The Life of Nelson, Vol. II. (of 2) - The Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain
by A. T. (Alfred Thayer) Mahan
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AUGUST, 1799—JUNE, 1800.

Nelson left in temporary command His disposition of the squadron Made Duke of Bronte in Sicily His hopes of remaining in command disappointed His discontent Energy and tact in exercising command Affairs in Rome and Naples Nelson visits Minorca His anxiety about Malta Portuguese squadron recalled to Lisbon.—Nelson's action Characteristics of his intercourse with foreign officials Urgency with army to support blockade of La Valetta Partial success in this Successes on the Continent of the Coalition against France Subsequent blunders and disasters Nelson's mortification at Bonaparte's escape to France The French defeat the Turks at Aboukir Nelson peremptorily forbids Sidney Smith to allow any French to leave Egypt Smith nevertheless countenances the Convention of El Arish His action disallowed by Keith and Nelson Nelson's vivid expressions of disapproval Nelson joins Keith at Leghorn They visit Palermo and Malta together Capture of "Le Genereux," 74, by Nelson's division Nelson's relations with Keith, and bearing towards him Keith orders Nelson to take personal charge off Malta Nelson's annoyance and remonstrance His restiveness under Keith's command He returns from Malta to Palermo The "Guillaume Tell," 80, captured in his absence Displeasure of the Admiralty at his quitting his station Letters of the First Lord Nelson's soreness under them He applies for leave to return to England



JUNE, 1800—JANUARY, 1801.

Nelson escorts the Queen of Naples to Leghorn with two British ships-of-the-line Keith's displeasure Nelson at Leghorn Austrians defeated at Marengo Nelson and the Hamiltons leave Leghorn for Ancona Journey to Trieste and Vienna Enthusiasm shown towards Nelson by the people Mention of him and Lady Hamilton by eye-witnesses Anecdotes of him His meeting with the Archduke Charles at Prague Mrs. St. George's account of him at Dresden Her disparaging mention of Lady Hamilton Arrival of the party in England Lady Nelson's attitude at this time Her letters to Nelson His reception and conduct in London Growing estrangement between him and Lady Nelson Anecdote of his visit to Fonthill Final breach with Lady Nelson Her blameless character, and subsequent life Nelson's testimony to her conduct Hoists his flag on board the "San Josef" at Plymouth Birth of the child Horatia Nelson's care to conceal his relations with Lady Hamilton




Origin of the trouble between Great Britain and Denmark The entrance of the Czar Paul into the quarrel Renewal of the Armed Neutrality of 1780 Relations of Bonaparte to this event Nelson joins the fleet under Sir Hyde Parker, at Yarmouth Relations between him and Parker Nelson's disapproval of the plans for the expedition Evident change in his general disposition Anecdote of Nelson and the turbot The fleet collected off the Skaw Parker's slowness and Nelson's impatience Alarming reports of the Danes' preparations Nelson's attitude and counsels Accuracy of his judgment of the conditions Tact and discretion in his dealings with Parker His letter to Parker upon the general situation Parker's indecision Nelson's plans adopted The fleet passes the Sound Detail and discussion of Nelson's plan of operations His feelings and speech in the Council of War Nelson's division anchors south of Copenhagen Nelson on the night before the battle The Danish dispositions for defence Nelson's Plan of Attack—Detail and discussion The Battle of Copenhagen Parker makes the signal to leave off action Nelson refuses to repeat it Discussion of this incident Incidents of the battle Nelson addresses a letter to the Crown Prince under a flag of truce Characteristic anecdote Discussion of the sending of the flag of truce The battle discontinued Nelson removes his ships Completeness of his success Merit of his conduct throughout He is advanced in the peerage to be a Viscount No other rewards, or medals, bestowed for this action Negotiations intrusted to Nelson by Parker The murder of the Czar Paul Armistice for fourteen weeks concluded with Denmark Qualified approval of the British Government The British fleet enters the Baltic Nelson's ardor and personal recklessness.—Anecdote Parker's sluggishness of action.—Nelson's impatience Russia intimates her purpose to abstain from hostilities Nelson's controversy with the Danish Commodore Fischer Parker ordered home, and Nelson left in command Dissatisfaction of the latter His longing to return to Lady Hamilton He insists upon being relieved, on account of his health He starts at once with the fleet for Revel Displeasure manifested by the Czar Alexander Nelson withdraws from Revel to Rostock The Czar thereupon raises the embargo on British merchant ships Nelson's elation over this result of his conduct Details of his life on board His avoidance of social relations outside the ship Relieved by Admiral Pole, and returns to England




Nelson's longing for repose His services immediately required again His reluctant consent Bonaparte's threats of invasion Inadequacy of British preparations for coast-defence Nature of British apprehensions in 1801 Nelson's Memoranda for the Defence of the Thames Analysis and discussion of this paper St. Vincent's sagacious views on national defence Apparent divergence between him and Nelson Nelson hoists his flag again His tact and courtesy towards others Activity of his movements Satisfied that there can be no invasion Boat attack upon the vessels before Boulogne Its disastrous failure Nelson's distress His exasperation at being kept afloat His alienation from Troubridge Annoyances of his situation Death of Commander Parker.—Nelson's grief His liberality in money matters Pecuniary embarrassments Signature of the preliminaries of peace Nelson's satisfaction at the prospect of release His indignation at the excessive elation of others Receives leave of absence and goes home



OCTOBER, 1801—MAY, 1803.

Nelson makes his home with the Hamiltons His letter of final severance to his wife His relations to his stepson, Josiah Nisbet Desire to have a home of his own Lady Hamilton selects Merton for him The purchase effected, and the Hamiltons reside with him Position of Sir William and of Lady Hamilton in the house Differences between them Minto's account of the household at Merton Reminiscence of the same by Nelson's nephew Incident narrated by Lieutenant Layman Recollections of Nelson by the vicar's daughter Nelson's strong religious sense of Divine Providence Takes his place in the House of Lords His controversy about rewards for the Battle of Copenhagen His action justified Nelson's warm and avowed sympathy with his followers His consistent maintenance of the ground assumed His interest in public questions Dissatisfaction with the general conduct of the Admiralty His sense of neglect Embarrassment in money matters Inadequacy of his pension to his services His doubts as to the continuance of peace His antagonism to Bonaparte illustrated Speech in seconding the address to the throne Designated for the Mediterranean in case of war Volunteers his services Hoists his flag in the "Victory," and sails Breaks in his home-ties during this period Death of his father Death of Sir William Hamilton Hamilton's expressed confidence in Nelson Relations of Nelson's family to Lady Nelson and to Lady Hamilton



MAY, 1803—JANUARY, 1805.

Changed political conditions in the Mediterranean Attitude of the Great Powers Situation of Spain and Portugal Policy of the Italian States Nelson's sense of the importance of the Mediterranean Bonaparte's policy The course advocated by Nelson Accuracy of his general forecast Impatience to reach his station Unwilling detention off Ushant Quits the "Victory," and proceeds in a frigate Momentary stop in Gibraltar Arrival at Malta Extensive correspondence Policy as regards the Two Sicilies His impatience with blind observance of orders Departure from Malta for Toulon Emotions at the sight of Naples Opinion on Malta's value to England Strategic importance of Malta and Gibraltar Nelson joins the fleet before Toulon Bad condition of the ships His skilful administration of the fleet Difficulty of obtaining supplies His attitude towards Spain Importance of Sardinia in Nelson's eyes The valuable anchorage at Madalena Station taken by him off Toulon Fears loss of Sardinia, and serious consequences Significance of Napoleon's inactivity in the Mediterranean The winter rendezvous of the fleet.—Number Seamanlike care of ships and spars Preserves health of seamen by constant activity Sanitary conditions of the fleet His personal health, and anxieties Fears a break-down Speculations as to French intentions Characteristic distrust of Frenchmen Increasing perplexities Firmness of his resolution The French manoeuvre outside Toulon Nelson's tactical conclusions and arrangements His care to impart his ideas to his officers Methods of intercourse with them Exasperation at a statement of Latouche Treville Endeavors to force or to lure the French to sea Effect of worry upon his mind His last promotion.—Vice-Admiral of the White Wearing effect of protracted monotony Refuses to let Lady Hamilton join him The daily life on board Account of Nelson's health and habits Occupations in business hours Diplomatic ability and conciliatory temper Sharp reply to remonstrance about blockades Difficulties with Algiers Nelson's diligent pursuit of information Interest in listening to conversations Examination of foreign journals and captured letters Kindliness in intercourse with others Exercise of official patronage Protection of British trade Want of frigates and small cruisers Collection and protection of convoys Nelson applies for sick leave Desire to return to the station afterwards Leave is granted by the Admiralty The Mediterranean Station divided Sir John Orde given the portion west of Gibraltar Nelson's dissatisfaction and complaints His change of mind about going home Learns Cornwallis's order to seize Spanish treasure-ships Directs captains under his orders not to obey Letter illustrative of the characteristics of his orders Adequacy of his measures to the requirements of the case Determines not to use his leave of absence Orde arrives off Cadiz Indications of the French fleet leaving Toulon Nelson receives word of the seizure of Spanish ships Promptness of his measures.—Reasons therefor Rumors of French departure Annoyances caused Nelson by Orde The mission of the frigate "Amazon" Nelson's hope of meeting the French fleet Opinions on general subjects Sympathetic insight into Bonaparte's purposes The French fleet sails from Toulon




