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First Edition 1895. Reprinted 1906

After the Picture by Stroehling





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^Ancestry — Birth — Boyhood — Entrance into the

Navy (1775-1793) 1


Early Services — Cruise of the "Speedy" (1793-

1801) ......... 11


Quarrel with the Admiralty — Cruise of the
"Pallas" — Corvettes- in the Garonne (1801-
1806) 32


Election to Parliament — Cruise of the " Im-

perieuse" — Rosas (1806-1809) . . .49

Aix Roads (1809) 67

<*n4 Ann




The Gambier Court-Martial — Parliament — The

Stock Exchange Trial (1809-1817) . . 84


Service in Chili and Peru — Valdivia — The

"Esmeralda" (1817-1820) . . . .106

Close op Service in Chili and Peru (1820-1823) 127

Service in Brazil — Bahia — Maranham (1823) . 142

Close of Service with Brazil (1823-1825) . 159

Service in Greece (1826-1827) . . . .173


Further Service in Greece (1827-1828) . . 190




Return to England — Restoration to Rank —

Death (1829-1860) 199

Character ......,, 208





"Tradition," says Lord Dundonald in his Auto-
biography, "has assigned to the Cochranes a derivation
from one of the Scandinavian sea-rovers who, in a
remote age, settled in the lands of Renfrew and Ayr."
With such a tradition the biographer of a great sea-king
will feel little disposed to quarrel. Nevertheless for
authentic record one must needs wait until the year
1262, when the name of Waldenne de Coveran first
struggles into light among the tale of witnesses to an
ancient deed. A grant of King Robert the Second dated
1389, confirming to William de Cochrane the lands of
Cochrane in Renfrewshire, to be held by him as by his
progenitors, gives sufficient proof of the antiquity of the
family and of the origin of its name.

Robert Cochrane, grandson of this William, was the
first of his clan to win a place in history. He appears
in the year 1456 to have resigned his estates to his son,
and to have betaken himself to the study and practice
of architecture, in which art he is said to have displayed
£ B


no little skill. He was, however, not less distinguished
for uncommon boldness and great physical strength ; and
having become known to King James the Third through
some duel in which he had been engaged, he was invited
to the Court, where he showed that talent as an archi-
tect was not incompatible with diligence and ability as
a courtier. In a short time he rose to be the King's
chief adviser, and was rewarded with the Earldom of
Mar, an accession of dignity which gave deep offence to
the old Scottish nobles. Cochrane, however, was high-
handed and defiant j he slighted the great lords on all
occasions, reserved his patronage for his own adherents,
and flaunted his great station in the face of the nobility
by sumptuous magnificence. Such a career could have
but one end. The Court being assembled at Lauder,
the Scottish peers met in secret conclave one morning
in the church, and took their decision. On the same
afternoon Cochrane too went down in great state to the
church to attend the Council. He knocked and was
admitted. Forthwith the Earl of Angus advanced to
him, and plucked his gold chain from his neck, saying,
" A rope will become thee better." Others of the peers
offered no less ominous insults. " My lords," said the
astonished Cochrane, "is it jest or earnest?" "It is
earnest, and so thou shalt find it," was the reply ; and
with that the King's favourite was straightway haled
to Lauder Bridge. The dead bodies of his chief fol-
lowers already hanging thereon told him sufficiently
the fate that awaited him, but he showed no fear j he
asked only that, as became his rank, he might be
hanged with one of the silken cords of his own pavilion.
The petition was refused. Eope was scarce \ but a


hundred bridle reins were offered for the service, so
bitter was the feeling against him ; and presently his
body also swung over Lauder Bridge. So died the first
eminent man of the Cochranes.

Five generations later the descendants of this Robert
were reduced to a single heiress, for whom her father
made a " prudent and discreet " match with a cadet of
the Blairs of that ilk. The choice was a good one, for
Alexander Blair took to himself not only the name of
Cochrane, but a Cochrane's zeal for the welfare of the
family, which he now started afresh with a progeny of
seven sons and two daughters. Of these seven sons six
were fighting men, all (for we are now arrived at the
Civil War) in the service of Kin g Cha rles the First.
One, indeed, had learnt his trade under a great captain
admired of all Englishmen, Gustavus Adolphus, before
he drew sword against his own countrymen. As might
be expected, the family gained little by its loyalty to
the Stuarts. The title of Lord_Cochrane of Cowden
was indeed granted to the second _son and heir pre-
sumptive in 1641, and supplemented in 1647 (only a
few months before the end) by the further dignity of
Baron Cochrane oj[ JDundonald. But between loans to
Charles Stuart and fines to Oliver Cromwell the
Cochranes paid heavily to both sides for their part in
the Civil War.

