THE LIFE OF
THOMAS, LORD COCHRANE, TENTH EARL OF DUNDONALD, G.C.B., ADMIRAL OF THE RED, REAR-ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET, ETC., ETC.,
COMPLETING "THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A SEAMAN."
THOMAS, ELEVENTH EARL OF DUNDONALD, AND H.R. FOX BOURNE, AUTHOR OF "ENGLISH SEAMEN UNDER THE TUDORS," ETC. ETC.
IN TWO VOLUMES. VOL. I.
TO MISS ANGELA BURDETT COUTTS, WHOSE HONOURED FATHER WAS THE FIRMEST AND MOST CONSTANT FRIEND AND SUPPORTER OF MY FATHER, DURING A CAREER DEVOTED TO THE WELFARE OF HIS COUNTRY AND THE HONOUR OF HIS PROFESSION, AND WHOM IT IS MY HAPPINESS AND PRIVILEGE TO CALL MY FRIEND, THIS WORK IS DEDICATED, WITH ALL RESPECT AND REGARD, BY HER ATTACHED AND FAITHFUL SERVANT,
In these Volumes is recounted the public life of my late father from the period to which the narrative was brought down by himself in his unfinished "Autobiography of a Seaman." The completion of that work was prevented by his death, which occurred almost immediately after the publication of the Second Volume, eight years and a half ago. I had hoped to supplement it sooner; but in this hope I have been thwarted.
My father's papers were, at the time of his death, in the hands of a gentleman who had assisted him in the preparation of his "Autobiography," and to this gentleman was entrusted the completion of the work. Illness and other occupations, however, interfered, and, after a lapse of about two years, he died, leaving the papers, of which no use had been made by him, to fall into the possession of others. Only after long delay and considerable trouble and expense was I able to recover them and realize my long-cherished purpose.
Further delay in the publication of this book has arisen from my having been compelled, as my father's executor, to make three long and laborious journeys to Brazil, which have engrossed much time.
At length, however, I find myself able to pay the debt which I owe both to my father's memory and to the public, by whom the "Autobiography of a Seaman" was read with so much interest. At the beginning of last year I placed all the necessary documents in the hands of my friend, Mr. H.R. Fox Bourne, asking him to handle them with the same zeal of research and impartiality of judgment which he has shown in his already published works. I have also furnished him with my own reminiscences of so much of my father's life as was personally known to me; and he has availed himself of all the help that could be obtained from other sources of information, both private and public. He has written the book to the best of his ability, and I have done my utmost to help him in making it as complete and accurate as possible. We hope that the late Earl of Dundonald's life and character have been all the better delineated in that the work has grown out of the personal knowledge of his son and the unbiassed judgment of a stranger.
A long time having elapsed since the publication of the "Autobiography of a Seaman," it has been thought well to give a brief recapitulation of its story in an opening chapter.
The four following chapters recount my father's history during the five years following the cruel Stock Exchange trial, the subject last treated of in the "Autobiography." It is not strange that the harsh treatment to which he was subjected should have led him into opposition, in which there was some violence, which he afterwards condemned, against the Government of the day. But, if there were circumstances to be regretted in this portion of his career, it shows almost more plainly than any other with what strength of philanthropy he sought to aid the poor and the oppressed.
His occupations as Chief Admiral, first of Chili and afterwards of Brazil, were described by himself in two volumes, entitled, "A Narrative of Services in Chili, Peru, and Brazil." Therefore, the seven chapters of the present work which describe these episodes have been made as concise as possible. Only the most memorable circumstances have been dwelt upon, and the details introduced have been drawn to some extent from documents not included in the volumes referred to.
There was no reason for abridgment in treating of my father's connection with Greece. In the service of that country he was less able to achieve beneficial results than in Chili and Brazil; but as, on that ground, he has been frequently traduced by critics and historians, it seemed especially important to show how his successes were greater than these critics and historians have represented, and how his failures sprang from the faults of others and from misfortunes by which he was the chief sufferer. The documents left by him, moreover, afford abundant material for illustrating an eventful period in modern history. The chapters referring to Greece and Greek affairs, accordingly, enter with especial fullness into the circumstances of Lord Dundonald's life at this time, and his connection with contemporary politics.
Eight other chapters recount all that was of most public interest in the thirty years of my father's life after his return from Greece. Except during a brief period of active service in his profession, when he had command of the British squadron in North American and West Indian waters, those thirty years were chiefly spent in efforts—by scientific research, by mechanical experiment, and by persevering argument—to increase the naval power of his country, and in efforts no less zealous to secure for himself that full reversal of the wrongful sentence passed upon him in a former generation, which could only be attained by public restitution of the official rank and national honours of which he had been deprived.
This restitution was begun by his Majesty King William IV., and completed by our present most gracious Queen and the Prince Consort. By the kindnesses which he received from these illustrious persons, my father's later years were cheered; and I can never cease to be profoundly grateful to my Sovereign, and her revered husband, for the personal interest with which they listened to my prayer immediately after his death. Through their gracious influence, the same banner of the Bath that had been taken from him nearly fifty years before, was restored to its place in Westminster Abbey, and allowed to float over his remains at their time of burial. Thus the last stain upon my father's memory was wiped out.
DUNDONALD. London, May 24th, 1869.
CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
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Introduction.—Lord Cochrane's Ancestry.—His First Occupations in the Navy.—His Cruise in the Speedy and Capture of the Gamo.—His Exploits in the Pallas.—The beginning of his Parliamentary Life.—His two Elections as Member for Honiton.—His Election for Westminster.—Further Seamanship.—The Basque Roads Affair.—The Court-Martial on Lord Gambier, and its injurious effects on Lord Cochrane's Naval Career.—His Parliamentary Occupations.—His Visit to Malta and its Issues.—The Antecedents and Consequences of the Stock Exchange Trial - 1
The Issue of the Stock Exchange Trial.—Lord Cochrane's Committal to the King's Bench Prison.—The Debate upon his Case in the House of Commons, and his Speech on that Occasion.—His Expulsion from the House, and Re-election as Member for Westminster.—The Withdrawal of his Sentence to the Pillory.—The Removal of his Insignia as a Knight of the Bath - 35
Lord Cochrane's Bearing in the King's Bench Prison.—His Street Lamps.—His Escape, and the Motives for it.—His Capture in the House of Commons, and subsequent Treatment.—His Confinement in the Strong Room of the King's Bench Prison.—His Release - 48
Lord Cochrane's Return to the House of Commons.—His Share in the Refusal of the Duke of Cumberland's Marriage Pension.—His Charges against Lord Ellenborough, and their Rejection by the House.—His Popularity.—The Part taken by him in Public Meetings for the Relief of the People.—The London Tavern Meeting.—His further Prosecution, Trial at Guildford, and subsequent Imprisonment.—The Payment of his Fines by a Penny Subscription.—The Congratulations of his Westminster Constituents - 74
The State of Politics in England in 1817 and 1818, and Lord Cochrane's Share in them.—His Work as a Radical in and out of Parliament.—His futile Efforts to obtain the Prize Money due for his Services at Basque Roads.—The Holly Hill Siege.—The Preparations for his Enterprise in South America.—His last Speech in Parliament - 109
The Antecedents of Lord Cochrane's Employments in South America.—The War of Independence in the Spanish Colonies.—Mexico.—Venezuela.—Colombia.—Chili.—The first Chilian Insurrection.—The Carreras and O'Higgins.—The Battle of Rancagua.—O'Higgins's Successes.—The Establishment of the Chilian Republic.—Lord Cochrane invited to enter the Chilian Service - 137
Lord Cochrane's Voyage to Chili.—His Reception at Valparaiso and Santiago.—The Disorganization of the Chilian Fleet.—First Signs of Disaffection.—The Naval Forces of the Chilians and the Spaniards.—Lord Cochrane's first Expedition to Peru.—His Attack on Callao.—"Drake the Dragon" and "Cochrane the Devil."—Lord Cochrane's Successes in Overawing the Spaniards, in Treasure-taking, and in Encouragement of the Peruvians to join in the War of Independence.—His Plan for another Attack on Callao.—His Difficulties in Equipping the Expedition.—The Failure of the Attempt.—His Plan for Storming Valdivia.—Its Successful Accomplishment - 148
Lord Cochrane's Return to Valparaiso.—His Relations with the Chilian Senate.—The third Expedition to Peru.—General San Martin.—The Capture of the Esmeralda, and its Issue.—Lord Cochrane's subsequent Work.—San Martin's Treachery.—His Assumption of the Protectorate of Peru.—His Base Proposals to Lord Cochrane.—Lord Cochrane's Condemnation of them.—The Troubles of the Chilian Squadron.—Lord Cochrane's Seizure of Treasure at Ancon, and Employment of it in Paying his Officers and Men.—His Stay at Guayaquil.—The Advantages of Free Trade.—Lord Cochrane's Cruise along the Mexican Coast in Search of the remaining Spanish Frigates.—Their Annexation by Peru.—Lord Cochrane's last Visit to Callao - 177
Lord Cochrane's Return to Valparaiso,—The Conduct of the Chilian Government towards him.—His Resignation of Chilian Employment, and Acceptance of Employment under the Emperor of Brazil.—His subsequent Correspondence with the Government of Chili.—The Results of his Chilian Service. - 208