Object of Napoleon's combinations in 1805 Details of his plan Nelson's share in thwarting it The difficulties of one dealing with Napoleon Nelson's guiding principle The sailing of the Toulon fleet Nelson's movements and perplexities Goes to Alexandria Returns to Gulf of Palmas, Sardinia British disasters in Western Mediterranean Characteristic letter of Nelson in behalf of an officer Explanations to the Admiralty about his own course Makes a round off Toulon and Barcelona to deceive the enemy Returns to the Gulf of Palmas The Toulon fleet sails again Its movements and those of Nelson Distress and misfortunes of the latter Learns that the French fleet has passed the Straits Thoroughness and sagacity of his measures Continued head winds and distress of mind The excitement in London Gloom at the Admiralty Nelson's constancy against bad fortune Hears that the French and Spaniards are gone to the West Indies Determines to follow them there Sails in pursuit Incidents of the voyage Arrives in Barbadoes Misled by false information Rapid measures to retrieve the mis-step Infers that the enemy have returned to Europe He starts back immediately for Gibraltar His judgments rapid, but not precipitate Strength of his convictions Relief from the anxiety previously felt Movements of the allies and of Nelson Precautions of the latter His own explanation of his reasons Discussion of this utterance Indecisive engagement between the allies and Sir Robert Calder Alarm in London at the failure of the latter Nelson's protracted pursuit and mental depression Reaches the Straits again Appreciation of his action by others Exchange of views between Nelson and Collingwood Movements of Villeneuve, Calder, and Nelson Nelson's arrival in Gibraltar Subsequent rapid movements Learns the news brought by the "Curieux" Starts at once for the northward Joins the Channel Fleet off Ushant Leaves his squadron with Cornwallis, and proceeds to England Anchors at Spithead His sympathy with Calder Tenacity of his opinions




Nelson hauls down his flag and goes to Merton Interviews with the Admiralty His one meeting with Wellington Interview with Lord Castlereagh Popular demonstrations of affection Home life at Merton Presentiments Intimations of early summons into service News arrives that the combined fleets are in Cadiz Determination of the British Government Nelson's opinion on the License System His services requested by the Government Lady Hamilton's part in his decision It is settled that he return to the Mediterranean His health and spirits His insistence upon the need for numbers Final departure from home Flag re-hoisted on board the "Victory" Anecdote of Nelson and the gypsy




Popular demonstrations when Nelson embarked The passage to Cadiz Precautions to deceive the enemy His reception by the officers of the fleet The "Plan of Attack" of May, 1805 The "Nelson Touch" Discussion and comparison of these two papers Comparison between the second and the Battle of Trafalgar, as fought Nelson and Sir Robert Calder Nelson's concession to Calder, and his own comments upon it His disposition of the fleet before Cadiz His fear lest the enemy should evade him Growing presentiments, and cheerful calmness Anecdote showing his considerateness Necessity for sending away a detachment Numbers of the British, and of the allies in Cadiz Nelson's general intentions, made known to his subordinates The enemy begins to leave Cadiz



OCTOBER 19-21, 1805.

Numbers and composition of the opposing fleets Difficulties of the allies in leaving port Respective movements of the two fleets Nelson's last letter to Lady Hamilton His last letter to his child Events and incidents of October 20 Relative positions of the fleets at midnight Conditions at daybreak of the 21st The manoeuvres of the two fleets Nelson's intercourse with Blackwood on the 21st He bequeaths Lady Hamilton and Horatia to the care of his Country The hostile fleets forming for battle Nelson's impatience to close the enemy The anxiety of others for his personal safety The order of the allies while awaiting attack Nelson's last prayer as entered in his journal The origin and development of his famous signal The battle opens The "Victory" comes under fire Nelson bids Blackwood a final farewell Exposure and loss of life on board the "Victory" The "Victory" breaks the enemy's line Her duel with the "Redoutable" Nelson falls, mortally wounded The death-scene in the cockpit The decisive hour of the battle The second and closing phase of the battle Nelson's anxiety about Hardy Hardy's first visit to his death-bed The final exchange of shots Hardy's second visit and Nelson's farewell The last moments The death of Nelson The close of the fight The significance of Nelson's life The perfect fulfilment of his life's work




AUGUST, August 1799—JUNE, 1800. AGE, 41.

Upon Keith's departure, the command in the Mediterranean devolved upon Nelson, who for some time remained in doubt of the fact, but with his usual promptitude acted as if all depended upon himself. "I am venturing certainly out of my line of duty, but as the commander-in-chief may not even be on the station, I must do the best which my judgment points out during his temporary absence." Six sail-of-the-line, under Admiral Duckworth, were sufficient for service at Gibraltar and Cadiz, if the latter port was deserted. Four of the line were about Minorca, constantly, though inefficiently, threatened from the adjacent coasts of Spain. Three were blockading Malta, conjointly with the Portuguese vessels. Sidney Smith with his division remained in the Levant. Troubridge was operating with a few ships on the coast of Italy, against Civita Vecchia, still in the hands of the French. A small squadron was maintained on the Riviera of Genoa, disturbing the communications of the French, and keeping touch with the advance of the Austro-Russians; but it was expected that the Russian fleet, as was natural and proper, would soon assume the duty of co-operating with their general, Suwarrow. The smaller British cruisers were distributed among these various duties. The flagship "Foudroyant" was at Palermo, whither the King returned from Naples on the 8th of August, and there the headquarters of the squadron remained during Nelson's command. Soon after this arrival in Palermo the King conferred upon him the title of Duke of Bronte, with an estate of the same name in Sicily, valued at L3,000 per annum. After this the admiral for a time signed his papers as Bronte Nelson,[1] changed subsequently to Bronte Nelson of the Nile, and finally settled down to Nelson and Bronte, which was his form of signature for the last four years of his life. He placed upon his new estate an annual charge of L500 in favor of his father for the term of the latter's life. "Receive this small tribute, my honoured father," he wrote, "as a mark of gratitude to the best of parents from his most dutiful son."

On the 20th of September he received letters from the Admiralty, investing him with the chief command, "till the return of Lord Keith or some other your superior officer." He was not, however, allowed the appointments of a commander-in-chief, and often complained of the inadequacy of his staff to the extent of his duties. Nelson naturally hoped that his long and eminent services in that particular field, and the conspicuous ability he had shown on so many occasions, would lead to the station remaining permanently in his hands, and that Lord Keith, who was now in England, would succeed in due course to the Channel Fleet, whose commander, Lord Bridport, soon after retired. The Mediterranean was naturally attributed to a vice-admiral, and one of some seniority; but Nelson was now a rear-admiral of the Red, the highest color, not far, therefore, from promotion, and it would not be an unreasonable conclusion that the same ministry which had been fortunate enough to choose him for the campaign of the Nile, might now prefer to entrust to such able and enterprising hands the great interests of the Mediterranean at large.

It was not, however, to be so. Whether moved only by routine considerations of rank, as afterwards at Copenhagen, or whether his relations with the Sicilian Court, his conduct of affairs at Naples, and his collisions with Keith, had excited doubt of the normal balance of his mind, the Admiralty decided to send Keith back, and Nelson, greatly to his mortification, was kept in charge only till the end of the year. As St. Vincent had always left him practically independent, he had known no superior since he entered the Straits, except during Keith's brief period of succession, when leagues of sheltering distance left him free, as has been seen, to defy orders when not in accordance with his views; and he found it impossible now to bow his will to the second place on the very field of his glory. To this feeling, natural in any man, and doubly so to one of Nelson's quick susceptibilities, at once stimulated and soothed by the lavish adulation of the past year, was added personal dislike to his new superior, aggravated, if not originated, by the clash of judgment over the relative importance of Naples and Minorca. "I have serious thoughts of giving up active service," he wrote to Minto; "Greenwich Hospital seems a fit retreat for me after being evidently thought unfit to command in the Mediterranean." Complaints of Keith's lack of consideration then abound, nor does he seem to be conscious that there was anything in his mode of life, in current rumor, or in his past relations with his new commander-in-chief, which might make the latter unwilling to give him the loose rein St. Vincent had done.

From the time that Keith left the Mediterranean in July, 1799, to Nelson's own departure a year later, there was little to be done in the naval way except to maintain and press existing advantages, and wait until the fruit was ready to drop. The absolute supremacy of the British squadrons, challenged for a moment by the incursion of Admiral Bruix, had reverted, in even greater degree than before, by the absence of the Spanish ships which had accompanied him to Brest. Impeded by their own numbers, and paralyzed by the insufficiency of the resources of the port, they remained there a huge, inert mass, whose impotence was only partially understood by the British; a fact which conduced to prolong Keith's presence in the Channel. The year under consideration was therefore devoid of stirring events at sea.

