In September 2003, the Society's website received an enquiry from a non-member about some documents that had come into his possession. Brian Clarke had come across some old documents amongst his late father's papers and realised they all related to the same man – Robert Palliser Cooper, who had sailed with Cook on the Resolution (1772-1775).
According to Beaglehole's biographical note on Cooper:
COOPER, Robert Palliser ( -1805)
First lieutenant, per commissions 28 November and 25 December 1771.
Joined 4 December.
Had served in Newfoundland (2nd lieutenant Niger 1766) and West Indies.
A kinsman of Sir Hugh Palliser.
Appointed commander Hawk sloop, 10 August 1775.
Posted captain, 1778; superannuated rear-admiral, 1796.
The five documents that have been passed down to Brian Clarke are R.P. Cooper's official letters of appointment. The earliest is a manuscript dated 19 July 1767 and signed aboard H.M.S. Guernseyin Croque Harbour, Newfoundland by Hugh Palliser, presumably in his capacity as Governor of Newfoundland. The document certifies Cooper's appointment as an officer in the Customs.
In contrast to the manuscript nature of the earliest document, the other four are pre-printed letters of appointment which have had the salient blanks filled in to record: the name of the officer, the position appointed to, the name of the vessel, the type of vessel, and the date of the appointment. Each letter is authorised (lower right) by the signatures of three Lords of the Admiralty, and is also signed by Philip Stephens in his role as First Secretary to the Admiralty Board.
Having completed several years as a Customs Officer in Newfoundland, Cooper resumed his naval career as a lieutenant aboard the H.M. Sloop the Weazle. This appointment is dated 30 September 1770.
It appears to have been a holding appointment as within 3 months he was transferred to H.M.S. Resolution as a fourth lieutenant. This was a 74gun ship of the line built at Deptford in 1770.
Just over a year later he was transferred to the sloop Drake. His original letter of appointment to the Drake is missing, but his letter of appointment to Cook's Resolution has survived. This was issued on 25 December 1771, the same day that the Admiralty authorised the change of name from Drake to Resolution, a decision that appears to have necessitated issuing new letters of appointment to all of the ship's officers.
The Resolution initially called at Portsmouth on its return in early August 1775. Cooper, like Cook, appears to have disembarked at Portsmouth as his next appointment is dated 10 August 1775. This saw Cooper promoted to commander of H.M. Sloop the Hawke. This last letter of appointment was authorised by Sir Hugh Palliser and Lord Sandwich.
These documents contain some useful information that has helped to fill in the gaps in Cooper's naval career. Brian Clarke has also provided details of the genealogical link between Cooper and his more illustrious distant cousin – Sir Hugh Palliser.
And to complete this biographical note, R.P. Cooper married Harriet Harden at St Mary's Church, Portsea, Hampshire on 27 July 1805. He was in his 62nd year and was dead within three months!
With grateful acknowledgements to Brian Clarke for use of his illustrations.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 37, volume 27, number 1 (2004).
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