THE LIFE OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE HORATIO LORD VISCOUNT NELSON:
BARON NELSON OF THE NILE, AND OF BURNHAM-THORPE AND HILBOROUGH IN THE COUNTY OF NORFOLK; KNIGHT OF THE MOST HONOURABLE MILITARY ORDER OF THE BATH; DOCTOR OF LAWS IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD; VICE-ADMIRAL OF THE WHITE SQUADRON OF HIS MAJESTY'S FLEET; DUKE OF BRONTE, IN FARTHER SICILY; GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF ST. FERDINAND AND OF MERIT; KNIGHT OF THE IMPERIAL ORDER OF THE OTTOMAN CRESCENT; KNIGHT GRAND COMMANDER OF THE EQUESTRIAN, SECULAR, AND CAPITULAR, ORDER OF ST. JOACHIM OF WESTERBURG; AND HONORARY GRANDEE OF SPAIN.
BY MR. HARRISON.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
Lord Viscount Nelson's transcendent and heroic services will, I am persuaded, exist for ever in the recollection of my people; and, while they tend to stimulate those who come after him, they will prove a lasting source of strength, security, and glory, to my dominions.
The King's Answer to the City of London's Address on the Battle of Trafalgar.
LONDON: Printed at the Ranelagh Press, BY STANHOPE AND TILLING; FOR C. CHAPPLE, PALL MALL, AND SOUTHAMPTON ROW, RUSSELL SQUARE. 1806.
THE LIFE OF LORD NELSON, DUKE OF BRONTE, &c.
In tracing the history of a hero so active as Lord Nelson, the mind can scarcely be allowed a moment's pause. His multifarious transactions, indeed, frequently arise in such rapid successions, that they become far too much involved with each other to admit of any precise chronological arrangement. Operations are commenced, which cannot always be soon brought to a conclusion: and, while these are transacting, an attention to other occurrences, of more or less magnitude, becomes perpetually requisite; which are, in their turn, subjected to similar procrastinating delays and necessarily diverted attentions.
The cares of Lord Nelson can hardly be said to have one minute ceased, even when he landed, in safety, at Palermo, the royal and illustrious characters, and their immense treasure, which he had successfully conveyed thither, amidst such alarming difficulties and dangers. His anxious bosom, it is true, was now relieved from the apprehensions which it had suffered during the storm; and felt, no doubt, as it ought, a sympathetic sense of the grateful felicitations of beloved friends, on the event of their happy arrival at a place of secure refuge. He could not, indeed, fail to rejoice in their joy: but it was, with all of them, a joy mingled with melancholy; and, with him, it was particularly so.
An intellectual tempest, at this apparently enviable period of our hero's glory, was violently agitating the secret recesses of his too susceptible heart. Justly jealous of honour, his soul ever kindled with alarm at the most remote idea of aught that could, by any possibility of implication, be considered as having the smallest tendency to sully or impair a single particle of that celestial inheritance which he felt conscious of having a legitimate right to possess in undiminished lustre, If it should be thought, by the more calmly philosophical mind, that he might sometimes too soon take the alarm; let it, at least, not fail to be remembered, that the true votary of honour must never be, even once, a single moment too late.
The reader who has attentively perused the preceding part of Lord Nelson's history, will long since have discovered, that one grand trait of character, in this exalted man, was a determined resolution of accomplishing, to it's fullest possible extent, the business, whatever it might be, which was once committed to his charge; and that, in every expedition, it formed his chief pride, to effect even more than could have been expected, by those who had, from the greatest possible confidence in his skill and ability, selected him for the enterprise. It was this invariable principle that, by prompting him to serve on shore, at the batteries before Calvi, cost him the vision of an eye; and it was to this same cause, that he owed the loss of his arm at Teneriffe. Conformably to this grand characteristic, having so honourably received the Earl of St. Vincent's orders to seek and to destroy the French armament, which he had at length gloriously encountered at the mouth of the Nile; he still internally regretted, that the wound on that occasion received in his forehead, by rendering him almost wholly blind, had proved the sole cause of a single French ship's escape. Not that this undoubted conviction in his own bosom, that he should certainly have captured or destroyed the whole fleet, conveys the smallest reflection on any other officer for not having effected the same purpose: for, most assuredly, though many captains in this noble squadron might boast of equal bravery with himself, and of much skill too, Lord Nelson greatly surpassed them all, and perhaps every other naval commander, in that promptitude of vigorously winged imagination which instantaneously rises to the exigency. The moment Captain Berry had, on first beholding the position of the French fleet at anchor, fully comprehended the entire scope of his adored admiral's design for the attack, he exclaimed, in an extacy—"If we succeed, what will the world say?"—"There is no if in the case," coolly replied the admiral: "that we shall succeed, is certain; who may live to tell the story, is a very different question!" So positive was this great man of success, even before the battle commenced.
Though Lord Nelson had hitherto failed in taking the fugitive ships from Egypt, and the transports were not yet destroyed at Alexandria; he never relinquished the idea, that some of his "band of brothers," the heroic captains of the Nile, might finally fall in with, and either take or destroy, the two line of battle ships, and two frigates, which had alone escaped, and thus complete the destruction of all the ships of war. Nor had the comprehensive mind of our hero limited it's hope to these alone: he trusted that some of his brave band would at least assist in effecting the destruction of the transports; as well as in preventing every remaining Frenchman, who had been landed in Egypt, from ever returning to France. For this purpose, he had not only left Captain Hood on the coast; but solicited, both at home, and of our allies, the requisite bomb-vessels, &c. by repeated most urgent epistles.
At length, the necessary preparations had been made, and dispatched from England, under the command of Sir William Sidney Smith, brother of the English minister, Mr. Spencer Smith, at the Ottoman court. The high character of Sir Sidney Smith—as he is usually called—for intrepid gallantry, as well as for incomparable dexterity and address in that species of naval exploit which may be denominated incendiary warfare, seemed to justify sufficiently the judgment of the Admiralty in selecting a character so respectably enterprising for this service, and the measure was certainly extremely popular at home. Every thing, indeed, was expected from Sir Sidney Smith's ability: and truth requires the acknowledgment, that neither government, nor the people, were finally disappointed; as the history of the siege of Acre, where he commanded on shore, and fairly defeated Bonaparte, will for ever afford a most satisfactory and substantial proof.
A very obvious consequence, however, attended this appointment; which, strange as it may seem, undoubtedly escaped the attention of the Admiralty, as well as of the country at large: the former of whom, it is certain, would not have adopted, nor the latter have applauded, any act which they had foreseen could be liable to hurt the feelings of their chief favourite, the gallant hero of the Nile.
Not only did this measure introduce a new British hero to assist in the full accomplishment of the business originally committed, by the Earl of St. Vincent, to Admiral Nelson; appearing, to his lordship's exquisite feelings, an implied defectiveness in his noble band of brothers for the completion of the enterprise: but, by the circumstance of Sir Sidney Smith's authorization to take under his command Captain Hood, and the ships left with him in Egypt, Lord Nelson felt himself deprived of a part of his squadron, in favour of a junior officer, who would consequently be placed above his brave friends.
The day after leaving Naples, his lordship had received dispatches from Sir Sidney Smith, then off Malta, in his way to Egypt, apprizing him of these intentions; and, on the 27th, at Palermo, others from the Earl of St. Vincent, who does not appear to have been previously consulted, respecting the appointment of Sir Sidney Smith. It is probable, therefore, that the noble earl might participate with his gallant friend in the unpleasant feelings thus excited. Unfortunately, too, Sir Sidney had written, about this period, to our hero's friend, Sir William Hamilton; in terms, as it should seem, of insufficient caution; originating, perhaps, merely in the ebullitions of an honest overflowing heart, alive to it's own importance. Be this as it may, that of Lord Nelson was fired with an indignation, which he thus vehemently expresses to his commander in chief.
"Palermo, 31st Dec. 1798.
"MY DEAR LORD
"I do feel, for I am man, that it is impossible for me to serve in those seas, with a squadron under a junior officer. Could I have thought it; and, from Earl Spencer? Never, never was I so astonished, as your letter made me. As soon as I can get hold of Troubridge, I shall send him to Egypt, to endeavour to destroy the ships in Alexandria. If it can be done, Troubridge will do it. The Swedish knight writes Sir William Hamilton, that he shall go to Egypt, and take Captain Hood, and his squadron, under his command. The knight forgets the respect due to his superior officer. He has no orders from you, to take my ships away from my command: but, it is all of a piece. Is it to be borne? Pray, grant me your permission to retire; and, I hope, the Vanguard will be allowed to convey me, and my friends Sir William and Lady Hamilton, to England. God bless you, my dear lord! and believe me, your affectionate friend,
"Earl of St. Vincent."
His lordship now, certainly, had it in contemplation to retire, as expressed in the above letter. He even went so far, as to request the Earl of St. Vincent's permission, that he might leave the command to his gallant and most excellent second, Captain Troubridge, or some other of his brave friends who so gloriously fought at the battle of the Nile—if his health and uneasiness of mind should not be mended. In the mean time, he resolved to send Captain Troubridge to Egypt, as he had before intended, that he might endeavour to destroy the transports in Alexandria; after which, he was now to deliver up the Levant Seas to the care of Sir Sidney Smith.