The Antecedents of Brazilian Independence.—Pedro I.'s Accession.—The Internal and External Troubles of the New Empire.—Lord Cochrane's Invitation to Brazil.—His Arrival at Rio de Janeiro, and Acceptance of Brazilian Service.—His first Occupations.—The bad condition of the Squadron, and the consequent Failure of his first Attack on the Portuguese off Bahia.—His Plans for Improving the Fleet, and their Success.—His Night Visit to Bahia, and the consequent Flight of the Enemy.—Lord Cochrane's Pursuit of them.—His Visit to Maranham, and Annexation of that Province and of Para.—His Return to Rio de Janeiro.—The Honours conferred upon him. - 223
The Nature of the Rewards bestowed on Lord Cochrane for his first Services to Brazil.—Pedro I. and the Portuguese Faction.—Lord Cochrane's Advice to the Emperor.—The Troubles brought upon him by it.—The Conduct of the Government towards him and the Fleet.—The withholding of Prize-money and Pay.—Personal Indignities to Lord Cochrane.—An Amusing Episode.—Lord Cochrane's Threat of Resignation, and its Effect.—Sir James Mackintosh's Allusion to him in the House of Commons - 246
The Insurrection in Pernambuco.—Lord Cochrane's Expedition to suppress it.—The Success of his Work.—His Stay at Maranham.—The Disorganized State of Affairs in that Province.—Lord Cochrane's efforts to restore Order and good Government.—Their result in further Trouble to himself.—His Cruise in the Piranga, and Return to England.—His Treatment there.—His Retirement from Brazilian Service.—His Letter to the Emperor Pedro I.—The End of his South American Employments - 266
The Greek Revolution and its Antecedents.—The Modern Greeks.—The Friendly Society.—Sultan Mahmud and Ali Pasha's Rebellion.—The Beginning of the Greek Insurrection.—Count John Capodistrias.—Prince Alexander Hypsilantes.—The Revolution in the Morca.—Theodore Kolokotrones.—The Revolution in the Islands.—The Greek Navy and its Character.—The Excesses of the Greeks.—Their bad Government.—Prince Alexander Mavrocordatos.—The Progress of the Revolution.—The Spoliation of Chios.—English Philhellenes; Thomas Gordon, Frank Abney Hastings, Lord Byron.—The first Greek Loan, and the bad uses to which it was put.—Reverses of the Greeks.—Ibrahim and his Successes.—Mavrocordatos's Letter to Lord Cochrane - 286
Lord Cochrane's Dismissal from Brazilian Service, and his Acceptance of Employment as Chief Admiral of the Greeks.—The Greek Committee and the Greek Deputies in London.—The Terms of Lord Cochrane's Agreement, and the consequent Preparations.—His Visit to Scotland.—Sir Walter Scott's Verses on Lady Cochrane.—Lord Cochrane's forced Retirement to Boulogne, and thence to Brussels.—The Delays in fitting out the Greek Armament.—Captain Hastings, Mr. Hobhouse, and Sir Francis Burdett.—Captain Hastings's Memoir on the Greek Leaders and their Characters.—The first Consequences of Lord Cochrane's new Enterprise.—The Duke of Wellington's Message to Lord Cochrane.—The Greek Deputies' Proposal to Lord Cochrane and his Answer.—The Final Arrangements for his Departure.—The Messiah of the Greeks. - 318
Lord Cochrane's Departure for Greece.—His Visit to London and Voyage to the Mediterranean.—His Stay at Messina, and afterwards at Marseilles.—The Delays in Completing the Steamships, and the consequent Injury to the Greek Cause, and serious Embarrassment to Lord Cochrane.—His Correspondence with Messrs. J. and S. Ricardo.—His Letter to the Greek Government.—Chevalier Eynard, and the Continental Philhellenes.—Lord Cochrane's Final Departure and Arrival in Greece. - 355
The Progress of Affairs in Greece.—The Siege of Missolonghi.—Its Fall.—The Bad Government and Mismanagement of the Greeks.—General Ponsonby's Account of them.—The Effect of Lord Cochrane's Promised Assistance.—The Fears of the Turks, as shown in their Correspondence with Mr. Canning.—The Arrival of Captain Hastings in Greece, with the Karteria.—His Opinion of Greek Captains and Sailors.—The Frigate Hellas,—Letters to Lord Cochrane from Admiral Miaoulis and the Governing Commission of Greece. - 368
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I. (Page 22.)—"Resume of the Services of the late Earl of Dundonald, none of which have been Requited or Officially Recognised," by Thomas, Eleventh Earl of Dundonald. - 389
II. (Page 23.)—Part of a Speech delivered by Lord Cochrane in the House of Commons, on the 11th of May, 1809, on Naval Abuses. - 397
III. (Page 258.)—A Letter written by Lord Cochrane to the Secretary of State of Brazil on the 3rd of May, 1824. - 400
THOMAS, TENTH EARL OF DUNDONALD.
INTRODUCTION.—LORD COCHRANE'S ANCESTRY.—HIS FIRST OCCUPATIONS IN THE NAVY.—HIS CRUISE IN THE "SPEEDY" AND CAPTURE OF THE "GAMO."—HIS EXPLOITS IN THE "PALLAS."—THE BEGINNING OF HIS PARLIAMENTARY LIFE.—HIS TWO ELECTIONS AS MEMBER FOR HONITON.—HIS ELECTION FOR WESTMINSTER.—FURTHER SEAMANSHIP.—THE BASQUE ROADS AFFAIR.—THE COURT-MARTIAL ON LORD GAMBIER, AND ITS INJURIOUS EFFECTS ON LORD COCHRANE'S NAVAL CAREER.—HIS PARLIAMENTARY OCCUPATIONS.—HIS VISIT TO MALTA AND ITS ISSUES.—THE ANTECEDENTS AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE STOCK EXCHANGE TRIAL.
Thomas, Loud Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald, was born at Annsfield, in Lanark, on the 14th of December, 1775, and died in London on the 31st of October, 1860. Shortly before his death he wrote two volumes, styled "The Autobiography of a Seaman," which set forth his history down to 1814, the fortieth year of his age. To those volumes the present work, recounting his career during the ensuing six-and-forty years, is intended to serve as a sequel. Before entering upon the later narrative, however, it will be necessary briefly to recapitulate the incidents that have been already detailed.
The Earl of Dundonald was descended from a long line of knights and barons, chiefly resident in Renfrew and Ayr, many of whom were men of mark in Scottish history during the thirteenth and following centuries. Robert Cochran was the especial favourite and foremost counsellor of James III., who made him Earl of Mar; but the favours heaped upon him, and perhaps a certain arrogance in the use of those favours, led to so much opposition from his peers and rivals that he was assassinated by them in 1480.[A]
[Footnote A: Pinkerton, the historian, gives some curious details, illustrating not only Robert Cochran's character, but also the condition of government and society in Scotland four centuries ago. "The Scottish army," he says, "amounting to about fifty thousand, had crowded to the royal banner at Burrough Muir, near Edinburgh, whence they marched to Soutray and to Lauder, at which place they encamped between the church and the village. Cochran, Earl of Mar, conducted the artillery. On the morning after their arrival at Lauder, the peers assembled in a secret council, in the church, and deliberated upon their designs of revenge.... Cochran, ignorant of their designs, left the royal presence to proceed to the council. The earl was attended by three hundred men, armed with light battle-axes, and distinguished by his livery of white with black fillets. He was clothed in a riding cloak of black velvet, and wore a large chain of gold around his neck; his horn of the chase, or of battle, was adorned with gold and precious stones, and his helmet, overlaid with the same valuable metal, was borne before him. Approaching the door of the church, he commanded an attendant to knock with authority; and Sir Robert Douglas, of Lochleven, who guarded the passage, inquiring the name, was answered, 'Tis I, the Earl of Mar.' Cochran and some of his friends were admitted. Angus advanced to him, and pulling the gold chain from his neck, said, 'A rope will become thee better,' while Douglas of Lochleven seized his hunting-horn, declaring that he had been too long a hunter of mischief. Rather astonished than alarmed, Cochran said, 'My lords, is it jest or earnest?' To which it was replied, 'It is good earnest, and so thou shalt find it; for thou and thy accomplices have too long abused our prince's favour. But no longer expect such advantage, for thou and thy followers shall now reap the deserved reward.' Having secured Mar, the lords despatched some men-at-arms to the king's pavilion, conducted by two or three moderate leaders, who amused James, while their followers seized the favourites. Sir William Roger and others were instantly hanged over the bridge at Lauder. Cochran was now brought out, his hands bound with a rope, and thus conducted to the bridge, and hanged above his fellows."] Later scions of the family prospered, and in 1641, Sir William Cochrane was raised to the peerage, as Lord Cochrane of Cowden, by Charles I. For his adherence to the royal cause this nobleman was fined 5000l. by the Long Parliament in 1654; and, in recompense for his loyalty, he was made first Earl of Dundonald by Charles II. in 1669. His successors were faithful to the Stuarts, and thereby they suffered heavily. Archibald, the ninth Earl, inheriting a patrimony much reduced by the loyalty and zeal of his ancestors, spent it all in the scientific pursuits to which he devoted himself, and in which he was the friendly rival of Watt, Priestley, Cavendish, and other leading chemists and mechanicians of two or three generations ago. His eldest son, heir to little more than a famous name and a chivalrous and enterprising disposition, had to fight his own way in the world.
Lord Cochrane—as the subject of these memoirs was styled in courtesy until his accession to the peerage in 1831—was intended by his father for the army, in which he received a captain's commission. But his own predilections were in favour of a seaman's life, and accordingly, after brief schooling, he joined the Hind, as a midshipman, in June, 1793, when he was nearly eighteen years of age.
During the next seven years he learnt his craft in various ships and seas, being helped in many ways by his uncle, the Hon. Alexander Cochrane, but profiting most by his own ready wit and hearty love of his profession. Having been promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1794, he was made commander of the Speedy early in 1800. This little sloop, not larger than a coasting brig, but crowded with eighty-four men and six officers, seemed to be intended only for playing at war. Her whole armament consisted of fourteen 4-pounders. When her new commander tried to add to these a couple of 12-pounders, the deck proved too small and the timbers too weak for them, and they had to be returned. So Lilliputian was his cabin, that, to shave himself, Lord Cochrane was obliged to thrust his head out of the skylight and make a dressing-table of the quarter-deck.
