Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kuper, Augustus Leopold

KUPER, Sir AUGUSTUS LEOPOLD (1809–1885), admiral, son of William Kuper, D.D., chaplain to Queen Adelaide, was born on 16 Aug. 1809. He entered the navy in April 1823, and after serving on the South American and Mediterranean stations was promoted to be lieutenant on 28 Feb. 1830. During the next seven years he served almost continuously on the home station and the coast of Spain or Portugal, and in July 1837 was appointed first lieutenant of the Alligator, with his father-in-law, Captain Sir James John Gordon Bremer [q. v.] He assisted Bremer in forming the settlement of Port Essington in North Australia, and on 27 July 1839 was promoted by him to the command of the Pelorus. In a violent hurricane at Port Essington the Pelorus was driven on shore, high and dry, and was got off with great difficulty and labour after eighty-six days. On 5 March 1840 Bremer, being then senior officer in India, appointed Kuper acting captain of the Alligator, and in June 1841 moved him to the Calliope, in which he was confirmed by the admiralty with seniority 5 June 1841. In the Alligator, and afterwards in the Calliope, he was actively employed during the first Chinese war, and was honourably mentioned for his conduct at the capture of Chusan in July 1840, at the reduction of the Bogue forts in February 1841, and in the operations leading up to the capitulation of Canton. In acknowledgment of his services during this period he was nominated a C.B. on 21 Jan. 1842. From 1850 to 1853 he commanded the Thetis frigate in the Pacific, and the London in the Mediterranean for a few months in 1855.

On 29 July 1861 he was promoted to be rear-admiral, and in the autumn of 1862 succeeded Sir James Hope [q. v.] as commander-in-chief in China, where affairs were still in a very unsettled state, owing to the rebellion of the Taepings. It was Kuper's first business to lead an expedition against them, to defeat them, and capture their stronghold Kahding on 23 Oct. 1862. He was quickly called away to arrange matters in Japan, where the great nobles were in a state of fierce excitement and indignation, consequent on the treaties with occidental nations and the threatened introduction of foreigners and foreign customs. On 14 Sept. 1862 a small party of English riding in the country was savagely attacked by the retainers of the Daimio of Satsuma, and one was killed. Reparation and compensation had been demanded both from the imperial government and from the Prince of Satsuma, and as they were not given, Kuper was requested to bring the squadron into the bay of Yokohama. He arrived there in March 1863, and under this threat, following the suspension of diplomatic relations, the Japanese government agreed to pay the 100,000l. demanded. But Satsuma proved less compliant, and on 14 Aug. the admiral brought the squadron before Kagosima. On the 15th three steamers belonging to the refractory prince were seized. Thereupon his batteries opened fire and were speedily silenced. The prince's palace was shelled, and by an accident the greater part of the town was burnt. On the 16th the prince submitted to the English demands.

The following year the Daimio of Nagato, whose batteries commanded the Straits of Simonoseki, the ordinary and most convenient channel into the inland sea, asserted his right to close the navigation to all foreigners. The French and Dutch squadrons, as well as one ship of the United States navy, made common cause with the English, and acted for the occasion under the orders of the English admiral. The ships opened fire at 4 P.M. on 5 Sept., and by the next day all the batteries had been silenced and stormed, despite the gallant fighting of the Japanese. On the 7th negotiations began, and it was soon agreed that ‘all ships of all countries passing through the Straits of Simonoseki shall be treated in a friendly manner.’ The battle led not only to the opening of the inland sea, but to the downfall of the old ‘country’ party in Japan, and to a social and political revolution in the organisation of the empire.

In the course of 1865 Kuper returned to England. He had no further service. He had been nominated a K.C.B. on 25 Feb. 1864, in acknowledgment of his services at Kagosima; and on 2 June 1869 he was advanced to the grand cross of the order. On 6 April 1866 he became a vice-admiral, and admiral on 20 Oct. 1872. He died on 29 Oct. 1885. He married, in June 1837, Emma Margaret, eldest daughter of Sir Gordon Bremer, but had no issue.

[O'Byrne's Naval Biog. Dict.; Rennie's British Arms in China and Japan; Annual Register, 1863; Parl. Debates, 9 Feb. 1864; Correspondence respecting Affairs in Japan (Parl. Paper), 1864; Times, 10, 17, and 19 Nov. 1864.]

J. K. L.