|Letter from Admiral George Anson to Vice Admiral Charles Saunders concerning the best use of naval force either against France or Spain, October 1761.
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George Anson (1697-1762) was the second son of William Anson, a minor country gentleman and the owner of Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire. Anson had a distinguished naval and political career, rising through various naval appointments to become captain of the Centurion (1737-1739), protecting British trade in west Africa and the West Indies.
On 23 October 1739, England declared war on Spain and a month later Anson was selected to lead an expedition to attack Spanish holdings in the Pacific Ocean. In September 1740, his squadron sailed from England. They were under orders to raid and plunder the Pacific coast of South America, to attack Panama and to capture the annual galleon, which carried treasure and goods between Mexico and the Philippines. Although the fleet suffered the loss of lives and vessels, Anson succeeded in capturing the Manila treasure galleon on its voyage from Acapulco in June 1743. He arrived back at Spithead in June 1744, to receive wide acclaim and great personal wealth.
In 1744, Anson was made a junior Lord of the Admiralty and was promoted to become first Lord of the Admiralty in 1751, a post he held, except for one short interval, until his death in 1762. He became a member of Parliament from 1744-1747. Following his purchase of property and land in Lichfield, Anson and Lord Gower of Trentham joined their political interests. From 1747 until his death in 1762, Anson nominated his brother Thomas as one of the Lichfield members.
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The Administration being determined to push on the war with all the vigour possible it becomes necessary to find what may bee the proper objects to employ the Land and Sea Force of this Kingdom upo…
Mr. Secretary Pitt having resigned the Seals, it becomes necessary for the present Administration to think of the best means of employing all our force by Sea and Land against France - an immediate object being wanted I desire you will with the utmost secretcy inform your self of the strength of Marscilles whether it is attackable, and what land and sea force will be necessary for that service, it may easily be masked under the Idea of retaking Port Mahons if you can suggest any other place within the Mediterranean that you many think an object you will mention it in your answer. It is thought by some people here that Spain has an inclination to declare war against us, I own I am not of that opinion not seeing what advantage Spain can promise themselves from the measure, nor do I think their weight would be great though it was thrown into the scale of France in the present conjencture.
I have his Majesty's command to inform you that he thinks it necessary for his service that you should keep the principal part of your Squadron at, or near Gibraltar, where if a Spanish war should happen you may expect to be reinforced - Lord Howe proposed a scheme to Mr. Pitt in case of a rupture with Spain to attack the Spanish Fleet in the Bay of Cadiz, and proposed in case they went into the Pantals to shelter themselves, to follow them and destroy them there, it was certainly a gallant proposal, how fit and proper it may be to attempt it if a War should happen, you must informe me, for I never was at Cadiz.
If you will procure the best Plan you can of the Port of Cadiz, and make your remarks upon it your self, it will be the best way of your conveying your Idea to me, I must desire you will give me a very particular account of the Spanish Fleet, what part of it is at Cadiz and equipped for service, as well as at the other different Ports, I should likewise be glad to know what may be their whole number of Seamen, and the state of their stores; you see by this letter being written in my own scrawl, that I think it is necessary to be kept secret that I have not thought it right to trust it even to the Secretary's of the Admiralty. I am sure it is needless to tell you that no body liveng can esteem you more than your humble Servant
You will send the Frigate back with your answer