A Case of Nepotism

JAMES YOUNG (see picture on right) was the son of William Young  and Susannah Walker. His father was  a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and/or  possibly an Admiralty Clerk. In any event he came from  a middling background. In the IGI there is a James Young, son of  William and Susannah, born on 15th November  1717 and baptised at St Martins in the Fields on the 29th November.   He was a  great grandson of the first member of the family we know about, John, born circa 1620.

 He had an active naval career during the Wars of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War that took place between 1754 and 1763. He  was made a Rear Admiral of the Red on the  21st October 1762,  but with peace being concluded shortly after in 1763 he did not hoist his flag on a ship in that war.

He could well have assumed that his active naval  career was over  but following the outbreak of the American War of Independence he was appointed C in C of the Leeward Islands station, with his flag on H.M.S. Portland. He was to be based at English Harbour is a natural harbour and settlement on the island of Antigua, in the extreme south of the island.

In the eighteenth century, Antigua was one of several British Caribbean islands that played a crucial part in the British economy by producing sugar on a vast scale. Antigua was also particularly valuable for its harbour on the southern shore that provided shelter for large fleets during the hurricane season. In the 1720s the British established a major repair and maintenance and dockyard here, a centre for British naval power in the Caribbean. It is now the best preserved Georgian dockyard in the World.

The Caribbean was a notorious hotbed of disease and EnglishHarbour was particularly foul. As an industrial centre it was full of the sights, smells and waste of maritime industry. Its advantage as a harbour in being so sheltered was also its disadvantage as a centre of population: mosquito's bred in the nearby swamps; the tide barely moved in the upper reaches of the harbour; the air was hot and still.  In the 1780s Nelson was placed in charge of EnglishHarbour and his letters home speak of his dislike of the place. In one to a friend he wrote "it is an infernal hole.’

From the start this was a difficult appointment. Many British settlers and merchants, shared  the mainland's complaints about the British Government and its taxation policies, and had little interest in suppressing the American revolt. Gaining money by smuggling sugar was far more important to the colonies of the British Caribbean.

 In June 1775, James issued a general order to every ship under his command to seize any and all ships found conveying munitions to North America. Then, in August, he ordered that his ships stop every vessel, regardless of nationality, and search it for munitions. At the same time, James requested that the governor of the British Leeward Islands prohibit the export of munitions.

 It was not however until November 1775, that James, received formal orders from  the Admiralty. It informed him that the inhabitants of the Thirteen Colonies 'having traitorously [sic] combined together for the general purpose of resisting the authority of this kingdom' he was to order his captains 'to seize all ships and vessels belonging to any of the said colonies'.

 Of far greater importance than these legal steps, however, was the shortage of ships. A score of warships simply could not begin to search effectively an area as large as the Caribbean, blockade all the non-British islands and suppress, to any meaningful extent, the huge trade in munitions for American trade in munitions. Also at any given time, a number of ships were out of service, being repaired, refitted and resupplied.

 Moreover, the growing fear of American privateers among British merchants and planters in the West Indies, meant assigning a number of warships to escort the homeward-bound trade..

 A major problem confronting James and the British naval authorities in the West Indies during the winter of 1775-76 was the clandestine aid to the Americans by the French. The French authorities not only permitted Americans to trade North American produce for munitions in French West Indian ports, they also supplied the Americans with the necessary papers and men to disguise the nationality of ships carrying munitions to America.

 To deal with this, James first attempted pre-emptive buying by offering to purchase from the French merchants at Martinique gunpowder that would otherwise have gone to the Americans. Finally, on 31 March 1776, James, finding that threats were not working, ordered the ships of his command to seize all vessels carrying munitions that had French papers and 'nominal' French masters, but that in all other respects appeared to be American.

 Seizing American ships with French papers was extremely risky, for it called for stopping, searching and seizing ships sailing under the protection of the French flag. Yet it was only one problem among many that American procurement of munitions in French, Dutch and Danish Caribbean ports created for the British.

 It was not just the French, the rights and honour of other neutrals in the West Indies were being increasingly disregarded by the Royal Navy as the British took increasingly harsh steps to cut off the flow of munitions, although orders were issued repeatedly to British navy officers “not to offer any Insult to the Forts, Harbours, or Ships of War belonging to His Most Christian Majesty, His Danish Majesty, or the States General of Holland. European neutrals in the West Indies felt more and more that the Royal Navy, in its search for American munitions, was subjecting their ships and possessions to inconveniences, insults and danger. The French sent a diplomatic protest to London stating that British warships had repeatedly violated French territorial waters in the West Indies and that the Royal Navy had Martinique under blockade, with British warships hovering off the island and stopping every approaching ship with gunfire if necessary.

