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Sir Robert Harry Inglis (1786-1855)

This article was written by George Fisher Russell Barker and was published in1891

Sir Robert Harry Inglis, politician, was born in London on 12 January 1786. He was only son of Sir Hugh Inglis, bart., for many years a director of the East India Company, and sometime M.P. for Ashburton, by his first wife, Catherine, daughter and coheiress of Harry Johnson of Milton Bryant, Bedfordshire. He was educated at Winchester and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he matriculated 21 October 1803, and graduated B.A. 1806, M.A. 1809, and was created D.C.L. 7 June 1826. He was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 17 July 1806, and acted for some time as private secretary to Lord Sidmouth, an old friend of his father. In 1814 he was appointed one of the commissioners for investigating the debts of the nabobs of the Carnatic, an office which he retained to the final close of the commission in March 1830.

He was called to the bar on 8 June 1818, but did not attempt to practise, and on 21 August 1820 succeeded his father as the second baronet. On the occasion of the coronation of George IV it is said that he was deputed to meet Queen Caroline at the abbey door in order to intimate to her that the government had determined to refuse her admission.

At a by-election in May 1824 Inglis was returned to parliament in the tory interest for the borough of Dundalk. In May 1825 he strenuously protested against the third reading of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, denying that the Roman catholics had either under the treaty of Limerick or under the articles of the union any claim whatever to relief . At the opening of the new parliament in November 1826 Inglis was without a seat in the House of Commons, but was returned for Ripon at a by-election in February 1828. In the same month he opposed Lord John Russell's motion for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and in the following May again protested at length against any concession to the Roman catholic claims.

In February 1829 he accepted the Chiltern Hundreds to contest the representation of Oxford University against Sir Robert Peel, who had resigned his seat on changing his opinions on the Roman catholic question, in order that his constituents might express an opinion on his policy. Inglis defeated Peel by 755 votes to 609, and continued thenceforth to represent the university until he retired from parliamentary life. On 30 March 1829 he both spoke and voted against the third reading of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, and on 1 March 1831 made a learned and elaborate speech against the ministerial plan of parliamentary reform. On 12 March 1831 Inglis was appointed a commissioner on the public records, and with Hallam made a minute examination of all the principal depositories of records, making a full report to the board on the subject, which was printed in April 1833.

In May 1832, when the Duke of Wellington made an abortive attempt to form a ministry for the purpose of carrying a moderate reform bill, Inglis warmly denounced any compromise of the kind. In February 1833 he protested against Lord Althorp's bill for the reform of the Irish church, and in April 1834 opposed the introduction of Grant's Jewish Relief Bill. On the presentation of the ‘Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England and Wales’ in March 1836, Inglis announced his opposition to the reduction of the episcopal revenues. In May 1838 he carried an address condemning the foreign slave-trade. In April 1842, when the income-tax was under discussion, Inglis suggested that not only incomes under £150 should be exempted, but that that amount should be deducted from all incomes of a higher value. In 1845 he led the opposition to the Maynooth grant, and branded the proposed establishment of queen's colleges in Ireland, ‘as a gigantic scheme of godless education’. In the following year he opposed the repeal of the corn laws, and in August 1847 was returned at the head of the poll for the university as a protectionist. In 1851 he supported Lord John Russell's Ecclesiastical Titles Assumption Bill, though in his opinion it was not stringent enough. Inglis retired from parliament at the opening of the session in January 1854, and was sworn a member of the privy council on 11 August following. He died at his house in Bedford Square on 5 May 1855, aged 69.

Inglis was an old-fashioned tory, a strong churchman, with many prejudices and of no great ability. He, however, accurately represented the feelings and opinions of the country gentleman of the time, and his genial manner and high character enabled him to exercise a considerable influence over the House of Commons, where he was exceedingly popular. He was a frequent speaker in the debates. He supported Lord Ashley in his attempts to amend the factory system. He also took an active part in many learned and religious societies. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 22 February 1816, and was for several years one of the vice-presidents. He was also president of the Literary Club and a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1850 was elected the antiquary of the Royal Academy. He married, on 10 February 1807, Mary, eldest daughter of Joseph Seymour Biscoe of Pendhill Court, Bletchingley, Surrey, who survived him many years.

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