Yet the Speedy, ably commanded, was quite large enough to be of good service. Cruising in her along the Spanish coast, Lord Cochrane succeeded in capturing many gunboats and merchantmen, and the enemy soon learnt to regard her with especial dread. On one memorable occasion, the 6th of May, 1801, he fell in with the Gamo, a Spanish frigate furnished with six times as many men as were in the Speedy and with seven times her weight of shot. Lord Cochrane, boldly advancing, locked his little craft in the enemy's rigging. It was, in miniature, a contest as unequal as that by which Sir Francis Drake and his fellows overcame the Great Armada of Spain in 1588, and with like result. The heavy shot of the Gamo riddled the Speedy's sails, but, passing overhead, did no mischief to her hulk or her men. During an hour there was desperate fighting with small arms, and twice the Spaniards tried in vain to board their sturdy little foe. Lord Cochrane then determined to meet them on their own deck, and the daring project was facilitated by one of the smart expedients in which he was never wanting. Before going into action, "knowing," as he said, "that the final struggle would be a desperate one, and calculating on the superstitious wonder which forms an element in the Spanish character," he had ordered his crew to blacken their faces; and, "what with this and the excitement of combat, more ferocious-looking objects could scarcely be imagined." With these men following him he promptly gained the frigate's deck, and then their strong arms and hideous faces soon frightened the Spaniards into submission.
The senior officer of the Gamo asked for a certificate of his bravery, and received one testifying that he had conducted himself "like a true Spaniard." To Spain, of course, this was no sarcasm, and on the strength of the document its holder soon obtained further promotion.
That achievement, which cost only three men's lives, led to consequences greater than could have been expected. Lord Cochrane, after three months' waiting, received the rank of post captain. But his desire that the services of Lieutenant Parker, his second in command, should also be recompensed led to a correspondence with Earl St. Vincent which turned him from a jealous superior into a bitter enemy. In reply to Lord Cochrane's recommendation, Earl St. Vincent alleged that "it was unusual to promote two officers for such a service,—besides which the small number of men killed on board the Speedy did not warrant the application." Lord Cochrane answered, with incautious honesty, that "his lordship's reasons for not promoting Lieutenant Parker, because there were only three men killed on board the Speedy, were in opposition to his lordship's own promotion to an earldom, as well as that of his flag-captain to knighthood, and his other officers to increased rank and honours; for that, in the battle from which his lordship derived his title there was only one man killed on board his own flagship." That was language too plain to be forgiven.
In July, 1801, the Speedy was captured by three French line-of-battle ships, whose senior in command, Captain Palliere, declined to accept the sword of an officer "who had," as he said, "for so many hours struggled against impossibility," and asked Lord Cochrane, though a prisoner, still to wear it. He, however, was refused employment as commander of another ship. Thereupon, with characteristic energy, he devoted his forced leisure from professional pursuits to a year of student life at Edinburgh, where, in 1802, Lord Palmerston was his class-fellow under Professor Dugald Stewart.
This occupation, however, was disturbed by the renewal of war with France in 1803. Lord Cochrane, though with difficulty, then obtained permission to return to active service, the Arab, one of the craziest little ships in the navy, being assigned to him. On his representing that she was too rotten for use off the French coast, he was ordered to employ her in cruising in the North Sea and protecting the fisheries north-east of the Orkneys, "where," as he said, "no vessel fished, and consequently there were no fisheries to protect." This ignominious work lasted for a year. It was brought to a close in December, 1804, soon after the appointment of Lord Melville, in succession to Earl St. Vincent, as First Lord of the Admiralty.
By him Lord Cochrane was transferred from the Arab to the Pallas, a new and smart frigate of thirty-two guns, and allowed to use her in a famous cruise of prize-taking among the Azores and off the coast of Portugal. This was followed in 1806 by farther work in the same frigate, the closing portion of which was especially memorable. Being off the Basque Roads at the end of April he fixed his attention upon a frigate, the Minerve, and three brigs, forming an important part of the French squadron in the Mediterranean. After three weeks' waiting, on the 14th of May, he saw the frigate and the brigs approaching him, and promptly prepared to attack them. He was not deterred by knowing that the Minerve alone, carrying forty guns, was far stronger than the Pallas, which had also to withstand the force of the three brigs, each with sixteen guns, and to be prepared for the fire of the batteries on the Isle d'Aix. "This morning, when close to Isle d'Aix, reconnoitring the French squadron," he wrote concisely to his admiral, "it gave me great joy to find our late opponent, the black frigate, and her companions, the three brigs, getting under sail. We formed high expectations that the long wished-for opportunity was at last arrived. The Pallas remained under topsails by the wind to await them. At half-past eleven a smart point-blank firing commenced on both sides, which was severely felt by the enemy. The main topsail-yard of one of the brigs was cut through, and the frigate lost her after-sails. The batteries on I'lsle d'Aix opened on the Pallas, and a cannonade continued, interrupted on our part only by the necessity we were under to make various tacks to avoid the shoals, till one o'clock, when our endeavour to gain the wind of the enemy and get between him and the batteries proved successful. An effectual distance was now chosen. A few broadsides were poured in. The enemy's fire slackened. I ordered ours to cease, and directed Mr. Sutherland, the master, to run the frigate on board, with intention effectually to prevent her retreat. The enemy's side thrust our guns back into the ports. The whole were then discharged. The effect and crash were dreadful. Their decks were deserted. Three pistol-shots were the unequal return. With confidence I say that the frigate would have been lost to France, had not the unequal collision torn away our fore-topmast, jib-boom, fore and maintop-sails, spritsail-yards, bumpkin, cathead, chainplates, fore-rigging, foresail, and bower anchor, with which last I intended to hook on; but all proved insufficient. She would yet have been lost to France, had not the French admiral, seeing his frigate's foreyard gone, her rigging ruined, and the danger she was in, sent two others to her assistance. The Pallas being a wreck, we came out with what sail could be set, and his Majesty's sloop the Kingfisher afterwards took us in tow." The exploit was none the less valiant in that it was partly a failure.
The waiting-times before and after that cruise were occupied by Lord Cochrane with brief commencement of parliamentary life. Long before this time Lord Cochrane had resolved on entering the House of Commons, in order to expose the naval abuses which were then rife, and which he had never been deterred, by consideration of his own interests, from boldly denouncing. He stood for Honiton in 1805, and was defeated through his refusal to vie with his opponent in the art of bribery. He contrived, however, to profit by corruption while he punished it. As soon as the election was over, he gave ten guineas to each of the constituents who had freely voted for him. The consequence of this was his triumphant return at the new election, which took place in July, 1806. When his supporters asked for like payment to that made in the previous instance, it was bluntly refused. "The former gift," said Lord Cochrane, "was for your disinterested conduct in not taking the bribe of five pounds from the agents of my opponent. For me now to pay you would be a violation of my principles."
A short cruise in the Basque Roads prevented Lord Cochrane from occupying in the House of Commons the seat thus won, and in April, 1807, very soon after his return, Parliament was again dissolved. He then resolved to stand for Westminster, with Sir Francis Burdett for his associate. Both were returned, and Lord Cochrane held his seat for eleven years. In 1807, however, he had only time to bring forward two motions respecting sinecures and naval abuses, which issued in violent but unproductive discussion, when he received orders to join the fleet in the Mediterranean as captain of the Imperieuse. Naval employment was grudgingly accorded to him; but it was thought wiser to give him work abroad than to suffer under his free speech at home.
This employment was marked by many brilliant deeds, which procured for him, on his surrendering his command of the Imperieuse after eighteen months' duration, the reproach of having spent more sails, stores, gunpowder, and shot than had been used by any other captain in the service.
The most brilliant deed of all, one of the most brilliant deeds in the whole naval history of England, was his well-known exploit in the Basque Roads on the 11th, 12th, and 13th of April, 1809. Much against his will, he was persuaded by Lord Mulgrave, at that time First Lord of the Admiralty, to bear the responsibility of attacking and attempting to destroy the French squadron by means of fireships and explosion-vessels. The project was opposed by Lord Gambier, the Admiral of the Fleet, as being at once "hazardous, if not desperate," and "a horrible and anti-Christian mode of warfare;" and consequently he gave no hearty co-operation. On Lord Cochrane devolved the whole duty of preparing for and executing the project. His own words will best tell the story.
"On the 11th of April," he said, "it blew hard, with a high sea. As all preparations were complete, I did not consider the state of the weather a justifiable impediment to the attack; so that, after nightfall, the officers who volunteered to command the fireships were assembled on board the Caledonia, and supplied with instructions according to the plan previously laid down by myself. The Imperieuse had proceeded to the edge of the Boyart Shoal, close to which she anchored with an explosion-vessel made fast to her stern, it being my intention, after firing the one of which I was about to take charge, to return to her for the other, to be employed as circumstances might require. At a short distance from the Imperieuse were anchored the frigates Aigle, Unicorn, and Pallas, for the purpose of receiving the crews of the fireships on their return, as well as to support the boats of the fleet assembled alongside the Caesar, to assist the fireships. The boats of the fleet were not, however, for some reason or other made use of at all.
"Having myself embarked on board the largest explosion-vessel, accompanied by Lieut. Bissel and a volunteer crew of four men only, we led the way to the attack. The night was dark, and, as the wind was fair, though blowing hard, we soon neared the estimated position of the advanced French ships, for it was too dark to discern them. Judging our distance, therefore, as well as we could, with regard to the time the fuse was calculated to burn, the crew of four men entered the gig, under the direction of Lieut. Bissel, whilst I kindled the portfires, and then, descending into the boat, urged the men to pull for their lives, which they did with a will, though, as wind and sea were strong against us, without making the expected progress.
"To our consternation, the fuses, which had been constructed to burn fifteen minutes, lasted little more than half that time, when the vessel blew up, filling the air with shells, grenades, and rockets; whilst the downward and lateral force of the explosion raised a solitary mountain of water, from the breaking of which in all directions our little boat narrowly escaped being swamped. The explosion-vessel did her work well, the effect constituting one of the grandest artificial spectacles imaginable. For a moment, the sky was red with the lurid glare arising from the simultaneous ignition of fifteen hundred barrels of powder. On this gigantic flash subsiding, the air seemed alive with shells, grenades, rockets, and masses of timber, the wreck of the shattered vessel. The sea was convulsed as by an earthquake, rising, as has been said, in a huge wave, on whose crest our boat was lifted like a cork, and as suddenly dropped into a vast trough, out of which as it closed upon us with the rush of a whirlpool, none expected to emerge. In a few minutes nothing but a heavy rolling sea had to be encountered, all having again become silence and darkness."
