COLLIER, Sir George (1738-95), of West Hill, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 11 May 1738, 1st s. of George Collier. m. (1) 3 Sept. 1763, Christiana (div. Mar. 1772), da. of Richard Gwynn of Midleton Hall, Carmarthen, 1s.; (2) 19 July 1781, Elizabeth, da. of William Fryer, merchant of Exeter, 2s. 4da. Kntd. 27 Jan. 1775.
Entered R.N. 1751; lt. 1754; cdr. 1761; capt. 1762; r.-adm. 1793; v.-adm. 1794.
Collier seems to have been sent to America some time in 1774, and knighted in 1775 after his return; but his services on this occasion were not stated. In 1776 he was sent out again; put in command of the Nova Scotia squadron, and in 1779, on the recall of Rear-Admiral Gambier, assumed temporary command of the British fleet in America. He at once took vigorous action against the Americans and scored several successes culminating in the capture and destruction of many ships at Penobscot. George III wrote to Sandwich, 29 Sept. 1779: ‘It is rather remarkable that Sir G. Collier, with so scanty a force, should have been during the five months able to effect more objects against the rebels than the admirals that commanded such large fleets.’1 Almost immediately after Penobscot Gambier’s successor arrived and Collier returned to England. He hoped for official recognition of his services and twice unsuccessfully applied for a baronetcy; nor did he obtain promotion as he hoped. He served with the Channel fleet 1779-81, but seems to have resented the lack of recognition of his services in America, and in 1781 relinquished his command.
Collier unsuccessfully contested Shaftesbury in 1780, and in 1784 was returned for Honiton after a contest. He was classed by William Adam, May 1784, as ‘Administration’; voted for parliamentary reform, 18 Apr. 1785, and for Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786. In 1788 he signed the third party circular, and he voted with the Opposition on the Regency, 1788-9. Collier spoke several times in the House—almost invariably on naval matters. He urged that head-money should be paid the officers who took part in the Penobscot expedition, 6 Apr. 1785, and during the debate on Bastard’s motion about naval promotions, 21 Feb. 1788, said he considered the situation of the superannuated admiral as ‘a disgraceful and very humiliating state to any officer who has served well, and has health and vigour still to serve his country’. He concluded:2
If this mode of partial promotion is pursued ... the naval force of this kingdom must decline and be ruined by a measure so absurd and unjust ... Will gentlemen be pleased to consider what power this gives a minister, or first lord of the Admiralty for (even) if a Member of this House happens to be in Opposition, he may from thence be disgraced and dishonoured by losing his promotion by his conduct in Parliament ...
With ... miserable pay, a life of hardship and dangers, what besides honour does the sea officer aspire to? To a flag; yet, by this new regulation, his services and his merit go for nothing.
According to the Naval Chronicle (xiii. 381-3) Collier ‘was much addicted to literary recreations; possessed a true taste, and his lighter pursuits in life were those of a refined gentleman, and elegant scholar. He translated the dramatic romance called Selima and Azor; which was brought out and played with success at Drury Lane Theatre 1776.’
He died 6 Apr. 1795.