 James and other British officials knew they were running great risks, but when confronted with clandestine French aid to the enemy, they could see no other way to prevent Americans from obtaining munitions than to disregard diplomatic and commercial niceties.

 Further unable or unwilling to distinguish the local privateers from pirates, James had a difficult period with the British settlers on the islands. The local authorities arrested him and brought legal proceedings against him and his officers. The problem was that those same privateers in peacetime were often engaged in acts of pure piracy or smuggling, which they continued in war but in the name of the King!  James would have got on better with the locals if he had turned a "Nelsonian blind eye."  James felt however that he had to stamp on them as apart from anything else he was finding it next to impossible to recruit local seamen and he feared desertion from his own ships to the better conditions and lure of money of the privateers. The dispute was finally resolved when the local governors were empowered to licence privateers, which brought some limited measure of control. In return the legal proceedings against James and his officers were dropped. See separate article by A.G. Jamieson on this part of James service life.

 James also ran into problems in relation to rebel prisoners who soon after the war began to arrive on the BritishCaribbeanIslands. When prisoners arrived there during the early years of the war, the local merchants and plantation owners were unhappy. Late in 1776 James burdened with 100 "Sickly" American prisoners on board his ships, tried to leave them on Antigua,  but the island's government refused to take them.

In 1788 the British Government issued  a directive that if a colonial assembly refused to pay for the prisoners upkeep, a bill should be sent to London, along with the proper paperwork. The directive made sure to emphasize that costs were to be kept down "in the most frugal and careful manner." The rebel prisoners were to go to England aboard warships or, in small numbers, on trading vessels thus relieving the colonies and the Royal Navy of the problem of confining prisoners for long periods

 Nepotism in 18th century Society

 Nepotism is favoritism granted in politics public service or business to relatives regardless of merit. The term originated with the assignment of nephews to cardinal positions by Catholic popes.

 In the 18th century nepotism of favouring and advancing your own family using a position of authority was not only normal but accepted almost as one of the reasons for advancing in public office.

 In the early stage of the 18th century, British aristocracy and gentry families held and monopolized many rights in the field of social political and economic life. 

In ‎Britain this was the so called ‘Aristocratic Century’, and lasted for more than a century. Noble nepotism played a very important the role in preserving and enhancing family status. .

The number of  aristocrat families at this time was not large. England’s aristocracy as reflected in  the House of Lords was about 160 or so in number. Though the number of individual families was small, if one  wives, children and other relatives including those lesser and more distant relatives who looked to their greater relatives to help them get on. , then the numbers were larger

 Aristocratic Party Groups cooperated whole heartedly with each other for the common interests, they control the state legislature——the House of Lords and the House of Commons, in the central and local government agencies, and the army and Royal Navy enjoy the absolute authority.

 As to the Royal navy, a  few midshipmen came from the aristocracy, something under 30% from the landed gentry, About 50% sons of professional men. This latter group wa sin turn made up of 50%s sons of naval officers. 

It is important to remember that nepotism means advanced regardless of merit. In some cases the person advanced had real qualities and nepotism ‎merely gave them an initial leg up. Take Lord Nelson who is unquestionably Britain's greatest naval hero on a par with the Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill. 

‎The son of an obscure Norfolk clergyman he went to sea at the age of 12 on the 64 gun ship the Raisonnable under the command of his maternal uncle Captain Suckling. A midshipman appointment was at the gift of a ships captain and was appointed to a ship so unless a would be midshipman family knew a captain or knew someone who did the chances of an appointment were nil. 

‎By April 1777, Nelson was serving aboard the 32-gun frigate Lowestoft, under the command of his great friend Captain William Locker. He rose by dint of his charm, intelligence, application, and great maritime ability, but wasn’t hindered by Suckling’s promotion to the comptrollership of the Royal Navy.

Nepotism and patronage might be regarded with distaste today, but they helped along the career of Britain’s finest naval master and commander, just as they helped along those of the Duke of Wellington, and Winston Churchill.


