Byng, John, 1704–57, British admiral; son of George Byng, Viscount Torrington. Sent (1756) to prevent the French from taking Minorca, he arrived when the island was already under siege and, after an indecisive naval engagement, withdrew without relieving the siege. His court-martial and execution for “failure to do his utmost” brought charges that he had been used as a scapegoat for ministerial failure and prompted Voltaire's suggestion (in Candide) that from time to time the British find it desirable to shoot an admiral “pour encourager les autres” [to encourage the others].
See study by D. B. E. Pope (1962).
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