Vernon, Edward

, esq. an admiral of distinguished bravery, was descended from an ancient family in Staffordshire, and born at Westminster on the 12th of November, 1684. His father, who was secretary of state to king William and queen Mary, gave him a good education, but never intended him for the sea-service: but, as the youth became desirous of entering on that employment, his father at last consented, and he pursued those studies which had a relation to navigation and gunnery with surprising alacrity and success. His first expedition at sea was under | admiral Hopson, when the French fleet and Spanish galleons were destroyed at Vigo. In 1702, he served in an expedition to the West Indies under commodore Walker; and, in 1704, on board the fleet commanded by sir George Rooke, which convoyed the king of Spain to Lisbon, when Mr. Vernon received a hundred guineas and a ring from that monarch’s own hand. He was also at the famous battle of Malaga, the same year. In January 17O5, he was appointed commander of the Dolphin; and, in 1707, commanded the Royal Oak, one of the ships sent to convoy the Lisbon fleet, which falling in with the French, three of our men of war were taken, and a fourth blown up. In 1708, Mr. Vernon commanded the Jersey, and was sent to the W’est Indies as rear-admiral under sir Charles Wager, where he took many valuable prizes, and greatly interrupted the trade of the enemy. In 1715, he commanded the Assistance, a ship of fifty guns, under sir John Norris, in an expedition to the Baltic; and, in 1726, the Grafton of seventy guns, under sir Charles Wager, in the same seas. On the accession of his late majesty George II. in 1727, Mr. Vernon was chosen member for Penryn, in Cornwall, and soon after was sent, to Gibraltar, as commander of the Grafton, to join sir Charles Wager. The next expedition in which he was engaged was that which immortalized his name. This was in 1739: he was sleeping in his bed at Chatham when the courier arrived with the news at about two in the morning; and, being informed that dispatches of the utmost importance were arrived from London, he arose. On opening the packet, he found a commission appointing him vice-admiral of the blue, and commander in chief of a squadron fitting out for destroying the settlements of the Spaniards in the West Indies, with a letter from his majesty, requiring his immediate attendance on him. Having received his instructions, he weighed anchor from Spithead on the 23d of July; and, on the 20th of November, arrived in sight of Porto Bello, with only six ships under his command. The next day he began the attack of that town; when, after a furious engagement on both sides, it was taken on the 22nd, together with a considerable number of cannon, mortars, and ammunition, and also two Spanish men of war. He then blew up the fortifications, and left the place for want of land forces sufficient to keep it; but first distributed 10,000 dollars, which had been sent to Porto-Bello for paying the Spanish troops, | among the forces for their encouragement. In 1741, he made an unsuccessful attempt upon Carthagena in conjunction with general Wentworth. After his return home, the rebellion in 1745 breaking out, he was employed in guarding the coasts of Kent and Sussex; when he stationed a squadron of men of war in so happy a manner as to block up the French ports in the channel. But, soon after, complaints being made against him for superseding the orders of the lords of the admiralty, in appointing a gunner in opposition to one recommended by themselves, and for exacting too severe duty from his men, he was struck off the list of admirals; on which he retired from all public business, except attending the House of Commons as member for Ipswich in Suffolk. He died suddenly at his seat at Nacton in Suffolk, on the 29th of October, 1757, in the seventythird year of his age.

It was the misfortune of this brave man, that too much of temper and political ambition made his life turbulent and unhappy. “Of all men,” says the candid Charnock, “who have been fortunate enough to obtain celebrity as naval commanders, few appear to have taken greater pains to sully their public fame by giving full scope to all their private feelings; yet probably, for this very uncommon reason, he rose the greater favourite of fortune, in the minds of the people, to that pinnacle of popularity, the height of which was indeed great enough to dazzle and distract the firmest minds; so that to the infirmity of human nature may, in some measure, be ascribed that extravagance of conduct which might otherwise be more condemned. To say he was a brave, a gallant man, would be a needless repetition of what no person has ever presumed to deny him. His judgment, his abilities as a seaman, are unquestioned; and his character, as a man of strict integrity and honour, perfectly unsullied, &c.Admiral Vernon wrote some pamphlets in his own defence, or in defence of his peculiar opinions. 1

1

Charnock’s Biog. Navalis. A Life of Admiral Vernon was published in 1758, in which he is represented as a profound classical scholar!