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George Phillips

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Phillips, GEORGE, canonist, b. at Konigsberg, September 6, 1804; d. at Vienna, September 6, 1872, was the son of James Phillips, an Englishman who had acquired wealth as a merchant in Konigsberg, and of a Scotchwoman nee Hay. On completing his course at the gymnasium, George studied law at the Universities of Berlin and Gottingen (1822-24); his principal teachers were von Savigny and Eichhorn, and, under the influence of the latter, he devoted himself mainly to the study of Germanic law. After obtaining the degree of Doctor of Law at Gottingen in 1824, he paid a long visit to England. In 1826 he qualified at Berlin as Privatdozent (tutor) for German law, and in 1827 was appointed professor extraordinary in this faculty. In the same year he married Charlotte Housselle, who belonged to a French Protestant family settled in Berlin. Phillips formed a close friendship with his colleague K. E. Jarcke, professor at Berlin since 1825, who had entered the Catholic Church in 1824. Jarcke’s influence and his own searching studies into medieval Germany led to the conversion of Phillips and his wife in 1828 (May 14). Jarcke having removed to Vienna in 1832, Phillips accepted in 1833 a call to Munich as counsel in the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior. In 1834 he was named professor of history, and a few months later professor of law at the University of Munich. He now joined that circle of illustrious men including the two Gorres, Mohler, Dellinger, and Ringseis, who, filled with enthusiasm for the Church, labored for the renewal of the religious life, the defense of Catholic rights and religious freedom, and the revival of Catholic scholarship. In 1838 he founded with Guido Gorres the still flourishing militant “Historischpolitische Blatter”. His lectures, notable for their excellence and form, treated with unusual fullness subjects connected with ecclesiastical interests. In consequence of the Lola Montez affair, in connection with which Phillips signed, with six other Munich professors, an address of sympathy with the dismissed minister Abel, he was relieved of his chair in 1847. In 1848 he was elected deputy of a Munster district for the National Assembly of Frankfort, at which he energetically upheld the Catholic interests. In 1850, after declining a call as professor to Würzburg, he accepted the chair of German law at Innsbruck, and there resumed his academic activity. Invited to fill the same chair in Vienna in 1851, he removed to the Austrian capital, and remained there until his death. Once (1862-7) he accepted a long leave of absence to complete his “Kirchenrecht”. He always maintained his relations with his friends in Munich and other cities of Germany, and never relaxed his activity in furthering Catholic interests. As a writer, his labors lay in the domain of German law, canon law, and their respective histories. At first his activity was directed mainly to the first-mentioned, his principal contributions on the subject being: “Versuch einer Darstellung des angelsachsischen Rechtes” (Gottingen, 1825); “Englische Reichs- and Rechtsgeschichte”, of which two volumes (dealing with the period 1066-1189) appeared (Berlin, 1827-8); “Deutsche Geschichte mit besonderer Riicksicht auf Religion, Recht and Verfassung”, of which two volumes alone were issued (Berlin, 1832-4), deals with Merovingian and Carlovingian times; “Grundsatze des gemeinen deutschen Privatrechts mit Einschluss des Lehnrechts” (Berlin, 1838); “Deutsche Reichs- and Rechtsgeschichte” (Munich, 1845). After his call to Munich, however, Phillips recognized his chief task in the treatment of canon law from the strictly Catholic standpoint. In addition to numerous smaller treatises, he published in this domain: “Die Diozesansynode” (Freiburg, 1849), and especially his great “Kirchenrecht”, which appeared in seven volumes (Ratisbon, 1845-72), and was continued by Vering (vol. VIII, i, Ratisbon, 1889). This comprehensive and important work exercised a great influence on the study of canon law and its principles. Phillips also published a “Lehrbuch des Kirchenrechts” (Ratisbon, 1859-62; 3rd ed. by Moufang, 1881) and “Vermischte Schriften” (3 vols., Ratisbon, 1856-60).

J. P. KIRSCH


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