Anson, George

, an eminent naval commander, and distinguished nobleman, of the eighteenth century, was descended from an ancient and respectable family, which had long been settled in Staffordshire. He was born at Shugborough manor, in the parish of Colwich, in that county, on the 23d April, 1697, being the third son of William Anson, esq. by Elizabeth, eldest daughter and coheir of Robert Carrier, esq. of Wirksworth in Derbyshire. The navy being Mr. Anson‘ s choice, he went early to sea; and on the 9th of May 1716, was made second lieutenant of his majesty’s ship the Hampshire, by sir John Norris, commander in chief of a squadron sent to the Baltic. In the following year, he was again in the Baltic, in the fleet commanded by sir George Byng; and on the 15th of March, 1717-8, was appointed second lieutenant of the Montague, belonging to sir George Byng’s squadron, in the expedition to Sicily; and was present in the celebrated action near that island, by which the Spanish fleet was effectually destroyed, and the designs of the king of Spain against Sicily received a very considerable check. On the 19th June 1722, he was preferred to be master and commander of the Weazel sloop; and on the first of February 1723-4, he was raised to the rank of post-captain, and to the command of the Scarborough man of war. In this ship he was ordered to South Carolina, in which station he continued above three years; and while he resided in that province, he erected a town, Anson Bourgh, and gave name to a county, which is still called Anson county. Being commanded home in October 1727, he returned to England in the following spring, and was paid off in May 1728. On the 11th of October, in the same year, he was appointed captain of the Garland man of war, and went out in her to South Carolina; from whence he was ordered back, in December 1729, and the | ship was put out of commission at Sheerness. He did not, however, remain long out of employ, for on the 1.5th of May 1731, the command of the Diamond, one of the squadron in the Downs, was bestowed upon him, which he held about three months, when the Diamond was paid off. On the 25th January 1731-2, he was again called into public service, and appointed captain of the Squirrel man of war; in which ship he was ordered, in the following April, for South Carolina. This was the third time of his being placed upon that station, and it was probably peculiarly agreeable to him, on account of the property he had acquired, and the settlement he had made in the province. Here he continued till the spring of the year 1735, when, in consequence of an order given in December 1734, he returned to England; and, in the month of June, was paid off at Woolwich. In these several employments he conducted himself with an ability and discretion which gave general satisfaction. On the 9th of December 1737, he was put into the command of the Centurion, and, in. February following, ordered to the coast of Guinea; and returned home in July 1739. In this voyage he executed with great prudence and fidelity, the directions of government; and obliged the French to desist from their attempt to hinder our trade on that coast, wthout coming to any action, at a time when it would have been/very inconvenient to the British court to have had an open rupture with France.

Mr. Anson’s conduct, in his various situations and employments, had produced so favourable an opinion of his capacity and spirit, that when, in the war which broke out with Spain in 1739, it was determined to attack the Spanish American settlements in the great Pacific ocean, and by this means to affect them in their most sensible parts, he was fixed upon to be the commander of the fleet which was designed for that purpose. As the history of this expedition, which laid the foundation of his future fortunes, has, in consequence of the excellent account of it, written by the late ’Mr. Robins, and the curious and interesting nature of the subject, been more read than perhaps any work of the kind ever published, it is not necessary to give a detail of it here. It may suffice to say, that his departure being unaccountably delayed some months beyond the proper season, he sailed about the middle of September 1740; and towards the vernal equinox, in the most | tempestuous weather, arrived in the latitude of Cape Horn. He doubled that dangerous cape in March 1741, after a bad passage of 40 days, in which he lost two ships, and by the scurvy four or five men in a day. He arrived off Juan Fernandes in June, with only two ships, besides two attendants on the squadron, and 335 men. He left it in September, took some prizes, and burnt Paita; and staid about the coast of America till May 1742. He then crossed the Southern ocean, proceeding with the Centurion only, the other ships having been destroyed in August. Having refreshed his crew at Tinian, he sailed in October for China; staid there till the beginning of 1743; waited for the galleon at the Philippine islands, met her on the 20th of June, and took her. Having sold the prize in China, he set sail for England, December 1743, and on the 15th of June 1744, arrived at Spithead.

