William Henry Adams

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William Henry Adams (1809 – 29 August 1865)[1] was a British politician (Conservative Party), lawyer and colonial judge. His final appointment was as Chief Justice of Hong Kong.

Early life

Adams was born in 1809 and was the son of Thomas Adams of Normancross, Huntingdonshire. While still a boy he entered a printing office as a compositor. He read law in his spare time and in 1843 was called to the bar of the Middle Temple. He also worked as a law reporter for the Morning Herald.[2]

Political career

Adams was elected unopposed at the 1857 general election as one of the two members of parliament (MPs) for Boston[3] in Lincolnshire, having contested the seat unsuccessfully at the 1852 general election and at a by-election in 1856.[3] He was re-elected unopposed in February 1859 at a by-election following his appointment as Recorder of Derby, but did not stand again at the general election in April 1859.[3]

Legal career

His first judicial appointment was as Recorder of Derby in 1858 while still a member of Parliament.

In 1859, Adams was appointed Attorney General of Hong Kong. Immediately on his arrival in Hong Kong in September 1859, Adams was appointed acting Chief Justice to replace John Walter Hulme who had returned to England on sick leave. In his first appearance on the bench "the general consensus of opinion seems to have been one of confidence in his firmness and ability." In August 1860, Hulme retired on a pension and Adams was appointed Chief Justice.[4]


Adams fell ill in 1865 and died, at the age of 56, at the home of his son Captain Adams in Wales on 29 August 1865. Adams had been well liked in Hong Kong and a local paper carried the following eulogy:

"It is almost too painful for us to speak of his many estimable qualities, at a time when admiration ought properly give way to grief. There cannot be two opinions as to the ability with which he discharged the duties of his office. A juster more conscientious and abler man never sat upon the Bench in this Colony. Every one must admit that his judgements were delivered with care and with admirable wisdom. He was one of best men that ever came to China or left it."[5]


  1. Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "B" (part 4)[self-published source][better source needed]
  2. Norton-Kyshe, History of the Laws and Courts of Hong Kong, Vol II, p83
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 55. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Norton-Kyshe, A History of the Laws and Courts of Hong Kong, Vol I, pp604-605 and p657
  5. Norton-Kyshe, History of the Laws and Courts of Hong Kong', Vol II, p. 83

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Benjamin Bond Cabbell
Herbert Ingram
Member of Parliament for Boston
With: Herbert Ingram
Succeeded by
Meaburn Staniland
Herbert Ingram
Legal offices
Preceded by
John Walter Hulme
Chief Justice of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
John Jackson Smale
Preceded by
Thomas Chisholm Anstey
Attorney General of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
John Jackson Smale