JERVIS, Sir John (1735-1823).
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 9 Jan. 1735, 2nd s. of Swynfen Jervis of Meaford in Stone, Staffs., solicitor to the Admiralty and treasurer of Greenwich Hosp., by Elizabeth, da. of George Parker of Park Hall, Staffs. educ. Burton-on-Trent g.s. m. 5 June 1783, his cos. Martha, da. of Sir Thomas Parker, chief baron of the Exchequer 1742-72, s.p. K.B. 28 May 1782; cr. Earl of St. Vincent 23 June 1797.
Entered R.N. 1749; midshipman 1752; lt. 1755; capt. 1760; r.-adm. 1787; v.-adm. 1793; adm. 1795; adm. of the fleet 1821.
P.C. 20 Feb. 1801; first ld. of Admiralty 1801-4.
Jervis saw considerable action with the fleet off North America during the seven years’ war. He served under Sir Charles Saunders on the expedition against Quebec; was on friendly terms with Wolfe, and with Col. Barré with whom he was later connected politically. After intermittent service between the wars, Jervis became captain of the Foudroyant in 1775, but remained inactive till 1778 when he joined Keppel’s fleet, and took part in the action off Ushant. Sandwich in his list of ‘Officers of Admiral Keppel’s fleet’ drawn up in November 1778 wrote of him: ‘a good officer, but turbulent and busy, and violent as a politician attached to Mr. Keppel’.1 Jervis’s capture in April 1782 of the powerful French ship Pégasse brought him renown and a knighthood. Charnock (v. 409) states that in January 1783 he was ‘appointed commodore of a small squadron ... intended for a secret expedition’ but the project was abandoned on the conclusion of the peace.
In January 1783 he was returned for Launceston on the Duke of Northumberland’s interest at the request of Shelburne, a friend and correspondent of Jervis. Jervis voted for Pitt’s parliamentary reform proposals, 7 May 1783, and against Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. In Robinson’s list of January 1784 and in Stockdale’s list of 19 Mar. he was classed as ‘pro’. At the general election Jervis was returned for Great Yarmouth as an Administration candidate. He again voted for parliamentary reform, 18 Apr. 1785. He voted against Richmond’s fortifications plans, 27 Feb. 1786, which he had already opposed as a member of a commission of inquiry; but with Pitt over the Regency, 1788-9. Jervis’s infrequent speeches in the House were invariably connected with naval matters: that of 2 Mar. 1786, in which he exposed the inefficiency of naval maintenance and told the House of his ‘disposition ... to root up and totally prevent the growth of evils so enormous and alarming’,2 foreshadowed his great work of naval reform, which with his improvements in naval discipline and his victory at St. Vincent were to establish him as one of the great naval figures of his time.
After his death on 13 Mar. 1823, the Gentleman’s Magazine (1823, p. 371) wrote of him:
He was a man of strong and acute mind, resolute in what he undertook and unbending in his ideas of discipline and subordination. The British navy has been incessantly improving by those rules which he had prescribed for its management.