Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/205

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Escombe
Escombe
193

of the judicial department, Bombay, in 1854; first director of public instruction in Western India, 1855–9; member of council, 1860–2; judge of Bombay high court, 1862–1863. He was a highly accomplished man and a good lawyer. He died in London on 5 June 1893.

Erskine's younger son, Henry Napier Bruce Erskine, C.S.I. (1832-1893), also a distinguished civilian, arrived in Bombay in 1853, was commissioner of northern division, 1877-9, and commissioner of Scinde, 1879-1887. He died at Great Malvern on 4 Dec. 1893 (article in Times of India, 20 Jan. 1894; Martin Wood, Things of India made Plain, London, 1884, p. 13; private information; Fergusson, Chronicles of the Cumming Club, Edinburgh, 1887).

[The best notice of Erskine is in a paper contributed to the Journal of the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1852 by Dr. John Wilson (iv. 276). There are also notices in the R.A.S.J. for 1853, vol. xv., annual report; and in Rieu's Catalogue of Persian MSS. iii. preface, p. xix; and there are references to him in the Lives of Mackintosh, Mountstuart Elphinstone (Elphinstone's Life by Colebrooke, London, 1884, contains several interesting letters from Elphinstone to Erskine), Horner, in Beattie's Life of Campbell, 1849, i. 243. and in the letters of Erskine of Linlathen (edited by Dr. Hanna, Edinburgh, 1877). Some information has been received from Erskins's grandson, Lestocq Erskine, esq., of Bookham, Surrey.]

H. B-e.

ESCOMBE, HARRY (1838–1899), premier of Natal, the son of Robert Escombe of Chelsea, who was of a family of Somersetshire yeomen, and of Anne, his wife, was born at Netting Hill, London, on 25 July 1838, and educated at St. Paul's school, which he entered in 1847 and left in 1855 to enter the office of a stockbroker. In 1859 he emigrated to the Cape, and early in 1860 went on to Natal, where he obtained employment under (Sir) John Robinson (afterwards first premier of the colony) as bookkeeper in the office of the 'Natal Mercury;' afterwards he went into the employ of Hermon Salomon, general agent, at Pietermaritzburg. He then commenced business on his own account in Durban, but did not succeed, and so decided to qualify himself as an attorney-at-law. He first became partner with J. D. Davis, and later with W. Shepstone, finally founding a firm of his own. In Natal, as in the United States and elsewhere, the solicitor is also advocate, and Escombe rapidly became successful in the courts till he was recognised as the first pleader in Natal, and was always employed in cases of importance. Later he was appointed solicitor and standing counsel for Durban.

In 1872 Escombe was elected for Durban as a member of the old mixed legislative council; he was at the time absent in Zululand at the crowning of Cetywayo. At the next general election in August 1873 he was again re-elected, but resigned when the council met. In the next year he was in England, and acted as immigration agent for the colony. He served with the Durban rifles through the Zulu campaign of 1879-80, and gained a medal. In November 1879 he was again elected for Durban to the legislative council, and a year later was also placed on the executive council, when he came out as the strong opponent of responsible government, in this respect working with Sir Henry Binns [q. v. Suppl.] In 1880 he obtained by his personal influence the enactment of the law constituting the Natal harbour board, and as chairman of the board he began at once to interest himself in the question of harbour accommodation at Durban, with which his name is specially connected. In 1881 he served through the Transvaal war with the royal Durban rifles. In 1882, in the elections for the legislative council, he opposed Sir John Robinson in his campaign for reform, but soon afterwards his views as regards responsible government underwent a change. Consequently in 1883 he ceased to be a member of the executive council. In 1885 he lost his seat in the legislature. In March 1886 he was delegate to a conference with the Orange Free State, held at Harrismith, on customs, the post office, and other questions. The same year he was re-elected to the council as member for Newcastle.

In 1887-8 Escombe was in England for some time, but hurried out to Natal to defend Dinizulu against the charge of rebellion, conducting the case with entire success. Soon after this he was asked to return to England and enter parliament in the liberal interest, but declined. Later, in 1888, he was elected again to the council as member for Klip River district, but in 1890 became member for Durban, which he continued to represent in future.

On the advent of responsible government Escombe became on 10 Oct. 1893 attorney-general in Sir John Robinson's ministry, and was appointed Q.C. He was during the following years chiefly connected with the policy of developing at all costs the commercial capacities of the colony; and some thought that he was inclined to sacrifice agricultural interests. On 15 Feb. 1897, when Sir John Robinson's health had broken down, Escombe became premier, combining with the office of

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