Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Robinson, Thomas (1738-1786)

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ROBINSON, THOMAS, second Baron Grantham (1738–1786), born at Vienna on 30 Nov. 1738, was the elder son of Thomas, first baron Grantham [q. v.], by his wife Frances, third daughter of Thomas Worsley of Hovingham in the North Riding of Yorkshire. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ's College, Cambridge, where he graduated M.A. in 1757. At the general election in March 1761 he was returned to the House of Commons for Christchurch in Hampshire, and continued to represent that borough for nine years. He was appointed secretary of the British embassy to the intended congress at Augsburg in April 1761, and on 11 Oct. 1766 he became one of the commissioners of trade and plantations. On 13 Feb. 1770 he was promoted to the post of vice-chamberlain of the household, and was sworn a member of the privy council on the 26th of the same month. He succeeded his father as second Baron Grantham on 30 Sept. 1770, and took his seat in the House of Lords at the opening of parliament on 13 Nov. following (Journals of the House of Lords, xxxiii. 4). He kissed hands on his appointment as ambassador at Madrid on 25 Jan. 1771, and held that post until the outbreak of hostilities in 1779. According to Horace Walpole, Grantham was ‘under a cloud’ in 1775. ‘A person unknown had gone on a holiday to the East India House and secretary's office, and, being admitted, had examined all the papers, retired, and could not be discovered. Lord Grantham was suspected, and none of the grandees would converse with him’ (Journal of the Reign of King George III, 1859, i. 486–7). Deceived by Florida Blanca, Grantham confided in the neutrality of the Spanish court to the last, and wrote home in January 1779, ‘I really believe this court is sincere in wishing to bring about a pacification’ (Bancroft, History of the United States, 1876, vi. 180). He seconded the address at the opening of the session on 25 Nov. 1779, and declared that ‘Spain had acted a most ungenerous and unprovoked part’ against Great Britain (Parl. Hist. xx. 1025–7). He was appointed first commissioner of the board of trade and foreign plantations on 9 Dec. 1780, a post which he held until the abolition of the board in June 1782. Grantham joined Lord Shelburne's administration as secretary of state for the foreign department in July 1782, and he assisted Shelburne in the conduct of the negotiations with France, Spain, and America. He defended the preliminary articles of peace in the House of Lords on 17 Feb. 1783, and pleaded that the peace was ‘as good a one as, considering our situation, we could possibly have had’ (Parl. Hist. xxiii. 402–4). He resigned office on the formation of the coalition government in April 1783. Grantham, who had declined, upon the declaration of war with Spain, any longer to accept his salary as ambassador, was granted a pension of 2,000l. a year on retiring from the foreign office (Walpole, Journal of the Reign of King George III, ii. 595; Parl. Hist. xxiii. 549). It appears that he already enjoyed another pension of 3,000l. a year, which had been granted to his father for two lives, and secured on the Irish establishment. He was appointed a member of the committee of the privy council for the consideration of all matters relating to trade and foreign plantations on 5 March 1784. He died at Grantham House, Putney Heath, Surrey, on 20 July 1786, and was buried on the 27th at Chiswick in Middlesex. He married, on 17 Aug. 1780, Lady Mary Jemima Grey Yorke, younger daughter and coheiress of Philip, second earl of Hardwicke; she died at Whitehall on 7 Jan. 1830, aged 72. By her he left two sons: Thomas Philip, who succeeded his father in the barony of Grantham and his maternal aunt in the earldom of De Grey [see Grey, Thomas Philip de, Earl de Grey]; and Frederick John (afterwards first Earl of Ripon) [q. v.]

Grantham was ‘a very agreeable, pleasing man’ (Walpole, Letters, viii. 258), and ‘possessed solid though not eminent parts, together with a knowledge of foreign affairs and of Europe’ (Wraxall, Hist. and Posthumous Memoirs, 1884, ii. 357). A folio volume of about one hundred pages, containing notes by Grantham while in office (1766–1769), is preserved at Wrest Park (Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. App. p. 8). Portions of his correspondence have been preserved in the manuscript collections of the Duke of Manchester (ib. p. 13), the Countess Cowper (ib. ii. App. p. 9), the Earl of Cathcart (ib. ii. App. p. 26), the Earl of Bradford (ib. ii. App. p. 30), Sir Henry Gunning (ib. iii. App. p. 250), and the Marquis of Lansdowne (ib. iii. App. p. 146, v. App. pp. 241, 253, 254, vi. App. p. 238). Other portions will be found among the Egerton and the Additional MSS. in the British Museum (see Indices for 1846–7, 1854–75, 1882–7, and 1888–93). A mezzotint engraving of Grantham by William Dickinson after Romney was published in 1783.

[Walpole's Letters, 1857–9, iii. 476, vii. 236, 406, 465–6, viii. 249, 415, 419, ix. 62; Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of George III, 1894, i. 42–3, iv. 176; Political Memoranda of Francis, fifth Duke of Leeds (Camden Soc. publ.), 1884, pp. 19, 73, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 82; Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice's Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, 1875–6, iii. 222–389; Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, first Earl of Malmesbury, 1844, i. 524–5, 526–7, 528–39, 541–2, ii. 1, 7–26, 28–38, 41; Jesse's George Selwyn and his Contemporaries, 1843–4, iii. 15–17, 33–6; Whitaker's History of Richmondshire, 1823, ii. 122–3; Lysons's Environs of London, 1792–1811, ii. 217–18; Collins's Peerage of England, 1812, vii. 292; Burke's Peerage, &c., 1894, pp. 674, 1189; G. E. C.'s Complete Peerage, iv. 80; Grad. Cantabr. 1823, p. 401; Alumni Westmon. 1852, p. 546; Gent. Mag. 1786 ii. 622, 1830 i. 90; Official Return of Members of Parliament, ii. 130, 142; Foster's Yorkshire Pedigrees.]

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