Baker, John (1661-1716) (DNB00)

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BAKER, JOHN (1661–1716), admiral, was appointed a lieutenant by Lord Dartmouth on 14 Nov. 1688; on 12 Oct, 1691 he was advanced to be captain of the Mary galley, and during the war then raging with France successively commanded the Newcastle, the Falmouth, and the Medway, for the greater part of the time in the Mediterranean, but without any opportunity of especial distinction. Early in 1701 he was appointed to the Pembroke, and a year later to the Monmouth of seventy guns, in which he continued for nearly six years, serving in the grand fleet under Sir George Rooke or Sir Clowdisley Shovell, at Cadiz and Vigo in 1702, at Gibraltar and Malaga in 1704, at Barcelona in 1705, and Toulon in 1707. He returned to England with the squadron of which so many of the ships were lost amongst the Scilly Islands on 22 Oct. 1707 [see Shovell, Sir Clowdisley], and, having arrived at the Nore, was ordered to relit and keep the men on board with a view to their being sent to other ships. Baker remonstrated; he thought their case was hard, and that they ought to be allowed to go home. 'Most of them,' he wrote, on 3 Nov., 'have been with me in this ship for almost six years, and many have followed me from ship to ship for several years before.' It does not appear that any good came of the application, which the admiralty probably considered a bit of maudlin and absurd sentimentality. On 26 Jan. 1707-8 he was promoted to be rear-admiral of the white, and commanded in the second post under Sir George Byng on the coast of Scotland. He afterwards conducted the daughter of the emperor, the betrothed queen of Portugal, from Holland to Spithead, and with Sir George Byng escorted her to Lisbon. On 12 Nov. 1709 he was advanced to be vice-admiral of the blue, and hoisted his flag in the Stirling Castle as second in command in the Mediterranean under Sir John Norris and afterwards Sir John Jennings. Towards the end of 1711 he was detached by Jennings to Lisbon and the Azores, to protect the Portuguese, East India, and Brazil trade, especially from Duguay-Trouin and Cassard. In, the course of a cruise from Lisbon in February 1711-2 he drove a large Spanish ship ashore near Cape St. Mary's, but the weather was rough, and before he could approach, the wreck was gutted and destroyed by the Portuguese. Afterwards he captured a richly laden French ship for Martinique, and returned to Lisbon by the beginning of March. At the Azores he remained till the following September, and having intelligence that the Brazil fleet was near, he put to sea on the 11th, and escorted it to the Tagus. He returned to England at the peace, and soon after the accession of George I was again sent out to the Mediterranean in command of a squadron to negotiate with or restrain the corsairs of North Africa, He concluded a treaty with Tripoli and Tunis, and inflicted punishment on some of the Sallee cruisers. He had just been relieved by Rear-admiral Charles Cornwall, when he died at Port Mahon, 10 Nov. 1716. A monument to his memory has been erected in Westminster Abbey, for, though his is not one of the great historic names of the navy, he was, in the words of his epitaph, 'a brave, judicious, and experienced officer, a sincere friend, and a true lover of his country.' His nephew, Hercules Baker, a captain in the navy, and who was serving in the Mediterranean at the time of the vice-admiral's death, became, in 1736, treasurer of Greenwich Hospital, and held that office till his death in 1744.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. ii. 379; Official Letters in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.