James, Sir William

, an eminent English officer in the East India service, was born at Milford Haven about 1721, and embarked in a sea life at twelve years of age. He was not more than twenty when he obtained the command of a ship. He was with sir Edward Hawke in the West Indies in 1738, as a junior officer. Some years after he commanded a ship in the Virginia trade but in her he wsa taken by the Spaniards in the gulph of Florida, and carried a prisoner to the Havannah. After he and his crew, consisting of fifteen persons, were released from the Spanish prison, they embarked in a small brig for Carolina. The second day after putting to sea, a very hard gale of wind came on, the vessel strained, and soon became so leaky that the pumps and the people baling could not | keep her free; and at length, being worn out with labour, seven of them, with Mr. James, got into the only boat they had, with a small bag of biscuit and a keg of water: the vessel soon after disappeared, and went down. They were twenty days in this boat without a compass; their biscuit soon got wet with the sea, which for two days made a breach over the boat; a snuff-box sir William had with him served to distribute their daily allowance of water: and after encountering every difficulty of famine and severe labour, on the twentieth day they found themselves on the islam) of Cuba, not ten miles from whence they had been embarked out of a Spanish prison: but a prison had no horrors to them. The Spaniards received them once more into captivity; and it is remarkable, that only one out of the seven perished, though after they got on shore few of them had the use of their limbs for many days.

In the beginning of 1747 Mr. James went to the East Indies as chief officer of one of the East India company’s ships, and performed two voyages in that station. In 1749 the East India company appointed him. to the command of a new ship, the Guardian, equipped as a ship of war. In her he sailed to Bombay, to protect the trade on the Malabar coast, which was much annoyed by the depredations of Angria, and other pirates, with which those seas swarmed; and during the two years occupied by him in convoying the merchant ships from Bombay and Surat to the Red Sea, the gulph of Persia, and along the Malabar coast from the gulph of Cambay to cape Comorin, he was frequently attacked by the vessels of the different piratical states. At one time when he had near seventy sail under his protection, he was assailed by a large fleet of Angria’s frigates and gallivats, not badly provided with guns, and, as usual, full of men. Having formed the line with his little squadron, consisting of the Guardian, Bombay grab, and Drake bomb-ketch, he engaged the enemy, and kept them in close action while his convoy got safe into Tellicherry. In this conflict, which seems on the part of both to have been disputed with great animation, the brave English commander sunk one of the enemy’s largest gallivats, and obliged the rest to take shelter in Ghtriah and Severn-droog.

About the begUiuing of 1751 he v/as appointed commander in chief of the East India company’s marine forces, and hoisted his broad pendant on board the Protector, a fine ship of 44 guns. On April 2, 1755, he was sent with | the Protector, Guardian, Bombay grab, the Drake bomb, and some gallivats, to attempt such of the ports belonging to Angria as lie to the northward of Gheriah, his principal fortress and capital. The chief of these fortresses was Severndroog, which was well defended by batteries along the shore, and the entrance of the harbour was secured by a strong castle, on which were mounted seventy pieces of cannon. Having reconnoitered the place, and informed himself of its strength, captain James made his attack, and in less than three hours the governor surrendered the castle and the vessels in the harbour: this was quickly followed by the surrender of Victoria and four other forts. When captain James returned with his victorious fleet to Bombay, he found admiral Watson there, with three line of battle ships, and some frigates, &c. The government of Bombay consulted with the admiral about means to destroy the power of Angria; and the Mahratta states joined in the confederacy, having suffered by his depredations. He was accordingly sent with his little squadron to reconnoitre Gheriah, a place represented to be almost impregnable from the sea. He judiciously stood close in to the walls, under the cover of night, and with his boat sounded and examined the channels leading to the harbour and outer road; in the day-time he stood in within gunshot of the walls; and having in two days made himself perfectly master of the enemy’s strength, he returned to Bombay. This piece of service he performed with so much promptness and skill, that he received the thanks of the governor and admiral; and they were so well persuaded, from his report, of the practicability of the enterprize, that no time was lost in equipping the ships, and embarking the troops.

