A Blupete Biography Page

Sir Alexander Croke

Educated in Oxford, Alexander Croke studied at the Inner Temple and called to the bar of England in 1786. Croke came to the British colony of Nova Scotia to take up his duties as a judge of the Admiralty Court for Nova Scotia in 1801. Sir John Wentworth was then the governor of Nova Scotia. It wasn't long before Croke was appointed, in 1802, as a member of the governing council of Nova Scotia, at Halifax.

It was in 1808, with the arrival of Sir George Prevost, a military man, sent to replace the aging Wentworth, that Croke's fame and fortune were to be further increased. George Prevost was to be Britain's point man in America as it was calculated they would need a strong man to deal with the troublesome Americans. Prevost had his hands filled with things military and was content to leave this fellow Croke handle civilian matters. In December, 1808, Croke was officially sworn in, to temporarily replace Provost, as he was sailing with his troops for the Barbados. (Having conducted a successful campaign in the Caribbean, Prevost was back at Halifax in April of 1809.)

Throughout the years he was in Nova Scotia, between 1801 and 1815, Croke was a Judge of the Admiralty Court. Back in those days this was a lucrative position in the colony, as judges were paid commissions in the sale of seized ships and their cargoes, especially in time of war. During most of his years, Croke was to spend his time at "Studley," a mansion, which, with a few others, was then starting to appear in the colonial capital of Halifax.

In August of 1811 Prevost sailed for Quebec to take up his new duties. As a consequence, "Dr. Croke" was called on, for a second time, and was sworn in as a temporary administrator. Croke's control of the British colony of Nova Scotia continued until the arrival of Sherbrooke later that year. In the meantime, none of these movements of Prevost and Sherbrooke seems to bother Croke very much, but with the arrival of Sherbrooke, Croke involves himself in clerical work and is found writing the authorities at London. He complains to Lord Liverpool (from 1808, Secretary for war and the colonies), the most powerful minister in Perceval's government. It seems Croke was not content with his earnings at the Admiralty Court or his earnings as a Councilor in the colony; he, Croke, thought that he was due, in addition, at least half the salary of governor for that period between the departure of Prevost and the arrival of Sherbrooke, -- seven weeks. "Sir John (Sherbrooke) opposes this claim -- says he understands Dr. Croke's former claim of a similar kind was rejected ..."1

Croke trucked along in Nova Scotia until 1815, at which time, I suppose, he calculated he had enough on which to retire in style to England; his commissions in the Admiralty court during the time of war between England and the United States, the War of 1812, must have been considerable. On his return to London, during 1815, Croke was knighted by the Prince Regent, the future, King George IV.

I know little of Croke's life after his return to England in 1815, other than he died December 27th, 1843 at "Studley Priory."

In conclusion, I quote Beamish Murdoch:

"That the people of Nova Scotia, of all ranks and origin, have ever set a high value on the principles of justice and freedom, secured to them by British law, admits of no doubt. In Dr. Croke's imagination all this was perverted into a desire for the republican principles of the United States, and he set himself in opposition to nearly every gentleman in the colony, as well as to the representative branch. In his Prize Court, Dr. Croke was absolute, and his salary and emoluments were about treble those of the governor of the colony. It was hard on him to listen to the opinions of other men, who differed from himself; and we see that in his official letters to England, he descended to impute interested motives to the members of assembly as regards their pay, &c., and the provincial law officers of the crown."2

1 Murdoch, vol. 3, p. 319.

2 Vol. 3, p. 294. If more material is needed on Croke, then the DCB might be consulted, the item on Croke was written by Carol Anne Janzen of Kentville, Nova Scotia. Also there is the article, "Sir Alexander Croke," found in Vol #2 in the Collections Nova Scotia Historical Society,(NSHS). And, also, and of course, one should consult Murdoch and Haliburton. And, also, there are a couple of legal publications that have dealt with Sir Alexander Croke: The Judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, Catalogue of and Portraits of, (Halifax: Law Courts, ~1920) and "The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and Its Judges - 1754-1978" (The Nova Scotia Barristers Society, 1978). The work just referred to, and other work on Dr. Croke, can be found listed on one of the most popular site pages, Nova Scotia Books.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)