ROBINSON, Sir George, 6th bt. (1766-1833), of Cranford, Northants.; Stretton Hall, Leics., and 34 South Street, Grosvenor Square, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1820 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 12 Jan. 1766,1 1st. s. of Sir George Robinson†, 5th bt., of Cranford and Dorothea, da. of John Chester of Covent Garden, Mdx. educ. Harrow 1775-9; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1783; M. Temple 1785. unm. suc. fa. as 6th bt. 10 Oct. 1815. d. 23 Nov. 1833.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Leics. 1818-19.

Biography

Robinson’s father had inherited substantial estates in Northamptonshire and sat for Northampton as a Whig on his own interest, 1774-80. Robinson, who shared his politics and joined Brooks’s, sponsored by the duke of Devonshire, 21 July 1806, sought to emulate him after succeeding him in 1815. That year the Whig William Hanbury, one of the sitting Members for Northampton, announced that he would not stand again. Rumours of a dissolution next year prompted Robinson, who had received an assurance from Hanbury that he would not oppose him, to canvass. Nothing came of this, but at the 1818 general election he came forward, having started an early campaign. After a 13-day poll against two ministerial candidates he was narrowly defeated, finishing 27 votes behind his nearest rival. His petition against the return was unsuccessful.2 At the 1820 general election he offered again for Northampton against two ministerialists. On 13 Feb. 1820 Lord Althorp* informed his father Earl Spencer that he had ‘very little doubt [Robinson] will be beaten again’, but five days later reported that the other candidates had ‘quarrelled’, so that ‘Robinson is likely to come in at last’ as ‘they both split their votes upon him’. He topped the poll.3 An assiduous but mostly silent attender, Robinson was rarely out of the division lists and voted with the Whig opposition to the Liverpool ministry on most issues, including economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation.4 According to an obituary:

So strict was he to his parliamentary duties, that he never missed a single day without remaining to vote, or pairing off with an opponent; and he was even so scrupulous that he would not leave the House for a time without having adopted a similar precaution.5

He divided for Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He voted for making Leeds a scot and lot borough if it got Grampound’s seats, 2 Mar., when he presented a Northamptonshire petition complaining of agricultural distress.6 He attended the City dinner for parliamentary reform, 4 Apr., and on the 17th presented and endorsed a Northampton reform petition, declaring that ‘every proposal for retrenchment had been negatived, and every ministerial job ... had been supported’ by government, while ‘the profusion of ministers had increased with the poverty of the country’.7 He voted for reform, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 27 Apr. 1826, in protest against the influence of placemen, 31 May 1821, for inquiry into the Scottish royal burghs, 20 Feb. 1822, for reform of the representation of Scotland, 2 June 1823, and Edinburgh, 26 Feb. 1824, 13 Apr. 1826, and to exclude non-resident voters from the Irish borough franchise, 9 Mar. 1826. He presented Northampton petitions for repeal of the leather tax, 30 May 1822, 30 Apr. 1823, 23 Feb. 1824, and against the poor removal bill, 31 May 1822.8 He was a minority teller to hear counsel on the equitable loan bank bill, 26 May 1824. He presented a Wellingborough petition supporting the county courts bill, 7 Mar. 1825.9 At a Northampton meeting for reform of the corn laws, 21 Feb. 1826, he argued that there was ‘nothing more detrimental than the fluctuating prices of agricultural produce’ and that they ought to be ‘placed on a more steady and regular footing’.10 He presented the meeting’s petition, 18 Apr., and voted for a review of the laws that day.11 He presented petitions for the abolition of slavery, 28 Feb., and against the duties on East Indian sugar, 1 Mar. 1826.12

At the 1826 general election Robinson offered again for Northampton. After a violent contest against a Tory and a Whig convert, both of whom, according to Althorp, sought his assistance and feared ‘his joining the other’, he topped the poll, claiming that his victory was clear proof that his constituents were ‘friends to the cause of toleration and religious liberty’.13 On 21 Feb. 1827 he endorsed a petition protesting at the £1,000 spent by Northampton corporation supporting a rival candidate. He presented a Northampton petition for Catholic claims, observing that it was the first from the town, 2 Mar.14 He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and for information on the Lisburn Orange procession, 29 Mar. On 6 June he presented multiple petitions from Northamptonshire for repeal of the Test Acts and stated that ‘the majority of the Protestant Dissenters among his constituents were favourable to Catholic emancipation’. This prompted a response from John Jones, who denied that a majority of Dissenters approved of relief, to which Robinson replied that he had misheard and that he had been referring to his own constituents. After a few more exchanges the Speaker intervened, and although Robinson apologized ‘for any use of expressions of a strong nature’, he insisted that Jones had misconstrued his meaning.15 He presented more petitions from Northamptonshire Dissenters for repeal of the Test Acts, 7, 11 June.16 He divided for a 50s. rather than 60s. protecting duty on corn, 9 Mar. He voted for the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. He divided to postpone the committee of supply, 30 Mar., and for inquiries into the Irish estimates and chancery delays, 5 Apr. He voted to disfranchise Penryn and for the election expenses bill, 28 May 1827.