After the Restoration Lord Cochrane was sworn a
Privy_ Councillor, and by other favours was enabled to
set his affairs once more in order, and even to acquire
additional wealth. jJHe was evidently a man of integrity
and of capacity for business, qualities which gained for
him the management of the Scotch estates of the 1 hike


of Monmouth. We recognise the character of Alexander
Blair, the prudent and discreet, in Lord Cochrane's
advice to Monmouth to refrain from signing anything
but what should be most maturely advised by himself.
Jn 1667 Lord Cochrane was advanced to be Earl of
Dundonald, and prosperity seemed to be assured to the
family. ] But it was not to be. In 1683 the Earl's
second son John was discovered to be in complicity with
the Eye House Plot, and was compelled to fly for his
life to Holland, whence he returned but two years later
to take part in a still more desperate venture, the
insurrection of Argyll. He was of course taken
prisoner, and led with every degradation by the hang-
man through the streets of Edinburgh ; but a large
bribe from his father to the priests of James the Second
had efficacy to save his life. The old Earl died in the
following year (1686); but the son lived on, and after
the Revolution seems even to have lived in peace. It
is from this same John, the turbulent, dissatisfied
Whig, that the subject of this memoir traces his

The first line of the Cochranes came to an end with
the death of Archibald, seventh Earl, who was killed at
the siege of Louisburg, in a sortie made by a drunken
party of the garrison on July 9th, 1758. His successor,
Thomas, eighth Earl, grandson of the rebellious John,
likewise began life in the army, but retired with no
higher rank than that of major. Twice married, he
was the father of fifteen children, of whom many died
in infancy, and but five require to be named herej
Archibald, ninth Earl, the father of the famous Dun-
donald ; Charles, a colonel in the army and aide-de-


camp to Lord Cornwallis, who was killed at Yorktown
in 1781 ; Basil, a civil servant of the East India
Company ; Alexander Forrester, the distinguished
admiral and Knight of the Bath ; and lastly, Andrew,
who subsequently added the name of Johnstone to his
own patronymic, a colonel in the army, who threw up
the service in disgust and became Member of Parlia-
ment for Grampound. With all of these, excepting the
second, we shall meet again. The last two, Alexander
and Andrew, were the men who wrought most to make
and to mar the life of their famous nephew.

Archibald, the ninth Earl, was born in 1748. Obedient
to the traditions of his race he, too, entered the army,
becoming at the age of sixteen a cornet in the Third
Dragoons, but, forsaking this career, turned to the
sister service, wherein he remained long enough only to
become an acting -lieutenant. A cruise on the west
coast of Africa bred in him a dislike for the profession,
which not only caused his own retirement, but went
near to deprive England of one of her greatest naval
officers. In truth Archibald was not designed for the
profession of arms. His bent lay towards natural
science, in which province he was sufficiently an adept
to hold intimate communication with such men as Caven-
dish, Priestley, and Watts, and even to make valuable
discoveries on his own account. In his way he was a
man of genius, but genius of the disastrous kind that
knows not its own limitations; one of those men, in
fact, on whom the doors of their laboratory, library,
studio, or workshop should be kept permanently closed,
giants within their walls, but babes without.

