Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Trevor, Thomas (1658-1730)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

TREVOR, THOMAS, Baron Trevor of Bromham (1658–1730), judge, second son of Sir John Trevor (1626–1672) [q. v.], by Ruth, fourth daughter of John Hampden, the patriot, was baptised on 6 March 1657–8. He was educated with Robert Harley (afterwards first Earl of Oxford) [q. v.] at Birch's school, Shilton, Oxfordshire, and at Christ Church, Oxford, whence he matriculated on 7 July 1673. In 1672 he was admitted a student at the Inner Temple, where he was called to the bar on 28 Nov. 1680, elected autumn reader in 1687, and bencher and treasurer on taking silk in 1689. In 1692 he succeeded Somers as solicitor-general (3 May), was knighted (21 Oct.), and returned to parliament for Plympton, Devonshire (9 Nov.), which seat he retained until the dissolution of 7 July 1698. He acted with Somers (then attorney-general) in the prosecution of Charles, Lord Mohun [q. v.], for the murder of William Mountford [q. v.], 31 Jan.–1 Feb. 1692–3, and succeeded to the attorney-generalship on 8 June 1695. In this capacity he maintained the legality of commitments for high treason by secretaries of state on the return to the habeas corpus in the case of Kendall and Roe, 31 Oct., 6 Nov. 1695; and conducted the prosecution of the conspirators against the life of the king. The bill of attainder against Sir John Fenwick (1645?–1697) [q. v.] in 1696, and the expulsion of Sir Charles Duncombe [q. v.] in 1698, he courageously opposed, and, though continuing to hold office, did not sit in the parliament of 1698–1700. To the following parliament he was returned for Lewes, Sussex, 1 Jan. 1700–1, but vacated the seat the same year on being advanced to the chief-justiceship of the common pleas (28 June), upon which he took the degree of serjeant-at-law (1 July).

Never more than a lukewarm whig, Trevor was continued in office by Queen Anne, and sworn of the privy council, 18 June 1702. On the writ of error in the Aylesbury election case (Ashby v. White, Raymond, Reports of Cases in the King's Bench and Common Pleas, p. 938) he concurred with the majority of the judges of the king's bench in advising the House of Lords that the Commons had exclusive jurisdiction to determine the competence of voters—an opinion from which the majority of the peers fortunately dissented (14 Jan. 1703–4). On the commitment by the speaker of the plaintiffs in the subsequent actions, and the dismissal by the queen's bench of their application for a habeas corpus, he concurred with the majority of his colleagues in holding (25 Feb. 1703–4) that such a case was reviewable as of right on a writ of error in parliament, but that whether in that particular case a writ of error lay was for parliament alone to determine (24 Feb. 1704–5). He was one of the commissioners appointed, 10 April 1706, to arrange the terms of the definitive treaty of union with Scotland, and was first commissioner of the great seal in the interval, 24 Sept.–19 Oct. 1710, between its surrender by Lord Cowper and its delivery to Sir Simon Harcourt. He was created Baron Trevor of Bromham, Bedfordshire, on 1 Jan. 1711–12, and took his seat in the House of Lords on the following day. As the first lord chief justice of the common pleas raised to the peerage during his tenure of office, he marks an epoch in our legal history; but he owed his advancement less to his own merit than to the political exigency of the hour, being one of the twelve peers created to overpower the resistance of the House of Lords to the peace of Utrecht. By commission of 9 March 1712–13 he occupied the woolsack during the illness of Lord-keeper Harcourt (10 and 17 March). By opposing as unchristian the proposal to put a price on the head of the Pretender, 8 April 1714, he rendered himself suspect of Jacobitism; and on the accession of George I he was removed from office (14 Oct.)

The energy with which he opposed the Septennial Bill, 10 April 1716, and the bill of pains and penalties against Atterbury, 15 May 1723, makes it probable that his loyalty was not unimpeachable. Nevertheless he was chosen to succeed the Duke of Kingston as lord privy seal, 11 March 1725–6; and, as the schism between Walpole and Townshend widened, was much courted by the latter. He was one of the lords justices in whom, 31 May 1727, the regency was vested during George I's absence from the realm. On the accession of George II he retained the privy seal until his promotion, 8 May 1730, to the presidency of the council. He died on the 19th of the following month at his villa at Peckham. His remains repose under a handsome monument in the parish church of Bromham, Bedfordshire, where he had his principal seat. His portrait, painted by Thomas Murray, was engraved by Robert White in 1702.

For so inconstant a politician Trevor enjoyed an unusual measure of respect. Though he certainly does not rank among the sages of the law, his ability was acknowledged by Lord Cowper in the minute advising his removal (Campbell, Chancellors, 4th edit. v. 295). His judgments are reported by Lord Raymond.

Trevor married twice, viz.: (1) By license dated 31 May 1690, Elizabeth (d. 1702), daughter of John Searle of Finchley, Middlesex; (2) on 25 Sept. 1704, Anne (d. 1746), daughter of Robert Weldon of St. Lawrence Jewry, London, and widow of Sir Robert Bernard, bart., of Brampton, Huntingdonshire. By his first wife he had issue two sons, Thomas and John, and two daughters; by his second wife he had three sons: Robert Hampden-Trevor (afterwards first viscount Hampden) [q. v.], Richard (1707–1771) [q. v.], and Edward (died young). Both his sons by his first wife died without male issue, having in turn succeeded to the peerage, which then devolved upon their half-brother Robert.

[Le Neve's Pedigrees of Knights (Harl. Soc.), p. 439; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Inner Temple Books; C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage; Lysons's Magna Britannia, i. 61; Environs of London, i. 119; Duke of Manchester's Court and Society, ii. 68; Lists of Members of Parliament (official); Parl. Hist. vi. 1338, vii. 297, viii. 334; Lords'
Journ. xix. 354, 505; Lord Raymond's Reports, pp. 748, 1319; Stowe MSS. 304 f. 215, 364 f. 70; Rawlinson MS. A. 241, f. 72; Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 34653, f. 356; Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. App. ii. 189–90, 196; Howell's State Trials, vol. xiii. pp. i et seq. 558, xiv. 861; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs; Lady Cowper's Diary; Burnet's Own Time (fol.) ii. 367–8, 589, (8vo) iv. 342, v. 12; Boyer's Annals of Queen Anne, v. App. i. 2, ix. 742–4; Polit. State, xxxix. 664; Lord Hervey's Memoirs, i. 113; Swift's Works, ed. Scott; Granger's Biogr. Hist. of England. iii. 51; Noble's House of Cromwell, ii. 115; Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

J. M. R.