Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Carteret, George

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CARTERET, Sir GEORGE (d. 1680), governor of Jersey, was son of Helier de Carteret of St. Ouen, Jersey. Collins in his ‘History of the Family of Carteret’ states that Sir George was born in 1599, but this seems to be merely an inference from the statement that he was about eighty at the time of his death. On the other hand his mother, Elizabeth Dumaresq, did not marry Helier de Carteret until 1608 (Payne, Armorial of Jersey, p. 113), and one of the complaints of the inhabitants of Jersey against Sir Philip de Carteret in 1642 charges him with entrusting the governorship of the island during his own absence in 1640 to George Carteret, ‘a nephew of his of about twenty-three years of age’ (Falle, Jersey, ed. Durell, p. 311). George Carteret, therefore, was born at some date between 1609 and 1617. According to Lady Fanshawe (Memoirs, p. 61) he was bred a sea boy, and he appears in the state papers in 1632 as lieutenant of the ship Convertive. On 18 March 1633 he was appointed captain of the Eighth Lion's Whelp, and successively commanded the Mary, Rose, and other ships of the king's navy. In 1637 he served as second in command under Rainsborough in the expedition to Sallee (Cal. State Papers, Dom.) Two years later he attained the rank of comptroller of the navy, and in 1642 was designed by parliament for the post of vice-admiral to the Earl of Warwick, but the king's commands prevented his acceptance (Clarendon, Rebellion, v. 44). When the war began, Carteret at first attempted to raise a troop for the king in Cornwall, but was induced instead to undertake the duty of supplying the western royalists with arms and ammunition (ib. vi. 253). He accordingly established himself at St. Malo, and made use of his own credit and his great local influence to supply both the western gentlemen and the fortresses of the Channel Islands (Hoskins, p. 85). On the death (August 1643) of his uncle, Sir Philip de Carteret [q. v.], whose daughter Elizabeth George Carteret had married, he succeeded to the office of bailiff of Jersey, the reversion of which had been granted to him by patent in 1639 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. 34). From the king he received also his appointment as lieutenant-governor of the island under Sir Thomas Jermyn, and landing there in November 1643, reconquered it and expelled Major Lydcott, the parliamentary governor, before the end of the month (Hoskins, i. 155–75). From Jersey Carteret carried on a vigorous privateering war against English trade, by virtue of the king's commission as vice-admiral, which he received on 13 Dec. 1644 (ib. p. 230). The parliament termed this piracy, excluded him from amnesty in subsequent treaties with the king, and passed a special ordinance making void all commissions granted by him (16 Sept. 1645, Husbands, folio Collection of Ordinances, p. 734). Carteret governed with great severity, imprisoning the persons and confiscating the estates of parliamentarians [see Bandinel, David], but developing with great skill all the resources of the island. These were strained to the utmost when in 1646 the island became the refuge of royalist fugitives, and the cessation of the war enabled the parliament to turn their forces against it. In the spring of 1646 Prince Charles landed in Jersey, and rewarded Carteret by creating him knight and baronet (Hoskins, 185, 285–367). Collins, however, states that he was knighted on 21 Jan. 1644, and created a baronet by warrant bearing date 9 May 1645 (History of Family of Carteret, p. 39). Hyde, who remained two years in Jersey as Carteret's guest, writes of Sir George: ‘He was truly a worthy and most excellent person, of extraordinary merit towards the crown and nation of England; the most generous man in kindness, and the most dexterous man in business ever known; and a most prudent and skilful lieutenant-governor, who reduced Jersey not with greater skill and discretion than he kept it. And besides his other parts of honesty and discretion, undoubtedly as good, if not the best seaman of England’ (Hoskins, i. 179, collecting Clarendon's remarks; see also Clarendon, Life, v. 4). Carteret joined Capel and Hyde in the articles of association for the preservation of Jersey, drawn up when Jermyn was suspected of designing to sell the island to the French (Cal. Clar. State Papers, ii. 279). On the second visit of Charles II to Jersey (17 Sept. 1649 to 13 Feb. 1650) he was further rewarded by the grant of the seigneuries of Noirmont, Melêche, and Belle Ozanne. He was also granted ‘a certain island and adjacent islets in America in perpetual inheritance, to be called New Jersey, and held at an annual rent of 6l. a year to the crown’ (Hoskins, ii. 385). Whitelocke records in 1650 the capture of a ship sent by Carteret to establish the new colony (Memorials, 455). But the growing naval strength of the Commonwealth rendered his position more difficult month by month; an attack threatened in May 1647 proved abortive (Hoskins, ii. 128), but a second proved successful, and Carteret surrendered on 12 Dec. 1651 (see the articles of surrender, Mercurius Politicus, No. 82). He proceeded to join the exiles in France, and obtained a command in the French navy, apparently that of vice-admiral, under the Duke of Vendome (Mercurius Politicus, No. 125; Cal. Clar. State Papers, ii. 275). In August 1657 he was arrested and imprisoned in the Bastille on the complaint of Lockhart, in consequence of some attempt to seduce the English forces then acting as auxiliaries of France in the Low Countries, or perhaps for giving secret intelligence to the Spaniards (Thurloe, vi. 421; Vaughan, Protectorate, ii. 241). He was released in December 1657, but banished from France, and went to Venice, intending to take service under the republic (Thurloe, vi. 681).

