Lawson, John (d.1665) (DNB00)

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LAWSON, Sir JOHN (d. 1665), admiral, was a native of Scarborough, with which place he continued through life closely connected, and where at the time of his death he owned a considerable property (will ; Hinderwell, Scarborough, 3rd edit. pp. 297, 308). It has been generally stated that he was originally a fisherman or collier, who, 'serving in the fleet under the parliament, was made a captain therein for his extraordinary desert' (Campbell, ii. 252 ; Penn. i. 111). But he publicly used the arms of the Lawsons of Longhirst in Northumberland — argent, a chevron between three martlets sable (Le Neve, Pedigrees of the Knights, p. 111), and doubtless belonged to a branch of that family. In a letter from himself to Sir Henry Vane, dated 12 Feb. 1652-8 (Notes and Queries, 6th ser. viii. 3), he writes of his early life: 'In the year 1642 I voluntarily engaged in the parliament's service, and ever since the Lord has kept my heart upright to the honest interest of tne nation, although I have been necessitated twice to escape for my freedom and danger of my life at the treacheries of Sir Hugh Cholmley [q. v.] and Colonel Boynton at Scarborough in the first and second war ; my wife and children being banished two years to Hull, where it pleased God to make me an instrument in discovering and (in some measure) preventing the intended treachery of Sir John Hotham [q. v.], having met with other tossings and removals to my outward loss, suffering many times, by the enemy, at sea, my livelihood being by trade that way. During part of the first war I served at sea in a small ship of my own and partners, in which time, receiving my freight well, I had subsistence. Since that, I commanded a foot company at land near five years, and about three years last past was called to this employment in the state ships. ... At my return from the Straits the last summer, I resolved to have left the sea employment and to have endeavoured some other way to provide for my family; but this difference breaking out betwixt the Dutch and us, I could not satisfy my conscience to leave at this time. . . .' If he died in this employment he finally entreated Vane to 'become instrumental that my wife and children may be considered in more than an ordinary manner, for they have suffered outwardly by my embracing this sea service.'

The ship which he commanded in the parliament's service from 1642 to 1645 was the Covenant of Hull. In March 1643 he petitioned the commissioners of the navy to the effect that having been in the service for eight months, he had received only 530l. for payment of his men ; that he and his partners were 600l. 'out of purse;' and that there was due to him 1,590l. (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1643-5}. Of his service on land there is no record ; but in 1650 hie was again at sea commanding the Trade's Increase, a merchant ship in the employ of the parliament, and afterwards the Centurion, a state's ship, attending the army in Scotland (Penn, i. 297, 303). In November Vice-admiral Penn, being ordered to sail at once for Lisbon, hoisted his flag on board the Centurion, Lawson following m the Fairfax as soon as she could be got ready, exchanging back to the Centurion at Terceira on 22 Jan. 1650-1 (ib. i. 819) [see Penn, Sir William]. He continued with Penn during his Mediterranean command, and returned to England with him 1 April 1652. He was shortly afterwards moved into the Fairfax, which he commanded in the fleet under Blake in the North Sea in June, and in the battle of the Kentish Knock on 28 Sept. [see Blake, Robbert]. In the following spring he was vice-admiral of the red squadron m the battle of Portland, 18 Feb. 1652-1653, and co-operated with Penn in the critical manoeuvre which saved the day. The Fairfax received so much damage in the action that she was in need of very extensive repairs, and Lawson was moved (11 March) to the George, on board which he commanded as rear-admiral of the fleet and admiral of the blue squadron in the battles of 2-3 June and 29-31 July 1653 [see Monck, George, Duke of Albemarle]. For his services during the war he received one of the large fold medals and a chain worth 100l. Through 654 and 1655 Lawson, again in the Fairfax, which had been rebuilt, commanded the squadron emploved in the North Sea and the Channel. On 25 Jan. 1655-6 he was appointed as vice-admiral to command the Resolution with Blake off Cadiz ; but a few weeks later the commission was cancelled, and Lawson summarily dismissed from the state's service, apparently on political grounds.