However not only did James have to contend with running a major campaign hampered by limited resources, difficult local officials and merchants and the shifting allegiances of the great powers but a dispute with the Admiralty over his son William who was serving with him. The copy letters and documents referred to below are relate to Admiral  James Young  and his son William  when they were both serving in the West Indies. Most of the correspondence was with Philip Stephens, Secretary to the Admiralty. Gordon Jackson, who also appears in the  correspondence was Advocate General of the Navy.

 James however met the immoveable force of the Royal Navy. There nepotism was rife but there were also rules. However what James did however plenty of others had done. For example in 1780 admiral Rodney promoted his son (who turned out to be  a disaster) to Captain at the age of 15. Edward Pellew 1st Viscount Exmouth also promoted his son  (who turned out to be a good officer) Captain at a very young age. So  one wonders why in this case there was a  rigid adherence to the Admiralty rules.

 Thus it may not be the case that the correspondence shows that in the 18th century there were limits to how far nepotism could be exploited in the Royal navy but that one person's attempted nepotism could be trumped by another person more important and better connected, for James Young was not part of the aristocratic elite.


It is likely that James became rich whilst in the Leeward Islands. Charnock’s Biographica Navalis published in 1797 contains the following.

 “He [James] appears to have been singularly alert and met  with  a very considerable share of success in the capture of a multitude of vessels, many of them of no inconsiderable value”

 More important, he had the power to make his favourite young captains rich at no cost to himself- by letting them cruise for weeks on end in the areas where they were most likely to find prizes. One of those was his son William.

 The Royal Navy

 Promotion to Lieutenant essentially depended on passing exams. As captain future promotion depended on seniority. A Lieutenants only chance of promotion was to attract the attention of the powers at be.

 According to Admiralty regulations a C in C "is not to appoint by commission or warrant any officer to any ship under his command without being authorised so to do by....... The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty but if vacancies shall occur in any ship he is to appoint officers to act in them until the pleasure of the Admiralty is known.

 Though the C in C promotions had to be confirmed in practice his decisions were rarely questioned. Furthermore if a vacancy was created by death or court martial the C in C had absolute power of promotion. Naturally the Lieutenants most under his eye were those on his flagships so an appointment to those was especially prized.

 Lieutenants were normally subordinate officers even on sloops which were normally commanded by a Commander, few Lieutenants went straight to Captain, but though unusual he might command a sloop.  

 "Lieutenant"  a the rank. The title first lieutenant reflected the hierarchy on board and was an appointment or post rather than a rank. Normally appointment was by seniority. A lieutenant appointed just one day before another had seniority of another lieutenant.

 Normal route to becoming a Lieutenant was by examination which was dreaded by all those who had to face it. In reality it's severity varied enormously. A James Gardner had an easy time and wrote

 "One of the Commissioners was an intimate friend of my father and another Sir Marshall was a particular friend of my mother's uncle"

 Lieutenants were numbered by their seniority within the ship, so that a frigate which was entitled to three would have a first lieutenant, a second lieutenant, and a third lieutenant. A first-rate was entitled to six, and they were numbered accordingly. At first a lieutenant's commission was given only for the ship in which he served, but after the loss of HMS Wager in 1741 and the subsequent mutiny, lieutenants were given full commissions upon passing their examination.

Each Royal Navy officer who reached flag-rank came from the Captains’ List. This seniority determined which officer was next in line for promotion; post-captains with greater seniority would be promoted before those officers lower down on the list even if the more junior officer was the more capable. The Captains’ List was all-important:

Since admirals were promoted only from the top of the Captains’ List, it was crucial to an officer’s career to take post as young as possible. One of the simplest and most telling indicators of an officer's professional fortunes was his age on reaching post rank, or the time elapsed since his first commission as Lieutenant.

The correspondence below charts the bumpy ride that James had when trying to advance his son. The resulting unpromising start to his career did William no harm and in due course he became Admiral himself and one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.

 A Routine Appointment!


 Portland, English Harbour Antigua 26th Novemr 1775.


 Please to acquaint my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty;  that the 6th Instant I received a Letter from Mr John Plumer  Ardesoif 1st Lieutenant of His Majesty's Ship Argo: Containing sundry Complaints against Francis Grant  Gordon Esqr Captain of His Majesty's Ship Argo, "of Embezzling the Ships Stores; and treating him ( the said Lieutenant Ardesoif ) with Cruelty & Oppression &ca and he requested, I would bring Captain Gordon to tryal by  Court Martial for said Offences. -I accordingly Suspended Captain Gordon from Command of the Argo; and Summoned a Court Martial for his tryal, onboard the Portland, on the 20th Novemr Instant; (being as soon as I could Collect the Ships of the Squadron together for that purpose) when the Court met, and finding part of the Charge proved against Captain Gordon; Adjudged him, to be dismissed from the Command of His Majesty's Ship Argo; and to be Mulcted, six Months of his personal Pay. I have herewith inclosed Minutes of said Court Martial, and the Sentence thereon; to be laid before their Lordships.

