Montagu, John (1797-1853) (DNB01)

MONTAGU, JOHN (1797–1853), colonial official, born on 21 Aug. 1797, was the youngest son of Lieutenant-colonel Edward Montagu (1755–1799) [q. v.] He was educated at Cheam in Surrey and at Parson's Green, near Knightsbridge. On 10 Feb. 1814 he was appointed, without purchase, to an ensigncy in the 52nd foot. He was present at Waterloo, and on 9 Nov. 1815 was promoted to a lieutenancy by purchase; he also bought his company in the 64th foot in November 1822, exchanging into the 40th foot on 7 Aug. 1823. In the same year he proceeded to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) with the lieutenant-governor, (Sir) George Arthur [q. v.], and on his arrival in May 1824 was nominated his private secretary. This post he retained until 1827, holding his captaincy on half-pay. In 1826 Van Diemen's Land, which had hitherto been attached to New South Wales, was constituted a separate colony, and Montagu became clerk of the executive and legislative councils. This office he held until 1829, when his military duties recalled him to England. In 1830 Sir George Murray (1772-1846) [q.v.], secretary of state for the colonies, offered to reappoint him on condition of his quitting the army. He accordingly sold out on 10 Sept. and returned to Van Diemen's Land. In 1832 he took charge for a year of the colonial treasury, and in 1834 he was nominated colonial secretary. In October 1836 Arthur relinquished the government to Sir John Franklin [q. v.], under whom Montagu retained his office. From February 1839 to March 1841 he was absent on a visit to England, and on his return he found himself involved in differences with the governor. He behaved to Franklin in a somewhat arbitrary manner, insisting on the dismissal of several government officials, although the governor was not convinced of their culpability. Finally Franklin reinstated one of these officers, and Montagu in consequence ceased to co-operate cordially in the work of administration, openly charged him with suffering his wife to influence his judgment, and finally declared himself unable to rely upon the accuracy of the governor's statements. On 25 Jan. 1842 Montagu was suspended from office. He sought a reconciliation, and Franklin, in his despatch to Lord Stanley [see Stanley, Edward George Geoffrey Smith, fourteenth Earl of Derby], with great generosity, spoke highly of his ability, and recommended him for other employment. Colonial sympathy was largely on Montagu's side, and Stanley, after investigation, came to the conclusion that Franklin was not justified in his action, and that Montagu's dismissal was unmerited.

In 1843 Montagu was nominated colonial secretary at the Cape of Good Hope, a post which he retained until death. He arrived at the Cape and entered on office on 23 April. Shortly after his arrival he submitted to the governor, Sir George Thomas Napier [q. v.], a project for improving the financial condition of the colony. Napier recognised its merits, and it was carried into effect under Montagu's superintendence. The condition of the colony showed immediate improvement, and the passage of time showed the amelioration to be permanent. He also realised the importance of encouraging immigration, and by a system of bounties nearly seventeen hundred settlers were brought into the colony in three years, During the government of Sir Peregrine Maitland [q. v.], Montagu distinguished himself by his able conduct of the financial arrangements necessitated by the Kaffir war. He also rendered the colony signal service by promoting the construction of good roads across the mountain passes into the interior. They were chiefly made by convict labour, and Montagu was successful in introducing a new system, by which the condition of the criminals was much improved. The road carried over Cradock's Kloof was named Montagu Pass, and is now part of the great trunk line between the western and eastern districts. The scene of another great engineering feat at Bain's Kloof, in the mountain range which separates Worcester and the districts beyond from the Cape division, was designated Montagu Rocks.

On the outbreak of the Kaffir war in December 1850 the governor, Sir Harry George Wakelyn Smith [q. v.], was besieged in Fort Cox. Montagu exerted himself to the utmost to raise levies, and rendered the governor assistance of the greatest importance. On 1 May 1851 he was compelled to leave Cape Colony owing to ill-health brought on by overwork. He died in London on 4 Nov. 1853, and was buried in Brompton cemetery on 8 Nov. In April 1823 he married Jessy, daughter of Major-general Edward Vaughan Worseley. Montagu's transfer from Tasmania to the Cape seriously injured his private fortune. He left his family impoverished, and on 23 Oct. 1854 his wife received a civil-list pension of 300l.

[Newman's Biogr. Memoir of John Montagu (with portrait), 1855; Fenton's Hist. of Tasmania, 1884, pp. 134, 139–40, 142, 158–9; Franklin's Narrative of some Passages in the History of Van Dieman's Land during the Last Three Years of Sir John Franklin's Administration, privately printed, 1845; West's Hist. of Tasmania, Launceston, 1852, i. 225–7; Theal's Hist. of South Africa.]

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