ROBINSON, George Richard (?1781-1850), of 5 John Street, Adelphi and Dorset Cottage, Fulham, Mdx.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Educationb. ?1781, ?s. of Richard Robinson, surgeon and mayor of Wareham, Dorset. unm. ?1 da. illegit. d. 24 Aug. 1850.
Chairman, Lloyd’s 1834; gov. British American Land Co. 1834; dir. Bank of British North America 1836, Provincial Bank of Ireland 1838.
Robinson’s father was almost certainly Richard, a surgeon and apothecary at Wareham and the town’s mayor, 1806-7, 1810-11, connected ‘by marriage’ with the Garland dynasty of prosperous Newfoundland merchants who dominated the representation and corporation of neighbouring Poole, where Robinson was enrolled as a burgess in August 1804.1 ‘At an early age’ Robinson went into the family’s Newfoundland trade, then headed by Benjamin Lester, Member for Poole, 1790-6, and later by Lester’s son-in-law George Garland, Member for Poole, 1801-6, who was in partnership with his brother Joseph, a London corn merchant, until 1805. Robinson then worked in Joseph’s London office, before going to St. John’s to take control of the Newfoundland operations of Hart, Eppes and Gaden, based at Woolbrook, of which he became a full partner in 1810, when his ‘cousin’ John Bingley Garland, brother of Benjamin Lester Lester, Member for Poole, 1809-35, joined the firm. By 1815 Hart, Garland and Robinson, as the company became after Gaden’s death in 1811, was among the largest in the Newfoundland trade, and on Hart’s retirement in 1822 Robinson became its senior partner. A ship owner and East India proprietor, he remained head of Robinson, Garland and Brooking until his death.2 In 1827 The Times reported hearing from ‘a correspondent on whose veracity we place the greatest reliance’ that Robinson, ‘the newly elected opulent representative for the city of Worcester’, had ‘eloped with Miss M. Read, the beautiful and accomplished daughter of a wealthy merchant residing at Poole’, but no record of a marriage has been found.3
At the 1826 general election Robinson had stood for Worcester as an ‘independent’ entirely ‘unconnected with party’, claiming to have the support of the non-resident freemen of London, Birmingham and elsewhere. After a contest lasting one week he was returned at the head of the poll. At his dinner he declared his ‘approval’ of the Liverpool ministry and eulogised the foreign secretary Canning.4 A regular attender, Robinson campaigned steadily for tariff reforms and on behalf of the shipping interest and the North American colonies, and was a strong advocate of Newfoundland’s claim to a legislative assembly; his business partner John Bingley Garland was elected as the first Speaker of its short-lived House of Assembly in 1832.5 On 5 Dec. 1826 Robinson denounced the ‘fraudulent schemes’ which had been pursued by joint-stock companies. He divided against the Clarences’ grant, claiming to have hitherto ‘usually voted with ministers’, 16 Feb. 1827. He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. He advocated revision of the corn laws, 9, 19 Mar., voted against increased protection for barley, 12 Mar., and demanded that agriculture be placed ‘on the same footing as any other branch of commerce’, 31 Mar. 1827. He voted for inquiries into electoral interference by Leicester corporation, 15 Mar., and the Irish estimates, 5 Apr. 1827. He seconded his colleague Thomas Davies’s successful motion for the appointment of a select committee on polling that day, but disapproved of his bill to limit the duration of polls and provide multiple booths in the next session, fearing that it would ‘abridge the freedom of election’, 21 Feb., and presenting a hostile Worcester petition, 24 Mar. 1828. He was a minority teller against its details, 6 May, when he moved an amendment to extend the poll to ten days in order to accommodate out-voters, and 13 May 1828, when he threatened to ‘take advantage of the forms of the House, to stop ... future progress’. In this he failed. He supported inquiry into the activities of the Devon and Cornwall Mining Company, 9 Apr., 15 May 1827. He voted for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, but against the Coventry magistracy bill, 11 June 1827.