At the Restoration Carteret became a member of the privy council and treasurer of the navy, and also obtained the post of vice-chamberlain of the household, to which office he had been appointed by Prince Charles as early as 1647 (Kennet, Register, 167; (Hoskins, ii. 113). In 1661 he was elected member for Portsmouth. But it was as treasurer of the navy from 1661 to 1667 that his most important work was done. He was not a pleasant superior, for Pepys speaks of him as the most passionate man in the world, and Sir William Coventry describes him as one whose humour it was always to have things done his own way. This led to a long struggle between Coventry and Carteret, which lasted till the resignation of the latter. Yet Coventry ‘did not deny Sir G. Carteret his due in saying that he is a man that do take the most pains, and gives himself the most to do business of any about the court, without any desire of pleasure or divertisements’ (Pepys, 30 Oct. 1662). During the difficulties of the Dutch war, Carteret's personal credit with the bankers was of the greatest service. In 1665, during the plague, Carteret states that he borrowed 280,000l. on his own credit, and thus kept the fleet abroad when it otherwise must have come home (Grey, Debates, p. 170; see also Pepys, 25 June 1667). The fall of his friend Sandwich and the miscarriage of the Dutch war undermined his position, and he was only maintained by his great influence with the king when in June 1667 he exchanged his office with Lord Anglesey for the place of deputy-treasurer of Ireland (ib. 28 June 1667). ‘The king,’ Carteret told Pepys, ‘at his earnest entreaty, did with much unwillingness, but with owning of great obligations to him for his faithfulness and long service to him and his father, grant his desire.’ In spite of this retirement Carteret could not escape the censure of parliament. The report of the commissioners for the public accounts revealed gross mismanagement in the navy during the war, and especially great carelessness in keeping the accounts (Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. 128–33). The House of Lords appointed a committee to examine into these charges, whose report, so far as it went, was favourable to Carteret (ib. 133). In the House of Commons, however, he was, on several articles, voted guilty of a misdemeanor, and finally, on 10 Dec. 1669, by 100 to 97 votes, suspended from sitting in the house (Grey, Debates, i. 214). The prorogation of parliament put an end both to the prosecution in the commons and to the proceedings of the lords' committee. In spite of this disgrace, when in 1673, on the resignation of the Duke of York, the admiralty was put in commission, Carteret was appointed one of the commissioners. He also acted as a member of the Tangier committee, and as one of the committee of trade and plantations. Outside the admiralty colonial affairs chiefly occupied his attention. In 1663 he appears as one of the original proprietors of Carolina (24 March 1663). To him, in conjunction with Lord Berkeley, the Duke of York assigned the land between the Hudson and the Delaware, to be called, in honour of Carteret, New Jersey (Bancroft, ii. 69; Cal. Col. State Papers, 1661–8, 607, 337).

By the government of Jersey, by successful privateering, and by the different offices he had held since the Restoration, Carteret had accumulated considerable wealth. Marvell terms him ‘Carteret the rich,’ and the ‘Flagellum Parliamentarium’ boldly accuses him of robbing the king of 300,000l. He himself told Pepys in 1667 that he was worth 50,000l. when the king came in, and was only 15,000l. better than he was then. ‘I do take him for a most honest man,’ adds the diarist (12 April 1667). He was also a bold man, for he took the liberty of recommending to the king the necessity of preserving at least a show of religion and sobriety (Pepys, 27 July 1667). His education was very defective. Marvell sneers at his ‘ill English,’ and Pepys was shocked by his ignorance of the meaning of the device S.P.Q.R., ‘which ignorance is not to be borne in a privy counsellor, methinks, what a schoolboy would be whipped for not knowing’ (Diary, 4 July 1663). Carteret's death is announced in the ‘London Gazette’ of 14 Jan. 1680, where it is stated that he was ‘near eighty years old, of which he had spent fifty-five in the service of his majesty and his royal father.’ At the time of his death the king was about to raise him to the peerage, and consequently granted to his widow, by warrant dated 14 Feb. 1680, the same precedence as if the promised creation had actually taken place (warrant quoted by Chalmers).

His eldest son, Philip, whose marriage with Jemima Montague is so amusingly described by Pepys (31 July 1665), had been killed in the battle of Solebay. But George, the son of this marriage, was elevated to the peerage 14 Oct. 1681 as Baron Carteret of Hawnes (Burke, Extinct Peerage).

[Calendar of Domestic State Papers; Clarendon's History of the Rebellion; Clarendon State Papers; Hoskins's Charles II in the Channel Islands; Falle's History of Jersey, ed. Durell; Collins's History of the Family of Carteret; Pepys's Diary.]

C. H. F.