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Title: Drake, Nelson and Napoleon
Author: Walter Runciman
Release Date: March 9, 2005 [eBook #15299]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK DRAKE, NELSON AND NAPOLEON***
MY DEAR SIR JAMES,
We have travelled far since those early days when you and I, who are of totally different tastes and temperament, first met and became friends. I was attracted by your wide knowledge, versatile vigour of mind, and engaging personality, which subsequent years have not diminished. You were strenuously engaged at that time in breaking down the weevilly traditions of a bygone age, and helping to create a new era in the art of steamship management, and, at the same time, studying for the Bar; and were I writing a biography of you, I would have to include your interesting travels in distant lands in quest of business and organizing it. That must be left for another occasion, when the vast results to the commercial life of the country to which you contributed may be fittingly told.
At the present time my vision recalls our joyous yachting cruises on the Clyde, when poor Leadbitter added to the charm that stays. Perhaps best of all were the golden days when we habitually took our week-end strolls together by the edge of the inspiriting splendour of the blue North Sea, strolls which are hallowed by many memories, and gave me an opportunity of listening to your vehement flashes of human sympathies, which are so widely known now. It is my high appreciation of those tender gifts and of your personal worth, together with the many acts of kindness and consideration shown to me when I have been your guest, that gives me the desire to inscribe this book to you and Lady Knott, and to the memory of your gallant sons, Major Leadbitter Knott, D.S.O., who was killed while leading his battalion in a terrific engagement in Flanders, and Captain Basil Knott, who fell so tragically a few months previously at his brother's side.
With every sentiment of esteem,
I am, dear Sir James,
Ever yours sincerely,
This book has evolved from another which I had for years been urged to write by personal friends. I had chatted occasionally about my own voyages, related incidents concerning them and the countries and places I had visited, the ships I had sailed in, the men I had sailed with, and the sailors of that period. It is one thing to tell sea-tales in a cosy room and to enjoy living again for a brief time in the days that are gone; but it is another matter when one is asked to put the stories into book form. Needless to say for a long time I shrank from undertaking the task, but was ultimately prevailed upon to do so. The book was commenced and was well advanced, and, as I could not depict the sailors of my own period without dealing—as I thought at the time—briefly with the race of men called buccaneers who were really the creators of the British mercantile marine and Navy, who lived centuries before my generation, I was obliged to deal with some of them, such as Hawkins, Drake, Frobisher, Daimper, Alexander Selkirk of Robinson Crusoe fame, and others who combined piracy with commerce and sailorism. After I had written all I thought necessary about the three former, I instinctively slipped on to Nelson as the greatest sea personality of the beginning of the last century. I found the subject so engrossing that I could not centre my thoughts on any other, so determined to continue my narrative, which is not, and never was intended to be a life of Nelson. Perhaps it may be properly termed fragmentary thoughts and jottings concerning the life of an extraordinary human force, written at intervals when I had leisure from an otherwise busy life.
Even if I had thought it desirable, it was hardly possible to write about Nelson without also dealing with Britain's great adversary and Nelson's distracted opinion of him.
It would be futile to attempt to draw a comparison between the two men. The one was a colossal human genius, and the other, extraordinary in the art of his profession, was entirely without the faculty of understanding or appreciating the distinguished man he flippantly raged at from his quarterdeck.
But be that as it may, Nelson's terrific aversion to and explosions against the French and Napoleon, in whose history I had been absorbed for many years, seem to me to be the deliberate outpouring of a mind governed by feeling rather than by knowledge as to the real cause of the wars and of how we came to be involved and continue in them. Nor does he ever show that he had any clear conception of the history of Napoleon's advent as the Ruler of the People with whom we were at war.
I have given this book the title of "Drake, Nelson and Napoleon" because it seemed to me necessary to bring in Drake, the prototype, and Napoleon, the antagonist of Nelson.
Drake's influence bore fruit in what is known as the Fleet Tradition, which culminated in the "Nelson touch." No excuse is needed, therefore, for writing a chapter which shows how little the seaman's character has changed in essentials since that time. To-day, our sailors have the same simple direct force which characterized the Elizabethan seamen and those of Nelsonian times.
Of Napoleon I have written fully in my book "The Tragedy of St. Helena," and have contented myself here with pointing out how the crass stupidity and blind prejudice of his opponents have helped largely to bring about the world-war of our own times. I have also endeavoured to contrast the statesmanlike attitude of Napoleon with the short-sighted policy of England's politicians and their allies at that time.
Having planned the book on such lines, it inevitably follows that Nelson must occupy a larger space in it than either Drake or Napoleon, but for that I offer no apology.
LETTER TO SIR JAMES KNOTT
DRAKE AND THE FLEET TRADITION
NELSON AND HIS CIRCLE
NAPOLEON AND HIS CONNECTION WITH THE WORLD-WAR (1914-1918)
WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR
LINE OF BATTLE SHIP (EARLY
LADY HAMILTON AS "A SIBYL"
CAPTAIN HARDY (OF THE "VICTORY")
"PRINCESS CHARLOTTE."—FRIGATE (EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY)
H.M.S. "VICTORY" GOING INTO BATTLE AT TRAFALGAR
THE EMPEROR NAPOLEON AFTER HIS ACCESSION
The great sailors of the Elizabethan era—Hawkins, Drake, Frobisher, Howard, Davis, and Sir Humphrey Gilbert—were the prototypes of the sailors of the nineteenth century. They discovered new lands, opened up new avenues of commerce, and combined these legitimate forms of enterprise with others which at this date would be regarded as rank piracy. Since, however, they believed themselves to be the ambassadors of God, they did everything in His name, whether it were the seizing of Spanish treasure or the annexing of new worlds by fair means or foul, believing quite sincerely in the sanctity of what they did with a seriousness and faith which now appear almost comic.
For many years the authorities of the Inquisition had plundered goods and put to death English seamen and merchants, and Spanish Philip, when remonstrated with, shrugged his shoulders and repudiated the responsibility by saying that he had no power over the "Holy House." Drake retaliated by taking possession of and bringing to England a million and a half of Spanish treasure while the two countries were not at war. It is said that when Drake laid hands on the bullion at Panama he sent a message to the Viceroy that he must now learn not to interfere with the properties of English subjects, and that if four English sailors who were prisoners in Mexico were ill-treated he would execute two thousand Spaniards and send him their heads. Drake never wasted thought about reprisals or made frothy apologetic speeches as to what would happen to those with whom he was at religious war if they molested his fellow-countrymen. He met atrocity with atrocity. He believed it to be his mission to avenge the burning of British seamen and the Spanish and Popish attempts on the life of his virgin sovereign. That he knew her to be an audacious flirt, an insufferable miser, and an incurable political intriguer whose tortuous moves had to be watched as vigilantly as Philip's assassins and English traitors, is apparent from reliable records. His mind was saturated with the belief in his own high destiny, as the chosen instrument to break the Spanish power in Europe. He was insensible to fear, and knew how to make other people fear and obey him. He was not only an invincible crusader, but one of those rare personalities who have the power of infusing into his comrades his own courage and enthusiasm. The Spanish said he was "a magician who had sold his soul to the devil." The Spanish sailors, and Philip himself, together with his nobles, were terror-stricken at the mention of his name. He was to them an invincible dragon. Santa Cruz warned his compatriots that the heretics "had teeth, and could use them." Here is another instance, selected from many, of the fanatical superstitions concerning Drake's irresistible power. Medina Sidonia had deserted the Andalusian squadron. Drake came across the flagship. Her commander said he was Don Pedro de Valdes, and could only surrender on honourable terms. The English commander replied, "I am Drake, and have no time to parley. Don Pedro must surrender or fight." So Don Pedro surrendered to the gallant captain of the Revenge, and lavished him with praise, evidently glad to have fallen into the hands of so famous and generous a foe. Drake is said to have treated his captive with elaborate generosity, while his crew commandeered all the vast treasure. He then sent the galleon into Dartmouth Harbour, and set off with his prisoners to chase Medina Sidonia.
In the whole range of Drake's adventurous career there does not appear to be any evidence of his having been possessed with the idea of supernatural assistance, though if perchance he missed any of Philip's treasure-ships he complacently reported "the reason" to those in authority as "being best known to God," and there the incident ended. On the other hand, the Deity was no mystery to him. His belief in a Supreme Power was real, and that he worked in harmony with It he never doubted. When he came across anything on land or sea which he thought should be appropriated for the benefit of his Queen and country, or for himself and those who were associated with him in his piratical enterprises, nothing was allowed to stand in his way, and, generally speaking, he paralysed all resistance to his arms into submission by an inexorable will and genius. The parsimonious Elizabeth was always slyly willing to receive the proceeds of his dashing deeds, but never unduly generous in fixing his share of them. She allowed her ships to lie rotting when they should have been kept in sound and efficient condition, and her sailors to starve in the streets and seaports. Never a care was bestowed on these poor fellows to whom she owed so much. Drake and Hawkins, on the other hand, saw the national danger, and founded a war fund called the "Chatham Chest"; and, after great pressure, the Queen granted £20,000 and the loan of six battleships to the Syndicate. Happily the commercial people gave freely, as they always do. What trouble these matchless patriots had to overcome! Intrigue, treason, religious fanaticism, begrudging of supplies, the constant shortage of stores and provisions at every critical stage of a crisis, the contradictory instructions from the exasperating Tudor Queen: the fleet kept in port until the chances of an easy victory over England's bitterest foes had passed away! But for the vacillation of the icy virgin, Drake's Portugal expedition would have put the triumph of the Spanish Armada to the blush, and the great Admiral might have been saved the anguish of misfortune that seemed to follow his future daring adventures for Spanish treasure on land and sea until the shadows of failure compassed him round. His spirit broken and his body smitten with incurable disease, the fleet under his command anchored at Puerto Bello after a heavy passage from Escudo de Veragua, a pestilential desert island. He was then in delirium, and on the 28th January, 1596, the big soul of our greatest seaman passed away beyond the veil. His body was put into a lead and oak coffin and taken a few miles out to sea, and amidst manifestations of great sorrow he was lowered down the side and the waters covered him over. Two useless prize ships were sunk beside him, and there they may still lie together. The fleet, having lost their guiding spirit, weighed anchor and shaped their course homewards.
Drake was not merely a seaman and the creator of generations of sailors, but he was also a sea warrior of superb naval genius. It was he who invented the magnificent plan of searching for his country's enemies in every creek into which he could get a craft. He also imbued Her Gracious Majesty and Her Gracious Majesty's seamen with the idea that in warfare on sea or land it is a first principle to strike first if you wish to gain the field and hold it. Having smashed his antagonist, he regarded it as a plain duty in the name of God to live on his beaten foes and seize their treasures of gold, silver, diamonds, works of art, etc., wherever these could be laid hold of. The First Lady of the Land was abashed at the gallant sailor's bold piratical efforts. She would not touch the dirty, ill-gotten stuff until the noble fellow had told her the fascinating story of his matchless adventures and slashing successes. Doubtless the astute Admiral had learned that his blameless Queen was only averse to sharing with him the plunder of a risky voyage until he had assured her again and again that her cousin, Philip of Spain, had his voracious eye on her life, her throne, and all her British possessions, wherever they might be.
The valiant seaman appears to have played daintily and to good effect with the diabolical acts of the Spaniards, such as the burning of English seamen, until they roused in Elizabeth the spirit of covetousness and retaliation. It was easy then for her incorruptible integrity (!) to surrender to temptation. A division of what had been taken from Philip's subjects was forthwith piously made. Elizabeth, being the chief of the contracting parties, took with her accustomed grace the queenly share. On one occasion she walked in the parks with Drake, held a royal banquet on board the notorious Pelican, and knighted him; while he, in return for these little attentions, lavished on his Queen presents of diamonds, emeralds, etc. The accounts which have been handed down to us seem, in these days, amazing in their cold-blooded defiance of honourable dealing. But we must face the hard facts of the necessity of retaliation against the revolting deeds of the Inquisition and the determined, intriguing policy of worming Popery into the hearts of a Protestant nation, and then we realize that Drake's methods were the "invention" of an inevitable alternative either to fight this hideous despotism with more desperate weapons and greater vigour than the languid, luxury-loving Spaniards had taken the trouble to create or succumb to their tremendous power of wealth and wickedness. Drake was the chosen instrument of an inscrutable destiny, and we owe it to him that the divided England of that day was saved from annihilation. He broke the power of Spain at sea, and established England as the first naval and mercantile Power in the world. He was the real founder of generations of seamen, and his undying fame will inspire generations yet unborn to maintain the supremacy of the seas.
The callous, brutal attitude of Elizabeth towards a race of men who had given their lives and souls so freely in every form of danger and patriotic adventure because they believed it to be a holy duty is one of the blackest pages of human history. The cruelties of the Spanish Inquisition and the treatment of sailors in the galleys were only different in degree, and while there are sound reasons for condemning the Queen and the ruling classes of that time for conduct that would not be tolerated in these days, it is unquestionably true that it was a difficult task to keep under control the spirit of rebellion of that period, as it is to-day. Doubtless those in authority were, in their judgment, compelled to rule with a heavy hand in order to keep in check wilful breaches of discipline.
Attempts to mutiny and acts of treason were incidents in the wonderful career of Francis Drake which frequently caused him to act with severity. Doughty, the Spanish spy, who was at one time a personal friend of Drake's, resolved to betray his commander. Doughty was caught in the act, tried by a court composed of men serving under Drake, found guilty, and after dining with the Admiral, chatting cheerfully as in their friendly days, they drank each other's health and had some private conversation not recorded; then Doughty was led to the place of execution and had his head chopped off, Drake exclaiming as it fell, "Lo, this is the end of traitors!" Then Drake relieved Fletcher of his duties as chaplain by telling him softly that he would "preach this day." The ship's company was called together and he exhorted them to harmony, warning them of the danger of discord. Then in his breezy phraseology he exclaims, "By the life of God, it doth even take my wits from me to think of it." The crew, it appears, was composed of gentlemen, who were obviously putting on airs, and sailors, who resented their swank as much as did the great captain. So Drake proceeds to lay the law down vehemently. "Let us show ourselves," said he, "all to be of one company, and let us not give occasion to the enemy to rejoice at our decay and overthrow. Show me the man that would refuse to set his hand to a rope, but I know that there is not any such here." Then he proceeds to drive home his plan of discipline with vigour. "And as gentlemen are necessary for government's sake in the voyage, so I have shipped them to that and to some further intent." He does not say quite what it is, but they doubtless understand that it is meant to be a warning lest he should be compelled to put them through some harsh form of punishment. He concludes his memorable address with a few candid words, in which he declares that he knows sailors to be the most envious people in the world and, in his own words, "unruly without government," yet, says he, "May I not be without them!" It is quite clear that Drake would have no class distinction. His little sermon sank deep into the souls of his crew, so that when he offered the Marigold to those who had lost heart, to take them back to England, he had not only made them ashamed of their refractory conduct, but imbued them with a new spirit, which caused them to vie with each other in professions of loyalty and eagerness to go on with him and comply with all the conditions of the enterprise.
The great commander had no room for antics of martyrdom. He gave human nature first place in his plan of dealing with human affairs. He did not allow his mind to be disturbed by trifles. He had big jobs to tackle, and he never doubted that he was the one and only man who could carry them to a successful issue. He took his instructions from Elizabeth and her blustering ministers, whom he regarded as just as likely to serve Philip as the Tudor Queen if it came to a matter of deciding between Popery and Protestantism. He received their instructions in a courtly way, but there are striking evidences that he was ever on the watch for their vacillating pranks, and he always dashed out of port as soon as he had received the usual hesitating permission. Once out of reach, he brushed aside imperial instructions if they stood in the way of his own definite plan of serving the best interests of his country, and if the course he took did not completely succeed—which was seldom the case—he believed "the reason was best known to God."
John Hawkins and Francis Drake had a simple faith in the divine object they were serving. Hawkins thought it an act of high godliness to pretend that he had turned Papist, in order that he might revenge and rescue the remnant of his poor comrades of the San Juan de Ulloa catastrophe, who were now shut up in Seville yards and made to work in chains. Sir John hoodwinked Philip by making use of Mr. George Fitzwilliam, who in turn made use of Rudolfe and Mary Stuart. Mary believed in the genuineness of the conspiracy to assassinate Elizabeth and set up the Queen of Scots in her place, to hand over Elizabeth's ships to Spain, confiscate property, and to kill a number of anti-Catholic people. The Hawkins counterplot of revenge on Philip and his guilty confederates was completely successful. The comic audacity of it is almost beyond belief. The Pope had bestowed his blessing on the conspiracy, and the Spanish Council of State was enthusiastically certain of its success. So credulous were they of the great piratical seaman's conversion, that an agreement was signed pardoning Hawkins for his acts of piracy in the West Indies and other places; a Spanish peerage was given him together with £40,000, which was to be used for equipping the privateer fleet. The money was duly paid in London, and possibly some of it was used for repairing the British squadron which Hawkins had pronounced as being composed of the finest ships in the world for him to hand over to Philip, even though they had been neglected owing to the Queen's meanness. The plausible way in which the great seaman put this proposition caught the imagination of the negotiators. They were captivated by him. He had caused them to believe that he was a genuine seceder from heresy and from allegiance to the Queen of England, and was anxious to avow his penitence for the great sins he had committed against God and the only true faith, and to make atonement for them in befitting humility. All he asked for was forgiveness, and in the fullness of magnanimity they were possibly moved to ask if, in addition to forgiveness, a Spanish peerage, and £40,000, he would like to commemorate the occasion of his conversion by a further token of His Spanish Majesty's favour. It is easy to picture the apparent indifference with which he suggested that he did not ask for favours, but if he were to ask for anything, it would be the release from the Inquisition galleys of a few poor sailor prisoners. The apparently modest request was granted. Hawkins had risked his life to accomplish this, and now he writes a letter to Cecil beginning "My very good Lord." I do not give the whole of the letter. Suffice it to say that he confirms the success of the plot so far as he is concerned, and in a last paragraph he says, "I have sent your Lordship the copy of my pardon from the King of Spain, in the order and manner I have it, with my great titles and honours from the King, from which God deliver me."
The process by which Hawkins succeeded in obtaining the object he had in view was the conception of no ordinary man. We talk and write of his wonderful accomplishments on sea and land, as a skilful, brave sailor, but he was more than that. He was, in many respects, a genius, and his courage and resolution were unfailingly magnificent.
I dare say the prank he played on Philip and his advisers would be regarded as unworthy cunning, and an outrage on the rules of high honour. Good Protestant Christians disapproved then, as now, the wickedness of thus gambling with religion to attain any object whatsoever, and especially of swearing by the Mother of God the renunciation of the Protestant faith and the adoption of Roman Catholicism. The Spaniards, who had a hand in this nefarious proceeding, were quite convinced that, though Hawkins had been a pirate and a sea robber and murderer, now that he had come over to their faith the predisposition to his former evil habits would leave him. These were the high moral grounds on which was based the resolve to execute Elizabeth and a large number of her subjects, and take possession of the throne and private property at their will. It was, of course, the spirit of retaliation for the iniquities of the British rovers which was condoned by their monarch. In justification of our part of the game during this period of warfare for religious and material ascendancy, we stand by the eternal platitude that in that age we were compelled to act differently from what we should be justified in doing now. Civilization, for instance, so the argument goes, was at a low ebb then. I am not so sure that it did not stand higher than it does now. It is so easy for nations to become uncivilized, and we, in common with other nations, have a singular aptitude for it when we think we have a grievance. Be that as it may, Hawkins, Drake, and the other fine sea rovers had no petty scruples about relieving Spaniards of their treasure when they came across it on land or on their ships at sea. Call them by what epithet you like, they believed in the sanctity of their methods of carrying on war, and the results for the most part confirmed the accuracy of their judgment. At any rate, by their bold and resolute deeds they established British freedom and her supremacy of the seas, and handed down to us an abiding spirit that has reared the finest seamen and established our incomparable merchant fleet, the largest and finest in the world.
There is no shame in wishing the nation to become imbued with the spirit of these old-time heroes, for the heritage they have bequeathed to us is divine and lives on. We speak of the great deeds they were guided to perform, but we rarely stop to think from whence the inspiration came, until we are touched by a throbbing impulse that brings us into the presence of the great mystery, at which who would dare to mock?
It is strange that Hawkins' and Drake's brilliant and tragic careers should have been brought to an end by the same disease within a short time of each other and not many miles apart, and that their mother, the sea, should have claimed them at last in the vicinity of the scene of their first victorious encounter with their lifelong enemies, the Spaniards. The death of the two invincibles, who had long struck terror into the hearts of their foes, was the signal for prolonged rejoicings in the Spanish Main and the Indies, while the British squadron, battered and disease-smitten, made its melancholy way homeward with the news of the tragedy.
For a time the loss of these commanding figures dealt a blow at the national spirit. There are usually long intervals between Cæsars and Napoleons. Nations have, in obedience to some law of Nature, to pass through periods of mediocre rule, and when men of great genius and dominating qualities come to clear up the mess, they are only tolerated possibly by fear, and never for long by appreciation. A capricious public soon tires of these living heroes. It is after they are dead that they become abiding examples of human greatness, not so much to their contemporaries as to those generations that follow them. The historian has a great deal to do with the manner in which the fame of a great man is handed down to posterity, and it should never be forgotten that historians have to depend on evidence which may be faulty, while their own judgment may not always be sound. It is a most difficult task to discipline the mind into a perfectly unbiased condition. The great point is to state honestly what you believe, and not what you may know those you are speaking to wish you to say. The contemporaries of Hawkins and Drake unquestionably regarded them with high admiration, but I question whether they were deified then as they are now. The same thing applies to Nelson and Collingwood, of whom I shall speak later on, as the historian has put the stamp upon their great deeds also.
Drake and Hawkins attracted attention because of their daring voyages and piratical enterprises on Spanish property on sea and land. Every obstacle was brushed aside. Danger ever appealed to them. They dashed into fortified ports filled with warships fully equipped, silenced the forts, sank and set fire to Philip's vessels, and made everything and everybody fly before them in the belief that hell had been let loose. To the superstitious Spanish mind it seemed as though the English must be under Satanic protection when they slashed their way undaunted into the midst of dangers which would inevitably spell death for the mere mortal. These corsairs of ours obviously knew and took advantage of this superstition, for cannon were never resorted to without good reason, and never without effect. The deliberate defiance of any written or unwritten law that forbade their laying hands on the treasure they sought so diligently, and went far and near to find, merely increased public admiration. Elizabeth pretended that they were very trying to her Christian virtues. But leave out of count the foregoing deeds—which no one can dispute were prodigious, and quite equal to the part these men played in the destruction of the Armada—what could be more dashingly brilliant in naval warfare than Drake's raids on San Domingo, Carthagena, Cadiz, and other ports and cities of old and new Spain, to which I have already briefly alluded? It was their great successes in their great undertakings, no matter whether it was "shocking piracy" or not, that immortalized these terrible creators of England's greatness all the world over!
Thomas Cobham, a member of a lordly and Protestant family, became a sailor, and soon became fascinated with the gay life of privateering. Once when in command of a vessel, eagerly scouring the seas for Spanish prizes, one was sighted, bound from Antwerp to Cadiz. Cobham gave chase, easily captured her in the Bay of Biscay, and discovered there were forty Inquisition prisoners aboard. After rescuing the prisoners, the captain and crew of the Spanish vessel were then sewn up in their own mainsail and tossed into the sea, no doubt with such sententious expressions of godliness as was thought befitting to sacred occasions of that period. This ceremony having been performed, the vessel was scuttled, so that she might nevermore be used in trading with British sailors or any one else for Inquisition purposes. When the story became known, the case was discreetly inquired into, and very properly the gallant Cobham was never punished, and was soon running here and there at his old game.
It may be taken for granted that there was no mincing matters when an opportunity for reprisals occurred. The Spaniards had carried barbarism to such a pitch in seizing our ships and condemning their crews to the galleys, that Queen Elizabeth was never averse to meeting murder and plunder by more than the equivalent in retaliation, except when she imagined that Philip was showing signs of overpowering strength; she then became timid and vacillating. She was never mentally disturbed by the moral side of the great deeds that brought her vast stores of plunder. Moreover, she could always find an accommodating bishop to put her qualms (if she ever had any, except those of consequence to herself) at rest on points of conscience. One noted personage, who held high ecclesiastical office, told her that it was a virtue to seize treasure when she knew it would otherwise be used for the purpose of murdering her Protestant subjects. Sir Arthur Champernowne, a noted vice-admiral of Elizabeth's reign, in writing to Cecil of the vessel that had put into Plymouth through stress of weather with the needy Philip's half-million of ducats on board, borrowed, it is said, from a Genoa firm of financiers, said it should be claimed as fair booty. Sir Arthur's view was that anything taken from so perfidious a nation was both necessary and profitable to the Commonwealth. No doubt a great deal of pious discussion would centre round the Vice-Admiral's easy moral but very logical opinions. The main thing in his mind, and in that of everybody else who was free from poisoned cant, was that the most shocking crimes were being openly advocated by Philip, King of Spain, against all European Protestants, rich or poor, who came within the clutches of the savages that administered the cruelties of the Inquisition. The canting crowd shrieked against the monstrous impiety of such notions, but their efforts to prove purity of motive were unavailing.
After considered thought by a committee of men of high rectitude, it was decided to act without fear or favour in a strictly impartial manner, so Philip's half-million of bullion was divided between the Prince of Orange and the rigid moralist, Elizabeth, who is credited with having spent her share on the Navy, a very admirable way of disposing of it.