In spite of its bursting too soon, the explosion-vessel did excellent work. The strong boom, composed of large spars bound by heavy chains, and firmly anchored at various points in its length of more than a mile, which was supposed to constitute an impassable barrier between the English ships that were outside and the French ships locked behind it, was broken in several parts. The enemy's ships were thoroughly disorganised by the sudden and appalling occurrence of the explosion. In their alarm and confusion, many of them fired into one another, and all might have been easily destroyed had the first success of the explosion-vessel been properly followed up. Unfortunately, however, on returning to the Imperieuse, Lord Cochrane found that there had been gross mismanagement of the fireships, which, according to his plans, were to have been despatched against various sections of the French fleet while it was too confused to protect itself. One of them, fired at the wrong time and sent in a wrong direction, nearly destroyed the Imperieuse and caused the wasting of a second explosion-vessel, which was meant to be held in reserve. The others, if not as mischievous in their effects, were almost as useless. "Of all the fire-ships, upwards of twenty in number," said Lord Cochrane, "only four reached the enemy's position, and not one did any damage. The Imperieuse lay three miles from the enemy, so that the one which was near setting fire to her became useless at the outset; whilst several others were kindled a mile and a half to the windward of this, or four miles and a half from the enemy. Of the remainder, many were at once rendered harmless from being brought to on the wrong tack. Six passed a mile to windward of the French fleet, and one grounded on Oleron."
Though the full success of Lord Cochrane's scheme was thus prevented, however, the work done by it was considerable. "As the fireships began to light up the roads," he said, "we could observe the enemy's fleet in great confusion. Without doubt, taking every fireship for an explosion-vessel, and being deceived as to their distance, not only did the French make no effort to divert them from their course, but some of their ships cut their cables and were seen drifting away broadside on to the wind and tide, whilst others made sail, as the only alternative to escape from what they evidently considered certain destruction. At daylight on the morning of the 12th, not a spar of the boom was anywhere visible, and, with the exception of the Foudroyant and Cassard, the whole of the enemy's vessels were helplessly aground. The flag-ship, L'Ocean, a three-decker, drawing the most water, lay outermost on the north-west edge of the Palles Shoal, nearest the deep water, where she was most exposed to attack; whilst all, by the fall of the tide, were lying on their bilge, with their bottoms completely exposed to shot, and therefore beyond the possibility of resistance."
The French fleet had not been destroyed; yet it was so paralysed by the shock that its utter defeat seemed easy to Lord Cochrane. To the mast of the Imperieuse, between six o'clock in the morning of the 12th and one in the afternoon, he hoisted signal after signal, urging Lord Gambier, who was with the main body of the fleet about fourteen miles off, to make an attack. Failing in all these, and growing desperate in his zeal, especially as every hour of delay was enabling the French to recover themselves and rendering success less sure, he suffered his single frigate to drift towards the enemy. "I did not venture to make sail," wrote Lord Cochrane, in his very modest account of this daring exploit, "lest the movement might be seen from the flag-ship, and a signal of recall should defeat my purpose of making an attack with the Imperieuse; my object being to compel the Commander-in-Chief to send vessels to our assistance. We drifted by the wind and tide slowly past the fortifications on Isle d'Aix; but, though they fired at us with every gun that could be brought to bear, the distance was too great to inflict damage. Proceeding thus till 1.30 p.m., we then suddenly made sail after the nearest of the enemy's vessels escaping. In order to divert our attention from the vessels we were pursuing, these having thrown their guns overboard, the Calcutta, a store-ship carrying fifty-six guns, which was still aground, broadside on, began firing at us. Before proceeding further, it became therefore necessary to attack her, and at 1.50 we shortened sail and returned the fire. At 2.0 the Imperieuse came to an anchor in five fathoms, and, veering to half a cable, kept fast the spring, firing upon the Calcutta with our broadside, and at the same time upon the Aquillon and Ville de Varsovie, two line-of-battle ships, each of seventy-four guns, with our forecastle and bow guns, both these ships being aground stern on, in an opposite direction. After some time we had the satisfaction of observing several ships sent to our assistance, namely, the Emerald, the Unicorn, the Indefatigable, the Valiant, the Revenge, the Pallas, and the Aigle. On seeing this, the captain and the crew of the Calcutta abandoned their vessel, of which the boats of the Imperieuse took possession before the vessels sent to our assistance came down." Soon after the arrival of the new ships, the two other vessels were also forced to surrender.
Most of the ships sent to his assistance returned to Lord Grambier on the 13th. Lord Cochrane, seeing that it would be easy for him to do much further mischief, made ready for the work on the morrow. But from this he was prevented by the inexcusable conduct of Lord Gambier, who, having discountenanced the attempt with the fireships, now not only refused to take part in the victory which his comrade had made possible, but also hindered its achievement by him.
Lord Cochrane had already overstepped the strict duty of a subordinate, though acting only as became an English sailor. The fireships with which he had been ordered to ruin the enemy's fleet had partly failed through the error of others. "It was then," he said, "a question with me whether I should disappoint the expectations of my country, be set down as a charlatan by the Admiralty, whose hopes had been raised by my plan, and have my future prospects destroyed, or force on an action which some had induced an easy Commander-in-Chief to believe impracticable." He did force on some fighting, which was altogether disastrous to the enemy, and rich in tokens of his unflinching heroism; but it was in violation of repeated orders, dubiously worded, from Lord Grambier, and, when at last an order was issued in terms too distinct to allow of any further evasion, he had no alternative but to abandon the enterprise. He was at once sent back to England, to be rewarded with much popular favour, and with a knighthood of the Order of the Bath, conferred by George III., but to become the victim of an official persecution, which, embittering his whole life, lasted almost to its close.
It must be admitted that this persecution was in great measure provoked by Lord Cochrane's own fearless conduct. He was reasonably aggrieved at the effort made by the Admiralty authorities to attribute to Lord Gambier, who had taken no part at all in the achievements in Basque Roads, all the merit of their success. To use his own caustic but accurate words, "The only victory gained by Lord Gambier in Basque Roads was that of bringing his ships to anchor there, whilst the enemy's ships were quietly heaving off from the banks on which they had been driven nine miles distant from the fleet." When for this proceeding it was determined to honour Lord Gambier with the thanks of Parliament, Lord Cochrane, as member for Westminster, announced his intention of opposing the motion. As a bribe to silence he was offered an important command by Lord Mulgrave, and it was proposed that his name should be included in the vote of thanks. The bribe being refused and the opposition persisted in, Lord Gambier demanded a court-martial, in which, as he alleged, to controvert the insinuations thrown out against him by Lord Cochrane.
The history of this court-martial, its antecedents and its consequences, furnishes an episode almost unique in the annals of official injustice. As a preparation for it, Lord Gambier, in obedience to orders from the Admiralty, supplemented his first account of the victory by another of entirely different tenour. In the first, written on the spot, he had avowed that he could not speak highly enough of Lord Cochrane's vigour and gallantry in approaching the enemy,—conduct, he said, "which could not be exceeded by any feat of valour hitherto achieved by the British Navy." In the record, written four weeks later and in London, he altogether ignored Lord Cochrane's services, and transferred the entire merit to himself.
The whole conduct of the court-martial was in keeping with that prelude. No effort was spared in stifling all the evidence on Lord Cochrane's side, and in adducing false testimony against him. Logbooks and witnesses alike were tampered with. In support of his scheme for annihilating the whole French fleet, Lord Cochrane produced in court a chart showing the relative position of the various points in Aix Roads, and of the overhanging fort which was to protect the French ships. This chart, left lying upon the table, was tacitly accepted by the authorities of the Admiralty as a trustworthy document, and duly preserved among the official records. But at the time the court refused to receive it in evidence, and adopted instead two falsified charts, in which, by the introduction of imaginary shoals and the narrowing of the channel to Aix Roads from two miles to one, the success of the scheme appeared impossible. Although this gross deception was more than suspected, both then and afterwards, by Lord Cochrane, his repeated applications to the Admiralty for permission to inspect the documents were steadily refused. It was not till more than fifty years after the period of the court-martial that he was able to prove the scandalous fraud.[A]
[Footnote A: Readers of "The Autobiography of a Seaman" need not be reminded of the copious and convincing evidence of the way in which he was treated by this court-martial that was adduced by Lord Dundonald in that work.]
The result of the court-martial was, of course, such as from the first had been intended. Lord Grambier was acquitted, and unlimited blame was, by inference, thrown upon Lord Cochrane. The coveted vote of thanks was promptly obtained from the House of Commons; Lord Cochrane's proposal that the minutes of the court-martial be first investigated being, through ministerial influence, summarily rejected.
These proceedings determined the course which men in power were to adopt, and fixed Lord Cochrane's future. It was a future to be made up of cruel disregard and of revengeful persecution.[A]
[Footnote A: See Appendix (I.).]
Soon after the close of the trial, the brave seaman applied to the Admiralty for permission to rejoin his old frigate, the Imperieuse, and accompanied his application with a bold plan for attacking the French fleet in the Scheldt. He received an insulting answer to the effect that, if he would be ready to quit the country in a week, and then to occupy a position subordinate to that which he had formerly held, his services would be accepted. On his replying that his great desire to be employed in his profession made him willing to do anything, and that all he wished for was a little longer time for preparation, no further communication was vouchsafed to him. He was quietly superseded in the command of the Imperieuse, and received no other ship.
Out of this ill-treatment, however, resulted some benefit to the nation. Lord Cochrane employed much of his forced leisure, during the next few years, in exposing abuses that were then over-abundant, and in strenuously advocating reform. In Parliament, voting always with his friend Sir Francis Burdett and the Radical party, he limited his exertions to naval matters, and such as were within his own experience. Herein there was plenty to occupy him, and much that it is now amusing to look back upon.[A]
[Footnote A: See Appendix (II.).]
