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Strange, Thomas Andrew Lumisden (DNB00)


STRANGE, Sir THOMAS ANDREW LUMISDEN (1756–1841), Indian jurist, second son of Sir Robert Strange [q. v.], was born on 30 Nov. 1756, and was admitted to a king's scholarship at Westminster in 1770. He was elected to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1774, matriculating on 1 June, and graduated B.A. in 1778, and M.A. in 1782. At both school and college his chief competitor was Charles Abbot (afterwards first Lord Colchester) [q. v.] Adopting a legal career, he entered Lincoln's Inn in 1776, and as a law student received much friendly help from his mother's friend, Lord Mansfield. He was called to the bar in 1785, and in 1789 was appointed chief justice of Nova Scotia.

In 1798 he was placed in a position requiring exceptional tact and firmness. The administration of justice at Madras by the court of the mayor and aldermen was notoriously corrupt, and Strange was sent out as recorder and president of the court. Before leaving England he was knighted on 14 March 1798. Arrived in Madras, he met with much factious opposition, which he overcame by arranging (as at the Old Bailey) that only one representative of the aldermen should sit with him.

In 1800, owing to the growth in extent and wealth of the presidency, a supreme court of three judges was established by charter dated 26 Dec., with Strange as chief justice. In 1801, under the apprehension of a French attack from Egypt, two volunteer battalions were organised, one commanded by the governor, Lord Clive, the other by the chief justice. Strange drilled his men regularly each morning before his court met. In 1809 a mutiny of the company's officers, originating in the abolition of certain privileges, called out all his energies. The disaffected had many sympathisers in civilian society. Sir Thomas delivered a charge to the grand jury explaining the criminality of the officers, and their responsibility for any bloodshed that might occur. His action had a wholesome effect, and both the governor, Sir George Hilaro Barlow [q. v.], and subsequently Lord Minto, recommended Strange to the home government for a baronetcy; but, apparently owing to a change of government on Mr. Perceval's death, the recommendation was not carried out. In 1816 Strange completed, and printed at Madras for the use of his court, a selection of ‘Notes of Cases’ decided during his administration of the recorder's and of the supreme court, prefaced by a history of the two successive judicatures.

Strange resigned his post on 7 June 1817, and returned to England. In 1818 he was created D.C.L. at Oxford. For some years he devoted his leisure to the completion of his ‘Elements of Hindu Law.’ The work was first published in London in 1825 (2 vols. 8vo). The only native authorities on the old text-books were commentaries and digests, mostly of no great authority, of only local validity, or otherwise irrelevant. Doubtful points had accordingly been habitually referred to native pundits. Many of their replies, which Sir Thomas had diligently collected, he recorded in his great book in a form available for reference, with comments on them throughout by such authorities as Colebrooke and Ellis. A fourth edition of the ‘Elements’ was published in 1864 with an introduction by John Dawson Mayne testifying to the great value of Strange's work. For many years it remained the great authority on Hindu law.

Strange died at St. Leonard's on 16 July 1841. His portrait was painted for Halifax, Nova Scotia, by Benjamin West, and for Madras by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Subsequently a portrait by Sir Martin Archer Shee was placed in the hall at Christ Church, Oxford.

Sir Thomas married, first, Cecilia, daughter of Sir Robert Anstruther, bart., of Balcaskie; and secondly, Louisa, daughter of Sir William Burroughs, bart., by whom he left a numerous family; his eldest son was Thomas Lumisden Strange [q. v.] Another son, James Newburgh Strange, born on 2 Oct. 1812, became an admiral on 9 Jan. 1880. His fifth son, Alexander Strange, is separately noticed.

[Welch's Alumni Westmonast. p. 400; Annual Register, 1841; Barker and Stenning's Register of Westminster School, p. 221; The Elizabethan, vii. 14; Higginbotham's Men whom India has known; manuscript autobiography of Sir T. Strange and other private information.]

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