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Horton, Robert John Wilmot- (DNB00)


HORTON, Sir ROBERT JOHN WILMOT- (1784–1841), political pamphleteer, only son of Sir Robert Wilmot, bart., of Osmaston, Derbyshire, by his first wife, Juliana Elizabeth, second daughter of the Hon. John Byron, and widow of the Hon. William Byron, was born on 21 Dec. 1784. He was educated at Eton, and on 27 Jan. 1803 matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. 1806, and M.A. 1815. In July 1815 he unsuccessfully contested the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme against Sir John Chetwode. He was, however, returned for that borough at the general election in June 1818, and continued to represent it until his retirement from the House of Commons at the dissolution in July 1830. His first reported speech in the house was in the defence of the Windsor establishment in February 1819 (Parl. Debates, xxxix. 587–8), and in the same year he opposed Sir Francis Burdett's motion for reform (ib. xl. 1477–81). In the following year he was selected to second the address at the opening of the session (ib. new ser. i. 33–5), and in 1821 he was appointed under secretary of state for war and the colonies in Lord Liverpool's administration, in the place of Henry Goulburn [q. v.] He was admitted to the privy council on 23 May 1827, and in the following year resigned office with others of the Huskisson party. He still continued to take an active part in the debates. In February 1828 he voted for Lord John Russell's motion for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts (ib. xviii. 782), and on 18 March 1829 spoke warmly in favour of the second reading of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill (ib. xx. 1190–1200). From 1831 till 1837 he was governor and commander-in-chief of the island of Ceylon. He was knighted on 22 June 1831 (London Gazettes, 1831, i. 1255), and made a G.C.H. On the death of his father in July 1834 he succeeded to the baronetcy, and died at Sudbrooke Park, Petersham, on 31 May 1841, in his fifty-seventh year. He was a man of cultivated tastes, and took great interest in the political and social questions of the day. Greville, in recording his attendance at one of Wilmot-Horton's lectures at the Mechanics' Institute, says: ‘He deserves great credit for his exertions, the object of which is to explain to the labouring classes some of the truths of political economy, the folly of thinking that the breaking of machinery will better their condition, and of course the efficacy of his own plan of emigration. … He is full of zeal and animation, but so totally without method and arrangement that he is hardly intelligible. The conclusion, which was an attack on Cobbett, was well done, and even eloquent’ (Greville, Memoirs, 1st ser. 1874, ii. 97–8).

He married, on 1 Sept. 1806, Anne Beatrix, eldest daughter and coheiress of Eusebius Horton of Catton, Derbyshire, by whom he had four sons and three daughters. He assumed the additional name of Horton by royal license on 8 May 1823, in compliance with the directions in his father-in-law's will (London Gazettes, 1823, i. 755). His widow survived him many years, and died on 4 Feb. 1871. She was the subject of Byron's lines, ‘She walks in beauty’ (Byron, Poetical Works, 1855, ii. 15). Some letters written by Wilmot-Horton to Mrs. Leigh relating to the destruction of Byron's ‘Memoirs,’ and the proposed repayment to Moore of the 2,000l. by her and Lady Byron, are preserved among the Addit. MSS. in the British Museum (31037, ff. 47–60). The ‘Memoirs’ were destroyed by Wilmot-Horton and Colonel Doyle, acting as the representatives of Mrs. Leigh, after a meeting at Mr. Murray's house (Lord John Russell, Memoirs of Thomas Moore, 1853, iv. 192; see also Smiles, Memoirs of John Murray, i. 445).

He was the author of the following works:

