Joseph Hume, a British statesman, born in Montrose, Scotland, in January, 1777, died in Burnley hall, Norfolk, Feb. 20,1855. At about the age of nine he lost his father, the master of a small vessel, but was enabled by his mother, who established a crockery shop in Montrose, to receive a tolerable education. About 1790 he was placed with an apothecary of Montrose, and three years later he became a student of medicine at the university of Edinburgh, where he remained till 1796, when he was admitted a member of the college of surgeons of Edinburgh. Being appointed surgeon to an East Indiaman, he made two voyages to India, and in 1799 joined the medical establishment in Bengal. Finding that few of the company's servants had acquired the native languages, he applied himself to the study of them, and was soon able to speak them with fluency.
At the outbreak of the Mahratta war he was attached to the army, and upon a sudden emergency officiated as Persian interpreter with so much efficiency, that he was appointed to that office permanently. At the same time he was at the head of the medical staff, and for long periods acted as paymaster, postmaster, prize agent, and commissary general. These employments brought him reputation and emoluments; and in 1808 he was able to retire from professional life, and to return to England with a considerable fortune. For several years he devoted himself to travel and study. In January, 1812, he was for a valuable consideration returned to the house of commons for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, commencing his political career as a tory. Before the parliament was dissolved, in the succeeding July, he opposed a ministerial measure for the relief of the Nottingham framework knitters, on the ground that the masters would be thereby so much injured that the workmen would be reduced to a worse state than before. This so alarmed the conservative patrons of his borough that at the next election they refused him a seat, although he had bargained for a second return.
This proceeding probably opened the eyes of the new member to the evils of the borough system, for, although offered seats from other boroughs, he refused to enter parliament again except as a perfectly free member, a contingency which did not occur for several years. During this interval he busied himself with a variety of projects for the improvement of the laboring classes; but his chief efforts were directed against the abuses of the East India direction. In January, 1819, he reentered parliament as a radical member for the Aberdeen district of burghs, comprehending his native town, Montrose. He continued to represent the Scotch burghs till 1830, when he was returned unopposed as one of the members for Middlesex. In 1837 he was defeated, but was immediately returned through the interest of Mr. O'Connell for Kilkenny, which he represented till 1841, when he was an unsuccessful candidate for the town of Leeds. In the succeeding year he offered himself once more to the electors of Montrose, in whose service he died. His legislative zeal and labors were hardly equalled by those of the most eminent of his contemporaries. He urged reforms in every department of government; and he lived to see the adoption of almost every important measure which he had advocated.
In 1859 a statue of him was erected in his native town.