 You will also please to acquaint their Lordships, that in Consequence of said Sentence, and the dismission of Captain Gordon from the Command of the Argo; I have appointed Captain William Garnier to Command the Argo, Captain Henry Bryne (of the Pomona) to Command the Hind, and Lieutenant William Young, to Command the Pomona. I have also removed Lieutenant William Swiney (of  the Pomona) to be third Lieutenant of the Portland, in the room of Lieutenant William Young, preferred; and have appointed Mr Arthur Hood, to be Lieutenant of the Pomona.

 I am Sir [&c.]

 James  Young.


 Roadstead of St. Pierre of Martinique

 Letter [extract] 19 December 1775.

  During my first 48 hour call at St. Pierre an English frigate of 16 [actually 18] pounders, called Pomona, arrived there. She  was commanded by Mr. [William] Young, a very young captain, son of Admiral Young in command of the squadron stationed in these Isles who resides at Antigua. This Captain told me that this squadron was composed of 5 warships; they have been there for six months and stay three years according to the practice in the English navy. This frigate which had been cruising off the roadstead for two days and which I had observed chasing the ships sailing out of it, came and dropped anchor on the eve of my departure. The Captain told me that he would get under way the next day as I would. I effectively set sail, but he remained. The purpose of his call was to find out If there were any vessels from New England for which they make a rigorous search In these seas, especially since they are suspected of coming to these colonies to buy arms and war ammunition. He might also have come here for the illicit purpose of buying wine: we are accustomed here to see them engaged in this business, and wherever I encountered warships of this nation I found that they were in the habit of drinking it.

William in Action



  Some time in January 1776, being in His Majesty's Ship Pomona, then under my command, between the Islands of Guadaloupe and Mariegalante, I saw a ship standing in from sea toward the harbour of Point a Pitre in Guadaloupe and, having your order to examine all ships and vessels I should meet with, I made sail intending to have got between her and the harbour, that I might speak with her as she passed; but finding from her distance that there was a great probability of her passing a head of us, and of our not being able to stop her, I ordered a shot to be fired, to bring her too, which instead of almost touching the yards of the Hercules in its passage, as the Master of her has repeated, fell at least three ships lengths a head of her: When I came within hail of the Hercules I was surprised at being addressed by the Master of her in very uncivil language mixed with threats of what he would have done, if his ship had been of sufficient force; but as I then saw a number of Officers in French Regimentals on board, and was convinced of her being a French vessel, I expressed myself sorry for having detained them & left them to proceed on their voyage. On my going into the Road of Basseterre a few days after, the Governor of Guadaloupe told me that having received information, from the passengers on board the Hercules, one of which was Major General of Martinique, of the very disrespectfull behaviour of the Master of her to me, he had ordered him into confinement, where he then was, and that if I wished it he would send him to prison and punish him very severely; I then entreated the Governor to remit whatever punishment he meant to inflict on him, & to release him yet so very much was the Governor incensed at the impropriety of his conduct as represented by the officers who were present, that it was not 'till after I had waited on him three times to interceed for the Master of the Hercules, that the Governor consented to his being released on making proper appologies to me for his behaviour.

 Willm Young

 Antigua 28th Feby 1726


  The Admiralty are not happy


 [Admiralty Office] 20th February 1776


 Having received and read to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your Letter of the 26th of November last acquainting them that upon receiving a Complaint from the Ist Lieutenant of the Argo against Captain [Francis Grant] Gordon Commander for embezzling the Kings Stores and other misdemeanours you had suspended him and assembled a Court Martial to try him for the same, and that the Court having found him guilty  of part of the charge and dismissed him from the command  you had therefore removed Captain [William] Garnier to the Argo, Captain [Henry] Bryne to the Hind and appointed Lieutenant [William] Young to command the Pomona in his room; In return I am commanded by their Lordships to acquaint you they approve the Commissions you have given to Captains Garnier and Bryne, but they cannot approve your appointment to [of] Mr. Young the same being not only contrary to the Rules of the Service as he is the Youngest Lieutenant in the Ship but also to your Instructions which direct that in case of the Death or Dismission of an officer you to appoint such other Person as by the quality of his Employment ought to succeed to the vacancy- they have therefore signed a Commission which by their directions I send you herewith appointing Mr Eastwood the Ist Lieutenant to command the Pomona} and another to the Honble Mr Windsor to succeed at Ist Lieutenant in his room.

