstone retired and a new administration was formed under Lord Rosebery, Bryce, with some misgivings as to his qualifications, became president of the Board of Trade. In this capacity he acted as chairman of the royal commission on secondary education, which sat from March 1894 until August 1895 and is generally known as the Bryce commission. He brought to its deliberations his experience of the work of the Schools Inquiry Commission of 1864-1867, and thus was enabled to maintain continuity of policy, particularly with regard to the co-ordination of primary and secondary education. The question really before this body, however, was whether there should be a state system of secondary education. It reported in effect that private endeavour had failed to produce an adequate supply of efficient secondary schools. It recommended the unification of the central authority by the creation of a general department of education under a responsible minister with a permanent secretary and a small council of experts to supervise, but not to supersede, local action. It also advocated the establishment of county and county borough educational authorities, a great extension of the scholarship system in secondary schools, the inspection of these schools, and the registration and training of teachers. ‘The main findings of the Secondary Education commission became the foundation on which the new administrative structure of our secondary schools has risen’ [Sir Michael Sadler in Fisher, i, 298].
In 1895 Bryce spent the autumn in South Africa. He travelled from Cape Town to Fort Salisbury in Mashonaland, passing through Bechuanaland and Matabeleland. He returned through Portuguese East Africa, traversed Natal, and visited the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, Basutoland, and the eastern province of Cape Colony. He had not travelled with the view of writing a book, but on his return, finding public interest excited by the Jameson Raid, he published in November 1897 his Impressions of South Africa, which was reprinted within the month, reaching a second edition in January 1898 and a third in October 1899. The book is chiefly valuable as an account of South Africa by an acute, trained mind at a time when it was on the verge of a great transformation. To the third edition Bryce added a prefatory chapter in which he explained his views on the situation. Briefly, he was of opinion that England was in the right on many of the points at issue, but that there was no conspiracy of the Dutch in South Africa to overthrow British power, and that a conflict with the Transvaal and the Orange Free State might yet be avoided.
Holding these opinions Bryce joined Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and (Lord) Morley, before the outbreak of war, in censuring the colonial secretary, Mr. Chamberlain, especially for raising the question of suzerainty, and in criticizing the handling of the situation by Sir Alfred (afterwards Lord) Milner at Cape Town. After hostilities had begun he held that the War should be fought until victory was obtained, but he denounced farm burning, the treatment of the Boers as rebels, and the establishment of concentration camps for the non-combatants. He also advocated the grant of liberal terms of peace and condemned the introduction of Crown Colony government. His attitude, which in certain respects was more uncompromising than that of Campbell-Bannerman though less extreme than that of Mr. Lloyd George, gained him much unpopularity in the country.
While the liberal party was divided on this question, Bryce was very closely associated with Campbell-Bannerman, as their correspondence shows, in the difficult task of maintaining parliamentary opposition without creating a permanent schism. When, however, the reunited liberal party came into power in December 1905, the best places went to the Liberal Imperialists, whom it was necessary to reconcile to Campbell-Bannerman's leadership, and Bryce reluctantly accepted the difficult office of chief secretary for Ireland [cf. J. A. Spender, Life, Journalism, and Politics, i, 30, 1927]. His under-secretary was Sir Antony MacDonnell (afterwards Baron MacDonnell) [q.v.] with whom he worked in perfect accord. Both were impressed with the defects in the Irish administrative system, and both desired to introduce a measure for amending them. But the result of the general election of December 1905 had raised hopes in the Irish party which neither the government nor Bryce himself was prepared to satisfy. In February 1906 John Redmond [q.v.] found that Bryce was unwilling to pledge himself to the immediate repeal of the Coercion Act. Bryce also, in adopting MacDonnell's ideas with regard to Irish administration, fell far short of Redmond's demand for ‘a complete scheme of Home Rule’, and the Cabinet's proposals, when communicated to Redmond and John Dillon [q.v.], proved quite unacceptable. Bryce probably made a mistake in accepting too exclusively MacDonnell's views and in failing to get into touch with the Irish leaders. On 1 November Redmond was asked to discuss matters with Mr. Lloyd George who explained that Bryce was in despair and that the Cabinet had asked him to intervene. On 13 November Redmond wrote to Edward Blake, an Irish Canadian merchant, that the Irish administration of Mr. Bryce was lamentable in the extreme, that he was absolutely under the domination of MacDonnell, and that he should not be surprised to hear that Bryce had abandoned the task. Before the end of the month Redmond and Dillon got into touch with Campbell-Bannerman and Mr. Augustine Birrell, and in December Bryce succeeded Sir (Henry) Mortimer Durand [q.v.] as American ambassador [Denis Gwynn, Life of John Redmond, 119, 121-141, 1932].