Piqued as Lord Nelson evidently was, on this occasion, by what he felt as the obtrusion of Sir Sidney Smith, to the exclusion of his favourite band of brothers, he nevertheless wished him all possible success, and readily yielded him every requisite assistance in his power. At the same time, with abundant address, his lordship selected, from the dispatches which had been transmitted to him, an extract from Lord Grenville's instructions, which he transcribed into the following letter to Sir Sidney Smith, as a gentle hint that this officer's authority was not wholly without restriction.
"Palermo, Dec. 31, 1798.
"I have been honoured with your letter from off Malta, with it's several inclosures: viz. An extract of a letter from Lord Grenville to John Spencer Smith, Esq. &c.—"And his majesty has been graciously pleased to direct, that your brother, Sir Sidney Smith, shall proceed to Constantinople with the eighty-gun ship Le Tigre. His instructions will enable him to take the command of such of his majesty's ships as he may find in those seas—unless, by any unforeseen accident, it should happen that there should be, among them, any of his majesty's officers of superior rank; and he will be directed to act with such force, in conjunction with the Russian and Ottoman squadrons, for the defence of the Ottoman empire, and for the annoyance of the enemy in that quarter:"—Also, an extract of another letter, from Lord Grenville to yourself and brother—And the Earl of St. Vincent having sent me an extract of a letter from Earl Spencer to him; saying that, for certain circumstances, you should be the officer selected for the command of a small squadron in the Levant Seas: and, his lordship having also informed me, that Captain Miller was the officer of your choice; and directing me to give you a frigate, or a sloop of war, till Captain Miller's arrival—You may rest assured, that I shall most strictly comply with the instructions sent by Lord Grenville to your brother; also, those of Earl Spencer, and the Earl of St. Vincent. For this purpose, I must desire that you will lose no time in proceeding to Alexandria, to take upon you the command of the blockade, &c. which I shall direct to be delivered up to you; and, from my heart, I wish you every success. The united squadrons of the Turks and Russians, and of two sail of the line under your command, must be sufficient for the two ships armee en flute, and three frigates; which, thank God! are all the enemy have left in those seas.
"I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient servant,
It is by no means improbable, that Lord Nelson, while coolly transcribing the above passage from Lord Grenville's judiciously guarded instructions, to convince Sir Sidney Smith, that he was not restrained, had in some measure convinced himself that those instructions could not possibly be intended to give him, or his gallant friends, the smallest just cause of offence.
On this same day, the last of the glorious year 1798, his lordship also wrote the following answer to a letter from John Julius Angerstein, Esq. Chairman of the Committee at Lloyd's, which he had just received.
"Vanguard, Palermo, 31st Dec. 1798.
"I have had the honour of receiving your's of the 10th October, inclosing a circular letter addressed to the commanders in the squadron under my command, requesting them to favour the committee with the lists of the killed and wounded on board their respective ships at the battle of the Nile: and I beg leave to acquaint you, that I have given the necessary directions to the captains of the ships at present under my command to furnish the committee with lists, agreeable to their wishes; and will write to the captains of those ships which are gone down the Mediterranean with the prizes, to do the same as soon as possible, in order to forward their charitable intentions.
"I have the honour to be, with the greatest respect, your most obedient and humble servant,
However, neither this nor any other pleasing employ, amidst his lordship's numerous indispensible avocations, could hastily reconcile him to the unpleasant circumstance of not being left to finish the business which he had so nobly commenced, and so nearly closed. Even the soothings of his amiable and illustrious friends were ineffectual; and, on the next day, the first of the year 1799, he wrote to Earl Spencer for permission to return to England. This fact will appear in the following letter; though, happily, by the timely and judicious interference of the Earl of St. Vincent, added to the earnest and united requests of the King and Queen of Naples, and Sir William and Lady Hamilton, he was induced finally to continue a command which the royal sufferers felt so necessary for their protection.
"Palermo, 1st Jan. 1799.
"MY DEAR LORD,
"I have transmitted to Mr. Nepean, by way of Vienna, a duplicate of my letter to the commander in chief: which, of course, will likewise be sent you from him; and it will inform you of all which has passed, from the determination of leaving Naples to our arrival at Palermo.
"The day after I left Naples, I received a letter from Sir Sidney Smith, with several inclosures. I send you my answer. Every thing which the extracts sent me by Sir Sidney Smith point out to him, has been fully talked over, and fully explained, by Kelim Effendi; a person holding the office similar to our under-secretary of state, who had been sent with my Order of Merit: for, by the form of the investiture, that seems to me the properest name to call it.
"And now, my lord, having left the command of the two sail of the line in the Levant Seas to Sir Sidney Smith—than whom, I dare say, no one could be so proper—Commodore Duckworth will ably, I am sure, watch Toulon; for I shall very soon, I hope, be able to send him one or two sail of the line: and, Captain Troubridge, or some other of my brave and excellent commanders, being left to guard the One Sicily, and the coast of Italy; I trust, I shall not be thought hasty, in asking permission to return to England for a few months, to gather a little of that ease and quiet I have so long been a stranger to.
"Captain Troubridge goes directly to Egypt, to deliver up to Sir Sidney Smith the blockade of Alexandria, and the defence of the Ottoman empire by sea; for, I should hope, that Sir Sidney Smith will not take any ship from under my command, without my orders; although Sir Sidney, rather hastily, in my opinion, writes Sir William Hamilton, that Captain Hood naturally falls under his orders. I am, probably, considered as having a great force; but I always desire it to be understood, that I count the Portuguese as nothing but trouble. Ever believe, my dear lord, your most obliged
"January 2d. General Acton has just wrote me, that the French are within thirty miles of Naples, on the 30th. Marquis De Niza is prepared to burn the ships when the French get a little nearer. Mack is at Capua, with a strong force, numbers not mentioned. Dreadful weather! The great queen very ill: I fear for her.
Two causes, in a short time, particularly contributed, as it should seem, to tranquillize the mind of our hero, with regard to what he could not but consider as Sir Sidney Smith's too great assumption of authority: one of these was, the hope that his friend Captain Troubridge might effect the destruction of the transports at Alexandria before Sir Sidney's arrival; and the other, immediate information from the Earl of St. Vincent, that he was as little satisfied as Lord Nelson himself, with the business which had so deeply affected his feelings, and had therefore exerted his own power to prevent any such future occurrence. "Sir Sidney Smith," says his lordship, writing this month to Captain Ball, "from a letter he wrote the Earl of St. Vincent off Malta, has given great offence; having said, that he presumed, all the ships in the Levant being junior to him, he had a right to take them under his command. His lordship has, in consequence, given him a broad hint, and taken him handsomely down; and, to prevent any thing of the kind happening in future, he has ordered Sir Sidney to put himself immediately under my command." These great men, however, though they felt jealous of their own command, had minds superior to the retention of any continued animosity; and, when they fully understood each other, became very sincere friends. They were all equally anxious for the good of the country; for the honour of the profession; and, for their own individual reputation. Their differences consisted more in the manner than in the form and substance of the thing; and, perhaps, on the whole, Lord Nelson's excess of feeling may be regarded as having, for a time, punished both himself and Sir Sidney with far more severity than the necessity of the case, when coolly considered, could by any means render requisite.
One of the first public measures taken by his Sicilian majesty, after arriving at Palermo, was that of sending away, from the whole island of Sicily, every Frenchman it contained, of whatever description. A resolution which, if it did not originate with our hero, was too consonant with his lordship's known inveterate Antigallicanism, not to have received his hearty approbation.
The following notice, dated on board the Vanguard, 6th January 1799, was accordingly issued by Lord Nelson.
"His Sicilian Majesty having directed, that all French, of whatever description, should leave the Island of Sicily—A ship of six hundred tons, an English transport, will be ready, by to-morrow morning, to receive French emigrants; say, two hundred. She will have put on board her biscuit, salt provisions, peas, oatmeal, and the common wine of the country. As this will be an additional gratuity, on the part of the King of Great Britain, the emigrees will, if they chuse it, lay in such stock of fresh provisions, and other comforts, as they please.
"All those pensioned by Great Britain, will be received by a note from the British agent; and all those pensioned by his Sicilian Majesty, by a note from the Neapolitan agent.
"A Neapolitan corvette to be attached to this ship, to convey her to Trieste, and back again, and to receive on board such emigrees as the court shall direct. The transports and corvette out to sail as soon as possible. Their time of departure will depend on the king's order."
On occasions of this sort, no doubt, there will always be some cases of peculiar hardship; but the difficulty of discriminating between the treacherous and the sincere, among a people so excessively insidious, and the danger to be dreaded from deceit, by those who were so severely suffering it's effects, maybe considered as sufficiently justifying the measure.
Captain Troubridge, having arrived on the 5th, sailed on the 7th, with the Culloden, Theseus, Bulldog, and victuallers, for Syracuse; with orders to collect the bombs, and proceed with them and the Theseus to Alexandria, for the purpose of making a vigorous attack on the shipping in that harbour. In writing, on this subject, to the Earl of St. Vincent, Lord Nelson says—"If the thing can be done, Troubridge will do it."