One scandalous grievance led to a memorable episode in his life. The many prizes taken by him in the Mediterranean, which, according to rule, had been sent to the Maltese Admiralty Court for condemnation, had been encumbered with such preposterous charges that, instead of realizing anything by his captures, he was made out to be largely in debt to the Court. The principal agent of this Court was a Mr. Jackson, who illegally held office as at the same time marshal and proctor. "The consequence was," said Lord Cochrane, "that every prize placed in his hands as proctor had to pass through his hands as marshal; whilst as proctor it was further in his power to consult himself as marshal as often as he pleased, and to any extent he pleased. The amount of self-consultation may be imagined." As proctor he charged for visiting himself, and as marshal he charged for receiving visits from himself. As marshal he was paid for instructing himself, and as proctor he was paid for listening to his own instructions. Ten shillings and twopence three farthings was the customary charge for an oath to the effect that he had served a monition on himself. Of the sheets composing the bill for services of these sorts presented to him, Lord Cochrane formed a roll which, when unfolded and exhibited in Parliament, stretched from the Speaker's table to the bar of the House.
Not content, however, with laughing at the official robberies committed upon him, he determined, early in 1811, to proceed to Malta and personally investigate the matter. Reaching Valetta long before he was expected, he immediately presented himself at the court-house, and asked for a copy of the table of fees authorized by the Crown, and which, according to directions, ought to have been placed conspicuously in the public room. The existence of such a document being denied, he proceeded to hunt for it himself, and, after long and careful search, found it concealed in an out-of-the-way corner of the building. Having taken possession of it, he was carrying off the prize, which he intended to exhibit in the House of Commons, in token of the extent to which he and others had been defrauded, when he was arrested for contempt of court. He protested that the arrest was illegal, seeing that, as the court had not been sitting, no insult could have been offered to it. The plea was not accepted, and he was sent to gaol. No ground for punishment, however, could be found against him; and, after refusing to help the authorities out of their embarrassment by going at large on bail, and insisting on a proper exculpation or nothing at all, he let himself out of window by means of a rope. A gig was waiting for him, by which he was enabled to overtake the packet-boat that had quitted Malta shortly before, to return to London, and to present the document seized by him to Parliament a month before the official report of his escapade reached home.[A]
[Footnote A: This letter from the Duke of Kent to Lord Cochrane will help to show that, even after the time of his Admiralty persecution, he was not without friends and admirers in high quarters:—"Kensington Palace, 7th July, 1812. My dear Lord,—I trust the acquaintance I have the satisfaction to possess with your lordship, and the long and intimate friendship subsisting between myself and your brother, Lieut.-Colonel Basil Cochrane, will warrant my intruding upon you for the purpose of seconding the wishes expressed by a young naval protege of mine, and I cannot help adding my earnest request that when your distinguished zeal and talents in your profession are again called into action by Government, you will kindly oblige me by taking Lieutenant Edgar under your wing and protection; he is a fine young man, and I think would not disgrace the wardroom of your lordship's ship. I remain, with my sincere regard, my dear lord, yours faithfully, EDWARD.
"The Right Honourable Lord Cochrane."]
An imprisonment of very different character occurred after an interval of nearly three years. This was in consequence of the famous Stock Exchange trial, the episode last treated of by the Earl of Dundonald in his Autobiography, and not quite recounted to the end before death stayed his hand.
From 1809 to 1813, Lord Cochrane was allowed to take no active part in the work of his profession. But at the close of the latter year, his uncle, Sir Alexander Cochrane, having been selected for the command of the fleet on the North American station, appointed him his flag-captain—an appointment resting only with the Commander-in-Chief, and one with which the Government could not interfere. It was always Lord Cochrane's belief that the implacable enmity of his foes in the Admiralty Office—determined to prevent by irregular means, since no regular course was open to them, his return to naval work—helped to bring about the cruel persecution by which his whole life was embittered. But it must be admitted that the dishonesty of one of his own kinsmen—about which a chivalrous sense of honour caused him to be reticent during nearly fifty years—conduced to this result.
The chief agent of the fraud practised upon him was a foreigner, named De Berenger. This man, clever and unscrupulous, had been associated with Mr. Cochrane Johnstone, an uncle of Lord Cochrane's, in certain stock-jobbing transactions. In that or in some other way he became known to Lord Cochrane and to his other uncle, Sir Alexander Cochrane; and, being a smart chemist and pyrotechnist, it was proposed that he should accompany Lord Cochrane to North America, and assist him in the trial of his recently-discovered method of attacking forts and fleets in a secret and irresistible manner. With that object—of course clandestine—Sir Alexander Cochrane sought the permission of the Admiralty to employ De Berenger as a teacher of sharp-shooting, in which he was a well-known adept. This was not granted, and near the end of 1813, Sir Alexander set sail for Halifax, leaving Lord Cochrane to follow in the Tonnant, in charge of a convoy, and in getting the Tonnant ready for sea his lordship was busy during January and February, 1814. In the former month De Berenger sought him out and earnestly requested that, his official appointment being refused, he might be taken on board in a private capacity and allowed to rely upon the success of his work for recompense. Lord Cochrane declined to employ him without some sort of sanction from the Admiralty, and De Berenger left him with the avowed intention of doing his utmost to procure this sanction.
He was otherwise occupied. Being in urgent need of money, with which to evade the grasp of his numerous creditors, he returned to his stock-jobbing pursuits—if indeed he had not been engaging in them all along; using his proposal for employment under Lord Cochrane as a blind or as a secondary resource. Instead of furthering his efforts to obtain this employment, he contrived a plan for causing a sudden rise in the funds, and thereby securing a large profit to himself and his accomplices. On the 20th of February he presented himself at the Ship Hotel at Dover, disguised as a foreigner and calling himself Colonel De Bourg, professing that he brought intelligence from France to the effect that Buonaparte had been killed by the Cossacks, that the allied armies were in full march towards Paris, and that a speedy cessation of the war was certain. Thence he hurried up to London and was traced to have gone, on the following morning, to Lord Cochrane's house. The ostensible object of that visit was to renew his application for employment on board the Tonnant. The real object was, by means of a trick, to get possession of a hat and cloak, with which to disguise himself afresh, and thus try to elude the pursuit of agents of the Stock Exchange, who would soon seek to punish him for his fraud. The disguise was given to him in all innocence, and might have been successful, had not Lord Cochrane, on finding how grossly he had been deceived, volunteered to assist in punishing the culprit. Leaving the Tonnant, in which he was about to start from Chatham, he returned to London, and gave full information as to his share in the transaction, with the view of furthering the cause of justice and clearing himself from all blame.
That was prevented by as wanton a prosecution and as malicious a perverting of the forms of justice and the principles of equity as the annals of English law, not often abused even in a much less degree, can show. The straightforward evidence furnished by him was made the handle to an elaborate machinery of falsehood and perjury for effecting his own ruin. The solicitor who had managed the cause of the Admiralty at the court-martial on Lord Gambier, and therein proved his skill, was entrusted with the ugly work. By him an elaborate case for prosecution was trumped up, and Lord Cochrane, hindered from sailing to North America in the Tonnant, and hindered from obtaining any other employment in his country's service during four-and-thirty years, was, on the 8th of June, placed in the prisoner's dock at the Court of King's Bench on a charge of conspiring with his uncle, Mr. Cochrane Johnstone, with De Berenger, and with some other persons, to defraud the Stock Exchange. Lord Ellenborough, who presided at the trial, delivered a charge which was even more virulent and more marked by political spite than was his wont, and the too compliant jury brought in a verdict of "guilty." Lord Cochrane vainly sought for a new trial, and vainly adduced abundant proof of his innocence. The chance of justice that is every Englishman's right was denied to him. He was sentenced to an hour's detention in the pillory at the entrance of the Royal Exchange, to a year's imprisonment in the King's Bench Prison, and to a fine of a thousand pounds.
The first part of the sentence was not insisted upon, as Sir Francis Burdett, Lord Cochrane's noble-hearted colleague as member for Westminster, avowed his intention of standing also in the pillory, if his friend was subjected to that indignity, and of thus encouraging the storm of popular indignation, that, without any such encouragement, would probably have led to consequences which the Government, already hated by all Englishmen who loved their birthright, dared not brook. But the unworthy vengeance of his persecutors was amply satisfied in other ways. He had already suffered more than most men. "Neglect," he said, "I was accustomed to. But when an alleged offence was laid to my charge, in which, on the honour of a man now on the brink of the grave, I had not the slightest participation, and from which I never benefited, nor thought to benefit one farthing, and when this allegation was, by political rancour and legal chicanery, consummated in an unmerited conviction and an outrageous sentence, my heart for the first time sank within me, as conscious of a blow, the effect of which it has required all my energies to sustain."
It is needless now to say anything in proof of Lord Cochrane's innocence of the charge brought against him. The world has long since reversed the verdict passed at Lord Ellenborough's dictation. That an officer and a gentleman of Lord Cochrane's reputation should have demeaned himself by becoming a party to the fraud of which he was accused, is, to say the least, improbable. That, if he had been guilty of that fraud, he should not have availed himself of the only benefit that could be derived from it by investing in the stocks when they were low and selling out during the brief time of their artificial value, is far more improbable. That, when the fraud was perpetrated, and its chief instrument was undiscovered, he should have left the Tonnant in order to expose him, instead of taking him away from England, and so almost ensuring the preservation of the secret, is utterly impossible.
His only faults were too great faith in his own innocence and a too chivalrous desire to protect, or rather to abstain from injuring, his unworthy kinsman. "I must be here distinctly understood," it was said by Lord Brougham, in his "Historic Sketches of British Statesmen," "to deny the accuracy of the opinion which Lord Ellenborough appears to have formed in this case, and deeply to lament the verdict of 'guilty' which the jury returned after three hours' consultation and hesitation. If Lord Cochrane was at all aware of his uncle Mr. Cochrane Johnstone's proceedings, it was the whole extent of his privity to the fact. Having been one of the counsel engaged in the cause, I can speak with some confidence respecting it, and I take upon me to assert that Lord Cochrane's conviction was mainly owing to the extreme repugnance which he felt to giving up his uncle, or taking those precautions for his own safety which would have operated against that near relation. Even when he, the real criminal, had confessed his guilt by taking to flight, and the other defendants were brought up for judgment, we, the counsel, could not persuade Lord Cochrane to shake himself loose from the contamination by abandoning him."
