Leake, Sir John

, a brave and successful English admiral, son of the preceding, was born in 1656, at Rotherhithe, in Surrey. His father instructed him both in mathematics and gunnery, with a view to the navy, and entered him early into that service as a midshipman; in which station he distinguished himself, under his father, at the above-mentioned engagement between sir Edward Spragge and Van Trump, in 1673, beingt’nen no more than seventeen years old. Upon the conclusion of that war soon after, hfc engaged in the merchants’ service, and had the | command of a ship two or three voyages up the Mediterranean; but his inclination lying to the navy, he did not long remain unemployed in it. He had indeed refused a lieutenant’s commission; but this was done with a view to the place of master-gunner, which was then of much greater esteem than it is at present. When his father was advanced, not long after, to the command of a yacht, he gladly accepted the offer of succeeding him in the post of gunner to the Neptune, a second-rate man of war. This happened about 1675; and, the times being peaceable, he remained in this post without any promotion till 1688. James II. having then resolved to fit out a strong fleet, to prevent the invasion from Holland, Leake had the command of the Firedrake fireship, and distinguished himself by several important services; particularly, by the relief of Londonderry in Ireland, which was chiefly effected by his means. He was in the Firedrake in the fleet under lord Dartmouth, when the prince of Orange landed; after which he joined the rest of the protestant officers in an address to the prince. The importance of rescuing Londonderry from the hands of king James raised him in the navy; and, after some removes, he had the command given him of the Eagle, a third-rate of 70 guns. In 1692, the distinguished figure he made in the famous battle off La Hogue procured him the particular friendship of Mr. (afterwards admiral) Churchill, brother to the duke of Marlborough; and he continued to behave on all occasions with great reputation till the end of the war; when, upon concluding the peace of Ryswick, his ship was paid off, Dec. 5, 1697. In 1696, on the death of his father, his friends had procured for him his father’s places of mastergunner in England, and store- keeper of Woolwich, but these he declined, being ambitious of a commissioner’s place in the navy; and perhaps he might have obtained it, had not admiral Churchill prevailed with him not to think of quitting the sea, and procured him a commission for a third-rate of 70 guns in May 1699. Afterwards, upon the prospect of a new war, he was removed to the Britannia, the finest first-rate in the navy, of which he was appointed, Jan. 1701, first captain of three under the earl of Pembroke, newly made lord high admiral of England. This was the highest station he could have as a captain, and higher than any private captain ever obtained either before or since. But, upon the earl’s removal, to make way for | prince George of Denmark, soon after queen Anne’s accession to the throne, Leake’s commission under him becoming void, May 27, 1702, he accepted of the Association, a second-rate, till an opportunity offered for his farther promotion. Accordingly, upon the declaration of war against France, he received a commission, June the 24th that year, from prince George, appointing him commander in chief of the ships designed against Newfoundland. He arrived there with his squadron in August, and, destroying the French trade and settlements, restored the English to the possession of the whole island. This gave him an opportunity of enriching himself by the sale of the captures, at the same time that it gained him the favour of the nation, by doing it a signal service, without any great danger of not succeeding; for, in truth, all the real fame he acquired on this occasion arose from his extraordinary dispatch and diligence in the execution.

Upon his return home, he was appointed rear-admiral of the Blue, and vice-admiral of the same squadron; but declined the honour of knighthood, which, however, he accepted the following year, when he was engaged with admiral Rooke in taking Gibraltar. Soon after this he particularly distinguished himself in the general engagement off Malaga; and, being left with a winter-guard at Lisbon for those parts, he relieved Gibraltar in 1705, which the French had besieged by sea, and the Spaniards by land, and reduced to the last extremity. He arrived Oct. 29, and so opportunely for the besieged, that two days would, in all probability, have decided their fate; but this was prevented by sir John’s seasonable arrival. In Feb. 1705, he received a commission, appointing him vice-admiral of the white, and, in March, relieved Gibraltar a second time. On March 6 he set sail for that place; and, on the 10th, attacked five ships of the French fleet coming out of the Bay, of whom two were taken, two more run ashore, and were destroyed; and baron Pointi died soon after of the wounds he received in the battle. The rest of the French fleet, having intelligence of sir John’s coming, had left the Bay the day before his arrival there. He had no sooner anchored, but he received the letter inserted below from the prince of Hesse *: his highness also presented him