This act was the cause of a deluge of reprisals on the part of Spain. But, from all accounts, Elizabeth's corsairs had always the best of it in matters of material importance. The Spanish are naturally a proud, brave race. In the middle of the sixteenth century their power dominated two-thirds of the universe, and had they stuck to business, and not so feverishly to the spreading of their religious faith by violent means, they might have continued a predominant nation.
Their civil, naval, and military position was unequalled. The commerce and wealth of the whole world was pre-eminently in their hands, and in common with other nations who arrive at heights of power, prosperity, and grandeur (which last sits so easily on the Spaniard), they gave way to pleasures and to the luxury of laziness which invariably carries with it sensuality. Wherever they found themselves in the ascendancy, they intrigued to impose the Roman faith on the population, and if that method did not succeed with felicity, whenever the agents of their governing classes, including their king, met with opposition from prominent men or women, their opponents were put to the rack, burnt, or their heads sent flying. In this country no leading Protestant's life or property was safe. Even Elizabeth, during the reign of her half-sister, Mary, was obliged to make believe that her religious faith was Roman in harmony with that of the Queen. It was either adoption, deception, or execution, and the future queen outwitted all their traps and inventions until Mary passed on, and Elizabeth took her place on the throne.
Meanwhile, Spain, as I have indicated, was tampering with abiding laws. Catastrophe always follows perilous habits of life, which were correctly attributed to the Spanish. As with individuals, so it is with nations; pride can never successfully run in conjunction with the decadence of wealth. It is manifestly true that it is easier for a nation to go up than to realize that it has come down, and during long years Spain has had to learn this bitter lesson. It was not only imperious pride of race and extravagant grandeur that brought the destruction of her supremacy of the seas, and the wealth and supremacy of many lands, but their intolerable religious despotism towards those who were not already, and refused to become, as I have said, adherents of the Roman Catholic creed. Poor wretches who were not strong enough to defend themselves had the mark of heretics put on them; and for nearly thirty years Spaniards carried on a system of burning British seamen whenever they could lay hands on them. They kept up a constant system of spying and plotting against the British Protestant Queen and her subjects of every position in life. The policy of the Spanish King and government was to make the British and other races vassals of the Pope. Philip, like all powerful monarchs and individuals who are put into power without any of the qualities of fitness to fill a high post, always believed that his presence on earth was an act of supreme Providence. Philip, in proclaiming his glorious advent for the good of mankind, explained it with a decorum that had a fascinating flavour. Unlike some imitators of great personalities, he was never vulgarly boastful in giving expression to the belief that his power came from above and would be sustained by the mystery that gave him it in such abundance, but, in fact, he never doubted what was known as the doctrine of the divine right of kings.
The human support which kept him in authority did not enter into his calculations. The popular notions of the democracies then was that no physical force could sever the alliance which existed between God and monarchs; and there is no evidence that Philip was ever disillusioned. He regarded his adversaries, especially Hawkins and Drake, in the light of magicians possessed of devilish spirits that were in conflict with the wishes of the Deity. His highly placed and best naval officer, Santa Cruz, took a more realistic view than his master, though he might have had doubts as to whether the people who were at war with Spain were not a species of devil. But he expressed the view which even at this distance of time shows him to have been a man of sane, practical thought. Philip imagined he could agree with the acts of assassins (and also support the Holy Office) in their policy of burning English sailors as heretics. Santa Cruz reflected more deeply, and advised the King that such acts were positively courting disaster, because "the British corsairs had teeth, and could use them."
Spain looked upon her naval position as impregnable, but Elizabeth's pirates contemptuously termed it "a Colossus stuffed with clouts." Priests, crucifixes, and reliance on supernatural assistance had no meaning for them. If any suggestion to impose on them by such means had been made, they would have cast the culprits over the side into the sea. They were peculiarly religious, but would tolerate no saintly humbugs who lived on superstition. When they had serious work in hand, they relied on their own mental and physical powers, and if they failed in their objective, they reverently remarked, "The reason is best known to God"—a simple, unadorned final phrase.
Some of the sayings and doings, reliable or unreliable, that have been handed down to us, are extremely comical, looking at them from our religious standpoint in these days; for instance, Drake's method of dealing with insubordination, his idea of how treason was to be stamped out, and the trial of Doughty, the traitor.
People who sit in cosy houses, which these early sailors made it possible for them in other days and now to acquire, may regard many of the disciplinary methods of Drake and his sea contemporaries as sheer savage murder, but these critics are not quite qualified to judge as to the justice or injustice of the actions of one man who is responsible for the safe and proper navigation of a vessel, no matter whether on an enterprising voyage of piracy, fair trade, or invasion. If a nautical project is to be carried out with complete success, the first element in the venture is discipline, and the early seafarers believed this, as their successors have always done, especially during the different periods of the sailing-ship era. A commander, if he wishes to be successful in keeping the spirit of rebellion under, must imbue those under him with a kind of awe. This only succeeds if the commander has a magnetic and powerful will, combined with quick action and sound, unhesitating judgment. All the greatest naval and military chiefs have had and must have now these essential gifts of nature if they are to be successful in their art. The man of dashing expediency without judgment or knowledge is a great peril in any responsible position. When either a ship or nation or anything else is in trouble, it is the cool, calculating, orderly administrator, who never makes chaos or destructive fuss, that succeeds. That is essential, and it is only this type of person that so often saves both ships, armies, and nations from inevitable destruction. The Duke of Wellington used to say that "In every case, the winning of a battle was always a damned near thing." One of the most important characteristics of Drake's and Hawkins' genius was their fearless accurate methods of putting the fear of God into the Spaniards, both at sea and ashore. The mention of their names made Philip's flesh creep. Even Admiral Santa Cruz, in common with his compatriots, thought Drake was "The Serpent"—"The Devil." And the Spanish opinion of him helped Drake to win many a tough battle. Amongst the thrilling examples are his dashes into Corunna and Cadiz. Drake never took the risk before calculating the cost and making certain of where the vulnerable weak spot of the enemy lay, and when and where to strike it. The complete vanquishing of the Armada is another instance of Drake's great qualities of slashing yet sound judgment put accurately into effect.
Of course, the honours of the defeat of the Armada must always be shared with other naval experts who had acquired their knowledge of sea warfare in what is called the piratical line. But the spirit that inflamed the whole British fleet was that of Drake, Hawkins, Frobisher, Seymour, and Howard, and the inspiration came mainly from the two former. On the Spanish side, as a naval battle, it was a fiasco, a mere colossal clerical burlesque. Neither naval strategy nor ordinary seamanship was in evidence on the part of the chief commander or his admirals. The men fought with rough-and-tumble heroism. The sailors were only second in quality to our own, but there was no plan of battle, and the poor Duke of Medina Sidonia had neither knowledge of naval affairs nor courage. Philip's theory seems to have been that any lack of efficiency in the art of war by his commanders would be made up by the spiritual encouragement of the priests dangling their crucifixes about the decks amongst the sailors and soldiers, who had been put through a course of instruction on spiritual efficacy before sailing on their doomed expedition. They were made to believe that the Spanish cause was so just that assistance would be given from God to defeat the "infernal devils" and to invade their country.
This great battle transferred the sea supremacy from the Spanish to the British, who have held it, with one interval, ever since, and will continue to hold it, provided that Philip's theories of relying merely on the help that comes from above be supplemented by, first, the appointment of a proper head at the Admiralty with some nautical instinct and knowledge of affairs; and secondly, the keeping up of an efficient fleet, manned with efficient officers and men. Heaven helps those who help themselves. No department of government can be properly managed by novices. The reckless, experimental appointment of untried men to positions of grave responsibility on which the happiness, comfort, and life of the whole public may depend, and the very existence of the country be put in jeopardy, is a gamble, and may be a crime.
It is always risky to assume that any person holding authority in the bigger affairs of life is in consequence an instrument of Providence. Had the conception of the Armada and the organization of every detail been put into the hands of experienced and trained experts with sound judgment in naval matters, such as Admiral Santa Cruz, and had it not been for Philip and his landsman ideas of the efficacy of priests and crucifixes, and greenhorns such as the Duke of Medina Sidonia and his landlubber colleagues, Spain might never have been involved in the Armada fight, and if she had, it is scarcely likely that so appalling a disaster could have come to her. Apart from any fighting, the fact of having no better sea knowledge or judgment than to anchor the Spanish ships in an open roadstead like Calais was courting the loss of the whole Spanish fleet. One of the fundamental precautions of seamanship is never to anchor on a lee shore or in an open roadstead, without a means of escape. The dunderheaded Spanish commanders made their extermination much more easy for the highly trained British seamen of all grades, none of whom had any reason to hide their heads in shame for any part they individually took in the complete ruin of the Spanish Navy.
One cannot read the sordid story without feeling a pang of pity for the proud men, such as Recaldo, who died on landing at Bilbao; or Oquendo, whose home was at Santander. He refused to see his wife and children, turned his face to the wall, and died of a broken heart begotten of shame. The soldiers and sailors were so weak they could not help themselves, and died in hundreds on the ships that crawled back to Spain. The tragic fate of these vessels and their crews that were dashed to pieces on the rocks of the Hebrides and Ireland added greatly to the tale of horror. Philip was crushed, but was a man of tender sympathies, and free from vindictive resentment against those who were placed in charge of his terrific and ill-fated navy. He worked and exhorted others to relieve the sufferers in every possible way. He obviously regarded the disaster as a divine rebuke, and submissively acquiesced with true Spanish indolence, saying that he believed it to be the "great purpose of Heaven."
On the authority of the Duke of Parma, "The English regarded their victory with modesty, and were languidly indifferent to their valour." They looked upon the defeat of the Spanish Navy as a token of the Ruler of all things being decidedly partial to the Protestant faith. The Spaniards, as a whole, would not allow that Heaven was against them or that the verdict was that of Providence. They declared that it was entirely the result of the superior management of the English ships and the fighting quality of their crews. With this chivalrous testimonial no one could then or will now disagree. It was very sporting of them to admit the superiority of the British ships and seamanship.
Drake and his compeers had reason to be proud of their efforts in the great naval contest. Their reputations were enhanced by it all over the world, though never a sign or word came from themselves about their gallantry. They looked upon these matters as mere incidents of their enterprising lives.
But it is really in the lesser sea encounters, though they probably had just as great results, that we become enthralled by Drake's adventurous voyages. The Armada affair was more like the battle of Trafalgar, one of the differences being that in the latter engagement the Spanish ships did not risk going far into the open sea, but wisely kept Cadiz open for retreat, which they availed themselves of after receiving a dreadful pounding. Drake's voyage in the Pelican excelled anything that had ever been accomplished by previous sea rovers, and his expedition to the West Indies was a great feat. He always had trouble with Queen Elizabeth about money when organizing his voyages. Her Spanish brother-in-law's power was always in her thoughts. He never allowed her to forget that if he were provoked he would invade England, and notwithstanding her retort that England had a long arm which he would do well to fear, her courage alternated with some nervousness at times. Elizabeth was not so much concerned about his threat of excommunication of her as the sly tricks in conjunction with the Pope in spreading the spirit of rebellion in Ireland, and in other ways conspiring against her. Her mood was at one time to defy him, and at another conciliatory and fearful lest her pirate chiefs should do anything to provoke Spanish susceptibilities. Drake was much hampered by her moods when he wanted to get quickly to business, and never lost an opportunity of slipping out of her reach when his eloquence on the acquisition of untold wealth and the capture of some of Philip's distant colonies had appealed to her boundless avarice and made her conscience easy. His expedition to the West Indies might never have been undertaken had he not been a dare-devil fellow, to whom Burleigh's wink was as good as a nod to be off. He slipped out of port unknown to her, and his first prize was a large Spanish ship loaded with salt fish. He pounced upon her after passing Ushant, and the excellent cargo was suitably distributed amongst the fleet.
There were 25 privateers, and a company of 2,500 men on this expedition. All were volunteers, and represented every grade of society, high and low. There was never any difficulty in getting a supply of men. On this occasion the applications largely outnumbered the posts available. Drake could always depend upon volunteers, and, like all men of superb action, he had no liking for conscription. He knew that in the performance and carrying out of great deeds (and nearly all of his were terrific) it is men aflame with courage and enthusiasm that carry the day, and take them as a whole, conscripts are never wholehearted. The two great characteristics of the British race—initiative and endurance—are due to this burning flame of voluntarism.
The West India expedition was organized and all expenses guaranteed by private individuals. The capital was £60,000, and its allocation was £40,000 for expenses and £20,000 to be distributed amongst those who had volunteered to serve. Both men and officers had signed on without any stipulation for wages. They knew they were out for a piratical cruise, and welcomed any danger, great or small, that would give them a chance of making it not only a monetary success, but one that would give Spanish autocracy another shattering blow. These ancient mariners never trifled with life, and no sombre views or fatal shadows disturbed their spirited ambition or caused them to shrink from their strenuous and stupendous work. They went forth in their cockleshell fleet as full of hope and confidence as those who are accustomed to sail and man a transatlantic liner of the present day. Some of their vessels were but little larger than a present-day battleship's tender. Neither roaring forties nor Cape Horn hurricanes intimidated them. It is only when we stop to think, that we realize how great these adventurers were, and how much we owe to their sacred memories.
In addition to being ridiculously small and shabby in point of efficiency in rigging, sails, and general outfit, it will always be a mystery how it was that so few were lost by stress of weather or even ordinary navigable risks. They were veritable boxes in design, and their rig alone made it impossible for them to make rapid passages, even if they had wished to do so. As I write these lines, and think of my own Western Ocean experiences in well-designed, perfectly equipped, large and small sailing vessels during the winter hurricane months, when the passages were made literally under water and every liquid mountain seemed to forebode immediate destruction, it taxes my nautical knowledge to understand how these inferior and smaller craft which Drake commanded did not succumb to the same elements that have carried superior vessels in later years to their doom. One reason that occurs to me is that they were never deeply laden, and they were accustomed to ride hurricanes out when they had plenty of sea room at their sea anchors.
But nothing can detract from what our generation may describe as their eccentric genius in combining navigation with piracy and naval and military art. Talk about "human vision"! What is the good of it if it turns out nothing but unrestrained confusion? The men of the period I am writing about had real "vision," and applied it with accuracy without disorganizing the machinery of life and making the world a miserable place to live in. They were all for country and none for self.
After the capture of the Spanish ship and the appropriation of her cargo of fish, Drake's fleet went lounging along towards Vigo. In due course he brought his ships to anchor in the harbour, and lost no time in coming in contact with Don Pedro Bendero, the Spanish governor, who was annoyed at the British Admiral's unceremonious appearance. Don Pedro said that he was not aware that his country was at war with Britain. Drake quickly disillusioned him, and demanded, "If we are not at war, why have English merchants been arrested?" Don Pedro said an order had come for their release. Drake landed forthwith a portion of his force, and seeing that he meant business that foreboded trouble, the governor sent him wine, fruit, and other luxurious articles of food in abundance. The ships were anchored in a somewhat open roadstead, so Drake resolved to take them farther up the waterway where they would lie comfortably, no matter from what direction the threatening storm might break. But he had another shrewd object in view, which was to make a beginning in acquiring any of the valuable and treasured possessions adorning the churches. A trusted officer who was in his confidence, and a great admirer of his wisdom and other personal qualities, was sent to survey the passage and to find a suitable anchorage. He was a man of enterprise, with a strong dislike to the Roman Catholic faith, and never doubted that he was perfectly justified in relieving the churches of plate and other valuables. These were, in his eyes, articles of idolatry that no man of puritanic and Protestant principles could refrain from removing and placing under the safe keeping of his revered chief, who was no more averse to robbing a church than he was to robbing a ship carrying gold or fish.
As the vessel in charge of this intrepid officer, whose name was Carlile, approached the town where it was proposed to anchor the fleet the inhabitants fled, taking with them much of the church plate and other things which the British had covetously thought an appropriate prize of theirs. Carlile, being a man of resource, soon laid hold of other church treasure, which amply compensated for the loss of that which was carried off by the fleeing inhabitants at the mouth of the harbour. The day following Christopher Carlile's satisfactory survey the fleet was anchored off the town. The sight of it threw the whole district into panic. A pompous governor of Galicia hastened to Vigo, and on his arrival there he took fright at the number of ships and the dreaded name of the pirate chief who was in command. It would be futile to show fight, so he determined to accommodate himself to the Admiral's terms, which were that he should have a free hand to replenish the fleet with water and provisions, or any other odds and ends, without interference. This being accomplished, he agreed to sail, and no doubt the governor thought he had made a judicious bargain in getting rid of him so easily. But Drake all the time had the Spanish gold fleet in his mind. Sacrifices must be made in order that it may be captured, so off he went for the Cape de Verde islands, and found when he got there that the treasure-ships had arrived and sailed only a few hours before. The disappointment was, according to custom, taken with Christian composure. He had the aptitude of switching his mind from one form of warfare to another. As I have said, he would just as soon attack and plunder a city as a church or a ship. Drake had missed the gold fleet, so he turned his attention to the treasures of Santiago. When the governor and population were made aware that the distinguished visitor to their island was the terrible "El Draque," they and their spiritual advisers as usual flew to the mountains, without neglecting to take their money and priceless possessions with them. Drake looted as much as was left in the city of wine and other valuables, but he got neither gold nor silver, and would probably have left Santiago unharmed but for the horrible murder of one of his sailor-boys, whose body was found hacked to pieces. This settled the doom of the finest built city in the Old World. "El Draque" at once set fire to it and burnt it to ashes, with that thoroughness which characterized all such dealings in an age when barbaric acts justified more than equivalent reprisals.
It would have been a wiser course for the governor to have treated for the ransom of the town than to have murdered a poor sailor lad who was innocently having a stroll. It is balderdash to talk of the Spaniards as being too proud to treat with a person whom they believed to be nothing better than a pirate. The Spaniards, like other nationalities, were never too proud to do anything that would strengthen or maintain their supremacy. Their apparent pride in not treating with Drake at Santiago and on other rare occasions was really the acme of terror at hearing his name; there was neither high honour nor grandee dignity connected with it. As to Philip's kingly pride, it consisted in offering a special reward of £40,000 to have Elizabeth's great sailor assassinated or kidnapped. There were many to whom the thought of the bribe was fascinating. Numerous attempts were made, but whenever the assassins came within sound of his name or sight of him or his ships they became possessed of involuntary twitchy sensations, and fled in a delirium of fear, which was attributed to his being a magician.
As soon as Drake had avenged the sailor-boy's murder he sailed for the West Indies. When he got into the hot latitudes the plague of yellow fever appeared, and nearly three hundred of his men died in a few days. Arriving at Dominica, they found the Caribs had a deadly hatred of the Spanish, and when they learned that the British were at war with Spain they offered to prescribe a certain cure for yellow jack which was eminently effectual. After disinfecting the ships, and getting supplied with their requirements, the fleet left for San Domingo, via St. Kitts, which was uninhabited at that time. Domingo was one of the most beautiful and most wealthy islands in the world. Columbus and his brother, Diego, are buried in the cathedral there. The population believed themselves to be immune from harm or invasion on this distant island home, but Drake soon disillusioned them. His devoted lieutenant, Christopher Carlile, was selected as usual to find a suitable channel and landing, a hazardous and almost unattainable quest, but in his and Drake's skilful hands their object was accomplished. The ships were brought into port, and in his usual direct way Drake demanded that the garrison of the castle should surrender without parley, and it was done. Drake was not finished with them yet; he wished to know from the governor what terms he was prepared to offer in order that the city should be saved from pillage. A negro boy was sent with this dispatch, and raging with the disgrace of surrendering to the British Admiral, an officer ran a lance through the boy's body. The poor boy was just able to get back, and died immediately, close to where Drake was. The Spaniards had allowed their vicious pride to incite them to commit murder and to insult the British Admiral, who promptly avenged both deeds by having two friars taken to the place where the boy had been stabbed, and there hanged. "El Draque" sent a further note to the governor informing him that unless the officer who murdered his messenger was executed at once by the Spanish authorities he would hang two friars for every day that it was put off. Needless to say, no more friars were hung, as the officer paid the penalty of his crime without further delay. The lacerated dignity of the Spaniards was still further tried by the demand for the ransom of the city, and their procrastination cost them dear.
Drake's theology was at variance with that of the Founder of our faith. His method was rigid self-assertion, and the power of the strong. The affront he conceived to have been laid upon him and upon the country he represented could only be wiped out by martial law. Theoretic babbling about equality had no place in his ethics of the universe. He proceeded to raid and burn both private dwellings, palaces, and magazines; and the Government House, which was reputed to be the finest building in the world, was operated upon for a month, until it was reduced to dust. These are some of the penalties that would have gladdened the heart of the gallant Beresford and his Albert Hall comrades of our time had they been carried out against the Germans, who have excelled the Spaniards of Philip's reign in cultured murder and other brutalities in a war that has cost William II his throne and brought the period of civilization perilously near its end. It may be that the instability of petty statesmanship is to disappear, and that Providence may have in unseen reserve a group of men with mental and physical powers capable of subduing human virulence and re-creating out of the chaos the Germans have made a new and enduring civilization; and when they shall appear their advent will be applauded by the stricken world.
Incidentally, it may be added that the German nation, which has endangered the existence of civilization, would never have been despised or thought ill of on account of its defeat by the Allies. It is their unjustifiable method of beginning the war, and the dirty brutal tricks by which they sought to win it, which have created enduring mistrust and animosity against them. The law of human fairness is no more exacting to small communities or individuals than it is to nations.
Drake continued his relentless reprisals against San Domingo. The burning of British sailors as heretics possessed his mind. The distracted governor would have given his soul to get rid of him, but Drake demanded money, and this the governor pleaded was not available, but he was ultimately forced to provide 25,000 ducats, equalling £50,000. This was accepted after the town had been shattered to pieces and the shipping destroyed. The cathedral was the only important building left intact, the probable reason being that the remains of the great navigator, Columbus, were entombed there. Already the mortality amongst Drake's crew had been alarmingly heavy, and he was too wise a man to gamble with their lives until the bad season came on, so he settled up and hurried away into the fresh sea breezes, determined to give many more Spanish possessions a thorough shaking up. The news that the freebooters were near at hand, and that they were committing shocking deeds of theft and destruction on the way, had filtered to the Carribean Sea, and struck the somnolent population with terror. Carthagena, a magnificent city and the capital of the Spanish Main, was Drake's next objective. He had large hopes of doing well there. The health of most of his crew had improved and was now robust, and their fighting spirits had been kindled to a high pitch by their gallant chief, whose eye of genius was centred on a big haul of material things. On arrival off the port, Carlile, whose resource and courage were always in demand, was put in charge of a strong force. He led the attack, mounted the parapets, drove the Spanish garrison away in confusion, killed the commander, and subsequently destroyed a large number of ships which were lazily lying in the port. Many English prisoners were released, which was a godsend in filling the places of those who had died.
The combative pretensions of the governor had received a severe shock. He was beaten, and Drake, like a true sportsman, asked him and his suite to dine with him, and with an air of Spanish dignity he accepted. The occasion was memorable for the royal way the distinguished guests were treated. The governor was studiously cordial, and obviously wished to win the favour of his remorseless visitors, so asked Drake and his officers to do him the honour of accepting his hospitality in return, which they did. What form the interchange of civilities took is not quite clear, but the governor's apparent amiableness did not in any way move Drake to exercise generosity. His object was ransom, and if this was agreed to good-naturedly, all the better for the Spaniards, but he was neither to be bought nor sold by wily tactics, nor won over by golden-tongued rhetoric. The price of the rugged Devonshire sailor's alternative of wild wrath and ruin was the modest sum of 100,000 ducats in hard cash. Mutual convivialities and flowing courtesies were at an end; these were one thing and reparation for the incarceration and burning of unoffending British sailors as heretics was another.
"Deeds of blood and torture can never be atoned for in money or destruction of property. I am Drake, 'El Draque' if you like, and if you don't comply with my terms, you shall be destroyed."
It was his habit openly to express himself in this way to Philip's subjects, whether hostile or not, and we can imagine that similar views were uttered in the Carthagena negotiations. The Spaniards regarded his terms as monstrous impiety; they were aghast, pleaded poverty, and protested and swore by the Holy Office that the total amount they could find in the whole city was only 30,000 ducats. Drake, with commendable prudence, seeing that he wished to get away from the fever zone without delay, appears to have accepted this amount, though authorities are at variance on this point. Some say that he held out for his first claim and got it. I have not been able to verify which is the correct amount, but in all probability he got the 100,000 ducats. In any case, he piously charged them with deception in their plea of poverty, but came to terms, declaring, no doubt, that his own magnanimity astonished him.
But for the sudden outbreak of sickness amongst his crew, the Carthagenians would not have fared nearly so well. The city might have been, not only pillaged, but laid in ruins. As it was, he had emptied a monastery and blown the harbour forts to pieces.
Drake's intention was to visit Panama, but the fever had laid heavy hands on his men. Only a third of those who commenced the voyage with him were well enough to do work at all, notwithstanding the replenishment by released prisoners, so he was forced to abandon further enterprises and shape his course homewards as quickly as skilful navigation and the vagaries of wind and weather would allow. Great deeds, even on this trip, stood to the credit of himself and crew. The accomplishments were far below what was expected at the outset in point of money value, but the priceless feature of the voyage was the enhanced respect for Drake's name which had taken possession of the Spanish race in every part of the world and subsequently made the defeat of the Armada an easier task.
