Admiral Sir HUGH PALLISER, Bt 1723-1796
Admiral of the Blue
Source - Charnock, J. Biographia navalis… from … 1660 to the present time. 6v. 1794-98.
PALLISER, Sir Hugh, Bart. -
This brave man, and judicious officer, was descended from an ancient and
respectable family possessed of a considerable estate at Newby-wisk, in
Sir Hugh Palliser was born
at Kirk Deighton, in the
He also received honourable marks of approbation from his sovereign, though experiencing what officers of the most eminent merit had encountered before him, the jealousy and ill-will of the envious, which attach to the nature of all popular governments like that of Britain. These in the end instigated the attack of a powerful party upon sir Hugh, who declared himself equally zealous for the public service under all administrations, without courting or professing to be of any party.
He was made lieutenant in
1742; in that station he became first of the Essex, commanded by captain
Richard Norris, in the engagement off Toulon, on the 11th of
February, 1744. Captain Norris being backward and behaving ill, was ordered to
be tried by a court-martial; but the court construing the order to be only for
a court of enquiry, the captain was permitted to quit at
In July 1746 lieutenant Palliser was promoted to be commander of the Weazle sloop; and, on his station off Beachy Head in a very short time he captured four French privateers which acquired him, on the 25th of November following, the rank of post captain in the Captain, of seventy guns, under commodore Legge, just appointed commander-in-chief at the Leeward Islands, on whose death captain Palliser moved into the Sutherland, of fifty guns, that he might accommodate the senior captain (afterwards sir George Pococke) with the large ship. The Sutherland having been dismasted in an hurricane, captain Palliser lost the opportunity of sharing with the rest of the fleet in the capture of a very large French convoy, which had been dispersed by sir Edward Hawke.
An additional misfortune
afterwards befell him in the same ship when cruising to the leeward of
Martinico: being in want of water he proceeded to
accident he persevered in following the service, being in commission for the
Sheerness frigate, on the peace with
In the beginning of the
year 1753 he was appointed captain of the
In July 1758, captain Palliser being then commanded of the Shrewsbury, of seventy-four guns, to which ship he had been appointed in the early part of the year, lord Anson detached him with a squadron to cruize as near the entrance of Brest as he could with safety, in order to watch the French fleet in the road. Whilst on that service he fell in with a fleet of coasters, under convoy of two frigates, which he drove on shore at the entrance of the bay D'Hodiernes, and captured some of the trading vessels.
In the year 1759 he was,
with admiral Saunders, on the successful expedition against
In 1762 he was dispatched
with three ships of the line and a frigate to retake St. John's in
Newfoundland; but on his arrival he found that lord Colville and colonel
Amherst had anticipated that service: and, after the peace in 1764, he was sent
out thither again as governor and
commodore for the protection of that Fishery, against the encroachments of the
French, having under him a fifty-gun ship, the Guernsey, which bore his broad
pendant, and several frigates. He then met with a French commodore with a
similar force pretending to regulate their own fisheries and settle disputes
with ours, but, in reality, increasing them; wherefore commodore Palliser
warned the French commodore to quite the coast, informing him that the
sovereignty of the island belonged to Great Britain, and that he would not
suffer any foreign authority to interfere with his government. On account of
this and other spirited exertions, the French ambassador, in
In 1770 commodore Palliser
was appointed comptroller of the navy, and elected an elder brother of the
Trinity House. In 1773 he was created a baronet; in 1774 chosen representative
in parliament for Scarborough; in 1775 promoted to be a flag-officer; and, as
at that time it was a rule that a comptroller of the navy should not hold his
seat at the board with his flag, he was appointed on of the lords of the
admiralty, as successor to the earl of Bristol. In the same year his great
friend, sir Charles Saunders, died, leaving him a legacy of 5000L and sir Hugh
Palliser succeeded him as lieutenant-general of marines. On
Towards the end of 1777, and in the beginning of 1778, the warlike preparations made by the French manifested their intentions to support the revolted English colonies against the mother country. The American war at this time was very unpopular, and all possible means were made use of, according to a well-known phrase, both within and without doors, to retard the operations of government. There were notwithstanding many well-intentioned persons of rank in the opposition, who, though they disapproved the American war, could not silently behold the armaments of a natural enemy going forward; they therefore gave early intimation of the danger: of this number was admiral Keppel, who at that time resided on the Continent, and was in the habit of corresponding with sir Hugh Palliser. When the opposing fleet of England was preparing, the latter laboured much, and at length succeeded in bringing about the appointment of the former to the chief command, being himself selected to serve under him in the third station: with this admiral Keppel expressed himself well pleased, and informed sir Hugh, by letter, that he was one of the very few he could depend on. The indecisive action which took place with the enemy on the 27th of July following, is not only too well known to be now described, but has been already sufficiently enlarged on in our account of the commander-in-chief. The subsequent disagreement between those officers seemed converted into mischievous consequences, as we have already very forcibly remarked, by the rancour of party and the wickedness of interested persons. Doubtless both the admirals were unitedly zealous in doing their duty to the utmost against the insidious designs of France, the ambitious and hereditary enemy of their country; but as the event of the 27th of July, was unsatisfactory to the nation in general, the opposition took advantage of the discontents to inflame the country against the ministry, first by suggesting that admiral Keppel had orders not to act with vigour against the enemy; and, when the falsity of that assertion was exposed, by attributing, as a second charge, the ill success of the fleet to the difference between admiral Keppel and sir Hugh Palliser, in political principles on the American war, they coloured the aspersion by referring to the situation of the latter as an active lord of the admiralty; they of course represented him as the supporter of the existing administration, and by implication subservient to certain pretended views of debasing their friend the commander-in-chief. Thus the whole weight of popular opposition was employed to transfer the cause of disappointment to the junior officer: this was done while both parties were again absent at sea, and apparently on the same confidential and friendly footing as before.
