He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford.
He was Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies between 1821 and 1828 and Governor of Ceylon between 1831 and 1837 but is best remembered for his writings on assisted emigration to the colonies. Wilmot-Horton was a Canningite supporter of free trade and Catholic emancipation among the Tories. He served under the Earl of Liverpool, George Canning and Lord Goderich as Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies from 1821 to 1827 and was sworn of the Privy Council in 1827.
He reorganized the Colonial Office, including dividing the Empire into areas with a senior clerk responsible for administering each area.
Wilmot-Horton is best remembered for advocating that poor British and Irish families should be allowed to emigrate to the colonies and be granted land there, and was mainly responsible in securing two parliamentary grants in 1823 and 1825 to fund an experiment where poor Irish families settled in Canada. He managed to establish a parliamentary committee on emigration and served as its chairman between 1826 and 1827.
In this position he pushed for a plan where so called paupers gave up their rights to parish maintenance in return for grants of land in the colonies. However, the plans were dropped after Wilmot-Horton left the Colonial Office in 1827.
In Ceylon he implemented the recommendations of the Colebrooke–Cameron Commission forming the Ceylon’s First Legislative Council and Executive Committee.
Abolished the feudal practice of compulsory labor and abandoning government’s claims to free service (Rajakariya). Recognized the right to private property. Abolished government’s monopoly of the Cinnamon trade dating to the Dutch period.
Started the first newspaper of Ceylon the Colombo Journal and the first mail coach in Asia.
Reforms in the education system and establishment of Ceylon"s first public school, the Colombo Academy. In 1834 he succeeded his father as third Baronet.
He returned to Britain in 1837. Wilmot-Horton married Anne Beatrix Horton, daughter and co-heiress of Eusebius Horton, of the Catton Hall estate in Derbyshire, in 1806.
In 1823 he inherited the Catton Hall estate on the death of his father-in-law and pursuant to the latter"s will added Horton as a second surname.
Horton Plains was named after Sir Robert in 1834 by Lieutenant William Fisher of the 78th Regiment and Lieutenant Albert Watson of the 58th Regiment. Horton Place in Colombo was named after the Governor.
His memorial is located in Street John the Baptist"s Church, Croxall.
In his absence his plans on assisted emigration were ridiculed as those of an impractical dreamer by a succession of writers on colonial affairs, but Wilmot-Horton continued to write pamphlets advocating and defending his ideas.
6th United Kingdom Parliament. 7th United Kingdom Parliament. 8th United Kingdom Parliament.
He sat as Member of Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme from 1818 until 1830.