St Vincent and Reform, 1801–04

By Roger Morriss, published August 1983


Lord St Vincent’s administration as First Lord of the Admiralty has been widely hailed as a failure by Naval and political historians. This traditional view has been attributed directly to his inability to overcome the very ‘corruption’, which he was attempting to reduce. Drawing from naval department sources themselves, the author maintains that the very characteristics that made him a successful sea officer did not serve well in his roll for high political and administrative office. He placed reform over and above the maintenance of those relationships essential to the conduct of naval affairs in wartime, which few would have attempted in time of peace. This is an unsympathetic review of Lord St. Vincent’s term as First Lord of the Admiralty (1801 – 1804) with particular reference to his attempt to reform naval administration and root out what he (and other seagoing naval officers) perceived to be corruption and mismanagement of the royal dockyards.

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Filed under: Napoleonic War
Subjects include: Administration | Harbours & Dockyards

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