  I am &:c .

 Geo. Jackson D. S.

 James Remonstrates


 English Harbour Antigua; the 20th May 1776.


 I entreat you will acquaint my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that it has given me the greatest Concern to perceive by Mr [George] Jacksons Letter of the 20th February last, their Lordships had been pleased to approve all the appointments I, had made in Consequence of Captain Gordons Dismission, except that of Lieutenant Young to Command the Pomona; and that their Lordships added “1 had therein acted Contrary to the rules of the Service; and also to my Instructions; as He was youngest Lieutenant on board the Ship:" It is true my Instructions Say "that in case of the Death, or Dismission of an Officer by Sentence of a Court Martial; I am to appoint such persons to the Vacancies as by the Quality of their Employments ought to Succeed thereto" this I take to be a Master and Commander to the Vacancy of a Post Captain, and a Lieutenant to that of a Master and Commander; And in the present Instance, I think I have Strictly complied both with the Words and apparent meaning of my Instructions: and altho I did not appoint the first Lieut. of the Portland, to this Vacancy in the Pomona; I cannot allow the same to be contrary to the Rules of the Service; as there are many precedents (and some of a very late date) where the Commander in Chief having a Son in the Fleet, has given him the preference of promotion to the first Lieutenant of the Flag Ship, and when the same was done in fair and proper Vacancies, I never before heard that such appointment had been set aside by their Lordships:

 I therefore flattered myself, Forty four Years faithful Service might have intitled me to the same distinction which has been allowed to other Commanders in Chief; in favour of my Son, and I cannot help thinking myself Cruelly used, to be the only person fixed upon for so Mortifying a Disgrace: besides to add to the uneasiness of mind I must naturally feel at having my Son thus Superseded; the Man their Lordships have appointed in his room, had the indecency to tell me (as soon as I delivered his Commission) He should now bring an Action at Law against me for Damages; as he had lost Prize Money by my not appointing him at first; this he triumphantly declared in publick to be his Intention; grounding his Plea, on their Lordships disapproving my appointment of another: I cannot indeed Suppose their Lordships will suffer such Indignity to the Service, as a Subaltern Officer bringing an Action at Law against His Commander in Chief, for not giving him promotion; if so, hard indeed will be the fate of Superior Officers, who in publick Service, must often do what may be displeasing to Individuals under their Command; and .should they be Subject to prosecution from Malicious Litigious persons for any thing done in the line of publick Service, there must soon be an End to Subordination.

 It is certainly a very unpleasing Circumstance for a Commanding Officer, to find himself thus braved by an Inferior when He is not Conscious of having done wrong: I have therefore inclosed herewith My Sons Commission for the Pomona and earnestly entreat their Lordships will be pleased to Confirm it, by putting him on the List of Masters and Commanders from the date thereof; and I hope my own long Service may plead for me in this matter, and obtain the distinction for my Son I now Solicit.

 I have delivered the Honble Mr Windsor their Lordships Commission to be first Lieutenant of the Portland; and have appointed Mr William Swiney late third Lieutenant of the Portland to be Second Lieutenant, and removed Mr John Auriol Drummond, Second Lieutenant of the Argo, to be third Lieutenant of the Portland, and appointed Mr John Luck to be Second Lieutenant of the Argo in the room of Mr John Auriol Drummond, which I hope their Lordships will approve.

 I am Sir [8cc.]

