Croke was born in Aylesbury, England, to a wealthy family and attended Oriel College, Oxford, where he earned the degree of Doctor of Civil Law. Practicing maritime law, he earned a strong enough reputation for his work that in 1801 he was offered his choice of appointments to the newly established vice-admiralty courts in Nova Scotia or the West Indies.
Croke's bench in Nova Scotia had considerable jurisdiction; over all maritime cases in a colony based largely on fishing and where smuggling was commonplace. Since the population and the Assembly was highly sympathetic to smuggling, the court, which denied jury trials to the accused was unpopular. During the War of 1812, the ever-conservative Croke even found guilty merchants who had been granted licences by colonial authorities to engage in the slave trade with New England, on the grounds that he could not support an illegal policy.
As the highest-ranking justice, Croke administered the colony while the lieutenant governor was away, from 6 Dec. 1808 to 15 April 1809 and again from 25 August to 16 Oct. 1811. His administration was marked with conflict with the Assembly, whose budget he vetoed.
Croke influenced the development of educational institutions in Nova Scotia. He was on the first board of King's College and was primarily responsible for drafting its statutes, which required students to subscribe to the Anglican faith (as only a quarter of Nova Scotians did). When a strong movement to establish inter-denominational education appeared a few years later, Croke was among its most vocal opponents.
Croke published works of satirical poetry (which exacerbated his unpopularity in certain circles), a book on the genealogy of his family, and many letters.
He left Nova Scotia in 1815 and was knighted on July 5, 1816. He died in 1842 at his family home Studley Priory, Oxfordshire.
- Carol Anne Janzen, Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, 2000
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