RICKARDS, Robert (1769-1836), of Sloane Street, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Mar. 1769, 2nd s. of Rev. Robert Rickards, vicar of Llantrisant, Glam. by Hester née Hawker of Dudbridge, Glos. m. 23 July 1806, Sarah Barbara, da. of Maj. John Samuel Torriano of Bombay, div. w. of William Simpson, 1s. 4da.
Writer, E.I. Co. (Bombay) 1789, factor 1795, jun. merchant and sec. to gov. 1797, sen. merchant 1805; home 1807; member of council, Bombay 1808-11.
Inspector of factories Sept. 1833-d.
Rickards, who was of Radnorshire stock, proceeded to India at the age of 16. He distinguished himself in the East India Company service and, on his return there after a period in England on furlough, became one of the three members of the council at Bombay. An advocate of the cause of the native population against company maladministration who urged an experimental reform in the revenue system, he was recalled by the directors in 1811. He was a partner in the East Indian mercantile firm of Rickards, Mackintosh & Co. in the Bombay trade.1
On his departure from Bombay, Rickards was fêted by his Indian admirers and became a spirited critic of the East India Company at home. In 1813 he purchased a borough seat on the interest of Joseph Pitt*, with the sole intention of assailing the renewal of the Company’s charter in Parliament that session. Named to the select committee on Indian affairs, on 2 and 14 June 1813 he made two set speeches (afterwards corrected and published)2 against the Company’s commercial monopoly, claiming that its abolition was a prerequisite to improving native welfare and that as a commercial venture, let alone as a political and administrative one, the Company’s pretensions were bogus. These indictments made the Company directors peevish and uncomfortable; and even George Tierney*, the opposition spokesman, went out of his way to dissociate Lord Grenville from Rickards’s views under the impression that Grenville was being held to sanction them. A third speech promised by Rickards against the third reading of the company charter bill on 1 July 1813 never materialized, though he voted consistently against the Christian missions to India. On 5 July the Marquess of Bute introduced him to Lord Grenville: ‘He is recently come into Parliament, has made a figure, and is a great admirer of yours, which makes him very desirous of being known to you’.3 The outcome of this is not known, but Rickards, whom the Treasury had originally listed as a supporter, remained a dissident, if a silent one. He had voted for Catholic relief, 24 May 1813. He was in the minority against Lord Cochrane’s expulsion, 5 July, and voted against the continuation of the militia in peacetime, 28 Nov. 1814. On 28 Apr. 1815 he obtained leave for illness and, after voting twice in the minority critical of the continental alliances, 9 Feb. 1816, took extended leaves of absence for ill health. In June 1816 he vacated his seat.
Rickards published a two-volume study of the condition of the Indian natives in 1829. On the failure of his business in 1833, he was appointed a government inspector of factories in Yorkshire and Lancashire. He died 30 June 1836.4