Admiral Rodney, Patronage, and the Leeward Island Squadron, 1780-2

By David Syrett, published November 1999


Ability and luck were not alone sufficient to make for a successful career in the eighteenth-century Royal Navy; from midshipmen to post captain, young officers depended on patronage and interest to obtain regular and steady promotion. As commander of the Leeward Island Squadron from 1779 to 1782, Admiral George Rodney demonstrated how patronage worked. Exemplary service could play a role in determining promotions or appointments, but so did personal acquaintance, political ties, and self-interest.  Admiral Sir George Rodney was notorious for using patronage to promote friends and relatives. As commander of the Leeward Island Squadron he was given unfettered power of appointment. In the eighteenth century a career in the Royal Navy was one of the few opportunities of advancement open to a man without independent means. Rodney was lobbied by the families of many such aspiring men attempting to gain position and promotion. Rodney used patronage for his own advantage but this system can also be viewed as a means of social cohesion.

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Filed under: Eighteenth Century | Caribbean
Subjects include: Administration | Biography | Navies

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