  1. ‘Speech delivered in the Town Hall of Newcastle-under-Lyne, on the occasion of the Election of the Mayor and other Corporate Officers of that Borough,’ &c., London, 1825, 8vo. No. 17 of a series.
  2. ‘A Letter to the Duke of Norfolk on the Catholic Question,’ London, 1826, 8vo.
  3. ‘A Letter to the Electors of Newcastle-under-Line [on the Catholic Question],’ London, 1826, 8vo.
  4. ‘A Letter [to Sir Francis Burdett; in reply to his speech in opposing a parliamentary grant of 30,000l. for the purposes of emigration]’ [London, 1826], 8vo.
  5. ‘Speech … in the House of Commons on the 6th of March, 1828, on moving for the production of the evidence taken before the Privy Council upon an Appeal against the compulsory Manumission of Slaves in Demerara and Berbice,’ London, 1828, 8vo.
  6. ‘Protestant Securities suggested, in an Appeal to the Clerical Members of the University of Oxford,’ London, 1828, 8vo; 2nd edition, to which is prefixed a Letter to the Bishop of Rochester, London, 1828, 8vo.
  7. ‘A Letter to the Bishop of Rochester, in Explanation of his Suggestion of Protestant Securities,’ London, 1828, 8vo. This letter is prefixed to the 2nd edition of ‘Protestant Securities suggested,’ &c.
  8. ‘Protestant Safety compatible with the Remission of the Civil Disabilities of Roman Catholics; being a Vindication of the Security suggested by the Right Hon. R. Wilmot-Horton for the Settlement of the Roman Catholic Question,’ &c., London, 1829, 8vo.
  9. ‘Correspondence upon some points connected with the Roman Catholic Question between the Right Hon. R. Wilmot-Horton, M.P., and the Right Rev. P. A. Baines; with an Appendix … and a Dedication to the Members of both Houses of Parliament, by the Right Hon. R. W. Horton,’ London, 1829, 8vo.
  10. ‘The Causes and Remedies of Pauperism in the United Kingdom considered. Part i. Being a Defence of … the Emigration Committee against the Charges of Mr. Sadler,’ London, 1829, 8vo. No more published.
  11. ‘An Inquiry into the Causes and Remedies of Pauperism. First series containing Correspondence with C. Poulett Thomson. Second series containing Correspondence with M. Duchatel. Third series containing Letters to Sir Francis Burdett … upon Pauperism in Ireland. Fourth series. Explanation of Mr. Wilmot-Horton's Bill, in a Letter and Queries addressed to N. W. Senior … with his Answers,’ &c., London, 1830, 8vo, 4 parts.
  12. ‘First Letter to the Freeholders of the County of York on Negro Slavery: being an Inquiry into the Claims of the West Indians for equitable Compensation,’ London, 1830, 8vo.
  13. ‘Second Letter to the Freeholders of the County of York on Negro Slavery,’ &c., London, 1830, 8vo.
  14. ‘Correspondence between the Right Hon. R. Wilmot-Horton and a select Class of the Members of the London Mechanics' Institution,’ London, 1830, 8vo.
  15. ‘Lecture I (–II) delivered at the London Mechanics' Institution … December 1830 … on Statistics and Political Economy, as affecting the … Labouring Classes,’ London, 1831, 8vo, 2 parts.
  16. ‘Letters on Colonial Policy, particularly as applicable to Ceylon,’ by Philalethes, Colombo, 1833, 8vo.
  17. ‘Exposition and Defence of Earl Bathurst's Administration of the Affairs of Canada, when Colonial Secretary, during the years 1822–7 inclusive,’ London, 1838, 8vo.
  18. ‘The Object and Effect of the Oath in the Roman Catholic Relief Bill considered; with Observations on the Doctrines of certain Irish Authorities with respect to Tithes, and on a Policy of a Concordat with the See of Rome. With an Appendix,’ London, 1838, 8vo.
  19. ‘Reform in 1839 and Reform in 1831,’ London, 1839, 8vo.
  20. ‘Letters [signed Philalethes] containing Observations on Colonial Policy, originally printed in Ceylon in 1832. By … Sir R. Wilmot-Horton. To which is added the Prospectus of the British Colonial Bank and Loan Company,’ London, 1839, 8vo.
  21. ‘Ireland and Canada; supported by local evidence,’ London, 1839, 8vo.
  22. ‘Correspondence between … Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton, Bart., and J. B. Robinson, Esq., Chief Justice of Upper Canada, upon the subject of the pamphlet lately published, entitled “Ireland and Canada,”’ London, 1839, 8vo.
  23. ‘Observations upon Taxation as affecting the Operative and Labouring Classes, made at the Crown and Anchor on the evening of the 6th of August, 1839. To which is added a Letter to Joseph Hume, Esq., M.P.,’ London, 1840, 8vo.

[Gent. Mag. 1834 pt. ii. pp. 431–2, 661, 1841 pt. ii. pp. 90–1; Ann. Reg. 1841, App. to Chron. p. 204; Burke's Peerage, &c., 1888, pp. 1474–5; Foster's Baronetage, 1881, p. 662; Alumni Oxonienses, iv. 1580; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. viii. 188, 231, 396; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1851; Official Return of Members of Parl. pt. ii. pp. 277, 291, 306; Bibl. Bodl. Cat.; Advocates' Libr. Cat.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.