In October, 1774, Archibald married Anna, daughter


of Captain Gilchrist of the Eoyal Navy, a distinguished
officer who in 1758 had been the hero of a remarkably
brilliant frigate -action; and on December 14th, 1775,
was born at Annsfield, Lanarkshire, their first child,
Thomas, whose name as Lord Cochrane was destined to
fill so large a place in the world. The boy's early years
must have been curious enough. The family estates,
through loans to one generation of Stuarts and fines to
another, had been sadly impoverished. Lord Dundonald,
however, was in the full blast of scientific discovery;
and seeing therein, as he fancied, the means of restor-
ing the fallen fortunes of his race, he leaped with one
bound from scientific to mercantile speculation, and
established manufactories wherein the result of his
researches should be practically applied. Extraction of
soda from common salt, improved production of alumina,
preparation of British gum as a substitute for gum
Senegal, manufacture of sal ammoniac and of white
lead, distillation of tar from coal, — such were the ven-
tures, all simultaneously pursued, and all on a ruinous
scale compared with his means, whereby Archibald, ninth
Earl, sought to recall prosperity to his house. They
could have but one result. One can picture few
spectacles more sad than this of the gifted enthusiast,
plunging deeper and deeper into the mire which was to
engulf him, — the sanguine expectations of husband and
wife, the stories told to little Tom of a father who was
the cleverest man in the world, and would be the richest
man in the world some day ; and yet with every year
the reduction of comfort, the accumulation of embarrass-
ment, the father's indignation against the stupidity of
his fellows, and the mother's sickening anxiety for her


born and unborn children. Swiftly the patrimony of
the Cochranes melted away, and regularly every year
came a new baby Cochrane into the world to share it.
In 1782, when Thomas Cochrane was seven years old,
Lord Dundonald moved to his estate at Culross Abbey,
in order the better to superintend the distillation of coal-
tar in his own collieries. While there he accidentally
made the one discovery which might have retrieved his
fortune, that, namely, of the illuminative power of coal-
gas ; but, though generally keen to seize a new fact, he
failed to grasp the significance of this, and was never
a jot the richer for it.

In 1784 Lady Dundonald died, a heavy misfortune
for the four little boys who alone of her seven children
survived her. They were now of an age to require
education ; but the family means were unequal to the
burden, and but for the devotion of their grandmother,
Mrs. Gilchrist, who set apart a portion of her own small
income for the purpose, they would have received scant
teaching. Through her aid two tutors, one British and
one French, were duly obtained ; but with small result.
The first knew little of his business ; and the second,
who was a Catholic, got into trouble with the Kirk and
with his neighbours through firing a gun at some cherry-
stealing magpies on the Sabbath. From the Kirk Lord
Dundonald protected this tutor, but from general ill-
feeling he could not shield him ; and the poor French-
man was compelled to abandon his charge before the
boys had learned even the rudiments of French. The
course even of this imperfect education was broken off
for Thomas Cochrane by his father, who insisted on
taking him with him to London, where he hoped to push


the sale of his coal-tar. On the way they paid a visit
to James Watt at Handsworth, where the boy heard a
long discussion on the newly-discovered inflammability
of coal-gas. Arrived in London, father and son went
together to various shipbuilding yards to show forth the
merits of coal-tar as a protection for ships' bottoms
against the ravages of the worm {teredo navalis).
Great as those merits undoubtedly were before the days
of copper-sheathing, neither the Admiralty nor the
trade would hear of them. " My Lord," said one ship-
builder, " we live by repairing ships as well as building
them ; and the worm is our best friend. Sooner than
use your preparation I would cover ships' bottoms with
honey to attract worms."

Ruined and disappointed Lord Dundonald for the
moment abandoned his darling inventions, and turned
to his eldest son. The boy's natural inclination leaned
strongly to the navy ; but his father, having a kinsman
of influence at the Horse Guards, had already destined
him for the army, and now managed to procure for
him a commission in the Hundred -and -Fourth Foot.
Then came a course of discipline which reminds us
of the training of Frederick the Great. Young
Cochrane was placed in charge of an old sergeant,
who was specially ordered to pay no attention to his
whims. The boy's hair was cut, plastered with tallow
and flour, and trained into a queue after the fashion
of the barrack -yard ; his neck was buckled into a
tight leather stock, and his body encased in a pseudo
regimental suit, a costume designed apparently as a
sartorial summary of the parental opinions. The coat
was blue with scarlet collar and cuffs, similar to the