In the Mediterranean, it is true, Nelson's unwearying mental energy, and keen sense of the necessity of seizing opportunity, did not allow things to lapse into indolence. Whether or not he was well advised to settle himself at Palermo, aware as he must have been of the actual temptation, and of the serious injury that scandal was doing to his reputation, both professional and personal, may admit of doubt. With numerous detached and minor services carrying on at the same moment, there was much to be said for the commander-in-chief remaining in a fixed position, near the centre of affairs; and in his apprehension everything then revolved about the Kingdom of Naples. There can be no question, however, that all his faculties were constantly on the alert; and that his administration of the station until Keith's return was characterized by the same zeal, sagacity, and politic tact that he had shown in earlier days. It is admirable to note the patience, courtesy, and adroit compliment, he brings into play, to kindle, in those over whom he has no direct control, the ardor for the general good, and the fearlessness of responsibility, which actuate himself; and at the same time to observe how severe the strain was upon his nervous and irritable temper, as betrayed in comments upon these very persons, made in private letters which he never expected would see the light.

The points of principal importance were the consolidation of the royal power in the continental territory of the Two Sicilies, the reduction of Malta, and the retention of the French army in Egypt in entire isolation from France. For the first, Nelson entirely failed in his efforts to induce the King to trust himself again in Naples, as the Hamiltons and he had expected when they came back to Palermo. "My situation here is indeed an uncomfortable one," he said to Earl Spencer; "for plain common sense points out that the King should return to Naples, but nothing can move him." "Our joint exertions have been used to get the King to go to Naples," he wrote to Troubridge, "but of no avail; the Austrians will be there before him." Although the French had been expelled from all the Neapolitan dominions, the presence of fifteen hundred in Rome and Civita Vecchia served then as an excuse. Nelson implored the commander of the British troops at Minorca to spare twelve hundred of his men, to aid Troubridge on the Roman coast. "Sir Charles Stuart," he tells him flatteringly, "by his timely exertion saved this Kingdom [Sicily] from anarchy and confusion, and perhaps from rebellion. So it is now, my dear Sir, I trust, in your power (and I have assured the good King and Queen of your readiness to serve them and the good cause as much as Sir Charles) to send for the taking possession of Civita Vecchia and Rome; this done, and with my life, I will answer for the success of the expedition. All would be quiet and happy; and their Sicilian Majesties might return to their throne without any alarm from mobs.... I am sure I need not venture to say more on the subject. Your Excellency's judgment and heart will point out the necessity of the measure if it can be accomplished." "Our King would be much gratified that Britain not Austria should reinstate the Pope."

Sir James Erskine, thus importuned, did not see his way to sending the troops. Naturally, as a soldier, he did not rely as much upon the navy preventing a landing in his island, as upon his own powers of resistance after it was effected, and was therefore unwilling to spare from the latter. The point of view of a seaman was, and is, different. He complained, too, that Duckworth had taken a great many ships to Gibraltar. Nelson admits the mistake, and expresses his regret, but no word of dissatisfaction with Erskine transpires through his evident disappointment. He only says, "Pardon what I am going to repeat, that either in Malta or on the Continent, a field of glory is open." "Minorca," he wrote to Spencer, "I have never yet considered in the smallest danger, but it has been a misfortune that others have thought differently from me on that point." Towards the end of September, Troubridge, without the aid of British troops, but supported by the arrival of a division sent by Suwarrow, reported the evacuation of Rome and Civita Vecchia. "How happy you have made us!" wrote Nelson to him. "My pen will not say what I feel." The King, however, would not return to Naples, now that this obstacle was withdrawn. "The Queen has a noble generous disposition," said Nelson two months later. "Unfortunately the King and her Majesty do not at this moment draw exactly the same way; therefore, his Majesty will not go at this moment to Naples, where his presence is much wanted." "We do but waste our breath," he avowed afterwards.

In the beginning of October, a visit which he had intended making to Minorca was hastened by a report that thirteen hostile ships-of-the-line had been seen off Cape Finisterre, and it was thought they might be destined for the Mediterranean. Nelson hoped to assemble ten to meet them; but the news proved to be false. He left Palermo for this trip on the 5th of October, and returned again on the 22d, having remained five days in Port Mahon. The arrangements for the naval force, depending entirely upon himself, were soon settled; but he was disappointed in obtaining, as he had hoped to do from a personal interview with Erskine, a detachment of two thousand troops for Malta. About that island he was, to use his own words, almost in despair. For over a year La Valetta had been blockaded by land and sea. For the latter he could with difficulty find ships; for the former he could obtain no men to aid the islanders, who, half starving, dependent for food chiefly upon Sicily, were sustained in their resistance mainly by hatred of the invaders, and by the tactful appeals and encouragement of Captain Ball, who lived ashore among them. The Barbary pirates, by virtue of their war with Naples, captured many of the vessels laden with supplies, despite Nelson's passports; while the Sicilian Court, though well disposed, lacked the energy and the propelling force necessary to compel the collection and despatch of the needed grain. On one occasion Troubridge or Ball, desperate at the sight of the famine around them, sent a ship of war into Girgenti, a Sicilian port, seized, and brought away two corn-laden vessels. "The measure was strong," said Nelson, but he refrained from censuring; and, while apologizing to the Government, added he hoped it "would not again force officers to so unpleasant an alternative." He feared that in their misery the Maltese would abandon the struggle, particularly if they got wind of the purpose of Great Britain to restore the hated Order of Knights, in deference to the wishes of the Czar. "The moment the French flag is struck," he had been obliged to write to Ball, "the colours of the Order must be hoisted and no other; when it was settled otherwise, the orders from England were not so strong."

About this time came information that several ships were fitting out at Toulon, with supplies for the besieged. This increased Nelson's anxieties, and at the same time emphasized the necessity which he had always urged of using speedier and surer means to reduce the place, while the undisputed mastery of the sea gave the opportunity. "What might not Bruix have done, had he done his duty?" was his own comment upon that recent incursion; and who could tell how soon as great a force might appear again under an abler man? He turned in every direction, and was instant in his appeals for aid. He wrote to Acton that he had positive information that seven ships were loaded in Toulon. "I therefore beg leave to propose to your Excellency, whether under our present circumstances, it would not be right for his Sicilian Majesty to desire that the English garrison at Messina should instantly go to Malta, for I am clear, that if Malta is relieved, that our forces got together could not take it, and the commencement of a new blockade would be useless. All the Barbary cruisers would there have their rendezvous, and not a vessel of his Sicilian Majesty's could put to sea." He exhorts the minister also to apply to the Russians for immediate help at Malta.

At the same time, to augment his embarrassments, orders came from Lisbon recalling the Portuguese squadron, which formed the larger part of the sea blockade. Nelson forgot how often he had abused them as useless, and grappled with that part of the difficulty with characteristic boldness. He peremptorily forbade the admiral to obey his orders. "As the reduction of the Island of Malta is of the greatest consequence to the interests of the allied Powers at war with France, and the withdrawing of the squadron under your command, at this time, from the blockade of that island, will be of the most ruinous consequences to their interests ... you are hereby required and directed, in consideration of the above circumstances, and notwithstanding the orders you may have received from your Court to return to Lisbon, not on any consideration whatsoever to withdraw one man from that island, which may have been landed from the squadron under your Excellency's command, or detach one ship down the Mediterranean, until further orders from me for that purpose." Your orders, he tells Niza in a private letter, were founded upon the belief that your presence was no longer necessary; "but the contrary is the fact—for your services were never more wanted than at this moment, when every exertion is wanting to get more troops of English and Russians to Malta." He is evidently thinking of his difference with Keith; but now he is within the limits of his commission as Commander-in-chief. Doubting, however, whether his official authority will prevail with Niza to disobey his recall, he plies him skilfully with appeals to those sentiments of honor which had received such illustration in his own noble career. "If you quit your most important station till I can get" reliefs for you, "depend upon it, your illustrious Prince will disapprove of (in this instance) your punctilious execution of orders." "We shall soon get more troops from Messina and Minorca; and I am not a little anxious for the honour of Portugal and your Excellency, that you should be present at the surrender. I hold myself responsible." "You was the first at the blockade. Your Excellency's conduct has gained you the love and esteem of Governor Ball, all the British officers and men, and the whole Maltese people; and give me leave to add the name of Nelson as one of your warmest admirers, as an officer and a friend."

As he dealt with the Portuguese admiral, so, in due measure, he conducted his intercourse with all others who came within the scope of his widely ranging activities. Already more Neapolitan than the King, to the Russian he became as a Russian, to the Turk as a Turk, all things to all men, if he could by any means promote the interest of the Allied cause and save Malta. Amid the diverse and conflicting motives of a coalition, Nelson played a steady hand, his attention unified, and his sight cleared, by an unwavering regard to the single object which he compressed into the words, "Down, down, with the French!" In that sense, he asserts truthfully enough to each and all of his correspondents that the advantage of their country and their monarch is as dear to him as that of Great Britain. He touches with artful skill upon the evident interests of each nation, appeals to the officer's sense of the cherished desires of his sovereign, and, while frankly setting forth the truths necessary to be spoken, as to the comparative claims upon himself of the various portions of the field, he insinuates, rather than suggests, what the person immediately addressed ought to be doing in furtherance of the one great aim. Withal, despite the uneasiness to which he is constantly a prey on account of the failures of others, no lack of confidence in the one to whom he is writing is suffered to appear. Each is not only exhorted and cheered, but patted on the back with an implied approbation, which in his own service constituted much of his well-deserved influence. He is as hearty and generous in his praises to Sir Sidney Smith, whom he never fully trusted, for his services at Acre, as he is to the valued friend, and pattern of all naval efficiency, Troubridge. To the Emperor of Russia he paid the politic attention of sending a detailed report of all that had been done about Malta, made to him as Grand Master of the Order,—a delicate and adroit flattery at the moment, for the Czar then valued himself more as the restorer of an ancient order of chivalry than as the inheritor of a great Sovereignty; and his position was further recognized by asking of him the insignia of the Order for Captain Ball and Lady Hamilton.

