1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Popham, Sir Home Riggs

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POPHAM, SIR HOME RIGGS (1762-1820), British admiral, was the son of Stephen Popham, consul at Tetuan, and was his mother's twenty-first child. He entered the navy in 1778, and served with the flag of Rodney till the end of the war. In 1783 he was promoted lieutenant, and was for a time engaged on survey service on the coast of Africa. Between 1787 and 1793 he was engaged in a curious series of adventures of a commercial nature in the Eastern Sea—sailing first for the Imperial Ostend Company, and then in a vessel which he purchased and in part loaded himself. During this time he took several surveys and rendered some services to the East India Company, which were officially acknowledged; but in 1793 his ship was seized partly on the ground that he was carrying contraband and partly because he was infringing the East India Company's monopoly. His loss was put at £70,000, and he was entangled in litigation. In 1805 he obtained compensation to the amount of £25,000. The case was a hard one for he was undoubtedly sailing with the knowledge of officials in India. While this dispute was going on Popham had resumed his career as a naval officer. He served with the army under the duke of York in Flanders as “superintendent of Inland Navigation” and won his confidence. The protection of the duke was exercised with so much effect that Popham was promoted commander in 1794 and post captain in 1795. He was now engaged for years in co-operating in a naval capacity with the troops of Great Britain and her allies. In the Red Sea he was engaged in transporting the Indian troops employed in the expulsion of the French from Egypt. His bills for the repair of his ship at Calcutta were made the excuse for an attack on him and for charging him with the amount. It was just the time of the general reform of the dockyards, and there was much suspicion in the air. It was also the case that St Vincent did not like Popham, and that Benjamin Tucker (1762-1829), secretary to the admiralty, who had been the admiral's secretary, was his creature and sycophant. Popham was not the man to be snuffed out without an effort. He brought his case before Parliament, and was able to prove that there had been, if not deliberate dishonesty, at least the very grossest carelessness on the part of his assailants. In 1806 he co-operated with Sir David Baird in the occupation of the Cape. He then persuaded the authorities that, as the Spanish Colonies were discontented, it would be easy to promote a rising in Buenos Ayres. The attempt was made with Popham's squadron and 1400 soldiers; but the Spanish colonists, though discontented, were not disposed to accept British help, which would in all probability have been an excuse for establishing dominion. They rose on the soldiers who landed, and took them prisoners. Popham was recalled, and censured by a court martial for leaving his station; but the City of London presented him with a sword of honour for his endeavours to “open new markets,” and the sentence did him no harm. He held other commands in connexion with the movements of troops, was promoted rear admiral in 1814, and made K.C.B in 1815. He died at Cheltenham on the 10th of September 1820, leaving a large family. Popham was one of the most scientific seamen of his time. He did much useful survey work, and was the author of the code of signals adopted by the admiralty in 1803 and used for many years.