Robinson was in the minority of 15 against the navy estimates, 11 Feb., and ‘highly approved’ of the composition of the finance committee, 12 Feb. 1828. He presented multiple petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 25 Feb., and voted accordingly next day. He secured accounts of government expenses in Newfoundland, 29 Feb., 30 May, and called for a ‘small naval force’ to protect its fishing fleet, 19 May. He argued for hearing evidence on the East Retford disfranchisement bill, 3 Mar., and divided against extending its franchise to Bassetlaw, 21 Mar. He spoke in support of the steamboat passengers regulation bill, 4, 18, 20 Mar. He explained that he was favourable to the ‘principle’ of free trade but utterly opposed to its adoption until ‘something like reciprocity’ had been established with other countries, 1 Apr., and defended the notion of tariff retaliation against the United States, 18 July. On 22 Apr. he spoke and voted for an amendment to reduce the pivot price of corn. He supported repeal of the usury laws, 20 May, and voted thus, 19 June. He recommended the use of private packets in the place of post office steam vessels, 6 June. He called for the unification of Lower and Upper Canada, 16 June, for inquiry into the ‘unjustifiable expenditure’ on military works there, 7, 8 July, and for the interests of the British settlers to be better consulted, 14 July. On 17 June he argued at length for a ‘fair and dispassionate inquiry’ into the shipping interest, ‘the prosperity or adversity of which may one day decide the fate of this country’. He divided to condemn the expense of improving Buckingham House, 23 June. He spoke against the corporate funds bill, 1 July, and voted accordingly, 10 July. He argued for restrictions on savings bank deposits, 3 July 1828.
Robinson secured returns on glove imports, 12 May 1828, 9 Feb. 1829, and endorsed Worcester petitions against foreign competition, 23, 26 June 1828, when he warned of its ‘most detrimental effect on the trade’. He obtained returns on foreign silk imports, 24 June, and spoke and was a majority teller for an amendment to the silk duties that obtained government support, 14 July. A presenter of numerous petitions complaining of distress in that industry during the 1829 session, he deprecated further reductions in the duties, 10 Apr., and seconded the motion for an inquiry, 13 Apr., for which he was a minority teller, 15 Apr. He criticized the silk trade bill, 28 Apr., 4, 7, 8 May, when he protested that government ‘refuse any protection to the manufacturer’ yet ‘give protection to the landed interest’, and was a minority teller against it, 2 May. On 19 Feb. he dissented from a Worcester anti-Catholic petition presented by Lygon, the county Member, and declared his approval of the Wellington ministry’s concession of emancipation and his intention to ‘vote for the ultimate measure’. He was absent from the division of 6 Mar., but divided in its favour, 30 Mar. He refuted assertions that the colonies were ‘a burden to the country’, affirming their ‘essential service’ and ‘material benefit’, 20 Feb. He protested that the impressment of seamen operated ‘most injuriously to the trade of the kingdom’, 27 Feb. He welcomed the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels, which would encourage ‘religion and morality throughout the colonies’, 6 Apr. That day he condemned the Newfoundland fisheries bill and called for inquiry into the ‘state of the island, that we may finally improve the system of its administration’. He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May, and against the grant for the marble arch, 25 May. He advocated inquiries into distress and the state of the shipping interest and secured returns on shipping in Newfoundland, 12 June 1829.
Robinson voted for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address, 4 Feb., and although he declared that he had ‘much confidence in the great skill of ministers’, 8 Feb., he divided steadily with the revived Whig opposition for economy and retrenchment from March 1830. He wanted clarification of the state of trading relations between the United States and the West Indies, 5 Feb., deprecated ‘admitting to a free commerce and trade, those foreign powers whose commercial policy may be hostile to us, and calculated to displace our own capital and manufactures’, 9 Feb., and asked ‘if the principles of free trade are to be acted on, why are they not extended to corn as well as gloves’, 13 May. He continued to campaign for tax reductions, urging repeal of those which ‘press most heavily on the industrious classes’, 2 Mar., 12, 15 Mar., and protesting that ‘scarcely one tax has been removed from the necessities of life, or from the articles which are used by the poor and industrious’, 7 June. He welcomed the four per cent annuities bill but condemned the ‘great public inconvenience’ of stamp duties, 7 Apr., against which he presented and endorsed a Worcester petition, 4 May. He attacked proposals to reduce the duties on French wine to the Portuguese level, claiming that Portugal was a better importer of British goods, 25 Mar. He moved for copies of the instructions sent to the governor of Newfoundland, 29 Mar., and for a select committee on its government (which was defeated by 82-29), 11 May, when he declared that ‘unless a better system is adopted, I, for one, shall advocate the right of the inhabitants of this colony to legislate for themselves’. He again urged the ‘introduction of the representative system’ into ‘some of our colonies’, 24 May. He deplored the ‘constant refusal’ of government to grant inquiry into the shipping interest, 2 Apr., warning that there had been a ‘considerable falling off in the amount of British registered tonnage’ as a result of owners being ‘obliged, in order to obtain a British register, to build their vessels here of expensive materials’ and pay high wages, 6 May. Robinson voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., 5, 15 Mar., and for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester, 23 Feb., called for ‘some measure’ to be carried by which ‘the franchise might be transferred to certain large towns’, 25 Mar., and voted for reform, 28 May. He was a majority teller for the usury laws repeal bill, 27 Apr. He concurred with a Worcester petition presented by Davies in favour of the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 26 Apr., for which he spoke, 13 May, and voted, 24 May, 7 June; he was twice a minority teller against the Lords’ amendments to it, 20 July. He presented a Worcester petition against the insolvent debtors bill and urged the adoption of a more ‘efficacious measure’, 11 May. He voted for Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He argued and was a minority teller against Littleton’s truck bill, 23 June, denounced it as ‘prejudicial to the labouring classes of the people’, 5 July, and spoke in the same sense, 8, 9 July. He voted for the abolition of colonial slavery, 13 July 1830.