This immense load of correspondence and anxiety was additional to the numerous unrecorded cares and interviews, relating to the routine work and maintenance of a great squadron, often left bare of resources from home, and to the support of the destitute population of Malta,—sixty thousand souls; and all was carried on amid the constant going and coming of the ambassador's house, kept open to naval officers and others. This public sort of life and excitement involved considerable expense, and was little to the taste of either Nelson or Hamilton, the latter of whom was now approaching his seventieth year; but in it Lady Hamilton was in all her glory, overwhelmed with compliments, the victor of the Nile at her feet, and "making a great figure in our political line," to use her husband's words. "Except to the Court," wrote Nelson, replying to a censure from the Admiralty for failing to send a letter by a certain channel, when he had sent duplicates by two other conveyances,—"except to the Court, till after eight o'clock at night I never relax from business. I have had hitherto, the Board knows, no one emolument—no one advantage of a Commander-in-chief." It was in reference to this captious rebuff, received when immersed in cares, that he wrote to Spencer: "Do not, my dear Lord, let the Admiralty write harshly to me—my generous soul cannot bear it, being conscious it is entirely unmerited."

While he was striving to gain assistance for the Maltese, he does not forget to sustain them with hopes, not always too well founded. He tells Ball he trusts the Messina troops will soon be with him. "You may depend, in October, I will get 2,000 men on shore at Malta. Niza is ordered to Lisbon, but I have directed his stay off Malta." He appeals personally to the British commander at Messina, and to the Russian minister at Palermo, reminding the latter how dear Malta and its Order were to his sovereign. "Malta, my dear Sir, is in my thoughts sleeping or waking." The Portuguese, he tells him, are ordered home; but, wishing Russian assistance, he does not say that he has stopped them,—as to which, indeed, he could not feel sure.

The same object pressed upon him while in Port Mahon, and he succeeded, by his personal enthusiasm, in arousing Erskine's interest in the matter; but the latter was loaded to the muzzle with objections. "Sir James," said Nelson to Troubridge, with the amusing professional prejudice they both entertained, "enters upon the difficulty of the undertaking in a true soldier way." "I am just come from Sir James," he wrote to Hamilton on the 13th of October. "He sees all the difficulty of taking Malta in the clearest point of views, and therefore it became an arduous task to make him think that with God's blessing the thing was possible." He has, however, consented to prepare fifteen hundred men with stores and equipments, but only on condition that the Russians will also give a thousand,—a further draft on Nelson's diplomacy,—and a thousand be landed from the squadron, etc. Besides, there is the further difficulty that a superior officer is expected from England, and what will he say? And will Erskine be justified in sending men before his entirely uncertain arrival? It may be imagined what such proceedings were to Nelson's nervous, ardent, unhesitating temperament, and they elicited the characteristic comment, "This has been my first conference. It has cost me four hours hard labour, and may be upset by a fool." "My heart is, I assure you, almost broke with this and other things," he wrote to Spencer. "If the enemy gets supplies in, we may bid adieu to Malta. This would complete my misery; for I am afraid I take all services too much to heart. The accomplishing of them is my study, night and day."

"My dear Sir James," he writes to Erskine after returning to Palermo, "I am in desperation about Malta—we shall lose it, I am afraid, past redemption. I send you copies of Niza's and Ball's letters, also General Acton's, so you will see I have not been idle." As it is, Ball can hardly keep the inhabitants in hope of relief; what then will it be if the Portuguese withdraw? "If the islanders are forced again to join the French, we may not find even landing a very easy task, much less to get again our present advantageous position. I therefore entreat for the honour of our King, that whether General Fox is arrived or not, at least the garrison of Messina may be ordered to hold post in Malta until a sufficient force can be collected to attack it.... I know well enough of what officers in your situation can do; the delicacy of your feelings on the near approach of General Fox I can readily conceive; but the time you know nothing about; this is a great and important moment, and the only thing to be considered, is his Majesty's service to stand still for an instant? ... Was the call for these troops known at home, would they not order them to proceed when the service near at hand loudly calls for them? this is the only thing in my opinion for consideration. If we lose this opportunity it will be impossible to recall it." From this desperate appeal he turns to Ball, with words of encouragement for his islanders. "We shall soon hear to a certainty of at least 5,000 Russian troops for the service of Malta. Within a month I hope to see 10,000 men in arms against La Valetta. I have sent for Troubridge and Martin, that I may get a force to relieve Niza. I trust he will not go till I can get not only a proper force to relieve his ships, but those of his people who are on shore." "The great order of all," he writes Erskine three weeks later, "is to destroy the power of the French. Two regiments for two months would probably, with the assistance of the Russians, give us Malta, liberate us from an enemy close to our doors, gratify the Emperor of Russia, protect our Levant trade, relieve a large squadron of ships from this service, and enable me the better to afford naval protection to the island of Minorca, and assist our allies on the northern coast of Italy, and to annoy the enemy on the coast of France."

Nelson's entreaties and efforts met with success, sufficient at least to stay the ebbing tide. General Fox arrived in Minorca, gave permission for the garrison of Messina to go to Malta, and on the 25th of November Troubridge, bringing this news, arrived off Palermo. Nelson's haste did not permit the "Culloden" to anchor. Shifting his flag to a transport, he sent out the "Foudroyant" to meet her, with orders for both to go to Messina, embark the garrison, and get off Malta as soon as possible. The "Northumberland," seventy-four, was also to join off Malta, forming a division to replace the Portuguese squadron. The latter quitted the blockade in December, Nelson notifying Niza on the 18th of the month that he no longer considered him under his command. The Messina troops landed at Malta on the 10th. The British then had fifteen hundred men on the island, supported by two thousand Maltese, well disciplined and armed, besides a number of native irregulars upon whom only partial dependence could be placed. The Russians never came to take part. They got as far as Messina, but there received orders to go to Corfu, both ships and men. This was in pursuance of a change of policy in the Czar, who, being enraged at the conduct of his allies, particularly of the Austrians, in the late campaign, intended withdrawing from the Coalition, and was concentrating troops at Corfu. This revived Nelson's fears for Malta. "I trust Graham will not think of giving the island to the French by withdrawing, till he receives orders from General Fox." The troops remained, but in numbers too small to admit active operations. The result was left perforce to the slow pressure of blockade; and final success, insured mainly by Nelson's untiring efforts, was not attained until after he had left the Mediterranean.

The six months of his independent command, though unmarked by striking incidents at sea, were crowded with events, important in themselves, but far more important as pregnant of great and portentous changes in the political and military conditions of Europe. When Keith passed the Straits in pursuit of the Franco-Spanish fleet, on the 30th of July, the forces of the Coalition in Upper Italy were in the full tide of repeated victories and unchecked success. On that same day the fortress of Mantua, the siege of which in 1796 had stayed for nine months the triumphal progress of Bonaparte, was surrendered by the French, whose armies in the field, driven far to the westward, were maintaining a difficult position on the crests of the Apennines. Seeking to descend from there into the fields of Piedmont, they were met by Suwarrow, and on the 15th of August, at Novi, received once more a ruinous defeat, in which their commander-in-chief was slain.

At this moment of success, instead of pressing onward to drive the enemy out of Italy, and possibly to pursue him into France, it was decided that the Russians should be sent across the Alps into Switzerland, to take the place of a number of Austrians. The latter, in turn, were to move farther north, on the lower Rhine, to favor by a diversion an intended invasion of Holland by a combined force of Russians and British. This gigantic flank movement and change of plan resulted most disastrously. In the midst of it the French general Massena, commanding in Switzerland, the centre of the great hostile front which extended from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, made a vehement and sustained attack upon the Austro-Russians at Zurich, on the 25th of September. Gaining a complete victory, he drove the enemy back beyond the point where Suwarrow expected to make his junction. The veteran marshal, who had left Italy on the 11th of September, arrived two days after the Battle of Zurich was fought. Isolated in insufficient numbers from the friends he expected to meet, it was only after severe hardships and superhuman efforts, extending over ten days, that he at length, on the 9th of October, reached a place of safety at Ilanz. Declining further co-operation with the Austrians, and alleging the need of rest for his troops after their frightful exposure in the mountains, he withdrew into winter quarters in Bavaria at the end of the month. Thus Switzerland remained in possession of the French, inactivity continued in Italy, and the Czar, furious at the turn events had taken, was rapidly passing into hatred of both Austria and Great Britain.

