Sir John Acton, 6th Baronet
He was the son of Edward Acton, a physician at Besançon, and was born there in 1736, succeeding to the title and estates in 1791, on the death of his second cousin once removed, Sir Richard Acton of Aldenham Hall, Shropshire. He served under his uncle in the navy of Tuscany, and commanded the Tuscan frigates in the Spanish led Invasion of Algiers (1775). During the calamitous disembarkation in which the Spanish were drawn into a trap by the feigned retreat of the Algerines, Henry Swinburne wrote that the Spaniards would have been "broken and slaughtered to a man... had not Mr. Acton, the Tuscan commander, cut his cables, and let his ships drive in to shore just as the enemy was coming on us full gallop. The incessant fire of his great guns, loaded with grape-shot, not only stopt them in their career, but obliged them to retire with great loss."
In 1779 Queen Maria Carolina of Naples persuaded her brother the Grand-Duke Leopold of Tuscany to allow Acton, who had been recommended to her by Prince Caramenico, to undertake the reorganisation of the Neapolitan navy. The ability displayed by him in this led to his rapid advancement. He became commander-in-chief of both the army and the navy of the Kingdom of Naples, minister of finance, and finally prime minister.
His policy was devised in concert with the English ambassador, Sir William Hamilton, and aimed at substituting the influence of Austria and Great Britain for that of Spain at Naples. Such policy consequently involved open opposition to France and the French party in Italy. The financial and administrative measures resulting from a policy which necessitated a great increase of armaments made him intensely unpopular, and in December 1798 he shared the flight of the king and queen.
For the reign of terror which followed the downfall of the Parthenopaean Republic, five months later, Acton has been held responsible. In 1804 he was for a short time deprived of the reins of government at the demand of France; but he was speedily restored to his former position, which he held till, in February 1806, on the entry of the French into Naples, he had to flee with the royal family into Sicily. He died at Palermo.
He had married, by papal dispensation (13 January 1799) Mary Anne, the eldest daughter of his brother, General Joseph Edward Acton (1 Oct 1737-12 Jan 1830), who was in the Neapolitan service, and had three children:
- Sir Ferdinand Richard Edward Acton (later Dalberg-Acton) (1801–1837)
- Cardinal Acton (1803–1847)
- Elizabeth Acton (1806–1850) married Sir Robert Throckmorton, 8th Baronet and had issue.
The elder son, Sir Ferdinand, being the father of the first Baron Acton.
- Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-16010-8, p.6
- Travels through Spain, in the years 1775 and 1776, Volume 1, Pages 61-62, By Henry Swinburne, Published 1787
|Baronetage of England|