George Treby (judge)

George Treby (judge)

Sir George Treby JP (1643–1700) was a British justice and politician.

Early life and education

He was the oldest son of Peter Treby, an attorney at the Court of Common Pleas and his wife Joan, daughter of John Snelling. He was educated at Plympton School, and was accepted into Exeter College, Oxford in June 1660. He left before completing his degree, and was admitted into Middle Temple on 24 October 1663, being called to the bar on 2 June 1671. He became a bencher of Middle Temple on 28 January 1681, a reader in 1686 and the treasurer between 1689 and 1690. In 1675 he married Anna Blount, a widow from London, who died some time before September 1677.

Political career

In March 1677 he was elected a Member of Parliament for Plympton. He was reelected for both the February and August Parliaments of 1679, and again in 1689 and 1690. In Parliament Treby focused on subjects such as the wool trade, and other topics which would concern Devon. In November 1678 Titus Oates revealed details of the Popish Plot, and Treby acted as chairman of the Committee of Secrecy dedicated to investigating it. It was discussed in June 1679 that Treby might be elected as the new Speaker of the House of Commons, but nothing became of it apparently because he was so short sighted he could not distinguish between different Members of Parliament. [Paul D. Halliday, [ ‘Treby, Sir George (bap. 1644, d. 1700)’] , "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edition, January 2008, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27675. Retrieved 16 September 2008] He failed to be elected Chairman of the Committee of Elections and Privileges in 1679, but in 1680 was named to the committee investigating people who had promoted the ‘abhorrences’ of petitions to the King for summoning parliament. He became Chairman of the Elections Committee, and continued to investigate the Popish Plot, helping introduce the second Exclusion Bill to Parliament.

In December 1680 he was one of the lawyers trying William Howard, the first lord to be arrested as part of the Popish Plot. In the same period of time he was appointed Recorder of London, and on 22 January 1681 he was knighted, [LondonGazette|issue=1584|startpage=2|date=20 January 1680 Old Style|accessdate=2008-09-16. Until the British calendar reform of the early 1750s, Brtain retained the Gregorian Calendar, and the English New Year was on 25 March, not 1 January] and appointed a Justice of the Peace in February for London and Devon. He was again elected for Plympton in April 1681 for the Third Exclusion Parliament, and helped introduce the Third Exclusion Bill. He also disclosed information gained about the Popish Plot from Edward Fitzharris, with the intention being to impeach him and thereby gain more information about the other conspirators. Once the Third Exclusion Parliament had been dissolved, however, and after any information revealed could potentially damage the King, Fitzharris was charged with treason. Along with Sir Francis Winnington and Henry Pollexfen, Treby went to court to try and prevent Fitzharris, his most important witness, from execution. The argument was that the King's Bench could not try Fitzharris as he was currently being prosecuted by Parliament; to do so would be to move the case from a higher court to a lower one. The argument was thrown out as the dissolution of the Parliament meant that the impeachment case had effectively ceased, and Fitzharris was executed shortly after. After the execution Fitzharris's aleged confession was published by Francis Hawkins, where it was claimed Treby and others had attempted to pressure him into giving false testimony. Treby is thought to have published "Truth Vindicated" to defend himself.

Opposition to the court

On 12 April 1681 Treby married a second time, to Rachel, daughter of James Standish. He was active in the Green Ribbon Club promoting the idea of a "free state", and suggested that James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth should be king. In 1681 he presented a petition from the city of London to the King requesting another Parliament. The King refused, saying that the city was meddling in business that did not belong to it.

In part due to the London call for a new Parliament, King Charles and his lawyers attacked the city's charter with a "Quo warranto" action. Partly in an attempt to earn the King's favour for the city, Treby made a loyal speech when presenting the new sheriffs of London in September 1682, but the "Quo warranto" action continued. Treby argued at the King's Bench that any wrongs committed had been done by individuals, not the city as a whole; it was therefore improper to attack the city for those actions. He also noted that while the "Quo warranto" was brought against the city corporation, it claimed that the corporations illegal acts had destroyed it, and pointed out the contradiction of an attack on an organisation which the attack claimed did not exist. The latter point was brushed aside on the grounds that the corporation would only be destroyed if judgement was brought against it, which the court duly did. Judgement was deferred in the hopes that London might surrender its charter to the King, but Treby convinced the city leaders to continue fighting, saying that to surrender would violate their oaths to uphold the rights of the city and its citizens. Despite this, judgement was entered in October 1683, and the corporation ceased to exist, with Treby losing his Recordership and his position on various county benches. In 1684 Plympton had a similar case brought against them, and after seeing the example made of London, surrendered, with Treby losing his Recordership there as well.

On 14 December 1684 he married Dorothy, daughter of Ralph Grainge, a lawyer of the Inner Temple. They had two children; a daughter, Maria, who died early, and a son, also called George, who also became a Member of Parliament for Plympton, as did his son in turn. Dorothy died within a few years, and on 6 January 1693 he married his fourth wife, Mary Brinley, who reportedly brought a £10,000 portion; they had a son, Brinley.

In the elections to the 1685 Parliament Treby stood against and lost to Richard Strode, partially as a result of the remodelling of the Plympton corporation charter, which had damaged Treby's political base. He did not serve for the rest of James's reign, even refusing two offers to have his Recordership of London returned.

Under William

In 1688 the Glorious Revolution overthrew James, and led to the crowning of William III. He was reappointed as Recorder of London on 10 December, and was again returned to Parliament for Plympton in 1689. He was named Solicitor General for England and Wales in March and Attorney General on 6 May. While in Parliament he helped write the 1689 Bill of Rights, a landmark document in British law. He was defeated in the March 1690 election, again by Strode, but the result was overturned and voided by the House of Commons, with Treby winning the second vote two weeks later. In 1692 he was appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, resigning his seat in the Commons and his Recordership. In 1693 he headed the trial of William Anderton for libel, and in 1695 and 1696 he was among the justices who tried the Association plotters. In December 1700 he moved to Kensington with his wife after feeling ill, and died there on 13 December.


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