This eager soul, who was really the pioneer of a new civilization, had still to face hard fate after the reluctant abandonment of his intention to visit Panama. The sufferings of the adventurers from bad weather and shortness of water was severely felt on the passage to Florida. But the rough leader never lost heart or spared himself in any way. He was obliged to heave-to at Cape Antonio (Cuba), and here with indomitable courage went to work, putting heart into his men by digging with pick and shovel in a way that would have put a navvy to the blush, and when their efforts were rewarded he took his ships through the Bahama Channel, and as he passed a fort which the Spaniards had constructed and used as a base for a force which had murdered many French Protestant colonists in the vicinity, Drake landed, found out the murderous purpose of the fort, and blew it to pieces. But that was not all. He also had the satisfaction of saving the remainder of an unsuccessful English settlement founded by Sir Walter Raleigh, and of taking possession of everything that he could lay hands on from the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine. This was the last episode of plunder connected with an expedition that was ripe with thrilling incidents, and added to the fame of the most enterprising figure of the Elizabethan reign.
In point of profit to those who had financed the voyage it was not a success; but its political and ultimate commercial advantages were enormous. These early seamen of the seventeenth century, many of them amateurs, laid the foundation of the greatest navy and mercantile marine of the world. It is to these fascinating adventurers, too, that the generations which followed are indebted for the initiative in human comforts and progress. The superficial self-righteous critic may find it an agreeable pursuit to search out their blemishes; but these men cannot be airily dismissed in that manner. They towered above their fellows, the supreme product of the spirit of their day in adventure and daring; they fulfilled their great destiny, and left their indelible mark upon the life of their nation and of the world. Their great emancipating heroism and reckless self-abnegation more than counterbalanced the faults with which the modern mind, judging their day by ours, is too prone to credit them, and whatever their deeds of perfidy may have been, they were imbued more with the idea of patriotism than with that of avarice. They were remarkable men, nor did they come into the life of the nation by chance, but for a purpose, and their memories are enshrined in human history.
Drake sailed for home as soon as he had embarked what was left of Raleigh's colonists at Roanoke River, Virginia, and after a protracted and monotonous passage, arrived at Plymouth on the 28th July, 1586. The population received the news with acclamation. Drake wrote to Lord Burleigh, bemoaning his fate in having missed the gold fleet by a few hours, and again placing his services at the disposal of his Queen and country.
The most momentous of all his commissions, especially to his own country, was in 1587, when he destroyed a hundred ships in Cadiz Harbour. It was a fine piece of work, this "singeing of the King of Spain's beard" as he called it, and by far excelled anything he had previously done. He captured the San Philip, the King of Spain's ship, which was the largest afloat. Her cargo was valued at over one million sterling, in addition to which papers were found on board revealing the wealth of the East India trade. The knowledge of this soon found a company of capitalists, who formed the East India Company, out of which our great Indian Empire was established. When the San Philip was towed into Dartmouth Harbour, and when it became known generally, the whole country was ablaze with excitement, and people travelled from far and near to see the leviathan.
Drake bore himself on this occasion with that sober modesty that characterized him always under any circumstances. His reputation stood higher now than ever, and it was no detriment to him that Philip should shudder, and when he became virtuously agitated speak of him as "that fearful man Drake." Everywhere he was a formidable reality, strong, forbidding and terrible; his penetrating spirit saw through the plans of the enemies of his country and his vigorous counter-measures were invariably successful. The exalted part he took in the defeat of the Armada has been briefly referred to in another part of this book. He was then at the height of his imposing magnificence and fame, but owing to the caprice of his royal mistress, who had an insatiable habit of venting her Tudor temper indiscriminately, he fell under her displeasure, and for a time was in disgrace; but she soon discovered that his services, whatever his lack of success on apparently rash enterprises may have been, were indispensable at so critical a moment. He was recalled, and soon after sent on his melancholy last voyage. He had worn himself out in the service of his country. Born at Tavistock in 1539, his eager spirit passed into the shadows off Puerto Bello on the 28th January, 1596, and, as previously stated, he was buried three miles out at sea, and two of his prizes were sunk and laid beside him.
The following beautiful lines of Sir Henry Newbolt not only describe his patriotic and heroic end, but breathe the very spirit of the man who was one of the most striking figures of the Elizabethan age:—
The tradition created by Drake and Hawkins was carried on by Nelson and Collingwood in a different age and under different conditions, and the same heroic spirit animated them all. Nelson must certainly have been familiar with the enthralling tales of these men and of their gallant colleagues, but without all the essential qualities born in him he could not have been the victor of Trafalgar. Men have to do something distinctive, that sets the human brain on fire, before they are really recognized as being great; then all others are put in the shade, no matter how necessary their great gifts may be to fill up the gaps in the man of initiative and of action. Drake could not have done what he did had he not had the aid of Frobisher, and Jervis would not have become Earl St. Vincent had he not been supported by Nelson at the battle of that name; and we should never have seen the imposing monument erected in Trafalgar Square had Nelson been without his Collingwood. Victorious and valiant performances do not come by chance, and so it comes to pass in the natural course of human law that if our Jervises, Nelsons, and Collingwoods, who are the prototypes of our present-day heroes, had not lived, we should not have had our Fishers, Jellicoes, and Beattys.
Nelson was always an attractive personality and by no means the type of man to allow himself to be forgotten. He believed he was a personage with a mission on earth, and never an opportunity was given him that did not confirm this belief in himself.
Horatio Nelson was the son of the Rev. Edmund Nelson, and was born at Burnham Thorpe on the 29th September, 1758. His mother died in 1767, and left eight children. Her brother, Captain Maurice Suckling, was appointed to the Raisonable three years after her death, and agreed, at the request of Horatio himself and the instigation of his father, after some doubtful comments as to the boy's physical suitableness for the rough life of a sailor, to take him; so on the 1st January, 1771, he became a midshipman on the Raisonable. On the 22nd May he either shipped of his own accord or was put as cabin-boy on a merchant vessel which went to the West Indies, and ended his career in the merchant service at the end of an eventful voyage. In July 1772 he became midshipman on board the Triumph. This was the real starting-point of his naval career and of the development of those great gifts that made him the renowned Admiral of the world. Twenty-two years after joining his uncle's ship he was made captain of the Agamemnon. At the siege of Calvi in 1794 he was wounded in the right eye and lost the sight of it. Three years afterwards he lost his right arm while commanding an attack on Santa Cruz, and although he had put so many sensational events into his life up to that time, it was not until the battle of St. Vincent that he began to attract attention. He had been promoted Rear-Admiral before the news of the battle was known, and when the news reached England the public enthusiasm was irrepressible. Jervis was made an Earl, with £3,000 a year pension, and the King requested that he should take his title from the name of the battle. Nelson refused a baronetcy, and was made, at his own request, a Knight of the Bath, receiving the thanks of the City of London and a sword. All those who were in prominent positions or came to the front in this conflict received something. It was not by a freak of chance that the authorities began to see in Nelson the elements of an extraordinary man. Nor was it mere chance that they so far neglected him that he was obliged to force himself upon the Admiralty in order to get them to employ him. The nation was in need of a great spirit, and Providence had been preparing one for many years before the ruling authorities discovered that Nelson was their man of the future.
For several months he was tearing about the seas in search of the French fleet. He popped into Naples on the 17th June, 1798, ostensibly to know if anything had been heard of it, and no doubt he took the opportunity of having a word with Sir William and Lady Hamilton, who were to come so romantically into his life. He found the French fleet at anchor in Aboukir Bay and sailed upon it with such amazing audacity that the heart was knocked out of them at the very outset. Neither the French Admiral nor anybody else would have expected the British fleet to run their ships between them and the shore at the risk of grounding. The Culloden did ground. The French had 11 out of 13 ships put out of action, but the British fleet suffered severely also, and the loss of men was serious. Out of a total of 7,401 men, 218 were killed and 678 wounded. Nelson himself was badly wounded on the forehead, and as the skin fell down on his good eye and the blood streamed into it, he was both dazed and blinded. He shouted to Captain Berry as he was staggering to a fall, "I am killed; remember me to my wife." But there was a lot more work for him to do before the fatal day. He was carried below, believing the injury would prove fatal, in spite of the assurances to the contrary of the surgeon who was in attendance.
Although Nelson's courage can never be doubted, there is something very curious in his constant, eccentric foreboding of death and the way in which he scattered his messages about to one and another. This habit increased amazingly after his conflict with the French at the Nile. He seems to have had intermittent attacks of hypochondria. The wound incident at Aboukir must have given great amusement as well as anxiety to those about him. Unquestionably the wound had the appearance at first of being mortal, but the surgeon soon gave a reassuring opinion, and after binding up the ugly cut he requested his patient to remain below. But Nelson, as soon as he knew he was not going to die, became bored with the inactivity and insisted on writing a dispatch to the Admiralty. His secretary was too excited to carry out his wishes, so he tackled it himself. But his suffering being great and his mind in a condition of whirling confusion, he did not get far beyond the beginning, which intimated that "Almighty God had blessed His Majesty's arms." The battle raged on. The Orient was set on fire and her destruction assured. When Nelson was informed of the terrible catastrophe to the great French line-of-battle ship, he demanded to be assisted to the deck, whereupon he gave instructions that his only boat not destroyed was to be sent with the Vanguard's first lieutenant to render assistance to the crew. He remained on deck until the Orient blew up, and was then urged to go to bed.
But sleep under the circumstances and in view of his own condition would not come. All night long he was sending messages directing the plan of battle the news of which was to enthral the civilized world. Nelson himself was not satisfied. "Not one of the French vessels would have escaped," he said, "if it had pleased God that he had not been wounded." This was rather a slur on those who had given their best blood and really won the battle. Notwithstanding the apparent egotism of this outburst, there are sound reasons for believing that the Admiral's inspiring influence was much discounted by his not being able to remain on deck. The sight of his guiding, magnetic figure had an amazing effect on his men, but I think it must be admitted that Nelson's head was not in a condition at that time to be entirely relied upon, and those in charge of the different ships put the finishing touches to the victory that was won by the force of his courage and commanding genius in the initial stages of the struggle.
Nelson was a true descendant of a race of men who had never faltered in the traditional belief that the world should be governed and dominated by the British. His King, his country, and particularly the profession to which he belonged, were to him the supreme authorities whose destiny it was to direct the affairs of the universe. With unfailing comic seriousness, intermixed with occasional explosions of bitter violence, he placed the French low down in the scale of the human family. There was scarcely a sailor adjective that was not applied to them. Carlyle, in later years, designated the voice of France as "a confused babblement from the gutters" and "scarcely human"; "A country indeed with its head cut off"; but this quotation does not reach some of the picturesque heights of nautical language that was invented by Nelson to describe his view of them. Both he and many of his fellow-countrymen regarded the chosen chief on whom the French nation had democratically placed an imperial crown as the embodiment of a wild beast.
The great Admiral was always whole-hearted in his declamation against the French people and their leaders who are our present allies fighting against that country which now is, and which Napoleon predicted to his dying day would become, one of the most imperious, inhuman foes to civilization. Nelson and his government at that time thought it a merciful high policy of brotherhood to protect and re-create Prussia out of the wreck to which Napoleon had reduced it; the result being that the military spirit of Prussia has been a growing, determined menace to the peace of the world and to the cause of human liberty in every form since the downfall of the man who warned us at the time from his exiled home on the rock of St. Helena that our policy would ultimately reflect with a vengeance upon ourselves, and involve the whole world in a great effort to save itself from destruction. He foresaw that Prussia would inveigle and bully the smaller German states into unification with herself, and, having cunningly accomplished this, that her perfidy would proceed to consolidate the united fabric into a formidable power which would crush all others by its military superiority; this dream of universal control of human life and affairs was at one time nearly realized.
The German Empire has bankrupted herself in men, necessaries of life, and money. But that in no degree minimizes the disaster she has wrought on those who have had to bleed at every pore to avoid annihilation. The Allies, as well as the Central Powers, are no longer going concerns. It will take generations to get back to the point at which we started in 1914. But the tragic thought of all is the enormous sacrifice of life, and the mental and physical wrecks that have survived the savage, brutal struggle brought on a world that was, and wished to remain, at peace, when in 1914 the Central Powers arrogantly forced the pace which caused an alliance to be formed quickly by their enemies to save them from the doom which Napoleon, with his clear vision, had predicted would come.
It was fitting that Nelson should by every conceivable means adopt methods of declamation against the French, if by doing so he thought it would inspire the men whom he commanded with the same conquering spirit he himself possessed. His country was at war with the French, and he was merely one of the instruments appointed to defeat them, and this may account for his ebullitions of hatred from time to time. I have found, however, no record that would in any way show that it was intended as surface policy, so it may be concluded that his dislike was as deep-seated as it appeared. Nelson never seems to have shown evidences of being a humbug by saying things which he did not believe. He had a wholesome dislike of the French people and of Bonaparte, who was their idol at that time. But neither he nor his government can be credited with the faculty of being students of human life. He and they believed that Paris was the centre of all that was corrupt and brutal. Napoleon, on the other hand, had no real hatred of the British people, but during his wars with their government his avowed opinion was that "all the ills, and all the scourges that afflict mankind, came from London." Both were wrong in their conclusions. They simply did not understand each other's point of view in the great upheaval that was disturbing the world. The British were not only jealous and afraid of Napoleon's genius and amazing rise to eminence—which they attributed to his inordinate ambition to establish himself as the dominating factor in the affairs of the universe—but they determined that his power should not only not be acknowledged, but destroyed, and their policy after twenty years of bitter war was completely accomplished.
The merits or demerits of British policy must always remain a matter of controversy. It is too big a question to deal with here. Napoleon said himself that "Everything in the life of man is subject to calculation; the good and evil must be equally balanced." Other true sayings of his indicate that he, at any rate, was a student of human life, and knew how fickle fortune is under certain conditions. "Reprisals," he declared, "are but a sad resource"; and again, no doubt dwelling on his own misfortunes, but with vivid truth all the same, he declares that "The allies gained by victory will turn against you upon the bare whisper of our defeat."
After his victory on the Nile, Nelson fully expected to be created a Viscount, and his claim was well supported by Hood, his old Admiral. He was made Baron Nelson of the Nile, and given a pension of £2,000 per annum—a poor recompense for the great service he had rendered to his country. But that was by no means the measure of the public gratitude. He was acclaimed from every corner of Great Britain as the national hero. The City of London presented him with a two hundred guinea sword, and a vote of thanks to himself, officers and men. There was much prayer and thanksgiving, and several women went as daft as brushes over him. One said her heart was absolutely bursting with all sorts of sensations. "I am half mad," says she, and any one who reads the letter will conclude that she understated her mental condition. But of all the many letters received by Nelson none surpasses in extravagance of adulation that written by Amy Lyon, the daughter of a village blacksmith, born at Great Neston in Cheshire, in 1761, who had come to London in the early part of 1780, fallen into evil ways and given birth to a little girl. She was then left destitute and sank as low as it is possible for a woman to do. She rose out of the depths into which she had fallen by appearing as the Goddess of Health in the exhibition of a James Graham. Sir Henry Featherstonehaugh took her under his protection for close on twelve months, but owing to her extravagance and faithlessness he turned her out when within a few months of a second child, which was stillborn. The first was handed over to her grandmother to take care of. Charles Greville, the second son of the Earl of Warwick, then took her to live with him. She had intimate relations with him while she was still Featherstonehaugh's mistress, and he believed the child about to be born was his. At this time Amy Lyon changed her name to Emily Hart. Greville went to work on business lines. He struck a bargain that all her previous lovers were to be dropped, and under this compact she lived with him in a respectable manner for nearly four years. He gave her some education, but she seems to have had natural genius, and her beauty was undisputed.
Emily Hart sat to Romney, the artist, and it is said that twenty-three portraits were painted, though some writers have placed the number at over forty. "Marinda," "Sibyl," and the "Spinstress" were amongst them. The pictures bring high prices; one, I think called "Sensibility," brought, in 1890, over £3,000. Notwithstanding her lowly birth (which has no right to stop any one's path to greatness) and lack of chastity, she had something uncommon about her that was irresistibly attractive. Sir William Hamilton, Greville's uncle, returned to England some time in 1784 from Naples, where he was the British Minister. It was said that he was in quest of a second wife, the first having died some two years before. Greville did not take kindly to the idea of Sir William marrying again, because he was his heir. He thought instead that, being in financial trouble himself, he would try to plant Emma on his uncle, not with the object of marriage, but of her becoming his mistress. Sir William was captivated with the girl, which made it easy for the shameless nephew to persuade his uncle to take her off his hands. Emma, however, was in love with Greville, and there were indications of revolt when the astute lady discovered that serious negotiations were proceeding for her transference from nephew to uncle. It took twelve months to arrive at a settlement.
There does not appear to have been a signed agreement, but there certainly was a tacit understanding that Sir William was to assist Greville out of his difficulties, in return for which Emma was to join him at Naples, ostensibly as a visitor. She writes imploringly to Greville to answer her letters, but never an answer came, and in utter despair she tells him at last that she will not become his uncle's concubine, and threatens to make Hamilton marry her. This poor wretched woman was human, after all, and indeed she gave convincing proofs of many high qualities in after-years, but in the passion of her love for the dissolute scamp who bartered her away she pleaded for that touch of human compassion that never came. She knew that her reprobate lover was fearful lest she should induce his uncle to marry her, and she may have had an instinctive feeling that it was part of the contract that she was to be warded off if any attempt of the kind were made likely to endanger his prospects of becoming Hamilton's heir. His indifference made her venomously malignant, and she sent him a last stab that would at least give him a troubled mind, even though it should not cause him to recall her; she would then pursue her revenge by ignoring him.
It is a sordid story which smears the pages of British History.
Emma lived with the British Ambassador at Naples as his mistress. He was popular in this city of questionable morals at that time. She was beautiful and developed remarkable talents as a singer, and was a bright, witty, fascinating conversationalist. She worked hard at her studies, and became a fluent speaker of the Italian language. Hamilton had great consideration for her, and never risked having her affronted because of the liaison. Her singing was a triumph. It is said she was offered £6,000 to go to Madrid for three years and £2,000 for a season in London. She invented classic attitudes. Goethe said that "Sir William Hamilton, after long love and study of art, has at last discovered the most perfect of the wonders of nature and art in a beautiful young woman. She lives with him, and is about twenty years old. She is very handsome, and of a beautiful figure. What the greatest artists have aimed at is shown in perfection, in movement, in ravishing variety. Standing, kneeling, sitting, lying down, grave or sad, playful, exulting, repentant, wanton, menacing, anxious, all mental states follow rapidly one after another. With wonderful taste she suits the folding of her veil to each expression, and with the same handkerchief makes every kind of head-dress. The Old Knight holds the Light for her, and enters into the exhibition with his whole soul." Sir William had twelve of the "Representations" done by a German artist named Frederick Rehberg, entitled "Drawings faithfully copied from Nature at Naples."
Hamilton married Emma in 1791 in England, and when they returned to Naples she was presented to the Queen, and ultimately became on intimate terms with Her Majesty of Naples, whose questionable morals were freely spoken of. Emma quickly attained a high social standing, but it is doubtful whether she exercised that influence over the Queen of which she liked to boast.
In September, 1793, Nelson was at Naples by orders, and was the guest of the Hamiltons for a few days. He had not been there for five years, yet the precious Emma, without decorum or ceremony, sent him a written whirlwind of congratulations on the occasion of his victory at the Nile. Every line of the letter sends forth crackling sparks of fiery passion. She begins, "My dear, dear Sir," tells him she is delirious, that she fainted and fell on her side, "and am hurt," when she heard the joyful news. She "would feel it a glory to die in such a cause," but she cannot die until she has embraced "the Victor of the Nile." Then she proceeds to describe the transports of Maria Carolina. "She fainted too, cried, kissed her husband, her children, walked, frantic with pleasure, about the room, cried, kissed and embraced everybody near her." Then she continues, "Oh! brave Nelson! Oh! God bless and protect our brave deliverer! Oh! Nelson, Nelson! Oh! Victor! Oh! that my swollen heart could now tell him personally what we owe to him. My dress from head to foot is Allah Nelson. My earrings are Nelson's anchors." She sends him some sonnets, and avers that she must have taken a ship to "send all what is written on you." And so she goes on, throwing herself into his arms, metaphorically speaking, at every sentence.
When the Vanguard arrived at Naples, Nelson invited Lady Hamilton on board and she was no sooner on the deck than she made one dramatic plunge at him, and proceeded to faint on the poor shattered man's breast. Nelson, whose besetting weakness was love of approbation, became intoxicated with the lady's method of making love. Poor gallant fellow! He was, like many another, the victim of human weakness. He immediately believed that he and Emma had "found each other," and allowed himself to be flattered with refined delicacy into a liaison which became a fierce passion, and tested the loyalty of his closest friends to breaking-point. How infinitely pathetic is this piteous story from beginning to end!
Like most sailors, Nelson had a fervent, religious belief in the Eternal, and never went to battle without casting himself on the mercy of the Infinite Pity which alone can give solace. He was fearless and strong in the affairs of his profession, and it may be safely assumed that, even if it went no deeper, he had a mystic fear of God, and was lost to all other fear.
I think it was Carlyle who said, "God save us from the madness of popularity. It invariably injures those who get it." There never was a truer thing said, and it is sadly true of our great national hero. Not many months had passed before the dispenser of his praises had become his proprietor. It is doubtful whether Emma ever loved him, but that does not concern any one. What does concern us is the imperious domination she exercised over him. No flighty absurdities of fiction can equal the extravagance of his devotion to her, and his unchecked desire to let every one know it. He even informs Lady Nelson that Lady Hamilton is the very best woman in the world and an honour to her sex, and that he had a pride in having her as a friend. He writes to Lord St. Vincent that she is "an angel," and has honoured him in being his Ambassadress to the Queen and is worthy of his confidence. Again he writes, "Our dear Lady Hamilton, whom to see is to admire, but to know are to be added honour and respect; her head and heart surpass her beauty, which cannot be equalled by anything I have seen."
It is impossible to suppose that a man could fall so violently in love with this extraordinary creature and permit her to come so intimately into his life without injury to his judgment and to those keen mental qualities which were needed at that time in the service of his country. Such loss of control must surely have been followed by mental and intellectual deterioration. This lady of varied antecedents was the intermediary between the Court of Naples and himself, and it is now an authentic fact that it was on the advice of the Queen and Emma that Naples entered into a war, the result of which was the complete defeat of the Neapolitans; the Court and the Hamiltons had to fly to Palermo and Nelson again lived with the Minister and his wife. He again pours out the virtues and charms of Lady Hamilton, to whom he gives the credit of engineering the embarkation of the Royal Family and two and a half million sterling aboard the Vanguard. After giving St. Vincent another dose of Emma, he goes on to say, "It is my duty to tell your Lordship the obligations which the whole Royal Family, as well as myself, are under on this trying occasion to her Ladyship." Her Ladyship, still hankering after her old friend Greville, writes him, "My dear adorable queen and I weep together, and now that is our only comfort." It is no concern of ours, but it looks uncommonly as though Greville still held the field, and the opinion of many that Nelson would not have had much chance against her former lover is borne out by many facts.
Amongst the saddest stories that raged about the Hamiltons, their friends, and Nelson was the scandal of gambling for large stakes. Some are persistent in the assertion that the report was well founded, and others that it was not so bad as it was made out to be. Lady Hamilton asserted that the stories were all falsehoods invented by the Jacobinical party, but her Ladyship's veracity was never to be relied upon. Perhaps a foundation of truth and a large amount of exaggeration sums up the reports, so we must let it go at that. Troubridge seems to have been convinced that his Admiral was in the midst of a fast set, for he sends a most imploring remonstrance to him to get out of it and have no more incense puffed in his face. This was fine advice, but the victor of the Nile made no response.
Nelson was little known to his countrymen before the St. Vincent battle. But after the victory of the Nile his name became immortal, and he could take any liberty he liked with our national conventionalisms. Even his love affairs were regarded as heroics. He refused occasionally to carry out instructions when he thought his own plans were better, and it was winked at; but had any of them miscarried, the memory of St. Vincent and the Nile would not have lived long.
When he arrived with the Hamiltons in London after his long absence and victorious record, the mob, as usual, took the horses from the carriage and dragged him along Cheapside amid tumultuous cheers. Whenever he appeared in public the same thing happened. At Court, things were different. His reception was offensively cold, and George III ran some risk when he affronted his most popular subject by turning his back on him. Whatever private indiscretions Nelson may have been guilty of, nothing could justify so ungrateful an act of ill-mannered snobbery. The King should have known how to distinguish between private weakness, however unconventional, and matchless public service. But for the fine genius and patriotism of this noble fellow, he might have lost his crown. The temper of a capricious public in an era of revolution should not be tested by freaks of royal self-righteousness, while its imagination is being stirred by the deeds of a national hero. His action might have brought the dignity of George's kingliness into the gutter of ridicule, which would have been a public misfortune.
