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Vernon, Edward

Vernon, Edward (1684–1757). Admiral. Second son of James Vernon, secretary of state to William III, Vernon entered the navy at the age of 15, and was given his first command in 1706. In 1722 he came into Parliament as MP for Penryn but moved into opposition and lost his seat in 1734. At the outbreak of the war with Spain in 1739, Vernon offered his services and was sent to the West Indies with the rank of vice-admiral. On 21 November 1739 his forces stormed the fortress of Portobello in Panama. Vernon became a national hero. London made him a freeman, taverns were named after him, and the tiny resort outside Edinburgh commemorated his great victory. But attempts to repeat the success at Cartagena, Santiago, or Panama failed and Vernon returned home in December 1742. Returned to Parliament for Ipswich he became a noisy critic of government and though promoted admiral in 1745 was dismissed from the service in 1746 for publishing his letters to the Admiralty. ‘Henceforth’, wrote Namier, ‘he was merely a picturesque and turbulent politician, embarrassing to his friends … the erstwhile firebrand had become a bore.’

J. A. Cannon

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Vernon, Edward

Edward Vernon, 1684–1757, British admiral. He entered the navy in 1700 and rose steadily in rank. A member of Parliament from 1722, he opposed the government of Sir Robert Walpole and urged war with Spain. When war was finally declared (see Jenkins's Ear, War of), Vernon won great popularity by his capture (1739) of Portobelo. However, the failure of his joint expedition (1741) with the incompetent General Wentworth against Cartagena and Santiago de Cuba led to his recall. Vernon's nickname, "Grog," was given to the drink—rum diluted with water—that he ordered served to his sailors to curb their drunkenness. George Washington's half-brother Lawrence named the Washington estate, Mt. Vernon, for the admiral, under whom he had served.

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Vernon, Edward

Vernon, Edward

VERNON, EDWARD. (1685–1757). British admiral. In 1740 Vernon, popularly known as "Old Grog" from his grogram cloak, ordered that the daily rum issue in his squadron be diluted with three parts water—hence the naval name "grog" for watered-down rum. Vernon's capture of Porto Bello in 1739 made him famous, and his reputation survived the disastrous attempt on Cartagena in 1741. Lawrence Washington, the half-brother from whom George Washington inherited his estate, named Mount Vernon in his honor.

                              revised by John Oliphant

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