On the 9th of October, also, Bonaparte landed in France, after a six weeks' voyage from Alexandria. The immense consequences involved in this single event could not then be foreseen; but it none the less caused mortification and regret to Nelson. It was a cardinal principle with him, vehemently and frequently uttered, that not a single Frenchman should be allowed to return from Egypt; and here their commander-in-chief had passed successfully from end to end of the station, unseen by any British cruiser. He did not, however, consider himself at fault, and his judgment may be allowed, although in his own case. "If I could have had any cruisers, as was my plan, off Cape Bon, in Africa, and between Corsica and Toulon, Mr. Buonaparte could not probably have got to France." This he said to Earl Spencer. Elsewhere he wrote: "I have regretted sincerely the escape of Buonaparte; but those ships which were destined by me for the two places where he would certainly have been intercepted, were, from the Admiralty thinking, doubtless, that the Russians would do something at sea, obliged to be at Malta, and other services which I thought the Russian Admiral would have assisted me in—therefore, no blame lies at my door." He took some comfort in contrasting the stealthy return of the French general, with the great armada that accompanied his departure. "No Crusader ever returned with more humility—contrast his going in L'Orient, &c. &c."

A report that Bonaparte had passed Corsica reached Nelson on October 24th. The same day came despatches from Sir Sidney Smith, narrating a disastrous defeat sustained by the Turks on the shores of Aboukir Bay. Smith's period of command in the Levant had been chiefly, and brilliantly, distinguished by the successful defence of Acre against Bonaparte. The latter, threatened by simultaneous attacks by the Turks from Syria and from the sea, had determined to anticipate such a combination by going himself against the enemy on the land side, before the weather conditions made it possible to disembark any formidable body of men on the shores of Egypt. Starting with this purpose in February, he had proceeded with slight resistance until the 18th of March, when his army appeared before Acre. Smith was then lying in the roads with two ships-of-the-line. The siege which ensued lasted for sixty-two days, so great was Bonaparte's pertinacity, and anxiety to possess the place; and in its course Smith displayed, not only courage and activity, which had never been doubted, but a degree of conduct and sound judgment that few expected of him. His division was fortunate enough to capture the French siege train, which had to be sent by water, and he very much disturbed the enemy's coastwise communications, besides contributing materially to the direction of the defence, to which the Turks, though brave enough, were not adequate. After several desperate assaults the siege was raised on the 20th of May, and Bonaparte retreated to Egypt, regaining Cairo on the 14th of June.

Following up the success at Acre, a Turkish fleet of thirteen ships-of-the-line anchored in Aboukir Bay on the 11th of July, attended by a body of transports carrying troops, variously estimated at from ten to thirty thousand. Smith with his ships accompanied the expedition. The Turks landed, and stormed the castle of Aboukir; but on the 25th Bonaparte, having concentrated his forces rapidly, fell upon them and totally defeated them. All who had landed were either killed, driven into the sea and drowned, or taken prisoners; the commander-in-chief being among the latter. Four weeks later, as is already known, Bonaparte embarked for France.

It was thus conclusively demonstrated that for the present at least, and until the French numbers were further diminished by the inevitable losses of disease and battle, the Turks could not regain control of Egypt. On the other hand, it was equally evident, and was admitted by both Bonaparte and his able successor, Kleber, that without reinforcements, which could not be sent while the British controlled the sea, the end of the French occupation was only a question of time. After Bonaparte's departure, Kleber wrote home strongly to this effect. His letters, being addressed to the Government, fell upon arrival into Bonaparte's hands; but, with these convictions, he was ready to enter into an arrangement for the evacuation of the country, upon condition of being allowed to return freely to Europe.

Such also appears to have been the disposition of the British representatives in the East. Immediately after taking over the command in the Levant from Troubridge, Smith gave him, among other papers, a form of passport which he intended to use, permitting individual Frenchmen to go to Europe by sea. This Troubridge handed to Nelson, telling him also that it was Smith's intention to send word into Alexandria, that all French ships might pass to France. This passport, adopted after Smith had been to Constantinople, had doubtless the sanction of the joint minister, his brother, and was signed by himself both as plenipotentiary and naval officer. Nelson had by this time been instructed that Smith was under his command, and he at once sent him an order, couched in the most explicit, positive, and peremptory terms, which merit especial attention because Smith disobeyed them. "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,[2] 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 he 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." It seems clear from these expressions that Nelson had gathered, through Troubridge, that it was the policy of the Sultan and of the British representatives to get the French out of Egypt at any cost,—to look, in short, to local interests rather than to the general policy of the Allies. This he was determined to prevent by instructions so comprehensive, yet so precise, as to leave no loophole for evasion.

Here matters seem to have rested for a time. Smith could scarcely dare to disregard such orders at once, and Bonaparte was not yet disposed openly to confess failure by seeking terms. In the autumn of 1799, however, the Earl of Elgin went to Constantinople as ambassador, Spencer Smith dropping to secretary of embassy, and his brother remaining on the Egyptian coast. Elgin was far from being in accord with Smith's general line of conduct, which was marked with presumption and self-sufficiency, and in the end he greatly deplored the terms "granted to the French, so far beyond our expectation;" but he shared the belief that to rid Egypt of the French was an end for which considerable sacrifices should be made, and his correspondence with Smith expressed this conviction. When prepossessions such as this exist among a number of men associated with one another, they are apt, as in the case of Admiral Man consulting with his captains, to result in some ill-advised step, bearing commonly the stamp of concern for local interests, and forgetfulness of general considerations. The upshot in this particular instance was the conclusion of a Convention, known as that of El Arish, between the Turks and the French, signed on board Smith's ship on the 24th of January, 1800, by which this army of veterans was to be permitted to return to France unmolested, and free at once to take the field against the allies of Turkey and Great Britain, at the moment when Bonaparte's unrivalled powers of administration were straining every nerve, to restore the French forces from the disorganization into which they had fallen, and to prepare for the spring campaign.

Smith, though present, did not sign this precious paper, which, in a letter to Hamilton, he called "the gratifying termination of his labours;" but he had in his hand the orders of his immediate superior, and temporary commander-in-chief, to notify any "foreigner, general, or admiral," that the execution of such an agreement would not be permitted by the British Navy, and it would have been his own duty to stop any ships attempting to carry it out, until other orders were received. His powers as joint plenipotentiary having ceased, he was now simply the naval officer. As it happened, Keith, who by this time had relieved Nelson, brought out from England clear directions from the Government not to allow any transaction of this kind; and although he personally favored the policy of evacuation, feeling perhaps the inconvenience of detaching ships so far from his centre of operations, he was not a man to trifle with orders. Rumors of what was going on had evidently reached him, for on the 8th of January, a fortnight before the convention was signed, he wrote to Kleber a letter, which he directed Smith to deliver, thus placing it out of the power of that very independent officer to leave any mistake as to actual conditions in the mind of the French general. To the latter he said: "I have positive orders not to consent to any capitulation with the French troops, at least unless they lay down their arms, surrender themselves prisoners of war, and deliver up all the ships and stores of the port of Alexandria to the Allied Powers." Even in such case they would not be allowed to leave Egypt until exchanged. Any persons that attempted to return, pursuant to an arrangement with one of the Allies, exclusive of the others, as the El-Arish Convention was, would be made prisoners of war.

Nelson's opinions in this matter had never wavered. As rumors of what was brewing got about, he wrote to the Earl of Elgin, on the 21st of December, 1800: "I own my hope yet is, that the Sublime Porte will never permit a single Frenchman to quit Egypt; and I own myself wicked enough to wish them all to die in that country they chose to invade. We have scoundrels of French enough in Europe without them." "I never would consent to one of them returning to the Continent of Europe during the war," he tells Spencer Smith. "I wish them to perish in Egypt, and give a great lesson to the world of the justice of the Almighty." When Elgin, thinking him still commander-in-chief, sent him the Convention, he replied formally: "I shall forward the papers to Lord Keith, who will answer your Excellency. But I cannot help most sincerely regretting that ever any countenance was given to the Turks to enter into such a treaty with the French; for I ever held it to be impossible to permit that army to return to Europe, but as prisoners of war, and in that case, not to France. And was I commander-in-chief, even when the thing was done, I should have refused to ratify any consent or approbation of Sir Sidney Smith, and have wrote to both the Grand Vizir and the French General, the impossibility of permitting a vanquished army to be placed by one Ally in a position to attack another Ally." The last phrase put the facts in a nutshell, and illustrates well Nelson's power of going straight to the root of a matter, disregardful of confusing side-issues, of policy or timidity. To Hamilton he wrote passionately concerning the manifold difficulties caused to all, except the Turks and the Smiths. "If all the wise heads had left them to God Almighty, after the bridge was broke, all would have ended well. For I differ entirely with my commander-in-chief, in wishing they were permitted to return to France; and, likewise, with Lord Elgin on the great importance of removing them from Egypt."

"I have wrote to Lord Keith, and home," said Nelson to Sir Sidney Smith on the 15th of January, "that I did not give credit that it was possible for you to give any passport for a single Frenchman, much less the Army, after my positive order of March 18th, 1799." The words show what reports had already got about of the general trend of policy, on the part of the Porte and the British representatives; but the irony of the matter as regards Nelson is, that Smith disobeyed his orders, as he himself, six months before, had disobeyed Keith's; and for the same reason, that he on the spot was a better judge of local conditions and recent developments than one at a distance. To one, Naples was more important than Minorca, more important than a half-dozen ships in a possible fleet action; to the other, Egypt was more important than the presence of sixteen thousand veterans, more or less, on a European battle-field. It is impossible and bootless, to weigh the comparative degree of culpability involved in breaches of orders which cannot be justified. It is perhaps safe to say that while a subordinate has necessarily a large amount of discretion in the particular matter intrusted to him, the burden of proof rests wholly upon him when he presumes to depart from orders affecting the general field of war, which is the attribute of the commander-in-chief. What in the former case may be simply an error of judgment, in the latter becomes a military crime.