The King's treatment of Nelson was worse than tactless; it was an impertinence. King Edward VII, whose wisdom and tact could always be trusted, might have disapproved, as strongly as did George III, Nelson's disregard of social conventions, but he would have received him on grounds of high public service, and have let his private faults, if he knew of them, pass unnoticed, instead of giving him an inarticulate snub. Still, a genius of naval distinction, or any other, has no right to claim exemption from a law that governs a large section of society, or to suppose that he may not be criticized or even ostracized if he defiantly offends the susceptibilities of our moral national life. And it is rather a big tax on one's patience for a man, because of his exalted position and distinguished deeds of valour and high services rendered to the State, to expect that he may be granted licence to parade his gallantries with women in boastful indifference to the moral law that governs the lives of a large section of the community. There are undoubtedly cases of ill-assorted unions, but it does not lie within our province to judge such cases. They may be victims of a hard fate far beyond the knowledge of the serene critics, whose habit of life is to sneak into the sacred affairs of others, while their own may be in need of vigilant enquiry and adjustment.
It would hardly be possible, with the facts before us, to say a word in mitigation of Nelson's ostentatious infatuation for Lady Hamilton, were it not that he can never be judged from the same standpoint as ordinary mortals. That is not to say that a man, mentally constituted as he was, should not be amenable to established social laws.
Nelson was a compound of peculiarities, like most men who are put into the world to do something great. He was amusingly vain, while his dainty vanity so obscured his judgment that he could not see through the most fulsome flattery, especially that of women. At the same time he was professionally keen, with a clear-seeing intellect, dashing, flawless courage, and a mind that quickly grasped the weak points of the enemy's position or formation. He fought the old form of sea warfare by methods that were exclusively his, and sent his opponents staggering into confusion. Once a plan of battle had been arranged, he never faltered in his judgment, and only manoeuvred as circumstances arose, but always with that unexpected rush and resource which carried with it certain victory.
Nelson's great talents and his victories caused society outwardly to overlook his connection with the notorious Lady Hamilton. But the gossips were always at work. On this point he does not seem to have realized that he was playing pranks with society, though there were abundant evidences of it. He was offended because at Dresden, on their way to England, the Electress refused to receive his mistress on account of her antecedents, and no Court was held during their stay. Of course Emma was given the cold shoulder in England by the Court and by society. Nelson told his friend Collingwood of his own treatment, and added that, either as a public or private man, he wished nothing undone which he had done. He told Collingwood of his cold reception by the King, but it seems quite obvious that he maintained his belief that his connection with Emma had no right to be questioned by His Majesty or any of his subjects, and he held this view to the last. He would have none of the moralists' cant lavished on him, and by his consistent attitude seemed to say, "Hands off my private life! If I did introduce Lady Hamilton to my wife at her apartments on my arrival in England after two and a half years' absence, when she was on the point of becoming the mother of Horatia, what business is that of yours? I will have none of your abstract morality. Get away, and clean up your own morals before you talk to me of mine." The above is what I think a man of Nelson's temperament might say to the people who wished to warn him against the dangerous course he was pursuing. Lady Nelson does not seem to have been a woman who could appeal to a man like Nelson. The fact is she may have been one of those unamiable, sexless females who was either coldly ignoring her husband or storing up in her heart any excuse for hurling at him the most bitter invective with which she might humiliate him. She does not appear to have been a vulgar shrieker, but she may have been a silent stabber, which is worse. In any case, Nelson seems to have made a bad choice, as by his actions he openly avowed that he preferred to live with the former mistress of Featherstonehaugh, Greville, and Hamilton, rather than with his lawful wife; and he, without a doubt, was the best judge as to which of them suited him best. The truth remains that Emma was attractive and talented, and although lowly born, she became the bosom companion of kings, queens, princesses, princes, and of many men and women of distinction.
Nelson must have been extraordinarily simple to imagine that his wife, knowing, as all the world knew, that Lady Hamilton was his mistress and a bold, unscrupulous rival, would receive her with rapturous friendliness. The amazing puzzle to most people, then and now, is why she received her at all, unless she wished to worm out of her the precise nature of the intimacy. That may have been her definite purpose in allowing the visits for two or three months; then one day she flew into a rage, which conjures up a vision of hooks and eyes bursting like crackers from her person, and after a theatrical display of temper she disappears like a whirling tempest from the presence of her faithless husband, never again to meet him. This manner of showing resentment to the gallant sailor's fondness for the wife of Sir William Hamilton was the last straw. There was nothing dignified in Lady Nelson's tornado farewell to her husband; rather, if the records may be relied on, it was accompanied by a flow of abuse which could only emanate from an enraged termagant.
Nelson now had a free hand. His wife was to have a generous allowance on condition that she left him alone freely to bestow his affections on the seductive Emma, whose story, retold by Mr. Harrison, shows Lady Nelson to have been an impossible woman to live with. She made home hell to him, so he said. And making liberal allowance for Emma's fibbing propensities, there are positive evidences that her story of Nelson's home life was crammed with pathetic truths of domestic misery. Nelson corroborates this by a letter to Emma almost immediately after his wife's ludicrous exit. The letter is the outpouring of an embittered soul that had been freed from purgatory and was entering into a new joy. It is a sickening effusion of unrestrained love-making that would put any personage of penny-novel fame to the blush. I may as well give the full dose. Here it is:—
Now, my own dear wife: for such you are in the sight of Heaven, I can give full scope to my feelings, for I dare say Oliver will faithfully deliver this letter. You know, my dearest Emma, that there is nothing in this world that I would not do for us to live together, and to have our dear little child with us. I firmly believe that this campaign will give us peace, and then we will set off for Bronte. In twelve hours we shall be across the water, and freed from all the nonsense of his friends, or rather pretended ones. Nothing but an event happening to him could prevent my going; and I am sure you will think so, for, unless all matters accord, it would bring a hundred of tongues and slanderous reports if I separated from her, which I would do with pleasure the moment we can be united. I want to see her no more; therefore we must manage till we can quit this country, or your uncle dies. I love you: I never did love any one else. I never had a dear pledge of love till you gave me one; and you, thank my God, never gave one to anybody else. I think before March is out, you will either see us back, or so victorious that we shall ensure a glorious issue to our toils. Think what my Emma will feel at seeing return safe, perhaps with a little more fame, her own dear Nelson. Never, if I can help it, will I dine out of my ship or go on shore, except duty calls me. Let Sir Hyde have any glory he can catch, I envy him not. You, my beloved Emma, and my country, are the two dearest objects of my fond heart. A heart susceptible and true. Only place confidence in me, and you shall never be disappointed. I burn all your dear letters, because it is right for your sake; and I wish you would burn all mine—they can do no good, and will do us both harm if any seizure of them; or the dropping even one of them would fill the mouths of the world sooner than we intend. My longing for you, both person and conversation, you may readily imagine (especially the person). No, my heart, person, and mind are in perfect union of love towards my own dear, beloved Emma, the real bosom friend of her, all hers, all Emma's.
NELSON AND BRONTE.
The Prince of Wales had dined with and paid suspicious attentions to Emma, and her fond lover, knowing this, advised her to warn him off. He probably had an instinct that his "beloved Emma," who is "the dearest object of his fond heart," was not quite strong enough to resist temptation. Especially would she be likely to fall under the fascinating influence of this little princely scamp. Nelson's mind turned to his wife, and he emphasized the desire that he might never see his aversion again. Nor did he.
Some of his contemporaries doubted the paternity of Horatia; Nelson never did, and it would be hard to find a more beautiful outpouring of love than that which he unfailingly gave to his little daughter. Every thought of his soul was divided between her and the audacious flirt of a mother whom Nelson, always lavish, calls "his love"; "his darling angel"; "his heaven-given wife"; "the dearest, only true wife of his own till death." The "till death" finish is quite sailorly!
No one will doubt his amazing faculty for love-making and love-writing, and it must always be a puzzle how he managed to mix it so successfully with war. His guilty love-making was an occasional embarrassment to him, and though he was the greatest naval tactician of his time, his domestic methods were hopelessly clumsy and transparent. For instance, in pouring out his grievances to his mistress he refers to himself by the name of Thompson, and to Lady Nelson as Aunt. Here are a few examples:—"Thompson desires me to say he has never wrote his Aunt since he sailed." "In twelve hours we shall be across the water, and freed from all the nonsense of his friends, or rather, pretended ones." "His" means Hamilton, and "friends" means the Prince of Wales, whom he looked upon as a rival for Emma's accommodating affections. Again, he says, "If I separated from her, which I would do with pleasure the moment we can be united." "Her" is Lady Nelson, but in discussing delicate matters of domestic policy he thinks it desirable to conceal that he would not weep were he to hear of Sir William's death, or be broken with grief to separate entirely from Lady Nelson, so that he might become "united to his heaven-given wife," "our darling angel, Emma."
The Admiralty did a great injustice to the victor of the Nile by appointing Sir Hyde Parker commander-in-chief, instead of one who was known to be the most brilliant officer in the Navy. It must have cut deeply into Nelson's proud soul to have to serve under a man who had not a particle of initiative; and, but for the splendid bravery and matchless talents of his second, the wooden walls of old England would have been sent to Davy Jones by the forts of Copenhagen and the Danish fleet. Sir Hyde did not relish having Nelson with him at all. He sulked, and treated him in a way that was observed and resented by those who served under him. The commander-in-chief acted like a jealous maiden, his intention being to freeze and humiliate the man who was destined to win the victory and save the British fleet from entire destruction. There always has been tremendous jealousy in the Navy. But Sir Hyde Parker should have known that he was dealing with an officer (who was the genius of the Navy) who would stand no nonsense from any Lord High Admiral or other fussy dignitary whom he could put in his pocket whenever he liked to exercise his personality. Nelson never shirked responsibility when his country's interests were being endangered by a dignified snob. Discipline, so far as he was concerned until his object was gained, was pushed aside, and the great spirit swept into the vortex of the danger and extinguished all opposition. He said on one occasion, "I hate your pen-and-ink men. A fleet of British warships are the best negotiators in Europe."
I have said that Parker was in the "sulks," so Nelson adopted a humorous plan of thawing the ice by catching a turbot on the Dogger Bank on the passage out to the Baltic. A sly seaman had told him that this kind of fish was easily caught, so when they arrived on the Bank the fishing commenced, and the turbot was caught. Nelson knew his commander-in-chief was never averse to eating, so he gave orders to have it sent to Sir Hyde, and although the sea was dangerous for a small boat, the fish was in due course presented to Parker, who sent back a cordial note of thanks. This ingenious stratagem eased the strained relations between the two men, but there still remained a feeling on the part of the commander-in-chief that the electric and resourceful spirit of Nelson would, in any engagement, be the dominating factor, with or without official sanction. He knew how irresistibly Nelson's influence permeated the fleet, for no man knew better than this much-envied Vice-Admiral how to enthuse his comrades (high and low) in battle, and also what confidence the nation as a whole had in what he called the "Nelson touch." Sir Hyde Parker, knowing Nelson's superb qualities, should have paused and considered the consequences before he slyly sought to put such a man in the shade. There was not a man in the whole squadron who would not have gone to his doom under Nelson's lead rather than live under any other's. Nelson inspired men with the same love of glory which he craved for himself. No real sailor ever did like to sail under a hesitating, nervous commander. Parker, at the battle of Copenhagen, gives one (from all accounts) the impression of unsureness, afraid to take any risk lest it be the wrong one. Nelson was always sure, and never hesitated to put into practice his considered views.
Parker, at a critical moment in the battle of Copenhagen, hoisted No. 39, which meant "Leave off action." Nelson shrugged his shoulders, and Said, "No, I'm damned if I do," and kept his own "Engage the enemy more closely" flying. He then added to Captain Foley, "I have only one eye, and have a right to be blind sometimes." He then put the telescope to his blind eye, and said, "I really do not see the signal." Unfortunately, some of the ships retired, and one able fellow, Captain Riou, who knew it was a wrong move, was so distressed that he called out in despair to one of his officers beside him, "What will Nelson think of us?" The poor captain was subsequently killed. There can be no doubt now that the signal 39 was not permissive or optional, nor that Nelson, having the enemy by the throat, refused to let go until he had strangled him, nor that he did dramatically act the blind-eye trick. He deliberately disobeyed orders, and saved England's honour and fleet by doing so. It was one of his splendid performances, and the story of it will live on into distant ages.
Who can calculate the loss of national prestige or the lives that have been thrown away by putting severely decorous senior officers over the heads of men who knew their business better and had the courage and capacity to carry through big naval or military tasks? And how tempting it must be to many a gallant fellow to take the business into his own hands! Nelson knew well enough that he had laid himself open to the full penalty of naval law, but he knew also that if any of the moth-eaten crew at Whitehall even hinted it there would be "wigs on the green." No man knew the pulse of the nation better, and no commander played up to it less. One can imagine hearing him say to some of his officers (perhaps Captain Hardy of Trafalgar fame), after he had wrecked the Danish fleet and battered the forts into a dilapidated condition, "Well, I have fought contrary to orders, and they will perhaps hang me; never mind, let them." A significant "let them" this, which means more than he cares to express. The Danes frankly admitted that they had been beaten, and that even their defence was destroyed, as the Crown batteries could not be held. Instead of any talk of "hanging" him because of his "disobedience," he was made a Viscount and his Rear-Admiral (Graves) a Knight of the Bath. These were the only two significant honours conferred. When he landed at Copenhagen, it is said that the people viewed him with a mixture of admiration and hostility. He thought they were extremely amiable. They cheered and shouted "God bless Lord Nelson!" There can be no reason for their doing this, except gratitude to him for not blowing the city down about their ears.
Whatever the cause, it is quite certain that the Crown Prince and some of the Danish statesmen treated him with studied cordiality. Sir Hyde Parker was a drag, and indeed, an intolerable nuisance to him. When the armistice was sealed and settled for fourteen weeks, he wished to get of to Reval and hammer the Russian squadron there, but the commander-in-chief shirked all responsibility, and his victim was made to say in a letter to Lord St. Vincent "that he would have been in Reval fourteen days before, and that no one could tell what he had suffered," and asks my dear Lord "if he has deserved well, to let him retire, and if ill, for heaven's sake to supersede him, for he cannot exist in this state." Lord Nelson conducted the British case with the Danes with consummate statesmanship, but notwithstanding this, the fine sensitive nature of the noble fellow could not fail to be hurt when His Majesty (the same who lost us America) stated that, "under all the circumstances, he had thought well to approve." Nelson replied that he was sorry the armistice was only approved under all the circumstances, and then gives His Majesty a slap in the eye by informing him that every part of the all was to the advantage of the King and Country. St. Vincent, the First Lord of the Admiralty, subsequently made amends for His Majesty's error by writing to say that his "whole conduct was approved and admired, and that he does not care to draw comparisons, but that everybody agrees there is only one Nelson." This strong and valiant sailor was never at any time unconscious of his power. What troubled him was other people's lack of appreciation of it, though he accepted with a whimsical humour the grudging spirit in which credit was given to his unerring judgment and unequalled bravery. Nor can we examine the great deeds of his career without feeling a thrill of pride in the knowledge that he belonged to us.
The spirit which animated Nelson was the same as that which lived in those heroes of old who were used by Providence as instruments in their country's destiny, and we may believe that this same spirit will live in those God-sent men of the future who will be necessary for the carrying out of some special task or for the destruction of evil. Apparently, long intervals elapse between the appearance of men such as Napoleon or Nelson. Napoleon's name still stirs the blood, and now, more than a century after his death, any one of the Powers who had a share in his tragic end would give worlds to get back some of his force and genius. Nelson in a much less degree and in a different way was another of those sent by Providence to take part in his country's struggles and, like many another great man, was subjected to cruel indignities at the hands of his inferiors. He often complained about his treatment, but this never prevented him from doing his work. But as his instructions were not always in accordance with his view of success, he occasionally disobeyed them for the country's good. It might be a gain to borrow his spirit for a while at the present time to electrify the British Admiralty. Nelson was more successful in his conflicts with the enemy than with the chiefs of his calling afloat and ashore. He was not really strong and audacious enough in his dealings with them. "Jacky Fisher" (as he is fondly called) who lives in our disturbed time, would have had similar sandbags jettisoned in quick time. The modern Nelson has had his troubles with inferior superiors too, but he flattened out some of them. The modern man is all business, and does not show vanity if he has any. The "Only Nelson" was strong, weak, and vain. If no one else gratuitously sounded his praises, he would do so himself in the most comical way, not altogether in public, but to "Santa Emma," whose function it was to spread them abroad.
After the battle of Copenhagen, Sir Hyde Parker sailed for Carlscrona, and left Nelson to hoist his flag as commander-in-chief on the St. George, which was not ready, and was possibly being refitted after rough handling. He tells Emma of Parker's departure, and adds, "if there is any work to do," i.e. any fighting, "he is pretty certain they will wait for him" before commencing it. And then he adds, "Nelson will be first. Who can stop him?" On the eve of the battle of Copenhagen he wrote to her, "Before you receive this, all will be over with Denmark. Either your Nelson will be safe, and Sir Hyde Parker victor, or your own Nelson will be laid low." What deep and genuine love-lunacy to be found in a terrific warrior, whose very name terrified those who had the honour to fight against him! The incongruity of it baffles one's belief, and seems to reverse the very order of human construction. In matters concerning his profession and highly technical State affairs there was no more astute man, but as soon as his thoughts centre on this female nightmare, he loses control of his wonderful gifts, and his mind becomes deranged with the idea of her being an object on which he should bestow reverence and infinite adulation. If ever there was a creature of lamentable contradictions, surely it was this genius, who immortalized our national glory at the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar! That a man of his calibre, surrounded with eternal fame, should be inflamed with a passion for a woman of negative morals who was refused admittance to the same circle that, but for this attachment would receive him as their triumphant hero, is an example of human eccentricity that never has and never can be accounted for. It may be taken for granted that at the very time he was writing to her about "her own Nelson" she would be carrying on a love intrigue with some old or new acquaintance, possibly the Prince of Wales, whom as I have said, her gallant lover wished her to avoid. He was known to be a cheat, a liar, and a faithless friend to men and to women, while in accordance with the splendid ethic of this type of person, he believed himself to be possessed of every saintly virtue. But any one who is curious to have a fascinating description of the "little dapper" should consult Thackeray.
Well, there was no fighting to be done when the fleet under Nelson arrived at Reval, and the Emperor Paul's death and the dilatoriness of Parker saved the Russian fleet from extermination. They had sailed into safer anchorage and the British Admiral had to content himself by paying an official visit to the authorities at Reval, and receiving another ovation from the populace, which appealed to his whimsical love of approbation. As is his custom, he sends Emma an account of his Reval experiences. He says he would not mention so personal an incident to any one else, as it would appear so uncommonly like vanity, but between her and himself, hundreds had come to have a look at Nelson, and he heard them say, "That is him! That is him!" It touches his vanity so keenly that he follows on by intimating that he "feels a good name is better than riches, and that it has a fine feeling to an honest heart." "All the Russians," says he, "are of opinion that I am like Suwaroff, le Jeune Suwaroff." As may be imagined, Nelson was bitterly disappointed at so sudden a collapse of his hopes, but, always master of the situation, he wrote a most courteous letter to Count Pahlen, the Russian Minister, who had complained that his presence was calculated to make a breach of the good feeling between the two countries. The Admiral's reply was tactful and unconsciously humorous. The tone was that of a person who had never been so unjustly hurt in his life. "He had come to pay his respects to His Imperial Majesty, and as his motives had been so entirely misunderstood, he would put to sea at once."
His health was beginning to feel the enormous strain that had been imposed upon him for many months. This, together with his longing to be in the congenial society of Lady Hamilton, caused him to ask to be relieved of his command, and he was delighted to receive a letter from his old chief, Lord St. Vincent, stating that it was almost an impossible task to find a suitable successor, as in all his experience he never knew any one, except Troubridge, who had the art of enthusing others with his own unequalled spirit as he had. The command was handed over to Sir Charles Pole, and Nelson, almost wild with joy, sailed from the Baltic in the brig Kite on the 19th June, and arrived at Yarmouth on the 1st July, 1801. Nelson always claimed that if the command had been given to him in February many lives would have been saved, and our prestige would not have suffered.
We cannot describe all the fascinating pleasure we get when we read and think of the wonders this strange mortal performed in the ordinary course of his profession; when, however, he departs from that and begins to make stagey love to Lady Hamilton, it tries one's Christian patience. What business had he, as the first sailor in the world, to enter into such a compact with another man's wife? However, he must not be judged by this liaison alone, but by the circumstances that led to it.
We know that his domestic life had been made irritating and unbearable to his sensitive and highly strung nature, but he found in Emma Hamilton one who played upon his vanity, and made him feel that he was regarded as an idol as well as an idolatrous lover. He thirsted for reverence and the love of soul for soul, and she, in her own way, gave both with lavish profusion, whereas his wife's austere indifference to his amazing accomplishments fell upon his large heart like ice, and who can estimate his sufferings before he decided to defy society? He believed and hoped that he would be exonerated, and became in the sight of Heaven (as he avowed) the husband of a woman who, there can be little doubt, did not keep her honour unstained, but who, to him, was the guiding spirit of his remaining days: and whatever impressions we may have forced upon us of the liaisons of this noxious creature, there is nothing on record that suggests that he was ever unfaithful to her after the bond of union was made. Nor does he appear to have been openly charged with illicit intimacy with other women after his marriage to Mrs. Nisbet, other than with Lady Hamilton.
We may talk of his wonderful career being morally blunted, but his own belief in the sanctity of the verbal arrangement was sound to the core, and he hazarded the opprobrium of our stern conventional system. To him, Lady Hamilton had an enduring charm which influenced his wild, weak, generous soul, and was in fact an inspiration to him. It is a truism that the life-story of all men has its tragedy and romance, and in this, Nelson's was only similar to others; and who can help loving his memory?
The Hamiltons lived with him at Merton when he was on leave. They shared the cost of the home, which Lady Hamilton had, with elaborate, artistic taste, prepared for him. A document written by Sir William makes it clear that the relations of man and wife were strained at times to breaking-point, for, as he states, "I am old and she in the beauty and vigour of youth"; and then he proceeds: "I have no complaint to make, but I feel that the whole attention of my wife is given to Lord Nelson and his interest at Merton." Obviously, this is the old gentleman's dull way of expressing his idea that there was a gamble going on with the marriage vow, and then, with delightful simplicity, he nullifies his suspicious thoughts by stating that he well knows the purity of Lord Nelson's friendship for Emma and himself and that he knows how uncomfortable it would make his Lordship, our best friend, if a separation should take place; therefore he was determined to do all in his power to prevent such an extremity, which would be essentially detrimental to all parties, but would be more sensibly felt by "our dear friend than by us." He is willing to go on provided the expenses do not go on increasing, but as he cannot expect to live many years, every moment is precious to him, and hopes that he may be allowed to be his own master and pass his time in his own way. He continues: "I am fully determined not to have any more silly altercations that too often arise between us, and embitter his present moments exceedingly. If we cannot live comfortably together," he continues, "a wise and well-concerted separation would be preferable." He says he knows and admires her talents and many excellent qualities, but he is not blind to her defects, and confesses to having many himself, and pleads "for God's sake to bear and forbear."
Throughout this pathetic document we find evidences that his heart was torn with the consciousness of the mean advantage being taken of his friendship. There is a droll, vacillating belief in the virtue of his wife and the purity of Nelson's motives, but every sentence indicates that his instinct led him to believe that another had taken his place. It may have been that he saw it dimly, and that he shrank from making any direct accusation, not wishing to break with the man with whom he had long been on close terms of friendship. It is highly improbable that either his own or Emma's past histories escaped his memory when he was penning his grievances. Indeed, there are evidences gleaming through his memorandum that his reflections were harassed by the remembrance of his own conduct, which had plunged to epic depths of wrongdoing in other days. These and other considerations would doubtless have a restraining effect on the action that might have been taken under different circumstances. Sir William Hamilton must have pondered over the parentage of Horatia, who was born on the 29th January, 1801. Is it possible that he knew that Nelson was her father, and believed in the purity of his friendship for Emma and himself? I think everything goes to prove that he knew of his friend's relations with his wife and condoned it. Nelson, in his clumsy, transparent way, tried to conceal the origin of the child, so he proceeds to write a letter to Lady Hamilton, which I shall quote later on. To say that Sir William Hamilton, a man of the world with vast experience of human deceptions and intrigues, could have been put off the scent, in view of all the circumstances, is too great a tax on credulity, but it is wholly characteristic of Nelson's ideas of mystification. But even if there were any further proof needed, Lady Hamilton has settled the matter by preserving the correspondence Nelson urged her to destroy. This will be referred to later on.
Meanwhile, it is hardly thinkable that Nelson, who had such a high sense of honour in other affairs of life, and who had accepted the hospitality and been the honoured guest of Sir William Hamilton at Naples, should have made the occasion an opportunity of establishing illicit relations with his wife. The whole matter must ever remain a blot on the great Admiral's fame, even though his host appeared to, or really did, connive at it. The price was too high to pay for both of them.
The following extract from a letter from Lord Minto to his wife indicates the mode of life of the family party. He says:
I went to Lord Nelson's (Merton) on Saturday. The whole establishment and way of life makes me angry as well as melancholy. I do not think myself obliged to quarrel with him for his weakness, though nothing shall ever induce me to give the smallest countenance to Lady Hamilton. She looks ultimately to the chance of marriage, as Sir William will not be long in her way, and she probably indulges a hope that she may survive Lady Nelson. She is in high looks, but more immense than ever. She goes on cramming Nelson with trowels of flattery, which he takes as quietly as a child does pap. The love she makes to him is ridiculous and disgusting. The whole house, staircase and all, are covered with pictures of her and him of all sorts and sizes. He is represented in naval actions, coats of arms, pieces of plate in his honour, the flagstaff of L'Orient. If it were Lady Hamilton's house, there might be pretence for it; but to make his own a mere looking-glass to view himself all day is bad taste.
