Frankland, Thomas (1717?-1784) (DNB00)

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FRANKLAND, THOMAS (1717?–1784), admiral, was the second son of Henry Frankland (died in Bengal 1738), a nephew of Sir Thomas Frankland, bart., for many years (1733–42) one of the lords of the admiralty, a younger brother of Sir Charles Henry Frankland, some time consul-general in Portugal, whose story forms the groundwork of Dr. O. W. Holmes's ballad of ‘Agnes,’ and is told in more accurate detail in ‘Sir C. H. Frankland, or Boston in the Colonial Times,’ by Elias Nason (8vo, 1865; see also Appleton's Journal, 1873, x. 273), and a direct descendant of Oliver Cromwell, being the great-grandson of his daughter Frances. He is described on his passing certificate, 3 Nov. 1737, as being upwards of twenty years of age, and as having been at sea for six years and eleven days. After serving as a lieutenant of the Chatham, with Captain Philip Vanbrugh, and of the Cumberland, with Captain James Steuart, both on the home station, he was promoted, in July 1740, to the command of the Rose frigate, and was sent out to the Bahamas, on which station, including the coast of Florida and Carolina, he remained till the summer of 1745. During this time he captured several of the enemy's vessels, privateers and guarda-costas, including one, in June 1742, commanded by Juan de Leon Fandino, the man who cut off Jenkins's ear in 1731, and who now, with a mixed crew of ‘ Indians, mulattoes, and negroes,’ made a long and resolute defence against the very superior force; and another, in December 1744, ‘whose principal loading consisted in pistoles, a few chests of dollars, and a great deal of wrought gold and silver; the quantity was so great that the shares were delivered by weight, to save the trouble of counting it’ (Beatson, i. 282). As the prize was not condemned by legal process, the value does not seem to have been clearly known, but after the treasure and the rest of the cargo were disposed of, two accidental finds of thirty thousand and twenty thousand pistoles were looked on as comparative trifles. In October 1746 Frankland was appointed to the Dragon of 60 guns, which he commanded on the Leeward Islands station till the peace. In 1755 he was again sent out to the West Indies, as commodore at Antigua, with his broad pennant in the Winchester. His arrival on his station was marked by a disagreement with his predecessor, Commodore Pye, who, being junior to Frankland, had committed the mistake of keeping his broad pennant flying in Frankland's presence, and was ‘excessively angry’ that Frankland would not allow it. He had also, in Frankland's opinion, been guilty, during the time of his command, of several gross irregularities, which Frankland officially reported, and which, on Pye's return to England, were inquired into by a court-martial [see Pye, Sir Thomas]. It has been said that in this matter Frankland was moved by a personal dislike to Pye rather than by zeal for the service; but though his account may have been thus rendered more harsh, it is consonant with the general tenor of his service and character. His determination to maintain his own rights and the prescribed regulations is best illustrated by his reply to an official letter indicating the wish of the first lord of the admiralty with respect to some patronage which Frankland, after his promotion to the rank of rear-admiral, conceived to belong to himself as commander-in-chief. ‘You will please,’ he wrote to the secretary of the admiralty on 12 May 1757, ‘to acquaint Lord Temple that I have friends of my own to provide for; … it is a privilege I never have or can give up.’ The admiralty took an early opportunity of recalling him; he returned to England in the following October, and had no further employment at sea, though rising in due course to the ranks of vice-admiral and admiral. In 1768, on the death of his elder brother, Sir Charles Henry, he succeeded to the baronetcy. In 1749 he had been elected as member of parliament for Thirsk, which he continued to represent, not taking any active part in politics, but speaking occasionally, and very much to the point, on naval matters; as, for instance, on the iniquities which pervaded the system of government contracts, 11 March 1779, and on the navy estimates, 17 June 1784. He died shortly after this last effort, on 21 Nov. He married, in May 1743, Sarah, daughter of Judge Rhett of South Carolina, by whom he had a large family.

[Official Letters and other Documents in the Public Record Office; Charnock's Biog. Nav. v. 18; Beatson's Nav. and Mil. Memoirs; Burke's Peerage and Baronetage.]

J. K. L.