Robert Thorpe (judge)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Robert Thorpe (c. 1764 – May 11, 1836)

Robert Thorpe (c. 1764 – May 11, 1836) was a judge and political figure in Upper Canada and was later chief justice of Sierra Leone.

He was born in Dublin, Ireland around 1764, he graduated with a degree in law from Trinity College, Dublin and was admitted to the bar in 1790.[1]

In Canada[edit]

In 1801, he was appointed the first Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island, arriving in the colony in November 1802;[2] because he was not getting paid on time, he sailed to England in 1804 but was captured by a French privateer. Thorpe later escaped, and was appointed a puisne judge of the Court of King's Bench in Upper Canada on 5 July 1805.[3] On the death of his friend, William Weekes, in a duel, he was elected in a by-election to the 4th Parliament of Upper Canada representing Durham, Simcoe & 1st York. (In that election, his supporters included at least twelve men who would later be accused of treason, one being Elijah Bentley). He advocated that the executive council should be responsible to the elected representatives, he was suspended from office by the lieutenant governor Francis Gore in July 1807.

Sierra Leone[edit]

In 1808, Thorpe was appointed the first chief justice in Sierra Leone (chief justice and judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court),[4] he presided over the cases of Samuel Samo (7-10 April 1812), Joseph Peters (11 June 1812) and William Tufft (12 June 1812).[5][6] While Thorpe left Sierra Leone in 1813, he continued to serve until 1815, when he was dismissed from colonial service.

Later life[edit]

In 1815 he published A Letter to William Wilberforce, Esq. M. P., Vice-President of the African Institution which was critical of the Sierra Leone Company and the African Institution which succeeded it.

"After sixteen years experiment, trade having failed; cultivation being retarded, civilization unattempted; religion and morality debased, and the slave trade nourished; every plan defeated, every artifice exposed; the company desirous of relieving themselves from the enormous expense prevailed on government to accept a surrender of the colony, and formed (to uphold their old influence) a society called the African Institution: having taken leave of the expense, they demanded to be paid for their buildings, and did accordingly receive a large sum from the treasury, although they had before obtained (by pleading poverty) one hundred thousand pounds from the government for the improvement of the colony: their books and agents were removed; while many of the settlers who had toiled for them for years were left unpaid."[7]:6–7

He died in London in 1836.

Published works[edit]


  1. ^ Patterson, G.H. (1988). "Thorpe, Robert". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. 7. University of Toronto/Université Laval. ISBN 0-8020-3452-7. Retrieved 2016-08-26.
  2. ^ McLaren, John (2011). Dewigged, Bothered, and Bewildered: British Colonial Judges on Trial, 1800-1900. University of Toronto Press. pp. 50–. ISBN 978-1-4426-4437-3.
  3. ^ Rordans, Joshua (1856). Upper Canada Law Directory for 1857: By J. Rordans. H. Rowsell. p. 53.
  4. ^ Thorpe, Robert (1815). A Reply "Point by Point" to the Special Report of the Directors of the African Institution. London: F. C. and J. Rivington. p. 3.
  5. ^ A gentleman (1813). The Trial of the Slave Traders Samo, Peters and Tufft. London: Sherwood Neeley and Jones – via Wikisource.
  6. ^ Hogg, Peter (2014-02-04). The African Slave Trade and Its Suppression: A Classified and Annotated Bibliography of Books, Pamphlets and Periodical. Routledge. p. 279. ISBN 978-1-317-79235-2.
  7. ^ Thorpe, Robert (1815). A Letter to William Wilberforce, Esq. M. P., Vice-President of the African Institution. London: F. C. and J. Rivington. Retrieved 28 February 2016.