This letter was written on the 22nd March, 1802, and Nelson writes that Sir William Hamilton died in his arms and in Lady Hamilton's on the 6th April, 1803, passing on "without a struggle, and that the world had never lost a more upright and accomplished gentleman"; which, be it said, is rather a stagey performance of his wife's lover. But the mistress excels her lover in the record of the death-bed drama. "Unhappy day," says she in profusion of tears, "for the forlorn Emma. Ten minutes past ten dear beloved Sir William left me." Emma was poorly provided for; only £700 a year jointure and £100 a year for her mother for life. She and Nelson appealed to Lord Minto to urge on Mr. Addington her claim for a pension, and she vowed to Minto that her connection with Nelson was pure, and he says he can believe it, which is hardly consistent with the description he gives his wife as to "their open and disgusting proceedings," or with his comments on a visit paid to the Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim, where the Duke had treated the gallant naval chief and his party as though they were mere ordinary trippers who had come to see the wonders of his possessions. He condescendingly ordered refreshments to be given to them, which sent Nelson into a fury of indignation, and Minto excuses the Duke by stating that Nelson persuaded himself that all the world should be blind because he chose to extol Emma's "virtues." Obviously, Minto was not firmly convinced of her chastity.
Nelson, with his heart full of blind adoration, had quite a simple, sailorly conviction that no one ought to question the innocence of his attachment to Emma, since he called Hamilton her "Uncle"; and, because he wished the public to believe in his innocence, he took it for granted that they would believe it. The Duke of Marlborough evidently had heard and believed in the impure tale, but that did not justify him in treating his noble guest and his friends in the snobbish and ill-mannered way he did. It is hardly likely that Nelson would have paid the visit without being asked, and in ordinary decency he should have been received or not asked at all. He was a greater figure and public servant than the Duke, and His Grace would not have suffered in dignity had he met Nelson on terms of equality. He could not have done less, at all events. On the other hand, the great Admiral showed a peevishness at the treatment which was unworthy of his fame and position; he could well afford to ignore the affront, more especially as he prided himself that the lady the Duke took exception to was "in the sight of Heaven his wife," and no one had any right to question his choice.
The views held by Hamilton and recorded in various conflicting versions give the impression that he was puzzled, and could not determine whether to believe in the fidelity of Nelson or not. Some writers think that he winked at the liaison because of the difference between his own age and that of his wife; others, that he thought the relations were innocent, and a token of high-spirited friendship for himself; but all delicately indicate their conviction that he knew what was going on. Meanwhile, Nelson steadfastly avows his unyielding fidelity to his friends, and, with this exception, I think we may conclude that his devotion to them could always be relied upon; indeed, his attachment to Hamilton was of an affectionate character, even when many people believed he was betraying him. Whether Sir William knew and believed that the association between his wife and Nelson was pure or not, he evidently desired that no one else should believe it, for in a codicil to his will he bequeaths "The copy of Madam Le Brun's picture of his wife in enamel, and gives to his dearest friend, Nelson, a very small token of the great regard he has for his Lordship, the most virtuous, loyal, and truly brave character I ever met with." Then he finishes up with God's blessing to him and shame to those who do not say "Amen." This is a wonderful testimony of friendship from a man who had been wronged, and might well have shaken the belief of those who founded their opinions on the startling improprieties they had beheld between the man whom he designated "the most virtuous, loyal, and truly brave character he had ever met with" and his wife. That Sir William connived at what looked uncommonly like infidelity may or may not be doubtful, but that he saw more than would have impressed an ordinary man or woman with suspicion is unquestionable, and the best that can be said for his attitude is that he was so mentally constituted that he could only see or preferred to see in Nelson's extravagant attentions to his wife a guileless symbol of high friendship for her, which he took as a compliment to himself. On the other hand, if he not only suspected but knew that he was being betrayed, and bitterly resented the passion which no remonstrances from him could have controlled, he at any rate determined to let the world see "how a Christian could die," and refrained from uttering the unutterable. Napoleon on the rock at St. Helena acted in the same magnanimous way towards the adulterous Marie Louise, of whose faithlessness he also unguardedly let slip his opinion.
It is an odious habit, but we are apt to believe, without any reserve, disparaging stories, that may or may not be true, concerning men of distinction, and the more prominent the man or woman, the more viciously the scandal-mongers pursue their contemptible occupation. These vermin invariably belong to a class of industrious mediocrities who have been born with a mental kink, and their treachery, falsehood, and cowardice are incurable. They are merely hurtful creatures who spoil the earth, and are to be found dolefully chattering about what they conceive to be other men's and women's lapses from the paths of stern virtue. Their plan of life is to defame other people, and by this means proclaim their own superiority over other weak mortals. Give the unsexed woman a chance, and she will let fly with unrestrained industry. How many innocent people have had their names dragged into the public gaze by this vice! The report may arise from professional or political jealousy, and may grow into incredible accusations of immorality. Who can estimate the suffering caused to Lord Melbourne, the then Prime Minister, and to his relatives and friends, and even to some of his political opponents, and to the Hon. Mrs. Norton, one of Sheridan's beautiful daughters (who was the wife of as unscrupulous a scamp as was ever permitted to live), by the engineering of an accusation of infidelity that forced the Prime Minister and Mrs. Norton into the Courts to defend themselves against what was proved to be a malicious and unfounded story? The plaintiff's case, resting as it did upon a tissue of fabricated evidence, takes a fine place in history because of the judge's impartiality and sagacious charge, and the verdict of the jury for the defendants which was received with tumultuous cheers, characterized by the judge as "disgraceful in a court of justice." His Lordship's remonstrance was futile, and again and again the cheers were given, both in the court and outside, where the wildest enthusiasm prevailed. No one who took part in this disgraceful action came out of it with a higher reputation than Sir John Campbell, who acted for Melbourne. His entrance to the House of Commons that night was the occasion of an outburst of delirious cheering, the like of which had never been witnessed in the House. "The Tories" are said to have "affected to cheer." I give this as a notable case whereby two innocent people were threatened with ruin and disgrace by the poisonous slander circulated for both private and political ends and fostered by the worthless husband of a virtuous and amiable woman.
It is common knowledge that Nelson and Sir William Hamilton were assailed by the same stinging wasps as Melbourne and Mrs. Norton (if it be proper to make a comparison), but they were different types of men living in a different atmosphere and under different circumstances. It is true that Nelson had scruples about the unwisdom of his unconventional connection with Lady Hamilton, and, big-hearted fellow that he was, he would have struggled hard to avoid giving pain to his relations and friends; and who knows that he did not? For though his actions may belie that impression, his whole attitude was reckless, silly, and whimsical. To whatever extent he may have had scruples, he certainly did not possess the faculty of holding his inclinations in check. Indeed, he made no secret of the idea that "every man became a bachelor after passing the Rock of Gibraltar," and in this notion he carried out the orthodoxy of the old-time sailor.
He disliked marriage and loved glory, and being a popular hero, he was forgiven all his amorous sins, which were by many looked upon as being part of his heroism. His laughable efforts to obscure the facts might have satisfied those who wished to rely on Hamilton's benedictory absolution, had not Nelson and Emma, as I have already said, left behind them incriminating letters and documents which leave no doubt as to what they were to each other. The great Admiral industriously destroyed much of the massive correspondence, but had overlooked some of the hidden treasures. Lady Hamilton promised to destroy all hers, but failed to do so. Hence the documentary proof written by his own hand and that of Emma's cancels Nelson's childish device to throw a too critical public off the scent.
Nelson was alternately weak, nervous, careless, and defiant in his attitude in regard to public opinion concerning his private life. He at one time asserted the right of living in any way he might choose, and resented the criticism of a few cackling busybodies, even though it was not in accordance with the views of the late Mr. Edward Cocker. It was his affair, and if his ideas differed from those of his critics, it was no business of theirs. His independence in this, as well as in the practical concerns of his profession, coincided with the opinions held by Sandy Mackay in "Alton Locke," who declared that he would "never bow down to a bit of brains." But these independent views alternated with weaker ones. He was as indiscreetly lavish with his love as he was with his money; at one time he would contemptuously defy the poisoned arrows that were darted at him, and when beset by the sullen storm-cloud of scandal, he let fly with red-hot courage and audaciously upheld his honour: at another time he was timid, vacillating, and ridiculous in his attempts to avert the public eye from his love affair and its consequence. People who knew him intimately were aware that Horatia was his daughter, and in order to throw them off their guard he proceeded to invent a cock-and-bull story of how he came by the child. Here is his letter to Lady Hamilton written in the middle of 1804: "I am now going to state a thing to you and to request your kind assistance which, from my dear Emma's goodness of heart, I am sure of her acquiescence in. Before we left Italy, I told you of the extraordinary circumstances of a child being left to my care and protection. On your first coming to England, I presented you the child, dear Horatia. You became, to my comfort, attached to it, so did Sir William, thinking her the finest child he had ever seen. She is become of that age when it is necessary to remove her from a mere nurse, and to think of educating her. I am now anxious for the child's being placed under your protecting wing"; a clumsy, transparent piece of foolery, which at once confirms its intention to mislead! But we are saved the trouble of interpretation, for the father goes on to write on another piece of note-paper, "My beloved, how I feel for your situation and that of our dear Horatia, our dear child." It is almost incredible that Nelson could have written such a silly fabrication. In the early part of 1804, Emma gave birth to another child, of which he believed himself to be the father. He asked the mother to call him what she pleased (evidently he hoped and expected a boy), but if a girl, it was to be named Emma. It was a girl, so it was called after the mother, but it did not live long, and the father never saw it.
As though he thought the letter written about little Miss Thompson (Horatia, be it understood) were not sufficiently delusive, he sends an equally absurd production to his niece, Charlotte Nelson, who lived a good deal at Merton, in which he says that he is "truly sensible of her attachment to that dear little orphan, Horatia," and although her parents are lost, yet she is not "without a fortune; and that he will cherish her to the last moment of his life, and curse them who curse her, and Heaven bless them who bless her." This solemn enthusiasm for the poor orphan puts Nelson out of court as a cute letter-writer. The quality of ingenious diplomacy had been left entirely out of him, and like any one else who dallies with an art for which they have no gift, he excites suspicions, and more often than not discloses the very secret he is so anxious to keep. Every line of these letters indicates a tussle between a natural tendency to frank honesty and an unnatural and unworthy method of deception. Obviously, the recipient of this precious document would have her curiosity excited over the disingenuous tale of romance. She would ask herself first of all, "Why should my kinsman be so desirous to tell me that the orphan in whom he has so fond an interest is not without a fortune? and why should the responsibility of rearing and educating the child have been entrusted to him, the most active and important Admiral in the British Navy? And if it be true that she is an orphan, surely there could be no object in supposing that any one would 'curse her,' especially as he declared that she was 'not without fortune,' and that she was to be known as his adopted child." The niece, being a quick-witted girl, would naturally think the problem out for herself, and decide that there was something fishy involved in the mystery of these unnecessary phrases.
In dealing with his domestic complications, Nelson's mind seems to have been in a constant whirlwind, dodging from one difficulty into another, never direct, and for ever in conflict with his true self. He was brave and resourceful in everything that appertained to the service he adorned, and yet a shivering fear came over him now and again lest the truth concerning his attachment to his friend's wife should be revealed. When he was seized with these remorseful thoughts, he could not be silent; he was not possessed of the constitutional gift of reticence, and could only find relief by constant reference to the matter he wished kept secret in such a way as to cause people to put two and two together and arrive at the very truth he wished to hide.
But whatever his ruling passion may have been, his belief in the Power that rules us all never forsook him. He believed in religious forms as of a spiritual force. He often committed himself to it, and claimed the privilege of asking for Heaven's guidance. Call it eccentricity or superstition, or what you like, but to him it was a reality. One of the many amusing instances of his devotion to religious rites was the occasion when he and Lady Hamilton stood as godfather and godmother at the christening of their daughter, Horatia Nelson Thompson, by which name she was baptized. To the puritanic, orthodox mind (keeping in view all the circumstances of parentage) this will be looked upon as an act of abominable hypocrisy and sacrilege, but to him it was a pious duty.
Like all highly strung and overwrought mortals, he was often moody, depressed, and, worst of all, a victim to premonitions of his early demise. His superstitious temperament was constantly worrying him, as did his faith in the predictions of a gipsy fortune-teller who had correctly described his career up to the year 1805, and then stopping had said, "I can see no further." This creepy ending of the gipsy's tale was afflicting him with a dumb pain and depression when he unexpectedly came across his sister Catherine in London. She referred to his worn, haggard look with a tenderness that was peculiarly her own. He replied, "Ah! Katty! Katty! that gipsy!" and then relapsed into morbid silence. The foreboding bore heavily on his mind, and the story may well make one's heart throb with pity for the noble fellow who was so soon to fulfil his tragic destiny. Well may we exclaim that fame seems to be the most wretched of mockeries!
The Duke of Wellington, of whom it is said no dose of flattery was too strong for him to swallow, has left on record an interesting account of his meeting Nelson at the Colonial Office. He gives the account of it, thirty years after Nelson's death, to John Wilson Croker at Walmer, and here is what he says of Collingwood's great comrade:—
WALMER, 1st October, 1834.
We were [that is, Croker and he] talking of Lord Nelson, and some instances were mentioned of the egotism and vanity that derogated from his character. "Why," said the Duke, "I am not surprised at such instances, for Lord Nelson was, in different circumstances, two quite different men, as I myself can vouch, though I only saw him once in my life, and for, perhaps, an hour. It was soon after I returned from India. I went to the Colonial Office in Downing Street, and there I was shown into the little waiting-room on the right hand, where I found, also waiting to see the Secretary of State, a gentleman, whom, from his likeness to his pictures and the loss of an arm, I immediately recognized as Lord Nelson. He could not know who I was, but he entered at once into conversation with me, if I can call it conversation, for it was almost all on his side and all about himself, and in, really, a style so vain and so silly as to surprise and almost disgust me. I suppose something that I happened to say made him guess that I was somebody, and he went out of the room for a moment, I have no doubt to ask the office keeper who I was, for when he came back he was altogether a different man, both in manner and matter. All that I had thought a charlatan style had vanished, and he talked of the state of this country and the probabilities of affairs on the Continent with a good sense, and a knowledge of subjects both at home and abroad, that surprised me equally and more agreeably than the first part of our interview had done; in fact, he talked like an officer and a statesman. The Secretary of State kept us long waiting, and certainly, for the last half or three-quarters of an hour, I don't know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more. Now, if the Secretary of State had been punctual, and admitted Lord Nelson in the first quarter of an hour, I should have had the same impression of a light and trivial character that other people have had; but luckily I saw enough to be satisfied that he was really a very superior man; but certainly a more sudden and complete metamorphosis I never saw."
We must not be too critical of the Duke's opinions of the vanity of the Admiral, but it calls for some notice, inasmuch as the Duke himself is reputed to have had an uncommonly good amount of it himself, though it took a different form and created a different impression. Wellington showed it in a cold, haughty, unimaginative, repelling self-importance; fearful of unbending to his inferiors lest his dignity should be offended. Nelson's peculiarities were the very antithesis; it was his delightful egotism and vanity that added to his charm and made him such a fascinating personality. His direct slap-dash, unconventional phrases and flashes of naval brilliancy, whether in search of, or engaged in battle with the enemy, together with a natural kindness to his officers and men of all ranks, filled them with confidence and pride in having him as their chief. The "Nelson touch," the "drubbing" he swore in his own engaging way that Mr. Villeneuve—as he called him to Blackwood—was to have when he caught him, the putting of the telescope to his blind eye at Copenhagen when the signal was flying to leave off action, and then "No, damn me if I do," had an inspiring effect on his men and strengthened the belief in his dauntlessness and sagacity. "What will Nelson think of us?" remarked one of the men aboard one of the frigates that obeyed the signal. But Nelson went on fighting with complete success. "Luckily," says Wellington, "I saw enough to be satisfied that he was really a very superior man." Why "luckily"? What difference would his lack of knowledge have made? The Duke was hardly the type of man to understand the powerful personality whose style, "so vain and silly, surprised and almost disgusted" him. That view does not stand to his credit, and no one else held it.
But let us see what a greater man than either Wellington or Nelson says of both. Napoleon, at St. Helena, spoke in very high terms of Lord Nelson, and indeed attempted to palliate that one stigma on his memory, the execution of Carraciolli, which he attributed entirely to his having been deceived by that wicked woman Queen Caroline, through Lady Hamilton, and to the influence which the latter had over him. He says of the Duke: "Judging from Wellington's actions, from his dispatches, and, above all, from his conduct towards Ney, I should pronounce him to be a poor-spirited man, without generosity, and without greatness of soul ('Un homme de peu d'esprit, sans générosité, et sans grandeur d'âme'). Such I know to be the opinion of Benjamin Constant and of Madame de Staël, who said that, except as a general, he had not two ideas. As a general, however, to find his equal amongst your own nation, you must go back to the time of Marlborough, but as anything else, I think that history will pronounce him to be a man of limited capacity ('Un homme borné')."
"Nelson is a brave man. If Villeneuve at Aboukir and Dumanoir at Trafalgar had had a little of his blood, the French would have been conquerors. I ought to have had Dumanoir's head cut off. Do you not think more highly of Nelson than of the best engineers who construct fortifications? Nelson had what a mere engineer officer can never acquire. It is a gift of nature."
The Emperor, in his eulogy of Nelson, is not unmindful of the terrible crime he was led to commit at the instigation of that human viper, Queen Caroline, and the licentious Emma Hamilton. He, to some extent, whittles down Nelson's share of the responsibility by putting the whole blame on them. But who can read the gruesome story of the trial and hanging of the aged Prince Carraciolli without feeling ashamed that a fellow-countryman in Nelson's position should have stamped his career with so dark a crime? At the capitulation of St. Elmo, Carraciolli made his escape. He commanded a Neapolitan warship called the Tancredi, and had fought in Admiral Hotham's action on the 14th March, 1795, and gained distinction, accompanying the Royal Family to Palermo. He was given permission by the King to return for the purpose of protecting his large property. The French had entered Neapolitan territory and seized his estates, on the ground that he was a Royalist, and the only way he could recover them was by agreeing to take command of the Neapolitan fleet. The French were obliged to evacuate the country, and left their friends to settle matters for themselves as best they could. Carraciolli concealed himself, but was discovered in disguise and put on board the Foudroyant with his hands tied behind his back. Captain Hardy, who was a man with a heart, was indignant when he saw the old man subjected to such gross indignity, and immediately ordered his hands to be liberated.
Nelson committed him for trial, which commenced at ten o'clock, and at twelve he was declared guilty. At five o'clock he was hanged at the yardarm of the Neapolitan frigate Minerva. This poor old man was tried solely by his enemies without being allowed to have counsel or call witnesses. A miscreant called Count Thurn, a worse enemy than all, presided over the court. Carraciolli asked Lieutenant Parkinson to obtain for him a new trial. Nelson, who had ordered the first, could not or would not grant a second. Carraciolli asked to be shot, and this also was refused. On the grounds of former association, he sought the aid of Lady Hamilton, but she, being an approving party to the execution, only came from her concealment to enjoy the sight of the old Prince's dead body dangling at the yardarm. "Come, Bronte, come," said she, "let us take the barge and have another look at Carraciolli"; and there they feasted their eyes on the lifeless remains of their former associate, who had assuredly cursed them both with his last dying breath. It is the custom when sailors are buried at sea to weight their feet so that the body may sink in an upright position. The same course was adopted with Carraciolli; shot was put at his feet, but not sufficient, and he was cast into the sea. In a few days the putrified body rose to the surface head upwards, as though the murdered man had come again to haunt his executioners and give them a further opportunity of gazing at the ghastly features of their victim. The sight of his old friend emerging again terrified Ferdinand, and he became afflicted with a feeling of abiding horror which he sought to appease by having the body interred in a Christian burial-ground. But the spirit of his executed friend worried him all his remaining days, and the act of burial did not save Naples from becoming a shambles of conflict, robbery, and revolution. Neither did Emma Hamilton escape her just deserts for the vile part she played in one of the most abominable crimes ever committed. Her latter hours were made terrible by the thought of the mockery of a trial, and the constant vision of the Prince's ghost glowering at her from the Minerva's yardarm and from the surface of his watery tomb from which he had risen again to reproach her with the inhuman pleasure she had taken in watching the dreadful act. Nor did her shrieking avowal of repentance give the wretched Jezebel of a woman the assurance of forgiveness. She sought for distractions, and found most of them in wickedness, and passed into the presence of the Great Mystery with all her deeds of faithlessness, deceit, and uncontrollable revenge before her eyes.
It is sad to read of and hear the insensate rubbish that is talked of new earths that are to evolve from war, as though it could be divorced from wounds and death, unspeakable crime, suffering in all its varied forms, and the destruction of property which must always be a direct result. The spectacle of it can never be other, except to the martially-minded, than a shuddering horror. I would ask any one who is imbued with the idea that out of wars spring new worlds to name a single instance where a nation that has engaged in it has not been left bleeding at its extremities, no matter whether it emerges as victor or vanquished. I would further ask the writer or orator who talks in this strain if he imagines that the sending of myriads of men to death can contribute to the making of new earths. The consequences are much too tragically serious to the nation, and indeed to the world, to be played with by smug diplomatists who seek to excite the populace into support of their calamitous efforts at statesmanship by shallow bursts of eloquence about the new conditions of life which are to accrue from their imitation of Germanism.
No doubt Nelson thought, when he had poor old Prince Carraciolli hung, that he would create a new earth by striking terror into the hearts of the Neapolitan race, but natural laws are not worked out by methods of this kind, and Nelson had the mortification of seeing his plan of regulating human affairs create a new and more ferocious little hell on earth. His judgment at this time was very much warped through the evil influence of the Court of Naples and more especially by his infatuation for Lady Hamilton.
Greville, and subsequently Sir William Hamilton, had taken great pains to educate Emma Hart. Hamilton writes to his nephew: "I can assure you her behaviour is such as has acquired her many sensible admirers, and we have good man society, and all the female nobility, with the Queen at their head, show her every mark of civility." Hamilton writes further: "Hitherto, her behaviour is irreproachable, but her temper, as you must know, unequal." Lady Malmesbury (with a decidedly sly scratch) says of her: "She really behaves as well as possible, and quite wonderfully, considering her origin and education." Sir George Elliot says: "Her manners are perfectly, unpolished, very easy, but not with the ease of good breeding, but of a barmaid; excessively good-humoured, wishing to please and be admired by everybody that came in her way. She has acquired since her marriage some knowledge of history and of the arts, and one wonders at the application and pains she has taken to make herself what she is. With men her language and conversation are exaggerations of anything I ever heard anywhere; and I was wonderfully struck with these inveterate remains of her origin, though the impression was very much weakened by seeing the other ladies of Naples." A naval lieutenant at Naples stated he "thought her a very handsome, vulgar woman." There is no stabbing with a sneer about this opinion. It expresses in a few words the candid opinion of the sailor. Mrs. St. George thinks her "bold, daring, vain even to folly, and stamped with the manners of her first situation much more strongly than one would suppose, after having represented Majesty and lived in good company fifteen years. Her dress is frightful. Her waist is absolutely between her shoulders. Her figure is colossal, but, excepting her feet, which are hideous, well shaped. The shape of all her features is fine, as is the form of her head, and particularly her ears; her teeth are a little irregular, but tolerably white; her eyes light blue, with a brown spot in one, which, though a defect, takes nothing away from her beauty or expression. Her eyebrows and hair, which, by the bye, is never clean, are dark and her complexion coarse. Her expression is strongly marked, variable, and interesting; her movements in common life ungraceful, her voice loud, yet not disagreeable." This female critic seems to have been overburdened with the weight of Emma's defects, mental and physical! Elliot says: "Her person is nothing short of monstrous for its enormity, and is growing every day. Her face is beautiful." The latter view tones down the apparent desire not to say too much in her favour.
We are persuaded, in fact, that the foregoing views of Lady Hamilton's personal appearance are not correct. They give the impression that the opinions of her critics are based on the woman's lowly origin, and that they assume that because she was the offspring of poor parents she ought to be described as a fat hoyden with the manners of the kitchen. The people who knew her intimately do not make her out to be a stout, unwholesome, East-End Palestiner. The sister of Marie Antoinette, be it remembered, was her close companion, and many English ladies living in Naples and visiting there were scarcely likely to associate with a person who could not display better looks and manners than those set forth. Nelson, the Prince of Wales, and her many other men admirers, were hardly likely to tumble over each other in competition for her smiles and favours if "her dress was frightful," "her waist between her shoulders," "her hair dirty," "her feet hideous," "her bones large," "her complexion coarse," and "her person monstrous for its enormity, growing every day."