Part of a letter addressed to the Earl of Dundonald in 1859, on the anniversary of his eighty-fourth birthday, and shortly after the publication of the first volume of his "Autobiography of a Seaman," by the daughter of the man whose wrong-doing had conduced so terribly to his misfortunes, may here be fitly quoted:—"You are still active, still in health," says the writer, "and you have just given to the world a striking proof of the vigour of your mind and intellect. Many years I cannot wish for you; but may you live to finish your book, and, if it please God, may you and I have a peaceful death-bed. We have both suffered much mental anguish, though in various degrees; for yours was indeed the hardest lot that an honourable man can be called on to bear. Oh, my dear cousin, let me say once more, whilst we are still here, how, ever since that miserable time, I have felt that you suffered for my poor father's fault—how agonizing that conviction was—how thankful I am that tardy justice was done you. May God return you fourfold for your generous though misplaced confidence in him, and for all your subsequent forbearance!"
Another extract from a letter, from one out of a multitude of tributes to the Earl of Dundonald's honourable bearing, which were tendered after his death, shall close this introductory chapter. "Five years after the trial of Lord Cochrane," wrote Sir Fitzroy Kelly, now Lord Chief Baron, on the 17th of December, 1860, "I began to study for the bar, and very soon became acquainted with and interested in his case, and I have thought of it much and long during more than forty years; and I am profoundly convinced that, had he been defended singly and separately from the others accused, or had he at the last moment, before judgment was pronounced, applied, with competent legal advice and assistance, for a new trial, he would have been unhesitatingly and honourably acquitted. We cannot blot out this dark page from our legal and judicial history."
THE ISSUE OF THE STOCK EXCHANGE TRIAL.—LORD COCHRANE'S COMMITTAL TO THE KING'S BENCH PRISON.—THE DEBATE UPON HIS CASE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, AND HIS SPEECH ON THAT OCCASION.—HIS EXPULSION FROM THE HOUSE, AND RE-ELECTION AS MEMBER FOR WESTMINSTER.—THE WITHDRAWAL OF HIS SENTENCE TO THE PILLORY.—THE REMOVAL OF HIS INSIGNIA AS A KNIGHT OF THE BATH.
The famous and infamous Stock Exchange trial occupied the 8th and 9th of June, 1814; but the sentence was deferred until the 21st of the same month, in consequence of Lord Cochrane's demand for a new trial. That demand was not complied with, in spite of the production of overwhelming evidence to justify it; and the victim of Lord Ellenborough and the tyrannical Government of the day was at once conveyed to the King's Bench Prison. No time was lost in heaping upon him all the indignities which, in accordance with precedent and in excess of all precedent, might supplement his degradation.
The first was a notice of motion which would result in his expulsion from the House of Commons. Lord Cochrane promptly availed himself of the opening thus afforded for a public avowal of his innocence. To the Hon. Charles Abbot, then Speaker of the House, he wrote from his prison on the 23rd of June. "Sir," runs the letter, "I respectfully entreat you to communicate to the Honourable House of Commons my earnest desire and prayer that no question arising out of the late convictions in the Court of King's Bench may be agitated without affording me timely notice and full opportunity of attending in my place for the justification of my character. From the House of Commons I hope to obtain that justice of which too implicit reliance on the consciousness of my innocence, and circumstances over which I had no control, have hitherto deprived me. The painful situation in which I am placed is known to the House, and I trust that I shall be enabled to demonstrate that a more injured man has never sought redress from those to whose justice I now appeal for the preservation of my character and existence."
In compliance with that request, and with parliamentary rules, Lord Cochrane was conveyed from the King's Bench Prison to the House of Commons, and allowed to read a carefully-prepared statement of his case, on the 5th of July, the day fixed for investigation of the subject. From this statement it is not necessary to cite the clear and conclusive recapitulation of the evidence adduced at the trial, or refused admission therein because it was too convincing, in proof of Lord Cochrane's innocence; but room must be found for some passages illustrating the independent temper of the speaker and the perversions of justice to which he fell a victim.
"I am not here, sir," he said, "to bespeak compassion or to pave the way to pardon. Both ideas are alike repugnant to my feelings. That the public in general have felt indignation at the sentence that has been passed upon me does honour to their hearts, and tends still to make my country dear to me, in spite of what I have suffered from the malignity of persons in power. But, sir, I am not here to complain of the hardship of my case or about the cruelty of judges, who, for an act which was never till now ever known or thought to be a legal offence, have laid upon me a sentence more heavy than they have ever yet laid upon persons clearly convicted of the most horrid of crimes—crimes of which nature herself cries aloud against the commission. If, therefore, it was my object to complain of the cruelty of my judges, I should bid the public look into the calendar, and see if they could find a punishment like that inflicted on me; inflicted by these same judges on any one of these unnatural wretches. It is not, however, my business to complain of the cruelty of this sentence. I am here to assert, for the third time, my innocence in the most unqualified and solemn manner; I am here to expose the unfairness of the proceedings against me previous to the trial, at the trial, and subsequent to it; I am here to expose the long train of artful villainies which have been practised against me hitherto with so much success.
"I am persuaded, sir, that the House will easily perceive, and every honourable man, I am sure, participate in my feelings, that the fine, the imprisonment, the pillory—even that pillory to which I am condemned—are nothing, that they weigh not as a feather, when put in the balance against my desire to show that I have been unjustly condemned. Therefore, sir, I trust that the House will give a fair and impartial hearing to what I have to say respecting the conduct of my enemies, to expose which conduct is a duty which I owe to my constituents, and to my country, not less than to myself.
"In the first place, sir, I here, in the presence of this House, and with the eyes of the country fixed upon me, most solemnly declare that I am wholly innocent of the crime which has been laid to my charge, and for which I have been condemned to the most infamous of punishments. Having repeated this assertion of my innocence, I next proceed to complain of the means that have been made use of to effect my destruction. And first, sir, was it ever before known in this or in any other country, that the prosecutor should form a sort of court of his own erection, call witnesses before it of his own choosing, and, under offers of great rewards, take minutes of the evidence of such witnesses, and publish those minutes to the world under the forms and appearances of a judicial proceeding? Was it ever before known, that steps like these were taken previous to an indictment,—previous to the bringing of an intended victim into a court of justice? Was there ever before known so regular, so systematic a scheme for exciting suspicion against a man, and for implanting an immovable prejudice against him in the minds of a whole nation, previous to the preferring a Bill of Indictment, in order that the grand jury, be it composed of whomsoever it might, should be predisposed to find the bill? I ask you, sir, and I ask the House, whether it was ever before known, that means like these were resorted to, previous to a man's being legally accused? But, sir, what must the world think, when they see some of those to whom the welfare and the honour of the nation are committed covertly co-operating with a Committee of the Stock Exchange, and becoming their associates in so nefarious a scheme? Nevertheless, sir, this fact is now notorious to the whole world. I must confess I was not prepared to believe the thing possible."
Thereupon followed a detailed examination of the charges brought against Lord Cochrane, and of the way in which those charges were handled, special complaint being made concerning the malicious bearing of Lord Ellenborough. "It must be in the recollection of the House," said Lord Cochrane, "as it is in that of the public, that he urged, that he compelled, the counsel to enter upon my defence after midnight, at the end of fifteen hours from the commencement of the trial, when that counsel declared himself quite exhausted, and when the jury, who were to decide, were in a state of such weariness as to render attention to what was said totally impossible. The speeches of the counsel being ended, the judge, at half-past three in the morning, adjourned the court till ten; thus separating the evidence from the argument, and reserving his own strength, and the strength of my adversaries' advocates, for the close; giving to both the great advantage of time to consider the reply, and to insert and arrange arguments to meet those which had been urged in my defence."
All his treatment by Lord Ellenborough, as Lord Cochrane urged, was of that sort, or worse. "Of all tyrannies, sir," he said, "the worst is that which exercises its vengeance under the guise of judicial proceedings, and especially if a jury make part of the means by which its base purposes are effected. The man who is flung into prison, or sent to the scaffold, at the nod of an avowed despotism, has at least the consolation to know that his sufferings bring down upon that despotism the execration of mankind; but he who is entrapped and entangled in the meshes of a crafty and corrupt system of jurisprudence; who is pursued imperceptibly by a law with leaden feet and iron jaws; who is not put upon his trial till the ear of the public has been poisoned, and its heart steeled against him,—falls, at last, without being cheered with a hope of seeing his tyrants execrated even by the warmest of his friends. In their principle, the ancient and settled laws of England are excellent; but of late years, so many injurious and fatal alterations in the law have taken place, that any man who ventures to meddle with public affairs, and to oppose persons in power, is sure and certain, sooner or later, to suffer in some way or other.
"Sir, the punishment which the malice of my enemies has procured to be inflicted on me is not, in my mind, worth a moment's reflection. The judge supposed, apparently, that the sentence of the pillory would disgrace and mortify me. I can assure him, and I now solemnly assure this House, my constituents, and my country, that I would rather stand in my own name, in the pillory, every day of my life, under such a sentence, than I would sit upon the bench in the name and with the real character of Lord Ellenborough for one single hour.
"Something has been said, sir, in this House, as I have heard, about an application for a mitigation of my sentence, in a certain quarter, where, it is observed, that mercy never failed to flow; but I can assure the House that an application for pardon, extorted from me, is one of the things which even a partial judge and a packed jury have not the power to accomplish. No, sir; I will seek for, and I look for, pardon nowhere, for I have committed no crime. I have sought for, I still seek for, and I confidently expect JUSTICE; not, however, at the hands of those by whose machinations I have been brought to what they regard as my ruin, but at the hands of my enlightened and virtuous constituents, to whose exertions the nation owes that there is still a voice to cry out against that haughty and inexorable tyranny which commands silence to all but parasites and hypocrites."
