Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Hamilton, Robert George Crookshank

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HAMILTON, Sir ROBERT GEORGE CROOKSHANK (1836–1895), civil servant and governor of Tasmania, born in 1836, was the son of Zachary Macaulay Hamilton (d. 1876) and his first wife, Anne Crookshank. His father, who was nephew of Zachary Macaulay [q. v.] and first cousin of Lord Macaulay, was, on 30 Aug. 1833, admitted minister of Bressay in the Shetlands, and in 1864 was made honorary D.D. of Edinburgh.

Robert was educated at University and King's College, Aberdeen, where he graduated MA. in March 1854 (Anderson, Graduates of Univ. and King's Coll. 1893, p. 306). In 1855 he migrated to London and entered the civil service as a temporary clerk at the war office. In the same year he was sent to the Crimea as a clerk in the commissariat department. In 1857 he was employed in the office of works, and in 1861 he was selected to take charge of the finance of the education department, the work of which was then rapidly growing in bulk and complexity. In 1869, on Lord Lingen's recommendation, Hamilton was appointed to the yet more difficult post of accountant to the board of trade, and in this capacity he successfully reorganised the board's financial department; from 1872 to 1878 he was assistant-secretary to the board of trade. In 1872 he was appointed assistant-secretary and in 1874 secretary of Playfair's civil service inquiry commission; in this capacity he spent some time at Dublin Castle with a view to its reorganisation. In 1878 he became accountant-general of the navy, and was the first to simplify the naval estimates so as to make them intelligible to the public. In 1879 he was appointed a member of Lord Carnarvon's commission on colonial defences, and in May 1882 he was made permanent secretary to the admiralty.

On the murder of Thomas Henry Burke [q. v.l in that month, Hamilton was lent by the admiralty for two successive periods of six months each to the Irish government as under-secretary of state for Ireland. He was then made permanent under-secretary and C.B.; on 12 Jan. 1884 he was created K.C.B., and in the following year honorary LL.D. of Aberdeen. While in Ireland Hamilton became convinced of the advisability of home rule from an administrative point of view, and he is said to have had some share in influencing both his chief, Earl Spencer, and W. E. Gladstone in the same direction. The persistent rumour that he drafted Gladstone's first home rule bill in 1886 was quite incorrect, but his sympathies with home rule were naturally regarded as a cause of his removal from the under-secretaryship in November 1886 by the conservative ministry which had succeeded the liberal ministry in the preceding July on the rejection of Gladstone's home rule proposals by the House of Commons. He was at once appointed governor of Tasmania, and was succeeded as under-secretary by Major-general Sir Redvers Buller. In 1887 he presided over the meeting of the Australian federal council held at Hobart.

Hamilton remained governor of Tasmania until 1893; on his return he was appointed royal commissioner to inquire into the working of the constitution of Dominica. In 1894, on Mr. Morley's nomination, he was placed on the commission appointed to inquire into the financial relations between England and Ireland, and in November of the same year he was made chairman of the board of customs. He died at 31 Redcliffe Square, South Kensington, on 22 April 1895, and was buried at Richmond, Surrey, on the 26th. He married, first, in 1863, Caroline (d. 1875), daughter of Frederick Augustus Geary (d. 1845); and, secondly, in 1877, Teresa Felicia, daughter of Major H. Reynolds of the 58th regiment; he left issue by both wives. He was one of the ablest civil servants of his time, and was described by Lord Lingen as 'the most all-round man he knew.' A work on 'Bookkeeping,' which he published with the Clarendon Press in 1868, has passed through many editions, the latest being 1893.

[Times, 23 and 27 April 1895; Daily News, 23 April 1895; Annual Register, 1895, p. 173; Men of the Time, ed. 1895; Burke's Peerage, &c. 1895; Anderson's Graduates of Univ. and King's College, Aberdeen; Colonial Office List, 1893; Hew Scott's Fasti Eccl. Scot. iii. 424; Trevelyan's Life of Macaulay; private information.]

A. F. P.