We are inclined to place little dependence on the accuracy of people who seem to have described her according to their moods or perhaps according to the manner of her admirers towards themselves. That she was clever and attractive there can be no doubt, and it is equally certain that she won for herself the mortal enmity of many ladies who saw her powerful influence over prominent men and women whom they themselves bored. Some importance must be given to her husband's position as British representative; his influence must have been great, especially in Neapolitan circles. This would help her natural gifts of fascination, even though her breeding and education did not reach the standard of her blue-blooded critics. She had something that stood her in greater stead than breeding and education: she had the power of enslaving gallant hearts and holding them in thrall with many artful devices. They liked her Bohemianism, her wit, her geniality, her audacious slang, and her collection of droll epithets that fittingly described her venomous critics of a self-appointed nobility. When she could not reach the heights of such superior persons she proceeded to ridicule them with a tongue that rattled out vivid invective which outmatched anything they could say of her. It probably made her more enemies, but it satisfied her temper and pleased her admirers. She never appears to have been conscious of any inferiority in herself. We are inclined to agree with the opinion expressed by the naval lieutenant at Naples, who said "She was a very handsome, vulgar woman." All her portraits confirm what the sailor says about her beauty, and the most reliable records are confirmatory so far as his view of her vulgarity is concerned.
But in any case, whatever may have been her physical dimensions, they were not understated by the crowd who gave vent to their aversion in this and in many other deplorable ways. There are only a few evidences of Nelson being aware of and resenting some of the disparaging remarks made about his "wife in the sight of Heaven," and these do not seem to have diminished his infatuation for her. He was accustomed to say in connection with his professional duties that whenever he followed his own head he was in general much more correct in his judgment than by following other people's opinions. He carried this plan into his private life so far as Emma was concerned, but men and women who were his intimate friends would not support the view that by following his head in this particular case his judgment was sound. We may term the infatuation a deteriorated state of mind, but he was sustained by the belief that she was a spirit unto him while he lived, and with his last gasp, as he was passing into the shadows, he bestowed her as a legacy to his country. We shall have something to say hereafter as to how the British Government dealt with their great Admiral's dying injunction.
The Neapolitan atmosphere was vile enough, and might well have made even men and women who knew the loose side of life shrink from it, but it can never be claimed that it had a demoralizing influence on Emma, who at an early age became familiar with unspeakable vices which left her little to learn at the time Greville sold her to his uncle, who took her to a centre of sordid uncleanness, there to become his wife after a brief association as his mistress. We may have no misgiving as to her aptitude in acquiring anything she chose that was left for her to learn from a community of debauchees and parasites.
The wonder is that her brain did not succumb to the poisonous influences by which she was surrounded, and that the poor girl did not sink into the depths of that luxurious sensuality which characterized Neapolitan society at that time. It was a more distinguished and fascinating type of debauchery than that which she had known in other days in England, and from which Greville had rescued her. The temptation to plunge into the boisterous merriment of a higher order of depravity than that to which she had been accustomed must have been very great to such a temperament as hers. But she worthily kept her wild, wayward spirit under restraint, and, according to Sir William Hamilton, she conducted herself in a way that caused him to be satisfied with his reforming guidance. She adapted herself to the ways of the more select social community of her new existence, and at the time Nelson made her acquaintance she had really become a creditable member of the society in which she moved. In every respect she was congenial to him. He never lost a chance of applauding her gifts and brazenly exempting himself from all moral restrictions, except, as I have said before, when he was seized with a spontaneous fit of goodness. He would then clumsily try to conceal the passion that obsessed him. He did not brood long over trifles of this kind, merely because he had lost, if ever he possessed, the power of consecutive reasoning in matters of moral convention. His Neapolitan associates were a cunning, lying, luxury-loving, depraved lot, and however strongly his principles were fixed, there can be but one opinion—that such an atmosphere was harmful to him. He speaks of Naples himself as being a country of poets, whores, and scoundrels; and Southey does not attempt to mince words, for in vigorous terms he describes England's "alliances to superannuated and abominable governments of the Continent." These are the states that we shed British blood and squandered British money over, and in truth Southey describes them as they were!
The King of Naples was a great hero to stand up against the bravest, best-trained troops the world! He shivered at the thought of Nelson going out of his sight, and whimpered him into staying to guard him and his rotten kingdom. It was at this period of his gallant activity that Nelson became the victim of fulsome flattery and the associate of the most cunning, knavish charlatans in the world. These creatures never ceased to inveigh against the wrongs they were suffering for the uplifting of human rights, and because their great British ally was in need of their disinterested and distinguished co-ordination. Nelson was well aware of all this, but could not shake himself free. He loathed the slavering way in which flattery was extended to him, because it had a sickly resemblance to weeping. He declares of the Neapolitan officers, "They are boasters of the highest order, and when they are confronted with the duty of defending hearth and home, their courage ends in vapour." He avers that they "cannot lose honour, as they have none to lose," and yet he makes no serious effort to unshackle himself from a detestable position. Emma, the Queen, and King of Naples, and others, have a deep-rooted hold on him, and he cannot give up the cheap popularity of the Neapolitans. He persuades himself that the whole thought of his soul is "Down, down, with the French," and that it shall be his "constant prayer." Throughout the whole course of his brilliant career it was never doubted that the French were his great aversion, because they were his country's enemies. But the hysterical tears of Lady Hamilton and those of the Neapolitan Queen proved too strong for him. The King's beseeching fears were also added to an already difficult situation, which, he persuaded himself, could not be ignored without damaging the interests he was sent to protect; so his stay in the reeking cesspool of Neapolitanism was prolonged, but there is no reason for supposing that his "constant prayer" for the extinction of the French was any the less ardent. The fatal day of their catastrophe was only postponed. The praying went on all the same, with more or less belief in the Almighty's preference for Englishmen.
This is a form of cant to which those whom we regard as great men are a prey. But this pride of race is not confined to the mighty men of valour. The humble soldier and sailor, and poorest and richest of civilians, have the same inherent belief in British superiority. They talk to the Great Giver of all power in the most patronizing way, and while they profess to believe in His ordinances they treat them as though He were their vassal and not their Lawgiver. They call upon Him to break His own laws and help them to smite those whom they regard as enemies, never doubting the righteousness of their cause. The enemy, on the other hand, believe that they have a monopoly of God, and avow that their cause is His, and being His, they grimly ask Him to settle the dispute by coming down on their side; but should they win the fight, the glory of it is seldom given to the Power whose assistance is implored, but ascribed to their own genius.
Cromwell is a singular and distinguished exception. He always gave all the glory to God. Take as an example the battle of Dunbar (though there are many instances of a similar character that could be quoted during the Civil War). The battle-cry of the Parliament forces was "The Lord of Hosts," and at the opportune moment the commander of the Parliament army shouted, "Now let God arise, and His enemies shall be scattered." The Ironsides made a fearless and irresistible rush at their foes, and almost immediately Cromwell saw the Covenanters in confusion; again he shouted, "They run! I profess they run!" The quotation from the 68th Psalm was always an inspiration to these religious warriors. Old Leslie, the Scotch Covenanting general, with the patience of stupidity, had been mumbling petitions for hours to the God of the Anointed to form an alliance with him to crush the unholy rebellion against King and Covenant. "Thou knowest, O God, how just our cause is, and how unjust is that of those who are not Thy people." This moth-eaten crowd of canting hypocrites were no match for the forces who believed that they were backed by the Lord of Hosts, and they were completely routed.
Sir Jacob Astley, another Royalist, on one occasion during the Civil War breathed a simple prayer with uplifted eyes. "O Lord," said he, "Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, do not Thou forget me." Then he gave the word of command to "March." He was nevertheless defeated at Stow, and seems to have been offended at the Deity for His forgetfulness, as he bitterly reproached his conquerors by telling them that they might go to play unless they fell out amongst themselves.
Napoleon carried on warfare under a sterner and more self-reliant code. He had confidence in and depended on his own genius and on nature's laws. There are shoals of instances in his short and terrific career that indicate this belief in himself. He said to a regiment of horse chasseurs at Lobenstein two days before the battle of Jena, "My lads! you must not fear death; when soldiers brave death, they drive him into the enemy's ranks." On another occasion he said: "You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you teach him all your art of war." This is a thrilling truth which always tells in war, and yet behind all the apparent indifference to the great mysterious force that holds sway over human affairs there was a hidden belief in the power of the Deity to guide aright and give aid in the hour of need, even to men of unequalled talents like Napoleon himself. His spontaneous exclamations indicate that he did not doubt who created and ruled the universe, but how much he relied on this power he never really disclosed, and it can only be a supposition gathered from utterances recorded by some of his contemporaries that he had a devout belief in the great power of Christianity. "Ah!" said he one day, "there is but one means of getting good manners, and that is by establishing religion." At that time the spiritual life of France was at a low ebb, and the subject of religion was one of the most unpopular and risky topics to raise, but Napoleon knew that it would have to be tackled in the open sooner or later, and it is a matter of authentic history that he struggled to bring and ultimately succeeded in bringing back religious ordinances to France. He declared that no good government could exist for long without it. His traducers proclaimed him an atheist, and we hear the same claptrap from people now who have not made themselves acquainted with the real history of the man and his times. We do not say he was a saint, but he was a better Christian, both in profession and action, than most of the kings that ruled prior to and during his period. In every way he excels the Louis of France, the Georges of Great Britain and Hanover, the Fredericks of Prussia, and the Alexanders of Russia. The latter two he puts far in the shade, both as a statesman, a warrior, and a wise, humane ruler who saw far into futurity, and fought against the reactionary forces of Europe, which combined to put an end to what was called his ambition to dominate the whole of creation. He foretold with amazing accuracy that from his ashes there would spring up sectional wars for a time, and ultimately the selfsame elements of vicious mediocrity that destroyed him would bring about a world-conflict which would destroy itself.
The laws of life are simple, but at the same time very terrible in their consequences if ignored or disobeyed. What folly to imagine that any great figure or great tragedy comes into existence by chance! Napoleon was just as necessary to the world as was Cromwell. Both had the righting of wrongs and the clearing away of the accumulation of centuries of chaos and misgovernment, and it was not to be expected that they could carry out the necessary reforms without making the authors of such an intolerable state of things angry and resentful at their iron methods of discipline. Napoleon and Cromwell possessed the combined arts of war and statesmanship to a higher degree than any of their contemporaries. Cromwell excelled Napoleon in professional Christianity. The latter never paraded his ideas of religion, though he acted on them silently and gave occasional expression to the thoughts of his soul. Indeed, he was too much given to publicly disavowing the very principles he believed in privately. This plan or habit was said to be for the purpose of creating controversy. Be that as it may, when the natural spirit moved him he would declare his views in the most robust way. On one of many occasions he startled the Council of State by reminding them that a man did not risk being killed for a few pence a day or for a paltry distinction. "You must speak to the soul," he declared, "to electrify the man." Another very notable expression is here worth referring to, as it instances how practical and human were his views. "The heart," said he, "warms the genius, but in Pitt the genius withers the heart, which is a very different thing"; and so it is that Cromwell and he were not dissimilar in many of their attributes. Indeed, it is said that Napoleon never tired of quoting or having quoted to him some striking characteristic of Cromwell. We could hardly, with any degree of good judgment, put Leslie the Covenanter or Sir Jacob Astley the Royalist, or Nelson the matchless naval strategist and national hero, on a par with either Cromwell or Napoleon. They are only here referred to in connection with the two unequalled constructive statesmen and military generals as representing a type of peculiarly religious men who have occupied high military and naval positions in the service of the State.
Hawkins, Drake, Frobisher, Blake in Cromwell's time, Nelson in Napoleon's, were all fire-eating religious men, always asking favours and guidance in their perilous undertakings from the great mystic Power in whom they believed. Collingwood was a great admiral and a Christian gentleman, who never mixed religion with hysterical or dramatic flashes of quarterdeck language. He was ostentatious in nothing, and seemed to observe a strictly decorous attitude. Nelson, on the other hand, resembled a restless squirrel, always swift in his instincts, with an enthusiasm which was contagious. In many ways he did not adhere to what is called cricket in sporting phrase. He was accustomed to say, "Never mind the justice or the impudence of this or that, only let me succeed." Then he would proceed to ask the Almighty in feverish zeal to aid him in the object he had in view.
He would scatter a profusion of curses about in relation to the treatment of the Admiralty towards himself, or at his disappointment in not getting to grips with the French fleet, and then proceed to ask Lady Hamilton if they had a nice church at Merton, so that they may set an example of goodness to the under-parishioners, and "admire the pigs and poultry," etc. He finds on several occasions that a picture of Emma is much admired by the French Consul at Barcelona, and feels sure it would be admired by Bonaparte, and then he continues, "I love you most dearly, and hate the French most damnably." Sometimes he said he hated the French as the devil hated holy water, which at that time was considered to be the orthodoxy of a true Briton. It was quite a pro-British attitude to patronize the maker of kings who had kept the world in awe for nearly a quarter of a century, by expecting him to admire a portrait of a loose woman to whom he referred in the most scathing manner while at St. Helena. Her reputation and Nelson's connection with her seems to have been known to him, as was also her connection with the Neapolitan Court. His indictment was terrible.
Nelson had a weary, anxious time on the Toulon station. He called it his home, and said they were in fine fighting trim and wished to God the ships were the same, but they were in a very dilapidated condition, not fit to stand the bad weather they were sure to encounter. The British Minister at Naples wished to send a Frenchman who could be relied on with information as to the whereabouts of the French fleet. Nelson replied that he would not on any account have a Frenchman in the British fleet except as a prisoner. He would be grateful to him for any information he could give, but not a Frenchman would be allowed to come to him, and adds that "his mother hated the French." He was enraged at the report spread by a fussy French Admiral named M. la Touche-Treville, who was in command at Toulon. It was said that he was sent to beat Nelson as he had done at Boulogne. But he was shy about coming out and trying a tussle. Nelson said he was a miscreant, a poltroon, and a liar. The Frenchman had boasted in a publication that he had put the British fleet to flight. The British Admiral took the charge so seriously to heart that he sent a copy of the Victory's log to the Admiralty to disprove the statement of the lying Admiral la Touche, and in a letter to his brother Nelson says, "You will have seen La Touche's letter of how he chased me, and how I ran. I keep it; and by God if I take him, he shall eat it." La Touche cheated Nelson of a sweet revenge by dying like a good Christian before the outraged British Admiral could get hold of him. The newspapers of France said he died of fatigue caused by walking so often to the signal post at Sepet, to watch the British fleet; and Nelson stated "that he was always sure that would be the death of him, and that if he had come out to fight him it would have added ten years on to his life." Poor Nelson was very sensitive when his professional qualities were assailed. He thought, and thought rightly, that the blockade at Toulon was an unparalleled feat of human patience and physical endurance. He had only been out of his ship three times from May 1803 to August 1805. We may write and speak about this wonderful devotion to duty, but it is only if we take time to think of the terrific things which the central figure who commanded, and the crews of the fleet of rickety, worn-out, leaky baskets—proudly spoken of as the "wooden walls of Old England"—had to contend with and actually did, that we comprehend the vast strain and task of it all. It was because Nelson was ever being reminded by some clumsy act of the Admiralty or thoughtless, ignorant criticism on the part of the politicians and civilian public generally that the work he and the men under him were doing was not appreciated as it should be, that he gave way to outbursts of violent resentment. But so far as the present writer has been able to discover, his love of approbation was so strong that an encouraging word of praise soon put him in love for the time being with those whom he had lately cursed.
He never shrank from disobeying the instructions of whatever authority was over him if his judgment led him to the conclusion that he would serve his country better by disobedience and by following his own judgment; whenever he was driven to do this he was right and those above him were wrong, and in each case he was so conclusively right that no authoritative power dare court-martial him, or even censure his conduct, since the public believed more in him than in them. When the spirit of well-balanced defiance was upon him, he seemed to say to the public, to himself, and to those who were responsible for his instructions, "Do you imagine yourselves more capable of judging the circumstances, and the immeasurable difficulties surrounding them, than I am, whose business it has been to watch minutely every changing phase? Or do you think my love of country or glory so incomparably inferior to yours that I would risk any harm coming to it, or to myself and the men under me, if I was not sure of my ground? For what other reason do you think I disobeyed orders? Do you suppose I did it in order that some disaster should be the result? Or do you still think that your plan, right or wrong, should have been carried out, even though it would be accompanied with appalling consequences to life and property? If these are your views, I wish to remind you that I am the Indomitable Nelson, who will stand no damned nonsense from you or from the enemy when I see that my country, or the interests that I represent, are going to be jeopardized by your self-assertive instructions, and I wish to intimate to you that there is only one way of dealing with a Frenchman, and that is to knock him down when he is an enemy. You have obviously got to learn that to be civil to a Frenchman is to be laughed at, and this I shall never submit to." The Admiralty censured Nelson for disobeying Lord Keith's orders and, as they claimed, endangering Minorca, and also for landing seamen for the siege of Capua, and told him "not to employ the seamen in any such way in future." The Admiralty were too hasty in chastising him. He claimed that his success in freeing the whole kingdom of Naples from the French was almost wholly due to the employment of British sailors, whose valour carried the day.
Nelson sent the First Lord a slap between the eyes in his best sarcastic form. He said briefly, "I cannot enter into all the detail in explanation of my motives which led me to take the action I did, as I have only a left hand, but I may inform you that my object is to drive the French to the devil, and restore peace and happiness to mankind"; and he continues, "I feel I am fitter to do the action than to describe it." And then he curtly and in so many words says to his Chief, "Don't you be troubled about Minorca. I have secured the main thing against your wish and that of Lord Keith, and you may be assured that I shall see that no harm comes to the Islands, which seems to be a cause of unnecessary anxiety to you." Incidentally, the expulsion of the French from Naples and seating Ferdinand on the throne was, as I have previously stated, not an unqualified success, nor was he accurate in his statement that he had restored happiness to millions. The success was a mere shadow. He had emancipated a set of villains. Troubridge says they were all thieves and vagabonds, robbing their unfortunate countrymen, selling confiscated property for nothing, cheating the King and Treasury by pocketing everything that their sticky fingers touched, and that their villainies were so deeply rooted that if some steps were not taken to dig them out, the Government could not hold together. Out of twenty millions of ducats collected as revenue, only thirteen millions reached the Treasury, and the King had to pay four ducats instead of one. Troubridge again intimates to his superior that Ferdinand is surrounded with a nest of the most unscrupulous thieves that could be found in all Europe. "Such damned cowards and villains," he declared, "he had never seen or heard of before."
The French did not mince matters when their opportunity came. They, too, regarded them as vermin, and treated them according to the unrestrained edicts of the Reign of Terror, organized and administered by their late compatriots Sardanapalus, Danton, Maximilian Robespierre, and their literary colleague, the execrable Marat, who, by the way, was expeditiously dispatched by the gallant Charlotte Corday.
This method of bestowing the blessings of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity was received by the Neapolitans with a frenzy from which there sprang a demoniac retaliation. Societies were formed to carry out the most atrocious crimes against the Neapolitan revolutionists, whom the Royalists hated more than they did the French. The fishermen and other miscreants came to a solemn conclusion that it was clearly their duty as a Christian people to combine, and each choose one whom they should privately guillotine when the opportunity offered. With the idea of paying a high compliment to Troubridge, who had so splendidly protected the Royalists, fought the French, and subdued the revolutionists, they made him the recipient of a decapitated head which had proudly sat on the shoulders of a revolutionist. This trophy was actually sent to him with his basket of breakfast grapes. In making the present the gallant fisherman conveyed his compliments to the Admiral, and reminded him that it was a token of his high appreciation of the Admiral's brilliant services to the Royalist cause.
The Court was infested with traitors who would first carry out their vengeance against their rebellious compatriots and then cunningly lay the blame on those under whose protection they were. One of their judges informed Troubridge that he must have a Bishop to excommunicate some of the traitor priests before he could have them executed, and the fine sailor, who was sick of the crafty devils and the task he had been allocated to carry out, replied, "For the love of God hang the damned rascals first, and then let the Bishop deal with them if he did not think hanging was a sufficient degradation." Nothing in the annals of history can surpass the effrontery of these intriguers, which throws a lurid light on the class of administrators who associated with the British nation and spilt the blood of the flower of our land in bolstering up a government that was a disgrace and put all human perfidy in the shade.
These allies of ours, who were joyously butchering and robbing each other, demanded a British warship to take the priests to Palermo, so that they might be degraded in a proper, Christian fashion and then brought to Naples for execution. Troubridge was audaciously requested to appoint a hangman (it may be he was asked to combine this with his other naval duties), and knowing the fine sense of noble dignity in the average sailor, we can easily imagine the flow of adjectives that accompanied the refusal, and how he would relate the outrage to which he had been subjected in quarterdeck language, that need not be here repeated, to his superior officer, Admiral Nelson, who must have felt the degradation of being selected to carry out as dirty a piece of work as ever devolved upon a public servant. To fight for his King and country was the joy of his soul, but to be selected as wet-nurse to the kingdom of Naples and the dignitaries that were at the head of it would have been an unbearable insult to his sense of proportion had it not been for the fulsome flattery, to which he was so susceptible, which was adroitly administered by the ladies of the Court, headed by the Queen and supplemented by the wife of Sir William Hamilton.
There is always some fatal weakness about a great man that lures him into littleness, and this was an overwhelming tragedy in Nelson's career. The approbation of men was gratefully received and even asked for, but the adoration of women reduced him to helplessness. He was drugged by it, and the stronger the doses, the more efficacious they were. They nullified the vision of the unwholesome task he was set to carry out until his whole being revolted against the indignity of it, when he would pour out his wrath to Lady Hamilton as he did at the time when Troubridge would report to him his own trials. No doubt this caused him to realize the chaotic condition of public affairs, for he writes to the lady that "politics are hateful to him, and that Ministers of Kings are the greatest scoundrels that ever lived." The King of Naples is, he suspects, to be superseded by a prince who has married a Russian Archduchess. This, presumably, had been arranged by the "great political scoundrels." He stands loyally by Ferdinand, but soon all the work of that part of his life that gave him socially so much pleasure and professionally so much misery is to be left for evermore, and his great talents used in other and higher spheres.
He had retaken Naples from the French, who had set up the Parthenopean Republic in 1799, and placed the tyrant King on his throne again; after a few more chequered years a treaty of neutrality was signed between France and Naples, which was treacherously broken by Naples. Ferdinand had to fly to Sicily, the French troops entered the capital, and Bonaparte, who had been marching from one victory to another, cleared out deep-rooted abuses and introduced reforms wherever he could. He had become the terror and the enemy of the misgoverning monarchs of that period, and the French nation had proclaimed him Emperor in 1804. He placed his brother Joseph on the throne of Naples in February 1806; Joseph ruled with marked moderation and distinction, sweeping away much of the foul canker of corruption and introducing many beneficent reforms during his two years of kingship. He then, much against his own wishes, became King of Spain, and was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Prince Joachim Murat, the dashing cavalry officer, whose decorative exterior awed friend and foe, and helped to win many a battle. His reign lasted from 1808 until 1815, and was no less distinguished than that of Joseph's. The fall of the Napoleonic régime was followed by the fall of Murat, and the despicable and treacherous Ferdinand became again the king, and brought back with him the same tyrannical habits that had made his previous rule so disastrous to the kingdom and to himself. No whitewasher, however brilliant and ingenious, can ever wipe out the fatal action of the British Government in embarking on so ill-conceived a policy as that of supporting the existence of a bloodsucking government, composed of a miscreant ruling class headed by an ignoble king, all living on the misery and blood of a semi-civilized population. It is a nauseous piece of history, with which, under sagacious administration, we should never have been connected.
The main idea was to humble the pride of France, that thenceforth there might be peace in Europe. The Neapolitan revolutionists believed that the French intention was to set up a free government and deliver them from an unbearable despotism. Quite naturally, the Court took an opposite view in believing that it foreshadowed deportation, so they lost no time in proclaiming it to be conquest and merciless plunder. Nelson urged the vacillating King to advance against the French, to trust in God's blessing being bestowed upon him, his army, and his cause, and to die like a hero, sword in hand, or lose his throne. The King, always dauntless in the absence of danger, replied that he would do this, trusting in God and Nelson. His Majesty, in tickling the Admiral's susceptible spot by associating his name with that of the Deity, doubtless made a good shot, and had Nelson's sense of humour been equal to his vanity, he might not have received the oily compliment with such delightful complacency.
We can imagine the scorn with which Troubridge would have received the potentate's reply had he given the same advice as Nelson. It is highly probable that had it been given on the quarterdeck of his ship, the King would have been treated to a vocabulary that would have impressed him with the necessity of scrambling quickly over the side. Nelson, it is stated, turned the French out of Naples, and they were subsequently overpowered by a plan put in force by Nelson and Troubridge, and carried into effect by men from the fleet. Captain Hallowell was ordered to proceed to Civita Vecchia and Castle St. Angelo to offer terms of capitulation. He reported the position to Troubridge, who ordered a squadron in command of Captain Louis to proceed and enforce the terms. The French, on the other hand, offered terms, but Troubridge, like Drake on another occasion, said that he had no time to parley, that they must agree to his terms or fight. The French Ambassador at Rome argued that the Roman territory belonged to the French by conquest, and the British commander adroitly replied "that it was his by reconquest." The inevitable alternative was impressive—capitulation. This was arranged, and the Roman States came under the control of the victors. Captain Louis proceeded in his cutter up the Tiber and planted the British colours at Rome, becoming its governor for a brief time. The naval men had carried out, by clever strategy and pluck, an enterprise which Sir James Erskine declined to undertake because of the insurmountable difficulties he persisted in seeing. General Mack was at the head of about 30,000 Neapolitan troops, said to be the finest in Europe. This, however, did not prevent them from being annihilated by 15,000 French, when General Championnet evacuated Rome. The King entered with all the swagger of an Oriental potentate. The Neapolitans followed the French to Castellana, and when the latter faced up to them they stampeded in disordered panic. Some were wounded, but few were killed, and the King, forgetting in his fright his pledged undertaking to go forth trusting in "God and Nelson," fled in advance of his valiant soldiers to the capital, where they all arrived in breathless confusion. General Mack had been introduced to Nelson by the King and Queen, the latter exhorting him to be on land what the Admiral had been on sea.
