George Clinton (British politician)

George Clinton (British politician)

Admiral of the Fleet George Clinton (c.1686 – 10 July 1761) was a British naval officer and political leader who served as the colonial governor of Newfoundland in 1731 and of New York from 1743 to 1753.

George Clinton was the junior son of an Earl of Lincoln (Sir Francis Fiennes Clinton), within the honoured Clinton family lineage. Consequently, George Clinton lacked any chance to take the leadership of his lineage. However, the wife of George's elder brother Henry, the subsequent Earl of the family, was the daughter of the English statesman Thomas Pelham-Holles (1st Duke of Newcastle), who was amongst the most powerful Englishmen of that epoch, and George Clinton profited, continually, from his great support.

Firstly, George Clinton undertook into the Royal Navy, and, attaining the highest naval ranks (Mediterranean Commander-in Chief in 1737, Admiral in 1747, Admiral of the Fleet in 1757) he built a magnificent life career, which was the result of the extensive backup of Pelham-Holles. Actually, George Clinton didn't feel remorse, pleading and receiving such favours of Pelham-Holles, continually. However, through such special favours, Clinton dodged most naval tasks, which could have meant an actual risk to his own life. Whereas, during those years, England was seriously engaged at sea, warring against Spain, Clinton experienced almost no naval engagements.

Also through such means, George Clinton acquired the Royal Governorship of the New York Province (1743), dealing with the northern French threat during King George's War. However, he couldn't cope, ever, with the liberal politicians of the New York assembly, who were led by the sagacious James De Lancey. Hopelessly, Clinton spent his 12 year Governorship, confronting such anti-monarchy attacks.


George Clinton was born in 1686, in Oxfordshire, England. He was the second son of Sir Francis Fiennes Clinton, the 6th Earl of Lincoln. This celebrated lineage of the Clinton lordship stemmed from a family, who had fought with William the Conqueror. George Clinton's mother was Susan Penninston.

George's only sibling was Henry Clinton, the 7th Earl of Lincoln. Henry's wife was the sister of both the 1st Duke of Newcastle (Thomas Pelham-Holles) and Henry Pelham. Pelham-Holles was amongst the most powerful figures of England, who was, virtually, as powerful as a modern Prime Minister for much time.

George Clinton was married to an heiress, whose name was Stephanie Carle. Through this marriage, George Clinton begot Sir Henry Clinton (1738–1795), who became an English commander, in the American Revolutionary War. Other child was Lucy Mary, whose husband was Admiral Robert Roddam. Four other children died during their infancy.

Naval career

As his brother begot a male heir, George Clinton had forcibly to pursue a career so he joined the Royal Navy (1708). Clinton used the leverage of Pelham-Holles extensively, during his entire naval career.

By such means, Clinton was Captain in 1716. In 1720, he served in the Baltic Sea, under Sir John Norris, on HMS "Monck". With some Swedish ships, the squadron patrolled, against Russian vessels. Subsequently, after four years of inactivity, Clinton returned into duty (1726), patrolling the Mediterranean Sea, on HMS "Colchester", successively under Rear Admiral Hopson and Sir Charles Wager.

During those years, a severe international crisis existed against Spain, with frequent naval confrontations. Through the Pelham-Holles's leverage, Clinton managed to be commended for uncomplicated tasks, and he was limited to escort merchant ships, from Gibraltar, toward distant ports (Portugal, Turkey, England). Actually, although he entered into action against Spain, like attacking some battery positions about Gibraltar, such confrontations were light.

Commodore Governor

In 1732, as a Commodore, George Clinton was sent with a squadron, to Newfoundland, as its governor. He was the first English officer, who bore both titles simultaneously.

At Newfoundland, Clinton patrolled, protecting the seasonal fishermen of England. Also, he surveyed the newly appointed local magistrates, who ruled the local fishing. Reportedly, George Clinton was a competent governor. In 1732, he was succeeded by another governor (Edward Falkingham).

In 1734, George Clinton was the Flag Captain of HMS "Namur", again under the command of Sir Charles Wager.

Commander in Chief

In 1737, George Clinton was appointed Mediterranean fleet's supreme commander, as Commodore and Commander-in-Chief. However, because the Spanish crisis was worsening, Clinton was replaced by a higher rank officer, soon afterwards.

After the ensuing Jenkins' Ear war began, Clinton was commanded (1740) into the English fleet, which would confront Spanish Cartagena. However, through Pelham-Holles, Clinton managed to be dismissed off the compromised region.

Royal Governor of New York

When George Clinton realized that he wouldn't be able to repay his 3,000 pound debts, Clinton planned to attain some profitable office. Consequently, he began to harass Pelham-Holles, to be an American Royal Governor.

Effectively, Clinton was appointed royal governor of the Province of New York, on July 3, 1741. He arrived to New York on September 20, 1743, assuming his charge. Despite leaving his 35 year active service in the Royal Navy definitively, immediately after, Clinton attained the rank of rear Admiral whereas he kept receiving further naval Admiralty ranks until, in 1747, he was full Admiral.

The Early Alliance

George Clinton didn't know much about New York politics so, avidly, he sought some political adviser. He spurned Lieutenant Governor George Clark, avoiding some political trouble, which could have been related to the quite controversial former royal Governor of the region, William Cosby.

Instead, Clinton approached James De Lancey, the Chief Justice. However, De Lancey was an astute political figure, who led a powerful group of liberal assemblymen, and De Lancey recommended his political agents for the Council of the Governor, which ended under his political control thus. Additionally, by De Lancey, Clinton was convinced to relinquish some royal prerogatives. Then, while the assembly attained more control on the provincial revenues, it reduced the period of its approval for the Royal Governor's salary, which became annual since then.