At the 1830 general election Robinson offered again for Worcester, citing his support for ‘every practical reduction in political expenditure’ and claiming never to have ‘mixed myself with any degree of party’. Denying allegations that he was ‘an enemy to the poor’, he defended his opposition to the truck bill. (He asserted that although it had made him ‘unpopular’, his opinion remained ‘unchanged’, 18 Nov., but then promised to support ‘legislation on the subject if the House, after due deliberation, shall deem it necessary’, 14 Dec. 1830.) Attempts to get up an opposition foundered and he was returned unopposed.6 He resumed his calls for a review of taxation and an ‘amelioration of the condition of the people’, 3 Nov., contending that ‘without inquiry, and without remedy, the state of the country can never be improved’, 6 Dec. He condemned proposals to relax trading arrangements between the United States and the West Indian colonies as ‘greatly injurious’ to Britain and Canada, 8 Nov., and doubted that the timber trade between Canada and the West Indies would survive if the Americans were allowed to compete on an equal footing, 12 Nov. He had been listed by the Wellington ministry as one of their ‘foes’ and he voted against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. He denounced the ‘injurious and oppressive’ stamp duty levied on the admission of freemen, which deprived many ‘of the exercise of the privilege of voting’, 9 Dec. He presented numerous petitions for the abolition of slavery the following day. He objected to the colonial trade bill, 17 Dec., and its ‘interference’ with duties, 20 Dec. That day he presented numerous petitions alleging bribery at the recent Liverpool election. He criticized the Grey ministry’s proposals for ambassadorial pensions, which they had ‘regularly opposed’ when in opposition, 10 Dec., condemned their proposed civil list as ‘monstrous’ and likely to induce ‘odium and scandal’, 23 Dec. 1830, and demanded a ‘formal and grave investigation into the manner in which pensions have been granted’, 4 Feb., and their revision, 28 Mar., 14 Apr. 1831. He approved of much of the budget, but quibbled with the proposed reductions of duties on French wines and foreign timber, 11 Feb., describing how the latter would have ‘an injurious effect on the colonies’, 14 Feb., 15, 18 Mar. He welcomed removal of the calico tax as a ‘great advantage’ to manufacturers, 28 Feb. Speaking as ‘a commercial man’, 15 Feb., he complained that recent governments had pursued a ‘most ruinous and fatal’ policy in their attempt ‘to fortify a foreign trade ... in contradistinction to our colonial and home trade’, which would not only ‘lead to the downfall and abandoning of several of our colonies’, but also ‘sacrifice’ the shipping interest, which had ‘made us the greatest maritime nation in the world’. He contended that the introduction of a ‘graduated property tax’ would ‘have the effect of relieving all branches of productive industry’, 14 Mar. He voted for the second reading of the ministerial reform bill, 22 Mar., but insisted that he was not ‘pledged to any of the details’ and had merely expressed ‘approbation of the principle’, 21 Apr. He voted against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.