Nelson seems to have formed an adverse opinion of Mack, who was extolled by the Court as the military genius who was to deliver Europe from the thraldom of the French. He had expressed the view that the King and Queen's incomparable general "could not move without five carriages," and that he "had formed his opinion" of him, which was tantamount to saying that Mack was both a coward and a traitor. Perhaps it was undue consideration for the feelings of Caroline, sister to the late Marie Antoinette, that caused him to restrain his boiling rage against this crew of reptiles, who had sold every cause that was entrusted to their protection.
Nelson was infatuated with the charms of Caroline, and as this astute lady knew how to handle him in the interests of the Neapolitan Court, he reciprocated her patronage by overlooking misdeeds that would, under different circumstances, have justified him in blowing swarms of her noble subjects out of existence. "I declare to God," he writes, "my whole study is how to best meet the approbation of the Queen." An open door and hearty reception was always awaiting their Majesties of Sicily on board Nelson's flagship when they found it necessary to fly from the wrath of their downtrodden subjects or the aggressive invasions of the French troops. The anxiety of Nelson in conveying them to their Sicilian retreat was doubly increased by the vast treasure they never neglected to take with them, and neither the sources from which it came nor the means of spending it gave trouble to their consciences. The British Government, always generous with other person's money, fed these insufferable royal personages by bleeding the life's blood out of the British public, though it is fair to say that the Government did not carry out to the full the benevolent suggestions Nelson consistently urged in their behalf. "His heart was always breaking" at some act of parsimony on the part of the Government in so tardily giving that which he pleaded was an urgent necessity for them to have. He frankly avowed that he would prefer to resign if any distinction were to be drawn between loyalty to his rightful sovereign and that of his Sicilian Majesty, who was the faithful ally of his King. The solemn audacity of this statement reveals a mind so far fallen to pieces by infatuation that it has lost the power of discrimination.
It will be remembered that this gracious ally promised Nelson that he would go forth at the head of his troops and conquer or die, and then scampered off in front of his army through Rome to Naples, and, after a few days' concealment from the mob, secretly bundled into boats with his retinue on a stormy night of great peril, embarked on the Admiral's ship, and sailed for Palermo.
Lady Hamilton is credited with planning (with heroic skill) means by which the Royal Family could be taken to the shore, where Nelson was to receive and convoy them in barges to the Vanguard. Lady Hamilton had explored a subterranean passage which led from the palace to the beach, and pronounced it a fairly safe and possible means of exit. The plan apparently succeeded, and the royal party, after a few days' precautionary stay in the Bay of Naples, were conveyed in safety to Palermo, notwithstanding the hurricane that was encountered and only weathered by a perfection of seamanship that was unequalled in our naval and merchant services at that period of our trying history. The voyage was not made without tragedy, for the youngest of the princes became ill, and as it is always inevitable to attach a heroine to circumstances that are sensational (when there is one at hand), their Majesties in their grief fixed on her who had braved the perils of investigating the possibilities of the subterranean tunnel which had proved a safe though hazardous passage for the conveyance of themselves and their vast treasure. Nor do they appear to have been unmindful of her devotion to themselves during the storm, which was the severest that Nelson said he had ever experienced—though this is a platitude, as sailors are always prone to regard the last storm as the most terrific of all! But that it was severe there can be no doubt. We may be assured that the royal parents were not in a condition to give succour to their stricken son, so he was vouchsafed to pass beyond the veil in the arms of Lady Hamilton, who had bravely defied the tempest and behaved with a compassion that must always stand to her credit.
They arrived at Palermo the day after the young Prince's death, and soon settled down to their gambling and other pleasures in which Nelson, as already stated, was involved. Troubridge, with touching fidelity, pleads with him to shun the temptations by which he is beset. "I dread, my Lord," he says, "all the feasting, etc., at Palermo. I am sure your health will be hurt. If so, all their saints will be damned by the Navy"; and then he goes on to say, "The King would be better employed digesting a good Government; everything gives way to their pleasures. The money spent at Palermo gives discontent here; fifty thousand people are unemployed, trade discouraged, manufactures at a stand. It is the interest of many here to keep the King away; they all dread reform." Troubridge was wellnigh driven to distraction by the terrible straits he was put to at Naples. The people were faced with the ravages of famine. Already there were scenes of unspeakable misery. His appeals to the Sicilian Court to send immediate relief was ignored. Nelson, to whom he had appealed, was absorbed in his attentions to Lady Hamilton, and refused to see the vicious indifference of the Court, who were hemmed round with a set of knaves and vagabonds, if that be not too moderate a term to use of them. Troubridge beseeches him to come to the rescue in the following terms:—
My Lord, we are dying off fast for want. I learn that Sir William Hamilton says Prince Luzzi refused corn, some time ago, and Sir William does not think it worth while making another application. If that be the case, I wish he commanded this distressing scene, instead of me. Puglia had an immense harvest: near thirty sail left Messina, before I did, to load corn. Will they let us have any? If not, a short time will decide the business. The German interest prevails. I wish I was at your Lordship's elbow for an hour. All, all, will be thrown on you: I will parry the blow as much as in my power; I foresee much mischief brewing. God bless your Lordship! I am miserable, I cannot assist your operations more. Many happy returns of the day to you (it was the first of the New Year). I never spent so miserable a one. I am not very tender-hearted, but really the distress here would even move a Neapolitan.
Shortly after he writes, again pouring out fresh woes:—
I have this day saved thirty thousand people from starvation; but with this day my ability ceases. As the Government are bent on starving us, I see no alternative but to leave these poor people to perish, without our being witness of their distress. I curse the day I ever served the Neapolitan Government. We have characters, my Lord, to lose; these people have none. Do not suffer their infamous conduct to fall on us. Our country is just, but severe. Such is the fever of my brain this minute, that I assure you, on my honour, if the Palermo traitors were here, I would shoot them first, and then myself. Girgenti is full of corn; the money is ready to pay for it; we do not ask it as a gift. Oh! could you see the horrid distress I daily experience, something would be done. Some engine is at work against us at Naples, and I believe I hit on the proper person. If you complain, he will be immediately promoted, agreeably to the Neapolitan custom. All I write to is known at the Queen's. For my own part, I look upon the Neapolitans as the worst of intriguing enemies; every hour shows me their infamy and duplicity. I pray your Lordship be cautious; your honest open manner of acting will be made a handle of. When I see you and tell you of their infamous tricks, you will be as much surprised as I am. The whole will fall on you.
Nelson must have known the position set forth in this feverish communication from a man whose judgment and affection he had no reason to suspect. It is a deplorable example of infatuation that every one who knew the Court and the rascals that surrounded it was aware of its shameless tricks except Nelson himself. They protested that they had withdrawn the restrictions on the exportation of corn so far as they could, and he swallowed their lies with the simplicity of a child. He must have been the victim of mesmeric influence not to see through their vile knavery in pleading poverty when they were asked to carry out an act of common humanity. All very well for him to groan over what he had to endure, and to complain that the burden of it had broken his spirit! Troubridge diagnosed the malady when he implored Nelson to relinquish the infatuation which was leading him into trouble. Why, instead of spending his time with Lady Hamilton and fawning over the King and Queen, did he leave the right thing to be done by Captain Ball (who took the bull by the horns)? All very well for him to pour out his wrath to the Duke of Clarence, that his "constant thought was down, down with the damned French villains"! and that his "blood boiled at the name of a Frenchman"! But except that we were at war with the French, were they in any degree such "damned villains" as the Neapolitans and the whole crew of Court knaves, with whom he was so blindly enamoured, who were, in reality, ready to sell their own country and his to the French whenever they saw it was to their material advantage to do so?
Captain Ball did not waste time in the use of adjectives about the French and the daily "anxieties" that bore so heavily on himself and others, "breaking his heart." He gave peremptory orders to his first lieutenant to proceed off Messina and seize the ships that were lying there loaded with corn, and bring them to Malta. He defied the abominable Court of Sicily and their edicts prohibiting exportation, and his instructions were carried out. He awaited the consequences to himself with a manly consciousness that humanity must take precedence of orders dictated by a sentimental fear lest the feelings of a set of cowardly despots should be hurt. This single act of real courage and decision saved the lives of thousands of starving people, and prevented the siege from being removed. The Court of Naples dared not utter a word of condemnation against Captain Ball, but the Governor of Malta became the object of their nervous enmity, which they dare not put into practice.
Lord Minto, many years after the events of which I am writing, said of Nelson, for whom he had an affectionate regard, that "he was in many points a really great man, but in others he was a baby." No one who has studied his career will ever doubt his greatness, but his peevish childishness, even when he was responsible for the carrying out of great deeds that did not come so quickly as his eager spirit craved, ofttimes tried the patience of those who set high value on his matchless talents and his otherwise lovable disposition. He was never known to take credit to himself that was due to others, but, like most great men, he took for granted that all those above or below him in rank and station should be subordinate to his whims and actions. He could only accommodate himself to being subordinate to his King, the King and Queen of Naples, and to the exhilarating influence of Lady Hamilton. Almost immediately after the seizure of the grain-laden ships, Nelson sailed for Malta, and had the good fortune to sight a French squadron, the Généreux, three frigates, and a corvette; after an exciting and hard chase, he came up to them, knocked their masts over the side, and captured the Généreux and a frigate.
Nelson hit on a simple though ingenious plan that was frequently adopted in subsequent years by captains in the merchant service when racing, which always created excitement amongst the crew; the order was given to knock the wedges out of the deck coamings, ease the strain off the fore and aft stays, and when it was judicious to do it the pinch on the main rigging was also eased to give the masts more play. The windjammer seamen knew when this order was given that they were in for a time of "cracking on," and really enjoyed both the sport and the risk that it involved, even in the hands of skilful commanders. By this means the speed was always increased, and it was quite a common practice on tea-clippers, Australian passenger vessels, and American packets. The commander rarely left the quarterdeck on those occasions, unless his officers were really first-class men. The writer has often attained successful results when racing by putting invigorating life into his ship by these old-time methods which were handed down to each generation of sailors. No class of seamen knew more dainty tricks in manipulating sails and rigging than those who manned the slave-runner, the smuggler, and the pirate schooner. Their vessels were designed for speed, but ofttimes when they were in a tight place they were saved from being destroyed by the superb nautical dodges which they alone knew so well how and when to put in use so that their pursuers might be outwitted and outdistanced. It is more than probable that the Généreux would have got away had Nelson not been a past-master in all kinds of dodges to make his ship sail faster. He knew that some of the French ships were notoriously equal to the British in sailing qualities, but he left nothing to chance. Every drop of water was ordered to be pumped out of the hold; the wedges were removed from the masts' coaming; the stays slackened; butts of water were hung on them; hammocks were piped down; every available sail was crowded on to her; the most reliable quartermasters were stationed at the wheel. The Foudroyant is gaining—she draws ahead. The stump of the "heaven-born" Admiral's right arm is working with agitation as his ship takes the lead. It is now all up with the Généreux. She surrenders after a terrific, devastating duel, and Nelson avows that had he acted according to Lord Keith's instead of his own strategy, she would never have been taken. The Guillaume Tell had been locked up in Malta Harbour for some time, and the commander decided to run the gauntlet, his reason being, it is stated, to relieve the starving garrison from having to feed his ship's company, which consisted of from 1,000 to 1,200 men. She was intercepted, engaged, and ultimately taken by the Foudroyant, Lion, and Penelope after all her masts had been shot away. The thrilling story of this sea battle takes high rank in naval warfare. The French ship was fought with the fury of courage and genius that Nelson himself could not have failed to admire. The Penelope and Lion had been mauled off when the Foudroyant came on the scene and shot away her main and mizzen masts, when a French sailor, like Jack Crawford of Sunderland at the battle of Camperdown, nailed the ensign to the stump of the mizzen mast. The foremast was the only mast now remaining, and it was soon sent flying over the side by the terrific firing from the British ship. She then took her colours down, ceased firing, and became the prize of the heroes who had fought and conquered. Nelson might and ought to have had the glory of taking the last of the Nile fleet, had he not allowed a perverse spirit to rule his will. He nursed and inflamed his imagination against Lord Keith being put over him, until that fine zeal that was so natural to him slackened. He writes to Hamilton that his "situation is irksome." "Lord Keith is commander-in-chief, and he (Nelson) has not been kindly treated." He tells Spencer that he has written to Lord Keith, asking for permission to come to England, when he (the First Lord) will "see a broken-hearted man," and that his "spirit cannot submit to it." The Admiralty may have been inspired to place Lord Keith in supreme command owing to Nelson's association with the Court party at Palermo and the growing scandal attached to it. But in that case they should have frankly told him that they feared the effect his dallying at Palermo might have on the service in many different ways.
Troubridge and Captain Ball urged him with all the sincerity of devotion not to return to Sicily, but to remain at Malta, and sign the capitulation which was near at hand; but they could not alter his resolve to leave the station, which Troubridge said was due to the passion of infatuation and not to illness, which he had ascribed as the reason. Nelson tried the patience of the First Lord (who was his friend) so sorely that he wrote him a private letter which was couched in gentle though, in parts, cutting reproaches. He obviously believed that the plea of ill-health was groundless, or at all events not sufficiently serious to justify him giving up. He very fairly states that he is quite convinced that he will be more likely to recover his health in England than by an inactive stay at the Court of Sicily, however pleasing the gratitude shown him for the services he has rendered may be, and that no gratitude from that Court can be too great in view of the service he had bestowed upon it. Lord Minto, who was Ambassador at Vienna, says he has letters from Nelson and Lady Hamilton which do not make it clear whether he will go home or not. He hopes he will not for his own sake, for he wants him to take Malta first; and continues, "He does not seem conscious of the sort of discredit he has fallen into, or the cause of it, for he still writes, not wisely, about Lady Hamilton and all that," and then generously states, "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."
It is hardly possible to doubt that Nelson felt keenly mortified at losing the opportunity of personally taking the Guillaume Tell; but whether he did or not, he managed to subdue all appearance of envy and paid a high, sportsmanlike tribute to those who had earned the honour He could not help flavouring it, however, with some words of Nelsonian self-approbation. He said, "He gloried in them, for they were his children, they served in his school, and all of them, including himself, caught their professional zeal and fire from the great and good Earl St. Vincent." Then he goes on to say that it is a great happiness to have the Nile fleet all taken under his orders and regulations. He slyly claimed the glory of training and inspiring, though he had deprived himself of added fame by nourishing a morose feeling of jealousy against Lord Keith, who had been sent out after a few months' leave to take up his position as commander-in-chief. Owing to his absence, Nelson had acted in that capacity, and he could not bear the thought of being superseded by his old chief. In fact, Nelson could not tolerate being placed in a secondary position by any one. As I have already stated, he put Keith's authority at defiance and took responsibilities upon himself, boasting that had they failed he would have been "shot or broke."
After the capture of the Généreux he struck, and wrote to Keith that his health would not permit of his remaining at his post, that without "rest he was done for," and that he could "no more stay fourteen days longer on the station than fourteen years." At the same time, Captain Ball wrote to Lady Hamilton that "he had dined with him, and that he was in good health," that he did not think a short stay would do his health harm, and that "he would not urge it, were it not that he and Troubridge wished him to have the honour of the French ships and the French garrison surrender to him." Nelson's vision and good judgment at this time must have been totally at fault, and his general attitude emphasizes the splendid forbearance of his amiable commander-in-chief and distinguished subordinates who were the very cream of the Navy. I wonder what would have happened to any of the other brilliant commanders in the Royal Navy if any of them had, like Nelson, refused to obey the orders of the commander-in-chief and left his post off Malta, which was being closely besieged and the garrison daily expected to capitulate! Supposing Nelson had been the commander-in-chief and his second in command had acted as he did towards Lord Keith, there would have been wigs on the green! The insubordinate officer would have been promptly court-martialled and hung at the yardarm like the Neapolitan Admiral, Francesco Caracciolo, or treated like the Hon. Admiral John Byng, who was tried for neglect of duty in an engagement off Minorca in 1756, and condemned for committing an error of judgment and shot aboard the Monarch at Spithead in 1757. Nelson was a stern disciplinarian, who could never brook being under discipline himself. Nor was he ever a day without a grievance of one kind or another. It must have been a happy deliverance to Keith when he heard the last of him in the Mediterranean, for his mental capacity at this particular stage of his history was quite defective. No doubt Lady Hamilton and the Queen jabbered into his ears the injustice of the wrongs imposed upon him.
After the battle of Marengo the whole of Northern Italy was given up to the French by convention signed by General Milas. The British Commander-in-Chief proceeded to Leghorn with the fugitives, to be bored, as he fretfully declared, "by Nelson craving permission to take the Queen to Palermo, and the prince and princesses to all parts of the world." The Queen was panic-stricken at the French successes, and besought him to allow her to sail in the Foudroyant; but Keith could not be prevailed upon to release any of his ships for such a purpose, notwithstanding Nelson's supplications and her flow of tears. He told Nelson that the royal lady should get off to Vienna as quickly as she could and abandon the idea of Palermo, supplementing his refusal to employ the Foudroyant in any such way. He would only allow a frigate to escort her own frigates to Trieste. Lady Minto wrote to her sister from Florence that Keith told the Queen that "Lady Hamilton had had command of the fleet long enough," and then she adds, "The Queen is very ill with a sort of convulsive fit, and Nelson is staying to nurse her, and does not intend going home until he has escorted her back to Palermo. His zeal for the public service," she continues, "seems entirely lost in his love and vanity, and they all sit and flatter each other all day long."
Nelson, steady in his attachment to the Queen declared that he would see her through and then continue his journey home with the Hamiltons. They all left Leghorn together, arrived at Florence safely, were taken from Ancona to Trieste on two Russian frigates, and landed at Trieste. The Queen of Sicily accompanied them to Vienna, and Nelson and the Hamiltons continued their triumphant journey through Germany to Hamburg. His association with the Court of Naples was now at an end, and his real friends, believing that it had corrupted and sapped his better nature, were glad of it. His mind at this time was filled with delusions about his future. He repeatedly declared that he would never serve again, and from a mixture of motives he acquired happiness in the belief that he would avenge his keenly-felt wrongs by achieving oblivion. The idea that fate held in store for him a higher and a sterner destiny never occurred to him, and he little realized that he would soon be removed from a sphere where his presence would be no longer needed. He was, in fact, combating the very destiny he had so often sought in which he would achieve immortal glory.
The benighted policy of keeping in power a mawkish Sicilian Court, saturated with the incurable vices of cowardice, falsehood, dishonesty, and treachery, failed; and the Government of the day was saddled with the crime of squandering human life, wealth, and energy without receiving any commensurate return. If it was in the national interest to involve the country in war with France, it could have been carried on with greater credit and effect by not undertaking the hopeless task of bolstering up a Court and a people that were openly described by our own people who were sent to fight for them as "odious damned cowards and villains." We had no real grounds of quarrel with France nor with her rulers. The Revolution was their affair, and was no concern of ours, except in so far as it might harmfully reflect on us, and of this there was no likelihood if we left them alone. The plea of taking the balance of power under our benevolent care was a sickly exhibition of statesmanship, and the assumption of electing ourselves guardians of the rights of small nations mere cant. It was, in fact, the canker of jealousy and hatred on the part of the reactionary forces against a man, a principle, and a people.
Had those who governed this country then held aloof from the imbroglio created by the French Revolution, observed a watchful, conciliatory spirit of neutrality towards the French Government, and allowed the Continental Powers to adjust their own differences, the conditions of human existence and the hurtful administration of autocratic governments would have been reconstituted, and the world would have been the better for it; instead of which we helped to impose on Europe twenty years of slaughter and devastation. Our dismal, plutocratic rulers, with solemn enthusiasm, plunged England with all her power and influence on the side of Prussia and her continental allies, and, in conjunction with the Holy Alliance, pledged themselves never to lay down arms until France was mutilated and the master-mind which ruled her beaten and dethroned. Their task was long, costly, and gruesome. What a ghastly legacy those aggressively righteous champions of international rights have bequeathed to the world! But for their folly and frenzy we should not be engaged in a European war to-day. Poor Napoleon! He foreshadowed and used his gigantic genius to prevent it; now the recoil has come. There are always more flies caught by treacle than by vinegar, a policy quite as efficacious in preventing international quarrels as it is in the smaller affairs of our existence, provided the law which governs the fitness of things is well defined.
Had we approached Napoleon in a friendly spirit and on equal terms, without haughty condescension, he would have reciprocated our cordiality and put proper value on our friendship. By wisdom and tact the duration of Napoleon's wars would have been vastly shortened, and both nations would have been saved from the errors that were committed. We did not do this, and we are now reaping the consequence. It is hardly to be expected that if hostility be shown towards an individual or a nation either will mildly submit to it. Who can estimate the passionate resentment of an emotional people at Nelson's constant declamatory outbursts against the French national character, and the effect it had throughout France?
An affront to a nation, even though it is made by a person in a subordinate position, may bring about far-reaching trouble. Reverse the position of the traducer of a prominent man or his nation, and it will be easy to arrive at a correct conclusion as to the temper that would be aroused, say, in this country. We know that during a war passions are let loose and charges made by the combatants against each other which are usually exaggerated, but one thing is certain, that our soldiers and sailors have always had the well-deserved reputation of being the cleanest fighters in the world. There have never been finer examples of this than during the present war. But in justice to ourselves and to the French during the Napoleonic wars, I think it was grossly impolitic to engender vindictiveness by unjustifiable acrimony. Up to the time that Nelson left the Mediterranean for England, except for the brilliant successes of the Nile and the equally brilliant capture of the balance of the French Mediterranean fleet, and subsequently the capitulation of Malta on the 5th September, 1800, our share in the war was an exhausting and fruitless failure.
The responsibility for this clearly lies at the door of the Government who planned it, and in no way attaches to Nelson and his coadjutors, whose naval and also shore exploits could not be excelled. First, it was a blink-eyed policy that plunged us into the war at all; and secondly, it was the height of human folly to waste our resources in the erroneous belief that the highly trained military men of France could be permanently subjugated in the Mediterranean by the cowardly, treacherous villains of which the Roman States armies and Governments were composed. History is not altogether faithful to the truth in its honeyed records of the ministerial pashas who tranquilly increased the national debt, inflicted unspeakable horrors on the population, and smirched our dignity by entering into a costly bond of brotherhood with an inveterate swarm of hired blood-sucking weasels. Such, forsooth! was the mental condition of the wooden souls who managed the nation's affairs, that they allowed Nelson to add another blot to our national history escutcheon by taking Ferdinand Bourbon's throne under his protection. It is true that Ferdinand "did not wish that his benefactor's name should alone descend with honour to posterity," or that he should "appear ungrateful." So the Admiral was handsomely rewarded by being presented with the Dukedom of Bronte and a diamond-hilted sword which had been given to the King by his father when he became Sicilian King. It would be nonsense even to suspect Nelson of accepting either gifts or titles as a bribe to sacrifice any interest that was British.
Nelson's devotion to the Court did not express itself by seeking material recompense for the services bestowed on their Sicilian Majesties. There were various reasons for his elaborate and silly attentions. First, his range of instructions were wide in a naval sense; second, his personal attachment to the King and his Consort (especially his Consort), for reasons unnecessary to refer to again, became a growing fascination and a ridiculous craze. His fanatical expressions of dislike to the French are merely a Nelsonian way of conveying to the world that the existence of so dangerous a race should be permissive under strictly regulated conditions. He had a solemn belief in his own superiority and that of his fellow-countrymen. All the rest were to him mere human scrap, and his collection of epithets for them was large and varied. His Mogul air in the presence of aliens was traditionally seamanlike. If they failed to shudder under his stern look and gleaming eyes, it affected him with displeasure and contempt. The Neapolitans were fulsomely accommodating, though Nelson, except from the Court party and a few nobles, does not appear to have attached much value to their servile tokens of appreciation. It cannot be said that either Nelson, his Government, or his country were in any way rewarded by the sacrifices made ostensibly in the interests of human rights. Under Ferdinand Bourbon, the Neapolitan States and Sicily had no settled government. He was a contemptible poltroon, whose throne was supported for years by British money, men, and ships, and even with our strong support; he was alternately fleeing to Sicily and returning again under the formidable protection of British frigates, and, like all perfidious cowards, his short intervals of government were distinguished by a despotism that soon made it necessary for him to fly from the feelings of vengeance he had called out.
Not even the power of Great Britain could prevent the kingdom of Naples from passing from one vicissitude into another. The French took possession of it in January 1799, and established what they called the Parthenopean Republic. Nelson helped to retake it in June of the same year, and put the itinerant King on the throne. The Neapolitans occupied Rome on the 30th September, 1799. In October 1805 a treaty of neutrality between France and Naples was carried into effect. Ferdinand fled to Sicily again on the 23rd January of the next year, when the master-mind came to close quarters and put an end, as I have previously stated, to Ferdinand's kingship and tyrannical rule by placing his brother Joseph on the throne; two years later Joseph became King of Spain, and his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, succeeded him as ruler of Naples. The Neapolitans were never better governed than during the reign of these two kings. Many wise laws were made and enforced by a just and rigid discipline. Incompetent, weak despotism had disappeared, and any attempt at licence was promptly subdued. The people were put through a course of transforming education, and gradually became law-abiding citizens. Even then, methods of carrying on commerce took a marked change for the better, and predatory habits were relaxed into comparative honesty, not, it may be supposed, from virtue, but from fear of the inevitable, harsh consequences. The public, in a general way, quickly distinguish between a strong, capable ruler and a weak, incompetent one; and no matter how indulgent the latter may be, they prefer the strong wholesome-minded man to the mediocrity.
