Chief Justice Nicholas Trott

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Nicholas Trott

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Lewisham, London, England
Death: January 21, 1740 (77)
London, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Trott and -
Husband of Sarah Rhett and Jane Trott
Father of Mary Trott
Half brother of Thomas Trott

Occupation: judge
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Chief Justice 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.



From Wikipedia, January 2015:

Nicholas Trott (19 January 1663 – 21 January 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 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.

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.

Early life and legal career

Nicholas Trott was born in Lewisham, London, England, to Samuel Trott, a successful London merchant. His grandfather, Perient Trott, was a husband of the Somers Isles Company, the chartered company which was involved in the early colonization of Bermuda. His uncle Sir Nicholas Trott (or Nicholas the Elder) served as governor of the Bahamas.

Trott was educated at Merchant Taylor's School in London. In part due to his family's connections, he was appointed secretary to the Somers Isles Company and attorney general of Bermuda in 1693. He married his first wife, Jane Willis, in Bermuda a year later. In 1695, Trott became a member of the Inner Temple, one of London's four "Inns of Court" which served as a center of learning for training lawyers. Returned to Bermuda the following year, he took the office of attorney general and by all accounts "served ably" in that post.

Chief justice in South Carolina

In 1699, Trott left Bermuda for Charleston, South Carolina to become attorney general and naval officer in the colony. He had been offered this post by Edward Randolph, then surveyor general of the colonies. Trott's political and legal career was, while successful, also wrought with controversy due to his partisan political and religious views. His criticism of Joseph Blake, who had succeeded the previous governor John Archdale in 1696, resulted in Trott's arrest and removal from office. He was eventually restored to his former position by the colonial assembly in 1702 and was appointed chief justice the next year.

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 suppress the 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 the 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.

For a period of four years, between 1711 and 1715, he and Rhett successfully sought to expand their powers though the Charleston electorate, the colonial governing body which elected the majority of the colonial assembly members. Trott visited England in 1714 where he was given "extraordinary legal powers" by the colony proprietors which included his right to appoint a provost marshal, though his presence was required in order to hold a quorum in the colonial council, and no additional laws could be passed without his approval. These powers were revoked two years later, however this did not prevent him from seeking to increase his power in the colony. By the time of his appointment as vice admiralty judge in 1716, he and Rhett controlled virtually all of the royal and proprietary offices in South Carolina.

Trial of Stede Bonnett

In 1718, Trott gained a certain degree of notoriety when he served as Vice Admiralty Judge during the trial of Captain Stede Bonnet and his crew. Trott published a transcript of the trial, entitled The Tryals of Major Stede Bonnet and Other Pirates, that provided extensive details of the trial and was included as a primary source document in prominent collections of state trials published in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His "comprehensive and detailed definition of piracy" was used by many other Vice Admiralty Judges of the day and helped shape the legal definition of piracy. His work was frequently cited in public international law into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Retirement and later years

By 1719, Trott had become very unpopular among his contemporaries and a formal complaint to the colony proprietors was made against him that year. These charges included claims that "he collected exorbitant fees in his courts, multiplied fees by delays in the proceedings, abused his office as judge by advising parties in cases pending before him, and monopolized the colony's political and judicial offices". This coincided with the fall of the proprietary government that same year, although Trott and Rhett activities were not considered to have been a contributing factor. The main reasons for replacing the proprietary government was their perceived failure to protect the colony from Indian raiding parties. The English government agreed to provide the colony with adequate protection and sent Francis Nicholson to act as royal governor. Shortly after his arrival, he restored all former proprietary officials with Trott as the only exception. Trott petitioned to have his office restored but eventually gave up.

Afterwards, Trott retired from public service and spent the rest of his life as a prolific legal scholar and writer. His works included, aside from his own memoirs of the Bonnet trial, a lexicon of the psalms Clavis Linguae Sanctae (1719) and The Laws of the British Plantations (1721). For these, he was awarded a Doctor of Civil Law degree by Oxford University in 1720 and a Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Aberdeen in 1726. His last published work, The Laws of the Province of South Carolina (1736), included a collection of provincial laws during his time as colonial magistrate. It is considered one of the earliest and most important documents in early legal and judicial history of colonial South Carolina.

