Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Treby, George

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TREBY, Sir GEORGE (1644?–1700), judge, son of Peter Treby of Plympton St. Maurice, Devonshire, by his wife Joan, daughter of John Snellinge of Chaddlewood in the same county, was born about 1644. He matriculated at Oxford from Exeter College on 13 July 1660, but, leaving without a degree, was admitted in 1663 a student at the Middle Temple, where he was called to the bar in 1671, and elected a bencher in January 1680–1. He was returned to parliament on 5 March 1676–7 for Plympton, which seat he retained, being then recorder of the borough, at the ensuing general election on 24 Feb. 1678–9 and throughout the reign of Charles II. Having proved his zeal for the protestant cause as chairman of the committee of secrecy for the investigation of the ‘popish plot,’ and as one of the managers of the impeachment of the five popish lords (April 1679–November 1680), he succeeded Jeffreys as recorder of London on 2 Dec., was knighted on 20 Jan. 1680–1, and placed on the commission of the peace for the city in February. He took the preliminary examination of Edward Fitzharris [q. v.], who afterwards, without apparent reason, accused him of subornation. He ably defended Sir Patience Ward [q. v.] on his prosecution for perjury by the Duke of York, and proved himself a stout champion of immemorial rights of the corporation of London during the proceedings on the quo warranto. He also pleaded for the defendant Sandys in the great case which established the monopoly of the East India Company (Trinity term 1683). Dismissed from the recordership in consequence on 12 June 1683, he appeared in the high commission court on 17 Feb. 1685–1686 to justify the rejection by Exeter College of the proposed new Petrean fellow, and was one of the counsel for the seven bishops (29–30 June 1688); otherwise he took hardly any part in public affairs, declining even the reinstatement in the recordership proffered on the restoration of the city charter, 11 Oct. 1688, until the landing of the Prince of Orange, when he accepted it (16 Dec.). On the approach of the prince to London the recorder headed the procession of city magnates who went out to meet him, and delivered a high-flown address of welcome (20 Dec. 1688). In the Convention parliament he sat for Plympton, which he continued to represent until his elevation to the bench. He supported the resolution declaring the throne vacant by abdication, but resisted the proposal to commute the hereditary revenues of the crown for an annual grant.

Appointed solicitor-general in March 1688–9, Treby took a prominent part in the discussions of the following month on the oaths bill. On 4 May he was made attorney-general, in which capacity he piloted the bill of rights through the House of Commons. Retaining the recordership, he was placed on the commissions appointed 1 and 9 March 1689–90 to exercise the office of deputy-lieutenant and lieutenant of the city of London. In the parliamentary session of 1691 he gave a qualified support to the treason procedure bill. On 16 Nov. the same year he conveyed to the king at Kensington the assurances of the support of the corporation of London in the struggle with Louis XIV. On 3 May 1692, having first qualified (27 April) by taking the degree of serjeant-at-law, he was appointed chief justice of the common pleas, upon which he resigned the recordership (7 June). He attended with his colleagues the trial of Lord Mohun in Westminster Hall (31 Jan.–4 Feb. 1692–1693), and concurred in advising the acquittal of the prisoner. His exchequer chamber judgment in the bankers' case, on 4 June 1695, anticipated the principal arguments upon which Somers afterwards reversed the decision of the court of exchequer. He was a member of the special commission before which Charnock, King, Keyes, and other members of the assassination plot were tried at the Old Bailey (11–24 March 1695–6), and presided (9–13 May) at the trial of Peter Cook, another of the conspirators, who was found guilty but was afterwards pardoned. By virtue of successive royal commissions Treby sat as speaker of the House of Lords during the frequent illnesses of Somers, 31 Jan.–9 March, 16 June, 28 July, 1 Sept., 23 Nov.–13 Dec. 1696, 3–18 and 25 Feb., 18–19 May, 23 June 1698, 16–18 Jan., 1–18 April, 20 April–2 May, 13 July, 28 Sept. 1699, and 15–17 Jan. 1700. He was also one of the commissioners of the great seal in the interval (17 April–31 May 1700) between its surrender by Somers and its delivery to Sir Nathan Wright [q. v.] He died early in the following December at his house in Kensington Gravel-pits. His remains were interred in the Temple church. Engraved portraits of him are at Lincoln's Inn and in the National Portrait Gallery.

