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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 28.djvu/99

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Howe
Howe
93

ington was mortally wounded. On 10 March Howe was moved by Knowles into his own ship, the Suffolk. On 10 July he was sent to the Eltham as an acting lieutenant; but on 8 Oct. again joined the Suffolk as midshipman. He passed his examination at Antigua on 24 May 1744, and on his certificate it is stated that 'he hath gone to sea upwards of eight years,' four of them in the Thames merchant ship, William Marchant, master. He may possibly have accompanied his father to the West Indies in 1732, and have had his name entered on the books of the ship in which they took their passage, but it is quite certain that he had no such service as was implied. The day after passing he was promoted by Knowles to be lieutenant of the Comet fireship, which came home, and was paid off in August 1745. Howe's commission as lieutenant was confirmed on the 8th; on the 12th he was appointed to the Royal George; and on 5 Nov. was promoted to command the Baltimore sloop employed in the North Sea and on the coast of Scotland. On 1 May 1746, the Baltimore, in company with the 20-gun frigate Greyhound and the Terror sloop, fell in, on the west coast of Scotland, with two large French privateers, frigates of 32 and 34 guns. A brisk action ensued, but the English ships were overmatched and were beaten off, the Baltimore being very roughly handled, and Howe himself severely wounded.

He had before this, 10 April 1746, been posted to the Triton, which he joined on his return to Portsmouth. In the following year he convoyed the trade to Lisbon, where he exchanged into the Ripon, bound for the Guinea coast, whence he crossed to Barbadoes and joined Knowles at Jamaica a few days after the action off Havana. On 29 Oct. 1748 he was appointed by Knowles as his flag-captain in the Cornwall, which, on the conclusion of the peace, he brought to England. In March 1750-1 he was appointed to the Glory of 44 guns, and again sent to the Guinea coast, where he found a very angry feeling existing between the English and Dutch settlements: the Dutch negroes, it was said, had attacked the English, and on both sides several prisoners had been made. Howe—not, it would appear, without a display of force induced the Dutch governor-general to conclude an agreement for the mutual restoration of the slaves, and the reference to Europe of the matters in dispute. He then, as before, crossed to Barbadoes and Jamaica, and arrived at Spithead on 22 April 1752. On 3 June he commissioned the Dolphin frigate, and for the next two years was employed in the Mediterranean, and more especially on the Barbary coast. On her return to England in August 1754 he resigned the command, and in the following January was appointed to the Dunkirk of 60 guns, one of the ships which sailed for North America with Boscawen in April [see Boscawen, Edward]. On 7 June they fell in with the French fleet off the mouth of the St. Lawrence, but the fog obscured it. The next morning three ships were still in sight, six or seven miles to leeward; the Dunkirk happened to be the nearest to them, and about noon came up with the sternmost of them, the Alcide of 64 guns. Her captain, the Chevalier Hocquart, refused Howe's request to shorten sail and wait for the admiral, and on a signal from the flagship, the Dunkirk opened fire. The Alcide was caught almost quite unprepared, and was speedily overpowered. The Torbay fortunately joined the Dunkirk in time to save Hocquart's credit and put an end to useless slaughter. One of the other French ships was also taken. The story goes that there were several ladies on the Alcide's deck when the Dunkirk hailed her; that on Hocquart's refusal to close the admiral, Howe warned him that he was going to fire, but granted a short delay in order that their safety might be provided for, and that Hocquart utilised this delay to make what preparation was then possible. Some preliminary conversation certainly took place, but the details of it, beyond the formal demand to wait on the admiral, have been very differently and loosely reported. The incident derives some importance from the fact of its being 'the first gun' which, according to the Duke de Mirepoix, would be considered equivalent to a declaration of war, and which, in point of fact, did proclaim the actual beginning. The date is here given from the Dunkirk's log.

During the summer of 1756 Howe, still in the Dunkirk, commanded a squadron of small vessels appointed for the defence of the Channel Islands, which the French were preparing to attack. They had already occupied the island of Chaussey, but on Howe's arrival agreed to withdraw to the mainland, and their forces were sent back to Brest. Howe was thus able to distribute his squadron, and, while keeping an effective watch on the islands, to cruise against the enemy's privateers and commerce in the entrance to the Channel till the end of the year, when he returned to Plymouth to refit. During the spring of 1757 he was again cruising in the Channel; in May he was elected member of parliament for Dartmouth, which he represented in successive parliaments till 1782, when he was called to the upper house; and on 2 July he turned over, with his whole ship's company, to the