WILMOT, Robert John (1784-1841), of Osmaston, Derbys.
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Family and Education
b. 21 Dec. 1784, o.s. of Sir Robert Wilmot, 2nd Bt., of Osmaston by 1st w. Juliana Elizabeth, da. of Adm. John Byron, wid. of Hon. William Byron†. educ. Eton 1802; Christ Church, Oxf. 1803. m. 1 Sept. 1806, Anne Beatrix, da. and coh. of Eusebius Horton of Catton, 4s. 3da. Took additional name of Horton by royal lic. 8 May 1823 under the will of his father-in-law; kntd. 8 June 1831; GCH 22 June 1831; suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 23 July 1834.
Under-sec. of state for War and Colonies Dec. 1821-Jan. 1828; PC 23 May 1827; gov. and c.-in-c. Ceylon 1831-7.
Capt. Staffs. militia 1805.
Wilmot, a founder member of Grillion’s Club in 1812, was narrowly defeated when he contested Newcastle-under-Lyme on a vacancy in 1815. Ostensibly independent, he was covertly supported by the 2nd Marquess of Stafford and by the corporation. Between 1815 and 1818 he and his friends contrived, chiefly through the creation of new freemen, to ensure his success at the general election. He himself spent more than 6,000 guineas in the contest and on that score his anxieties continued, putting his ‘intarissable gaiety and good humour’ to the test.1
Edward John Littleton wrote of him, 22 Feb. 1819:
Wilmot has great attainments, much quickness and fluency in conversation, many faults such as indecision-unsteadiness of principle, and levity—and many disadvantages-in his family and pecuniary affairs—but of an immense ambition; which I think may ultimately connect him with parties of power in the country.
Such characteristics had led him into the company of John William Ward, with whom he travelled on the Continent in 1816.2 On 23 Jan. 1819 he joined White’s Club. He was anxious to contribute to debate and made his debut in defence of the grant to the Duke of York in the Windsor establishment, 22 Feb. 1819. He stated that he ‘belonged to no party’ and his speech ‘gave promise ... of much talent for debate’. He had apparently voted with the minority critical of transportation of convicts on 18 Feb.3 On 2 Mar. he supported Mackintosh’s motion for a committee on criminal law, ‘but the low tone in which he spoke, prevented our hearing distinctly the grounds either of his approbation or disapprobation’, claimed the reporters. He was speaking from the ministerial side. His only other minority vote in that Parliament was presumably in support of Catholic relief, as he invariably favoured it. He voted with the majority on the question of Wyndham Quin*, 29 Mar., and against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May. On 25 May he advocated the resumption of cash payments by the Bank. On 1 July he opposed Burdett’s reform motion (against which he was teller): ‘with respect to the sufferings of the people, remedies might be found for them: and probably the wisdom of that House would provide suitable remedies, but he did not connect it with reform’. (For this, he ‘got a good dressing from Burdett’.4) Poor Law reform, emigration and the education of the labouring classes in political economy were remedies he advocated then and subsequently.5
Wilmot defended the seditious meetings bill, 2 Dec. 1819, and the newspaper stamp duties bill, 20 Dec., at some length and remained in town as late as 23 Dec. to support measures against sedition. In 1821 he obtained office and became an indefatigable publicist and colonial administrator. His cousin Lord Byron wrote of Mrs Wilmot:
She walks in beauty like the night, but of Wilmot:
From Canning the tall wit
To Wilmot, the small wit, Ward’s creeping companion and louse, louse. Who’s so damnably bit With fashion and wit That he crawls on the surface like vermin, But an insect in both—By his intellect’s growth Of what size you may quickly determine.6
He died 31 May 1841.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. See NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME; Add. 40370, f. 293; Letters of Countess Granville, i. 165.
- 2. Staffs. RO, Hatherton diary; Ward, Letters to Bishop of Llandaff, 153.
- 3. Hatherton diary, 23 Jan., 23 Feb.; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss, Agar Ellis to Sneyd, 31 Jan. 1819; Buckingham, Regency, ii. 315.
- 4. Add. 56540, f. 85.
- 5. DNB.
- 6. Works, iii. 383; vii. 54.