He presented Northamptonshire petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 21 Feb., and voted accordingly, 26 Feb. 1828. He presented a constituency petition for religious toleration, 28 Apr., noting that it was signed by five Protestant Dissenting ministers. He presented another from Northampton’s Unitarians for Catholic relief, 12 May, when he voted for that measure. He divided against throwing East Retford’s franchise into its hundred, 21 Mar. He voted for a pivot price of 60s. rather than 64s. for corn imports, 22 Apr., and for a gradual reduction in duty to 10s., 29 Apr. He voted for the Irish assessment of lessors bill, 12 June, against the appointment of a registrar to the archbishop of Canterbury, 16 June, in protest at the use of public money to renovate Buckingham House, 23 June, and against the additional churches bill, 30 June. He divided to reduce the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July, against the grant for North American fortifications, 7 July, and for the corporate funds bill, 10 July. He presented Northamptonshire petitions for the abolition of slavery, 8 July 1828. He presented petitions from Northampton’s Baptists and Unitarians for Catholic emancipation, 12 Feb., 3 Mar., and voted thus, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. He divided for Daniel O’Connell to be allowed to take his seat unhindered, 18 May. His only other recorded votes of 1829 were for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May, against the grant for the marble arch, 25 May, and to reduce the hemp duties, 1 June. He presented a constituency petition for repeal of the corn laws and greater economies in government expenditure, 28 May 1829.

Robinson resumed voting with his usual assiduity during the 1830 session, though he did not vote for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on the distressed condition of the country, 4 Feb. 1830. That month he contributed £35 to relieve the poor in his constituency.17 He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., 5 Mar. (as a pair), 15 Mar. He divided for Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform scheme, 18 Feb., the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and Lord John Russell’s reform motion, 28 May. He voted for tax cuts, 15 Feb., and military reductions, 19 Feb., 1 Mar., and divided steadily with the revived opposition for economy and retrenchment thereafter. He was in the minorities for referring the Newark petition accusing the duke of Newcastle of electoral malpractice to a select committee, 1 Mar., and for information on the interference of British troops in the internal affairs of Portugal, 10 Mar. He voted for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He divided for alteration of the Irish Vestry Act, 27 Apr., abolition of the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May, and proper use of Irish first fruits, 18 May. He voted for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, 7 June 1830.

At the 1830 general election Robinson offered again for Northampton, citing his support for economy and retrenchment, Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform, and regretting the failure to abolish colonial slavery. After another fierce contest he topped the poll.18 He presented anti-slavery petitions from Northampton’s Baptists and Unitarians, 5, 10 Nov. 1830. He was listed by the Wellington ministry as one of their ‘foes’ and he voted against them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. On 6 Dec. he attended the Whig dinner to celebrate Althorp’s re-election for Northamptonshire after his appointment as chancellor of the exchequer in the Grey administration.19 He presented a constituency petition for repeal of the assessed taxes and a reduction in official salaries, 15 Dec. 1830, when he welcomed Althorp’s stated intention to make economies and hoped that they would be ‘effectual for the relief of the country’. He presented a Northampton petition supporting the ministry’s anticipated reform bill, 14 Feb. 1831. Presenting another, 26 Feb., he explained that many of those who had signed the first ‘were not satisfied with its prayer’ and had got up a second, calling, among other things, for the introduction of vote by ballot, shorter parliaments, and an extension of the suffrage. Writing to the chairman of the meeting that had produced it, 28 Feb., he declared, ‘Till I hear the plan proposed, and the debate tomorrow, I do not wish to pledge myself to any particular enactment, but I feel very much inclined at present to support election by ballot’.20 Asked by the mayor to present a petition for the ministerial bill, Robinson replied, 16 Mar., ‘I am much rejoiced to see the general satisfaction this great measure gives, and I hope it will be carried triumphantly’.21 He brought up the petition, 19 Mar., and voted for the second reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar. A Northampton meeting, 28 Mar., unanimously passed a motion approving his votes on the civil list and reform.22 He was unable to attend the county reform meeting, 13 Apr., owing to ‘indisposition’, but in a letter which was read out, stated that he was ‘satisfied of the justice and expediency of the bill, and hoped by his vote on the third reading to assist in carrying it through the House’.23 He divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.