 Jam" Young

[Endorsed] Recd 25 July 7 A,ug Amed

 The Admiraly stands firm


 7 Augst 1776

 Sir ,

 I have received your letter of the 20th May enclosing the Commission you had signed for Lieut Wm Young to be Commander of the Pomona upon the Vacancies occasioned by the dismission of Captn Gordon from the Argo, and desiring for the reasons therein given, that it may be Confirm’d And having laid the same before my Lords, Comms of the Admty I have it in command from their Lordships to acquaint you that they do not think fit to depart from the Resolution which Mr Jackson In his letter of the 20th Feby informed you that they had come to upn that matter and I am farther to acquaint you that as by the appointment of Lieut Windsor to be 1st lieutenant of the Portland, Lieut Young ought to have succeded him as 2nd Lieut of that Ship,  the Commissions you have given to Lieut Swinney to be 2nd and Lieut Drummond to be the 3rd Lieuts of her and Mr Luck to be 2nd Lieut of the Argo in the room of Lieut Drummond, being irregular, cannot be  confirmed, and that if Lieut Young does not think proper to take a Commlssioned; as 2nd Lieut of the Portland which as 1 have observed be ought to have had, their Lordships will fill up the vacancy's that may be occasioned thereby,  and send out Commission's  for that purpose, when they  hear Farther from you,

 I have the honor to be etc


 James gives in


 Antigua 7th Decemr 1776


I request you will be pleased to acquaint my Lords Commissners of the Admiralty; that  I have now received your different Lettrs mentioned on the other side With their Duplicates; the latter I received the 22d Novemr pr September Packet, but the Originals did not reach me 'till the 5th Instant. (Owing to an Error In the Post-Master at Barbado's who took them from the August Packet, expecting some Ship of the Squadron would call for them as had been usual. But the Kings Ships being all out  on different Cruizing Stations; I had no Ship with me send up to Barbados 'till the latter end of Novemr when I sent His Majesty's Bngantine Endeavour which brought me said Letters the 5th Current) I am ext,reemly sorry to find this mistake and delay has prevented my Complying with their Lordships directions, ( pr your Letter of the 9th August) to Order the Ship that sailed with the Trade from St Christopher the 4th of November last; to proceed with them to England; however their Lordships will perceive by my Letter to you of the 29th October last)  I had directed Captain Chapman to see such Ships as Sailed under his Convoy as far as the Latitude of 38° North: which I flatter myself is to a greater distance from the Islands than any of the American Cruizers go to. The Seaford is Cruizing off St Eustatia and the adjacent Islands, and I shall send the Kings Brigantine Endeavour to join her as soon as She is Victualed and will give such particular description of the Schooner Gunticanute as may enable them to intercept her.

 I am exceeding sorry to perceive (by your Letter of the 7th August) my Appointment; of Lieutenants Swiney and Drummond to be Second and Third Lieutenants of the Portland, and of Mr John Luck to be Second Lieutenant of the  Argo, is disapproved by their Lordships, and that they should appear to suppose said appointments had been made in consequence of Mr Young refusing to go back Lieutenant of the Portland. I must therefore entreat you will now acquaint their Lordships the latter was in no wise the case, but said appointments were made on a Supposition their Lordships. would have been pleased to put Mr Young on the List of Masters and Commanders for the reasons I took the liberty to offer to their Consideration in my Letter to you of the 20th May last,  however as you now acquaint  their Lordships do not think fit to depart from the Resolution they had come to on that matter, (Signified to me by Mr [George] Jackson's Letter of the 2Oth February last) I shall submit to their pleasure ; and will appoint Mr Young Second Lieutenant of the Portland the moment I can get an opportunity to put Mr Drummond into some other Ship.

 I must also beg you will assure their Lordships no care or endeavour shall be wanting in me to distress and annoy the Rebels so far as I am able to effect it, with the small Squadron under my Command; but if the Intelligence your Letter of the 6th Septemr brings me is well grounded, I hope their Lordships will think it necessary and be pleased speedily to reinforce the Squadron employed in these Seas.

 The inclosed Papers marked No 1,2, & 3 are Copies of intercepted Letters and private Intelligence sent me which I must desire you to lay before their Lordships.

  I am Sir [&c.]

 Jams Young

 [Endorsed] Recd 12 March 1777


Antigua 27th January 1777


 Pleased to acquaint my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that not yet having received any account of the Pomona, I cannot but Conclude her to be lost and the small number of His Majesties ships now employed on this station are very insufficient to protect the Trade of the different Islands within the Limits of my command; I have therefore thought it necessary, and for the good of his Majesties Service, in order to more effectually to annoy the rebels numerous armed Vessels (called privateers) now Cruizing in these sea: To cause to be purchased armed and Commissioned the Rebels privateer brigantine lately called the Putman; (which I acquainted their Lordships by my letter of the 2nd November last, had been taken as a prize by His Majesty’s ship Portland) she having been reported on a Careful Survey fit to be made an Armed vessel for the use of His Majesty, and capable of carrying ten Guns and Forty five Men; on the Navy board for £500 Sterling, the appraisal Value of the said Brigantine; the reported Condition and valuation of which are inclosed for their Lordships Inspection. The 27th January I caused her to be Commissioned and called the Antigua: and have appointed Lieutenant William Swiney, from the Portland, to Command her, and took that opportunity to give Lieutenant William Young a commission as Second Lieutenant of the Portland: which their Lordships had been pleased to direct. I am Sir [etc]