On the 16th of January, 1800, Nelson, who some days before had been notified by Keith of his approach, and directed to place himself under his command, left Palermo for Leghorn, arriving on the 20th. The commander-in-chief was already there in the "Queen Charlotte." On the 25th they sailed together for Palermo, and after nine days' stay in that port went on again for Malta, which they reached on the 15th of February. No incident of particular interest occurred during these three weeks, but Nelson's letters to the Hamiltons show that he was chafing under any act in his superior which could be construed into a slight. "I feel all, and notwithstanding my desire to be as humble as the lowest midshipman, perhaps, I cannot submit to be much lower, I am used to have attention paid me from his superiors." "To say how I miss your house and company would be saying little; but in truth you and Sir William have so spoiled me, that I am not happy anywhere else but with you, nor have I an idea that I ever can be." Keith's comment—the other point of view—is worth quoting. "Anything absurd coming from the quarter you mention does not surprise me," he wrote to Paget, who succeeded Hamilton as minister. "The whole was a scene of fulsome vanity and absurdity all the long eight days I was at Palermo."[3]

When Keith returned, the capture of Malta, and of the two ships-of-the-line which had escaped from the Battle of the Nile, were, by common consent, all that remained to do, in order to round off and bring to a triumphant conclusion Nelson's Mediterranean career. Fortune strove hard against his own weakness to add all these jewels to his crown, but she strove in vain. "We may truly call him a heaven-born Admiral, upon whom fortune smiles wherever he goes." So wrote Ball to Lady Hamilton, alluding to the first of the favors flung at his head. "We have been carrying on the blockade of Malta sixteen months, during which time the enemy never attempted to throw in great succours. His Lordship arrived off here the day they were within a few leagues of the island, captured the principal ships, and dispersed the rest, so that not one has reached the port." It was indeed a marvellous piece of what men call luck. Nelson had never gone near Malta since October, 1798, till Keith took him there on the 15th of February, 1800. The division had no sooner arrived at the island, than a frigate brought word of a French squadron having been seen off the west end of Sicily. It was then blowing strong from southeast, and raining. Keith took his own station off the mouth of the harbor, placed other ships where he thought best, and signalled Nelson to chase to windward with three ships-of-the-line, which were afterwards joined by a fourth, then cruising on the southeast of the island. The next day the wind shifted to northwest, but it was not until the morning of the 18th that the enemy were discovered. Guns were then heard to the northward, by those on board the "Foudroyant," which made all sail in pursuit, and soon sighted the "Alexander" chasing four French sail. "Pray God we may get alongside of them," wrote Nelson in his journal; "the event I leave to Providence. I think if I can take one 74 by myself, I would retire, and give the staff to more able hands." "I feel anxious to get up with these ships," he wrote to Lady Hamilton, "and shall be unhappy not to take them myself, for first my greatest happiness is to serve my gracious King and Country, and I am envious only of glory; for if it be a sin to covet glory, I am the most offending soul alive. But here I am in a heavy sea and thick fog—Oh, God! the wind subsided—but I trust to Providence I shall have them. 18th in the evening, I have got her—Le Genereux—thank God! 12 out of 13, onely the Guillaume Telle remaining; I am after the others." The enemy's division had consisted of this seventy-four, a large transport, also captured, and three corvettes which escaped.

An account of Nelson on the quarter-deck on this occasion has been transmitted by an eye-witness, whose recollections, committed to paper nearly forty years later, are in many points evidently faulty, but in the present instance reflect a frame of mind in the great admiral in perfect keeping with the words last quoted from his own letter. The writer was then a midshipman of the "Foudroyant;" and the scene as described opens with a hail from a lieutenant at the masthead, with his telescope on the chase.

"'Deck there! the stranger is evidently a man of war—she is a line-of-battle-ship, my lord, and going large on the starboard tack.'

"'Ah! an enemy, Mr. Stains. I pray God it may be Le Genereux. The signal for a general chase, Sir Ed'ard, (the Nelsonian pronunciation of Edward,) make the Foudroyant fly!'

"Thus spoke the heroic Nelson; and every exertion that emulation could inspire was used to crowd the squadron with canvas, the Northumberland taking the lead, with the flag-ship close on her quarter.

"'This will not do, Sir Ed'ard; it is certainly Le Genereux, and to my flag-ship she can alone surrender. Sir Ed'ard, we must and shall beat the Northumberland.'

"'I will do the utmost, my lord; get the engine to work on the sails—hang butts of water to the stays—pipe the hammocks down, and each man place shot in them—slack the stays, knock up the wedges, and give the masts play—start off the water, Mr. James, and pump the ship.' The Foudroyant is drawing a-head, and at last takes the lead in the chase. 'The admiral is working his fin, (the stump of his right arm,) do not cross his hawse, I advise you.'

"The advice was good, for at that moment Nelson opened furiously on the quarter-master at the conn. 'I'll knock you off your perch, you rascal, if you are so inattentive.—Sir Ed'ard, send your best quarter-master to the weather wheel.'

"'A strange sail a-head of the chase!' called the look-out man.

"'Youngster, to the mast-head. What! going without your glass, and be d——d to you? Let me know what she is immediately.'

"'A sloop of war, or frigate, my lord," shouted the young signal-midshipman.

"'Demand her number.'

"'The Success, my lord.'

"'Captain Peard; signal to cut off the flying enemy—great odds, though—thirty-two small guns to eighty large ones.'

"'The Success has hove-to athwart-hawse of the Genereux, and is firing her larboard broadside. The Frenchman has hoisted his tri-colour, with a rear-admiral's flag.'

"'Bravo—Success, at her again!'

"'She has wore round, my lord, and firing her starboard broadside. It has winged her, my lord—her flying kites are flying away all together.' The enemy is close on the Success, who must receive her tremendous broadside. The Genereux opens her fire on her little enemy, and every person stands aghast, afraid of the consequences. The smoke clears away, and there is the Success, crippled, it is true, but, bull-dog like, bearing up after the enemy.

"'The signal for the Success to discontinue the action, and come under my stern,' said Lord Nelson; 'she has done well, for her size. Try a shot from the lower-deck at her, Sir Ed'ard.'

"'It goes over her.'

"'Beat to quarters, and fire coolly and deliberately at her masts and yards.'

"Le Genereux at this moment opened her fire on us; and, as a shot passed through the mizen stay-sail, Lord Nelson, patting one of the youngsters on the head, asked him jocularly how he relished the music; and observing something like alarm depicted on his countenance, consoled him with the information, that Charles XII. ran away from the first shot he heard, though afterwards he was called 'The Great,' and deservedly, from his bravery. 'I, therefore,' said Lord Nelson, 'hope much from you in future.'

"Here the Northumberland opened her fire, and down came the tri-colored ensign, amidst the thunder of our united cannon."[4]

According to Keith, Nelson "on this occasion, as on all others, conducted himself with skill, and great address, in comprehending my signals, which the state of the weather led me greatly to suspect." Nelson's account to Hamilton was, "By leaving my admiral without signal, for which I may be broke, I took these French villains." "I have wrote to Lord Spencer," he tells his eldest brother, "and have sent him my journal, to show that the Genereux was taken by me, and my plan—that my quitting Lord Keith was at my own risk, and for which, if I had not succeeded, I might have been broke. The way he went, the Genereux never could have been taken." In a letter to Lord Minto he attributed his success to his knowledge of all the local conditions, acquired by seven years' experience. In his anxiety to make this instance prove his case, in the previous disobedience to Keith, for which the Admiralty had censured him, Nelson overreached himself and certainly fell into an ungenerous action. His vaunt of success by the road of disobedience rested only on the fact that he had failed to see Keith's signal. This the latter did not know, and evidently considered he had complied with its spirit. The signal to chase to windward was not strained to disobedience in being construed to search a fairly wide area for the enemy, keeping the rendezvous, which was also the enemy's destination, to leeward, so as to be readily regained. The "Queen Charlotte," Keith's flagship, covered the inner line, and, being a first-rate, was competent to handle any force that could come out of Toulon. There is a good deal of human nature in this captious unofficial attack on a superior, whose chief fault, as towards himself, was that he had been the victim of disobedience; but it is not pleasant to see in a man so truly great.

The "Genereux" carried the flag of a rear-admiral, who was killed in the action. Nelson seized the opportunity of further conciliating the Czar, by sending the sword of this officer to him, as Grand Master of the Order of Malta. Upon rejoining Keith, he reported in person, as custom demands. "Lord Keith received my account and myself like a philosopher (but very unlike you)," he wrote to Hamilton; "it did not, that I could perceive, cause a pleasing muscle in his face." "Had you seen the Peer receive me," he wrote to Lady Hamilton the same day, "I know not what you would have done; but I can guess. But never mind. I told him that I had made a vow, if I took the Genereux by myself, it was my intention to strike my flag. To which he made no answer." What could he very well say, if a man chose to throw away his chances, especially when that man was a subordinate who a short time before had flatly refused to obey his orders. Soreness and testiness had full swing in Nelson at this time; at some fancied neglect, he wrote Troubridge a letter which reduced that gallant officer to tears.

