Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hobart, Robert

HOBART, ROBERT, Lord Hobart, fourth Earl of Buckinghamshire (1760–1816), eldest son of George, third earl of Buckinghamshire [q. v.], by his first wife, was born on 6 May 1760, and was educated at Westminster School. He entered the army, becoming lieutenant in the 7th regiment of foot (royal fusiliers) 1 May 1776; served in the American war; rose to the rank of captain in 30th foot regiment 23 July 1778, and was major in 18th regiment of light dragoons from 15 Aug. 1783 to 2 Nov. 1784. He became aide-de-camp to the Duke of Rutland, lord-lieutenant of Ireland, in 1784, and to Rutland's successor, George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, marquis of Buckingham [q. v.], in December 1787. He was elected M.P. for Portarlington and for Armagh in the Irish parliament in 1787 and 1790 respectively, and for Bramber and Lincoln in the English parliament in 1788 and 1790. But he resided chiefly in Ireland, and though he retained his seat at Westminster till 1794, only spoke once at any length in the English House of Commons, when he supported the abolition of slavery.

In 1788 and 1789 he acted as inspector of recruiting in Ireland, and in the latter year succeeded William Orde as secretary to Buckingham, the lord-lieutenant, and was made an Irish privy councillor. Contrary to the usual custom, he continued to hold the secretaryship under Buckingham's successor, John Fane, tenth earl of Westmorland [q. v.] Hobart was a man of excellent manners, which rendered him popular even with his political opponents. He was not without ability, but his views were narrow, and his influence on Irish affairs at a very critical period was extremely mischievous. He took a prominent part in the debates in the Irish House of Commons. He was strongly opposed to any concession of political power to the Roman catholics, and did his utmost to frustrate the liberal policy of Pitt and Dundas. He gave a feeble and reluctant support to the slight measure of social relief introduced by Sir Hercules Langrishe [q. v.] in 1792, but he joined Westmorland and Fitzgibbon in trying to render further concession impossible and in arousing an anti-catholic sentiment in the country. His motives were probably quite sincere, but it was scarcely decent, and certainly unwise under the circumstances, to entrust him with the management of the Relief Bill of 1793. He introduced the measure with ill-concealed hostility towards it, and he was largely responsible for its failure to satisfy the aspirations of the catholics and for the evils that flowed therefrom. Consequent on the recall of Lord Westmorland in the autumn of 1793, Hobart (by the death of his uncle now Lord Hobart) resigned his secretaryship. He was made an English privy councillor 1 May 1793, and in the following October was appointed governor of the presidency of Madras, with a provisional succession to the governor-generalship of India.

Hobart arrived at Madras in the summer of 1794, and personally conducted an expedition against Malacca, which resulted in the destruction of the Dutch settlements there. His independent attitude, however, soon brought him into collision with the governor-general, Sir John Shore, afterwards Lord Teignmouth. The dispute was due mainly to the embarrassing state of affairs in the Carnatic and in Tanjore, but it was intensified by the fact that the head of the supreme government was inferior in personal rank to the head of the subordinate government. Shortly after Hobart's arrival, Mohammed Ali, nabob of the Carnatic, died, and his death seemed in Hobart's opinion to present a favourable opportunity to introduce certain necessary reforms in the financial administration of that province for the purpose of relieving the unhappy ryots from the oppressive tyranny of the money-lenders. Unfortunately, the new nabob, Obut ul Omrah, refused to consent to Hobart's humane policy, and in justification of his refusal appealed to the agreement of 1792 between his predecessor and Lord Cornwallis, which it was the very object of Hobart's plan to annul. Thereupon Hobart, without consulting Shore, announced his intention of seizing the district of Tinnevelly in liquidation of the nabob's debt to the company, and of insisting upon the surrender of the Carnatic forts. To this, however, the supreme government objected, as an unjust invasion of the rights which had been secured to the nabob by the treaty of 1792. An appeal was made to the court of directors, and, after a careful examination of the case, the court decided to uphold their governor-general and to recall Hobart. Pending the arrival of their decision, a fresh dispute of a like kind arose between the two governments in regard to Hobart's dealings with the rajah of Tanjore. In this case, however, Hobart was successful in persuading the rajah, Ameer Sing, to surrender the mortgaged territory; and, though Sir John Shore persisted in his opinion that the rajah had been ‘dragooned’ into the treaty, the directors thought fit to sanction Hobart's policy. These differences did not, however, prevent a cordial co-operation between the governors of Fort William and Fort St. George against Tippoo Sahib, the sultan of Mysore; and when Lord Hobart, in the exercise of his discretionary powers, countermanded an expedition fitted out by Sir John Shore against the Spanish settlement of Manilla, the latter warmly applauded his conduct, and privately declared that with the experience he had gained he was admirably qualified to fill the post of governor-general. But the order for his recall shortly after arrived, and amid the regrets of the inhabitants of Madras, who were much attached to him for his uncompromising opposition to usury and corruption, he sailed for England in August 1798. In consideration of his services, and in compensation for his disappointment in not succeeding to the governor-generalship, which was the sole inducement that had taken him out to India, the company conferred on him an annual pension of 1,500l.