Lawson was an anabaptist and a republican; and even if obedience to the naval maxim, 'It is not for us to mind state affairs, but to keep foreigners from fooling us.' may have prevented his taking any action against the Protector during the war, he regained his political independence when released from his command. Whether he engaged in any conspiracy in 1655 (Thurloe, iii. 185, vi. 830) is doubtful, though Charles II would seem to have believed that he might be won over to his cause (Cal. Clarendon State Papers, iii. 17) ; and he was probably implicated in the conspiracy of the Fifth-monarchy men in April 1657 (Thurloe, vi. 185; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 23 April 1657; Cal. Clarendon State Papers, iii. 257). On the discovery of the plot he, together with Harrison and others, was taken in custody by the sergeant-at-arms (ib. 29 July 1657, 26 March 1658) [see Harrison, Thomas, 1606-1660]. But he was soon released, retired to Scarborough, and remained there till the deposition of Richard Cromwell in May 1659, when he was appointed by the parliament to command the fleet in the Narrow Seas during the summer [see Mountagu, Edward, first {{sc|Earl of Sandwich], 'as well to prevent an invasion from Flanders as to balance the power of Mountagu's party' (Ludlow, p. 666; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 26 May 1659 ; Commons' Journals, vii. 666). In December he was commander-in-chief of the fleet in the Downs, and on the 13th sent up a declaration, signed by himself and the several captains of the fleet, in favour of the restoration of the parliament, which had been interrupted on 13 Oct. [see Lambert, John), and for which they were now ready to adventure their lives ; at the same time disclaiming 'the interest of Charles Stuart or of any single person whatsoever, or of the House of Lords' (Merc. Polit. 22-9 Dec. 1669). Consequent on this and the other agencies working in its support, the restored parliament met on 26 Dec., and on the 29th voted their hearty thanks to Lawson and all the commanders and officers of the fleet, which were delivered to Lawson personally on 9 Jan. 1659-60 (Commons' Journ. vii. 799, 806). On 2 Jan. he was elected one of the council of state, and on the 21st was granted a pension of '500l. a year, land of inheritance, to be settled on him for his fidelity and good service done for the parliament and commonwealth' (ib. vii. 801, 818). On 23 Feb. a new council of state was elected, of which Lawson was not a member. Monck and Mountagu were at the same time appointed generals of the fleet, Lawson remaining vice-admiral as before, though no longer commander-in-chief. It would seem that Lawson, as an anabaptist, was equally mistrusted by presbyterians and royalists; but by this time he had satisfied himself that the country's choice lay between restoration and anarchy, and was quite content to follow Monck and to co-operate with Mountagu (Ludlow, pp. 819, 821 ; cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 19 Nov. 1669, 18-19 Jan. 1669-60; Pepys, 21 Feb. 23 March 1659-60). His assent carried with it that of the seamen of the fleet, who entirely confided in him. He was vice-admiral of the fleet which went to Holland to receive the king, and a few months later, 24 Sept., he was knighted (ib. 25 Sept. ; Le Neve, p. 111). He bad won the favour of both the king and the Duke of York, who recommended the question of his pension of 500l. to the consideration of the parliament ; but, after a long debate (18 Dec. 1660), in which it appeared that his old republican principles were bitterly remembered against him, it was resolved that the grant was invalid, as it had been made only by the Rump, and had not been confirmed after the return of the secluded members (Commons' Journ. viii. 214; Old Parliamentary Hist xxiii. 56). Two years later, however, the pension was secured to him by the king's warrant (Cal. State Papers, Dom., 29 Dec. 1662).

In June 1661, with his flag in the Swiftsure, Lawson accompanied Mountagu, now earl of Sandwich, to the Mediterranean ; and when Sandwich went to Lisbon to conduct the queen to England, Lawson remained in command of a strong squadron with instructions to coerce Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. After capturing several of their ships, releasing some two hundred captives, and selling about the same number of Moors into slavery, he compelled them to renew the treaties. He returned to England for the winter of 1662-3, and again for that of 1663-1664 ; and the Algerines, seizing the opportunity, recommenced their piracies. In May Lawson was again in the Mediterranean, but before the corsairs could be reduced he was ordered home, August 1664 [see Allin, Sir Thomas]. War with the Dutch had again broken out, and he was appointed vice-admiral of the red squadron. In the action off Lowestoft on 3 June 1665 he was wounded in the knee by a musket-shot. Gangrene set in, and he died at Greenwich on 29 June. He was buried in the church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East, by the side of several of his children who had predeceased him.

Before the civil war broke out Lawson had married Isabella, daughter of William Jefferson of Whitby, who survived him, with three daughters, Isabella, Elizabeth, and Anna. During her father's life Isabella married Daniel Norton of Southwick, Hampshire, and afterwards Sir John Chicheley fa. v.], by whom she had a large family. The other two were still minors at the time of Lawson's death. In his will (in Somerset House), dated 19 April 1664, he desires his pension of 500l. to be settled if possible on his two daughters Elizabeth and Anna. To Elizabeth he leaves 'a gold chain that was given me in Portugal in 1663.' for her eldest son ; and to Isabella 'a gold chain that was given me in the Dutch war, 1653.' No mention is made of the medal (Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, ed. 1885, pp. 398-402). To each of 'two William Lawsons now on board the Royal Oak' 51. is left; 'my cousin John Lawson, citizen and grocer of London, living in Lyme Street,' and his son Samuel Lawson, merchant, are appointed overseers. Lawson's portrait, by Sir Peter Lely, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. i. 20; Campbell's Lives of the Admirals, ii. 251 ; Cal. State Papers, Dom. ; Pepys's Diary ; Ludlow's Memoirs, ed. 1698 ; Granville Perm's Memorials of Sir William Penn; Columna Rostrata; notes by Mr. C. H. Firth.]

J. K. L.