COFFIN, ISAAC. (1759–1839). British admiral. Massachusetts. Born in Boston on 16 May 1759, Coffin entered the Royal Navy at the age of fourteen. With the outbreak of the Revolution, Coffin remained in the British navy, being promoted to lieutenant in 1778 and placed in command of the cutter Placentia. He was court-martialed the following year for wrecking a ship under his command but was acquitted. After taking part in Rodney's victory off Saints Passage in April 1782, Coffin was promoted to captain and given command of the Shrewsbury (seventy-four guns). He was court-martialed for disobedience and contempt after refusing to accept three young officers appointed by Rodney to his ship, but once again he was acquitted. After having his naval rank suspended for listing nonexistent sailors, he joined the Brabant patriots of Flanders in their fight against Austria. His naval rank was restored in 1790, but he was removed from active duty in 1794 after being incapacitated by injuries incurred while rescuing a sailor who had fallen overboard. For the next decade he held a number of land-based posts, regularly getting in disputes with his superiors but earning promotion nonetheless. In 1804 he was knighted and made rear admiral, retiring with his promotion to vice admiral in 1808. By 1814 he had become full admiral. He served in Parliament from 1818 to 1826. Coffin maintained a deep and public interest in the country of his birth, repeatedly crossing the Atlantic to visit the United States, sending English racehorses to improve the breed, and importing plants and commercial fish (the turbot) to the United States. In May 1827 he established the Coffin School at Nantucket. Coffin died in Cheltenham on 23 July 1839.
revised by Michael B ellesiles