George Treby (judge) - Political Career

Political Career

In March 1677 he was elected a Member of Parliament for Plympton. He was reelected for both the February and August Parliaments of 1679, and again in 1689 and 1690. In Parliament Treby focused on subjects such as the wool trade, and other topics which would concern Devon. In November 1678 Titus Oates revealed details of the Popish Plot, and Treby acted as chairman of the Committee of Secrecy dedicated to investigating it. It was discussed in June 1679 that Treby might be elected as the new Speaker of the House of Commons, but this failed since he was so short sighted he could not distinguish between different MPs. He failed to be elected Chairman of the Committee of Elections and Privileges in 1679, but in 1680 was named to the committee investigating people who had promoted the ‘abhorrences’ of petitions to the King for summoning parliament. He became Chairman of the Elections Committee, and continued to investigate the Popish Plot, helping introduce the second Exclusion Bill to Parliament.

In December 1680 he was one of the lawyers trying William Howard, the first lord to be arrested as part of the Popish Plot. In the same period of time he was appointed Recorder of London, and on 22 January 1681 he was knighted, and appointed a Justice of the Peace in February for London and Devon. He was again elected for Plympton in April 1681 for the Third Exclusion Parliament, and helped introduce the Third Exclusion Bill. He also disclosed information gained about the Popish Plot from Edward Fitzharris, with the intention being to impeach him and thereby gain more information about the other conspirators. Following the dissolution of the Third Exclusion Parliament, and after any information revealed could potentially damage the King, Fitzharris was charged with treason. Along with Sir Francis Winnington and Henry Pollexfen, Treby went to court to try to prevent Fitzharris, his most important witness, from execution. The argument was that the King's Bench could not try Fitzharris as he was currently being prosecuted by Parliament; to do so would be to move the case from a higher court to a lower one. The argument was thrown out as the dissolution of the Parliament meant that the impeachment case had effectively ceased, and Fitzharris was executed shortly after. After the execution Fitzharris's alleged confession was published by Francis Hawkins, where it was claimed Treby and others had attempted to pressure him into giving false testimony. Treby is thought to have published Truth Vindicated to defend himself.

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