Powell, Sir John

, an eminent lawyer, and an upright judge, was a native of Gloucester, which city he represented in parliament in 1685. He was called to the coif April 24, 1686, appointed a justice of the common pleas April 21, 1687, at which time he received the honour of knighthood, and was removed to the court of king’s bench April 26 in the following year. He sat hi that court at the memorable trial of the seven bishops, and having declared against the king’s dispensing power, James II. deprived him of his office in July 1688; but William III. placed him again in the common pleas, Oct. 28, 1695, and queen Anne advanced him to the queen’s bench June 18, 1702, where he sat until his death, at Gloucester, on his return from Bath, June 14, 1713, far advanced in life. He was reckoned a sound lawyer, and in private was to the last a man of a cheerful, facetious disposition. Swift, in one of his letters, mentions his meeting with him at Lord Oxford’s, and calls him “an old fellow with grey hairs, who was the merriest old gentleman I ever saw, spoke pleasing things, and chuckled till he cried | again.” In his time the laws against witchcraft being unrepealed, one Jane Wenman was tried before him, and her adversaries swore that she could fly “Prisoner,” said our judge, “can you fly?” “Yes, my lord.” “Well then you may; there is no law against flying.1

1

Noble’s Continuation of Granger. Burnet’s Own Times. Nichols’s Edition of Swift; see Index.