TREBY, Sir George (1643-1700), of Fleet Street, London
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Family and Education
bap. 1 Jan. 1643, 1st s. of Peter Treby, attorney, of Plympton and Holbeton, Devon by Joan, da. of John Snelling of Chaddle Wood, Plympton Erle and coh. to her nephew Francis. educ. Plympton g.s.; Exeter, Oxf. 1660; M. Temple 1663, called 1671, bencher 1680. m. (1) lic. 15 Nov. 1675, Anna, da. of Edward Grosvenor† of Blackfriars, London, wid. of Thomas Blount of Wricklesmarsh, Charleton, Kent, s.p.; (2) 12 Apr. 1681, Rachel, da. of James Standish of Hatton Garden, Mdx. s.p.; (3) lic. 14 Dec. 1684, Dorothy, da. of Ralph Grainge of the Inner Temple, 1s. 1da. d.v.p.; (4) lic. 6 Jan. 1693 (with £10,000), Mary Brinley of London, 1s. suc. fa. aft. 1663; kntd. 20 Jan. 1681.1
Recorder, Plympton Erle 1678–84, 1692–d., London 1680–3, Dec. 1688–92; freeman, Plymouth 1696; gov. Charterhouse 1698–d.2
Chairman, cttee. of elections and privileges 25 Oct. 1680–10 Jan. 1681, ways and means 17 Apr.–4 July 1689.
Solicitor-gen. Feb.–May 1689; attorney-gen. May 1689–92; serjeant-at-law 1692; l.c.j.c.p. 3 May 1692–d.; commr. great seal Apr.–May 1700.
Treby had played a leading role in bringing about the Revolution settlement and thereby gained immense prestige at Court and among the Whigs. It came, therefore, as a considerable shock to find himself ousted in 1690 from his apparently safe seat at Plympton Erle by a mayor and an electorate acting under a charter remodelled by James II. He obtained a hearing of the case at the bar of the House on 14 Apr., following which the election was declared void. Treby regained the seat after a contested by-election and subsequently re-established his hold on the borough by obtaining a new charter. During May he was active in attempts to reverse the quo warranto proceedings against the corporation of London, and was summoned on the 12th to give evidence to the Lords on the Tory-orientated changes to the London lieutenancy. As attorney-general, Treby was involved in the indictments of Lord Preston (Richard Grahme†), James Grahme* and other Jacobite conspirators in June. On 23 Oct. he presented a supply bill based on assessment, and was first-named to draft two additional clauses on the 27th. He also presented a bill to double excise duties on 30 Oct. He chaired a committee of the whole on a bill from the Lords concerning the Admiralty commissioners on 7 Nov., carrying it up four days later. On 24 Nov. he was first-named to draft a bill imposing duties on East India goods, wine, vinegar and tobacco, presenting the results as two separate bills on 4 Dec.3
Somewhat incongruously, given his official status, Treby was classified by Robert Harley* as a Country party supporter in a list compiled after April 1691 (the dating is uncertain because a marginal comment also notes Treby’s professional promotion the following year). He spoke against the treason trials bill at the committee stage on 11 Dec. and likewise at its third reading on the 18th, declaring that ‘the lives of men are precious, but the lives of the King and Queen are as precious, in which all our lives are bound up’. On 11 Dec. he opposed the Lords’ amendment that ‘levelled impeachments by this House with indictments’ and was appointed to the conference on the bill. He spoke again on 31 Dec. 1691 and 21 Jan. 1692, making clear that he deemed the measure untimely and constitutionally dangerous. Treby had also been involved with a number of other measures. On 19 Nov. 1691 he spoke in favour of granting 65,000 men for the army, on the grounds that ‘we have not for many years had a prince so heartily in our interest as his present Majesty is, and one who is for a hearty prosecution of the war’. He presented the land tax bill on 12 Dec. 1691 and chaired a committee of the whole on the mutiny bill four days later, carrying it up to the Lords on 15 Jan. 1692. He spoke several times in favour of granting relief to London orphans (3 Dec. 1691, 29 Jan. and 13 Feb. 1692). On 15 Feb. he opposed a proposal to tack a clause to a money bill to revive the public accounts commission. He also spoke on 22 Feb. against the bill confirming the charter of Cambridge University.4
Treby vacated his seat upon appointment as lord chief justice in May 1692. The following June he made legal history at the treason trial of William Anderton, a printer of Jacobite propaganda. Anderton’s defence was based on the premise that, as the printer but not the author of the libels, he could not be convicted under existing treason law, which predated the invention of the printing-press. Treby advised the jury, however, that Anderton’s conduct amounted to ‘as great and malicious treason as ever could be done against so good a prince, who had done so much for the nation’. Treby was also active in proceedings on the Lancashire Plot of 1694 and the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† in 1696. Because of the chronic ill-health of Lord Somers (Sir John*), Treby frequently acted as a temporary Speaker of the Lords between 1696 and 1700. When Somers was dismissed as lord chancellor in May 1700, however, Treby refused to succeed him, allegedly because the post was worth £2,000 less than his current salary of £6,000 p.a. and was only tenable during pleasure rather than for life. Treby died on 13 Dec. 1700 and was buried in the Temple church. The cause of his death was attributed to an ‘asthma’ or perhaps ‘a surfeit taken at a feast . . . his failing in that kind hath been notorious’.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. DNB; Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. xxv. 151, 153; C10/130/40; J. Prince, Devon Worthies; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. liv), 16; HMC 13th Rep. VI, 7; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 343; Soc. of Genealogists, St. Botolph Aldersgate par. reg.; PCC 164 Ent, 86 Lort.
- 2. J. B. Rowe, Hist. Plympton, 401; CSP Dom. 1693, p. 5; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, p. 282.
- 3. DNB; HMC Finch, ii. 99, 128, 141, 157, 397.
- 4. Grey, x. 179, 210–11, 215, 221–3, 240; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/059/1, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 24 Nov. 1691; Luttrell Diary, 25, 32, 58, 75, 99, 154, 163, 185, 187, 200; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 660.
- 5. DNB; State Trials, xii. 1245–68; Macaulay, Hist. Eng. 2369–70; HMC Kenyon, 306, 356; HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 275, 278, 552; iv. 115, 188; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 38; Add. 30000 D, ff. 176, 365; HMC Cowper, ii. 411; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss, D/EP F29, p. 35; Luttrell, Brief Relation, 718–19.