Fremantle Stuff > people > Lord Goderich


Aberdeen Street Perth is named for Lord Aberdeen, Foreign Secretary 1828-1830 and 1841-1846, Prime Minister 1852-1855. He was created Viscount Gordon of Aberdeen 1 June 1814.

PERTH NAMES. Goderich of Goderich-street. By Cygnet.

GODERICH of Goderich-street was born plain Mr. Robinson, became Lord Goderich in course of time, and later blossomed into the Earl of Ripon. He was probably the only man who rejoiced in two nicknames, "Prosperity Robinson" and "Goody Goderich." He was certainly the weakest Prime Minster in English history and the only English Prime Minister who never faced Parliament. He was a definite contradiction in terms: a timid, diffident creature who did great things. Frederick John Robinson was born in 1782 the second son of a lord. He entered Parliament the year after the Battle of Trafalgar, and three years later became Under-Secretary for the Colonies. For the next 25 years he held the highest offices under the Crown: Lord of the Admiralty. Secretary for the Colonies, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Prime Minister. An amazing career for one who was regarded as a timid, anaemic creature! And not only was he all this, but a bungler and muddler into the bargain. Yet he did the most amazing things, and London, and the Empire and the world, owe him two monumental edifices: the British Museum, to build which he wheedled £40,000 out of Parliament; and the National Gallery, the foundation of which he laid by the bold purchase, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, of the famous Angerstein collection of paintings at a cost of £60,000.

His nickname "Prosperity Robinson" was also earned as Chancellor of the Exchequer when he halved the window tax and reduced every other tax in the list. But for all that, he was looked on somewhat as a joke in public life and his selection by King George the Fourth as Prime Minister in succession to Canning was regarded with more mirth than satisfaction. He did not hold the post six months and, as already stated, goes down into history as the weakest of Prime Ministers and the only one of the tribe who did not live to face Parliament. The manner of his going takes up many pages in the biographies of a hundred years ago, but Greville (the Clerk to the Privy Council) epitomises it thus:

Goderlch, in the midst of all the squabbles which preceded the break up of his Administration, went whining to the King and said: "Your Majesty don't know what vexation I have at home, with my wife's ill-health, etc., etc." The King, telling the story, said: "G— d— the fellow, what did he bother me about his wife for? I didn't want to hear all his stories about her health." Lady Goderich was a prinlcpal cause of all his follies. She never left him any repose, sent for him 20 times a day, even from the midst of his Cabinets, and he was weak and silly enough to give way to her fancies, for she persuaded him that she should die if she was thwarted - which would have been the best thing that could have happened to him, for she is ridiculous, capricious, tiresome, though she does not want for cleverness and was a sort of fortune.

Goderich gave way as Prime Minister to the Duke of Wellington, and the latter after another brief period to Lord Grey. Goderich took office under Grey as Secretary for the Colonies, but made a muddle of the Anti-Slavery question, just as at the beginning of his career he had muddled the Corn Laws Bill which led the mob to attack his house and ransack it of its contents. But just as the first muddling led him to the Prime Ministership, so did the second lead him to an Earldom and the Knighthood of the Garter! But it cost him his post as Secretary for the Colonies, and he was translated to another office. Again Greville takes us behind the scenes and shows us that King William was kinder to him than King George:

March 30, 1833 ... I have heard tonight the Goderlch version of his late translation. He had agreed to remain in the Cabinet without an Office, but Lord Grey insisted on his taking the Privy Seal and threatened to resign if he did not. He was at last bullied into acquiescence, and when he had his audience of the King His Majesty offered him anything he had to give. He said he had made the sacrlflce to please and serve him and would take nothing. An Earldom he refused. The Bath ditto. The Garter ... that he said he would take. It was then discovered that he was not of rank sufficient, when he said he would take the Earldom in order to qualify himself for the Garter; and so it stands.

Frederick John Robinson, erstwhile Viscount Goderich, thus became Earl of Ripon and Knight of the Garter. In 1841 he again held Cabinet rank under Sir Robert Peel He died in 1859. His wife was a daughter of Lord Hobart (after whom Hobart in Tasmania is named) and their son, the second Earl, who was born at 10 Downing-street and started life as Viscount Goderich, also became Baron Grantham, on the death of one uncle, and Earl de Grey on the death of another; while later on he was created Marquis of Ripon. He caused a sensation last century by resigning from the Cabinet and from the Grand Mastership of the English Freemasons to become a Roman Catholic, but later re-entered public life and was famous as Governor-General of India.

Goderich was Secretary for the Colonies when Captain Stirling left England in H.M.S. Success on the voyage which was to lead to his exploration of the Swan River. He was again Secretary for the Colonies in 1830 when the streets of Perth were being laid down and named.

References and Links

Cygnet [Cyril Bryan], 'Goderich of Goderich-street', West Australian 8 October 1938: 11.

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