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PATTON, Philip.

Strictures on Naval Discipline, and the Conduct of a Ship of War.

Intended to produce an Uniformity of Opinion among Sea-Officers; [bound with] Observations on Naval Mutiny, presented in 1795; [&] Account of the Mutinies at Spithead and St. Helen's, in April and May 1797. Written in the End of June of the Same Year; [&] Observations on the Discipline in the Navy, End of the Year 1797. In a Letter to a Friend; [&] Sketch of a Plan, for the Encouragement of Seamen, and for More Speedily and Effectually Manning His Majesty's Navy, upon any Armament. In Two Parts. Written during the Peace in 1802.

Edinburgh: [for the author,] Murray & Cochrane, printers, [c.1807] Stock Code: 42976
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Extremely uncommon collection of the clear- and far-sighted memoranda on naval discipline of a long-serving sailor described by Lord Keith as this "deep-thinking and hard-fighting officer." This copy inscribed on the front pastedown, "From Patton to Mr. Ferguson?", the conclusion of the inscription erased.
A scattering of the individual papers and earlier compilations can be found institutionally, but we find no record of the present version, apparently the latest and most complete iteration of these papers, issued around 1807-08. The dating of the constituent essays is confused by the lack of formal title pages giving firm dates of publication, and by the presence of dates in the prefatory material or titles of three of the pieces. Oddly the National Library of Scotland have speculatively dated the two items that they have, the first- and third-named here, to 1818, three years after Patton's death. However, from internal evidence in this copy it seems that Patton re-issued his papers periodically, adding new material to those already published. This seems to have been at least partly a ploy to emphasize his prescience: an earlier form of his collected papers, listed on COPAC, is titled at the head of the preface, "Intimations: To those who may read the following Observations on Naval Affairs, it is earnestly recommended to attend to the Dates of the Papers".
Patton undoubtedly felt he had good reason to draw attention to his foresight in naval matters. He joined the navy in 1755 at the age of 16, having already spent some years in the merchant service - his uncle was one of the largest ship-owners in Scotland - voyaging to the Mediterranean and Baltic. His early patron was Admiral Boscawen. Patton was with him at Louisbourg and the defeat of La Clue in 1759. Later on Namur he was at Quiberon Bay and the taking of Havana. On 3 July 1763 he was promoted lieutenant of the bomb-vessel Grenada, in which he returned to England that summer. In 1776 he came under the patronage of Sir Charles Middleton, later Lord Barham, joining him on the Prince George and following him to the Royal Oak. Middleton's interest was to have a great influence on Patton's later career. In the next six years he was highly active, taking part in Rodney's defeat of Langara in 1780, the action of Dogger Bank in 1781 and the pursuit and capture of "the troublesome Dunkirk privateer, the Calonne commanded by the notorious Luke Ryan" (ODNB). But perhaps his most formative experience was his quelling of the mutiny on the Prince George in 1779, where his firm hand with one of the ring-leaders reduced the men to obedience.
Paid off in 1782, Patton was to spend the next ten years unemployed, but actively working on a practical signal book, in which he was encouraged by Middleton, now comptroller of the navy. Unfortunately Admiral Howe's system of signalling carried far more influence and Patton was disappointed. On the outbreak of war with France he pressed Chatham for the 74-gun ship he felt commensurate with his experience. However it was to be a year before Middleton obtained for him a position as one of the commissioners of the transport board. "Here Patton was undoubtedly useful; his experience and his reflective but practical nature were what such a newly created office needed." It was early in the 1790s that his fear of an impending general mutiny prompted him to begin working on the memoranda developed and published in the present volume. "In 1790 Patton drew up fifty pages of observations on naval affairs, concerned with the conditions, pay, and promotion of seamen and warrant officers. In 1795 he revised his original ideas under the title Observations on Naval Mutiny, adding suggestions on prevention and asking that it be presented to the first lord of the Admiralty, and though Lord Spencer received it in April 1795 and copies were also sent to William Pitt, Henry Dundas, and William Wilberforce, no notice was taken. Conceivably it was this indifference to his warnings which caused Patton to retire from public life in 1795, to Fareham, Hampshire."
The outbreak of the mutinies at Spithead and the Nore in 1797 confirmed his worst fears and threw him into a "despairing mood". Telling Middleton that he was unwilling to accept any public employment, he continued in retirement producing his account of the mutinies and commentaries on discipline, and pursuing any opportunity to promote reform. On the outbreak of war in 1803 he was appointed second in command in the Downs to Admiral Lord Keith, who found him "a sensible and honourable man." Much to his surprise, elevation to the Admiralty followed in 1804, where he served until 1806 when a change of ministry led to his final retirement.
The present volume would appear to be his finally refined statement on matters of manning and discipline. Thoughtfully written by an officer with a wide range of experience in war and peace who had witnessed mutiny at first-hand, the papers focus a sharp light on conditions in the navy at the end of the 18th century. They offer rational, reformist solutions, which if acted on earlier could have saved the Admiralty the jarring shock of the Great Mutinies.

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5 pamphlets in 1 quarto volume (288 x 230 mm), pp. iv, 179; 11; [ii], 32; 23; [ii], 10. Original boards, rebacked in calf.


Small hand-drawn illustration to the text.


Two modern collector's bookplates to the front pastedown, some browning, occasional marginal staining, externally rubbed and stained, lower joint cracked but holding, hinges reinforced with linen, but overall very good copy.


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