It may be necessary, however, to mention some circumstances in this expedition, which more immediately relate to the personal character of Mr. Anson, and which indicate the turn of his mind. Before his departure, he took care to furnish himself with the printed journals of the voyages to the South-seas, and the best manuscript accounts he could procure of all the Spanish settlements upon the coasts of Chili, Peru, and Mexico, which he afterwards carefully compared with the examinations of his prisoners, and the information of several intelligent persons who fell into his hands; and, through the whole enterprize, he acted with remarkable discretion, and with a calmness which particularly distinguishes his character. When he was ready to depart from St. Catherine’s, and considered that his own ship might possibly be lost, or disabled from, getting round Cape Horn, he -gave such directions to the other commanders, as would have prevented the undertaking being abandoned, even in that case. His humanity was displayed at the island of Juan Fernandes, in his assisting with his own labour, and obliging the officers, without distinction, to give their helping hand in carrying the sick sailors, in their hammocks, to shore. At the same place he sowed lettuces, carrots, and other garden plants; and set, in the woods, a great variety of plumb, apricot, and peach-stones, for the better accommodation of his countrymen who should hereafter touch there; and he had afterwards pleasing intelligence of their growth from Spanish navigators. From a like attention, commodore Anson | was particularly industrious in directing the roads and coasts to be surveyed, and other observations to be made, to facilitate future voyages in those seas. His integrity and generosity in the treatment of some female prisoner’s who had fallen into his hands, and his care to prevent their meeting with any degree of rudeness, from a set of sailors who had not seen a woman for nearly a twelvemonth, are greatly to his honour. There was, indeed, nothing from which he derived greater credit, or which reflected greater glory on the English nation, than his behaviour to his prisoners in general, and particularly to the women. Though his force was rendered very weak by the sickness and death of great numbers of his men, and by the separation or loss of the larger part of his small squadron, he was always intent upon contriving some scheme, by which, if possible, the design of his expedition might be answered. When no purpose was likely to be effectual, but the taking of the Acapulco ship (the galleon above-mentioned), he pursued that plan with the greatest sagacity and perseverance. In no instance was the fortitude of his mind more tried, than when the Centurion was driven out to sea, from the uninhabited island of Tinian; himself, many of the officers, and part of the crew, being left on shore. In this gloomy and disconsolate situation, he preserved his usual composure and steadiness, though he could not be without his share of inward disquietude. He calmly applied to every measure which was likely to keep up the courage of his men, and to facilitate their departure from the island. He personally engaged in the most laborious part of the work which was necessary in the construction of a vessel for this purpose; and it was only upon the pleasing and unexpected news of the return of the Centurion, that, throwing down his axe, he by his joy broke through, for the first time, the equable and unvaried character which he had hitherto preserved. Commodore Anson, when he was at Macao, exerted great spirit and address in procuring the necessary aid from the Chinese, for the refitting of his ship. In the scheme of taking the Manilla galleon, and in the actual taking of it, he displayed united wisdom and courage; nor did the accustomed calmness of his mind forsake him on a most trying occasion, when, in the moment of victory, the Centurion was dangerously on fire near the powder-room. During his subsequent stay at Canton, he acted, in all respects, with | the greatest spirit, and firmly maintained the privilege and honour of the British flag. The perils with which he had been so often threatened, pursued him to the last; for on his arrival in England, he found that he had sailed through the midst of a French fleet then cruizing in the channel, from which he had the whole time been concealed by a fog.

Mr. Anson, a few days after his return into his own country, was made a rear-admiral of the blue, and in a very short time, he was chosen member of parliament for Heydon in Yorkshire. On the 27th December 1744, when the duke of Bedford was appointed first lord of the admiralty, he was appointed one of the commissioners of the admiralty; and on the 23d of April, in the following year, was made a rear-admiral of the white. On the 14th of July 1746, he was raised to the rank of vice-admiral; and in the latter end of that year, and beginning of 1747, he commanded the squadron in the channel service, and bore the inconveniencies of a long and tempestuous winter navigation, with his usual patience and perseverance. Nothing would have frustrated the success of this expedition, but the accidental intelligence which was given, by the master of a Dutch vessel, to the duke of D’Arville’s fleet, of admiral Anson’s station and intention. However, being employed again early in the ensuing spring, he had an opportunity of rendering a very signal service of his country. Being then on board the Prince George, of 90 guns, with rear-admiral Warren, in the Devonshire, and twelve ships more under his command, he intercepted, on the 3d of May 1747, off Cape Finisterre, a considerable fleet, bound from France to the East and West Indies, and laden with merchandise, treasure, and warlike stores; and took six men of war, and four East Indiamen, not one of the enemy’s vessels of war escaping. By this successful exploit, he defeated the pernicious designs of two hostile expeditions, and made a considerable addition to the force and riches of our own kingdom. M. St. George, captain of the Invincible, in allusion to the names of two of the ships which had been taken, and pointing to them at the same time, said, when he presented his sword to the conqueror, “Monsieur, vous avez vaincu V In-vincible, et la Gloire vous suit.” On the 13th of June following, the king raised him to the honour of an English peerage, by the style and title of lord Anson, baron of Soberton, in the county of Southampton; and | his lordship made choice of a motto, very happily suited to his perils and his successes, ML Desperandum. On the 25th of April 1748, he married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Philip lord Hardwicke, at that time lord high chancellor of Great Britain; but his lady died without issue on the 1st of June 1760.