Captain Louis, of the Minotaur, the present celebrated Admiral Louis, ever one of his lordship's most deservedly favourite friends, had been now ordered to command on the coast of Italy towards Leghorn: and Commodore Mitchell, of the Portuguese squadron, was directed by Lord Nelson, if he could not, by the rules of the Portuguese service—a subject which, his lordship remarked, this was not the time to enter on—put himself under that very old and respectable officer, Captain Louis; at least, to co-operate with him in the service on which he was ordered, and to remain on that service till farther orders from his lordship, or Captain Louis's consent for leaving it. In a letter of this day, to the Earl of St. Vincent, his lordship says—"Minotaur is gone to Leghorn, to endeavour to do good; and Louis will act, I am sure, for the best, as circumstances arise." This very letter, sent by Captain Hope, he thus concludes—"I must refer you, my dear lord, to Hope, who is very zealous and active." So warmly affectionate was the heart of this great and good man to all his worthy officers; and, indeed, to every deserving person under his authority.
On this day, Lord Nelson wrote no less than five public letters: that already noticed, to the Earl of St. Vincent; another, to Earl Spencer; two to Constantinople, one of them for Spencer Smith, Esq. and the other for Francis Wherry, Esq. a fourth to Commodore Duckworth; and the fifth, to the Honourable Lieutenant-General Stuart.
Besides what has been extracted from the letter to the Earl of St. Vincent, it contains the following intelligence relative to the then state of Naples—"On the 4th, the French were not at Naples; but were only sixteen miles distant, negociating with the nobles of Naples, for the exclusion of the king. The French long to give them the fraternal squeeze. Another party is for making the Duke of Parma's son, married to the king of Spain's daughter, now at Madrid, king under French protection. The lower class are the only loyal people; and they, we know, may any moment take a wrong turn. Mack is at Capua; but, it was determined, should retreat towards Salerno. On the 3d, at night, the French attempted to force the lines of Capua. They did not succeed. What occasioned their retreat, is difficult to guess; although the Neapolitan army is twenty-five thousand, and the French not eight thousand. Is not this a dream! Can it be real?"
The letter to Earl Spencer is as follows.
"Palermo, Jan. 7, 1799.
"MY DEAR LORD
"Our news from Naples has been daily from bad to worse. On the 4th, the enemy was not at Naples. There are parties, in the capital, for a republic; and another for making the Duke of Parma, who is at Madrid, king: but, I believe, the fighting party is very small. The events which have taken place in the kingdom of Naples have been so rapid and extraordinary, that it appears a dream. The king, God bless him, is a philosopher; but the great queen feels sensibly all that has happened. She begs me not to quit Palermo; for that Sir William and Lady Hamilton, and myself, are her only comforts. I shall, as is my duty, do every thing in the best manner I am able, for the honour of our country. General Stuart, from Minorca, calls for me; Mr. Windham, from Florence, does the same; and the affairs of Egypt and Malta are endeavouring to be brought to an issue. Captain Ball has done wonders; and, I trust, will soon succeed. The bombs, from Malta, go to Egypt, and are to make a vigorous attack on the shipping at Alexandria. These two points successful, will set us quite at our ease on the sea. With every sentiment of respect, believe me, your lordship's most faithful servant,
The letters to Spencer Smith, and Francis Wherry, Esqrs. contain little more than a reference to Sir Sidney Smith, as the new defender, by sea, of the Ottoman empire, and a polite termination of his lordship's public correspondence with these gentlemen.
What his lordship wrote to Commodore now Admiral Duckworth, contains so many interesting particulars, that it must necessarily be presented entire.
"Palermo, 7th Jan. 1799.
"MY DEAR SIR,
"You will have heard, by Captain Richardson, who left Naples on the 22d of December, of what had happened, to the astonishment of all Europe. It is incredible; but, such things are! I have received the notification of the force expected from Brest; and, if they do get into the Mediterranean, I am confident, they will first go to Toulon: which, when you are apprized of, I submit to your consideration, in concert with his Excellency General Stuart, the propriety of uniting our forces, at what point will be best; but, I shall be truly happy in coinciding with the general and yourself. I am well aware of the small force of the general and yourself, should an invasion of Minorca take place: but, I have a most detestable opinion of the Spanish officers and troops, and the very highest, from experience, of General Stuart; who, by his abilities, would make a bad army a good one. From the situation of affairs here, and having now got bomb-ships, I have determined to bring our matters to issue, both at Alexandria and Malta, as expeditiously as possible; for which purpose, Troubridge goes this day for Egypt, with my orders to make a vigorous attack on the ships in Alexandria. Captain Ball has, at this moment, I hope, finished with Malta. He was using the bombs, by the last account; and intended, about this time, storming the Bormola, the left side of the harbour: by which all the shipping must fall, and the French be close kept up in the town of La Vilette. I wish to send you two sail of the line, and to request your look-out upon Toulon: I am sure, it cannot be in better hands. But, our situation respecting Italy every day alters from bad to worse, so that I cannot answer for my present intentions. I have, under my command, four Portuguese ships of the line; you are most heartily welcome to them all, if you think they will be useful. I own, I consider them as nothing; except trouble in writing orders, which are intolerably executed. However, you may be assured of my ardent desire to do every thing which can render your command pleasant; and, for the security of the valuable acquisition of Minorca.
"Ever believe me, dear Sir, your faithful and obliged.
In the letter to General Stuart is a recapitulation of the affairs of Naples; with the observation that such things are, if he is not dreaming! "The conduct of the Emperor," he writes, "is to me extraordinary; the loss, at least, of his new Italian dominions, will be the natural consequence. Tuscany must drop from his family; and, whether a month sooner or later, is of little importance. You have seen the movements of Austrian armies, so have I; and found, unhappily, all their generals traders, making the most of their command, by oppressing the poor soldiers. I feel, very much, my dear general, for your situation, in the invaluable possession which your excellent judgment placed under the dominion of his majesty; and, believe me, I shall have the greatest pleasure in doing every thing you can wish me." After observing that his force is merely nominal, and repeating his intentions, as expressed to Commodore Duckworth, his lordship concludes—"The Vanguard is at Palermo, their Sicilian Majesties desiring me not to leave them; but, the moment you want me, I fly to your assistance."
The fact is, that Lord Nelson did not entertain apprehensions of any serious attack on Minorca; and, therefore, without weakening more essential service, prudently kept merely an eye to the remote possibility of such an event; nor did his lordship's judgment, on this occasion, prove to be less judicious than usual.
On the 8th, our hero received a most flattering encomium, indeed, from England; which, certainly, could not fail fully to compensate for every temporary mortification which he might have experienced. This was nothing less than an elegant complimentary and congratulatory epistle, written to his lordship by Earl Howe, expressive of that noble and illustrious veteran's high admiration of the glorious victory off the Nile. What his lordship may be supposed to have felt at the perusal of this most acceptable testimonial to his transcendent merits, cannot be more effectually impressed than by reading the following admirable answer, which he appears to have instantly written, while his heart was overflowing with gratitude.
"Palermo, 8th Jan. 1799.
"It was only this moment, that I had the invaluable approbation of the great, the immortal, Earl Howe; an honour the most flattering a sea-officer could receive, as it comes from the first and greatest sea-officer the world has ever produced. I had the happiness to command a band of brothers; therefore, night was to my advantage. Each knew his duty; and, I was sure, each would feel for a French ship. By attacking the enemy's van and centre, the wind blowing directly along their line, I was enabled to throw what force I pleased on a few ships. This plan my friends readily conceived, by the signals—for which we are principally, if not entirely, indebted to your lordship—and we always keep a superior force to the enemy. At twenty-eight minutes past six, the sun in the horizon, the firing commenced. At five minutes past ten, when L'Orient blew up, having burnt seventy minutes, the six van ships had surrendered. I then pressed forward, towards the rear; and, had it pleased God, that I had not been wounded, and stone-blind, there cannot be a doubt but that every ship would how have been in our possession. But, here, let it not be supposed, that any officer is to blame. No; on my honour, I am satisfied each did his very best! I have never, before, my lord, detailed the action to any one; but I should have thought it wrong, to have kept it from one who is our great master in naval tactics and bravery. May I presume to present my very best respects to Lady Howe, and to Lady Mary; and to beg that your lordship will believe me, ever, your most obliged
This was a rich repayment to the venerable and illustrious earl, of the exalted praise which he had so liberally transmitted our hero: praise which, however excessive, could scarcely be, on either side, too much.
On the following day, the 9th, an opportunity occurs to exhibit our incomparable hero in a new and most amiable light; the irresistible Christian advocate of humanity, pleading for the emancipation of Mahometan captives from slavery.