Between Palermo and Malta Keith had received letters from General Melas, commanding the Austrian army in Piedmont, giving the plan of the approaching campaign, in which, as the Austrians were to besiege Genoa, and advance to the Riviera, much depended upon naval co-operation. Rightly judging that to be the quarter calling for the naval commander-in-chief, he was anxious to get away. On the 24th of February he issued an order to Nelson to take charge of the blockade, and "to adopt and prosecute the necessary measures for contributing to the complete reduction of Malta." Short of the chief command, which he coveted and grudged, Nelson himself could not have contrived a position better fitted to crown his work in the Mediterranean. Within the harbor of La Valetta, concentrating there the two objects that yet remained to be attained,—- Valetta itself being one,—was the "Guillaume Tell," the thirteenth ship, which alone was lacking now to complete the tale of the trophies of the Nile. Yet the fair prospect of success, inevitable since the capture of the "Genereux" had destroyed the French hopes of relief, brought to Nelson nothing but dismay. "My Lord," he replied the same day, "my state of health is such, that it is impossible I can much longer remain here. Without some rest, I am gone. I must, therefore, whenever I find the service will admit of it, request your permission to go to my friends, at Palermo, for a few weeks, and leave the command here to Commodore Troubridge. Nothing but absolute necessity obliges me to write this letter." "I could no more stay fourteen days longer here, than fourteen years," he said in a private letter to Keith of the same date.

By the next day he had recognized that even he could not leave at once the task appointed him, without discredit. "My situation," he then wrote to Hamilton, "is to me very irksome, but how at this moment to get rid of it is a great difficulty. The French ships here ["Guillaume Tell" and others] are preparing for sea; the Brest fleet, Lord Keith says, may be daily expected, and with all this I am very unwell.... The first moment which offers with credit to myself I shall assuredly give you my company.... Lord Keith is commander-in-chief, and I have not been kindly treated." His tried friends, Troubridge and Ball, realized the false step he was about to take, but they could not change his purpose. "Remember, my Lord," wrote the former, "the prospects are rather good at present of reducing this place, and that William Tell, Diane,[1] and Justice,[5] are the only three ships left from the Nile fleet. I beseech you hear the entreaties of a sincere friend, and do not go to Sicily for the present. Cruizing may be unpleasant. Leave the Foudroyant outside, and hoist your flag in the Culloden, to carry on operations with the General. Everything shall be done to make it comfortable and pleasing to you: a month will do all. If you comply with my request, I shall be happy, as I shall then be convinced I have not forfeited your friendship." "I dined with his Lordship yesterday, who is apparently in good health," wrote Ball to Lady Hamilton, "but he complains of indisposition and the necessity of repose. I do not think a short stay here will hurt his health, particularly as his ship is at anchor, and his mind not harassed. Troubridge and I are extremely anxious that the French ships, and the French garrison of La Valetta, shall surrender to him. I would not urge it if I were not convinced that it will ultimately add both to his honour and happiness."

The fear of his friends that he would lose honor, by not resisting inclination, is evident—undisguised; but they could not prevail. On the 4th of March he wrote to Lady Hamilton: "My health is in such a state, and to say the truth, an uneasy mind at being taught my lesson like a school boy, that my DETERMINATION is made to leave Malta on the 15th morning of this month, on the first moment after the wind comes favourable; unless I am SURE that I shall get hold of the French ships." Keith's directions had been full and explicit on details, and this Nelson seems to have resented. Among the particular orders was one that Palermo, being so distant from Malta, should be discontinued as the rendezvous, and Syracuse substituted for it; Nelson was, however, at liberty to use Messina or Augusta, both also on the west coast of Sicily, if he preferred. It will be remembered that Nelson himself, before he fell under the influence of Naples, had expressed his intention to make Syracuse the base of his operations. Coming as this change did, as one of the first acts of a new commander-in-chief, coinciding with his own former judgment, it readily took the color of an implied censure upon his prolonged stay at Palermo—an echo of the increasing scandal that attended it.

On the 10th of March he left Malta for Palermo in the "Foudroyant," sending the ship back, however, to take her place in the blockade, and hoisting his own flag on board a transport. His mind was now rapidly turning towards a final retirement from the station, a decision which was accelerated by the capture of the "Guillaume Tell." This eighty-gun ship started on the night of March 29th to run out from La Valetta, to relieve the famished garrison from feeding the twelve hundred men she carried. Fortunately, the "Foudroyant" had resumed her station off the island; and it was a singular illustration of the good fortune of the "heaven-born" admiral, to repeat Ball's expression, that she arrived barely in time, only a few hours before the event, her absence from which might have resulted in the escape of the enemy, and a just censure upon Nelson. The French ship was sighted first by a frigate, the "Penelope," Captain Blackwood, which hung gallantly upon her quarters, as Nelson in former days had dogged the "Ca Ira" with the "Agamemnon," until the heavier ships could gather round the quarry. The "Guillaume Tell," necessarily intent only on escape from overpowering numbers, could not turn aside to crush the small antagonist, which one of her broadsides might have swept out of existence; yet even so, the frigate decided the issue, for she shot away the main and mizzen topmasts of the French vessel, permitting the remainder of the British to come up. No ship was ever more gallantly fought than the "Guillaume Tell;" the scene would have been well worthy even of Nelson's presence. More could not be said, but Nelson was not there. She had shaken off the "Penelope" and the "Lion," sixty-four, when the "Foudroyant" drew up at six in the morning. "At half-past six," says the latter's log, "shot away the [French] main and mizen-masts: saw a man nail the French ensign to the stump of the mizen-mast. Five minutes past eight, shot away the enemy's foremast. Ten minutes past eight, all her masts being gone by the board, the enemy struck his colours, and ceased firing." The last of the fleet in Aboukir Bay had surrendered to Nelson's ship, but not to Nelson's flag.

"I am sensible," he wrote from Palermo to Sir Edward Berry, the captain of the "Foudroyant," "of your kindness in wishing my presence at the finish of the Egyptian fleet, but I have no cause for sorrow. The thing could not be better done, and I would not for all the world rob you of one particle of your well-earned laurels." In the matter of glory Nelson might well yield much to another, nor miss what he gave; but there is a fitness in things, and it was not fitting that the commander of the division should have been away from his post when such an event was likely to happen. "My task is done, my health is lost, and the orders of the great Earl St. Vincent are completely fulfilled." "I have wrote to Lord Keith," he tells Spencer, "for permission to return to England, when you will see a broken-hearted man. My spirit cannot submit patiently." But by this time, if the forbearance of the First Lord was not exhausted, his patience very nearly was, and a letter had already been sent, which, while couched in terms of delicate consideration, nevertheless betrayed the profound disappointment that had succeeded to admiration for services so eminent, and for a spirit once so indomitable: "To your letter of the 20th of March, all I shall say is, to express my extreme regret that your health should be such as to oblige you to quit your station off Malta, at a time when I should suppose there must be the finest prospect of its reduction. I should be very sorry that you did not accomplish that business in person, as the Guillaume Tell is your due, and that ship ought not to strike to any other. If the enemy should come into the Mediterranean, and whenever they do, it will be suddenly, I should be much concerned to hear that you learnt of their arrival in that sea, either on shore or in a transport at Palermo."

A nearer approach to censure was soon to follow. On the 9th of May, apparently before Nelson's application for leave to return to England had been received, the Admiralty sent orders to Keith, that if his health rendered him incapable of doing his duty, he was to be permitted to return home by sea when opportunity offered, or by land if he preferred. Earl Spencer wrote him at the same time a private letter, in which disapprobation was too thinly masked by carefully chosen words to escape attention: "It is by no means my wish or intention to call you away from service, but having observed that you have been under the necessity of quitting your station off Malta, on account of your health, which I am persuaded you could not have thought of doing without such necessity, it appeared to me much more advisable for you to come home at once, than to be obliged to remain inactive at Palermo, while active service was going on in other parts of the station. I should still much prefer your remaining to complete the reduction of Malta, which I flatter myself cannot be very far distant, and I still look with anxious expectation to the Guillaume Tell striking to your flag. But if, unfortunately, these agreeable events are to be prevented, by your having too much exhausted yourself in the service to be equal to follow them up, I am quite clear, and I believe I am joined in opinion by all your friends here, that you will be more likely to recover your health and strength in England than in an inactive situation at a Foreign Court, however pleasing the respect and gratitude shown to you for your services may be, and no testimonies of respect and gratitude from that Court to you can be, I am convinced, too great for the very essential services you have rendered it. I trust that you will take in good part what I have taken the liberty to write to you as a friend."

Both these letters reached Nelson in June, at Leghorn, on his way home. The underlying censure did not escape him,—"your two letters gave me much pain," he replied,—but he showed no traces of self-condemnation, or of regret for the past. Lord Minto, who was now ambassador at Vienna, wrote thence in March of this year, before the question of going home was decided: "I have letters from Nelson and Lady Hamilton. It does not seem clear whether he will go home. I hope he will not for his own sake, and he will at least, I hope, take Malta first. He does not seem at all conscious of the sort of discredit he has fallen into, or the cause of it, for he still writes, not wisely, about Lady H. and all that. But it is hard to condemn and use ill a hero, as he is in his own element, for being foolish about a woman who has art enough to make fools of many wiser than an admiral." Many years later, immediately after the parting which he did not then know was the last, Minto said of him, "He is in many points a really great man, in others a baby." Nelson himself, conscious of the diligence which he had used in the administration of his wide command and its varied interests, put out of court all other considerations of propriety. "I trust you and all my friends will believe," he told Spencer, "that mine cannot be an inactive life, although it may not carry all the outward parade of much ado about nothing."

