PORTER, DAVID (1780-1843), American naval officer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on the 1st of February 1780. His father, David, and his uncie, Samuel, commanded American ships in the War of Independence. In 1796 he accompanied his father to the West Indies; on a second and on a third voyage he was impressed on British vessels, from which, however, he escaped. He became a midshipman in the United States Navy in April 1798; served on the " Constellation " (Captain Thomas Truxton) and was midshipman of the foretop when the " Constellation " defeated the " Insurgente "; was promoted lieutenant in October 1799, and was in four successful actions with French ships in this year. In 1803, during the war with Tripoli, he was first lieutenant of the " Philadelphia " when that vessel grounded, was taken prisoner, and was not released until June 1805. He was commissioned master commandant in April 1806; in 1807- 1810 served about New Orleans 1 , where -he captured several French privateers, and in 1812 was promoted' captain. He commanded the frigate " Essex " in her famous voyage in 1812- 1814. In the Atlantic he captured seven brigs, one ship, on the 13th of August 1812, the sloop "Alert," the first British war vessel taken in the War of 1812. Without orders from his superiors he then (February 1813) rounded Cape Horn, the harbours of the east coast of South America being closed to him. In the South Pacific he captured many British whalers (the British losses were estimated at 500,000), and on his own authority took formal possession (November 1813) of Nukahivah, the largest of the Marquesas Islands; the United States, however, never asserted any claim to the island, which in 1842, with the other Marquesas, was annexed by France. During most of February and March 1814 he was blockaded by the British frigates " Cherub " and " Phoebe " in the harbour of Valparaiso, and on the 28th of March was defeated by these vessels, which seem to have violated the neutrality of the port. He was released on parole, and sailed for New York on the " Essex, Jr.," a small vessel which he had captured from the British, and which accompanied the " Essex." At Sandy Hook he was detained by the captain of the British ship-of-war " Saturn " (who declared that Porter's parole was no longer effective), but escaped in a small boat. He was a member of the new board of naval commissioners from 1815 until 1823, when he commanded a squadron sent to the West Indies to suppress piracy. One of his officers, who landed at Fajardo (or Foxardo), Puerto Rico, in pursuit of a pirate, was imprisoned by the Spanish authorities on the charge of piracy. Porter, without reporting the incident or awaiting instructions, forced the authorities to apologize. He was recalled (December 1824), was court-martialled, and was suspended for six months. In August 1826 he resigned his commission, and until 1829 was commander-in-chief of the Mexican navy, then fighting Spain ; in payment for his services he received government land in Tehuantepec, where he hoped to promote an inter-oceanic canal. President Andrew Jackson appointed him consul-general to Algiers in 1830, and in 1831 created for him the post of charge d'affaires at Constantinople, where in 1841 he became minister. He died in Pera on the 3rd of March 1843.
He wrote a Journal of a Cruise made to the Pacific Ocean in the U.S. Frigate "Essex " in 1812-13-14 (2 vols., 1815; 2nd ed., 1822), and Constantinople and its Environs (2 vols., 1835), a valuable ;uide-book. See the Memoir of Commodore David Porter (Albany, New York, 1875), by his son, Admiral David D. Porter.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)