Windsor uniform and therefore emblematic of loyalty \
but lest loyalty should be carried too far, the royal
colours yielded place in the waistcoat and breeches to an
uncompromising Whig yellow ; of which hue (as a final
touch of exquisite cruelty) the boy was charged to be
never ashamed. Small wonder that a proud and sensitive
youth conceived a loathing for the profession which his
father had identified with such a garb. One day, after
enduring the agonies of outspoken criticism on his
appearance from a mob of street boys at Charing Cross,
he rushed home and entreated his father with tears to
release him from the pigtail and yellow breeches, and
send him to sea with his uncle. The only answer was a
sound cuffing ; and the only result in the boy an intenser
hatred of the army. Nevertheless, though his father
was obdurate, his uncle, Captain Alexander Cochrane of
the navy, had noted the lad's true feelings, and quietly
entered his name in his ship's books as a common
seaman, in order to give him some standing in the

In 1788 Lord Dundonald married a second wife,
and having thus increased his income was able to
send Cochrane and his brother Basil to school. Thus
Cochrane at the age of thirteen was able to combine
in his single person the ensign of the Hundred-
and- Fourth Foot, the seaman of H.M.S. Caroline,
and the humble pupil at a Kensington seminary.
Unfortunately this did not last long. Lord Dun-
donald resumed his manufacturing speculations ; and
after six months the boys were withdrawn from school
through want of money to defray their fees. They were
then taken up to Scotland, where they spent four yean«


and a half as best they might, no further effort being
made to give them any regular training. Nevertheless,
to their immense credit, they had worked hard at school ;
and Thomas Cochrane in those barren years in Scotland
laboured incessantly to attain such meagre knowledge as
lay within his reach. For young as he was he had made
up his mind to two things : that he must depend upon
his own efforts for his success in life ; and that whatever
his career, it should not be that of an officer in the
army. What he learned, in his father's laboratory or
elsewhere, we know not, though it is certain that he
shared his father's predilection for natural science, and
that, whatever his task, he worked hard.

Pleased with his son's industry and overcome by his
firmness Lord Dundonald at last consented that Cochrane
should join his uncle's ship and go to sea. Then came
the difficulty of providing him with an outfit, a difficulty
which was only overcome by the kindness of Lord
Hopetoun, who advanced £100 for the purpose. Thus
hardly did one of Britain's greatest sailors enter into
his country's service. Once finally equipped he left
Scotland, and refusing all invitations to stay in London,
joined H.M.S. Hind at Sheerness on June 27th, 1793.
Cochrane was in his eighteenth year, and the great war
of the Eevolution had just begun. One must never
forget of this man that he was born four months after
Bunker's Hill, and joined the navy during the Keign of




Cochrane's introduction to his first ship was not alto-
gether promising. The first-lieutenant, who received him,
was dressed as an ordinary seaman, and with a marling-
spike round his neck and a lump of grease in his hand was
busily engaged in setting up the rigging. This officer,
whom we know by no other name than that of Jack
Larmour, was a man who had risen by sheer superiority
of seamanship from the forecastle to the quarterdeck,
and was not likely to be pleased with the aspect of an
oldish midshipman, over six feet high, the nephew of his
captain and a lord to boot. After a few words of forced
civility he ordered Cochrane down to the midshipman's
berth and bade him "get his traps below." Cochrane
was hardly gone when the first-lieutenant broke out
with : " This Lord Cochrane's chest ! Does Lord
Cochrane think he is going to bring a cabin aboard?
The service is going to the devil." Then there was a
sound of sawing, and Cochrane returned to find one end
of his chest sawn oft' just beyond the keyhole, and to
hear the first-lieutenant's criticisms on the lubberliness of


shoregoing folks in not placing keyholes where they
could most easily be got at. With affected simplicity
Cochrane thanked him ; but the first-lieutenant fortun-
ately was too dull to observe the sarcasm, or Cochrane's
passion for a telling reply might have brought him into
trouble even earlier than it did.

