SHULDHAM, Molyneux (c.1717-98).
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Family and Education
b. c.1717, 2nd s. of Rev. Lemuel Shuldham of Dublin by Elizabeth, da. of Daniel Molyneux of Ballymurray, co. Longford. m. 4 Oct. 1790, Margaret Irene, da. of John Sarney of Somerset House, London, wid. of John Harcourt of Ankerwyke, Bucks., s.p. cr. Baron Shuldham [I] 31 July 1776.
Entered R.N. 1732; lt. 1739; capt. 1746; r.-adm. 1775; v.-adm. 1776; adm. 1787.
Gov. Newfoundland 1772-4; c.-in-c. naval forces in N. America Sept. 1775-Feb. 1776; c.-in-c. Plymouth 1777-82.
In 1756 Shuldham, while serving in the West Indies, was captured by the French, and spent two years in France before being exchanged. In 1759 he ‘particularly distinguished himself’ in the reduction of Guadeloupe,1 but in 1761, while taking part in Rodney’s attack on Martinique, he lost his ship on a reef, and though cleared by a court of inquiry, seems to have held no further command till about 1766. In 1774 he was returned on the Edgcumbe interest as an Administration candidate at Fowey, probably at the suggestion of Sandwich with whom he had become closely connected. In Parliament he supported North’s Administration till its fall.
In July 1775 Shuldham was ordered to North America as second in command, but before he sailed fresh orders were issued making him commander-in-chief in place of the unpopular Admiral Graves. William Eden wrote of this appointment to Lord George Germain:2 ‘I find the idea entertained of Shuldham by some who know him well, is by no means better than that of the wretched commander who he supersedes.’ In February 1776 Shuldham himself was superseded by Howe. ‘Lord Sandwich fought hard to support and keep Shuldham commander-in-chief; it would not do’,3 John Leveson Gower wrote to William Cornwallis, 27 Feb. 1776. Sandwich wrote to Shuldham, 13 Feb.:4
As this measure has been taken before there was any account of your arrival in Boston, there can be no possibility of imputation with regard to your conduct ... I have taken effectual care that your royal master’s sentiments on your subject shall appear publicly to the world, as I have prevailed on the King to dignify you with an Irish peerage and to promote you to the rank of vice-admiral; and it shall be left to your option either to return to England at the end of the summer or to continue in America as second in command.
Shuldham returned to England in December 1776. In August 1777 he was suggested for a command in the Leeward Islands, but John Robinson wrote to Sandwich, 18 Aug., that the appointment was impossible since Shuldham did not carry with him ‘popular opinion or confidence’.5 Later the same year Shuldham was appointed commander-in-chief at Plymouth. Though he remained on close terms with Sandwich, on 11 Dec. 1778, when the House was notified of the intention to court martial Keppel, Shuldham ‘was warm in Keppel’s praises, who, he said, was adored by all officers and seamen in the fleet, and whose glory he was sure would come out more bright from the trial’.6 Shuldham’s only other reported speech in the House was on 25 Nov. 1779 when, in reply to Opposition criticism of the state of naval defences, he declared:7
he could now say, that, from the activity and exertions that had been used for these two or three months past, the harbour, dockyard, and garrison of Plymouth was now impregnable to the whole naval force of the Bourbon.
But there is no record of any reply to his opponents’ point blank denial of the truth of his statement. Shuldham did not vote on Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, but was classed by Robinson in March 1783 as a follower of North and Sandwich. Nor did he vote on Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783, yet was listed as ‘Opposition’ in Stockdale’s list of 19 Mar. 1784. He does not appear to have stood at the general election. In 1790 he contested Fowey, but after a double return his opponents were declared elected.
He died 30 Sept. 1798.