Monson, George (DNB00)

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MONSON, GEORGE (1730–1776), Indian officer and opponent of Warren Hastings, born 18 April 1730, in Arlington Street, London, was third and youngest son of John, first lord Monson (1693–1748) [q. v.], and his wife, Lady Margaret Watson, youngest daughter of Lewis, first earl of Rockingham. At the age of nine he was sent to Westminster School, then under the mastership of Dr. Nicholls. He went to the continent in 1747, remained abroad a year or two, and was at Geneva 8 Nov. 1748. He received his commission of ensign in the 1st foot-guards 24 Nov. 1750. On 5 Jan. 1754 he received a lieutenant's commission, with rank of captain in the army. He was elected one of the members for the city of Lincoln in 1754, and re-elected in 1761, retaining his seat till 1768. In 1756 he was appointed one of the grooms of the bedchamber in the household of the young Prince of Wales; and he retained the post when the prince became king, 25 Nov. 1760. He exchanged from the guards into Draper's regiment (first the 64th and afterwards made the 79th), which was raised in 1757, and his major's commission in it bore date 18 Aug. 1757. He sailed for India with his regiment 5 March 1758, and reached Bombay 14 Nov. and Madras in February 1759. He was second in command at the siege of Pondicherry, 1760, and Colonel Eyre Coote was superseded in his favour by an order from the directors of the East India Company. But before Coote sailed from Bengal Monson was seriously wounded, and the conduct of affairs fell again into Coote's hands. The town surrendered on 14 Jan. 1761. Monson especially distinguished himself at the capture of Manilla, 1762. He became lieutenant-colonel in September 1760, and was on 20 Jan. 1761 given command of the 96th foot. He received the rank of brigadier-general in India 7 July 1763. At the peace of Paris he returned to England, was presented to the king 23 Dec. 1764, and assiduously supported Lord North in parliament. On 30 Nov. 1769 he became full colonel and aide-de-camp to the king, who said that 'though not a strong man he had excellent brains' (Merivale, Life of Francis, i. 326).

In the Regulating Act of 1773 he was named one of the supreme council of Bengal. He arrived at Calcutta, with his wife, on 19 Oct. 1774, and took his seat in the council on 25 Oct. His wife had been previously acquainted with Warren Hastings, and the governor-general welcomed him in a specially courteous and cordial letter (Gleig, Life of Warren Hastings, i. 452-3). From the first he united with General (Sir John) Clavering [q. v.] and (Sir Philip) Francis [q.v.] in opposition to the policy of the governor-general. Hastings at first spoke well of him as 'a sensible man,' but before long he began to consider him even more dangerous than his colleagues. 'Colonel Monson, with a more guarded temper and a more regular conduct, now appears to be the most determined of the three. The rudeness of General Clavering and the petulancy of Francis are more provoking, but it is from the former only that I apprehend any effectual injury' (ib. p. 517). Monson was especially active in the affair of Nanda-Kumár Nuncomar) 'he receives, and I have been assured even condescends to solicit, accusations' (ib. p. 516) and himself moved that the raja be called before the board to substantiate his charges against Hastings (Forrest, Selections from State Papers, &c.,

p. 305, 13 March 1775). He refused, however, to take any part in saving his life after he was convicted of forgery (Sir James Stephen, Nuncomar and Impey, i. 232-3; see art. Impey, Sir Elijah).

Monson engaged also in the conflict with the supreme court, severely condemning the conduct of the judges in a minute of 11 April 1775 (ib. ii. 133). Throughout he appears to have been almost entirely under the influence of Francis, 'who ruled him by making him believe that he was ruled by him,' but who found him very difficult to manage. He was, says Impey, 'a proud, rash, self-willed man, though easily misled and very greedy for patronage and power' (Merivale, i. 326).

Accusations of corruption were made against him (Gleig, i. 511), but doubtless without foundation. He repeatedly expressed aversion even to the customary presents (Forrest, p. 130). Possibly his opposition to Hastings was embittered by illness, for he suffered almost from the day of his arrival in India. He was soon 'obliged to go to sea to save his life' (Busteed, Echoes of Old Calcutta, from Francis's Diary, p. 154); he recovered for a time, and resigned his position in September 1776 with the intention of returning to England, but he died on the 25th of the same month. He was made colonel of the 50th foot 1 Sept. 1775, and before news of his death reached England he had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general. He married in 1757 Lady Anne Vane, daughter of Henry, earl of Darlington, and widow of the Hon. Charles Hope Weir, who was four years his senior. Her mother was Lady Grace Fitzroy, and she was thus a great-granddaughter of Charles II. There was some scandal about her early life; she was a prominent figure in Calcutta society and 'a very superior whist-player' (Macrabie, Diary). She died on 18 Feb. 1776. They had no children.

[Information kindly supplied by Viscount Oxenbridge; The Selections from the Letters, Despatches, and other State Papers preserved in the Foreign Department of the Government of India, ed. G. W. Forrest, Calcutta, 1890, the primary authority for the most important part of Monson's life; Gleig's Life of Warren Hastings; Mill's History of British India, ed. H. H. Wilson, vol. iii.; Sir J. F. Stephen's Nuncomar and Impey; Collins's Peerage, 5th edit. 1779, vii. 289; Busteed's Echoes of Old Calcutta; Parker and Merivale's Life of Philip Francis.]

W. H. H.