Bryce's tenure of office in Ireland was not, however, altogether without achievement. He was responsible for the Labourers' (Ireland) Act, passed in 1906, for providing labourers' cottages with suitable plots of land to be owned by the rural district councils on land purchase terms. He was opposed to the dropping of the Peace Preservation (Ireland) Act, which had been passed by Gladstone in 1881, to restrict the possession of firearms, but found himself alone in the Cabinet in his opposition. The failure to renew this Act was afterwards criticized on the ground that it facilitated the arming both of the Ulster unionists and of the party of secession.
Perhaps Bryce's most notable achievement was to set up a commission to report on the organization of Irish university education. By a majority report it recommended the establishment of a single national state-aided university which was to comprise Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian colleges, including Trinity College, Dublin, and the existing Royal University. Almost the last act of Bryce as Irish secretary was unsuccessfully to urge the acceptance of this report in the House of Commons, in spite of the fact that it had not the general support of the Irish members and that his successor, Mr. Birrell, had a different plan. Balfour's comment was that Bryce ‘had nailed his flag to another man's mast and then sailed for America’. Birrell suggested that in painting his picture Bryce had ‘omitted to leave a few clouds on the horizon’ [Fisher, i, 353].
As ambassador at Washington, an office which he filled from February 1907 until April 1913, Bryce was particularly successful in gaining the approval of the American people and in becoming an American institution. Whenever he attended the Old Presbyterian church at Washington he was as a matter of course ushered into Abraham Lincoln's pew. ‘Old man Bryce is all right’ was the reputed verdict of a miner in Nevada, and this popular sentiment gave him power in that great democracy which does not allow itself to be governed by the opinions of its politicians. One reason for his success was his assiduity in cultivating the acquaintance of the American public and in imparting instruction to a people which values instruction so highly. His activities were summarized in a volume, published in 1913, of University and Historical Addresses delivered during his six years' residence to American universities, bar associations, chambers of commerce, state teachers, farmers' congresses, religious conferences, and missionary congresses. He was capable also of masterly touches in diplomacy. When (Sir) Roger Casement [q.v.] was returning to England at the beginning of 1912 after his second visit to Peru to investigate the Putumayo rubber atrocities on which he had already drawn up a report which, when published, was likely to inflame humanitarian feeling in England and in America, Bryce had Casement intercepted by a cruiser and brought to Washington for an unofficial interview with President Taft and other leading statesmen, after which he was able to inform Sir Edward Grey that the American government would welcome the publication of the report [S. Gwynn, Roger Casement, 177-179, 1930], and Putumayo gave no more trouble in Washington. At the Pelagic Sealing conference, when the Russian and Japanese plenipotentiaries were on the verge of a rupture, Bryce expressed a desire to consider the point in its various aspects. By the time he had reached the seventeenth aspect the secretaries of the two embassies had been able to soothe their chiefs and retrieve the situation [Fisher, ii, 23-24].
Bryce's influence in America was not confined to the United States. By a visit to Canada in April 1907, and a speech to the Canadian Club at Ottawa, he created an atmosphere favourable to the removal of difficulties. The governor-general, Earl Grey, told him that his speech had won the confidence of Ottawa. This confidence assisted diplomatic action. On 4 April 1908 an Arbitration Convention was signed between Great Britain and the United States for referring a special class of disputes to the Hague Tribunal for settlement. Bryce's influence with Canada enabled him to obtain the consent of the Dominion to the employment of the machinery of this convention for the settlement of disputes with the United States, often of long standing, on such questions as boundaries, fishing rights, and private claims for pecuniary compensation.
During the last four months of 1910 Bryce paid a visit to Panama, South America, and Portugal. He gave an account of this journey in his book, South America: Observations and Impressions, published in 1912, interesting as a study of the South American peoples, but remarkable above all for its vivid impressions of form and colour in that continent. A new edition appeared in 1920.
Bryce had refused a peerage before going to America in 1907, and again in 1910, but after his return he was created Viscount Bryce, of Dechmont in Lanarkshire, on 1 January 1914. He was also made a member of the Hague Tribunal. In April and May he visited Palestine and Syria. He supported in the House of Lords the Bill for excluding Ulster from the operation of the Home Rule Act. When the European War burst on the nation the invasion of Belgium led him to support the declaration against Germany. He presided over the commission, set up in September 1914, to consider the breaches of the laws and established usages of war alleged to have been committed by German troops, particularly in Belgium. The conclusion of the Bryce Report was that excesses had been committed in order to strike terror into the civil population and dishearten the Belgian army. Bryce was strongly opposed to any reprisals on the non-combatant population of Germany, and in the Report he urged the adoption of measures after the conclusion of peace to prevent ‘the recurrence of such horrors’. This in fact became the leading aim of his life. In the autumn of 1914 he joined a small group formed to promote a League of Nations and corresponded on the subject with ex-President Taft and A. L. Lowell in America. But, convinced that the defeat of Germany was essential, he opposed the efforts to promote mediation which were popular in the United States in the early years of the War. On 8 August 1917 he forwarded to the English government a memorandum in which the structure of the League of Nations, as afterwards established, was substantially outlined. He regarded the inclusion of the United States as essential to the success of the League. In the last year of his life, in August 1921, he addressed a conference of political students from all parts of the United States, held at Williams College, Massachusetts, on the subject of international relations, and urged ‘without venturing to prescribe the mode’ that the American public should ‘take their share in the great task of raising international relations to a higher plane’. The lectures were published in 1922.