After the death of Jane Willis, Trott married Sarah Rhett, the widow of William Rhett, in 1727. He spent the last years of his life, according to personal correspondence and his later obituary from the South Carolina Gazette, explicating the Hebrew text of the Bible which has apparently been lost. He died in London on 21 January 1740, at the age of 77. He left small bequests to his "two grandchildren Sarah and Mary Jane Rhett", descendants of his second wife by her first marriage, but apparently had no children of his own.

Legacy

Trott is considered to have been a highly important figure in the early history of South Carolina. Historian M. Eugene Sirmans has referred to him as "the most learned man in the colony". Aside from his involvement in the colonial assembly with William Rhett, Trott made important contributions to the legal development of South Carolina. His work as chief justice and later as a scholar illustrated the early development of American colonial law.

One such example was a legal essay he authored, "Eight Charges", which featured a manuscript collection of grand jury charges and instructed jurors on the law and its applications in criminal cases. One of the charges referenced a Charleston defense case for the crime of witchcraft, for which, indictments were sought but had been rejected "specter evidence". In this essay, Trott warned that "proof of witchcraft based on corroboration by evil spirits was by no means is to be relied on".

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https://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/trott-nicholas/

Jurist, scholar. Trott was born in London on January 19, 1663. His father, Samuel Trott, was a London merchant, but his mother’s name is unknown. Members of the family were closely involved with the Somers Island Company, the proprietors of Bermuda. His uncle, also named Nicholas and with whom he has sometimes been confused, was a governor of the Bahamas notorious for his dealings with pirates. Through marriage, this other Nicholas acquired a share in the Carolina proprietorship. Trott was educated at Merchant Taylors School in London and admitted to Inner Temple in 1695.

Trott arrived in South Carolina in 1699 with appointments as attorney general and naval officer after earlier service as attorney general of Bermuda, where he had married Jane Willis on September 23, 1694. In 1703 he became chief justice. The earliest South Carolina official to have been trained at the Inns of Court, Trott was both a scholar and a political power whose offices at various times also included proprietor’s deputy on council, secretary and register of the province, elected member of the Lower House of Assembly, and judge of vice admiralty. A contentious man, he reached the height of his power in 1714 when, during a visit to London, the proprietors gave him a veto over the colony’s laws and required his presence for a quorum of council. Colonial protests quickly ended this extraordinary authority given to a man who was never governor, but he and William Rhett, whose son had married Trott’s daughter Mary, continued to monopolize many of the South Carolina government offices until the revolution against proprietary government in 1719. Both men had strong ties with Richard Shelton, the long-term secretary to the proprietary board in London.

Part of Trott’s political difficulties arose from his strong support of an established Anglican church and the exclusion of dissenters from office. Trott began a codification of South Carolina law shortly after he became chief justice, but his first legal publication was a compilation of colonial laws relating to religion for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 1721. His South Carolina code did not see print until 1736, when it became the first book printed in South Carolina. He published (at Oxford) a work on the Psalms in 1719 and was at work on a translation of the Hebrew text of the New Testament at the time of his death. Both Oxford University and the University of Aberdeen granted him doctorates for his publications. As vice admiralty judge, he presided over the trial of the pirate Stede Bonnet. The published proceedings of this trial became a foundation document of the literature on piracy.

After the death of his first wife, Trott married Sarah Cooke, the widow of his political ally William Rhett, on March 4, 1728. Trott died in Charleston on January 21, 1740, and was buried in St. Philip’s Churchyard.

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Chief Justice Nicholas Trott's Timeline

1663
January 19, 1663
Lewisham, London, England
1700
1700
1740
January 21, 1740
Age 77
London, England