"Sir, I expected with great impatience this good opportunity to express my hearty joy for your great and good Succpm at this your second appearing off this place, which I hope hath been the first stroke towards our

| with a gold cup on the occasion. This blow struck a panic along the whole coast, of which sir John received the following account, in a letter from Mr. Hill, envoy to the court of Savoy: “I can tell you,” says he, “your late success against Mr. Pointi put all the French coast into a great consternation, as if you were come to scour the whole Mediterranean. All the ships of war that were in the road of Toulon were hauled into the harbour; and nothing durst look out for some days.” In short, the effect at Gibraltar was, that the enemy, in a few days, entirely raised the siege, and marched off, leaving only a detachment at some distance to observe the garrison; so that this important place was secured from any farther attempts of the enemy. There are but few instances in which the sea and land officers agreed so well together in an expedition, and sacrificed all private views and passions to a disinterested regard for the public good.

The same year, 1705, sir John was engaged in the reduction of Barcelona; after which, being left at the head of a squadron in the Mediterranean, he concerted an expedition to surprize the Spanish galleons in the bay of Cadiz; but this proved unsuccessful, by the management of the confederates. In 1706, he relieved Barcelona, reduced to the last extremity, and thereby occasioned the siege to be raised by king Philip. This was so great a deliverance of his competitor, king Charles, afterwards emperor of Germany, that he annually commemorated it, by a public thanksgiving on the 26th of May, as long as he lived. The raising of the siege was attended with a total eclipse of the sun, which did not a liitle increase the enemy’s consternation, as if the heavens concurred to defeat the designs of the French, whose monarch had assumed the sun for his device; in allusion to which, the reverse of the medal struck by queen Anne on this occasion, represented the sun in eclipse over the city and harbour of Barcelona. Presently after this success at Barcelona, sir John reduced the city of Carthagena, whence, proceeding to those of Alicant and Joyce, they both submitted to him; | and he concluded the campaign of that year with the reduction of the city and island of Majorca. Upon his retnrrt home, prince George of Denmark presented him with a diamond-ring of four hundred pounds value; and he had the honour of receiving a gratuity of a thousand pounds from the queen, as a reward for his services. Upon the unfortunate death of sir Cloudesly Shovel, 1707, he was advanced to be admiral of the white, and commander in chief of her majesty’s ’fleet. In this command he returned to the Mediterranean, and, surprizing a convoy of the enemy’s corn, sent it to Barcelona, and saved that city and the confederate army from the danger of famine, in 1708. Soon after this, convoying the new queen of Spain to her consort, king Charles, he was presented by her majesty with a diamond-ring of three hundred pounds value. From this service he proceeded to the island of Sardinia, which being presently reduced by him to the obedience of king Charles, that of Minorca was soon after surrendered to the fleet and land-forces.

Having brought the campaign to so happy a conclusion, he returned home; where, during his absence, he had been appointed one of the council to the lord-high-admiral, and was likewise elected member of parliament both for Harwich and Rochester, for the latter of which he made his choice. In December the same year, he was made a second time admiral of the fleet. In May 1709, he was constituted rear-admiral of Great -Britain, and appointed one of the lords of the admiralty in December. Upon the change of the ministry in 1710, lord Orford resigning the place of first commissioner of the admiralty, sir John Leake was appointed to succeed him; but he declined that post, as too hazardous, on account of the divisions at that juncture. In 1710, he was chosen a second time member of parliament for Rochester, and made admiral of the fleet the third time in 1711, and again in 1712, when he conducted the English forces to take possession of Dunkirk. Before the expiration of the year, the commission of admiral of the fleet was given to him a fifth time. He was also chosen for Rochester a third time. Upon her majesty’s decease, 'Aug. l, 1714, his post of rear-admiral was determined; and he was superseded as admiral of the fleet by Matthew Aylmer, esq. Nov. 5. In the universal change that was made in every public department, upon the accession of George I. admiral Leake could not expect to be | excepted. After this he lived privately; and, building a little box at Greenwich, spent part of his time there, retreating sometimes to a country-house he had at Beddington in Surrey. When a young man, be had married a daughter of captain Richard Hill of Yarmouth; by whom he had one son, an only child, whose misconduct had given him a great deal of uneasiness. In Aug. 1719, he was seized with an apoplectic disorder; but it went off without any visible ill consequence. Upon the death of his son, which happened in March following, after a lingering incurable disorder, he discovered more than ordinary affliction; nor was he himself ever well after; for he died in his house at Greenwich, Aug. 1, 1720, in his sixty-fifth year. By his will, he devised his estate to trustees for the use of his son during life: and upon his death without issue, to captain Martin, who married his wife’s sister, and his heirs. 1


Biog. Brit.