In 1744, for De Lancey, George Clinton set a new mandate of Chief Justice, which was virtually everlasting, "during his good behavior."

Political Interventions

Nonetheless, soon George Clinton proved that he began to understand his office. In 1744, he warned Pelham-Holles that a parliamentary taxation of the stamps would stir the colonies much. In 1745, he sniped the Dutch fur traders, who operated about Albany. For their own convenience, these traders were operating uncompromisingly, between the English colonies and the French Canada, despite the war, which was occurring between both nations.

The New Alliance

Against France, King George's War began in 1744. Then, George Clinton, whose posture was belligerent, was confronted by De Lancey, whose liberal party preferred neutrality. Nonetheless, Clinton supplied artillery, which participated in the English victory of Louisbourg (1745).

In 1746, about the issue of the military deserters, Clinton was confronted again by De Lancey, by whom a riot was provoked on the streets. Then, Clinton quit the Chief Justice's political influence, approaching Cadwallader Colden instead.

The then hopeless Clinton attempted to surrender his Royal Governorship away, to resume his naval career elsewhere. However, through a deceiving political maneuver, De Lancey convinced Pelham-Holles and, so, De Lancey was appointed Lieutenant Governor (1747). Consequently, Clinton decided to stay further as the Royal Governor, to confront his political foe.

The Debt Issue

Although, against French Canada, an expedition of 1746 had been canceled, George Clinton had recruited local troops, which had still to be sustained. Lacking monetary assistance of England, the Province had to pay those troops, forcibly. The assembly refused so Clinton borrowed a 93,000 pound debt.

Then, with his party, De Lancy began to smear that Clinton had defalcated much money through such financial manoeuvres. Clinton defended himself through his political ally. In 1749, Colden argued that, still, De Lancey's faction hadn't been able to prove such accusations. London cancelled the debt in 1751.

The Indian Affairs

George Clinton attended the Indian affairs through negotiations, which were amongst his few successful policies.

In August of 1746, with Colden and Sir William Johnson, Clinton conferred with the Iroquois and the Indians granted their support for the northern battlefront, against French Canada. Then, in a brilliant manoeuvre, Clinton appointed Johnson, who was beloved by the Iroquoians, for the management of the subsequent Indian affairs.

Despite the provincial idleness, the Iroquoians attacked the northern enemy. Consequently, in 1748, Clinton promised protection to the tribes. In Clinton's words, "we may live and die together" (sic).

The Conflict of Provincial Power

During the difficult years of war, George Clinton had been avoiding to interfere into the assembly's activities. However, after the war, in August of 1748, the governor of Massachusetts (William Shirley) urged Clinton so he may demand more to New York's assembly, in the King's behalf.

Consequently, in October, Clinton rejected his annual salary, demanding a different one of many years. In response, the assembly asserted that it held the ultimate power of the province so, directly, it cancelled the whole remuneration of the Royal Governor. Nonetheless, during the subsequent years, without a local salary, Clinton manoeuvred to harm the opposition. Thusly, De Lancey's assemblyman Daniel Horsmanden was suspended and Clinton introduced loyal politicians (like James Alexander and William Smith), for the assembly.

In 1750, the conflict of power concluded. George Clinton ended his salary claim, retrieving his regular annual pay, whereas the assembly agreed to share the provincial power with the Royal Governor more cooperatively, as before.

Border Disputes

As Royal Governor, George Clinton's first serious political drawback ensued unexpectedly, after some frontier riots, which were due to the border disputes of the New York-New Jersey Line War, against New Jersey. After an investigation, to the Privy Council, the Board of Trade concluded (1751) that less public problems would occur, without a Royal Governor, who is usually involved in the genesis of all public problems, like George Clinton.

Besides, Clinton was suffering other border disputes. In 1749, New Hampshire distributed lands, which were westward with respect to the Connecticut River, although Clinton had already assigned such territories for New Yorkers. New Hampshire insisted that its Province should extend, westward, as far as Massachusetts' territory. The issue hadn't been settled after Clinton's final departure.

Also, Massachusetts claimed a manor, which was about Hudson River. In 1753, supporting Massachusetts' claim some riots happened about that spot and Clinton repressed through his provincial constables.

The Deposition

In October of 1753, George Clinton was replaced as Royal Governor, by Sir Danvers Osborne. However, Osborne committed suicide just five days after his arrival and De Lancey assumed the Royal Governor office. Clinton departed afterward, in early November. After so many conflicts, Clinton's deposition meant a debacle of the local royal power, which wouldn't recover ever after.

The Politician

Back in England, George Clinton encountered a Royal Navy's refusal so he couldn't get some naval command, then. Consequently, he paid a 500 pound bribe, for the parliamentary elections of 1754, to represent the Saltash borough, which was dominated by the influence of the Admiralty. In the parliament, Clinton used to comment, proudly, about Johnson's Indian management.

Besides, in 1757, George Clinton received the highest naval title of England, Admiral of the Fleet, bearing it until 1761.

Nonetheless, about the parliamentary role of Clinton, Pelham-Holles lost interest, quitting its original support. Consequently, Clinton renounced in 1760.

His Death

On July 10, 1761, George Clinton passed away although the location is unknown. At that time, his debts were of 1,500 pounds.A son-in-law was Admiral of the Red Robert Roddam (1720-1808) of Roddam Hall.

See also

* Governors of Newfoundland
* List of people of Newfoundland and Labrador


* [ Biography.] Arizona State University
* [ Encyclopedia Entry.]
* [ Biographical Information.] University of Michigan
* [ New York Senate Timeline.] New York State Senate
* [ Naval Profile.] 3 Decks
* [ Most ships of his naval career.] Age of Nelson

External links

* [ Biography at Government House "The Governorship of Newfoundland and Labrador"]
* [ Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]

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