Howe, Richard, 1st Earl
1790 MsDS of the British naval commander during the American Revolution, while commanding the Channel Fleet during the “Nootka Sound Controversey”, to the Duke of Clarence (future King William IV)
Autograph ID: 7189
Condition: Very good
Description: “(1726-1799) British naval officer, famed for his role in amphibious operations against the French coast during the Seven Years’ War and for his service during the American Revolutionary War as a naval commander and a peace commissioner with the American rebels. He entered the navy July 1739 and rose through the ranks. In Jan. 1755, his capture of the French “Alcide” was the 1st shot fired in the Seven Years’ War. He was elected to Parliament May 1757 and served in the Channel 1757-63, gaining a reputation as a firm and skillful officer. After his elder brother was killed in 1758, Howe became Viscount Howe in the Irish Peerage. In 1759, he led ADM Hawke’s fleet at the Battle of Quiberon Bay and won a decisive victory, forestalling a French invasion of England. Promoted to RADM Oct. 1765, named Mediterranean Fleet Commander-in-Chef Nov. 1770, VADM Feb. 1776, Commander-in-Chief North American Station Feb. 1776. At the start of the American Revolutionary War, he was sympathetic to the colonists and knew Benjamin Franklin from late 1774. Howe and his brother, General Sir William Howe, head of the land forces, attempted reconciliation. The Howe brothers were optimistic and naive. They believed reconciliation could be reached and the colonists would bow to reasonable demands. On July 14, 1776, General Howe sent a message to George Washington in New York which offered a “pardon” to all who would lay down their arms and pledge allegiance to Great Britain. The letter was addressed to “George Washington, Esq.” The letter was delivered to Washington, but shortly returned unopened to the messenger by Washington’s aide, Joseph Reed, who informed the messenger that there was no one with that title in the army. Mystified, the messenger returned the letter to General Howe with the message that no one with that title was in the Continental Army. Howe, not amused, sent a 2nd letter addressed to “George Washington, Esq., etc.,” which Washington rejected as well, as it was not addressed to “General.” He did, however, inform the messenger that he would meet with one of Howe’s subordinates if he wished. The July 20 meeting was a short one. The Howes were given diplomatic authority only to issue pardons or have discussions with the colonists, but not to negotiate demands. Washington informed Howe’s representative that since the Americans had done nothing wrong they were not in need of “pardons,” and since the Howes had no authority to negotiate, the meeting was over, and he dismissed the representative. He instituted an ineffective naval blockade of the American coastline but claimed to have too few ships to be successful, as a number had to support Army operations, so large amounts of French munitions and supplies were smuggled into America. By 1778 the blockade was looking more promising, with many merchant ships seized. Howe told London that his ships could successfully guard the southern colonies, but blockading the northern colonies was ineffective. The British took Long Island in Aug. 1776 and New York City in Sept. in combined army and navy operations. In 1777 Howe supported his brother’s capture of Philadelphia, ferrying General Howe’s army to a landing point from which they took the city. He spent much of the rest of 1777 concentrating on capturing Forts Mifflin and Mercer which controlled entry to the Delaware River; news of Burgoyne’s surrender threw British plans into disarray and Howe spent the winter in Newport, Rhode Island. In summer 1778 the Comte d’Estaing’s French squadron sailed to America and his fleet sailed against Howe on Aug. 10. As the fleets prepared to battle, a major storm broke out, raging for 2 days, scattering both fleets. The British fleet regrouped at New York and 3 of his ships bombarded American troops during the Battle of Rhode Island Aug. 29 then chased remaining French ships to Boston. Howe left his station Sept. 1778, citing distrust of Lord North, lack of support during his American command, further irked by his and his brother’s replacement as peace commissioners and by press attacks. He spent much of the next 3 years attacking the government’s alleged mismanagement of the war at sea. In Oct. 1781 Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown; in March 1782 offensive actions against American rebels ended though war elsewhere continued. North’s government fell and Howe took command of the Channel Fleet in April 1782, promoted to ADM and created Viscount Howe in the Peerage of Great Britain. He had to protect trade convoys from the Americas, keep track of the Franco-Spanish fleet and on the Dutch fleet reportedly ready to sail. He also had to relieve besieged Gibraltar which would have to surrender if not soon resupplied. Howe had to do all this with much fewer ships than his combined opponents. In May Howe sailed to the Dutch coast but their fleet seemed unlikely to put to sea, so he left 9 ships to watch them. He learned that the West Indian convoy safely reached harbor and the Franco-Spanish fleet, blown south by a strong gale, returned home. In Sept. 1782, Howe relieved Gibraltar, and fought an indecisive action at the Battle of Cape Spartel in Oct. He became First Lord of the Admiralty Jan.