George Clinton (Royal Navy officer)
|Died||10 July 1761|
|Allegiance||Kingdom of Great Britain|
|Rank||Admiral of the Fleet|
|Commands held||HMS Monck
HMS Prince Frederick
|Battles/wars||War of the Austrian Succession|
Admiral of the Fleet The Hon. George Clinton (c.1686 – 10 July 1761) was a British naval officer and political leader who served as the colonial governor of Newfoundland in 1731 and New York from 1743 to 1753.
He was the younger son of the 6th Earl of Lincoln, within the Clinton family lineage. Consequently, George lacked any chance of taking the leadership of his line. However, the wife of George's elder brother Henry, the subsequent Earl of the family, was the sister of the English statesman Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, who was amongst the most powerful Englishmen of that epoch, and George Clinton profited continually from his support.
George Clinton saw service in the Royal Navy, attaining the highest of naval ranks as Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean in 1737, Admiral in 1747 and Admiral of the Fleet in 1757. He built a significant career as a result of Pelham-Holles' patronage. Clinton did not feel any remorse, pleading-for and receiving favours from Pelham-Holles continually. As a result of such support, Clinton avoided most naval tasks which could have meant an actual risk to his own life. During those years, England was seriously engaged at sea against Spain, but Clinton experienced almost no naval engagements.
Also through such means, Clinton acquired the royal governorship of New York Province in 1743, dealing with the northern French threat during King George's War. Nevertheless, he could not cope with the liberal politicians of the New York assembly who were led by the sagacious James De Lancey.
Clinton spent his 12 year governorship confronting anti-monarchy attacks.
George Clinton was born in 1686, in Stourton Parva, in Lincolnshire. He was the second son of Francis Clinton, 6th Earl of Lincoln and Susan Penninston. This celebrated lineage of the Clinton lordship stemmed from a family who had fought with William the Conqueror.
George's only sibling was Henry Clinton, the 7th Earl of Lincoln. Henry was married to the sister of two powerful Whig politicians Henry Pelham (Prime Minister from 1743–1754) and Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle (who succeeded Henry as Prime Minister). George Clinton was married to an heiress, Anne Carle. Their children were Sir Henry Clinton (1730–1795), who became an English commander in the American Revolutionary War and Lucy Mary Clinton, who married Admiral Robert Roddam and four other children who died in infancy.
|HMS Monck (1720)|
|HMS Nottingham (1721–1722)|
|HMS Colchester (1726–1727)|
|HMS Sunderland (1728–1729)|
|HMS Namur (1732–1734)|
|HMS Berwick (1734)|
|HMS Prince Frederick (1739)|
|HMS Marlborough (1740)|
By such means, Clinton was a Captain in 1716. In 1720, he served in the Baltic Sea, under Sir John Norris in HMS Monck. With some Swedish ships, this squadron patrolled against Russian vessels. After four years of inactivity, Clinton returned to a more central role in 1726, patrolling the Mediterranean Sea in HMS Colchester, successively under Rear Admiral Hopson and Sir Charles Wager.
During those years, England experienced a severe international crisis with Spain, with frequent naval confrontations between the two countries. Due to Pelham-Holles's influence, Clinton managed to conduct uncomplicated tasks, being limited to the escort of merchant ships, from Gibraltar, toward distant ports in Turkey, Portugal and England. He saw action against the Spanish, including attacks on gun batteries near Gibraltar, but the engagements were not too strenuous.
While in Newfoundland, Clinton patrolled, protecting the seasonal fishermen of England. He also supervised the newly appointed local magistrates, who ruled the local fishing industry. George Clinton was apparently a competent governor. He was succeeded by Edward Falkingham in 1732.
In 1737, George Clinton was appointed the Mediterranean Fleet's supreme commander, as Commodore and Commander-in-Chief. However, because the Spanish crisis was worsening, he was replaced by an officer of higher rank.
After the beginning of the War of Jenkins' Ear between Great Britain and Spain, Clinton was transferred to the English fleet in 1740, which would confront Spanish Cartagena. Nevertheless, through Pelham-Holles, he managed to avoid the compromised region.
Royal Governor of New York
When George Clinton realised that he would not be able to repay his £3,000 debts, he planned to attain some profitable office. Consequently, he began to harass Pelham-Holles to be an American Royal Governor.
Clinton was appointed Governor of the Province of New York, on 3 July 1741. He arrived in New York on 20 September 1743 to take up his position. Despite leaving his 35 year service in the Royal Navy immediately afterward, Clinton attained the rank of Rear Admiral; by 1747, he was a full Admiral.
The Early Alliance
George Clinton knew little about New York politics, so he sought a political adviser. He spurned George Clarke, the Lieutenant Governor, avoiding some political trouble which could have been related to the controversial former royal Governor of the region, William Cosby.
Instead, Clinton approached James De Lancey, the Chief Justice. However, De Lancey was an astute political figure, who led a powerful group of liberal assemblymen; De Lancey recommended his political agents for the Council of the Governor which thus came under his political control. Clinton was convinced by De Lancey to relinquish some royal prerogatives. While the assembly attained more control on the provincial revenues, it reduced the period of its approval for the Royal Governor's salary, which became annual.