 James Young

 [Endorsed} Recd – 6th may Dupl rd 26 Apl

 William made First Lieutenant


 Antigua 10th March 1777


 In addition to the sundry Dispatches now forwarded you Express by His Majesty's Sloop Hawke: I am also to desire you will please to acquaint my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that Mr Henry Topham the Naval Storekeeper of Antigua Yard returned here from his leave of Absence the 3d February last, and immediately resumed his Employment.

 The same day came into English Harbour the Ship Morant, Samuel Carter Master, with Naval Stores for Antigua Yard, which has since been delivered. -The 11th February arrived here the Ordnance Store Ship Lord Amherst: which having delivered the Ordnance Stores intended for this Yard, to Mr Alsop the Ordnance Storekeeper, proceeded the 27th February to Jamaica.

 Captain Thomas Wilkinson of His Majesty's Ship Pearl Departcd this Life at English Harbour the 13th February last; and in consequence thereof, I gave the Honble Captain Geo: Keith Elphinstone, an Order to Command the Pearl, The Honble Captain Charles Phipps an Order to Command the Perseus, and I have appointed Mr John Linzee Commander of the Falcon to be Captain of His Majesty's Ship Camilla. The Honble Thomas Windsor first Lieutenant of His Majesty's Ship Portland to be Commander of His Majesty's Sloop Falcon; I have likewise appointed Lieutent William Young to be first Lieutenant of the Portland; Lieutenant William Swiney to be second Lieutenant of the Portland; Lieutenant Billy Douglas from the Hind, to Command the Armed Brigantine Antigua: and have appointed Mr George Edwards from the Roebuck to be Lieutenant of the Hind: which appointments I hope their Lordships will approve.

 I shall use the utmost dispatch in my power to forward and send back the Ships belonging to Lord Howe's Squadron that have come here to Clean and Refit; The Roebuck and Pearl have been hove down: and together with the Perseus and Mermaid will be ready to return to the Coast of America in three or four days: The Falcon is along side the Wharf preparing to Careen and the Flora, and Camilla, for the greater Expedition will get a good Parliament Heel; and Supplies of such Stores as they may want.

 Captain Coleman of the Royal Marines having been very indisposed at the Naval Hospital here for some time past, the surgeons of the hospital  and of the Portland represented to me it would be necessary for his recovery that he should be sent to England: I have therefore given Captain Coleman Permission to come to England in His Majesty’s Ship Hawke and being informed Mr William Conyers is made a Captain Lieutenant of Marines I have ordered Him to be entered on the Portland’s Books as Captain Lieutenant and do Duty as such.

 The Inclosures herewith Marked No I: 2: 3: 4 and 5. are the Account of the Appointment and removal of Officers between the 1st October 1776 and the 10th March 1777 a List of Prizes taken since the last Account forwarded the 9th December 1776. Copies and Abstracts of Orders given to His Majesty's Ships on their several Cruizing Stations. State and Condition and the Disposition of the Squadron under my Command which You will be pleased likewise to Communicate to their Lordships.

  I am Sir [8cc.]

 Jam. Young.

William Gets his own ship


Antigua 2nd May 1777


 Please to acquaint My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that the Trade from England under the Protection of the Eolus [Aeolus]. Frigate and Sylph Sloop arrived safe at Barbados’s the 12th April; with only one Vessel Missing; Captain [Christopher] Atkins falling in with the Seaford Cruizing to Windward of Barbados, ordered Captain John] Colpoys to conduct the Trade bound to the Southern Charribbe Islands, vizt Tobago, Granada and St Vincents; the Eolus passed this Island in her way to Jamaica the 18th April, having in Company the Sylph Sloop, with the Trade for Antigua, Montserrat, St Kitts &ca

 By Captain [James Richards] Dacres of the Sylph Sloop, I received their Lordships orders to purchase two vessels for His Majesty’s Service, to be employed under my Command; capable of carrying at least 12 Guns and 90 Men each; and in all respects to be fitted and Officered as Sloop’s of War: please to acquaint their Lordships, I will use my utmost Endeavours to comply with their Directions, and am in hopes I shall soon be able to accomplish the same.