Despite this unpromising entry, however, it was great
good fortune for Cochrane to begin his service under
such an officer as rough old Jack Larmour. For Jack,
though his ideas might be bounded strictly by the bow
and stern of a ship, was at any rate a past master of
his profession, who never gave a man an order which he
could not better execute himself. Such an instructor
was invaluable to a keen young officer who was anxious
to learn his duty. Very soon each discovered the
virtues of the other, and the two became fast friends.
Another of the lieutenants, Mr. Murray, also gave
Cochrane timely help by lending him money wherewith
to supply deficiencies in his ill-chosen outfit ; a kindness
no less difficult than thoughtful to a penniless, proud, and
sensitive boy. In fact the Hind was a happy ship.
The captain, though a strict disciplinarian, liked his
young officers to enjoy themselves when they could ;
and as the destination of the Hind was to search the
Norway fiords for French privateers, there was plenty
of useful duty to be learned on board, and abundance
of pleasure, such as delights the midshipman's heart, to
be found ashore. The cruise, though as war -service
uneventful, for the ship had not the luck to fall in with
privateers, was to the younger officers a perpetual
holiday. One small incident alone marred Cochrane's
enjoyment. He had made up his mind from the first

1 793- 1 80 1 LEARNING DUTY 13

never to commit any act worthy of punishment ; but
Jack Larmour had likewise made up his mind that there
existed no such thing as a faultless midshipman. Jack
proved to be right; and for a slight neglect of duty
Cochrane spent his first sojourn at the masthead on a
bitter day with the thermometer below zero. He never
gave Jack a chance of mastheading him again.

After a few months the Hind returned from Norway,
and Captain Alexander Cochrane was appointed to
command a larger frigate, the Thetis, which was ordered
to equip at Sheerness. Jack Larmour, whose favourite
relaxation was to relinquish his own work and do that
of an ordinary seaman, of course stayed on board to fit
out his new ship, and Cochrane begged his permission
to do likewise. This favour was graciously conceded,
on condition that he, like the first-lieutenant, should put
off the officer and assume the garb of a seaman. Coch-
rane asked for nothing better ; so with knife in belt and
marling-spike in hand he set to work, under the tuition
of the captain of the forecastle. These matters are not
mentioned without a purpose ; we shall find Cochrane's
mastery of the details of his profession of priceless value
to him in the days of his highest command.

^The Thetis when ready for sea joined a squadron
under Admiral Murray, which was ordered to the
coast of North America to intercept American vessels
laden with provisions for French ports. ' This cruise
again was for Cochrane wholly uneventful and inglorious,
but none the less saw him rise rapidly in rank. On
.January 14th, 1795, after little more than a year's
service, he was appointed acting third-lieutenant of the
Thetis ; three months later he was, on the application of



Captain Rodham Home, promoted to be acting-lieutenant
of the Africa, with a provisional commission confirming
his rank ; and finally, on the 5th of January, 1796, on the
promotion *pi the first-lieutenant of the Thetis, he was
transferred to his uncle's ship once more. While
Cochrane was making his passage from the Africa to the
Thetis in H.M.S. Lynx, the captain of the last-named
ship one day observed a quantity of stable -litter float-
ing on the surface of the sea, and following the track
thereof, overtook, as he had expected, and captured a
vessel laden with transport animals for one of the French
possessions. That Cochrane should have recorded this
little incident shows the keenness of his appreciation for
what (to borrow a metaphor from the chase) may be
termed the woodcraft of war. No man, when his oppor-
tunity came, showed a more complete mastery of that
most entertaining though difficult of arts.

On rejoining the Thetis Cochrane, thanks to the false
service gained by his uncle's formal entry of his name on
his ship's books, was able to offer himself for examination
as lieutenant, and to qualify formally for that grade,
after little more than two years' service. Such a trans-
action can only be described as a job ; and it is note-
worthy as the only job which Cochrane, in a life's
crusade against jobbery, ever saw reason to defend.
But we need not now dwell on the irony of the situation,
for jobbery is sometimes, as in Cochrane's case, well
justified of her children. After the examination Coch-
rane was appointed by Admiral Yandeput to a lieuten-
ancy on board his flagship, the Resolution, and there he
spent the rest of his dreary service on the North Ameri-
can station, finally returning to England in the Thetis


in 1798. So far all had gone well with him; he had
served on happy ships and gained credit with his
superiors. We now enter on his first period of really
active service, and on the beginning of his troubles.

Towards the close of 1798 Admiral Lord Keith, who
had been appointed to relieve Lord St. Vincent in the

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Online LibraryJohn William FortescueDundonald → online text (page 1 of 16)