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Ralph Jackson’s diary - Part 2: Patronage


Part 2: Patronage

James Cook's early life contains several apocryphal stories suggesting that his education and employment were all the result of patronage. There has never been any firm evidence to support allegations that the more affluent members of Cleveland`s community sponsored the education and training of children other than their own.

Can Ralph Jackson`s diary shed any light on patronage either in Cleveland or elsewhere?

Ralph's journals contain several examples confirming that sponsorship did occur in Cleveland, as follows:-

23 December 1757 ...Wm. Stevens a boy that my Uncle puts to learn Navigation and Astronomy...

Wm Stevens was sponsored by Ralph Ward, who was Ralph Jackson's uncle. Although Ralph Ward died in 1759, Ralph Jackson continued the sponsorship until the boy's education was completed, and he may have been instrumental in securing his employment.

5 April 1763 Wm. Stevens Junr. leaves his father tomorrow morning to go to the East India Company as Deputy Engineer to the Company.

His diary contains an account of another placement resulting from the old boy network:-

14 March 1780 Brother and Sister Wilson and two sons (George and Wm.) set out for London, George now near 16 years old is going as a writer to Madras (or Fort St.George) in East India (being appointed there by Sir Wm. James late a ship-mate of Wm.Wilson's)

Some positions, secured through the old-boy network, sometimes required that palms be crossed with silver! Take for example Ralph's own brother, George Jackson. In February 1755 George Jackson secured the post of Chief Clerk in the Admiralty. But it does not appear that this post was obtained on merit alone, as according to the diary of Ralph Ward:-

8 March 1755 Sent T. Preswick to Stokesley with a letter to leave with Mr Skottowe and an other for Mr Matthews about remitting £300 which sum I intend to send Geo. Jackson who has got ye place of Chief Clerk in ye navy office conferred upon him and wants ye sum he has engaged to pay for his coming into it, now being in possession as he's been for a week or 10 days past.

Once on the ladder of power George Jackson used his position of influence to provide favours for others. Ralph Jackson, referring to a letter which he had received from the Newcastle merchant to whom he had been apprenticed, wrote in his journal:-

23 January 1757 Mr Wm. Jefferson my last master... this letter recommended one Benj. Heslop late apprentice to a Surgeon in Newcastle, that I might write to my Brother, to befriend him in a Place on board a Ship of War viz. as a Surgeon or Surgeon's Mate.

Ralph must have conveyed this request to his brother George as 9 days later Ralph received a reply from London:-

1 February 1757 ...letter back from my Brother saying that he has placed Benj. Heslop as Surgeon on one of his Maj. Ships.

A year later and Ralph is recording another favour of his brother George:-

28 May 1758 Wm Pease on Account of my Brother`s preferment will by him be got into the Navy Office.

Cliff Thornton

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1373, volume 20, number 2 (1997).

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