On the 12th of July 1749, his lordship was made viceadmiral of Great Britain, an appointment that is more of a civil than a military nature; but which, nevertheless, is always given to a military man. On the 12th of June 1751, he was preferred to be first commissioner of the admiralty, in the room of the earl of Sandwich; and in the years 1752 and 1755, he was one of the lords justices of the kingdom, during his majesty’s absence. The affair of Minorca occasioned him to be much blamed by the party writers of the time, in his character of first lord of the admiralty; but when this was inquired into, the resolutions of the House of Commons acquitted him and his colleagues of any neglect of duty. On the 16th of November 1756, upon a change of administration, he resigned his office in the admiralty; but, having been in the interval made an admiral, he was again placed at the head of the board, where he continued during the remainder of his life. He came in with his old friends, the duke of Newcastle and the earl of Hardwicke, and in the most honourable manner; for he resumed his seat with the concurrence of every individual in the ministry, Mr. Pitt resuming the seals as secretary of state, and with the particular approbation of king George II. All the rest of his conduct, as first commissioner of the admiralty, was crowned with success, under the most glorious administration which this country ever saw. The last time that he commanded at sea, was in 1758, to cover the expedition against the coast of France. Being then admiral of the white, and having hoisted his flag on board the Royal George, of 100 guns, he sailed from Spithead, on the first of June, with a formidable fleet, sir Edward Hawke serving under him; and by cruizing continually before Brest, he protected the descents which were made that summer at St. Malo’s, Cherbourg, &c. The French fleet not venturing to come out, he kept his own squadron and seamen in constant exercise; a thing which he thought had been too much disregarded. On the 30th of July 1761, his lordship was raised to the dignity of admiral and commander in chief of the fleet; | and in a few days he sailed from Harwich, in the Charlotte yacht, to convoy her present majesty to England, in 1762, he went to Portsmouth, to accompany the queen’s brother, prince Charles of Mecklenburgh, and to show him the arsenal, and the fleet which was then upon the point of sailing, under the command of sir George Pocock, for the Havannah. In attending the prince, however, he caught a violent cold, that was accompanied with a gouty disorder, under which he languished two or three months. This cold, at length, settled upon his lungs, andrwas the immediate occasion of his death. He died, at his seat at Moor Park, in Hertfordshire, on the 6th of June 1762, and was buried in the family vault at Colwich. His character may be justly estimated from the particulars we have given. In his official department, he acted with great judgment, and was a steady friend to merit. Of his private virtues, it is a sufficient test that he was never the object of slander or blame. It has, indeed, been asserted that he was addicted to gaming; but the author of the life we have followed in this account denies the charge, admitting only that he played for amusement. He left his fortune to his brother Thomas Anson, esq. who was member of parliament for Lichfield, a gentleman well known for his liberal patronage of, and his exquisite skill in, the fine arts. On his decease, the united fortunes of the family devolved to his nephew, by his eldest sister, George Adams, esq. who assumed the name of Anson.

The history of lord Anson’s voyage, although published under the name of Mr. Walter, we have attributed to Mr. Robins. A general and uncontradicted report had for many years prevailed, that the work was drawn up by Mr. Robins, nor was this a vague report, but grounded on positive testimony. Dr. James Wilson had publicly asserted the fact, in the short account of Mr. Robins, which he prefixed to his edition of the mathematical tracts of that ingenious writer; and Mr. Martin in the life of Robins in his “Biographia Philosophica,” speaks positively to the same purpose, although probably on Dr. Wilson’s authority. Soon after the publication, however, of the first volume of the Biographia Britannica, in which the same assertion was repeated, the widow of Mr. Walter addressed a letter to the editor of that work, maintaining Mr. Walter’s claim as author of the work; but in our opinion her proofs are far from affording more than a probability. | In our article of Robins this dispute will be adverted to more particularly. 1


Biographia Britannica.—Wilson’s Life of Robins.—Nichols’s Life of Bowyerm vol. II. p. 205.