Porter, James (1710-1786) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 46
Porter, James (1710-1786)

by George Fisher Russell Barker
Date of death is given as 1776 in the ODNB.

PORTER, Sir JAMES (1710–1786), diplomatist, was born in Dublin in 1710. His father, whose original name was La Roche, was captain of a troop of horse under James II. His mother was the eldest daughter of Isaye d'Aubus or Daubuz, a French protestant refugee, and sister of the Rev. Charles Daubuz, vicar of Brotherton in the West Riding of Yorkshire. She died on 7 Jan. 1753. On the failure of James II's campaign in Ireland La Roche assumed the name of Porter. After a slight education young Porter was placed in a house of business in the city of London. During his leisure hours he ‘assiduously studied mathematics, and to a moderate knowledge of Latin added a perfect acquaintance with the French and Italian languages’ (Memoir, p. 4). He also joined a debating society, called the ‘Robin Hood,’ where he distinguished himself as a speaker. Through his friend Richard Adams, who afterwards became recorder of the city of London and a baron of the exchequer, Porter was introduced to Lord Carteret, by whom he was employed on several confidential missions in matters connected with continental commerce. While in Germany in 1736 Porter paid a visit to Count Zinzendorff's Moravian settlement near Leipzig, of which he has left an interesting account (Turkey, its History and Progress, vol. i. App. pp. 365–71). In 1741 he was employed at the court of Vienna, and assisted Sir Thomas Robinson (1693–1770) [q. v.] in the negotiations between Austria and Prussia. In the following year he was again sent out to Vienna on a special mission to Maria Theresa (ib. vol. i. App. pp. 406–97). On 22 Sept. 1746 he was appointed ambassador at Constantinople (London Gazette, 1746, No. 8573), where he remained until May 1762. On 7 May 1763 he was appointed minister-plenipotentiary at the court of Brussels (ib. 1763, No. 10310). He was knighted on 21 Sept. following (ib. 1763, No. 10350), having refused, it is said, the offer of a baronetcy. Finding the expenses of his position at Brussels beyond his means, he resigned his post in 1765 and returned to England, where he divided his time between London and Ham, and devoted himself to the cultivation of science and literature. Porter, who was a fellow of the Royal Society, declined to be nominated president in 1768, ‘not feeling himself of sufficient consequence or rich enough to live in such a style as he conceived that the president of such a society should maintain’ (Memoir, p. 11). In the same year he lished anonymously his ‘Observations on the Religion, Law, Government, and Manners of the Turks,’ London, 8vo, 2 vols. (‘Second Edition … To which is added the State of the Turkish Trade from its Origin to the Present Time,’ London, 1771, 8vo). Porter died in Great Marlborough Street, London, on 9 Dec. 1776, aged 66.

He married, in 1755, Clarissa Catherine, eldest daughter of Elbert, second baron de Hochepied (of the kingdom of Hungary), the Dutch ambassador at Constantinople, by whom he had five children, viz.: (1) John Elbert, who died an infant at Pera in 1756. (2) Anna Margaretta, born at Pera on 4 April 1758, who became the second wife of John Larpent [q. v.], and died on 4 March 1832. (3) George, born at Pera on 23 April 1760, a lieutenant-general in the army, who succeeded as sixth Baron de Hochepied in February 1819, and by royal license dated the 6th day of May following assumed the surname and arms of De Hochepied in lieu of Porter (London Gazette, 1819, pt. i. p. 842); by a further license, dated 5 Oct. 1819, he obtained permission for himself and his two nephews, John James and George Gerard, sons of his sister Anna Margaretta, to bear the title in England (ib. 1819, pt. ii. p. 1766). He represented Stockbridge in the House of Commons from February 1793 to February 1820. He married, on 1 Sept. 1802, Henrietta, widow of Richard, first earl Grosvenor, and daughter of Henry Vernon of Hilton Park, Staffordshire, and died on 25 March 1828, without leaving issue. (4) Sophia Albertini, who died unmarried. (5) Clarissa Catherine, born at Brussels in December 1764; she married, on 15 Jan. 1798, the Right Hon. James Trail, secretary of state for Ireland, and died at Clifton on 7 April 1833.

Sir William Jones speaks of Porter in the highest terms, and asserts that during his embassy at Constantinople ‘the interests of our mercantile body were never better secured, nor the honour of our nation better supported’ (Works, 1799, 4to, iv. 5). Three of Porter's letter-books are in the possession of Mr. George A. Aitken (Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. pt. ix. pp. 334–42), and a number of his despatches are preserved in the Record Office (State Papers, Turkey, Bundles 35 to 43). He is said to have written a pamphlet against the partition of Poland, which was suppressed at the request of the government (Memoir, p. 11). He was the author of the following three papers, which were printed in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ of the Royal Society: 1. ‘On the several Earthquakes felt at Constantinople’ (xlix. 115). 2. ‘New Astronomical and Physical Observations made in Asia,’ &c. (xlix. 251). 3. ‘Observations on the Transit of Venus made at Constantinople’ (lii. 226). His grandson, Sir George Gerard de Hochepied Larpent [q. v.], published in 1854 (2 vols.) ‘Turkey: its History and Progress, from the Journals and Correspondence of Sir James Porter … continued to the present time, with a Memoir.’ A portrait of Porter forms the frontispiece to the first volume.

[Authorities quoted in the text; Athenæum, 21 Oct. 1854, pp. 1259–60; Agnew's Protestant Exiles from France, 1886, i. 339–40, 394–5; Burke's Peerage, &c., 1894, pp. 830, 1558; Foster's Baronetage, 1881, p. 374; Gent. Mag. 1776 p. 579, 1798 pt. i. p. 83, 1802 pt. ii. p. 876, 1828 pt. i. pp. 188–9, 364, 1832 pt. i. p. 286, 1833, pt. i. p. 380; Ann. Reg. 1776, p. 230; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. ii. 67, 114, vii. 128, 313, 8th ser. v. 387; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.