The ambassador, and his suite, from the Grand Signior, who had arrived at Naples, and were now at Palermo, were about to take their departure; having long since fulfilled, as was formerly described, the object of their mission, by investing our hero with the Ottoman dignities. Their return appears to have been delayed by the affairs of Naples, which would not sooner admit of a ship's being spared for their conveyance to Constantinople. The Bonne Citoyenne, however, commanded by Captain Nisbet, his lordship's son-in-law, had now the honour of that service. Accordingly, as Kelim Effendi, the Turkish ambassador, was passing, in a boat, to go on board the Bonne Citoyenne, near the Portuguese man of war, the Principe Real, then laying in the mole, several Moors and Turks called to him, from that ship, where they were confined as slaves. The ambassador immediately sent to Lord Nelson, requesting his interference in procuring their liberty; and his lordship, with all that amiable humanity which so highly distinguished his character, immediately wrote as follows to the Marquis De Niza.
"Palermo, Jan. 9th, 1799.
"MY DEAR MARQUIS,
"You have some Turkish slaves on board. I beg, as a friend—as an English admiral—as a favour to me, as a favour to my country—that you will give me the slaves. In doing this, you will oblige your faithful friend,
The marquis very handsomely gave up, instantly, all the Moors and Turks he had oh board, twenty-five in number; and they were sent, by his lordship, to the Turkish ambassador, Secretary Kelim, who took them with him to Constantinople, blessing their noble benefactor.
On the 11th, intelligence was received at Palermo, that Commodore Campbell had prematurely burned all the Neapolitan ships of war; though the French were not then at Naples, or near it: "for," says his lordship, "while an army was covering Naples, the enemy could not be considered as near taking it." Of this conduct, Lord Nelson expressed his entire disapprobation; and his Sicilian majesty was, as he had just reason to be, greatly displeased on the occasion. The commodore, however, who had evidently acted too precipitately, yet with the best intentions, being under a Portuguese commander, happily escaped the enquiry of a court-martial; to which he would undoubtedly have been subjected, had he served in the British fleet. The King and Queen of Naples, indeed, satisfied of Commodore Campbell's upright, though unadvised conduct, graciously condescended to intercede in his behalf; and Lord Nelson, shortly afterwards, though he had at first been exceedingly angry, convinced the worthy commodore that he retained not the smallest animosity, by employing him on a confidential expedition to the Bey of Tripoli.
The fate of Naples was, in truth, at this time fast approaching. The Prince General Pignatelli had signed an armistice with the French, in which the name of the King of Naples was omitted to be mentioned, who could not but entirely disapprove of such a proceeding; and the French, who were in possession of Capua, now visited Naples as a friendly place. In this situation of affairs, his lordship, though very unwell, offered to go to the Bay of Naples; but both the king and queen so earnestly pressed him not to move, that he was unable to withstand their intreaties: they were, they freely acknowledged, full of apprehensions, and had confidence in him only for their safety.
What the abilities of a Nelson might have effected, had it been possible for him to have headed, at land, the loyal Lazzaroni of Naples, is incapable of being ascertained; but no skill or valour could alone have long preserved a nation so corrupt and pusillanimous from the destruction which, by their meanness, the generality of the upper and middling classes were inviting. There wanted, only, what their subtle invaders well knew was never far distant, some plausible artifice suddenly to prevail over the simplicity of the honest but credulous vulgar, which could not fail to divert that powerful torrent, into whatever channel should most rapidly lead them to the gulph of perdition.
Without entering into the history of this war, which is neither practicable, nor requisite, on the present occasion, it may be briefly remarked—that Championet, the French general, is well known to have informed the Directory at Paris that, by means of a correspondence with the disaffected party, he should be master of Naples by the time they received the news of the capitulation of Capua—that this treachery soon becoming suspected by the Lazzaroni, who were in the royal interest, they seized all the arms; parading the streets, and vociferating the names of the king and their tutelary St. Januarius—that General Mack was regarded as a traitor; and the remains of the army which he had commanded were considered as jacobins whom French gold had corrupted—that Mack, not very unfavourably to the suspicions of the Lazzaroni, fled from them to Championet, who gave him a passport and escort to Milan; where, however, with true French protection, he was seized as a prisoner of war, by order of the Directory—that the Neapolitan army, equally terrified with their general at the menaces of the numerous Lazzaroni, deserted, to that of the French, and was in two days quite disorganized and annihilated—that the Lazzaroni, urged to fury by the escape of their prey, attacked and drove in the advanced posts of the French, and penetrated even to the line—that Prince Molliterno, who had been chosen their general, did not escape their menaces, when they found that he was entering into a negociation with Championet—that they now every where plundered and massacred the objects of their suspicions, however well or ill founded—that Prince Molliterno, and his friends, seizing on the forts, called the French to their assistance—and that, after numerous severe struggles, in which vast numbers of the French, as well as of the Lazzaroni, were slain, the latter were only finally subdued by stratagem.
In the momentary cessations from mutual slaughter, Championet offered his protection to several of the terrified inhabitants. He professed a most profound veneration for St. Januarius; and gravely invoked the all-powerful saint, for the preservation of human lives, and the restoration of peace, in the suffering city of Naples. A French guard of honour was stationed at the church of the tutelary apostle: and "Respect for Januarius," adopted as the consign of their army. The report of such sincere devotion to their favourite saint, flew with the celerity of lightning along the ranks of the Lazzaroni. "Vivent les Francais!—Vive la republique!"—"Long live the French!—Long live the republic!"—soon followed, in thundering applauses, through the lines. In short, without pursuing the various scenes of the wretched farce by which these miserable devotees of superstition were betrayed into an opinion that Championet possessed nearly as much sanctity as St. Januarius himself, and was scarcely less entitled to the adoration which many of the simple souls were now weak enough to pay him; the shouts of admiration, and of joy, universally succeeded to the shrieks of anguish, and the fearful cries of desperation; the contest was immediately brought to a close, and peace everywhere loudly proclaimed. Wonders were not wanting on the occasion—The blood of St. Januarius miraculously flowed this very evening, at the intercession of the venerable archbishop, and his pious clergy; whose devotion to the saint, appears to have far surpassed their loyalty to their sovereign: and, though a fiery eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which had been tranquil for the preceding five years, was actually seen to burst forth on the very day, the 24th of January 1799, even that ancient proof of the anger of the saint was, in the madness of the moment, considered as an additional token of his holiness's approbation! Such is the inconsistency of untutored folly, and the fate of misinstructed superstition; the power of superior cunning, and the effect of unprincipled deceit.
The concern of the good King and Queen of Naples, at the calamitous effects of these successful stratagems on the deluded people, could not fail to be excessive; and that of our indignant hero, and his estimable friends, were little inferior. The despicable frauds, by which the miserable vulgar had been ensnared, were to them abundantly manifest; but they well knew that, had they even been present, and assured the credulous creatures, that the liquification of St. Januarius's blood, and even the blaze of Mount Vesuvius—which was unaccompanied by any natural overflow of the lava—were both easily effected by a simple chemical process, and a few kindled faggots and barrels of gunpowder thrown into the crater, they would most probably have been instantly massacred for what the priests must have necessarily pronounced, for their own safety, the most blasphemous of all possible impieties.
In writing, on the 28th of January, to the Honourable Mr. Windham, at Leghorn, Lord Nelson thus foretells the fate of Tuscany, and of all the Emperor of Germany's Italian dominions. "Alas!" says his lordship, "the fancied neutrality of Tuscany will be it's downfall. You see it, and it cannot fail soon to happen. Tuscany does not, or cannot, support it's neutrality for us or Naples; only to protect the French, is this name prostituted. Seratti, who is a man of sound sense, must see it. When the emperor loses Tuscany and Naples—which, I am bold to say, the conduct of his ministry conduces to do more than the arms of the French—his newly-acquired dominions will not keep to him. Active, not passive; actions, are the only weapons to meet these scoundrels with. We can, as your excellency knows, have no desire to distress the Grand Duke by our conduct; on the contrary, it is our duty to support his royal highness against the tyranny of the French. Your excellency will be so good as to say, for me, to his royal highness, that an English ship of war shall, as long as he pleases, remain at Leghorn, ready to receive his person and family; for, unless the emperor acts speedily, the British flag will be his only security. Tuscany has the choice, to act like men, and take the chance of war; or, in a few weeks, to become another conquest of the French, and to form a new republic." Speaking of Naples, he, says—"We have heard nothing since the 19th; and, from those accounts, it is difficult to say, what turn the mob will take; at that time, they were certainly loyal. The nobility, to a man, Jacobins. Mack has disappeared, and no one knows the route he has taken." Such, it appears, was the uncertainty of the royal family of Naples, with regard to it's fate, on the 28th, at Palermo; though, in reality, it had then been already determined.
In fact, on the 25th, the following curious advertisement, for a grand Te Deum, in consequence of this desirable event, was actually published at Naples; and the archbishop, with the rest of the clergy, solemnly assured the people, that great faith, and extraordinary prayers, had induced their saint to testify his entire approbation of the measure.
"All the faithful citizens of Naples are invited to be present this day, (Friday, the 25th of January 1799,) at two in the afternoon, at the celebration of Te Deum; which the archbishop, accompanied by the chapter, the clergy, the general in chief and staff of the army of Naples, will sing in the cathedral church, to thank the Most High for the glorious entry of the French troops into this city; and who, protected in a peculiar manner by Providence, have regenerated this people, and are come to establish and consolidate our happiness. St. Januarius, our protector, rejoices in their arrival. His blood miraculously liquified on the very evening of the entry of the republican troops."
