HOOD, Sir Samuel, 1st Bt., 1st Baron Hood [I] (1724-1816), of Catherington, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 12 Dec. 1724, 1st s. of Rev. Samuel Hood, and bro. of Sir Alexander Hood. m. 25 Aug. 1749, Susanna, da. of Edward Linzee of Portsmouth, 3s. cr. Bt. 20 May 1778; Baron Hood [I] 12 Sept. 1782; Visct. Hood [GB] 1 June 1796; GCB 2 Jan. 1815.
Entered RN 1741, lt. 1746, cdr. 1754, capt. 1756, r.-adm. 1780, v.-adm. 1787, adm. 1794.
Commr. of the navy, Portsmouth 1778-80; c.-in-c. Portsmouth 1786-9, 1791-3; ld. of Admiralty July 1788-Mar. 1795; c.-in-c. Mediterranean 1793-5; master, Greenwich Hosp. 1796-d.
As the ministerial candidate in the electoral compromise with opposition which operated at Westminster in 1790, Hood regained the seat which he had lost two years earlier. In April 1791 he was listed as an opponent of the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. Though no longer government spokesman on naval affairs, he continued to work with characteristic energy at the Admiralty. When the fleet prepared for action against Russia in the summer of 1791 he resumed the command at Portsmouth, but struck his flag before sailing when the crisis passed. On 13 Mar. 1792 he attempted to discredit the evidence marshalled in support of Thompson’s motion for inquiry into malpractice alleged to have been committed by George Rose* at the Westminster election of 1788.
In June 1792 his younger brother, already rear-admiral of Great Britain, applied for the vacant position of vice-admiral, evidently in contravention of a promise not to interfere with Hood’s own pretensions. His response betrayed his querulous temper and his cherished conviction that his professional and political service had received scant reward:
Whether you will have it, is more than I can tell but this I know, that I shall not or anything else; I believe there never was a man, who had lent himself to an administration, with that zeal and attention I have done, that was ever so neglected. In the year 1784, as a public man to oppose Mr Fox, I was pressed by Mr Pitt ... into one of the most disagreeable situations an officer could be placed; and in 1788 to give accommodation to an arrangement government had at heart, I was called into office, by which I am beggared and thereby broken hearted; I have spoken my mind, very fully and freely to Lord Chatham, and hard as the toll is at my time of life, I will forego the society of my friends and live upon a basin of broth.1
On the outbreak of war with France, Hood, at the age of 68, was given the command in the Mediterranean and was on active service for 18 eventful months. He directed the occupation and defence of Toulon from August to December 1793, receiving rather more than his fair share of popular blame for the shambles of the evacuation. He supervised the assault on Corsica, which finally capitulated in August 1794, but not before his overbearing insistence on attacking Bastia with a small force had driven the more circumspect general in command of the troops to resign. He was called home in October 1794, ostensibly to recuperate his health.
On 6 Feb. 1795 Grey cited the proclamations issued by Hood at Toulon to support his argument that restoration of despotic monarchy in France was the true British war aim. Dundas challenged Grey’s interpretation, but was at pains to point out that Hood had acted entirely on his own initiative. Hood himself confirmed that he had indeed acted ‘not according to any regular instructions, but according to his own ideas, his reason, and his conscience’, and added that ‘if there were any blame attached, he confessed that he alone was culpable, although he had done what seemed most right’. In the debate on the bill to improve naval recruitment, 5 Mar. 1795, he volunteered, from personal experience, observations on the ‘total want of humanity, justice, and honour’ in the French treatment of captured British seamen. He was retired from the Admiralty board in March, but assured his brother that he was ‘comfortable and happy in the extreme, in my present situation of a private gentleman’.2 The British peerage conferred on his wife, 27 Mar. 1795, was an oblique method of rewarding him without the inconvenience of vacating the Westminster seat.
He prepared to return to sea, but his continual complaints at the lack of naval aggression in the Mediterranean and that the force to be placed under his command would be an inadequate match for the French, irritated Lord Spencer, the new head of the Admiralty: Hood’s written protest of 28 Apr. 1795 prompted Spencer to dismiss him from the command. George III thought the letter was ‘more extraordinary than I could have supposed any officer of his experience could have written’. Nelson, who revered Hood, cursed the ‘miserable board of Admiralty’, who had ‘forced the first officer in our service away from his command’. John Moore, who loathed him, welcomed his dismissal, reflecting that ‘his mind is borné and illiberal to a degree, and all his actions in the Mediterranean have been unwise’.3
Hood remained discreetly in Hampshire for three weeks, but was in London to oppose Wilberforce’s motion for peace, 27 May 1795.4 He attended the Westminster meeting called by Fox to petition against the government’s repressive legislation, 16 Nov. 1795, and challenged its competence to determine the opinion of the electorate, arguing the case for separate parish meetings. He repeated these views in the House, 17 Nov., and on 26 and 30 Nov. 1795 presented petitions in favour of the bills. A ministerialist commentator wrote in 1795 that Hood spoke in public ‘with ease and correctness’ and ‘an unembarrassed freedom’ uncommon in sailors.5
When Hood applied for the governorship of Greenwich Hospital in March 1796, the King observed to Spencer that ‘though the last military transaction of Lord Hood greatly tarnishes his good conduct I will not object to his receiving this employment’.6 He retired from the Commons at the dissolution of 1796 to be raised to the British peerage. The following year he invested £10,000 in the loyalty loan. In 1798, he wrote to Pitt demanding as his right, rather than soliciting as a favour, provision from public funds to enable him to support his rank: ‘the greatest part of my income arises from the governorship I hold; and when I drop, Lady Hood, possessing every shilling I am worth, will not have more than £800 a year to maintain her’. In 1800 he was granted a pension of £2,000 for three lives. During his vigorous old age he maintained his allegiance to Pitt and his political heirs. He died 27 Jan. 1816.7
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Add. 35194, f. 166.
- 2. Add. 35195, f. 132.
- 3. Ibid. ff. 141, 142, 148; Spencer Pprs. (Navy Recs. Soc. xlvi), 31; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1229, 1244; D. V. Hood, Admirals Hood, 154.
- 4. Add. 35195, ff. 152, 157; Pellew, Sidmouth, i. 149.
- 5. Colchester, i. 7; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1329; G. Chalmers, Parl. Portraits, ii. 144.
- 6. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1382.
- 7. PRO 30/8/146, f. 27.