1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Acton, Sir John Francis Edward, Bart.
ACTON, SIR JOHN FRANCIS EDWARD, Bart. (1736–1811), prime minister of Naples under Ferdinand IV., was the son of Edward Acton, a physician at Besançon, and was born there in 1736, succeeding to the title and estates in 1791, on the death of his cousin in the third degree, Sir Richard Acton of Aldenham Hall, Shropshire. He served in the navy of Tuscany, and in 1775 commanded a frigate in the joint expedition of Spain and Tuscany against Algiers, in which he displayed such courage and resource that he was promoted to high command. In 1779 Queen Maria Carolina of Naples persuaded her brother the Grand-Duke Leopold of Tuscany to allow Acton, who had been recommended to her by Prince Caramenico, to undertake the reorganization of the Neapolitan navy. The ability displayed by him in this led to his rapid advancement. He became commander-in-chief of both services, minister of finance, and finally prime minister. His policy was devised in concert with the English ambassador, Sir William Hamilton, and aimed at substituting the influence of Austria and Great Britain for that of Spain, at Naples, and consequently involved open opposition to France and the French party in Italy. The financial and administrative measures which were the outcome of a policy which necessitated a great increase of armament made him intensely unpopular, and in December 1798 he shared the flight of the king and queen. For the reign of terror which followed the downfall of the Parthenopean Republic, five months later, Acton has been held responsible. In 1804 he was for a short time deprived of the reins of government at the demand of France; but he was speedily restored to his former position, which he held till, in February 1806, on the entry of the French into Naples, he had to flee with the royal family into Sicily. He died at Palermo on the 12th of August 1811.
He had married, by papal dispensation, the eldest daughter of his brother, General Joseph Edward Acton (b. 1737), who was in the Neapolitan service, and left three children, the elder son, Sir Richard, being the father of the first Lord Acton. The second son, Charles Januarius Edward (1803–1847), after being educated in England and taking his degree at Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1823, entered the Academia Ecclesiastica at Rome. He left this with the rank of prelate, in 1828 was secretary to the nuncio at Paris and was made vice-legate of Bologna shortly afterwards. He became secretary of the congregation of the Disciplina Regolare, and auditor of the Apostolic Chamber under Gregory XVI., by whom he was made a cardinal in 1842. Cardinal Acton was protector of the English College at Rome, and had been mainly instrumental in the increase, in 1840, of the English vicariates-general to eight, which paved the way for the restoration of the hierarchy by Pius IX. in 1850. He died on the 23rd of June 1847.