Lord Nelson, in the letter last mentioned, thus speaks of the state of Sicily—"As to this island, I cannot take upon me to say much: that they all hate the French, is certain; but, still, they feel themselves an oppressed people. On the 20th, at Augusta, a French vessel, with a hundred and forty officers and soldiers, arrived from Egypt. The boat people, and those of the town, attacked them. Eighty-seven were killed; the remainder escaped on board a Neapolitan frigate, who protected them. Sir William and Lady Hamilton, and I may add myself, are all unwell. The great queen is far from well. The king is the best of the party. As the queen is very anxious to hear of the fate of Tuscany, I shall direct Captain Louis—who, I was sure, your excellency would like—to send either Terpsichore, or this brig, back to Palermo."
In a letter of the same date to Captain now Admiral Louis, his lordship says, observing that all in the house had been ill, and were still far from well—"The air of Palermo is very bad, in my opinion." His confidence in Captain Louis, as well as in Mr. Windham, is thus strongly expressed—"You will, I am sure, my dear Sir, act in that way, which will always meet my wishes and do credit to our country. Whenever Mr. Windham tells you, that his Royal Highness the Grand Duke his no occasion for his majesty's ships, I shall be very glad to see you here; but consult with Mr. Windham, and you cannot err."
On the last day of January, Lord Nelson received, from England, official communications of the votes which had been passed by the House of Peers, the House of Commons, and the Irish House of Commons, conveying their thanks, by their respective speakers, to his lordship, his officers, and men, who fought in the battle off the Nile; which he instantly acknowledged, by most respectful answers to Lord Loughborough, the Right Honourable Henry Addington, and the Honourable John Foster.
On the same day, he also received letters from the Lord Mayor of London, the Clerk of the Drapers Company, and the Mayor of Liverpool; to which he immediately wrote, respectively, the following answers.
"Vanguard, Palermo, 31st Jan. 1799.
"I have only this day received the honour of your letter (when Lord Mayor) of the 16th October; and I beg that you will convey to the Court of Common Council my sincere gratitude for all their goodness to me; and assure them, it shall be the business of my life, to act in the manner most conducive to the prosperity of the city of London, on which depends that of our country.
"I am truly sensible of your politeness, in desiring me to say what particular devices I should wish on the sword which is to be presented to me by the city of London; but, I beg to leave that to the better judgment of my fellow-citizens. Believe me, when I assure you, that I feel myself your most faithful and obliged servant,"
"Sir William Anderson, Bart late Lord-Mayor of London.
"Vanguard, Palermo, 31st Jan. 1799.
"I have this day received your letter, conveying to me the great honour conferred upon me by the worshipful Company of Drapers of London, by presenting me with the freedom of their company. I beg you will, Sir, have the goodness to convey to the worshipful Company, how much I feel honoured by their kind notice of my services; and assure them, that it shall be the study of my life, to preserve their good opinion. Allow me, also, to thank you, for the very flattering manner in which you have executed the orders of the company. Believe me, Sir, with great respect, your much obliged and most obedient servant,"
Henry Smith, Esq. Clerk of the Drapers Company.
"Vanguard, Palermo, 31st Jan. 1799.
"I am this day favoured with your letter, conveying to me the unanimous resolution of the Common Council of Liverpool, to honour me with their thanks, and also the freedom of their town. I beg you will assure those whom, from this moment, I am to call my brother freemen, that my future exertions shall never be wanting, to approve myself worthy of the high honour conferred upon me by the representative body of the second sea-port in the kingdom; and believe me, with the highest respect, your much obliged and obedient servant,
"Thomas Leyland, Esq. Mayor of Liverpool."
The transactions of this busy day were of a nature which could not fail highly to gratify the feelings of our hero. He also received, either on this day or the following, a most kind, friendly, and highly satisfactory epistle, from the Earl of St. Vincent; the purport of which is sufficiently obvious from this answer, dated on board the Bellerophon, to which he had now shifted his flag.
"Bellerophon, Palermo, 1st Feb. 1799.
"I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 16th of January, inclosing a copy of one from Sir Sidney Smith, off Malta, with your answer; as, also, your lordship's order to take him under my command. I consider myself highly honoured by your lordship's letter, and flattered by your attention; and will order Sir Sidney Smith to put himself under my command the very first opportunity. I am, with the highest respect, my lord, your most obedient and faithful servant,
The Vanguard, and La Minerve, had just been sent to Malta; and the Bellerophon wanting a little repair, his lordship had now shifted his flag on board that ship till the Vanguard's return. He was not without hope, that Malta would soon fall; and chose rather to let Captain Ball have the credit of driving the French out, after having, as he observed, gone through "all the hard fag," than permit the Portuguese squadron, now at Messina, to participate the glory, who had been unwilling to encounter the fatigue, which his lordship had originally wished them to partake. In mentioning the Portuguese officers to the Earl of St. Vincent, he says—"As for the great commodores, their rank is as much a plague to them as it is to me. Niza is a good-tempered man. We are, apparently, the very best friends; nor have I, nor will I do an unkind thing by him." But, he had torn himself away from Malta, at the commencement, and his lordship was determined not to send him at the close.
Three letters were this day written by Lord Nelson to the Earl of St. Vincent; one of them has a conclusion so forcibly interesting, on several accounts, that it must on no account be omitted. What a picture it affords, of a contrariety of contending passions, struggling, at the same moment, in the bosom of this wonderful man; ever, as it should seem, feeling with too much energy, for the stability of it's own prolonged peace!
"All in this house have been ill, and are still. Our great queen, who truly admires you; our dear, invaluable Lady Hamilton; our good Sir William; and give me leave to add myself, to this excellent groupe; have but one opinion about you: viz. that you are every thing which is great and good. Let me say so, about Sir Sidney Smith! I thank you, most truly. My health is indeed, very indifferent; but, whilst I live, if the queen desire it, I remain for her security. No consideration of my own health shall make me abandon my honourable post, in which you have placed me. A parliament is called here: the queen has her doubts about their temper; and I have promised, under my hand, not to leave her; unless by her desire. Let me thank you, for your goodness to Captain Nisbet. I wish he may deserve it; the thought half kills me! My dear lord, there is no true happiness in this life; and, in my present state, I could quit it with a smile. May God Almighty bless you with health, happiness, and long life! is the fervent prayer of your affectionate friend,
To the intelligent reader, here is ample scope for reflection, in a very short compass. Felt gratitude, warmly expressed, to the Earl of St. Vincent, for his kind and generous attentions; lofty eulogiums of his lordship's royal and illustrious friends on the conduct of the noble earl; severe mention of his friend Sir Sidney; complaint of ill health; firm attachment to the royal family at Palermo; fearful apprehensions for a beloved son-in-law, whom he had brought tenderly up with all the anticipatory hopes of the fondest paternal affection, and for whose future conduct he seems, by some untoward circumstances, to have been now filled with all a feeling father's anxieties and alarms; and, lastly, as the consequence of defeated expectations, a desponding willingness to relinquish even life, from an experienced conviction that it affords no permanent or perfect felicity.
On the 3d, his lordship received, through the Earl of St Vincent, the thanks of the House of Peers of Ireland, to himself, and the captains, officers, seamen, and marines, of the detached squadron under his command at the battle off the Nile, and immediately returned a respectful answer by the same channel. He also wrote the following true sailor's letter to the earl, respecting Malta.
"Palermo, Feb. 3, 1799.
"MY DEAR LORD,
"The Incendiary is just come from Ball, off Malta; and has brought me information, that the attempt to storm the city of Valette had failed, from—(I am afraid, I must call it)—cowardice. They were over the first ditch, and retired, damn them! But, I trust, the zeal, judgment, and bravery, of my friend Ball, and his gallant party, will overcome all difficulty. The cutter just going off prevents my being more particular. Ever your most faithful,
"Naples is declared a republic, and the French flag flying. We are low in spirits, but all in this house love you."
His lordship should have considered, before he pronounced the above naval anathema against the Maltese, for pusillanimity, the wretched starving state of the poor fellows carcases; of this he could not be ignorant, since he had, this very day, written to Sir John Acton in their behalf. "If," says he, "six thousand salms of corn are not sent directly to Malta, the inhabitants are in that state of want, that the worst consequences for the interest of his Sicilian Majesty may be apprehended. All these poor people want is, that the king should give them six months credit; when they could make their payments, in money or cotton. The case is important, and demands instant compliance.
"The inhabitants have not seven days bread." He wrote, the day following, to his friend Captain Ball, and inclosed him a satisfactory answer just received from General Acton on the subject: adding—"This evening I saw the king; and he is exceedingly angry, to think that his faithful Maltese subjects should want for any comforts or necessaries which it is in his power to bestow." He addressed, at the same time, a seasonable letter to the deputies of the Maltese people; containing, also, a copy of General Acton's letter, with assurances of Captain Ball's protection, and his own determination to afford them every assistance in his power. In short, though his lordship execrated all appearances of cowardice, he compassionated every species of distress.
