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Robert Palliser Cooper's Warrants


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.


Appointment as a  Customs Officer 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. Guernsey in 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.

Click image for a larger version of the Appointment as a Customs Officer

Appointment to  Weazle 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.

Click image for a larger version of the Appointment to the Weazle

Appointment to  Resolution as 4th Lieutenant 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.

Click image for a larger version of the Appointment to the Resolution as 4th Lieutenant

Appointment to  Resolution as 1st Lieutenant 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.

Click image for a larger version of the Appointment to the Resolution as 1st Lieutenant

Appointment to  Hawke 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.

Click image for a larger version of the Appointment to the Hawke


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!

Cliff Thornton

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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Sean, I have never come across a portrait of R.P.Cooper (or the captain of the privateer), and have just checked a couple of sites which might have had it, but with no luck. But I will keep my eyes open and let you know if anything turns up. I suppose that you know about the ship's plan for the Trimmer after her capture? A 1782 plan is held by the National Maritime Museum and can be seen on line at
By Cliff Thornton on 11/27/2018 5:32:02 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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This is wonderful information and thank you for sharing. As you probably know R.P. Cooper captured the noted Irish-Franco privateer John Grumbly [Grumley] aka John Kelly when in command of the HMS Stag in January 1781 off Dublin. If you know of a portrait of either men I would be obliged. The privateer was called L'Antibriton was acquired by the Admiralty and later served in the RN as the HMS Trimmer.
By Seán T. Rickard on 11/26/2018 5:50:25 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Rosario, you will be pleased to hear that Cooper's personal journal does exist. In fact there are two books, one covering the period 6 Nov.1771 - 22 April 1774, and the other covering the period 23 April 1774-23 May 1775. You will be delighted to learn that his journals can be viewed on line. I will send you the link off-line as it is too long to put here.
By Cliff Thornton on 7/3/2014 10:05:22 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Dear Cliff,
Greetings. I am a Chilean sociologist interested in Easter Island. I wanted to as you if you know if Copper´s "log" was ever found?
Thank very much.
Best regards,
By Rosario Fernandez on 7/2/2014 9:00:17 PM Like:0 DisLike:0

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