Thus ended Lord Cochrane's written argument. It was followed by, a few words spoken on the spur of the moment: "Having so long occupied its time, I will not trouble the House longer than to implore it to investigate the circumstances of my case. I think I have stated enough to induce it to call for the minutes of the trial. All I wish is an inquiry. Many important facts yet remain to be considered, and I trust that the House will not come to a decision with its eyes shut. I entreat, I implore investigation. It is true that a sentence of a court of law has been pronounced against me; but that punishment is nothing, and will to me seem nothing, in comparison with what it is in the power of the House to inflict. I have already suffered much; but if after a deliberate and a fair investigation the House shall determine that I am guilty, then let me be deserted and abandoned by the world. I shall submit without repining to any the most dreadful penalty that the House can assign. I solemnly declare before Almighty God that I am ignorant of the whole transaction. Into the hearts of men we cannot penetrate; we cannot dive into their inmost thoughts; but my heart I lay open, and my most secret thoughts I disclose to the House. I entreat the strictest scrutiny and a patient hearing. I implore it at your hands, as an act of justice, and once more I call upon my Maker, upon Almighty God, to bear witness that I am innocent. He knows my heart, He knows all its secrets, and He knows that I am innocent."
An animated debate followed upon that eloquent address. Viscount Castlereagh complained that Lord Cochrane, instead of defending himself, had only libelled Lord Ellenborough and the noblest institutions of the land. Other speakers expressed similar opinions; but others testified to the consistent character of Lord Cochrane, rendering it impossible that he should be guilty of the offence with which he was charged; and others again confessed that, having previously had doubts in the matter, those doubts had been removed by the high-minded tone and the powerful arguments of his defence. But in the end the House adopted the view set forth by Lord Castlereagh; that its duty was simply to accept the verdict of the Court of the King's Bench, and, according to precedent, to expel the member declared guilty by that court, without daring to revive the question of his guilt or innocence; and that it would be better for an innocent man thus to suffer, than for the House to assail "the bulwarks of English liberty," by turning itself into a Star Chamber, or an Inquisition, and attempting to interfere with "the regular administration of justice." The proposal that Lord Cochrane's case should be referred to a Select Committee was rejected without a division. The motion that he should be expelled from the House was carried by a hundred and forty members, against forty-four dissentients.
That new act of injustice, however, though it added much to Lord Cochrane's suffering, brought him no fresh disgrace. It only led to his triumphant re-election as member for Westminster, under circumstances that were reasonably consoling to him. His seat having been taken from him on the 5th of July, a great meeting of the electors, attended by five thousand people, was held on the 11th. It was there unanimously resolved that Lord Cochrane was perfectly innocent of the Stock Exchange fraud, that he was a fit and proper person to represent the City of Westminster in Parliament, and that his re-election should be secured without any expense to him. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, his stout opponent at the previous election, who was now urged to oppose him again, honourably refused to do so; and therefore the election passed without a contest. But contest would only have added to its glory; unless, indeed, the people, over-zealous in their expression of sympathy for their representative, had been provoked thereby to violent exhibition of their temper. Even without such provocation the turmoil of the re-election day, the 16th of July, was great; angry crowds assembled in the streets, and menacing words against the Government and its myrmidons were loudly uttered. The wisdom of Sir Francis Burdett and other leaders of the popular party, however, prevented anything worse than angry speech.
"Amongst all the occurrences of my life," said Lord Cochrane, writing from the King's Bench Prison to thank the electors for their confidence in him, "I can call to memory no one which has produced so great a degree of exultation in my breast as this, that, after all the machinations of corruption have been able to effect against me, the citizens of Westminster have, with unanimous voice, pronounced me worthy of continuing to be one of their representatives in Parliament. With regard to the case, the agitation of which has been the cause of this most gratifying result, I am in no apprehension as to the opinions and feelings of the world, and especially of the people of England, who, though they may be occasionally misled, are never deliberately cruel or unjust. Only let it be said of me: 'The Stock Exchange has accused; Lord Ellenborough has charged for guilty; the special jury have found that guilt; the Court have sentenced to the pillory; the House of Commons have expelled; and the Citizens of Westminster have re-elected,'—only let this be the record placed against my name, and I shall be proud to stand in the calendar of criminals all the days of my life."
The worst part of the sentence passed upon Lord Cochrane, as has been already said, was not carried out. The 10th of August had been fixed as the day on which he was to stand in the pillory for an hour in front of the Royal Exchange. But the danger of a disturbance among the people, and of fierce opposition in the House of Commons hindered the perpetration of this indignity. Some sentences of a letter addressed to Lord Ebrington, deprecating his motion in Parliament for a remission of this part of the sentence, are too characteristic, however, to be left unquoted. "I did not expect," said Lord Cochrane, "to be treated by your lordship as an object of mercy, on the grounds of past services, or severity of sentence. I cannot allow myself to be indebted to that tenderness of disposition which has led your lordship to form an erroneous estimate of the amount of punishment due to the crimes of which I have been accused; nor can I for a moment consent that any past services of mine should be prostituted to the purpose of protecting me from any part of the vengeance of the laws against which I, if at all, have grossly offended. If I am guilty, I richly merit the whole of the sentence that has been passed upon me. If innocent, one penalty cannot be inflicted with more justice than another."
If the degradation of the pillory was remitted, another degradation quite as painful to Lord Cochrane was substituted for it. His name having, on the 25th of June, been struck off the list of naval officers in the Admiralty, the Knights Companions of the Bath promptly held a chapter to consider the propriety of expelling him from their ranks. That was soon done, and no time was lost in making the insult as thorough as possible. At one o'clock in the morning of the 11th of August, the Bath King at Arms repaired to King Henry the Seventh's Chapel in Westminster Abbey, and there, under a warrant signed by Lord Sidmouth, the Secretary of State, removed the banner of Lord Cochrane, which was suspended between those of Lord Beresford and Sir Brent Spencer. His arms were next unscrewed, and his helmet, sword, and other insignia were taken down from the stall. The banner was then kicked out of the chapel and down the steps by the official, eager to omit no possible indignity. It was an indignity unparalleled since the establishment of the order in 1725.
LORD COCHRANE'S BEARING IN THE KING'S BENCH PRISON—HIS STREET LAMPS.—HIS ESCAPE, AND THE MOTIVES FOR IT.—HIS CAPTURE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, AND SUBSEQUENT TREATMENT.—HIS CONFINEMENT IN THE STRONG ROOM OF THE KING'S BENCH PRISON.—HIS RELEASE.
During the first period of his imprisonment Lord Cochrane was not treated with more than usual severity. Two rooms in the King's Bench State House were provided for him, in which, of course, all the expenses of his maintenance devolved upon himself. He was led to understand that, if he chose to ask for it, he might have the privilege of "the rules," which would have allowed him, on certain conditions, a range of about half-a-mile round the prison. But he did not choose to ask. Rather, he said, than seek any favour from the Government, he would lie in a dungeon all through the term of his unjust imprisonment. Throughout that period he resolutely avowed his perfect innocence, to friends and foes alike; and the consciousness of his innocence helped him to bear up under a degradation that, to a nature as sensitive and chivalrous as his, was doubly bitter. Good friends, like Sir Francis Burdett, came to cheer him in his solitude, and over-zealous, yet honest, friends, like William Cobbett, came to take counsel with him as to ways of keeping alive and quickening the popular indignation which, without any stimulants from headstrong demagogues, was strong enough on his behalf.
The tedium of his captivity was further relieved by his devotion to those scientific and mechanical pursuits which, all through life, yielded employment very solacing to himself, and very profitable to the world. While in the King's Bench Prison he was especially occupied in completing a plan for lighting the public streets by means of a lamp invented by him, in which the main principle was the introduction of a steady current of fresh air into the globes, whereby all the oil was fairly burnt, and a brilliant light was always maintained. In this way lamps much cheaper than those previously in use were found to have a far greater illuminating power. Early in October, 1814, the lamps in St. Ann's parish, Westminster, numbering eight hundred in all, were taken down and replaced by four hundred constructed on Lord Cochrane's plan; and even political opponents spoke in acknowledgment of the excellent result of the change. Had it not been for the introduction of gas, the superiority of these new lamps must soon have compelled their adoption all over London. It is curious that the discovery of the illuminating power of gas—undoubtedly due to his father—should have superseded one of Lord Cochrane's most promising inventions as soon as it had been brought to recognized perfection.
In such pursuits nine months of the unjust imprisonment were passed. "Lord Cochrane has hitherto borne all his hardships with great fortitude," wrote one of his most intimate friends on the 10th of November, "and, if there are any more in store for him, I hope he will continue to be cheerful and courageous." "His lordship always hopes for the best, and is never afraid of the worst," said the same authority on the 9th of December, "and therefore he is in good spirits."
This fearless disposition led, in March, 1815, to a bold step, which some of Lord Cochrane's best friends deprecated. Knowing that he was unjustly imprisoned, he conceived that, since his re-election as member for Westminster, the imprisonment was illegal as well as unjust, in that it was contrary to the privilege of Parliament. The law provides that "no Member of Parliament can be imprisoned either for non-payment of a fine to the King, or for any other cause than treason, felony, or refusing to give security for the peace." It may be questioned whether, in the presence of this law, his first imprisonment, even under the sentence of the Court of King's Bench, was legal. But having been imprisoned, and having been expelled from the House of Commons, it is clear that his subsequent re-election could not interfere with the fulfilment, of the sentence passed against him, especially as he had not been able to make good his title to membership by taking the prescribed oaths and claiming a seat in the House. He, however—acting as it would seem under the advice of William Cobbett and other unsafe counsellors—thought otherwise, and considered that he was only vindicating a high constitutional principle, against the exercise of despotic power by the Government, in making his escape from the King's Bench Prison. "I did not quit these walls," he said in a letter addressed to the electors of Westminster, on the 12th of April, "to escape from personal oppression, but, at the hazard of my life, to assert that right to liberty which, as a member of the community, I have never forfeited, and that right, which I received from you, to attack in its very den the corruption which threatens to annihilate the liberties of us all. I did not quit them to fly from the justice of my country, but to expose the wickedness, fraud, and hypocrisy of those who elude that justice by committing their enormities under the colour of its name. I did not quit them from the childish motive of impatience under suffering. I stayed long enough to evince that I could endure restraint as a pain, but not as a penalty. I stayed long enough to be certain that my persecutors were conscious of their injustice, and to feel that my submission to their unmerited inflictions was losing the dignity of resignation, and sinking into the ignominious endurance of an insult."