The fleet returned to Spithead on the 26th of October, and sir Hugh Palliser finding that many envious insinuations and gross falsehoods had made strong impressions to his prejudice, he traced and discovered them, as he supposed, industriously circulated from dangerous quarters, on which he demanded, but could not obtain what he demanded, a fair discussion. Sir Hugh then took such decisive steps as brought on him the disagreeable but absolute necessity of calling for courts-martial on admiral Keppel and himself, that each might have an opportunity of vindicating his own conduct, and the nation be satisfied where the blame lay. The trials accordingly commenced; that of Mr. Keppel ended in the manner well-remembered and already stated: and, in conclusion, sir Hugh Palliser was acquitted, and the sentence declared, that his behaviour, on the 27th and 28th of July, was highly meritorious and exemplary, than which nothing could be more honourable.
During these commotions, sir Hugh Palliser having resigned the lieutenant-generalship of marines, and his seat in parliament, to accommodate a timid ministry who stood in awe of a powerful opposition, his majesty, on his honourable acquittal, was graciously pleased soon afterwards to appoint him governor of Greenwich-hospital, on the death of sir Charles Hardy. He was again chosen representative in parliament for the borough of Huntingdon; but at the ensuing general election, his old connexions and friends having coalesced with the opposition, his and their own enemies, he declined appearing any longer in so public a character, and retreated to the comforts of retirement with the most valuable blessings that heaven can bestow in this life, contentment, peace, and purity of mind.
He died admiral of the
white, governor of Scarborough-castle, one of the elder brethren of the
trinity-house, and governor of Greenwich-hospital, at his country seat, the Vache, in Buckinghamshire, on the 19th of
March, 1796, aged seventy-four, in consequence of a disorder induced by the wounds
received on board the Sutherland, in 1747, as mentioned in the former part of
this narrative. The title descends to his great nephew, Hugh Palliser Walters,
esq. And he left considerable sums for charitable purposes, with many legacies;
but the bulk of his fortune, real and personal, he willed to his natural son,
George Palliser, esq. A suitable monument is erected to his memory in the
An anonymous writer, who certainly was no relative or interested person, from his having much mistated the manner in which he received his fatal hurt, gives the following character of him.
"As a professional man, he was found superior to most of his cotemporaries [sic] in maritime skill, judicious in his dispositions and decisive in their consequent operations; in private life, conciliating in his manners and unshaken in his friendships; the wife and salutary laws which he caused to be enacted for the benefit of his country, and the comfort and happiness of the poor fishermen in Newfoundland, during his government of that island, are proofs of a sound mind, of a humane and benevolent disposition."
To this character we have briefly to add from ourselves, that however his friends may wish he had in some few points acted differently from what he did, his most violent enemies cannot but confess their own malignity, in having endeavoured to attach, as crimes to him, things which never existed even in his thought, and in having reprobated those very errors which their own conduct fatally gave birth to.
It is no difficult matter to draw a conclusion from facts after they have taken place; and we believe no moderate man will, at the present day, deny, that if the popular voice had been less clamorous, neither party would have proceeded to the lengths they did; the service would not have been rent into contending factions and parties, and the public cause of the country would have been materially benefited. No one can dispute on the one hand that the vice-admiral possessed a warm temper, and in too great a degree for a cautious or designing man; so on the other can no one disbelieve him to have possessed honour, judgement, and intrepidity.
For more than the last fifteen or sixteen years of his life he seldom or ever lay down on a bed from the constant pain in his leg, which he bore with the most manly fortitude. He was under the necessity of composing himself in an easy chair, sleeping at intervals; and when awake he placed the wounded limb on the contrary knee, in which position he employed himself in rubbing the bone (for it was literally no more) to assuage the pain till sleep again insensibly overtook him.
[Footnotes omitted from original extract- TJS]
Note by TJS: Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser was cousin to William Palliser, Archbishop of Cashel.
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