Thorpe, Francis (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

THORPE, FRANCIS (1595–1665), judge, born in 1595, was the eldest son of Roger Thorpe of Birdsall in Yorkshire and of his wife Elizabeth, daughter of William Danyell of Beswick. He was admitted a student of Gray's Inn on 12 Feb. 1611, and of St. John's College, Cambridge, on 8 Nov. following. He graduated B.A. in 1613. He was called to the bar on 11 May 1621, was ancient of Gray's Inn in 1632, bencher in 1640, and autumn reader in 1641. He was made recorder of Beverley in 1623, and held the post until raised to the bench in 1649, when he was succeeded by his stepson, William Wise. He was recorder of Hull from 1639 till 1648, and made the public speech at the reception of Charles I on his visit to the town in April 1639. On 24 March 1641 he was called as a witness at the trial of the Earl of Strafford.

On the breaking out of the civil war Thorpe took the side of the parliament. He served in the army and attained the rank of colonel. He represented the borough of Richmond as a ‘recruiter’ to the Long parliament (elected 20 Oct. 1645). On 6 Sept. 1648 he was appointed by the committee for the advance of money steward for the sequestered estates of the Duke of Buckingham in Yorkshire. On 12 Oct. of the same year he was made serjeant-at-law by the parliament.

He was named a commissioner for the trial of the king in January 1649, but never attended the court. On 17 Feb. following the House of Commons voted him 200l. ‘in consideration of his expence in the former service of the state, and for defraying his charges in the northern circuit for this next assizes.’ On 14 April he received the thanks of the house for his ‘great services done to the Commonwealth in the last circuit,’ and was ordered on 15 June to go on the same again the following vacation. His ‘Charge delivered at York’ on 20 March was published both in York and London in 1649, and is reprinted in vol. ii. of the ‘Harleian Miscellany’ (edits. 1744 and 1808). It is an elaborate attempt at justifying the king's execution and vindicating the proceedings of parliament by quotations from the works of pronounced republicans. On 1 June 1649 he was raised to a seat in the exchequer. On 1 April 1650 he was appointed by parliament to be one of the commissioners for the act for establishing the high court of justice.

In an account by Colonel Keane (dated 10 May 1650) of a journey to London from Breda for the purpose of gathering information, Thorpe is commented on as ‘one who had formerly been theirs (the Cromwellians) though now converted, but did still comply with them so far as not to make himself suspected.’ In March 1652 he was busy accommodating the differences among the assessment commissioners of Yorkshire. On 12 July of the same year he was elected to represent Beverley in Cromwell's first parliament (3 Sept. 1654 to 22 Jan. 1655), and in November was one of the judges for the western circuit. In March 1655 he was again on the western circuit, and on 3 April received a special commission for the trial of those apprehended in the recent insurrection in the west (Weekly Intelligencer, 3–10 April 1655). These he duly tried (see Tryal of Col. Grove), and was immediately summoned by Cromwell to consult as to proceedings against the late insurgents in the north [see Slingsby, Sir Henry]. Thorpe and Sir Richard Newdigate [q. v.] raised objection to dispensing with the usual lapse of fifteen days before proceeding with a newly issued commission, and they expressed doubt as to whether the offence with which the prisoners were charged could legally be declared to be treason. The consequent delay on the part of the judges in proceeding in the matter was rightly interpreted as a refusal to serve, and writs of ease were issued to both Thorpe and Newdigate on 3 May (Perfect Proceedings of State Affairs, 3–10 May 1655). Thorpe's disgrace at court increased his popularity in the north, and he was elected to represent the West Riding of Yorkshire in the parliament of September 1656. He was, however, one of those excluded from sitting by the refusal of the Protector to grant his certificate of approbation. He signed the ‘remonstrance’ to the council of the ninety excluded members (22 Sept. 1656). At the opening of the second session (26 Jan. 1658) he took his oath and his seat, which he retained till the dissolution on 4 Feb.

Thorpe was by this time a pronounced anti-Oliverian. In November 1657, when he returned to the practice of his profession, he had petitioned the Protector, ‘whose displeasure he knows he has incurred,’ for the arrears of his salary. A warrant was issued for the payment on 8 Feb. 1658. An interesting speech by him respecting the ‘other house,’ delivered in the House of Commons on 4 Feb. 1658, is printed in Burton's ‘Diary’ (ii. 445). Thorpe did not serve in Richard Cromwell's parliament of January 1659, and in June of that year was again on circuit. On 17 Jan. 1660 he was replaced on the bench as baron of the exchequer, and went on the northern circuit for the last time during Lent assizes.

At the Restoration Thorpe petitioned for a special pardon. He pleaded his opposition to the king's death and his refusal to try the royalists of the Yorkshire rising. On 13 June, during the debate on the act of indemnity, Thorpe was named as one of those to be excluded. As receiver of money in Yorkshire he had been accused of detaining 25,000l. Prynne, speaking during the debate, compared his case with that of a previous Judge Thorpe who in 1350 was sentenced to death for receiving bribes [see Thorpe, Sir William, (fl. 1350)], and desired that the present culprit might suffer in like manner. He was, however, given the benefit of the act of indemnity.

Thorpe died at his residence, Bardsey Grange, near Leeds, and was buried at Bardsey church on 7 June 1665. He married Elizabeth, daughter of William Oglethorpe of Rawden, and widow of Thomas Wise and of Francis Denton. She survived him, her last husband, till 1 Aug. 1666, and was buried at Bardsey, where her son, William Wise of Beverley, erected a monument to her memory.

[Rawlinson MSS. (A. 25, 239) and the Tanner MSS. (li. 100) in the Bodleian Library; Baker's Hist. of St. John's Coll. Cambr., Mayor's edit. p. 484; Foss's Dict. of the Judges; Foster's Reg. of Admissions to Gray's Inn, p. 125; Douthwaite's Gray's Inn, p. 72; Admission Reg. of St. John's Coll. Cambr., per the Bursar; Official Lists of M.P.'s, i. 497, xliv; Tickell's Hist. of Hull, pp. 317, 319, 685; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 403, 10th Rep. iv. 98; Cal. Comm. for Compounding, pp. 227, 615, 1005; Cal. Comm. for Advance of Money, p. 529; Commons' Journals, vi. 144, 148, 187, vii. 840; Ludlow's Memoirs, ed. Firth, i. 199; Masson's Milton, v. 454–5, vi. 41; Parl. Hist. iii. cols. 1484–6, 1534, 1607, iv. col. 75; Whitelocke's Memorials, 405, 409, 625, 651, 693; Poulson's Beverlac, pp. 277–393, 398; Drake's Eboracum, p. 171; Whitaker's Loidis and Elmete, p. 161, App. pp. 1–8; Rushworth's Trial of Thomas, Earl of Strafford, p. 140; Burton's Diary, ii. 372; Thurloe's State Papers, iii. 332, 359.]

B. P.