Hamilton, John (d.1755) (DNB00)

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HAMILTON, JOHN (d. 1755), captain in the navy, second son of James Hamilton, seventh earl of Abercorn [see under Hamilton, James, sixth Earl of Abercorn], was promoted to be lieutenant on 4 March 1735-1736. In December 1736 he was serving on the Louisa, which was wrecked while escorting George II from Hanover, and greatly distinguished himself by his gallant behaviour. He afterwards served in the Norfolk and the Namur, and was promoted to be captain of the Deal Castle on 19 Feb. 1740-1. In January 1741-2 he was appointed to the Kinsale of 40 guns, which at his request was fitted with canvas screens instead of bulkheads for the cabins, and was armed with 9-pounders on the upper, or what is now known as the main deck, instead of the established 6-pounders. The Kinsale, he wrote, has breadth to carry them, and with 6-pounders the 20-gun ships which have 9-pounders would be more than a match for her 'in blowing weather which should put us by our lower tier.' In January 1742-3 Hamilton was moved into the Augusta of 60 guns, which also he had fitted with the canvas screens. He commanded her till the peace in 1748, being stationed for the most part on the south coast of Ireland for the protection of trade, but without any opportunity of special distinction. In February 1755 he was appointed to the Lancaster, and commanded her during the year in the Channel and the Bay of Biscay. On 13 Dec. he returned to Spithead, and on the 18th, when on his way to the shore, his boat struck on the tail of the shoal since known as Hamilton Shoal, was upset, and he with the greater part of his boat's crew drowned. Hamilton appears to have been a man of rare humour, which bubbles up in an amusing way in his official letters to the admiralty. He had, for instance, while in the Augusta, to complain of the marines' clothing, and begged their lordships to 'examine the enclosed pattern which, with great management, I have contrived to cut off, fresh and entire, as they see it ; 'then after further details he added, 'they (the marines) are miserably accoutred, and, properly speaking, miserably fleeced . . . they really put me in mind hourly of Sir John Falstaff's recruits' (2 Oct. 1743). On another occasion, complaining of some men who had been sent on board the Kinsale, one, he wrote, 'is by employment a limeburner, which has affected his sight with the infirmity our opticians call the gutta serena, to that degree that a gnat appears to him of the size of a lark; 'another' is a little old cobbler of fifty-six, taken out of his stall rather, it should seem, for pastime than service' (14 April 1742); and again, complaining that he could not get the necessary stores for the Lancaster from the dockyard, he added, 'I humbly conceive his majesty's ship Lancaster is no alien; very sure I am that she has a true English heart in her' (7 June 1755). His official correspondence is full of most instructive remarks on the faults and abuses of our naval organisation in the middle of last century, which none but him ventured to expose so fully and unsparingly. Hamilton married in November 1749 Harriot, natural daughter of James Craggs (1686–1721) [q. v.], and widow of Richard Eliot of Port Eliot; she died 1 Feb. 1769, leaving by her first husband, together with other children, Edward, first lord Eliot [q. v.]; by her second she had a daughter Anne, and a posthumous son, John James, afterwards ninth earl and first marquis of Abercorn.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. v. 92; Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, i. 11; official letters in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.