ROBARTS, Abraham (1745-1816), of Finsbury Square, Moorfields, London and North End, Hampstead, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 27 Sept. 1745, s. of Capt. Abraham Robarts of Stepney, Mdx. by Elizabeth, da. and h. of Samuel Wildey of Stepney. m. 16 June 1774, Sabine, da. of Thomas Tierney, sis. of George Tierney*, 4s. 5da.
Dir. Royal Exchange Assurance 1781, E.I. Co. 1786-1815.
Commr. of lieutenancy, London; lt.-col. 2 R.E.I. vols. 1796.
Robarts, a West India factor and East India Company director, became in 1792 a partner with William Curtis* in the London bank of Robarts, Curtis, Were, Hornyold and Berwick of Cornhill, later of Lombard Street.1 In 1784 he had unsuccessfully contested Wootton Bassett with his brother-in-law George Tierney. He signed the London merchants’ loyal declaration in 1795. His partnership in Lechmere’s bank at Worcester led to his unopposed return there in 1796, in succession to his local partner Edmund Lechmere, who was hard up. He was then described as ‘the fortunate loan contractor’, having been in Walter Boyd’s* consortium since 1794. He held the seat for life, despite contests in 1802, 1806 and 1812. His firm subscribed £30,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797. He gave a silent support to Pitt, for whose triple tax assessment he voted, 4 Jan. 1798, in defiance of instructions from his constituents.2 His only known minority vote in that Parliament was for the continuation of the prohibition on distilling from corn, 14 Dec. 1801. He is not known to have opposed Addington’s ministry. On Pitt’s return to power he was listed ‘Prince’—this suggests that he was thought to be linked with George Tierney. He opposed Pitt’s additional force bill in June and was listed ‘doubtful Addington’ in September. After voting for the censure of Melville on 8 Apr., he was listed ‘doubtful Sidmouth’ in July 1805.
In March 1806 a consortium of which Robarts was a member secured the government loan contract, though not in the following year. On 15 May 1806 Lord Lauderdale informed the premier Lord Grenville that Robarts had ‘repeatedly expressed’ to Tierney ‘his doubts whether government was sincere’. The solution was evidently an interview with Grenville.3 He was in the minority on Indian affairs, 21 Apr. 1806, but supported the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act on 30 Apr. and did not otherwise oppose the ministry. He was listed among the ‘staunch friends’ of the abolition of the slave trade and voted for Brand’s motion against the new administration, 9 Apr. 1807. At the dissolution he offered his constituents a steam engine to convey their water from the Severn.4 He appeared in no further minority list until 25 Apr. 1809 when he voted for inquiry into charges of ministerial corruption. He voted with ministers on the address, 23 Jan. 1810, with opposition on Lord Chatham’s conduct, 5 Mar., but with ministers on the conclusion of the Scheldt inquiry, 30 Mar. The Whigs listed him ‘Government’. On 21 May 1810 he presented his constituents’ petition for parliamentary reform and tactfully voted for it, on Brand’s motion, that day. He joined opposition on the Regency questions of 1 and 21 Jan. 1811 and again in the majority against McMahon’s sinecure, 24 Feb. 1812. His vote against the leather tax, 1 July 1812, was calculated to satisfy his constituents.
Heading the poll in his last election in 1812, Robarts was listed ‘hopeful’ by the Treasury. George Rose had entered a caveat about him and his colleague Gordon, ‘the statement of their being pro is too sanguine unless there has been any late explanation’.5 But no vote of Robarts’s survives from the ensuing Parliament. He was neutral on Catholic relief and on 24 May 1813 took six weeks’ sick leave. On 19 May 1815 he took a month’s sick leave and on 28 Feb. 1816 six weeks, on account of severe illness. He died 26 Nov. 1816, worth half a million. He remembered the Tierney family handsomely in his will.6 Three of his sons entered the House within the next four years; unlike him they were attached to Tierney’s political line—but Tierney was by then leader of the Whig opposition.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: Lawrence Taylor
- 1. Hilton Price, London Bankers, 143.
- 2. Salopian Jnl. 3 Feb. 1796; Morning Chron. 26 Dec. 1797.
- 3. Farington, iii. 173; Colchester, ii. 95; Fortescue mss, Lauderdale to Grenville, 15, 17 May 1806.
- 4. Bristol Jnl. 2 May 1807.
- 5. T.64/261, Rose to ?Arbuthnot, 8 Nov. 1812.
- 6. Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 4 Dec. 1816; PCC 636 Wynne.