Nicholas Trott (1663 - 1740) MP

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Birthplace: Lewisham, London, England
Death: Died in London, England
Occupation: judge
Managed by: Maria Edmonds-Zediker, Volunteer Curator
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About Nicholas Trott

Nicholas Trott (January 19, 1663 – January 21, 1740) was an 18th century British judge, legal scholar and writer. He had a lengthy legal and political career in Charleston, South Carolina and served as the colonial chief justice from 1703 until 1719. He came from a prosperous English family; his grandfather Perient Trott having been a husband ("director"} of the Somers Isles Company and his uncle Sir Nicholas Trott served as the governor of the Bahamas. Sir Nicholas, like his nephew, was also involved in dealings with pirates and, to avoid confusion, is often referred to as Nicholas the Elder.

Nicholas Trott married first, Jane Willis of Bermuda. After her death, he married Sarah Cooke Rhett, the widow of his good friend William Rhett. There are no known children of the second marriage. The first marriage, however, may have produced a daughter. Historians of Trott claim there were no children, based on his will, which left bequests to his second wife's granddaughters. Historians of William Rhett claim that his son William married the daughter of Justice Trott. In that case the grandchildren of his second wife would have been his own grandchildren, as well.

An ardent supporter of the Church of England, he was early member of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. He was also involved with other Anglicans to establish the Church of England within the colony and the suppress religious dissenters. This religious factionalism ended with the appointment of Charles Craven in 1712. Trott, along with his brother-in-law William Rhett, both had considerable support within colonial assembly and resisted Craven's policy of tolerance. Trott and Rhett may have been protected by Richard Shelton, another highly influential figure in the colony. From 1711 to 1715, Trott and Rhett, who was then speaker of the assembly, expanded their powers through their influence over the Charleston electorate, which elected the majority of the assembly members.

In 1714, while on a visit to England, Trott was granted extraordinary legal powers by the proprietors--he gained the right to appoint the provost marshall, his presence was required for a quorum in the colonial council, and no law could become valid without his approval. Although this authority was revoked in 1716, Trott continued to enlarge his powers. He was appointed vice admiralty judge in 1716. By this time, he and Rhett controlled virtually all of the royal and proprietary offices in South Carolina.

Though he is best known, as recorded in Daniel Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates, as the magistrate who tried notorious pirate Stede Bonnet in 1718, he was the author of several published books including a lexicon of the psalms Clavis Linguae Sanctae (1719), The Tryals of Major Stede Bonnet and Other Pirates (1719) and The Laws of the British Plantations (1721) for which he was awarded a Doctor of Civil Law degree from Oxford University and a Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Aberdeen. His final published work, The Laws of the Province of South Carolina (1736), chronicled the early legal and judicial history of Charleston up until 1719.


Chief Justice Nicholas Trott's Timeline

January 19, 1663
Lewisham, London, England
Age 30
Age 63
January 21, 1740
Age 77
London, England