John Francis Davis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sir John Francis Davis
John Francis Davis.jpg
Chief Superintendent of British Trade in China
In office
December 1833 – January 1835
Preceded by Lord Napier
Succeeded by Sir George Best Robinson
2nd Governor of Hong Kong
In office
8 May 1844 – 21 March 1848
Preceded by Sir Henry Pottinger
Succeeded by Sir George Bonham
Personal details
Born John Francis Davis
(1795-07-16)16 July 1795
London, England, Great Britain
Died 13 November 1890(1890-11-13) (aged 95)
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Spouse(s) 1. Emily Hurnfrays
1822-1866 (her death)
2. Lucy Ellen Locke
1866-1890 (his death)
Relations Samuel Davis (father)
William Thomas Mercer (uncle)
Children 6 daughters, 2 sons
Alma mater Oxford University
Occupation Politician

Sir John Francis Davis, 1st Baronet KCB (Chinese: 戴維斯; pinyin: Dàiwéisī or the obsolete term 爹核士; Diēhéshì) (16 July 1795 – 13 November 1890) was a British Diplomat, Sinologist, and the Second Governor of Hong Kong.

Family background[edit]

Davis was the eldest son of East India Company (EIC) director and amateur artist Samuel Davis while his mother was Henrietta Boileau, member of a refugee French noble family who had come to England in the early eighteenth century from Languedoc in the south of France.[1][2] He was also the nephew of William Thomas Mercer, later Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong.

Early career[edit]

In 1813, Davis was appointed writer at the East India Company's factory in Canton, China (now Guangzhou), at the time the centre of trade with China. Because of his linguistic abilities, he was chosen to accompany Lord Amherst on his embassy to Peking in 1816.

On the mission's return Davis returned to his duties at the Canton factory, and was promoted to president in 1832. In the same year that he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.[3]

He was appointed Second Superintendent of British Trade in China alongside Lord Napier in December 1833, superseding William Henry Chicheley Plowden in the latter's absence. [4] After Napier's death in 1834, Davis became Chief Superintendent then resigned his position in January 1835, to be replaced by Sir George Best Robinson.[5] Davis left Canton aboard the Asia on 12 January.[6]

Governor of Hong Kong[edit]

In 1844, Davis became governor and commander-in-chief of the colony of Hong Kong. He was appointed governor of Hong Kong on 8 May 1844 only for his home to be robbed on 16 July 1844. During his tenure, Davis was much hated by Hong Kong residents and British merchants due to the imposition of various taxes, which increased the burden of all citizens, and his abrasive treatment of his subordinates.[citation needed] However, weekend racing began during his tenure, which gradually evolved into a Hong Kong institution. Davis also organized the first Hong Kong Census in 1844,[7] which recorded that there were 23,988 people living in Hong Kong.

Davis resigned his commission and left Hong Kong on 21 March 1848, after his disagreements with local British merchants escalated.


In 1829 Davis, a member of the Royal Asiatic Society,[8] translated the 17th century Chinese novel Haoqiu zhuan under the title The Fortunate Union.[9] A French translation of the Davis English version was created by Guillard D'Arcy and published in 1842.[8] He also wrote an account of the events surrounding the attack on his father's house in Benares, India in Vizier Ali Khan or The Massacre of Benares, A Chapter in British Indian History published in london in 1871.

Personal life[edit]

Davis married Emily, the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Humfrays of the Bengal Engineers in 1822. They had one son, Sulivan-Francis, born 18 January 1827 and six daughters as follows:[2]

  • Henrietta Anne
  • Emily-Nowell, who married the Reverend D. A. Beaufort in 1851, eldest son of Francis Beaufort, inventor of the eponymous wind scale.[10]
  • Julia-Sullivan, who married Robert Cann-Lippincott in 1854
  • Helen-Marian, who died 31 January 1859
  • Florence
  • Eliza, who died 20 October 1855

He remarried following the 1866 death of Emily, this time to Lucy Ellen, eldest daughter of the Reverend T. J. Locke, vicar of Exmouth, in 1867. A son, Francis Boileau Davis was born in 1871.[11]

He was a created a baronet on 9 July 1845 and gazetted KCB on 12 June 1854.[2] In 1876 Davis became a Doctor of Civil Law of the University of Oxford after a donation of £1,666 in three percent consol bonds to endow a scholarship in his name for the encouragement of the study of Chinese.[12]


Davis died on 13 November 1890 at his residence, Hollywood House in the Bristol suburb of Henbury at the age of 95[12] and was interred in the graveyard of Compton Greenfield Church on 18 November.[13] As his surviving son Francis Boileau Davis left no surviving male heirs the Davis baronetcy died with him.[10]


Mount Davis, as well as Mount Davis Path, Mount Davis Road, and Davis Street in Hong Kong were all named after him. Davis Street extends from the praya, New Praya, Kennedy Town, across Catchick Street, Hau Wo Street and Belcher's Street, to Forbes Street. Coordinates: 22°17′00″N 114°07′36″E / 22.28325°N 114.12670°E / 22.28325; 114.12670

Davis Street features[edit]

  • No. 1 Davis Street: Grand Fortune Mansion
  • No. 2 Davis Street: Davis Street Garden
  • No. 8 Davis Street: The Merton


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Davis, Samuel; Aris, Michael (1982). Views of Medieval Bhutan: the diary and drawings of Samuel Davis, 1783. Serindia. p. 34. 
  2. ^ a b c Burke, Bernard (1860). A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire. London: Harrison and Sons. p. 271. 
  3. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 26 November 2010. 
  4. ^ "Journal of Occurrences". The Chinese Repository 3: 143. 1834. 
  5. ^ "Official Notification". The Canton Register 8 (4): 13. 1835. 
  6. ^ Great Britain. Parliament (1840). Correspondence Relating to China: Presented to Both Houses of Parliament ... 1840. Printed by T.R. Harrison. p. 80. 
  7. ^ Hong Kong (1847). Hongkong Colonial Ordinances: 1844-1847. China Mail. p. 43. 
  8. ^ a b St. André, p. 43.
  9. ^ Bauer, Wolfgang. "The role of intermediate languages in translations from Chinese into German" (Archive). In: De l'un au multiple: Traductions du chinois vers les langues européennes, Éditions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, 1999. pp. 19–32. ISBN 273510768X, 9782735107681.
  10. ^ a b Davis, Samuel; Aris, Michael (1982). Views of Medieval Bhutan: the diary and drawings of Samuel Davis, 1783. Serindia. p. 38. 
  11. ^ "The Oldest Baronet in England". Gloucester Citizen. 14 November 1890. p. 3. Retrieved 28 August 2015 – via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)). 
  12. ^ a b "Death of Sir John Francis Davis". Western Daily Press. 14 November 1890. Retrieved 28 August 2015 – via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)). 
  13. ^ "Untitled". Western Daily Press. 18 November 1890. p. 5. Retrieved 28 August 2015 – via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)). 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New creation
(of Hollywood)
Succeeded by
Francis Boileau Davis