ROBINSON, George Abercrombie (1758-1832), of Batts House, Trull, Som.
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Family and Education
b. 29 Mar. 1758, s. of John Robinson of Calcutta by 2nd w. Margaret, da. of George Leslie of Kincraigie, Perth. m. 27 Mar. 1794, at Calcutta, Margaret Southwell, illegit. da. of Thomas Howard†, 14th Earl of Suffolk, 7s. 1da. cr. Bt. 11 Nov. 1823.
Cadet E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1779, ensign 1779, lt. 1781; commissary gen. 1786; a.d.c. to Ld. Cornwallis (gov.-gen.) 1788; head asst. military auditor-gen.’s office 1788-92; garrison storekeeper, Fort William and sec. to military board; capt. 1798; military auditor-gen. 1798; ret. 1802; priv. sec. to Cornwallis (gov.-gen.) July-Oct. 1805.
Dir. E.I. Co. 1808-29, dep. chairman 1819-20, 1825-6, chairman 1820-1, 1826-7; dir. Globe Insurance Co.
Lord Cornwallis formed a high opinion of Robinson’s ability and industry during his first period as governor-general of Bengal. According to Hickey, it was with ‘a very independent fortune’ that Robinson went to England in 1802; but in January 1805 Cornwallis, having been reappointed governor-general, ‘understood that he is pinched in his circumstances’ and therefore asked Robinson, ‘in every respect the fittest person’, to accompany him as private secretary, even though he was ‘attached to his family’, had ‘other views’ and perhaps ‘would not willingly return to India’. Robinson accepted the appointment, but he left India for good after Cornwallis’s death there later in the year.1
He benefited from a family friendship with Canning, who in 1807 recommended him to his fellow ministers for the next vacancy in the court of directors of the East India Company.2 He was elected the following year. In September 1812 Canning received an overture from the venal borough of Honiton to name a candidate for the forthcoming general election. When he failed to hear from his first choice William Sturges Bourne*, he thought of Robinson, who was returned unopposed for ‘not more than £1,500’.3
He was listed among Members expected to support government, but Rose told Arbuthnot, 8 Nov. 1812, of his suspicion that Robinson was ‘attached to Mr Canning’.4 So he proved to be, voting with Canning against the gold coin bill, 11 and 14 Dec. 1812, and the vice-chancellor bill, 11 Feb., and for the amendments to the sinecure bill, 29 Mar. 1813. He voted for Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May, and for a civil list inquiry, 27 May 1813. On 22 Mar. 1813 he predicted the ruin of native Indian traders if ships licensed in Britain were permitted to engage in the coastal trade. He spoke in favour of a limited opening of East Indian trade, 31 May and 3 June, but supported Baring’s restrictive amendment, 16 June, and objected to the commercial fund being subject to appropriation by the Board of Control, 2 July. He opposed the encouragement of Christian missionary activity in India and on this score moved an amendment, which was defeated by 48 votes to 24, to the preamble of the charter bill, 12 July 1813. On 9 Dec. 1813 he again attacked the freedom given to private vessels to interfere in the Indian coastal trade.
Robinson may have been left in political limbo by Canning’s formal dissolution of his party in July 1813, for in December it was reported, apropos of Honiton, that he had ‘become indifferent to the seat and to the party, and would resign the seat immediately, on being reimbursed the expenses of his election’.5 In the event he retained his seat, but no vote is recorded in his name in 1814 and his only known speech in that year was a minor affair on the Indian army estimates, 21 Nov. In 1815 he voted against the corn bill, 3 and 10 Mar., for a civil list inquiry, 14 Apr., for receipt of the City petition, 1 May, and against the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment, 29, 30 June, 3 July. He was apparently inactive in 1816, but the following year, with Canning at the Board of Control, he began to support government, voting with them on the composition of the finance committee, 7 Feb., against Admiralty economies, 17 and 25 Feb. 1817, and in defence of repression and the domestic spy system, 10, 11 Feb., 5 Mar. 1818. His only known hostile votes after 1815 were on the Duke of Clarence’s marriage allowance, 15 Apr., and the scope of the proposed inquiry into bank-note forgeries, 14 May 1818. He voted for Catholic relief, 9 May 1817.
Robinson retired from Parliament at the dissolution of 1818. In 1821 he was described as Canning’s ‘instrument’ at East India house and two years later he applied successfully to Lord Liverpool for a baronetcy.6 He died 13 Feb. 1832.