-April 1783, re-appointed in Dec. under Pitt the Younger’s 1st ministry. While in office new ships were built in a naval arms race with France and Spain and he oversaw signaling innovations. He resigned as First Lord 1788, awarded an earldom in July. In 1790 a dispute with Spain over the Nootka Sound on the Pacific coast of North America threatened war. Howe took command of the Channel Fleet in July 1790 and 35 ships put to sea and cruised for a month to the west of Ushant before returning home. The crisis ended peacefully and Howe returned to retirement. With the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War, he again commanded the Channel Fleet in 1793. His fleet defeated a larger French fleet escorting a grain convoy, capturing 7 enemy ships at the Glorious First of June in 1794. For this he received the large Naval Gold Medal and chain and promotion to Admiral of the Fleet in 1796. In May 1797, Howe successfully pacified the Spithead mutineers and was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Garter. Several places in Australia and British Columbia are named for him.
13 x 8 MsDS “Howe” while Admiral commanding the Channel Fleet, Spithead, England “onboard His Majesty’s Ship the Queen Charlotte”, July 10 1790, to “His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence, Captain of His Majesty’s Ship the Valiant.” ADM Howe supplies the “Order of Sailing,” with sailing and ship placement directives for the lee, center, and starboard squadrons of the British fleet with a table listing the name of each ship and its number of guns, grouped by division. On a 2nd 2pp sheet (both sides of one sheet) there is noted the “Disposition of the Fleet and Order of Sailing” listing the ships, their captains, guns/men, and division commanders with some of the great 18th-early 19th century British naval figures noted (Hood, Jervis, Barrington, etc.). THE NOOTKA SOUND CONTROVERSEY: Starting in 1774 Spain sent expeditions to Alaska to assert its claim over the Pacific Northwest. British merchants, supported by their government, attempted to develop British fur trade in the area despite Spain’s claims and navigation rights. In 1789 Spain sent ships to enforce its sovereignty and defend its claims. They arrived in Feb. 1789 and established a settlement and built Fort San Miguel. A British ship was impounded and the Spanish seized 2 other British ships. The capture of the British ships led to the Nootka Crisis and near war between Britain and Spain. The British challenged Spanish claims to allegedly “un-colonized” land on the Pacific Coasts of North & South America. The 1st Nootka Convention (1790) gave both countries the right to settle along the Pacific coasts. The British quickly sponsored the Vancouver Expedition of exploration. Difficulties in implementing the terms led to a 2nd and a 3rd Nootka Convention (1794). WILLIAM IV (1765 -1837) “The Sailor King”, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover 1830-37. 3rd son of George III, he succeeded his elder brother George IV becoming the last king and penultimate monarch of Britain’s House of Hanover. William joined the Royal Navy at 13 as a midshipman, and was present at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1780. He served in New York during the American Revolutionary War. He became a lieutenant in 1785 and captain of HMS Pegasus in 1786. In late 1786, he was stationed in the West Indies under Horatio Nelson, the two were great friends. He was given command of the frigate HMS Andromeda 1788, promoted to RADM commanding HMS Valiant in 1789. George III created him Duke of Clarence and St. Andrews and Earl of Munster in 1789. He ended his active service in the Royal Navy in 1790. HMS VICTORY: One of Howe’s ships listed herein is the famed HMS Victory, a 104-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched in 1765, best known for her role as Lord Nelson’s flagship at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. In Oct. 1782, Victory, under ADM Howe, was the fleet flagship of the powerful escort flotilla for a convoy of transports which resupplied Gibraltar and was Howe’s flagship at Cape Spartel. She has been the flagship of the First Sea Lord since Oct. 2012 and is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission, with 242 years’ service as of 2020.”