|Sandwich, John Montagu, 4th Earl
b. Nov. 13, 1718
d. April 30, 1792, London, Eng.
Having succeeded his
grandfather, Edward Montagu, the 3rd Earl, in 1729, he studied at Eton and
Trinity College, Cambridge, and traveled abroad and then took his seat in the
House of Lords in 1739. He served as postmaster general (1768-70) and secretary
of state for the northern department (1763-65, 1770-71). In the latter capacity
he took a leading part in the prosecution (1763) of John Wilkes, the British
politician and agitator, whose friend he once had been, thereby earning the
sobriquet of "Jemmy Twitcher," after a treacherous character in John Gay's
Beggar's Opera. He also was first lord of the Admiralty (1748-51, 1771-82).
During the latter period his critics accused him of using the office to obtain
bribes and to distribute political jobs. Although he was frequently attacked
for corruption, his administrative ability has been recognized. However, during
the American Revolutionary War he insisted upon keeping much of the British
fleet in European waters because of the possibility of French attack, and he
was subjected to considerable criticism for insufficient naval
His interest in naval affairs and his promotion of
exploration led the English explorer Captain James Cook to name the Sandwich
Islands (Hawaii) after him in 1778. His Voyage Round the Mediterranean was
published in 1799. In his private life Sandwich was a profligate gambler and
rake. The sandwich was named after him in 1762 when he spent 24 hours
at a gaming table without other food.
Sandwich lost office again
with the fall of Grenville in July 1765. He continued to hope for employment,
but a clever and ruthless colleague was not wanted in the weak and unstable
Chatham and Grafton ministries. In these years, however, his private life
regained some of its equilibrium. Long parted from his wife, who was now
completely insane, Sandwich took as his mistress about 1761 the
seventeen-year-old Martha Ray (1742?1779), with whom he lived contentedly
for eighteen years in as near a regular married life as propriety permitted.
They had five children, with whom Sandwich's relations were notably warmer than
with his legitimate family. These years also saw a new flowering of another of
Sandwich's interests, music.
Sandwich died on 30 April 1792 at his home
in Hertford Street, London, and was buried at Barnwell, Northamptonshire, on 8
May. His obituaries were respectful. It was nineteenth-century whig historians,
the heirs of his political opponents, who effectually blackened his name, and
only the publication of some of his papers in the 1930s began the process of
rehabilitation. Sandwich's career as a politician was only partly successful,
and for much of it he was a controversial figure. He suffered in part from his
ill-concealed ability and ambition, uncomfortable to the second-rate; and
illegitimate in a peer, whose political position was supposed to rest on
independent wealth. A poor earl who needed his salary was always open to the
suspicion of corrupt dependence. The unequalled skill with which Sandwich
sustained his parliamentary interest in Huntingdon and Huntingdonshire without
the money normally considered essential reinforced the impression of a clever
but dangerous man.
fashionable or wealthy man of
dissolute or promiscuous habits. As : a rake's progress a progressive
deterioration, especially through self-indulgence.