Sir John Acton, 6th Baronet

Sir John Acton, 6th Baronet

Sir John Francis Edward Acton, 6th Baronet (3 June 1736 – 12 August 1811) was prime minister of Naples under Ferdinand IV.

He was the son of Edward Acton, a physician at Besançon, and was born there in 1736, succeeding to the title and estates in 1791, on the death of his cousin in the third degree, Sir Richard Acton of Aldenham Hall, Shropshire. He served in the navy of Tuscany, and in 1775 commanded a frigate in the joint expedition of Spain and Tuscany against Algiers, in which he displayed such courage and resource that he was promoted to high command.

In 1779 Queen Maria Carolina of Naples persuaded her brother the Grand-Duke Leopold of Tuscany to allow Acton, who had been recommended to her by Prince Caramenico, to undertake the reorganisation of the Neapolitan navy. The ability displayed by him in this led to his rapid advancement. He became commander-in-chief of both the army and the navy of the Kingdom of Naples, minister of finance, and finally prime minister.

His policy was devised in concert with the English ambassador, Sir William Hamilton, and aimed at substituting the influence of Austria and Great Britain for that of Spain at Naples. Such policy consequently involved open opposition to France and the French party in Italy. The financial and administrative measures resulting from a policy which necessitated a great increase of armaments made him intensely unpopular, and in December 1798 he shared the flight of the king and queen.

For the reign of terror which followed the downfall of the Parthenopaean Republic, five months later, Acton has been held responsible. In 1804 he was for a short time deprived of the reins of government at the demand of France; but he was speedily restored to his former position, which he held till, in February 1806, on the entry of the French into Naples, he had to flee with the royal family into Sicily. He died at Palermo.

He had married, by papal dispensation, the eldest daughter of his brother, General Joseph Edward Acton (born 1737), who was in the Neapolitan service, and left three children, Sir Ferdinand Richard Edward Acton (later Dalberg-Acton), Cardinal Acton. and Elizabeth Acton, the elder son, Sir Ferdinand, being the father of the first Baron Acton.



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