At the ensuing general election Robinson, who had been in poor health for some time, apparently considered retiring but was persuaded by Robert Vernon Smith* to offer again as his pro-reform colleague. On the hustings he made much of the king’s support for the bill, castigated boroughmongers and their nominees, who ‘were always ready to vote for the raising of taxes, for it was on the taxes they lived’, speculated that had reform been achieved earlier ‘Mr. Pitt would not have been permitted to have entered into the last war’, and dismissed fears of a reduction in the number of English Members, insisting that there would still be ‘sufficient numbers left to do the business of the House’. Poor health prevented him attending every day, but he headed the poll throughout. A 15-day scrutiny, carried out at a defeated candidate’s request, did not alter the result, and at the declaration Robinson reproved the ‘rump of the Tory party’, claiming that ‘all their trickery had miserably failed’. A petition against his return was not pursued. He attended the county election dinner to celebrate the triumph of Althorp and Lord Milton, 23 May 1831, when he told the gathering that the ‘court flies that had sucked the blood of the country for so long would be swept away’, denounced Wellington’s failure when prime minister to humble Dom Miguel, and condemned the foreign policy pursued by Lord Aberdeen.24

Robinson voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and gave steady support to its details, though he was in the minority for the total disfranchisement of Aldborough, 14 Sept. 1831. He voted with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He voted for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, again supported its details, and voted for the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided for the motion calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired, 10 May, for the second reading of the Irish measure, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to increase Scottish county representation, 1 June. He was listed as one of the stewards for the Northamptonshire reform dinner, 27 June, and although poor health prevented him attending, he sent a letter rejoicing ‘in the triumph of the cause you meet to celebrate’.25 He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and as a pair, 12, 16 July, and on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. He presented a petition from the freeholders and landed proprietors of Northampton against the general register bill, 7 Feb. He divided against restoring the salary of the Irish registrar to £1,500, 9 Apr. 1832.

In the autumn of 1832 the Northampton Whigs pressed Robinson to stand at the approaching general election. On 10 Nov., however, he notified them that ‘as I have, on account of my health, declined attending any public meeting at Northampton for some time, you will not be surprised at my determining not to undertake the duty of attending the House of Commons in the new Parliament’. At a meeting of the Whig committee, 24 Nov. 1832, a resolution expressing ‘deep regret’ was passed and the chairman described Robinson as ‘the greatest thorn in the flesh of the [Northampton] Tories which they had ever met with’.26 His poor health persisted and he went to Hastings in search of a cure in early November 1833, after which he paid a short visit to his Northamptonshire home, before returning to London. His life was ‘considered in imminent danger’ by 18 Nov. and he died five days later.27 By his will, dated 13 Apr. 1833 and sworn under £16,000, 4 Mar. 1834, he left £2,000 to his younger nephew Henry William Robinson, £250 to his niece Caroline Penelope Robinson, £100 each to the Leicester and Northampton infirmaries and smaller bequests to his great-nephews and nieces. His elder nephew and residuary legatee George Stamp Robinson (1797-1873) succeeded him in the baronetcy.28

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Martin Casey / Philip Salmon

Notes

  • 1. According to Al. Cant. pt. II, vol. 5, p. 328, which states that Harrow Reg., CP and Burke PB erroneously give 1765.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 301-2; J.C. Cox, Recs. Northampton, ii. 509; CJ, lxxiv. 87, 296.
  • 3. Althorp Letters, 101-2.
  • 4. Black Bk. (1823), 190.
  • 5. Gent. Mag. (1834), i. 226.
  • 6. The Times, 3 Mar. 1821.
  • 7. Ibid. 18 Apr. 1821.
  • 8. Ibid. 31 May, 1 June 1822, 1 May 1823, 24 Feb. 1824.
  • 9. Ibid. 8 Mar. 1825.
  • 10. Northampton Mercury, 25 Feb. 1826.
  • 11. The Times, 19 Apr. 1826.
  • 12. Ibid. 1, 2 Mar. 1826.
  • 13. Althorp Letters, 127; Cox, ii. 510; Northampton Mercury, 3, 10, 17, 24 June 1826.
  • 14. The Times, 3 Mar. 1827.
  • 15. Ibid. 7 June 1827.
  • 16. Ibid. 8, 12 June 1827.
  • 17. Northampton Mercury, 13 Feb. 1830.
  • 18. Ibid. 17, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 19. Ibid. 11 Dec. 1830.
  • 2