Lord Nelson, in a letter, dated the beginning of this month, addressed to Admiral then Commodore Duckworth, thus regrets the difficulty which he experiences, in consequence of having lost his right arm, with regard to writing—"I thank you, most truly, for your several very interesting letters, and beg that I may be favoured with your correspondence whenever opportunity offers. You will, I am sure, make allowance for a left-handed man; but, my inclination to write longer letters is great. I can get but slowly over the paper." This, added to the numerous avocations necessarily arising from so widely extended a command as that in which he was now engaged, will sufficiently account for any seeming neglect of continued correspondence with old friends; whom, however, he was not the man ever to forget. The truth of this observation more particularly manifests itself in the following letter written to that esteemed veteran, Captain Locker; who had sensibly felt the effect of this difficulty, though not the last to congratulate his honoured pupil on the success of his most splendid victory. This excellent letter has been repeatedly published, but it well merits to be again printed.
"Palermo, 9th Feb. 1799.
"MY DEAR FRIEND,
"I well know, your own goodness of heart will make all due allowances for my present situation; in which, truly, I have not the time, or power, to answer all the letters I receive, at the moment. But you, my old friend, after twenty-seven years acquaintance, know that nothing can alter my attachment and gratitude to you. I have been your scholar. It was you who taught me to board a Frenchman, by your conduct when in the Experiment. It is you who always hold—"Lay a Frenchman close, and you will beat him!" And my only merit in my profession is, being a good scholar. Our friendship will never end, but with my life: but, you have always been too partial to me.
"Pray tell Kingsmill, that it was impossible I could attend to his recommendation. Indeed, I had, not being a commander in chief, no power to name an agent. Remember me kindly to him.
"The Vesuvian republic being fixed, I have now to look out for Sicily: but revolutionary principles are so prevalent in the world, that no monarchical government is safe, or sure of lasting ten years.
"I beg you will make my kindest remembrances to Miss Locker, and all your good sons; and believe me, ever, your faithful and affectionate friend,
"Lieutenant-Governor Locker, Royal Hospital, Greenwich."
As the Vesuvian republic had been now formed on the ruins of the Neapolitan monarchy, under the protection of the French, and was consequently at war with Great Britain, Lord Nelson gave directions for the property of all persons who had not left this new state to be seized as lawful prize. Application was again made to the emperor; a survey taken of the island, for the purpose of ascertaining it's strength and security; and every endeavour used to obtain, during the war, a truce with Tunis and Tripoli. The opinion of Lord Nelson, with regard to the safety of Sicily, is conveyed in the following letter to Sir John Acton, Bart, expressly on that subject.
"Palermo, Feb. 11, 1799.
"MY DEAR SIR,
"I have to thank your excellency for the honour of your letter; and for sending, for my perusal, the report of various officers on the situation of this island, and of it's means of defence. Respecting an invasion of the French, in propria persona, I own, I have no alarms; for, if this island is true to itself, no harm can happen: but, I own my fears, that revolutionary principles may be sown here; and, the seasons being propitious to the growth, will produce fruit. If the emperor will not move, and save—(himself, for his throne must fall if the late measures of his councils are persisted in)—the good King, Queen, and Family of Naples, in the possession of their kingdoms; we may lament, but what must follow is certain. Having thus openly declared my general opinion, it is perfectly proper, no doubt, to be prepared for defence; and, if Calabria is occupied by the French, the first object is the preservation of Messina and the Torre del Faro. As to the other ports of the island, if the inhabitants are loyal, the French may be defied; they will not venture their carcases. But, indeed, my dear Sir, it is on the fidelity of the islanders we must depend for it's defence. When Captain Troubridge returns from Egypt, I shall have the power of having more ships on the east coast: as to Palermo, it shall never be without a proper defence in shipping from all attacks by sea; that is, from what the French have at present in the Mediterranean. In all other things, I beg that your excellency will have the goodness to assure his Sicilian Majesty, that nothing shall be wanting, on my part, for the defence of his kingdoms, and whatever can administer to his comforts; and I beg your excellency will believe with what great respect I am your most faithful and obedient servant,
The safety of Messina appearing to be the first object for the preservation of Sicily from the French, five hundred troops were immediately ordered thither by the Portuguese ships; and his lordship also urged his Excellency, the Vice-Admiral Theodore Uschakoff, who commanded the Russian fleet then before Corfu, to send as many ships and troops as possible to Messina, for the promotion of the common cause, and the good of his Sicilian Majesty in particular.
On the same day, February 15, his lordship wrote also to his Excellency Abdul Cadir Bek, Vice-Admiral of the Turkish fleet, likewise at Corfu, with a similar request for ships and troops. "Your excellency, without doubt," writes his lordship, "has heard of the melancholy news from Naples. The French, not content with having, by perfidy, declared Naples a republic, have forced a great part of Calabria to erect a Tree of Terror, which these unbelievers call of Liberty; and their emissaries are sowing the seeds of anarchy into this island, particularly at Messina." His lordship adds, that as he has several ships in Egypt, for the Grand Signior, he earnestly requests such Turkish ships and troops as can be spared, to prevent Messina's falling into the hands of the French.
On the 24th of February, Lord Nelson had the satisfaction to distribute the following sums of money, given by his Sicilian Majesty, among the several persons who assisted in conveying the Royal Family from Naples: one thousand ounces of silver to the officers, seamen, and marines, of his Britannic Majesty's ship the Vanguard, as a mark of the king's approbation of their conduct during the time he was on board; one hundred ounces to each of the two barges crews who brought off the royal family from the palace; one hundred ounces to the admiral's servants; and one hundred ounces to the barge's crew of the Alcmene. The thousand ounces for the several persons on board the Vanguard were thus apportioned, by his lordship's directions—The wardroom, one hundred ounces; twenty-seven gentlemen of the quarter-deck, and warrant-officers, four ounces each; five hundred and seventy-nine seamen and marines, one and one-third of an ounce each; twenty-six boys, half an ounce each; and a surplus of seven ounces, to be expended for general use.
While Lord Nelson was busily exerting himself for the security of Messina, as the key to the island of Sicily, the masters of English merchant vessels at Palermo were impatient for convoy, that they might convey their cargoes to Leghorn. On the hazard of visiting a place so critically situated, he felt it his duty strongly to remonstrate; and, aware how often danger is disregarded, where the loss is to fall on underwriters, he even suggested the impropriety of thus incurring risks which could not possibly be in the contemplation of the parties at the time of effecting the insurances, before he gave his reluctant consent for their departure.
This great man was indifferent to nothing by which either national or individual honour might be affected. A just sense of Lord Nelson's services, in this respect, has probably contributed, in no slight degree, to the extreme popularity of that most laudable institution for the relief of suffering seamen and marines, and their distressed families, so happily commenced and continued by the Committee at Lloyd's. Nor is, perhaps, the idea very chimerical, when we reflect on the magnitude of the contributions, which looks forward to a possible permanent establishment, at no distant day, on this very basis; in which the voluntary subscriptions of benevolent and opulent individuals shall almost vie, in the extent of it's charity to this meritorious class of society, whose services can alone preserve the united kingdom and it's extended commerce in full security, with the grand and munificent public endowment which so nobly adorns our country at Greenwich: to which, also, some national augmentation might, with much propriety, be at the same time made; not only to keep pace with the increase of our navy, but to afford an equally needful asylum for those deserving and greatly exposed auxiliaries, the unfortunate and superannuated Royal Marines. A sight of such noble institutions, with suitable pictures and statues of naval heroes and their glorious atchievements, in which Lord Nelson and his transcendent actions must for ever stand pre-eminently conspicuous, would far surpass, in genuine grandeur, perhaps, and certainly in rational and philosophical contemplation, the loftiest and most stupendous pillar or pyramid ever raised by human art and industry, for little other purpose than to attract the gaze of profitless admiration, with the vain attempt of mocking the powers of tempests and of time, by which the proudest of these trophied monuments must necessarily be bowed to subjection, and finally crumbled into dust. The solitary hermitage, which shelters a single hoary head, is more interesting to the feeling heart than the proudest display of barren pomp that neither rises over the tomb of departed worth nor affords any living mortal a comfortable habitation. The grand naval pillar, to commemorate the battle off the Nile, for which a large sum was some years since subscribed, without any previously decided plan, and which is said to be still undisposed of, if employed in erecting a respectable edifice for the residence of those brave veterans by whom that battle was fought, and such of their successors, for ever, as should live to find such a residence desirable, might be so constructed and endowed, with the money contributed, as to afford a higher satisfaction to the subscribers; a superior, and perpetually renewable, memorial of the event; and a far more gratifying object of contemplation, even for such of the brave heroes who may never need such a sanctuary; than the loftiest and most embellished obelisk that human ingenuity can ever devise, or human industry execute. This is a subject on which the author could with pleasure dilate; and the promotion of which he would gladly assist, in every way, with all his slender abilities: but, at present, it is an agreeable reverie, in which he feels that he must no longer indulge.
He will, however, transcribe one of Lord Nelson's letters written on the subject which led to this digression, as a satisfactory proof of his lordship's attention to the mercantile interests of his country in that respect, and at this particular period.
"Palermo, 25th Feb. 1799.