 A French Ship Loaded with all kinds of Military Stores for the use of the Rebels in North America, was taken the 5th April last by. Captain Colpoys of the Seaford; and is represented to me very fit for the Service; being almost New, a fast Sailor, and Capable to carry 16 Guns. She was carried into Dominica to be tried; but 1 have Directed her to be sent, here the Moment she is Condemned: to be Surveyed and Valued:  and I have no doubt I shall soon be able to procure another equally fit for. The Service.

 I purpose giving the Command of them to Lieutenants [Willam] Young and [William] Swiney now first and second Lieutenants of the Portland land, which I hope their Lordships will approve. In respect to the manning of them I shall apply to the respective Governors for Assistance but am apprehensive I shall meet some Difficulties therein, the Licentious Mode of self appointed Privateers still continuing amongst the Islands, and I am sorry to add that it is not in my power to put an entire Stop thereto, without the assistance of the Governors and Legislatures of the respective Islands; which I have not hitherto had; but entertain hopes Mr Burt the new Governor of the Leeward Charribbe. Islands who arrived here with the last Convoy; will Endeavour to do It within his Government; where the Evil first began, After which I do not think it will be very Difficult to Suppress them at the other Islands; I must again assure their Lordships the practice has proved 'highly prejudicial to Hiss Majesty's Service, by encouraging the Seamen to Desert both from the King's Ships and the Transports; and they can in no shape be of the least advantage or Defence to any of the Islands; being a parcel of small Vessels and Pilot Boats, Armed for the most part only with  Swivels and almost as defenceless as the Vessels they take, nor do they at all lessen the Number of the Rebels Privateers. I am Sir [&c.]

 James  Young.


 Antigua 12 June 1777.


 Please to acquaint my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty; that pursuant to their Orders of the 5th February last, I have caused Two Ships to be purchased; in every respect fitt to be made Sloops of war One is the French Ship taken by the Seaford} which on a strict examination and Survey is reported capable of carrying Sixteen Six pound Guns; if those can be procured; I have got Ten of that kind, by taking Eight from the Sylph Sloop coming to England with the present Convoy) which I replaced by the same Number of four Pounders. this Ship being of such considerable force I have thought proper to give her the Complement of the 16 Gun Sloops, Viz 125 Men; and the 10th May last I appointed Mr William Young 1st Lieutenant of the Portland to the Command: and have named her the Snake.

 The other was a Guinea Ship offered for Sale, which on a strict Examination and Survey is reported capable of carrying Fourteen four pound Guns: and 100 Men: I have called her the Comet and the 30th May last appointed Mr William Swiney (then Ist Lieutenant of the Portland) to the Command; The Snake was appraised at £2200: Sterg and the Comet at £1500 Sterg as P the Reports of Survey inclosed; which Sums I have ordered the Naval Officer to draw Bills for on the Commissioners of the Navy.

 The Sloop is pierced for 14 Guns, but I intend first to try her with Ten 4 Ib Guns the same the other Brig had. I flatter myself their Lordships will approve of what I have done

 And I am Sir

 James Young

 © R.I. Yonge 2013



 Dictionary of National Biography

O'Byrns Naval Biography

The Naval Biography by John Marshall

Naval History of Great Britain by James

James Young and the Privateers by A.G. Jamieson

Department of the Navy History of the US Navy - War of Independence, 1775-1783

Nelson’s Navy  by Brian Lavery

National Archives

The Royal Navy in North  American Waters 1775-1783

Oxford History of England

Charnock’s Biogaphica Navalis



















































English Harbour Antigua

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Latest comments

27.10 | 10:41

Hi Ian....Has taken me a while but finally found your website. Brilliant. Will be in touch. Julian Hastings

20.06 | 13:06


Thanks. Praise always appreciated! I presume you are a descendant of Peter Herbert. You can email me on iyonge@legalisp.net for fuller reply


19.06 | 23:35

I am the Great-Great Grandson of Walter Francis Duke Young. This is such a great website and so interesting to read about the Yonge family history!!

27.05 | 17:13

Thank you for this account of Charlotte M Yonge. I wouldn't say she was a recluse, however, judging by her letters. https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/yonge/