Yonge, George (DNB00)

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YONGE, Sir GEORGE, bart. (1731–1812), governor of the Cape of Good Hope, only surviving son of Sir William Yonge [q. v.], Walpole's secretary of state for war, was educated at Eton and Leipzig. He was in 1754 returned to parliament as member for Honiton, which he continuously represented (except from 1761–3) in successive parliaments till 1796. He is said to have spent enormous sums upon his constituency, and in an attempt to establish a woollen factory at Ottery St. Mary. From 1766 to 1770 he was one of the lords of the admiralty, from April to July 1782 he was vice-treasurer for Ireland, was secretary for war from July 1782 to April 1783, and again from December 1783 to July 1794, and master of the mint from July 1794 to February 1799, when he was appointed governor of the Cape of Good Hope. He was nominated a K.B. in 1788. He was thus a man of long official experience when, on 9 Dec. 1799, he arrived at Cape Town; but it was an experience that had no special bearing on the work he had undertaken, and he was probably too old to fall readily into new lines of thought and conduct. His government was marked by want of tact and judgment; he quarrelled with General Francis Dundas [q. v.], the officer in command of the troops, whose authority he attempted to usurp; he offended the old Dutch settlers by increased taxes, contrary, it was alleged, to the capitulation; he left the administration of affairs almost entirely in the hands of Mr. Blake, his private secretary, and Lieutenant-colonel Cockburn, his principal aide-de-camp, whose influence and support were believed to be marketable commodities. So many complaints reached the secretary of state, Henry Dundas (afterwards Viscount Melville) [q. v.], that in January 1801 a letter was sent out directing him to hand the charge of affairs over to General Dundas and to come home by the first opportunity. A letter to Dundas at the same time directed him to act as governor till the new governor arrived. Yonge wished that the supersession should take place after a short delay, giving him time to wind up affairs; but whether in consequence of private instructions from his uncle, or from personal ill-feeling, Dundas insisted on the immediate transfer of the authority, and the proclamation was issued within a few hours after the arrival of the letters. Yonge then applied to Sir Roger Curtis [q. v.] for a ship of war to take him to St. Helena, but this Curtis refused; and Yonge was left, waiting at an hotel, till he could find a passage. He did not arrive in England till towards the end of the year.

Meantime Lord Hobart, who had succeeded Dundas as colonial secretary, had written to the general desiring him to send home a report as to various abuses said to have taken place under Yonge's government, so that he might be able to judge ‘how far it might be advisable to institute an enquiry of a very serious nature’ into Yonge's conduct. Dundas, on receiving this, appointed a commission at Cape Town to examine the various charges mentioned in Hobart's letter; and this commission, after hearing evidence, not, apparently, on oath, nor subjected to cross-examination, and in the absence of Yonge, Blake, and Cockburn, put their hands to a report charging Blake and Cockburn with many and gross malpractices, and Yonge with being more or less cognisant of them. What steps Hobart took on receiving this report are not known. Cockburn denied the charge; possibly Blake did so too; and neither of them seems to have been tried in any way. If anything was officially done or said to Yonge, it did not abash him. On 26 July 1802 he wrote to Hobart that he had been paying his respects to the king at Weymouth. ‘I flatter myself,’ he said, ‘the justness of your lordship's mind will make you learn with pleasure the gracious reception I met with, such as was equal to my utmost wishes. … I found his Majesty perfectly well informed of every particular concerning the state of the colony, and had the happiness to be assured of his entire approbation of my conduct and services.’ It is quite possible that Yonge somewhat exaggerated the graciousness of his reception; but he could scarcely have waited on the king or have written this to Hobart if he had been tried and found guilty of conniving at a trade in licenses, monopolies, and permissions to sell slaves in the colony. A few months later he again wrote to Hobart, claiming payment of his expenses for the journey home, for the passage, diet, and hotel charges at Cape Town and at St. Helena, which seem to have amounted to about 1,000l. It does not appear that this was ever paid him, but he was given apartments at Hampton Court, where he died, at the age of eighty-one, on 25 Sept. 1812 (European Mag. 1812, ii. 330). He married, in 1765, Elizabeth, daughter of Bouchier Cleeve of Foot's Cray, but, as he left no issue, the baronetcy became extinct. The Great House at Colyton was conveyed by the last baronet to Sir John de la Pole, bart. Yonge also parted with the estates he held at Coplestone in Devonshire. His widow continued to reside at Hampton Court, and died there on 7 Jan. 1833 (Gent. Mag. 1833, i. 92, where she is named Anne). His portrait, painted by M. Brown, was engraved by E. Scott in 1790 (Bromley, p. 353).

[Vivian's Visitations of Devon; Theal's Hist. of South Africa, iii. 52–60, and Records of the Cape Colony, vols. iii. and iv. passim (index in vol. v.); Wotton's Baronetage, 1771, ii. 233.]

J. K. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.286
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
324 ii 30 Yonge, Sir George: after continuously insert (excepting from 1761 to 1763)
31 for 1794 read 1796