The escape was effected on the 6th of March, and by the same means which had proved successful in Lord Cochrane's retreat from the gaol at Malta, just four years before. His rooms in the King's Bench Prison, being on the upper storey of the building known as the State House, were nearly as high as the wall which formed the prison boundary, and the windows were only a few feet distant from it. The possibility of escape by this way, however, had never been contemplated, and therefore the windows were unprotected by bars. Accordingly Lord Cochrane, having been supplied, from time to time, by the same servant who had aided him at Malta, with a quantity of small strong rope, managed, soon after midnight, and while the watchman going his rounds was in a distant part of the prison, to get out of window and climb on to the roof of the building. Thence he threw a running noose over the iron spikes placed on the wall, and, exercising the agility that he had acquired during his seaman's occupations, easily gained the summit—to be somewhat discomfited by having to sit upon the iron spikes while he fastened his rope to one of them and prepared, with its help, to slip down to the pavement on the outer side of the wall. The rope was not strong enough, however, to bear his weight; it snapped when he was some twenty-five feet from the ground, and caused him to fall with his back upon the stone pavement. There he lay, in an almost unconscious state, for a considerable time. But no passer-by observed him; and before daylight he was able to crawl to the house of an old nurse of his eldest son's, who gladly afforded him concealment.
Long concealment was not intended by him. "If it had not been," he said, "for the commotion excited by that obnoxious, injurious, and arbitrary measure, the Corn Bill, which began to evince itself on the day of my departure from prison, I should have lost no time in proceeding to the House of Commons; but, conjecturing that the spirit of disturbance might derive some encouragement from my unexpected appearance at that time, and having no inclination to promote tumult, I resolved to defer my appearance at the House, and, if possible, to conceal my departure from the prison, until the order of the metropolis should be restored."
To the same effect was a letter addressed by Lord Cochrane to the Speaker of the House of Commons on the 9th of March. "I respectfully request," he said therein, "that you will state to the honourable the House of Commons, that I should immediately and personally have communicated to them my departure from the custody of Lord Ellenborough, by whom I have been long most unjustly detained; but I judged it better to endeavour to conceal my absence, and to defer my appearance in the House until the public agitation excited by the Corn Bill should subside. And I have further to request that you will also communicate to the House that it is my intention, on an early day, to present myself for the purpose of taking my seat and moving an inquiry into the conduct of Lord Ellenborough."
On the day of that letter's delivery, the 10th of March—also famous as the day on which Buonaparte's escape from Elba was published in England—Lord Cochrane's gaolers discovered that he was no longer in his prison. Immediately a hue and cry was raised. This notice was issued: "Escaped from the King's Bench Prison, on Monday the 6th day of March, instant, Lord Cochrane. He is about five feet eleven inches in height,[A] thin and narrow-chested, with sandy hair and full eyes, red whiskers and eyebrows. Whoever will apprehend and secure Lord Cochrane in any of His Majesty's gaols in the kingdom shall have a reward of three hundred guineas from William Jones, Marshal of the King's Bench."
[Footnote A: He was really about six feet two inches in height, and broad in proportion.]
Great search was made in consequence of that notice, and Lord Cochrane's disappearance was an eleven days' wonder. Every newspaper had each day a new statement as to his whereabouts. Some declared that he had gone mad, and, as a madman's freak, was hiding himself in some corner of the prison; others that he was lodging at an apothecary's shop in London. According to one report, he had been seen at Hastings, according to another, at Farnham, and according to another, in Jersey; while others declared that he had been discovered in France and elsewhere on the Continent.
None of the thousands whom political spite or the hope of reward set in search of him thought of looking for him in his real resting-place. "As soon as I had written to the Speaker," he said, "I went into Hampshire, where I remained eleven days, and till within one day of my appearance in the House of Commons. During that period I was occupied in regulating my affairs in that county, and in riding about the county, as was well known to the people of the neighbourhood, none of whom were base enough to be seduced by a bribe to deliver an injured man into the hands of his oppressors."
At his own house, known as Holly Hill, in the south of Hampshire, Lord Cochrane remained quietly, though with no attempt to hide himself, until the 20th of March. He then, in fulfilment of his original purpose, returned to London, and on the following day entered the House of Commons at about two o'clock in the afternoon. Very great was the astonishment among the officials in attendance caused by his appearance, "dressed," according to one of the newspaper reports, "in his usual costume, grey pantaloons, frogged great-coat, &c.;" and by some of them the intelligence of his arrival was promptly communicated to the Marshal of the King's Bench. In the meanwhile, considering himself safe within the precincts of the House at any rate, he proceeded to occupy his customary seat. To that it was objected that, until he had taken the oaths and complied with the prescribed forms consequent on his re-election, he had no right within the building. He answered that he was willing to do this, and, to see that all was according to rule, went at once to the clerks' office. There it was pretended that the writ of his re-election had not yet been received, and that it must first be procured from the Crown Office, in Chancery Lane. Awaiting the return of the messenger, ostensibly despatched for this purpose, he again entered the House, and there he was found, at a few minutes before four, by Mr. Jones, the marshal, who, on receiving the information sent to him, had hurried up, with a Bow Street runner and some tipstaves. The runner, walking up to Lord Cochrane and touching him on the shoulder, bluntly claimed him as his prisoner. Lord Cochrane asked by what authority he dared to arrest a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons. "My lord," answered the man, "my authority is the public proclamation of the Marshal of the King's Bench Prison, offering a reward for your apprehension." Lord Cochrane declared that he neither acknowledged, nor would yield to, any such authority, that he was there to resume his seat as one of the representatives of the City of Westminster, and that any who dared to touch him would do so at their peril. Two tipstaves thereupon rudely seized him by the arms. He again cautioned them that the Marshal of the King's Bench had no authority within those walls, and that their conduct was altogether illegal. The answer was that he had better go quietly; his reply that he would not go at all. Other officers, however, came up. After a short struggle, he was overpowered, and, on his refusing to walk, he was carried out of the House on the shoulders of the tipstaves and constables.
There was a halt, however, in this disgraceful march. The Bow Street runner expressed a fear that Lord Cochrane had firearms concealed under his clothes, and he was accordingly taken into one of the committee-rooms to be searched. Nothing more dangerous was found about him than a packet of snuff. "If I had thought of that before," said Lord Cochrane, not quite wisely, "you should have had it in your eyes!" On this incident was founded a foolish story, to be told next day, amid a score of exaggerations and falsehoods, in the Government newspapers. "Being asked why he had provided himself with such a quantity of snuff," we there read, "he said he had bought a canister for the purpose of throwing it in the eyes of those who might attempt to secure him, unless the opposing force should be too strong for resistance, observing that he had found the use of a similar weapon when he was in the Bay of Rosas, as he had thrown a mixture of lime, sand, &c., upon the Frenchmen who attempted to board his ship, and found it effectual." Another zealous organ of the Government added that he had also provided himself with a bottle of vitriol, to be used in the same way.
Had a penknife been found in his pocket, perhaps the Marshal of the King's Bench, the Bow Street runner, the tipstaves, and the constables would all have fled, deeming that the possession of so deadly an instrument made the retention of their captive too dangerous a thing to be attempted. The snuff having been seized, however, he was again lodged on the officers' shoulders and so conveyed into the courtyard. He then said that, being now beyond the privilege of the House, he was willing to proceed quietly. A coach was called, and he was taken back to the King's Bench Prison.
The indignity thus offered to him was small indeed in comparison with the indignity offered to the Parliament of England. In former times the slightest encroachment by the Crown, by the Government, or by any humbler part of the executive, was fiercely resented; and to this resentment some of the greatest and most memorable crises in the long fight for English liberty are due. But rarely had there been a more flagrant, never a more wanton, infringement of the hardly-won privileges of the House of Commons. Had Lord Cochrane been detected and seized violently in some out-of-the-way hiding-place, the over-zealous servants of the Crown would have had some excuse for their conduct. But in appearing publicly in the House, he showed to all the world that he was no runaway from justice, that he was willing to submit to its honest administration by honest hands, that all he sought was a fair hearing and a fair judgment upon his case, and that, believing it impossible to obtain that through the elaborate machinery of oppression which then went by the name of administration of justice, he now only asserted his right, the right of every Englishman, and especially the right of a Member of Parliament, to appeal from the agents of the law to the makers of the law, to call upon the legislators of his country to see whether he had not been wrongfully used by the men who, though practically too much their masters, were in theory only their servants.
"I did not go to the House of Commons," he said, "to complain about losses or sufferings, about fine or imprisonment; or of property, to the amount of ten times the fine, of which I had been cheated by this malicious prosecution. I did not go to the House to complain of the mockery of having been heard in my defence, and answered by a reference to the decision from which that defence was an appeal. I did not go there to complain of those who expelled me from my profession. I did not go to the House to complain generally of the advisers of the Crown. But I went there to complain of the conduct of him who has indeed the right of recommending to mercy, but whose privilege, as a Privy Councillor, of advising the confirmation of his own condemnations, and of interposing between the victims of legal vengeance and the justice of the throne, is spurious and unconstitutional. When it is considered that my intention of going to the House of Commons was announced on the day on which my absence from the prison was discovered; I say, when it is considered that, as soon as it was known that I had left the prison, it was also known that I had left it for the express purpose of going to the House of Commons to move for an inquiry into the conduct of Lord Ellenborough; when it is considered that every engine was set to work to tempt or intimidate me from that purpose, to frighten me out of the country or allure me back to the custody of the marshal, that assurances were given that the doors should be kept open for my admission at any hour of the night, and that I should be received with secresy, courtesy, and indemnity; and when it is considered that I was afterwards seized in the House of Commons, in defiance of the privileges of the House—can there be a doubt that the object of that apprehension was less the accomplishment of the sentence of the court than the prevention of the exposure which I was prepared to make of the injustice of that sentence? That recourse should have been had to violence to stifle the accusations which I was prepared to bring forward, that terror of the truth should have so superseded a wonted reverence for parliamentary privileges as to have admitted the intrusion of tipstaves and thief-takers into the House of Commons, to seize the person of an individual elected to serve as a member of that House, and avowedly attendant for that purpose, is extraordinary, though not unnatural."