In 1917 Bryce was appointed chairman of a joint conference, selected from members of the two houses of parliament, to report on the reform of the House of Lords. Owing to the wide differences of opinion in the conference the report took the unusual form of a letter from the chairman to the prime minister putting forward a somewhat complicated plan for constituting a second chamber of about 330 members by indirect election or nomination, and indicating the arguments for and against the more controversial parts of the plan.
From 1918 to 1921 Bryce was mainly engaged on his work on Modern Democracies, first projected in 1904, which became the central purpose of his visit to Australia in 1912 and to Switzerland in 1919. It was published in March 1921. This work may be regarded as in some respects complementary to The American Commonwealth, bringing the United States into comparison with the other great democracies of the present time. A special chapter was devoted to recent reforming movements in the United States. But the book is remarkable also for its treatment of novel developments in the other democracies and for its dispassionate justification of French republican policy and institutions.
In December 1921 Bryce addressed the House of Lords for the last time, supporting Lord Morley's motion for the adoption of the Irish Treaty and welcoming it as a sign of better times. He died in his sleep at Sidmouth 22 January 1922, and was buried in the Grange cemetery, Edinburgh. He married in 1889 Elizabeth Marion, daughter of Thomas Ashton, of Hyde and Fordbank, Didsbury. He had no children, and the peerage became extinct.
In spite of the high quality and great range of his historical learning, Bryce, with his boundless energy and his ubiquity, had the general characteristics of a man of action rather than of a scholar. Even his books were planned and sketched in the open air and on the move more than in the study. He possessed many of the essential qualities of a statesman; but he was wholly unfitted to be a party leader. Crowded with achievement as his life was, it leaves the impression that he possessed great reserve forces which were never called fully into action.
Bryce received degrees from thirty-one universities, of which fifteen were in the United States. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1893 and was an original member of the British Academy on its foundation in 1902, and president from 1913 to 1917. He was also made a foreign member of the Institut de France in 1904 and was a member of the academies of Brussels (1896), Turin (1896), Naples (1903), and Stockholm, and of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg. In 1907 he received the Order of Merit and in 1917 was created G.C.V.O.
Besides the works already mentioned and numerous lectures, speeches, and contributions to journals, Bryce was the author of: ‘The Historical Aspect of Democracy’ in Essays on Reform (1867); ‘The Judicature Act of 1873’ in Owens College Essays and Addresses (1874); The Trade Marks Registration Act and Trade Mark Law (1877); The Relations of the advanced and backward Races of Mankind (Romanes lecture, 1902); Studies in Contemporary Biography (1903); The Hindrances to Good Citizenship (1909); Neutral Nations and the War (1914); The Attitude of Great Britain in the War (1916); The Next Thirty Years (1917); Essays and Addresses in War Time (1918), and Memories of Travel (1923). He also contributed a chapter on ‘The Flora of the Island of Arran’ to his father's Geology of Clydesdale and Arran (1859), an introduction to Helmolt's The World's History and the article on ‘The Constitution of the United States’ to the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
There are seven portraits of Bryce: (i) by Arthur Cope (1880 or 1881) in the possession of Lady Bryce, (ii) by A. Delécluse (about 1895-1899) in the possession of Mr. Roland Bryce, (iii) by F. Wilson Forster (about 1899) in the hall of Trinity College, Oxford, (iv) by Sir George Reid (1905) in the common room at Oriel College, (v) by Ernest Moore (1907) in the National Portrait Gallery, (vi) by Seymour Thomas (about 1912) in the National Liberal Club, (vii) by (Sir) William Orpen (1914) in the Aberdeen Art Gallery. A cartoon appeared in Vanity Fair 25 February 1893.
The Times, 23 and 31 January 1922, 29 March 1927;
The Times Literary Supplement, 31 March 1927;
H. A. L. Fisher, James Bryce, 2 vols., 1927, and Viscount Bryce of Dechmont, O.M., 1838-1922, in Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. xii, 1926;
J. A. Spender, Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, 2 vols., 1923;
Georges Lacour-Gayet, Allocution à l'occasion du décès de M. le Vte James Bryce, 1922;
R. L. Archer, Secondary Education in the Nineteenth Century, 1921;
Justin McCarthy, British Political Leaders, 1903;
Lord Morley, Recollections, 2 vols., 1917.
Contributor: E. I. Carlyle.