Elliot, Charles (DNB00)

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ELLIOT, Sir CHARLES (1801–1875), admiral, son of the Right Hon. Hugh Elliot [q. v.], and nephew of Gilbert Elliot, first earl of Minto [q. v.], was born in 1801, probably at Dresden, where his father was then the English minister. He entered the navy in 1815, and in 1816 was midshipman of the Minden at the bombardment of Algiers. After serving in the East Indies and on the coast of Africa, he was made lieutenant on 11 June 1822, and served in that capacity in the Hussar on the Jamaica station. In April 1826 he was promoted to be commander of the hospital ship at Port Royal, and was advanced to post rank on 28 Aug. 1828. From that time he virtually retired from the navy, being actively and almost continuously employed in the service of the foreign or colonial office. From 1830 to 1833 he was protector of slaves in Guiana. In 1834, when commissioners were appointed to superintend affairs of trade in China, Elliot accompanied them as secretary, and in 1837 became chief superintendent and plenipotentiary. It was just at this time that the Chinese decided on putting a stop to the opium traffic, always illegal; but as the English merchants found it too lucrative readily to give up, smuggling to an enormous extent still continued. Elliot had from the first seen that these conflicting determinations must lead to serious disturbance, and as early as November 1837 had written home advising that a special commission should be sent out to arrange the business. The home government neglected to do this or to send any special instructions. The smuggling went on briskly; the Chinese authorities grew more and more determined, and at last, with threats of violence which there were no means of resisting, demanded that all the opium on the coast should be delivered up to be destroyed. As the only possible means of preventing a general massacre, Elliot ordered the ships to comply with the demand, and opium to the value of upwards of four millions sterling was accordingly surrendered and burnt. All trade was meantime prohibited, and the death of a Chinaman, slain in a casual fight with some English sailors, made a further ground of quarrel. Not only was trade prohibited, but the Chinese were forbidden to bring supplies of any kind to the resident English. This stoppage of supplies was strictly enforced by some war junks, and Elliot, strengthened by the arrival of the Volage frigate, gave orders for these to be dispersed; at the same time he declared the port and river of Canton to be in a state of blockade. In January 1840 active hostilities began, virtually under the direction of Elliot, acting in his civil capacity and in concert with his cousin, Rear-admiral George Elliot [q. v.], and afterwards with Sir James John Gordon Bremer [q. v.], by whom the Bogue forts, commanding the passage of the Canton river, were taken and destroyed; after which Elliot was able to conclude a preliminary treaty with the Chinese local authorities. By both governments was this treaty disavowed. The war began afresh, and the troops were on the point of storming Canton, when Elliot, interposing, admitted it to a ransom of 1,250,000l. It was his last action as agent in China, Mr. Pottinger arriving to supersede him.

Elliot was afterwards chargé d'affaires in Texas 1842–6, governor of Bermuda 1846–54, of Trinidad 1854–6, and of St. Helena 1863–9. In 1856 he was nominated a civil K.C.B. His naval promotions during this time were merely honorary, on the retired list; he became rear-admiral 2 May 1855, vice-admiral 15 Jan. 1862, and admiral 12 Sept. 1865. He died at Witteycombe, Exeter, on 9 Sept. 1875.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biog. Dict.; Times, 15 Sept, 1875; Walpole's Hist. of England, v. 290.]

J. K. L.