Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tucker, Benjamin

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TUCKER, BENJAMIN (1762–1829), secretary of the admiralty and surveyor-general of the duchy of Cornwall, son of Benjamin Tucker (d. Crediton, 1817), a warrant officer in the navy, by Rachel, daughter of John Lyne of Liskeard, was born on 18 Jan. 1762. His brother was for many years foreman of shipwrights in Plymouth dockyard. He received a good education, and was brought up in the navy. In 1792 he was purser of the Assistance; in April 1795 he was appointed purser of the Pompée, one of the Channel fleet. From her he was moved in January 1798 to the London, which in the course of the summer joined the Mediterranean fleet, then off Cadiz under the command of the Earl of St. Vincent [see Jervis, John]. On 11 July 1798 he was discharged from the London as St. Vincent's secretary, and from that time his career was practically identified with St. Vincent's. He continued with him during the remainder of his time in the Mediterranean; was again with him when he commanded the fleet off Brest, and when St. Vincent was appointed first lord of the admiralty, when his intimate knowledge of the working of the service, perhaps, too, of the rascalities practised in the dockyards, rendered his assistance most valuable in the war which St. Vincent waged against the prevalent iniquities. He was for some time one of the commissioners of the navy, and was then appointed second secretary of the admiralty; and, though his name did not come prominently before the public, it was well known to all who were directly interested that in this attack he was St. Vincent's main support. There were of course many who said that he was dishonest and unscrupulous; that his one object was to curry favour with his chief; and that, as St. Vincent wanted evidence, he took care that the evidence should be forthcoming. In one instance, the attack on Sir Home Riggs Popham [q. v.], he seems to have been mistaken; Popham's innocence of the charges was fully established; but the evidence, which Tucker certainly did not invent, was sufficient to render an investigation necessary. After St. Vincent retired, Tucker was on 28 June 1808 appointed surveyor-general of the duchy of Cornwall, in which capacity, on 3 March 1812, he presented to the prince regent ‘an elegant snuff-box made of silver’ extracted from the Wheal Duchy silver mine at Calstock (Gent. Mag. 1812, i. 286). He had previously drawn up in 1810, and presented to the duke, a ‘Report’ as to the feasibility of forming a roadstead for the Scilly Isles. He obtained a long lease of Trematon Castle, near Saltash, and built the modern house. He died at the house of his brother Joseph in Bedford Row, London, on 11 Dec. 1829. He was twice married, and left issue. His eldest son, Jedediah Stephens Tucker, published in 1844 ‘Memoirs of the Earl of St. Vincent’ (2 vols. 8vo), mainly written from his father's notes, put together for the express purpose, and with St. Vincent's knowledge. Another son, John Jervis Tucker, born in 1802, died an admiral in 1886.

[Official documents in the Public Record Office; information from the family; Gent. Mag. 1830, i. 88; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 808, iii. 1353; J. S. Tucker's Memoirs of the Earl of St. Vincent; Brenton's Life of the Earl of St. Vincent; Raikes's Memoir of Sir J. Brenton, p. 421. See also the references under Popham, Sir Home Riggs; a remarkable letter of Tucker in Naval Chronicle, xiii. 368; and the list of pamphlets under Jervis, John, Earl of St. Vincent.]

J. K. L.