ROBINSON, Sir Thomas (1695-1770), of Newby, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 24 Apr. 1695, 4th s. of Sir William Robinson, 1st Bt., M.P., of Newby by Anne, da. of George Aislabie of Studley Royal, Yorks. educ. Westminster; Trinity, Camb. 1712, fellow 1718; M. Temple 1723. m. 13 July 1737, Frances, da. of Thomas Worsley of Hovingham, Yorks., 2s. 6da. suc. fa. 22 Dec. 1736; cr. K.B. 26 June 1742; cr. Baron Grantham 7 Apr. 1761.
Sec. Paris embassy 1724-30; minister at Vienna 1730-48; jt. plenipotentiary Aix-la-Chapelle 1748; ld. of Trade 1748-9; master of the great wardrobe 1749-54; 1755-61; P.C. 29 Mar. 1750; sec. of state, southern dept. Mar. 1754-Nov. 1755; jt. postmaster gen. 1765-6.
Robinson was returned in 1754 as Treasury candidate for Christchurch. A quiet, unambitious man, he was a great favourite of the Duke of Newcastle who, on Pelham’s death, appointed him to be secretary of state and leader of the House of Commons. The Duke ‘may as well send his jackboot to govern us’,1 Pitt said to Fox; and on the opening of the new Parliament they both combined to make Robinson’s position impossible.
Sir Thomas [Waldegrave writes2] though a good secretary of state, as far as the business of his office and that which related to foreign affairs, was ignorant even of the language of an House of Commons controversy; and when he played the orator, which he too frequently attempted, it was so exceedingly ridiculous that those who loved and esteemed him could not always preserve a friendly composure of countenance.
For the rest of the session he remained nominally at the head of the House of Commons, but before the next thankfully gave up his place to Fox and returned to his old office, with a pension of £2,000 p.a. on Ireland for 31 years.
On George III’s accession a dispute over the new King’s household was settled by giving Robinson’s post to one of the disputants and compensating him with a peerage. After Newcastle’s fall he remained faithful to his old chief and was made joint postmaster general in the Rockingham Administration. On the formation of the Chatham Administration he lost his post, but was partially compensated by the appointment of his son to the Board of Trade.
He died 30 Sept. 1770,
an instance [writes Henry Fox3] of men to whom fortune has been constant. By mere chance made secretary of state: by mere chance brought out of it with a pension, which his family wanted, and greater than he could have hoped or indeed did ask for: by mere chance made a peer ... He wanted all this luck; for he was a very dull man, and, from a great peculiarity of voice, gesture, diction, worse than a bad speaker, much worse than a silent man in Parliament. I should not do him justice if I did not mention (though it had no hand in his preferment, nor was the work of chance, but of nature and of principle) that he was a very honest and a very good-natured man.