"I have received your letter of the 23d. I can assure you, I have always the greatest pleasure in paying attention to the representations of the masters of merchant ships; who, at this distance, act for their owners in Great Britain. I can have no difficulty in granting you a convoy to Leghorn; but it is my duty to again point out to you the expressions of Mr. Windham's several letters, and the request of the English factory at Leghorn to Captain Louis: and, at the same time, you must be sensible that an English man of war cannot always lay in the neutral port; and I expect, that the Minotaur is now on her passage to join me. If, under all these circumstances, you still persist in going to Leghorn, I will grant a convoy to that port as soon as possible. You cannot, of course, expect that, when all the knowledge you have, here, of the situation of Tuscany, is known in London, that the underwriters, or myself, can in the smallest degree be answerable for what may happen to your ships or cargoes. I can only again assure you of my readiness to afford you all the protection possible, compatible with the other important duties entrusted to me; and that I am, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
"To the Masters of the English Ships in the Port of Palermo."
To this it may be sufficient to add that, on their persisting in a desire to sail, he granted them the convoy; repeating, in another letter, "but still with the reservation for the underwriters and myself, as I think the case requires." He also wrote to Mr. Windham, informing that gentleman of the necessity which he had felt himself under to comply with their desire; and requesting him to acquaint Captain Derby, whom he sent on that service, in the Bellerophon, whether he might with safety leave them at Leghorn. If not, his lordship observed, the signal should be made for convoy; and those who chose to quit a place of danger might be brought back, with the comfort of having lost the present convoy for England. However, he adds, it is his duty, and it is his inclination too, to do every thing for the protection of our commerce consistently with the other important duties required of him. Captain Derby was directed, should circumstances require, to wait a reasonable time for such of the merchant ships as might have perishable cargoes on board, to enable them to dispose of them.
In the letter to Mr. Windham above quoted, his lordship says, alluding to the cruelties of the French, who were then over-running Italy—"Your excellency's account of the treatment of his Royal Highness the Grand Duke, of the King of Sardinia, and of the poor old Pope, makes my heart bleed; and I curse, in the bitterness of my grief, all those who might have prevented such cruelties!"
It will be recollected, that the venerable Pope Pius VI, who had been seized and carried off by the French, and whose fate Lord Nelson thus feelingly commiserates, as if anticipatory of the event, was at the period of being thus forced from Rome in his eighty-second year; and that his holiness expired, at Valence, on the 19th of August following, after a captivity of six months: his body being consumed, by unslacked lime thrown into the grave, to prevent it's receiving, at any future period, the honours which might be esteemed due to a modern martyr; who, perhaps, possessed equal piety and resignation, with many holy sufferers of ancient times, for a like rigid adherence to the Christian religion, who have been canonized by the Roman Catholic church.
On the last day of February, the 28th, Lord Nelson sent instructions to his friend Captain Ball, at Malta, to preside over the meetings of the Maltese people: their deputies having represented to Sir William Hamilton and his lordship, that he had, by his address, frequently united the jarring interests of the different chiefs, at their distracted councils, and that they were therefore desirous of his future assistance; which was, also, the wish of his Sicilian Majesty. Captain Ball, therefore, was vested with full power to leave his ship in charge of the first-lieutenant, directing him how to proceed, and to be on shore whenever he should deem it necessary, either to attend such meetings, or assist the Maltese army; his lordship observing that, though neither Sir William Hamilton nor himself had power to grant any salary for the extraordinary expences he must thus necessarily incur, it would be proper to keep an account of them, that it might be represented to his majesty's ministers in England, and the amount allowed him.
At the beginning of March, Lord Nelson was made a citizen of Palermo; which the court thought might have a good effect, by shewing the attachment of the English hero to the royal family. This, with other information, is more particularly mentioned in the following letter to Earl Spencer, which appears to have been written immediately on Captain Nisbet's return from Constantinople with La Bonne Citoyenne, bringing several important dispatches.
"Vanguard, Palermo, 6th March 1799.
"MY DEAR LORD,
"I send you a copy of the Turkish admiral's letter to me, from Corfu; also, one from the Emperor of Russia: and one from Sir Sidney Smith, those parts of which, that are ministerial, are—I doubt not—very proper; but, indeed, my dear lord, those parts of Sir Sidney's letter which, as a captain of a man of war to an admiral commanding the squadron in the Levant, are not so respectful as the rules of our service demands from the different ranks in it. No man admires Sir Sidney's gallantry and zeal more than myself; but he should recollect, how I must feel, on seeing him placed in the situation which I thought naturally would fall to me. You may be assured, that I shall take care and arrange proper plans with the Porte for the service of Egypt, and shall support Sir Sidney to the utmost of my power. It is matter of regret, that no squadron of Turks and Russians are yet gone to Egypt; for, I want all our ships for Malta, Sicily, Naples, and Leghorn: and my only wish is, that the Turks and Russians would take care of all the French to the east of Malta. Our situation here is quiet; but who can say, if the French get into our neighbourhood, that we shall remain so? In Calabria, the people have cut down the Tree of Liberty; but I shall never consider any part of the kingdom of Naples safe, or even Sicily, till I hear of the emperor's entering Italy: when all my ships shall go into the Bay of Naples, and I think we can make a revolution against the French; at least, my endeavours shall not be wanting. I hope to go on the service myself, but I have my doubts if the King and Queen will consent to my leaving them for a moment. A few days past, I was presented, in due form, with the freedom of the city of Palermo in a gold box, and brought upon a silver salver. I have endeavoured so to conduct myself, as to meet the approbation of all classes in this country, and I hope to be equally fortunate in meeting your lordship's. A ship is in sight, from Malta. I shall keep this letter open till her arrival; but I do not expect any thing particularly good. The blockade must continue, to the end of the chapter; for neither Maltese, nor Italians, will fight by themselves. Ever your lordship's faithful, and obedient,
"P.S. I send your lordship copies of Captain Ball's letters from Malta. It is not for me to judge the propriety of Captain Ball's plans; but, I can assure you, he is a man of great judgment and abilities, and ought to have a recompence for all his expence and trouble."
The letters of Captain Ball principally related to taking men into British pay; those of the Turkish and Russian admirals, from Corfu, were highly satisfactory, giving assurances of all possible assistance; and that from the Emperor Paul of Russia, congratulatory of the glorious victory of the Nile, was in the highest degree flattering, and accompanied by the emperor's picture, in a box magnificently set with diamonds. His lordship, however, learned that Corfu, though daily expected to fall, had not yet surrendered; and that Le Genereux unfortunately escaped the vigilance of the blockading squadrons, on the 5th of February. From Constantinople, he received the agreeable information that the Grand Signior had ordered ten thousand Albanese troops to Sicily; but Sir Sidney Smith's letters, luckily blending his naval and ministerial characters, so outraged Lord Nelson's nice sense of propriety, that it renewed all those keen sensations of inquietude which had been so recently tranquilized in our hero's breast.
This circumstance produced the following letter to Sir Sidney Smith; which serves to shew that his lordship, though displeased on the occasion, was not altogether unjust in requiring better future discrimination.
"Vanguard, Palermo, 8th March 1799.
"I have received your letters of January the 23d, February 6th, 10th, and 23d. Your situation as Joint-Minister at the Porte, makes it absolutely necessary that I should know who writes to me: therefore, I must direct you, whenever you have ministerial affairs to communicate, that it is done jointly with your respectable brother, and not mix naval business with the other; for, what may be very proper language for a representative of majesty, may be very subversive of that dicipline of respect from the different ranks in our service. A representative may dictate to an admiral, a captain of a man of war would be censured for the same thing: therefore, you will see the propriety of my steering close between the two situations. I have sent you my orders, which your abilities as a sea-officer will lead you to punctually execute. Not a ship more than the service requires shall be kept on any particular station; and that number must be left to my judgment, as an admiral commanding the squadron detached by the commander in chief to the extent of the Black Sea. I shall, of course, keep up a proper communication with the Turkish and Russian admirals, which net captain of a man of war under my orders must, interfere in. I am, Sir, your very humble servant,
"Sir William Sidney Smith."
The above epistle, which was accompanied by a regular order, dated the preceding day, for Sir William Sidney Smith, captain of his majesty's ship Le Tigre, to put himself under Lord Nelson's command may certainly be considered as sufficiently severe; and, it is probable, his lordship was of that opinion: but he judged it necessary, for his own comfort thus plainly to deliver his sentiments, however painful the task, that he might escape any repetitions of what must continue to excite unpleasant feelings.
On this day, too, Lord Nelson wrote to Captain Ball, from whom he had received letters which gave hopes of a speedy termination to his long and arduous labours. The deputies lately arrived from Malta had solicited supplies of arms, ammunition, and money, from his Sicilian Majesty; and their application, it will appear, had not proved in vain. Money, cloathing, &c. Lord Nelson informs Captain Ball, are difficult to be got; however, some will be sent. "You will," he adds, "receive seven thousand ounces, which the king confides in you to dispose of to the best advantage. Whenever the French are driven out, you are certainly fitted for the station of chief, and I should suppose his Sicilian Majesty could have no objection to give you the proper appointments. You are sure, I shall do every thing that is in my power, for your honour and benefit. Having said this, I will finish, for I am tired to death with writing." His lordship, however, does not conclude without observing that he trusts to nothing but his blockade for the reduction of Malta; that there is yet no news of the emperor's movements, but move he must; that all the lower order of the kingdom of Naples are ready to take arms against the French; that ten thousand Albanese are near Messina; and that ten thousand Russians are on that side Constantinople, for the same destination, besides the Russian army passing the Tyrol. "Apropos," he at length concludes, "the Emperor of Russia has sent me his picture, in a magnificent box; but, this shall not prevent my keeping a sharp look out on his movements against the good Turk."