Had the Hamiltons remained in Palermo, Nelson would have been forced to a choice between leaving her and the Mediterranean, or yielding a submission to orders which to the last he never gave, when fairly out of signal distance. But the Foreign Office had decided that Sir William should not return after the leave for which he had applied; and in the beginning of March it was known at Palermo that his successor had been appointed. This Nelson also learned, at the latest, when he came back there on the 16th. To one correspondent he wrote, on the 28th, "Most probably my health will force me to retire in April, for I am worn out with fatigue of body and mind," and his application was sent in on the 6th of the latter month, after news of the "Guillaume Tell's" capture. On the 22d Hamilton presented his letters of recall, and on the 24th he and Lady Hamilton, with a party, embarked on board the "Foudroyant" for a trip to Syracuse and Malta, from which they all returned to Palermo on the first of June. Against this renewed departure Troubridge again remonstrated, in words which showed that he and others saw, in Nelson's determination to abandon the field, the results of infatuation rather than of illness. "Your friends, my Lord, absolutely, as far as they dare, insist on your staying to sign the capitulation. Be on your guard." Keith also wrote him in generous and unexceptionable terms: "I am very sorry, my dear Nelson, for the contents of your letter, and I hope you will not be obliged to go: strictly speaking, I ought to write to the Admiralty before I let a flag-officer go off the station; particularly as I am directed to send you, if you like it, to Egypt; but when a man's health is concerned, there is an end of all, and I will send you the first frigate I can lay hold of."


[1] The title of Bronte was assumed in Sicily only, until he received the consent of George III. to accept it.

[2] The italics to this point are Nelson's; afterwards the author's.

[3] The Paget Papers, London, 1896, vol. i. p. 200.

[4] Nelsonian Reminiscences, by Lieutenant G.S. Parsons. The author has been able to test Parsons' stories sufficiently to assure himself that they cannot be quoted to establish historical fact; but such scenes as here given, or how many glasses of wine Nelson drank at dinner, or that the writer himself was out of clean shirts, when asked to dine at the admiral's table, are trivialities which memory retains.

[5] Frigates.



JUNE, 1800—JANUARY, 1801. AGE, 42.

At the time Nelson and the Hamiltons returned to Palermo, the Queen of Naples was wishing, for political reasons, to visit Vienna. To meet this wish Nelson took the "Foudroyant" and "Alexander" off the blockade of Malta, that they might carry herself and suite to Leghorn, together with the Hamiltons. He clung also to the hope that Keith would give him his powerful flagship to return to England, in which case the Hamiltons would go with him. "I go with our dear friends Sir William and Lady Hamilton," he wrote to Lord Minto; "but whether by water or land depends on the will of Lord Keith. May all orders be as punctually obeyed," alluding to the completion of the destruction of the Nile fleet by the capture of the "Guillaume Tell," "but never again an officer at the close of what I must, without being thought vain (for such I am represented by enemies), call a glorious career, be so treated!"

Keith's opinion of Nelson's obedience was probably somewhat different. The latter had written him on the 12th of May, that, being under an old promise to carry the Queen to the Continent, he proposed to take the two ships-of-the-line for that purpose, and Keith sent him a letter forbidding him to do so, and directing them to be sent back at once to Malta. Nelson, it is true, did not receive this; but it is impossible to reconcile with attention to orders the diversion of two ships of their force from the singularly important station appointed them by the commander-in-chief, without reference to him, and using them to carry about foreign sovereigns. On arriving in Leghorn, on the 14th of June, Nelson announced the fact to Keith, with apparent perfect unconsciousness that the latter could be other than charmed. "I was obliged to bring the Alexander, or the party never could have been accommodated: I therefore trust you will approve of it." "I was so displeased by the withdrawing of the ships from before Malta," wrote Keith to Paget, "and with other proceedings, that her Majesty did not take any notice of me latterly." It would seem also that some harm had come of it. "What a clamour, too, letting in the ships to Malta will occasion. I assure you nothing has given me more real concern, it was so near exhausted." "Had not Nelson quitted the blockade," he wrote a week later, "and taken the ships off the station, it might have fallen about this time."[6]

Lord Keith had been engaged for six weeks past in the famous blockade and siege of Genoa, the garrison of which, spent with famine and disease, marched out on the 5th of June, 1800. On the 14th—the day Nelson reached Leghorn—was fought the Battle of Marengo, in which the Austrians were totally defeated, the French army under Bonaparte remaining victorious across their line of retreat to Mantua. The next day Melas signed a convention, abandoning Northern Italy, as far as the Mincio, to the French, to whom were given up all the fortified places, Genoa included. At midnight of June 18, Nelson received an order from Keith to take all the ships at Leghorn to Spezia, for certain minor military purposes. Nelson sent the "Alexander" and a frigate, but remained himself in Leghorn with the "Foudroyant," ready, he wrote the admiral, "to receive the queen and royal family, should such an event be necessary." Keith rejoined with a peremptory order that no ships-of-the-line should be used for such purpose; the Queen, he said, had better get to Vienna as fast as she could, and not think of going back to Palermo. "If the French fleet gets the start of ours a day, Sicily cannot hold out even that one day." "Lord Keith," commented Nelson, "believes reports of the Brest fleet, which I give not the smallest credit to." "I own I do not believe the Brest fleet will return to sea," he told Keith; "and if they do, the Lord have mercy on them, for our fleet will not, I am sure." It was not the least of his conspicuous merits that he was blind to imaginative or exaggerated alarms. Keith saw too vividly all that might happen in consequence of recent reverses—much more than could happen.

On the 24th of June the latter reached Leghorn in person. "I must go to Leghorn," he complained, "to land the fugitives, and to be bored by Lord Nelson for permission to take the Queen to Palermo, and princes and princesses to all parts of the globe." The Queen was in a panic, and besought him with tears to give her the "Foudroyant," but Keith was obdurate. "Mr. Wyndham[7] arrived here yesterday from Florence," wrote Lady Minto on the 6th of July to her sister. "He left the Queen of Naples, Sir William and Lady Hamilton, and Nelson, at Leghorn. The Queen has given up all thoughts of coming here. She asked Lord Keith in her own proper person for the Foudroyant to take her back. He refused positively giving her such a ship. The Queen wept, concluding that royal tears were irresistible; but he remained unmoved, and would grant nothing but a frigate to convoy her own frigates[8] to Trieste. He told her Lady Hamilton had had command of the fleet long enough. The Queen is very ill with a sort of convulsive fit, and Nelson is staying there to nurse her; he does not intend going home till he has escorted her back to Palermo. His zeal for the public service seems entirely lost in his love and vanity, and they all sit and flatter each other all day long." It is only fair to say that there are indications, in the correspondence, of bad terms between the Hamiltons and Wyndham, who, therefore, was probably not a sympathetic observer. He had also before this written unpleasantly to Nelson, insinuating, apparently, a lack of attention to duty; for the latter in a letter to Troubridge says, "I send you an extract of Mr. Wyndham's unhandsome mode of expressing himself towards me." Towards Keith her Majesty manifested her displeasure by omitting him in the public leave she took of all the officials.

The Queen finally resolved to continue her journey, but the victories of the French introduced into the political future an element of uncertainty, which caused her to delay a month in Leghorn, undecided whether to go by sea or land; and Nelson had vowed not to forsake her. Keith, after some days, relented so far as to authorize the "Alexander" taking the royal family to Trieste, but many of the party were averse to the sea voyage. There had been for some time living with the Hamiltons a Miss Knight, an English lady already in middle life, whose journal gives the chief particulars that have been preserved of this period. "The Queen," she wrote, "wishes, if possible, to prosecute her journey. Lady Hamilton cannot bear the thought of going by sea; and therefore nothing but impracticability will prevent our going to Vienna." When it was at last fixed, after many vacillations, that they should go to Ancona, and there take small Austrian vessels for Trieste, she exclaims, "to avoid the danger of being on board an English man-of-war, where everything is commodious, and equally well arranged for defence and comfort! But the die is cast, and go we must." She mentions that Lord Nelson was well, and kept up his spirits amazingly, but Sir William appeared broken, distressed, and harassed.

On the 11th the travellers started for Florence, passing within two miles of the French advanced posts. At Ancona they embarked on board some Russian frigates, and in them reached Trieste safely on the 2d of August. Nelson was received with acclamations in all the towns of the Pope's states. A party in which were not only the queen of a reigning sovereign, but an English minister and his wife, was sure of receiving attention wherever it passed or stopped; but in the present case it was the naval officer who carried off the lion's share of homage, so widely had his fame spread throughout the Continent. At Trieste, says Miss Knight, "he is followed by thousands when he goes out, and for the illumination which is to take place this evening, there are many Viva Nelsons prepared."

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