Thomas Andrew Lumisden Strange

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Thomas Andrew Lumisden Strange by Benjamin West [1]
Watercolour "Holy men outside Sir Thomas Strange house." In 1800, Strange became the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Fort St. George (Madras), British India.

Sir Thomas Andrew Lumisden Strange (November 30, 1756 – July 16, 1841) was a chief justice in Nova Scotia, known for waging "judicial war" to free Black Nova Scotian slaves from their owners.[2] From 1789–1797, he was the sixth Chief Justice of Nova Scotia. He became the first Chief Justice of the erstwhile Supreme Court of Madras (which has since become the High Court of Madras) and in that capacity was also the first Chief Justice of the Madras Presidency, British India from 1801 to 1817.

Early life[edit]

Thomas Strange was the son of Sir Robert Strange, a Scottish artist,[3] and his wife Isabella Lumisden.[4] He was born in England, studied law at Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the bar in 1785.

Chief Justice of Nova Scotia[edit]

After practicing law for four years, he was appointed Chief Justice of Nova Scotia in 1790, likely helped by his mother's friendship with Lord Mansfield, a cabinet minister.[4] He was sent to Halifax where he served for seven years until 1797. He found many of the cases had to do with relatively small property claims.

He was instrumental in freeing slaves from their owners in the colony.[4] His successor said that "in cases involving runaway slaves Strange required “the fullest proof of the master’s claim” and that since this was difficult to produce “it was found generally very easy to succeed in favour of the Negro.” Blowers, as attorney general, and Strange frequently discussed how to proceed in such matters, and Strange decided to move slowly rather than “throw so much property as it is called into the air at once.”[4]

Strange supported the development of Kings College from his position on the board of governors. He donated his law library to the lawyers in Nova Scotia, which laid the foundation for the present library of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society. Benjamin West painted Strange's full-length portrait, which hangs in the Nova Scotia court.

Assigned to British India[edit]

He moved back to England in July 1796. Strange was knighted on 14 March 1798 and the same year was appointed as Recorder of Fort St. George (Madras), British India.[3] In 1800, consequent to the Regulating Act of 1797, the Recorder's Court was superseded by the Supreme Court, and Strange was appointed Chief Justice. He commanded two of the four companies of Madras Militia and played an important role in suppressing the Vellore Mutiny of the soldiers of the East India Company in 1806.[3]

Later years[edit]

After his retirement from service in India in 1817, he returned to England. In 1825 he published the book, Elements of Hindu Law.[3]

A huge portrait of Sir Thomas Strange adorns the gallery of the Chief Justice's Court in the Madras High Court.

He died at Kempshot Rd, Lower Streatham on 3 September 1884 and was buried in West Norwood Cemetery.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The portrait is now at the National Gallery of Scotland. According to Thomas Akins, this portrait hung in the legislature of Province House (Nova Scotia) in 1847 (See Akins, History of Halifax, p. 189).
  2. ^ Robin Winks. Blacks In Canada, p. 102
  3. ^ a b c d Notes on painting, "Holy men outside Sir Thomas Strange House, British Library.
  4. ^ a b c d Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

External links[edit]