GARDNER, Alan (1742-1808).
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Family and Education
b. 12 Apr. 1742, 3rd surv. s. of Lt.-Col. William Gardner of Uttoxeter, Staffs. by Elizabeth, da. of Valentine Farington of Preston, Lancs. m. 20 May 1769 at Kingston, Jamaica, Susannah Hyde, da. and h. of Francis Gale of Liguania, Jamaica, wid. of Samuel or Sabine Turner, at least 7s. 1da. cr. Bt. 9 Sept. 1794; Baron Gardner [I] 23 Dec. 1800; Baron Gardner [UK] 27 Nov. 1806.
Entered RN 1755, lt. 1760, cdr. 1762, capt. 1766; c.-in-c. Jamaica 1786-9; r.-adm. 1793; c.-in-c. Leeward Islands Mar.-Oct. 1793; v.-adm. 1794, adm. 1799; c.-in-c. Ireland 1800-2, 1803-7, Portsmouth Mar.-June 1803, Channel 1807-8.
Ld. of Admiralty Jan. 1790-Mar. 1795.
Maj.-gen. marines 1794-d.
At the general election of 1790 Gardner topped the poll at Plymouth, where he had been returned on his appointment as a lord of the Admiralty under his friend Lord Chatham earlier in the year. In 1791 he was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. When war broke out in 1793 he led a squadron to the Caribbean, but he was home in time to defend the Admiralty against Foxite charges of inadequate convoy protection for merchant shipping, 29, 31 Jan., 18 and 21 Feb. 1794. For his conspicuous part in the victory of 1 June 1794 he was rewarded with a baronetcy. He admitted in the House, 7 Jan. 1795, that French ships were better built than British, but argued that the disparity was being lessened by the capture of prizes and advocated adoption of the French practice of offering premiums for the best designs. Notified by Earl Spencer, Chatham’s successor at the Admiralty, of his omission from the new board while preparing to sail from Spithead the following month, he thought it ‘very sudden’, though he had been ‘in some degree prepared for the event’.1 He had little part in the action of 23 June, but received the thanks of the House in his place, 2 Nov. 1795.
He intended to stand again for Plymouth in 1796, but at the last minute was pressed by Pitt into becoming the ministerial candidate for Westminster. He was in no danger of defeat during the protracted contest forced by John Horne Tooke*, but had to endure much personal vilification and rough handling by the mob and told his kinsman Joseph Farington ‘how negligently government had behaved to him in regard to this election’.2 During the Spithead mutiny Gardner, who was criticized by Lady Spencer for his ‘childish fondness for his men’, lost his temper during negotiations with the sailors’ delegates and was lucky to escape unscathed.3 On 2 July 1797 he expressed to Charles Pole his hope that the Lille peace mission would be successful and that ‘before the winter sets in we shall become either town or country gentlemen’; and later in the year he spoke to Farington of his ‘uneasiness about the times’ and his ‘wearisome situation off Brest’.4 He voted for the assessed taxes augmentation bill, 14 Dec. 1797, defied popular opinion in Westminster by speaking strongly in its favour, 28 Dec., and spoke and voted for its third reading, 4 Jan. 1798.5
Gardner, second-in-command in the Channel to Bridport from 1796, was understood by both Spencer and the King to have no wish for a major sea command; he resisted strong pressure to accept the command at Portsmouth in September 1799 but took umbrage when he was passed over, in favour of St. Vincent, as Bridport’s successor the following April. He initially threatened to strike his flag and to give up his seat in the House and behaved churlishly to St. Vincent when he took over the command. He was eventually mollified with the Irish command, his gracious acceptance of which confirmed the King’s belief in the essential ‘goodness of his heart’, and with an Irish peerage. By 1801 he was again on friendly terms with St. Vincent who, during the squabble over the Channel command, when he thought Gardner had been ‘worked up’ by his own professional rivals the Hoods, had described him as ‘a zealous and brave man, with the worst nerves possible, and full of doubts as to the precision of other men’.6
There was speculation that Gardner would retire from Parliament in 1802, but he stood again for Westminster and was returned second in the poll, retorting to charges that he had hardly attended the House since 1796 that he could not be in two places at once.7 After the election he went on a 1,000 mile tour of the midlands and north, and by the end of the year he was resigned to a renewal of war as soon as Buonaparte was ready for it. He was in the House on 17 Dec. 1802, when he spoke on the bill to correct abuses in naval administration, but from March 1803, when he reluctantly accepted the temporary command at Portsmouth on the understanding that he was to resume his Irish station as soon as possible, he was absent on active service, apart from two months’ leave for the sake of his health in the summer of 1805.8 In the ministerial lists of September 1804 and July 1805 he was placed under ‘Pitt’.
When he learnt in October 1806 that the Grenville ministry, already committed to support two candidates, could not back him in Westminster at the forthcoming general election, Gardner demanded and obtained compensation in the shape of an English peerage.9 He was given the Channel command in April 1807, but his shattered health forced him to relinquish it after only a year. He died 31 Dec. 1808.10
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: M. H. Port / David R. Fisher
- 1. PRO 30/8/366, f. 278.
- 2. Farington Diary (Yale ed.), ii. 551, 573.
- 3. Windham Pprs. ii. 49.
- 4. NMM, WYN 102; Farington, i. 223.
- 5. Morning Chron. 16, 30 Dec. 1797.
- 6. Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2024; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 3/25; Sidmouth mss, Gardner to Addington, 26 Apr., 23 May 1800; Spencer Pprs. (Navy Recs. Soc. lviii), 295-326; St. Vincent Letters (idem lv), 323-4.
- 7. St. Vincent Letters (lv), 375; The Times, 7 July 1802.
- 8. Farington, ii. 65, 87; Barham Pprs. (Navy Recs. Soc. xxxix), 205, 253-4.
- 9. Fortescue mss, Gardner to Grenville, 24 Oct., Grenville to Gardner [29 Oct. 1806].
- 10. According to Caribbeana, ii. 229, Farington, v. 116 and Geo. III Corresp. v. 3777. CP and Burke PB give 1 Jan. 1809; Gent. Mag. (1809), i. 89 and Annual Reg. (1808), Chron., p. 172 give 30 Dec. 1808.