Part of the money mentioned in this letter, as well as of the arms, ammunition, &c. requested by the deputies, and three of the deputies themselves, were conveyed, in La Bonne Citoyenne, by Captain Nisbet, to Malta, in his return to Constantinople; who was charged with dispatches for Sir Sidney Smith, Spencer Smith, Esq. his brother, and his Excellency Constantine Upsilanti, at the Ottoman court. The remainder of the arms, ammunition, stores, and money, with the other three deputies, were sent to Malta by Captain Gage in the Terpsichore: who was afterwards to deliver a letter from Lord Nelson to his Sardinian Majesty, at Cagliari in Sardinia; to call at Minorca, for any dispatches which Commodore Duckworth might have for the Earl of St. Vincent; and, finally, to join the commander in chief at Gibraltar, or wherever else the earl might happen to be.
On the 10th of March, General Sir Charles Stuart arrived at Palermo, with the thirtieth and eighty-ninth regiments; who immediately departed for Messina. This, his lordship observes, in a letter to Mr. Windham, a few days afterwards, would not only save that important place from all danger, but had already acted like an electrical shock over the whole island, and must extend it's influence to Naples.
With abundant address, at this period, Lord Nelson offered himself as a mediator between the Bey of Tunis and Bashaw of Tripoli, and his Sicilian Majesty and the Queen of Portugal: for which purpose, he wrote to Perkin Magra, Esq. the British consul at Tunis, as well as to the bey himself; and to the Bashaw of Tripoli, as well as to Simon Lucas, Esq. Consul-General at that court Mrs. Magra, and her family, it appears, were then residing in the hospitable mansion of Sir William Hamilton, as well as his lordship; for he says, writing to the consul, and mentioning his lady and family, "they will give you all the chit-chat of the place. Lady Hamilton is so good to them, that they in truth require nothing from me; but, whenever they think it right to go to Tunis, a ship of war shall carry them."
On the 17th, Captain Troubridge and Captain Hood arrived with the squadron from Egypt, where every endeavour to destroy the transports at Alexandria proved quite ineffectual. The French had, after the departure of Lord Nelson, very strongly fortified all the points of the harbour; and the transports could not be destroyed by shells, as all the mortars burst, and six fireships were lost in a gale of wind. This was a mortifying circumstance to our hero, and it did not come unaccompanied. Captain Troubridge was the bearer of Sir Sidney Smith's dispatches; which, with their usual fatality, again offended his lordship in one of the nicest points. The cause, and the effect, will at once be seen in the following most peremptory epistle.
"Vanguard, Palermo, 18th March 1799.
Captain Troubridge arrived here last evening: and, as he has delivered to me all the papers he received from you, amongst which I see a form of a passport; and Captain Troubridge tells me, that it was your intention to send into Alexandria, that all French ships might pass to France—now, as this is in direct opposition to my opinion; which is, never to suffer any one individual Frenchman to quit Egypt; I must, therefore, strictly charge and command you, never to give any French ship, or man, leave to quit Egypt. And I must also desire, that you will oppose, by every means in your power, any permission which may be attempted to be given by any foreigner, admiral, general, or other person; and you will acquaint those persons, that I shall not pay the smallest attention to any such passport after your notification: and you are to put my orders in force, not on any pretence to permit a single Frenchman to leave Egypt. Of course, you will give these orders to all the ships under your command. As I am very, anxious for the return of the Emma polacre, I have to request that you will not detain her more than two hours. As I shall hope to have a constant communication with you, through the means of the Turkish or Russian admirals, all letters for your squadron, I shall direct to be left in the Vanguard.
"I am, Sir, your very humble servant,
"Sir William Sidney Smith, Captain of his Majesty's ship Le Tigre."
Not even the judicious plan which his lordship was now busily engaged in arranging for the recovery of Naples, with all the other objects of his incessant care, could divert his attention from that grand object, the entire destruction of the French armament sent to Egypt. He had just received information of the, surrender of Corfu; and, about this time, a very elegant and flattering letter had been written to his lordship by the King of Sardinia, full of gratitude for the protection of the British flag in conveying him from Leghorn. In writing to the Earl of St. Vincent, after mentioning these subjects, with the return of Captain Troubridge's squadron from Egypt, he observes that it is his intention to send a small squadron, under that commander, into the Bay of Naples, "I wish, first," says his lordship, "to take the Island of Procida, which will secure a tolerable anchorage, and effectually blockade Naples. It must, also, have the effect of preventing the French from detaching any troops from Naples to to the provinces, who are all loyal. The court tells me, that twelve thousand Russians, and fifteen thousand Turks, are ready to cross the Adriatic, to land in the kingdom of Naples. If so, our squadron will create a powerful diversion." Having stated the reasons which have been seen for Captain Troubridge's failure at Alexandria, he adverts to Sir Sidney, who has now the blockade of that place. "I send you," says his lordship, "copies of my letters to him; for the victory of the Nile would, in my opinion, be useless, if any ship, or Frenchman, is suffered to return to Europe. I hope you will approve of my conduct; for, as a captain to an admiral, either Sir Sidney Smith, or myself, must give way. Bonaparte is at Cairo, not more than sixteen thousand strong. He must and will fall, sooner or later, if Sir Sidney Smith does not allow him to retreat by sea. As to myself, I am, at times, ill at my ease: but, it is my duty to submit; and, you may be sure, I shall not quit my post, without absolute necessity. If the emperor moves, I hope yet to return the royal family to Naples. At present, I cannot move; would the court but let me, I should be better: for, here, I am writing from morn to eve; therefore, you must excuse this jumble of a letter."
Neither of these letters, however, mention the very important circumstance of Captain Troubridge's having intercepted Bonaparte's dispatches, on his way to Constantinople; which is contained in the following communication to his Excellency the Honourable William Windham, for the purpose of having that satisfactory intelligence transmitted to England. This letter, as well as other dispatches of the 21st, to Mr. Windham, was written on board the Culloden; into which ship Lord Nelson had shifted his flag, having that day sent Captain Hardy to Tripoli with the Vanguard.
"Culloden, Palermo, 22d March 1799.
"MY DEAR SIR,
The ambassador of Bonaparte being intercepted by my friend Troubridge, on his way to Constantinople, among other articles of his instructions, is a very important one; viz. an offer to enter on terms for his quitting Egypt, with his army. This offer is what I have long expected the glorious battle of the Nile would produce; but it was my determination, from that moment, never, if I could help it, to permit a single Frenchman to quit Egypt. Captain Sir William Sidney Smith, who has the present command of the squadron off Alexandria, I have reason to believe, thinks differently from me, and will grant passports for that part of the French army which God Almighty permits to remain. I have, therefore, thought it highly proper to send Captain Sir Sidney Smith the order of which I transmit a copy; for, I consider it nothing short of madness, to permit that band of thieves to return to Europe. No! to Egypt they went, with their own consent: and there they shall remain, whilst Nelson commands this detached squadron; for never, never, will he consent to the return of one ship or Frenchman.
"I beg your excellency will take the earliest opportunity of sending this important information, and a copy of my letter to Captain Sir Sidney Smith, to England; and ever believe me, with the greatest respect, your obliged and faithful servant,
On the 25th of March, Lord Nelson says, in a letter to Captain Ball, dated at Palermo—"Now, my dear friend, Captain Nisbet is appointed to the Thalia, a very fine frigate, and I wish he may do credit to himself, and in her. Will you do me the favour of keeping her, and sending me La Minerve; for I want Cockburne, for service of head. As soon as Captain Barker's surveys, &c. are over, make one of the small craft bring him here. I have sent Vanguard to Tripoli, to scold the bashaw. Tunis behaves well. As Corfu has surrendered, I hope Malta will follow the example very soon. I am not well; but keep rubbing on, from day to day. God bless you; finish the business as soon as you can."
Captain Dunn, in the Thalia, for Captain Nisbet, was the bearer of the above letter with other dispatches to Captain Ball; and Captain Maling took his passage in the Thalia, to supercede Captain Nisbet in La Bonne Citoyenne. Captain Dunn went to supercede Captain Barker in the Incendiary; on his appointment to the Barfleur; and he was required to join Lord Nelson by the very first opportunity, being wanted to go down the Mediterranean.
This day, too, his lordship wrote congratulatory letters to the Russian and Turkish admirals, on the surrender of Corfu; and invited them, respectively, to co-operate with him in placing the good King and Queen of Naples again on their throne in the capital of that kingdom. To Speridion Foresti, Esq. the consul at Corfu, Lord Nelson wrote, also, the following very flattering encomiums, in a letter which contains some additional reasons for his lordship's complaint with regard to Sir Sidney Smith.