At the ensuing general election Robinson mocked calls for ‘moderate reform’ as the ‘greatest bug-bear that ever was attempted to be put upon the people’, declared himself ‘an opponent of the free trade system ... while trade in corn remains shackled’, and boasted of his support for ‘those measures which I have thought calculated to relieve my constituents and the country from taxation’. He was returned unopposed.7 He harassed ministers over the government of Newfoundland, 27 June, welcomed the appointment of a commission of inquiry into colonial establishments, 1 July, and announced that the people of Newfoundland had ‘instructed’ him to say that ‘if you will grant them a local legislature, they will not again ask you for money’, 25 July. He urged the introduction there of a ‘constitutional legislative assembly’ similar to those of other North American colonies, 13 Sept., but withdrew his motion for this after being assured of the appointment of a select committee early the next session. He attacked the report on the East India Company, alleging that the committee had ‘strongly preconceived opinions’, 28 June. He resumed his calls for a reform of taxation, 1 July, and campaigned steadily against the reduction of French wine duties. He spoke and was a minority teller for his own amendment to reduce the civil list, 18 July, but refrained from opposing the consular salaries in the hope that next year’s settlement would be ‘extremely small’, 25 July. He believed that the Irish landed proprietor, ‘who derives his property from that country, should contribute to the support of its poor’, 15 Aug., and welcomed calls for the introduction of an Irish poor law, 29, 30 Aug. (when he was minority teller on the issue), 26 Sept., 11 Oct. He pressed repeatedly for information on the duties paid by British ships in foreign ports, condemning the ‘tonnage and other duties’ charged on vessels in France, 18 Aug., and arguing that the costs of quarantine should be paid by ‘the community at large’, 23 Aug., 6 Sept. He spoke and voted against issuing the Liverpool writ, 5 Sept., and moved and was a minority teller for withholding the Pembrokeshire writ until the evidence of the committee had been presented, 26 Sept. According to Littleton, at the coronation that month Robinson ‘came with an enormous nosegay in his hand, which excited much laughter’.8 He argued and divided for inquiry into the effects of renewal of the Sugar Refinery Act on the West India interest, 12 Sept. He denounced the ‘extravagant outlay’ on Buckingham House, 28 Sept., and next day opposed increasing the salary of the president of the board of trade. He welcomed the vestries bill, 30 Sept., and presented a Worcester petition against the sale of beer bill, 18 Oct. 1831.
Robinson voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, dismissed any consideration of ‘universal suffrage’, 8 July, and divided at least twice against adjourning the debates, 12 July 1831. He spoke briefly in the bill’s favour, 13 July, but bemoaned the ‘angry altercations’ on it and appealed for ‘a tone of moderation’ to be adopted, remarking that ‘we must not, night after night, waste our time in debate on frivolous points’, 20 July. He gave generally steady support to its details, defending the arrangements for his native Wareham, 26 July, and Stoke, 4 Aug., but voted against the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug., for Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., and to preserve the electoral rights of freemen, who made up all of his constituents, 30 Aug. He objected to ‘only one day’ being allowed for the erection of county polling booths and contended that ‘every other question should be postponed until the reform bill has passed’, 5 Sept. He divided for its passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831, but explained the following day that in view of his line ‘in opposition to the commercial policy’ of the ministry, it should be clear that he supported it only ‘in the cause of reform’ and upon ‘no other ground’. At the Poole by-election that month he lent his assistance to the ostensible reformer but otherwise Tory Charles Tulk*, rather than the ministerial candidate Sir John Byng*.9 Robinson objected to an anti-reform petition from Worcestershire, 16 Dec. 1831, and voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill next day. He spoke and divided for going into the committee on it, 20 Jan., and again gave steady support to its details, though he spoke against altering the boundaries of ‘ancient boroughs’ where ‘no occasion for complaint had ever arisen’, 23 Jan. 1832. He defended the principle of the bill but again denied that he was ‘pledged’ to all its details, 20 Mar., and voted for its third reading, 22 Mar. He defended Lord Grey’s resignation following the bill’s defeat in the Lords and divided for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, and presented a Worcester petition for withholding the supplies until it passed, 18 May. He paired against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish bill, 1 June, but complained that Ireland had ‘not been treated fairly, either as regards the number of Members to be given ... or in the extension of the elective franchise’, 18 June. Asserting that the ‘commissioners were guilty of a mistake’, he proposed an amendment to include Corfe Castle within the boundaries of Wareham, which was defeated by 122-55, 22 June 1832.
