MONCKTON, Hon. Robert (1726-82).
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Family and Education
b. 24 June 1726, 2nd surv. s. of John, 1st Visct. Galway [I], by his 1st w. Lady Elizabeth Manners, da. of John, 2nd Duke of Rutland; bro. of William, 2nd Visct. and half-bro. of Hon. Edward Monckton. educ. Westminster 1737. unm., 3s. 1da.
Ensign 3 Ft. Gds. 1741; capt. 34 Ft. 1744, maj. 1747; lt.-col. 47 Ft. 1751; col. 1757; col. commandant 60 Ft. 1757-9; col. 17 Ft. 1759- d.; maj.-gen. 1761; lt-gen. 1770.
Lt.-gov. Nova Scotia 1755-61; gov. New York 1761-5, Berwick-on-Tweed 1765-78, Portsmouth 1778- d.
Monckton was twice returned for the family borough of Pontefract, but only as a stop-gap; and seems to have had little interest in Parliament. He fought at Dettingen and Fontenoy, and 1752-63 served in America. In 1755 he captured the important French fort of Beauséjour, and in 1759 was second-in-command to Wolfe at the taking of Quebec. In 1762 he commanded the expedition against Martinique and other West Indian islands. ‘He is a hero in all the forms,’ wrote Horace Walpole to Mann, 22 Mar. 1762, ‘eager to engage, and bold to perform. This conquest is entirely owing to his bravery, to his grenadiers, and his sailors.’ He seems to have been a popular commander, and after his death the Gentleman’s Magazine published (1782, p. 576) an account of the generosity he had shown to his subalterns at the taking of Martinique. In 1764 Colin Campbell, major commandant of the 100th Foot, preferred a number of charges against Monckton for his conduct at Martinique; but Monckton was honourably acquitted by court martial, and the charges declared ‘groundless, malicious, and scandalous’.1
Between 1767 and 1769 Monckton was associated with Lauchlin Macleane’s speculations in East India stock, and presumably lost heavily as a result. In 1769 he volunteered, with the King’s permission, to command the East India Company’s troops, but this was declined; next, he was considered for the triumvirate of supervisors to be sent to India, but was again passed over. When in 1772 the plan of sending out supervisors was revived, Monckton accepted the Company’s invitation; but the scheme was ended by Government intervention.2
When in 1773 the East India regulating bill was being debated in the Commons, Monckton asked to be appointed commander-in-chief in India and second in council in Bengal. This disconcerted the King and North, who had determined to appoint General Clavering but had no wish to offend Monckton and were prepared to offer him an equivalent. On 8 June 1773 North wrote to the King:
Lord North when he saw Lt.-Gen. Monckton found him much hurt, and complaining that if he should not be sent to India he should be disgraced and unable to show his head. Lord North mentioned to him his Majesty[’s] gracious intention of conferring upon him the command of the troops in North America upon the first vacancy, but the General did not appear to him desirous of that appointment but eager to go to India.
‘I am clear from this’, replied the King, ‘that he is instigated by others to act as he does, not by his own feelings which have ever made him accommodating’3 Monckton petitioned the House of Commons to be named commander-in-chief; and a motion for his appointment, sponsored by the Opposition, was defeated. Yet it does not appear that he had any dealings with the Opposition, or any desire to embarrass the Government politically.
North, sympathetic towards Monckton’s ‘disappointment and distress’, suggested to the King ‘making him such an offer as would afford him a compensation from what he might reasonably have expected from his India commission, such a pension for the life of himself and two of his children, as would, when sold at a market price, produce 12 or £15,000’. The King, though ‘not wanting in compassion for the imprudence of that good natured man, and very ready to give him any reasonable assistance’, objected to a pension; and suggested instead ‘a grant of some of the unsold lands in the ceded islands’. Meanwhile the East India Company nominated Monckton to be commander-in-chief, which Monckton now declined—‘a fresh proof of the good intentions of the General’, wrote North to the King, 13 June 1773, ‘and of his desire of showing attention to his Majesty’s wishes upon all occasions’.4 Monckton received a grant of land in St. Vincent.5
In 1778 he was returned for Portsmouth on the Admiralty interest; and in each of the six recorded divisions March 1779-April 1780 voted with Administration. In the contest of 1780 Monckton was returned head of the poll. He was absent through illness from the divisions of December 1781-March 1782, and died 21 May 1782. He seems never to have spoken in the House.