In 1744, George Clinton for De Lancey, set a new mandate of Chief Justice, which was virtually everlasting, "during his good behaviour."
Clinton began to understand the terms of his office. In 1744, he warned Pelham-Holles that a parliamentary taxation of the stamps would stir the colonies up. In 1745, he sniped the Dutch fur traders, who operated near Albany. For their own convenience, these traders were operating between the English colonies and the French Canadians, despite the war between the two mother countries.
The New Alliance
King George's War began against France in 1744. George Clinton, whose posture was as a belligerent, was confronted by De Lancey, whose liberal party preferred neutrality. Nonetheless, Clinton supplied artillery, which participated in the British victory at Louisbourg in 1745.
In 1746, Clinton was confronted once again by De Lancey, this time about the issue of military deserters by whom a riot was provoked in the streets. Clinton quit the Chief Justice's political influence, approaching Cadwallader Colden instead.
The then helpless Clinton attempted to surrender his Royal Governorship and to resume his naval career. However, through a deceitful political manoeuvre, De Lancey convinced Pelham-Holles that he (De Lancey), should be appointed Lieutenant Governor, which he was in 1747. Consequently, Clinton decided to stay-on as the Royal Governor, to confound his political foe.
The Debt Issue
George Clinton had recruited local troops for an expedition in 1746 against French Canada which had been cancelled, but which still had to be sustained. Lacking monetary assistance from England, the Province had to pay these troops. The assembly refused, so Clinton borrowed 93,000 pounds.
De Lancy with his party, began to insinuate that Clinton had misappropriated much money through dubious financial manoeuvres. Clinton defended himself through his political ally. In 1749, Colden argued that De Lancey's faction had not been able to prove such accusations. London cancelled the debt in 1751.
George Clinton attended to Indian affairs through negotiation, which was amongst his few successful policies.
In August 1746, with Colden and Sir William Johnson, Clinton conferred with the Iroquois who granted their support for the northern battlefront, against French Canada. In a brilliant manoeuvre, Clinton appointed Johnson, who was held in high regard by the Iroquois, for the management of subsequent Indian affairs.
Despite provincial idleness, the Iroquois attacked the northern enemy. Clinton promised protection to the tribes in 1748. In Clinton's words: "we may live and die together" (sic).
The Conflict of Provincial Power
During the difficult years of war, George Clinton had been avoiding interference into the assembly's activities. However, after the war, in August 1748, the governor of Massachusetts, William Shirley, urged Clinton to demand more of New York's assembly, on the King's behalf.
Consequently, in October, Clinton rejected his annual salary, demanding a different one for many years. In response, the assembly asserted that it held the ultimate power of the province, so it cancelled the whole remuneration of the Royal Governor. Nonetheless, during the subsequent years, without a local salary, Clinton manoeuvred to attack the opposition. Thus, De Lancey's assemblyman, Daniel Horsmanden, was suspended and Clinton introduced loyal politicians (like James Alexander and William Smith), to the assembly.
In 1750, the conflict of power concluded. George Clinton ended his salary claim, retrieving his regular annual pay, whereas the assembly agreed to share provincial power with the Royal Governor more cooperatively, as before.
As Royal Governor, George Clinton's first serious political drawback ensued unexpectedly, after some frontier riots, which were due to the border disputes of the New York-New Jersey Line War, against New Jersey. After an investigation, to the Privy Council, the Board of Trade concluded in 1751 that fewer public problems would occur, without a Royal Governor like George Clinton.
Clinton was suffering other border disputes. In 1749, New Hampshire distributed land, which was west of the Connecticut River, although Clinton had already assigned such territories to New Yorkers. New Hampshire insisted that its Province should extend west, as far as Massachusetts' territory. The issue had still not been settled after Clinton's departure.
In October 1753, George Clinton was replaced as Royal Governor by Sir Danvers Osborne. However, Osborne committed suicide just five days after his arrival and De Lancey assumed the office. Clinton departed soon afterward, in early November.
Back in England, George Clinton encountered a Royal Navy's refusal to his request for a naval command. He then paid a £500 bribe for the parliamentary elections to represent the Saltash borough in 1754, which was dominated by the influence of the Admiralty. Having been elected, Clinton commented favourably in parliament on Johnson's Indian management.
Pelham-Holles withdrew his support for Clinton's parliamentry role. Consequently, Clinton renounced it in 1760.
- George Clinton papers, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan.
- Most ships of his naval career. Age of Nelson
|Parliament of Great Britain|
George Brydges Rodney
|Member of Parliament for Saltash
With: Viscount Duncannon 1754–1756
Charles Townshend 1756–1761
John Clevland and
|Commodore Governor of Newfoundland
George Clarke (acting)
|Governor of the Province of New York
Sir Danvers Osborn
|Admiral of the Fleet