HOBART, Hon. Robert (1760-1816), of Nocton, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. 6 May 1760, 1st surv. s. of George Hobart†, 3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire, by Albinia, da. and coh. of Lord Vere Bertie† of Branston, Lincs. educ. Westminster 1770; Strasbourg mil. acad. 1776-7. m. (1) 5 Jan. 1792, Margaretta (d. 7 Aug. 1796), da. and coh. of Edmund Burke of Urrey, wid. of Thomas Adderley, MP [I], of Innishannon, co. Cork, 1s. d.v.p. 1da; (2) 1 June 1799, Hon. Eleanor Agnes Eden, da. of William Eden*, 1st Baron Auckland, s.p. Styled Lord Hobart 1793-8; summ. to Lords in his fa.’s barony as Lord Hobart 30 Nov. 1798; suc. fa. as 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire 14 Nov. 1804.
MP [I] 1784-97.
Ensign 59 Ft. 1776; capt. 30 Ft. 1778; maj. 18 Drag. 1783, ret. 1784; a.d.c. to ld. lt. [I] and inspector gen. of recruits 1784-9; col. Lincs. supp. militia 1803.
Chief sec. to ld. lt. [I] Apr. 1789-93; PC [I] 21 Apr. 1789, [GB] 1 May 1793; gov. Madras Sept. 1794-Feb. 1798; sec. of state for War and Colonies Mar. 1801-May 1804; chancellor of duchy of Lancaster Jan.-July 1805, May-June 1812; jt. postmaster-gen. Feb. 1806-Mar. 1807; pres. Board of Control Apr. 1812-d.
Clerk of c.p. Exchequer [I] May 1798-d.
As a.d.c. to the Duke of Rutland, lord lieutenant of Ireland (an office once held by his uncle), Hobart sat in the Irish parliament:
Mr Hobart’s voice is naturally good, clear, full, well-toned and with sufficient compass, but he much injures it by a species of affectation that reduces it nearly to a feminine lisp, adopted perhaps from his familiar intercourse with pretty ladies and pretty gentlemen.
Rutland had recommended him to Pitt for a vacant seat for Lincoln in 1786, but too late. On 16 Jan. 1788, writing after Rutland’s death to Pitt for support for his application for a lieutenant-colonelcy, Hobart maintained that his personal and political attachment was to him, although ‘my own immediate connexions lead me to a different channel’. (His father acted with opposition.) In November 1788 the viceroy reported that Hobart wished to have a seat at Westminster, meaning to ‘devote every faculty’ to Pitt. Returned for Bramber on the Rutland interest before the year was out, he duly voted with administration next session. He was then, at the instigation of the Irish viceroy Lord Buckingham, appointed his chief secretary, as also to Lord Westmorland, his successor in Ireland. Buckingham thought he had ‘quickness, parts, and the most intimate knowledge of every man in Ireland’. Lady Holland who found him ‘pleasing, sensible and well-looking, the finest teeth possible’, reported ‘he exhibited his high sense of a point d’honneur in marrying Mrs Adderley. When her husband died Lord Hobart fulfilled the promise.’1 In the session of 1790 he was preoccupied with the management of the Irish parliament. He fought a duel with the opposition stalwart Curran, 31 Mar. 1790.
Hobart returned from Ireland to secure his election for Lincoln, which was contested, in 1790; but his duties took him back to Dublin. In his absence he was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act, April 1791. In November 1791 he arrived in London to discuss Catholic relief in Ireland with ministers. Richard Burke*, his former schoolfellow, was disappointed in his hope of talking Hobart into an enlightened view of the subject. Burke’s father was not surprised, regarding Hobart as the creature of the Beresford party in Ireland: ‘Mr Hobart owes only the accident of his birth to this country— in connexions, in habits and in the turn and genius of his politics is purely Irish’. In April 1792 he returned to England to influence government against endangering the protestant ascendancy. During this visit he spoke at Westminster, in favour of the abolition of the slave trade, 27 Apr., and in disparagement of Grey’s intended motion for parliamentary reform, with reference to Ireland, 30 Apr. In the spring of 1793, without concealing his distaste for it, he steered the Irish Catholic relief bill through the Dublin parliament. He reappeared at Westminster, 16 May, to obtain leave for goods legally imported into Ireland from other continents to be exported thence to Great Britain. In October he was chosen governor of Madras. Quitting Dublin on 2 Dec. 1793, he obtained an assurance that he would succeed as governor-general of India after Cornwallis and Sir John Shore. His Irish services were rewarded with the reversion of the office of clerk of the common pleas in the Irish exchequer held by Lord Clonmell.2 Before leaving for India he vindicated the Irish government against Fox’s aspersions at Westminster, 8 Apr. 1794. He did not vacate his seat until the dissolution, and maintained his interest at Lincoln.
Hobart’s excursion to Madras proved damaging to his reputation. His Carnatic policy was objected to by Sir John Shore the governor-general and he was recalled by the court of directors. He was compensated for the loss of supreme power by a pension of £1,500 p.a., reduced ostensibly because his lucrative sinecure had now fallen in to him. His friend and agent John Sullivan* had at first failed to induce Dundas to procure a peerage for him, but on his return home in 1798 he was summoned to the Lords in his father’s barony.3 He assisted Pitt’s ministry by supporting the Irish union in the Lords, though averse to concessions to the Catholics; and married Lord Auckland’s daughter Eleanor, when Pitt would not. In August 1799 he asked for employment at home (he had in January been mentioned as a possible envoy to St. Petersburg). Lord Wellesley, who had succeeded and eclipsed him in India, would not hear of his returning there; nor according to Dundas, would the court of directors. Addington came to his rescue, appointing him, on Lord Pelham’s refusal, secretary for War in 1801 and transferring responsibility for the colonies to him from the Home Office, July 1801.4 Hobart exerted what electoral and personal influence he had in Addington’s favour. Pitt, who had concurred, was unimpressed by Hobart and on his return to power in 1804 offered him only the captaincy of the yeomen of the guard, which he declined.5 When Pitt and Addington were reconciled, he became chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, resigning when the two leaders fell out again: had he obtained the Admiralty in place of Lord Melville, they might not have parted company. He obtained minor office, but not a place in the cabinet, in the Grenville ministry, although it was he who induced his reluctant leader to join it.6 In 1812 he rejoined administration with Lord Sidmouth and India became his province. He died 4 Feb. 1816, after being thrown from his horse.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. J. R. Scott, A Review of the Irish House of Commons, 1789; PRO 30/8/145, f. 143; HMC Fortescue, i. 367, 428; Jnl. of Lady Holland, i. 236.
- 2. HMC Fortescue, ii. 221; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, ii. 184-6, 189, 203; Burke Corresp. vi. 470; vii. 13, 71, 290; Bucks. RO, Hobart mss E34.
- 3. DNB; Hobart mss C324; E66, 72, 73, 75, 77.
- 4. Hobart mss C326, 328, 340; HMC Fortescue, vi. 338; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 162, 165; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2489.
- 5. Rose Diaries, ii. 36; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2853.
- 6. Pellew, Sidmouth, ii. 414.