Treby married four times. He had issue neither by his first wife (married by license dated 15 Nov. 1675), Anna Blount, a widow, born Grosvenor; nor by his second, whose maiden name was Standish. His third and fourth wives were respectively Dorothy, daughter of Ralph Grainge of the Inner Temple (license dated 14 Dec. 1684), and Mary Brinley (license dated 6 Jan. 1692–3), who brought him 10,000l. By his third wife he had a son, who survived him, and a daughter who died in infancy. By his fourth wife he had a son. His son by his third wife, George Treby, M.P. for Plympton 1708–34, appointed secretary at war 24 Dec. 1718, and teller of the exchequer 25 April 1724, was father of George Treby, M.P. for Dartmouth 1722–47, and lord of the treasury in 1741. The last-mentioned George Treby purchased the estate of Goodamoor, Plympton St. Mary, which remained in his posterity until the present century.

Sir George Treby's

    Steady temper, condescending mind,
    Indulgent to distress, to merit kind,
    Knowledge sublime, sharp judgment, piety,
    From pride, from censure, from moroseness free—

with other excellent qualities, are lauded to the skies by Nahum Tate, who had probably tasted of his bounty (Broadside in British Museum). He is also panegyrised in a ‘Pindaric’ ode printed in ‘Poems on State Affairs’ (1707, iv. 365–8). Evelyn (Diary, 8 Dec. 1700) mourned him as one of the few learned lawyers of his age, and this character is amply sustained by his arguments and decisions (see Cobbett, State Trials, vii. 1308, viii. 1099, ix. 312, x. 383, xii. 376, 1034–47, 1248, 1379, xiii. 1, 64, 139, 386, 451, xiv. 23; Modern Reports, iii–iv.; Pleadings and Arguments of Mr. Heneage Finch, Sir Robert Sawyer, and Mr. Henry Pollexfen, &c., London, 1690, fol.; and The Arguments of the Lord-keeper, the Lord Chief Justice, and Mr. Baron Powell, when they gave judgment for the Earl of Bath, London, 1693, fol.). He is understood to have contributed the notes to Dyer's ‘Reports’ [see Dyer, Sir James].

Treby edited ‘A Collection of Letters and other Writings relating to the horrid Popish Plot, printed from the Originals,’ London, 1681, 2 pts. fol.; and he was reputed to be the author of ‘Truth Vindicated; or a Detection of the Aspersions and Scandals cast upon Sir Robert Clayton and Sir George Treby, Justices, and Slingsby Bethell and Henry Cornish, Sheriffs, of the City of London, in a Paper published in the name of Dr. Francis Hawkins, Minister of the Tower, intituled “The Confession of Edward Fitzharris, Esq.,”’ London, 1681, 4to.

His ‘Speech to the Prince of Orange, Dec. 20th, 1688,’ is among the political tracts in the British Museum, and in ‘Fourth Collection of Papers relating to the present Juncture of Affairs in England,’ 1688. Two certificates on petitions referred to him in 1689, and his learned opinion on the incidence of the cider tax, dated 30 March 1691, are in Addit. MSS. 6681 pp. 460–3 and 492, and 6693 p. 463.

[Le Neve's Pedigrees of Knights (Harl. Soc.), p. 343; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Boase's Hist. of Exeter Coll. (Oxford Hist. Soc.) p. cxxxi; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 499; North's Lives, i. 211; Official List of Recorders of the City of London, 1850; Evelyn's Diary, 30 Nov. 1680, 4 Oct. 1683, 4 July 1696; Luttrell's Brief Relation of State Affairs; Clarendon and Rochester Corresp. ii. 296; Commons' Journals, ix. 582, 601, 663, 708; Official Returns of M.P.'s; Parl. Hist.; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1689–90, pp. 11–12, 487; Burnet's Own Time, fol. pp. 497–8; Clarke's Life of James II, ii. 299; Lords' Journals, xv. 656–98, 748–50, xvi. 172–9, 206–13, 218, 289–92, 326, 360, 430–441, 443–61, 470, 473, 493, 495, 531; Genealogist, ed. Selby, p. 84; Marriage Lic. Vic.-Gen. Cant. 1660–79 (Harl. Soc.); Marriage Lic. Vic.-Gen. Cant. 1679–87 (Harl. Soc.); Marriage Lic. Fac. Offic. Cant. (Harl. Soc.); Noble's Continuation of Granger's Biogr. Hist. of England, 1806, i. 166; Mackintosh's Hist. of the Revolution in 1688, p. 555; Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. App. p. 22, 5th Rep. App. p. 383, 7th Rep. App. p. 205, 9th Rep. App. i. 282, 12th Rep. App. vii. 230; Polwhele's Devonshire, p. 452; Cotton's Account of Plympton St. Maurice; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1863; Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

J. M. R.