On 23 May 1798 he was made clerk of the common pleas in the Irish exchequer court, and on 30 Nov. following he was summoned to the House of Lords as Baron Hobart of Blickling. He was chiefly occupied during 1799 with Lord Auckland in arranging the details of the Act of Union, and spoke and voted in its favour in the House of Lords. He was strongly opposed to catholic emancipation as part of the union scheme, but he seems to have been in favour of a liberal endowment of the catholic clergy. In March 1801 he was appointed secretary of state for the colonial and war department in the Addington administration. A circular letter issued by him in August 1803 deprecated any extensive volunteer movement, and gave great offence. In June 1804 Hobart Town, Tasmania, was founded and named after him. Addington resigned in May 1804. In November 1804 he succeeded his father in the peerage, and joined Pitt's administration as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster on 14 Jan. 1805, but with Sidmouth resigned in the following July, in consequence of Pitt's attitude over the Melville affair. From February 1806 to May in the following year he held the office of joint postmaster-general in the ‘All the Talents’ administration, but without a seat in the cabinet, an exclusion which he resented. On the formation of the Liverpool ministry in 1812 he was appointed president of the board of control for Indian affairs, and continued to hold this post till his death. From 23 May to 23 June 1812 he also held the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster. His most important speech was probably that on the renewal of the East India Company's charter on 9 April 1813, which was remarkable for the liberality of its tone. He died on 4 Feb. 1816, in consequence of being thrown from his horse in St. James's Park. He married first, on 4 Jan. 1792, Margaretta, daughter and coheiress of Edmund Bourke, esq., of Urrey, and widow of Thomas Adderley, esq., of Innishannon, co. Cork, who died in 1796, and by her had a daughter, Sarah Albinia Louisa, who married Frederick John, first earl of Ripon; secondly, on 1 June 1799, Eleanor Agnes, daughter of William Eden, first lord Auckland, who died childless in 1851. He was succeeded by his nephew, George Robert Hobart, fifth earl of Buckinghamshire. His portrait was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

[Doyle's Official Baronage; Burke's Peerage; Irish Parliamentary Debates; Buckingham's Courts and Cabinets of George III, vol. iii.; Grattan's Life of Henry Grattan; Lecky's Hist. of England; Memoirs of the Life of Sir John Shore, Baron Teignmouth; Mill's British India; Asiatic Annual Register; Parliamentary Papers relating to the Affairs of the Carnatic, No. 2; Addit. MSS. 13470, 33108, 33109, 33112; Parliamentary History and Debates; the published correspondence of the Marquis Cornwallis, Lord Auckland, Lord Castlereagh, and Lord Colchester; Pellew's Life of Lord Sidmouth, and Hist. MSS. Comm. Reports, vi. 406, viii. 296, xi. 426 (Earl of Dartmouth's MSS.)]

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