JERVIS, Sir John (1735-1823).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

31 Jan. 1783 - 1784
1784 - 1790
1790 - Jan. 1794

Family and Education

b. 20 Jan. 1735,1 2nd s. of Swynfen Jervis of Meaford in Stone, Staffs., solicitor to Admiralty and auditor of Greenwich Hosp. by Elizabeth, da. of George Parker of Park Hall, Staffs. educ. Burton-on-Trent g.s.; Swinden’s Acad., Greenwich.2 m. 5 June 1783, his cos. Martha, da. of Sir Thomas Parker, chief baron of Exchequer 1742-72, s.p. KB 29 May 1782; cr. Earl of St. Vincent 23 June 1797; GCB 2 Jan. 1815.

Offices Held

Entered RN 1749, midshipman 1752, lt. 1755, cdr. 1759, capt. 1760, r.-adm. 1787, v.-adm. 1793, adm. 1795; c.-in-c. Mediterranean 1795-9, Channel 1800-1; acting adm. of the fleet and c.-in-c. Channel 1806-7; adm. of the fleet 1821-d.

Lt.-gen. marines 1800-14, gen. 1814-d.

PC 20 Feb. 1801; first ld. of Admiralty Feb. 1801-May 1804; elder brother of Trinity House 1806-d.; jt.-plenip. on extraordinary mission to Lisbon 1806.

Biography

Jervis owed his return for Wycombe in 1790 to his old friendship with the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne and his political attitudes continued to reflect those of his patron. He had supported government on the Regency question, but reserved his judgment on the Spanish convention, 30 Nov. 1790, when George III remarked that ‘what could call forth Sir John Jervis will call for some explanation’. Nelson reported in April 1791 that Jervis ‘is said not to be employed, as having very much reprobated the Spanish convention; and his friend the Marquess of Lansdowne is so strong an anti-ministerial man’.3 He objected to further proceedings against Warren Hastings, 14 Feb. 1791, but was reckoned favourable (as in the previous Parliament) to repeal of the Test Act in 1791, divided with opposition on the Oczakov crisis, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792 and for Fox’s amendment to the address, 13 Dec. 1792. Although he believed that ‘the French were compelled by the conduct of ministers here to go to war’, he put his professional services at the disposal of government. After consulting Lansdowne, he absented himself from the debates of February 1793 on the outbreak of hostilities, but he voted for Grey’s motion of 7 May 1793 for parliamentary reform.

Jervis continued to show concern for improvements in the naval service. In December 1792, disregarding efforts ‘to misrepresent my motives, to describe them as a meditated attack on the Admiralty, and thereby prejudice me in the service’, he secured the co-operation of government in a scheme to relieve distressed superannuated seamen. He drew attention to the hardship arising from lapses in the payment of subsistence money to newly commissioned officers, 4 Feb. 1793. His appointment in the autumn of 1793 to command the expedition to the West Indies caused some surprise, especially as, in the words of Lord Granville Leveson Gower*, ‘he has been passing much of his time last summer with Ld. Lansdowne’. He later claimed that since the appointment he had had no communication on political topics with Lansdowne, but, perceiving that ‘much narrow prejudice was harboured against him’ on account of his known political objections to the war, he decided to vacate his seat.4 His reputation survived a motion of Joseph Foster Barham’s* critical of his and Sir Charles Grey’s conduct in Martinique, 2 June 1795. Jervis declined an invitation to stand for Great Yarmouth in 1796 and when nominated in his absence by the dissenting interest, whose cause he had always espoused, at a by-election five months later, he came bottom of the poll.

Jervis’s naval career was crowned by his rout of the Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent on 14 Feb. 1797, which gained him a pension and an earldom, though Lady Holland, perhaps unfairly, attributed the ‘extreme fuss’ that was made over Duncan’s later success at Camperdown to ‘some dirty politics’ of the King, who had not forgiven Jervis for his failure to vote for the war.5 His period at the Admiralty under Addington was marked by his characteristic insistence on strict enforcement of discipline and his institution of a royal commission of inquiry into abu