George Frederick Samuel Robinson, 1st marquess of Ripon - Encyclopedia

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GEORGE FREDERICK SAMUEL ROBINSON RIPON, 1ST Marquess Of (1827-1909), British statesman, only son of the 1st earl of Ripon and his wife Lady Sarah, daughter of Robert Hobart, 4th earl of Buckinghamshire, was born in London on the 2 4 th of October 1827. The Robinson family was descended from an eminent Hamburg merchant, William Robinson (1522-1616), who represented York in parliament in Elizabeth's reign. His great-grandson was in 1660 created a baronet. Thomas Robinson, 1st Baron Grantham (1695-1770), son of a later holder of the baronetcy, was created a peer in 1761, having been an indefatigable diplomatist plenipotentiary at the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, and secretary of state. The 2nd Baron Grantham (1738-1786), ambassador at Madrid, and foreign secretary under Lord Shelburne, had two sons. The elder of these, succeeding as 3rd Baron Grantham (1781-1859), became in 1833 2nd Earl de Grey, in right of his maternal aunt, and assumed the surname of de Grey; he was lord-lieutenant of Ireland (1841-44). The younger, Frederick John (1782-18J9), created Viscount Goderich in 1827 and earl of Ripon in 1833, was the well-known "Prosperity Robinson." who was chancellor of the exchequer from 1823 to 1827; as Lord Goderich he became prime minister (and a peculiarly weak one) from August 1827 to January 1828, colonial secretary in 1831 and 1832, lord privy seal (1833-34), president of the Board of Trade (1841-43), and president of the India board (1843-46).

His son, the future marquess, began his political life as attaché to a special mission to Brussels in 1849. In 1851 he married Henrietta Vyner (d. 1907), and their eldest son, afterwards known as Earl de Grey, was born in 1852. Under his courtesy title of Viscount Goderich he was returned to the House of Commons for Hull in 1852 as an advanced Liberal. In 1853 he was elected for Huddersfield, and in 1857 for the West Riding of Yorkshire. In January 1859 he succeeded to his father's title, and in November of the same year to that of his uncle, Earl de Grey. A few months after entering the Upper House he was appointed under-secretary for war, and in February 1861 under-secretary for India. Upon the death of Sir George Cornewall Lewis in April 1863 he became secretary for war, with a seat in the cabinet. In 1866 he was appointed secretary of state for India. On the formation of the Gladstone administration in December 1868, Lord Ripon was appointed lord president of the council, and held that office until within a few months of the fall of the government in 1873, when he resigned on purely private grounds. In 1869 he was created a Knight of the Garter. In 1871 Lord Ripon was appointed chairman of the High Joint-Commission on the Alabama claims, which arranged the treaty of Washington. In recognition of his services he was elevated to a marquessate (1871). In 1874 he became a convert to Roman Catholicism, and this involved his resignation of the office of grand master of the English Freemasons. On the return of Gladstone to power in 1880 Lord Ripon was appointed viceroy of India, the appointment exciting a storm of controversy, the marquess being the first Roman Catholic to hold the viceregal office. He went out to reverse the Afghan policy of Lord Lytton, and Kandahar was given up, the whole of Afghanistan being secured to Abdur Rahman. The new viceroy was also called upon to decide grave questions between the native population and the resident British, and he resolved upon a liberal policy towards the former, among his measures being the repeal of the Vernacular Press Act, the extension of local government and the appointment of an Education Commission. He extended the rights of the natives, and in certain directions curtailed the privileges of Europeans. Several of the viceroy's measures, notably the Ilbert Bill of 1883 - so named after its author Sir Courtenay Ilbert - irritated the Anglo-Indian population, and it was fiercely assailed. The purpose of this bill was disclosed in the statement that "the government of India had decided to settle the question of jurisdiction over European British subjects in such a way as to remove from the code, at once and completely, every judicial disqualification which is based merely on race distinctions," in fact to subject Europeans in certain cases to trial by native magistrates. This announcement raised a storm of indignation among the European community in India, and the government were obliged virtually, though not avowedly, to abandon their measure. Act III. of 1884 was a compromise, which, while subjecting Europeans to the jurisdiction of native district magistrates or sessions judges, reserved to them the right to demand trial by a jury of which at least half should be Europeans. There probably never was a viceroy so unpopular among Anglo-Indians or so popular with the natives. On Lord Ripon's departure from India in November 1884 there were extraordinary manifestations in his favour on the part of the Hindu population of Bengal and Bombay, and more than a thousand addresses were presented to him. On his arrival in England the marquess delivered a number of vigorous speeches in defence of his adminstration. In 1886 he became first lord of the admiralty in the third Gladstone ministry; and on the return of the Liberals to power in 1892 he was appointed colonial secretary, which post he continued to hold until the resignation of the government in 1895. He was included in Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's cabinet at the close of 1905 as lord privy seal, an office which he retained in 1908 when Mr Asquith formed his new ministry, but which he resigned later in the same year. He died at his seat, Studley Royal, near Ripon, on the 9th of July 1909, when his only son, Earl de Grey, who has been treasurer of the queen's household since 1901, became the 2nd marquess. For many years Lord Ripon was president of the Yorkshire College of Science at Leeds, and chairman of the West Riding County Council.

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