Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Broughton, William Robert

BROUGHTON, WILLIAM ROBERT (1762–1821), captain in the royal navy, after serving as a midshipman on the coast of North America and in the East Indies, and as lieutenant in the Burford, in the several engagements between Hughes and Suffren, was in 1790 appointed to command the Chatham brig, to accompany Vancouver in his voyage of discovery. He was for some time employed on the survey of the Columbia river and the coasts adjacent. In 1793, he travelled to Vera Cruz, overland from San Blas, on his way to England with despatches. On his arrival in this country he was made commander, 3 Oct., of the Providence, a small vessel of 400 tons burden, and was again sent out to the north-west coast of North America. On arriving on the station he found Vancouver gone ; and crossing over to the other side, he commenced, and during the next four years carried out, a close survey of the coast of Asia, from lat. 52° N. to 35° N., in encouragement of which important work he was advanced to post rank on 28 Jan. 1797. On 16 May 1797 the Providence struck on a coral reef near the coast of Formosa, and was totally lost. The men, however, were all saved and taken to Macao in the tender, in which Broughton afterwards continued the survey till May 1798, when he was discharged at Trincomalee for a passage to England, where he arrived in the following February. The history of this voyage and the geographical results he published in 1804, under the title, which is itself a summary of the work of the expedition, 'Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, in which the coast of Asia from the latitude of 35° N. to the latitude of 52° N., the island of Insu (commonly known under the name of the land of Jesso), the north, south, and east coasts of Japan, the Lieuxchieux and the adjacent isles, as well as the coast of Corea, have been examined and surveyed, performed in H.M. sloop Providence and her tender in the years 1795-6-7-8.' The original journals from which this work was elaborated, as well as that of the journey from San Blas to Vera Cruz, are now in the library of the Royal United Service Institution, and contain many interesting personal notices. After holding some other commands Broughton, in 1809, commanded the Illustrious in the expedition under Lord Gambier, and at the court-martial gave evidence which, so far as it went, implied a general agreement with the charges made by Lord Cochrane [see Cochrane, Thomas, Earl of Dundonald]. In 1810, still in the Illustrious, he went out to the East Indies, and was present at the reduction of the Mauritius in December [see Bertie, Albemarle]. In the following spring he had charge of the expedition against Java, which assembled at Malacca and sailed thence on 11 June. The passage was long and tedious, and Broughton, in the opinion of many, was unduly cautious (Lord Minto in India: Life and Letters of Gilbert Elliot, first Earl of Minto, 1807-14, edited by his grandniece, the Countess of Minto, 280). It was the beginning of August before the troops were landed in the neighbourhood of Batavia. On 9 Aug. the squadron was joined by Rear-admiral the Hon. Robert Stopford, who had come on to take the command. Broughton was annoyed, and applied for a court-martial on the rear-admiral 'for behaving in a cruel, oppressive, and fraudulent manner, unbecoming the character of an officer, in depriving me of the command of the squadron.' On the other hand, Lord Minto wrote in his private letters : 'The little commodore's brief hour of authority came to an end, to the great relief of all in the fleet and army ' (ibid. 282). Possibly this opinion reached the admiralty ; at any rate, they did not think fit to grant Broughton's request, and in fact approved of the course taken by Stopford. In 1812 Broughton returned to England. He was made a C.B. at the peace, and during his later years resided at Florence, where he died suddenly on 12 March 1821. He married his cousin Jemima, youngest daughter of Rev. Sir Thomas Delves Broughton, bart., of Doddington Hall, Cheshire, by whom he had three daughters, and one son, William, afterwards a captain in the navy.

[Official letters in the Public Record Office ; Gent. Mag. (1821) xci. i. 376, 648.]

J. K. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.38
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
467 i 27 Broughton, William R.: after 1821 insert He was colonel of marines from 1819 till his death