The squadron formed off Gheriah, the 10th of February, 1716. Captain James, in the Protector, led the squadron to the attack in one division, while another division of frigates led the bomb-ketches in another line; a heavy and tremendous fire began on our part from the ships of the line, while the shells were thrown with great success from the bombs into the harbour, where all Angria’s ships were hauled for safety; these were soon set on fire by the bombs; the fire from the castle and batteries soon slackened, and before the evening set in, the castle surrendered, and Gheriah, and all its dependencies, fell into our hands. Thus shortly ended an enterprise, which, for many years, | had been in contemplation by the European governments in India, but which was never before attempted, from an idea that no force sufficient could be brought against the walls of this castle. Lord Clive, at this time a lieutenantcolonel, commanded the land forces.

On the Malabar coast, soon after this, he fell in with a French ship from Mauritius, very much his superior in men and guns; she was called L’lndienne: after a smart action she struck, and he carried her in triumph to Bombay. Captain James, in an eminent manner, displayed his nautical abilities by shewing, that in despightof a contrary monsoon, a communication between Bombay and the Coromandel coast may be effected in cases of exigency. This passage was attempted by him in the first instance, and he accomplished it in nearly as short a time as it usually was done in the favourable monsoon. It was of the utmost moment that he succeeded at the time he did, for by it he confirmed to admiral Watson (then in the Ganges) the intelligence of the war with France, and brought to his assistance five hundred troops, by which the admiral and colonel Clive were enabled, in March 1757, to take Chandenagore, the chief of the French settlements in Bengal. In effecting this passage James crossed the equator in the meridian of Bombay, and continued his course to the southward as far as the tenth degree, and then was enabled to go as far to the eastward as the meridian of Atcheen head, the north-west extremity of Sumatra, from whence, with the north-east monsoon, which then prevailed in the bay of Bengal, he could with ease gain the entrance of the Ganges, or any port on the Coromandel coast.

In 1759 captain James returned to his native country. The East India company presented him with a handsome elegant gold-hilted sword, with a complimentary motto, expressive of their sense of his gallant services. Soon afterward he was chosen a director, and continued a member of that respectable body more than twenty years; in which time he had filled both the chairs. He was fifteen years deputy-master of the corporation of the Trinityhouse; a governor of Greenwich hospital; served two sessions in parliament for West Looe; and on the 25th of July, 1778, the king was pleased to create him a baronet. He planned the reduction of Pondicherry during the American war, and received a rich service of plate from the India company, as a testimony of their sense of his skill and judgment in that affair. | On the 16th of December 1783, sir William died, aged sixty-two. In the year following, a handsome building was erected on his estate in Kent, near the top of Shooter' shill, in the style of a castle, with three sides, and commanding a most extensive view. The lowest room is adorned with weapons, peculiar to the different countries of the east. The room above has different views of naval actions and enterprises painted on the ceiling, in which sir William had been a considerable actor. The top of the building is finished with battlements, about sixty feet from the base. The top of the battlements is four hundred and eighty feet above the level of Shooter’s-hill, and more than one hundred and forty feet higher than the top of St. Paul’s cupola. On a tablet over the entrance door is this inscription:

This building was erected MDCCLXXXIV, by the representative of the late sir William James, bail, to commemorate that gallant officer’s achievements in the East Indies, during his command of the company’s marine forces in those seas; and in a particular manner to record the conquest of the castle of Severndroog, on the coast of Malabar, which fell to his superior valour and able conduct on the 2d day of April, M,DCC,LV.

Of sir William, it is said, by a person who knew him intimately near thirty years, and was well acquainted with his professional abilities, that as a thorough practical seaman, he was almost without an equal; as an officer, he was brave, vigilant, prompt, and resolute; patient in difficulty, with a presence of mind that seemed to grow from danger. 1

1 Communicated by lady James to Mr. Pennant. Asiatic Annual Register, vol. II.