Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 46.djvu/152

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Good Hope without orders, thereby exposing the colony to great danger. On this charge he was tried at Portsmouth on 6 March and following days. He argued with much ability that, the work at Cape Town having been accomplished and the safety of the town assured, it was his duty to seize any opportunity of distressing the enemy. But he was unable to convince the court, and was accordingly ‘severely reprimanded.’ The judgment was strictly in accordance with established usage.

The city of London, on the other hand, considering Popham's action as a gallant attempt to open out new markets, presented him with a sword of honour (Nav. Chron. xix. 33). But even in the navy the reprimand had no serious consequences. In the following July, notwithstanding a remonstrance from Sir Samuel Hood [q. v.], Sir Richard Goodwin Keats [q. v.], and Robert Stopford [q. v.] (ib. pp. 68–71), Popham was appointed captain of the fleet with Admiral James Gambier (afterwards Lord Gambier) [q. v.], in the expedition against Copenhagen, and—in conjunction with Sir Arthur Wellesley, afterwards duke of Wellington, and Lieutenant-colonel George Murray—was a commissioner for settling the terms of the capitulation by which all the Danish ships of war were surrendered. In 1809 he commanded the Venerable of 74 guns in the expedition to the Scheldt under Sir Richard John Strachan [q. v.], and by his local knowledge rendered efficient service in piloting the fleet. Still in the Venerable in 1812, he had command of a small squadron on the north coast of Spain, co-operating with the guerillas. On 4 June 1814 he was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral, and on the reconstitution of the order of the Bath, in 1815, was nominated a K.C.B. From 1817 to 1820 he was commander-in-chief on the Jamaica station, and, returning to England in broken health in July, died at Cheltenham on 10 Sept. 1820. He married, in 1788, Betty, daughter of Captain Prince of the East India Company's military service, and by her had a large family.

Popham's services were distinguished, but, being for the most part ancillary to military operations, they did not win for him much popular recognition. He was well versed in the more scientific branches of his profession, and was known as an excellent surveyor and astronomical observer. When in the Red Sea, in the Romney, he determined many longitudes by chronometer (Nav. Chron. x. 202), a method at that time but rarely employed. He was also the inventor, or rather the adapter, of a code of signals which was adopted by the admiralty in 1803, and continued in use for many years. He was elected F.R.S. in 1799, but contributed nothing to the Society's ‘Transactions.’

An anonymous portait, which has been engraved, is in the National Portrait Gallery.

[Sir Home Popham: a memoir privately printed in 1807, ending with the court-martial; in the account of public matters it is very inaccurate. The Memoir (with a portrait) in the Naval Chronicle, xvi. 265, 353, is based on this, adding a few more errors. Gent. Mag. 1820, ii. 274; Parliamentary Papers, 1805 vols. iv. and x., 1816 xviii. 115; Minutes of the Court-martial (printed 1807, 8vo); James's Naval History; Navy Lists; information from the family. Several pamphlets relating to the repairs of the Romney were published in 1805, among which, in addition to Popham's own ‘Concise Statement of Facts’ already referred to, may be mentioned ‘Observations on a Pamphlet which has been privately circulated, said to be “A Concise Statement of Facts …,” to which is added a copy of the Report made by the Navy Board to the Admiralty …,’ anonymous, but admitted to be by Benjamin Tucker; ‘A few brief remarks on a pamphlet published by some Indidividuals supposed to be connected with the late Board of Admiralty, entitled “Observations, &c.” (as above), in which the calumnies of those writers are examined and exposed,’ by ‘Æschines,’ who disclaims any personal acquaintance with Popham, but is overflowing with venom against Tucker and St. Vincent; and ‘Chronological arrangement of the accounts and papers printed by Order of the House of Commons in February, March, and April 1805, respecting the repairs of the Romney … with their material contents and some few cursory remarks in elucidation.’ The complete vindication of Popham is, however, to be sought rather in the Parliamentary Papers already referred to.]

J. K. L.

POPHAM, Sir JOHN (d. 1463?), military commander and speaker-elect of the House of Commons, was son of Sir John Popham, a younger son of the ancient Hampshire family of Popham of Popham between Basingstoke and Winchester. His mother's name seems to have been Mathilda (Ancient Deeds, i. 217; Cal. Rot. Pat. p. 322). His uncle, Henry Popham, the head of the family, inherited, through an heiress, the estates of the Saint Martins at Grinstead in Wiltshire, Dean in Hampshire, and Alverstone in the Isle of Wight; served as knight of the shire for Hampshire in various parliaments, from 1383 to 1404, and died in 1418 or 1419 (ib. pp. 198, 252; Cal. Inq. post mortem, iv. 36; the family tree in Berry's Pedigrees of Hants, p. 181, cannot be reconciled with the documentary evidence). From a collateral branch, settled at Huntworth, near Bridgwater, Sir John Popham [q. v.], the chief justice, was descended.