Robinson demanded immediate inquiry into distress, 6 Dec., and criticized the estimates, 9 Dec. 1831. He now voted against the vestries bill, 23 Jan. 1832. He argued and was minority teller against the anatomy bill, 25 Jan., 11 Apr., when he warned that legalizing the ‘sale of human bodies’ would ‘facilitate and encourage the commission of murder’. He spoke and voted against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July, asserting that its payment was ‘unconstitutional’ when the ‘finances of the state are in a most deplorable condition’, 6 Feb., and berating ministers for threatening to resign if they were ‘not supported in this measure’, 16 July. He criticized their handling of relations with Portugal, 17, 29 Feb. He called for the introduction of a ‘modified property tax’, 31 Jan., 27 July, and inquiry into how the ‘whole system of taxation can be remodelled’, 14 June. He pressed repeatedly for inquiry into the glove trade and was a minority teller on the issue, 31 Jan., 3 Apr., when he warned that if ‘we allow foreign manufacture to take the place of our own ... we shall soon have to support half our population’. He presented a petition from Worcester’s glove manufacturers complaining of their distress, 19 June, and petitions for inquiry into the silk trade from Sandbach, 3 Feb., and Macclesfield, 1 Mar. He opposed the sale of beer bill, 3 Feb., and presented and endorsed a hostile Northampton petition, 31 Mar. He welcomed the factories regulation bill, 10 Feb., and was appointed to the select committee on it, 17 Mar. He urged lifting the restrictions on vessels imposed during the recent London cholera scare, 20 Feb., stressed the ‘direct benefit’ to the shipping interest of hemp tax repeal, 2 Apr., and again deplored the ‘manifest injustice’ of French tonnage duties, 1 June. He welcomed the register of births bill, 22 Feb., and presented a favourable petition from Northampton Dissenters, 20 June. He voted for a reduction of the sugar duties, 7 Mar. He presented four Newfoundland petitions for a legislative assembly that day, and urged granting New South Wales ‘the benefit of trial by jury’ and voted for the introduction of a system of representation there, 28 June. He spoke for and was appointed to a select committee on petitions, 9 May. Maintaining his stance against free trade in commerce, he moved unsuccessfully for inquiry, 22 May, and warned that ‘if a change is not soon made, it may end in the complete ruin of our manufactures’, 3 July. On 19 June he divided to suspend flogging in the army, observing that corporal punishment was ‘absolutely unnecessary for the maintenance of due discipline’. That day he voted for permanent provision for the Irish poor by a tax on absentee landlords. He insisted that the cost of improving the water supply of the metropolis should be met from ‘local funds’, 6 July. He supported the grant to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels, 22 July. He was in a minority of 16 for Hume’s motion to disqualify the recorder of Dublin from Parliament, 24 July. He condemned lord chancellor Brougham’s appointment of his brother James Brougham* to a chancery sinecure as ‘ill-advised’, 25 July, 27 July. He called for ‘additional security’ to ‘guard against the unconstitutional interference of peers in the election of Members’, 6 Aug. He spoke and voted against the Greek loan that day, and argued that the Greek convention bill should ‘make provision for the payment of their former debts’, 10 Aug. He presented a Worcester petition for the abolition of Irish tithes, 11 Aug. 1832.
At the 1832 general election Robinson was returned for Worcester as a Liberal. He remained a prominent campaigner for tax reforms and retired in 1837.10 He unsuccessfully contested Tower Hamlets as a Conservative in 1841 and was Peelite Member for Poole from 1847 until his death, ‘aged 69’, in August 1850. By his will, dated 1 July 1850, he directed that all his interests at St. John’s and ‘elsewhere in the Island of Newfoundland’ be sold for the benefit of Louisa Matilda Peillon, his ‘natural or reputed daughter, the wife of Lazuard Peillon, now or late living in or near Paris’, and her children. He left annuities of £500 to his business partner Thomas Brooking, £100 to his godson George Thomas Brooking and £200 to his goddaughter Ellen Garland, daughter of his late partner. A sum of £7,000 was to be invested to provide for the poor of Wareham. He left instructions for his remains to be interred at Poole in the same vault as his mother and sister.11
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Philip Salmon
- 1. Gent. Mag. (1850), ii. 551; J. Hutchins, Hist. Dorset, i. 83; Univ. Brit. Dir. (1791), iv. 677; Eighteenth Cent. Medics, 508; Dorset RO, Poole borough recs. DC/PL CLA 43.
- 2. Gent. Mag. (1850), ii. 551; Dict. Canadian Biog. vi. 311-12; C. Cullingford, Hist. Poole, 123-4; D. Beamish, Mansions and Merchants of Poole, 115.
- 3. The Times, 23 Feb. 1827.
- 4. Worcester Herald, 27 May, 3, 10, 17, 24 June 1826.
- 5. Beamish, 119.
- 6. Worcester Herald, 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 July 1830.
- 7. Ibid. 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
- 8. Hatherton diary, 8 Sept. 1831.
- 9. Sherborne Jnl. 13 Oct. 1831; Poole borough recs. DC/PL S1661.
- 10. Raikes Jnl. i. 175.
- 11. PROB 11/2156/591; IR26/1943/642.