Ferdinand had none of the qualities that are essential to a man occupying a position of authority. When the French came to take over the government of Naples, he flew, as usual, to Sicily, and under the continuous protection of British men-of-war was with great difficulty kept reigning there until the end of war, when he was again put on the throne of Naples in 1815, and forthwith commenced again his rule of incompetency and despotism, reversing the beneficent rule of his two able predecessors. The old reprobate died on the 4th January, 1825, having reigned off and on for sixty-five years, largely owing to the indulgent and costly support of the British Government.
Caroline died on the 7th September, 1814, and to her abiding credit she condemned the action of the Court of Vienna for severing the bond of union between the Emperor Napoleon and her granddaughter, Marie Louise. She declared vehemently that it was the duty of the latter to break the prohibition by assuming disguise and tie her bed-sheets together and lower herself out of the window, and make her way quickly, in face of all obstacles, to where her husband was. Marie Louise was not a lady of unyielding morals, and at that particular time her Hapsburg, licentious mind was not centred on the misfortunes of her husband, but on Neipperg, who was employed to seduce her. Caroline told Baron Claude François de Meneval, Napoleon's private secretary, that she had reason at one time to dislike the Emperor, but now that adversity had come to him, she forgot the past.
Had this same spirit of rightness and wisdom been adopted by Marie Louise's father and his allies, as was so nobly advocated by the sister of Marie Antoinette, there would have been a clean sheet in history about them, though it is obvious in many quarters that the historians have extended all the arts of ambiguity and delusion to make them appear flawless benefactors. Therefore one has to take all the circumstances handed down from many varied sources, reliable and unreliable, and after mature thought form conclusions as one's judgment may direct as to the merits and demerits of every phase that is recorded. Hence exhaustive research and long-reasoned views lead me definitely to the conclusion that there is not much that we can put to the credit of either their wisdom or humanity. My plain opinion is that they acted ferociously, and although always in the name of the Son of God, that can never absolve them from the dark deeds that stand to their names. Nor is it altogether improbable that all the nations that were concerned in the dreadful assassination are now paying the natural penalty of their guilt. Natural laws have a curious roundabout way of paying back old scores, though the tragic retribution has to be borne more often than not by the innocent descendants of those who have, in the name of the Deity, violated them.
The Duke of Thunder was proud of the Sicilian meaning of his title, and so were his sailors, who loved the thrilling effect of anything that conveyed the idea of being associated with a formidable power that devastated every other force that stood in its way. For the most part, Nelson's sailors had great faith in his naval genius. He had led them many times to victory, and they did not forget the glory that attached to themselves. He planned the strategy, but it was they that fought and won the battles. The Duke of Thunder was a fine title to fight under. A name has frequently done more damage to a foe than glittering bayonets. But Nelson in no degree had the thunder element in him, so far as we are able to judge by the descriptions given to us of him. He was a dashing, courageous, scientific genius, gifted with natural instincts, disciplinary wisdom, deplorable sentimentality, and an artificial, revengeful spirit of hatred that probably became real under the arbitrary circumstances of war, but, I should say, was rarely prominent. His roaming attacks on the French were probably used more for effect, and had, we hope, only a superficial meaning. But be that as it may, it detracts from the dignity of an officer occupying, as he did, a distinguished position to use language and phrases such as are common in the forecastle or on the quarterdeck of a sailing merchantman in the early days before the introduction of steamers. Here are a few quite amusing outbursts which do not produce the impression of coming from a person known to fame as the Duke of Thunder:—On the 1st October, 1801, the preliminaries of peace with France were signed. When Nelson heard of it he thanked God, and went on to say, "We lay down our arms, and are ready to take them up again if the French are insolent." He declares there is no one in the world more desirous of peace than he is, but that he would "burst sooner than let any damned Frenchman know it." But it was too much for his anti-French sentiments when he heard that their Ambassador's carriage had been dragged by the London mob. He wrote to his medical man, and asked if he could cure madness, for he had gone mad to learn "that our damned scoundrels dragged a Frenchman's carriage." And he hoped nevermore to be dragged by such a degenerate crowd; which was exhibiting in a characteristic way his high opinion of himself. "Would our ancestors have done it?" he asks, and then continues: "The villains would have drawn Buonaparte if he had been able to get to London to cut the king's head off." The writer has a definite opinion that Bonaparte would have had a boisterous reception, and that it might have cemented a friendship that would have been a blessing to the tired world, and especially to the two warring nations.
The ruler of the French nation, in spite of Nelson's views, would have made a better ally than enemy. But it often happens that nations, as well as individuals, lose their psychological opportunity. And we will risk a belief that if Nelson and Bonaparte met they would have found an affinity between them that would have made the two men friends. Southey says that the title "Duke of Thunder" is essentially applicable to Nelson, but the writer has failed to find anything to warrant such an opinion.
Nelson's professional pride was for ever being needlessly hurt by Admiralty tactlessness. He had good reason on many occasions to take offence at their clumsiness. One of numerous grievances was Sir Sydney Smith being, to all appearances, put over him. He wrote to Lord St. Vincent, and reminded him that he was a man, and that it was impossible for him to serve in the Mediterranean under a junior officer. St. Vincent prevailed on him not to resign, but Sir Sydney Smith wished to carry out a policy towards the French in Egypt which Nelson hotly disapproved, and he commands him on no account to permit a single Frenchman to leave the country. He considered it would be madness to permit a band of thieves to return to Europe. "To Egypt," he says, "they went of their own accord, and they shall remain there while he commanded the squadron. Never will he consent to the return of one ship or Frenchman. I wish them to perish in Egypt, and give an awful lesson to the world of the justice of the Almighty." It will be observed how characteristically sailorly he is in his leanings on Divine monopoly in punishing the "bloody Corsican" for his wickedness in waging war against Britain. His profound belief was that the Almighty presided over our destinies then, just as the German Kaiser claims that He is presiding over his national affairs now; and, as I have pointed out before, each of the belligerents calls upon Him in beseeching reverence as a Divine compatriot, to give this Almighty power to aid in demolishing their common foe, who has broken every law of God and man. This form of blasphemy is as rampant now as it ever was. It is not a hungry belief in God that gives the initial impulse for human slaughter. It is a craving lust for the invention of all that is devilish in expeditiously disposing of human life.
The international democracies who are devoting so much attention to political ascendancy should distribute their power in a way that would make it impossible for weak Governments, composed of mediocrities and bellicose rulers of nations, to make war whenever their impertinent ambitions are impressed with the sanguinary rage of conflict.
All wars mutilate civilization, and put back by many generations any advance that may have been made in the interval between one butchery and another. The working people of all nations could and should combine to stop the manufacture of every implement of warfare, and make it a treasonable offence for any ruler or Government again to advocate war as a means of settling disputes. This law must of necessity be binding upon all the Powers, big and little. What a mockery this gospel of brotherhood has been in all ages! Is it an ideal ambition to bring it about? Of course it is, but we cannot catch the spirit of Christ and preach the gospel of pity, and commit hideous murder at one and the same time! hence the impudence of expecting a Divine benediction on warfare.
All sorts of public and private honours and testimonials were conferred upon Nelson during his stay at Hamburg on his way home after the mortifications caused by the elusive French fleet, Calabrian brigands, and the alluring attractions of the Court of Naples and Sicily. One hundred grenadiers, each six feet high, waited at table when he was being banqueted. The owner of a Magdeburg hotel where he stayed made money by setting up a ladder outside Nelson's sitting-room and charging a fee for mounting it and peeping at the hero inside the room. An aged wine merchant at Hamburg offered him through Lady Hamilton six dozen bottles of Rhenish wine of the vintage of 1625. It had been in his own possession for fifty years, and he hoped that some of it would be allowed to flow with the blood of the immortal hero, as it would then make the giver happy. Nelson shook hands with the old man, and consented to receive six bottles, provided he would dine with him next day. A dozen were sent, and Nelson put aside six, saying that it was his hope to win half a dozen more victories, and that one bottle would be drunk after each.
Another aged man, whose ideals were of a different and higher order, came along. He was a German pastor who, at eighty years of age or thereabouts, had travelled forty miles with the object of getting Nelson to write his immortal, name in his Bible. The venerable Lutheran prelate, with a grateful heart, asked to be allowed to record his blessing and admiration for the gallant British Admiral by stating to him, amongst other modestly selected phrases, that "he was the Saviour of the Christian world." The pastor's fervent testimony of his work and his mission touched Nelson on a tender spot. In his rough-and-ready way, he believed in the efficacy of prayer, and he knew when the old man, bowed down by age, parted from him that he would be steadfast in his petitions to the Giver of all mercies that he should be held in His holy keeping, body and soul. The story is an example of fine healthy devotion, free from sickly cant, though the logic of successfully squandering rich lives or even bravely sacrificing your own (as every commander risks doing) is a mysterious reason for the person who is successful in casting away human lives—even though they be those of an enemy—having the title of "the Saviour of the world" conferred upon him!
The writer's idea of how to establish and advance the Christian faith is to keep out of war, and the best method of doing this is for the electorate to choose men to govern who are highly gifted with diplomatic genius. Nearly all wars are brought about through incompetent negotiators, and the wastage of life and property in carrying on a war is certainly to be attributed to men who are at the head of affairs being mere politicians, without any faculty whatever for carrying out great undertakings. They are simply mischievous shadows, and merely excel as intriguers in putting good men out of office and themselves in. It is the selection of men for the posts they are eminently suited to fill that counts in any department of life, but it is more manifestly important in affairs of Government. For instance, nothing but disaster can follow if a man is made Chancellor of the Exchequer who has no instinct for national finance, and the same thing applies to a Foreign Secretary who has no knowledge of or natural instinct for international diplomacy. At the same time, an adroit commercial expert may be utterly useless in dealing with matters of State that are affected by trade. The two positions are wide apart, and are a business in themselves. The writer's view is that to fill any department of State satisfactorily the head should have both political and commercial training, combined with wholesome instinct. I don't say that trade is altogether affected by the kind of Government that is in power, but bad trade and bad government combined make a terrific burden for any nation to carry.
Service men, in the main, measure and think always from a military or naval point of view. Some of them have quite a genius for organizing in matters concerning their different professions. Take the late Lord Kitchener. In Army matters he was unequalled as an organizer but abominably traduced. Then there is Lord Fisher, who easily heads everybody connected with the Navy, as a great Admiral who can never be deprived of the merit of being the creator of our modern fleet. He combines with a matchless genius for control a fine organizing brain. The politician, with his amateurish antics, deprived the British Empire of the services of an outstanding figure that would have saved us many lives and many ships, without taking into account the vast quantity of merchandise and foodstuffs that have perished. It is not by creating confusion that the best interest of the nation is served, either in peace-time or during war. Those robust rhetoricians who massacre level-headed government and substitute a system of make-shift experiments during a great national crisis do a wicked public disservice. I have no time to deal with these superior persons in detail, but I cannot keep my thoughts from the terrible bitterness and anguish their haphazard experiments may have caused. The destroying force will eat into the very entrails of our national life if some powerful resolute personality does not arise to put an end to the hopeless extemporizing and contempt for sober, solid, orderly administration. The truth is that, if a government or anything else is wrongly conceived, natural laws will never help it to right itself, and it ends in catastrophe. Such governments are inflicted on us from time to time as a chastisement, it is said, for our national sins, and the process of disintegration is deadly in its effects. The only consoling feature of it is that history is repeating itself with strange accuracy, as may be verified by a glance into the manuscripts of Mr. Fortescue at Dropmore. Herein you will find many striking resemblances between the constitution of the Government then and the tribulation we are passing through at the present time. One important event of that period has been avoided up to the present; none has demanded a settlement of his differences by means of a duelling contest, as did Castlereagh and Canning. They had a coalition of all the talents then as they presume to have now, though there has been no real evidence of it, either in or out of Parliament.
Poor Nelson had a terrible time with one and another of them, as they had with him, if history may be relied on. His periodical defiances and his contempt for his superiors is quite edifying. He laid down the law like a bishop when his moods were in full play. The great naval, commercial, and military figure to which Nelson comes nearest is Drake, and the nearest to Nelson in versatility is Lord Fisher, who must have had an engaging time with those who wished to assume control of the Navy over his level head. I question whether any man holding a high position in the British Navy, at any time, could combine naval, military, and administrative genius, together with sound common sense, as Nelson did. We have devoted so much attention to the study of his naval accomplishments that many of his other practical gifts have been overlooked. It is common belief, in civilian circles at any rate, and there is good ground for it, that both the naval and military men do not realize how much their existence depends on a well-handled and judiciously treated mercantile marine. I have too much regard for every phase of seafaring life to criticize it unfairly, but, except on very rare occasions, I have found naval and military men so profoundly absorbed in their own professions that they do not trouble to regard anything else as being essential.
The present war will have revealed many things that were not thought of in other days. One of Nelson's outstanding anxieties was lest any harm should befall our commerce, and he protected it and our shipping with fine vigilance and with scant support from the then Government, which would not supply him with ships; this at times drove him to expressions of despair. Privateering was more rampant then than it is now, and the belligerents had great difficulty in enforcing neutrals to observe neutrality. Indeed, the circumstances were such that it became impossible to prevent leakage. The British Admiral was continually protesting to the neutrals against the system of smuggling and privateering, but it was hardly consistent, seeing that we were obliged to make breaches of neutrality in order to get our supplies. Small privateers, consisting sometimes of mere longboats, infested every swatch and corner they could get into on the Spanish shores, the Ionian Islands, the Barbary coast, the Balearic Islands, and Sicily. We indicted France for enforcing subsidies from Spain, compelling the Neapolitans to provide for her soldiers occupying Neapolitan territory. We, on the other hand, were obliged to make use of neutral ports for supplies required for the Gulf of Lyons fleet. It was a curious position, and both France and England were parties to the anomaly, and each accused the other of the impiety of it. The British Admiral and his officers never lost an opportunity of destroying the marauders when caught within neutral limits, and Nelson never flinched from supporting his officers in the matter. "The protection," he writes, "given to the enemies' privateers and rowboats is extremely destructive of our commerce," and then he goes on to give reasons why these vermin should be shot or captured.
He was driven frantic by the demands made for convoys by captains and merchants, and his appeals to the Admiralty for more cruisers were unheeded. He expresses himself strongly averse from allowing even fast sailing vessels to make a passage unprotected. Perhaps no human mind that has been given grave responsibilities to safeguard was ever lacerated as was Nelson's in seeing that our commercial interest did not suffer, and that on the seas he guarded a free and safe passage should be assured to our shipping carrying food and other merchandise to the mother-country. The responsibility of carrying out even this special work in a satisfactory way was an amazing task, and no evidence is on record that he left anything to chance. Results are an eloquent answer to any doubts on that subject. In addition to policing the seas, he had the anxiety of watching the tricky manoeuvres of the French fleet, and planning for their interception and defeat should they weaken in their elusive methods. Of course, they were playing their own game, and had a right to, and it was for their opponents, whom Nelson so well represented, to outwit and trap them into fighting; but as for having any grounds for complaint, it was not only silly, but inopportune, to give expression to having a grievance against the French admirals because they cutely slipped out of his deadly grasp from time to time and made him weary of life! His grievances were easier to establish against the Board of Admiralty, who were alternately paying him compliments or insulting him. Instructions were given that could not be obeyed without involving the country in certain loss and complication. Officers, his junior in rank, were given appointments that had the appearance of placing them independent of his authority. Seniors of inferior capacity were given control over him which, but for his whimsical magnanimity, might have cost us the loss of the fleet, their crews, and our high honour and superb fighting reputation. Take for example Sir Hyde Parker's command of the Baltic fleet, or Sir John Orde's clumsy appointment to a squadron in the Mediterranean. Nothing could be so harassing to the nerves of a man sure of his own superiority as to be burdened, not only with Orde's arrogance, but his mediocrity. He was obliged to resort to subterfuge in order to get his dispatches sent home, and here again the action of the Admiralty compelled him to break naval discipline by ordering a nephew of Lord St. Vincent, a clever young captain of a frigate, to whom he was devoted, to take the dispatches to Lisbon. He told the young captain that Sir John Orde took his frigates from him, and sent them away in a direction contrary to his wishes. "I cannot get my dispatches even sent home," he said; adding, "You must try to avoid his ships." Nelson had not signed his orders, because Sir John Orde was his superior officer, but should it come to a court-martial, Hardy could swear to his handwriting, and he gave him the assurance that he would not be broken. "Take your orders, and goodbye," said he, "and remember, Parker, if you cannot weather that fellow, I shall think you have not a drop of your uncle's blood in your veins." Other Nelsonian instructions were given, and the gallant captain carried them out with a skill worthy of his ingenious, defiant chief and of his distinguished uncle.
It was not only a slap in the face to Sir John Orde, but to those whose patronage had placed in a senior position a man who was not qualified to stand on the same quarterdeck with Nelson. He smarted under the treatment, but unhappily could not keep his chagrin under cover. He was always pouring his soul out to some one or other. His health is always falling to pieces after each affront, and for this reason he asks to be relieved. Here is an example of his moods. "I am much obliged to your Lordships' compliance with my requests," he says, "which is absolutely necessary from the present state of my health," and almost immediately after he tells a friend he "will never quit his post when the French fleet are at sea as a commander-in-chief once did." "I would sooner die at my post than have such a stigma upon my memory." This is a nasty dig at Lord St. Vincent, presumably for having a hand in the appointment of Sir John Orde. Then he writes to Elliot that nothing has kept him at his post but the fear of the French fleet escaping and getting to Naples or Sicily. "Nothing but gratitude for the good sovereigns would have induced him to stay a moment after Sir John Orde's extraordinary command, for his general conduct towards them is not such as he had a right to expect." I have heard that snobbishness prevails in the service now only in a less triumphant degree to what it did in Nelson's time. If that be the case, it ought to be wrestled with until every vestige of the ugly thing is strangled. The letters of Nelson to personal friends, to the Admiralty, and in his reported conversations, are all full of resentment at the viciousness of it, though he obviously struggles to curb the vehemence of his feelings. No one felt the dagger of the reticent stabber more quickly and sensitively than he. Invisible though the libeller might be, Nelson knew he was there. He could not hear the voice, but he felt the sinister action.
Making full allowance for what might be put down to imagination, there is still an abundance of material to justify the belief that the first naval authority of his time was the target of snobs, and that, but for his strong personality and the fact that he was always ready to fight them in the open, he would have been superseded, and a gallant duffer might have taken his place, to the detriment of our imperial interests. It is a dangerous experiment to put a man into high office if he has not the instinct of judging the calibre of other men. This applies to every department of life nowadays. Take the Army, the Navy, departments of State, commercial or banking offices, manufacturing firms, and the making of political appointments. The latter is more carelessly dealt with than any other department of life. The public are not sufficiently vigilant in distinguishing between a mere entertaining rhetorician and a wholesome-minded, natural-born statesman. What terrible calamities have come to the State through putting men into responsible positions they have neither training, wit, nor wisdom to fill efficiently! Providence has been most indulgent and forbearing when we have got ourselves into a mess by wrong-headedness. She generally comes to our aid with an undiscovered man or a few men with the necessary gifts required for getting us out of the difficulty in which the Yellow Press gang and their accomplices may have involved the country. We know something of how the knowledge of these anomalies in public life chafed the eager spirit of Nelson, but we can never know the extent of the suffering it caused except during the Neapolitan and Sicilian days. This lonely soul lived the life of a recluse for months at a time. The monotony of the weird song of the sea winds, the nerve-tearing, lazy creak of the wooden timbers, the sinuous crawling, rolling, or plunging over the most wondrous of God's works, invariably produces a sepulchral impression even on the most phlegmatic mind, but to the mystically constituted brain of Nelson, under all the varied thoughts that came into his brain during the days and nights of watching and searching for those people he termed "the pests of the human race," it must have been one long heartache. No wonder that he lets fly at the Admiralty in some of his most passionate love-messages to the seductive Emma. His dreary life, without any exciting incident except the carrying away of sails or spars, and the irritation of not being able to get what he regarded as life or death requests carried into effect owing to the slothfulness or incompetent indifference of the Admiralty was continual agony to him. He writes in one of his dispatches to the Admiralty: "Were I to die this moment, want of frigates would be found stamped on my heart. No words of mine," he continues, "can express what I have suffered and am suffering for want of them."
No person could write such an unconsciously comic lament to a department supposed to be administered with proficiency unless he were borne down by a deep sense of its appalling incompetency. It is quite likely that the recipients of the burning phrases regarded them in the light of a joke, but they were very real to the wearied soul of the man who wrote them. I do not find any instances of conscious humour in any of Nelson's letters or utterances. It is really their lack of humour that is humorous. He always appears to be in sombre earnest about affairs that matter, and whimsically affected by those that don't. The following lines, which are not my own, may be regarded as something akin to Nelson's conception of himself. If he had come across them, I think he would have said to himself, "Ah! yes, these verses describe my mission and me."
Nelson never attempted to carry out a mere reckless and palpably useless feat for the purpose of show. His well-balanced genius of caution and accurate judgment was the guiding instinct in his terrific thrusts which mauled the enemy out of action at the Nile, St. Vincent, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar, and enthralled the world with new conceptions of naval warfare. He met with bitter disappointments in his search for the illusive French fleet, which wore him, as he says, to a skeleton, but never once was he shaken in his vigorous belief that he would catch and annihilate them in the end. They cleverly crept out of Toulon, with the intention, it is said, of going to Egypt. Villeneuve was no fool at evasive tactics. His plan was practically unerring, and threw Nelson completely off the scent and kept him scouring the seas in search of the bird that had flown weeks before. Once the scent is lost, it takes a long time to pick it up. Villeneuve no doubt argued that it was not his purpose to give the British Admiral an opportunity of fighting just then. He had other fish to fry, and if he wished to get away clear from Toulon and evade Nelson's ships, he must first of all delude him by sending a few ships out to mislead the enemy's watchdogs or drive them off; if that succeeded (which it did not), he would then wait for a strong fair wind that would assure him of a speed that would outdistance and take him out of sight of the British squadron, and make sure that no clue to his destination was left. The wind was strong NNW.; the French fleet were carrying a heavy press of canvas and steering SSW. The British ships that were following concluded that they were out for important mischief, and returned to convey the news to Nelson, who quickly got under weigh and followed them. Meanwhile, Villeneuve's squadron, after getting from under the shelter of the land into the open sea, lost some of their spars and sails, and one vessel, it is recorded, was dismasted, which means, in seafaring interpretation, that all her masts were carried away; as she succeeded, however, in getting into Ajaccio, she can only have lost her royal topgallant, and possibly a topmast or two. If her lower masts had been carried away, she could not have got into refuge without assistance, and the rest of the fleet apparently had enough to do in looking after themselves, as they lost spars and sails too, and became somewhat scattered, but all appear to have got safely into Toulon again to refit and repair the damage done by the heavy gale they encountered.
Meanwhile, Nelson, in dismay at losing touch with them, searched every nook and cranny in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and making sure that none of them were in hiding and that the sea was clear, he proceeded to act on his fixed opinion that their objective must be Egypt. So to Egypt he went, and the bitter disappointment at not finding them stunned his imagination, so sure had he been that his well-considered judgment was a thing to which he might pin his faith, and that his lust for conflict with the "pests of the human race" could not escape being realized in the vicinity of his great victory at the battle of the Nile. His grievance against Villeneuve for cheating him out of what he believed would result in the annihilation of the French Power for mischief on the seas brought forth expressions of deadly contempt for such astute, sneaking habits! But the Emperor was as much dissatisfied with the performances of his admirals as Nelson was, though in a different way. Napoleon, on the authority of the French historian, M. Thiers, was imperially displeased. He asks "what is to be done with admirals who allow their spirits to sink into their boots (italics are the author's) and fly for refuge as soon as they receive damage. All the captains ought to have had sealed orders to meet at the Canary Islands. The damages should have been repaired en route. A few topmasts carried away and other casualties in a gale of wind are everyday occurrences. The great evil of our Navy is that the men who command it are unused to all the risks of command." This indictment is to a large extent deserved, and had his fleet been out in the Atlantic or outside the limits of the vigilance of Nelson's ships, the putting back to Toulon or anywhere to refit the topmasts, sails, or rigging would have been highly reprehensible. But in any case, I question whether the British would have shown the white feather or lack of resource under any circumstances. On a man-of-war they were supposed to have refits of everything, and men, properly qualified, in large numbers to carry out any prodigious feat. On the other hand, the British have always excelled in their nautical ability to guard against deficiency in outfit, which was not overtested unless there were sufficient cause to demand such a risk. This applies especially to the sailing war vessels in Nelson's time. I think there can be no question that the French vessels were both badly officered and manned with incapable sailors and that the damage which led them back to Toulon was caused by bad judgment in seamanship. What they called a severe gale would have been regarded by an Australian clipper or Western Ocean packet-ship in the writer's early days as a hard whole-sail breeze, perhaps with the kites taken in. It was rare that these dashing commanders ever carried away a spar, and it was not because they did not carry on, but because they knew every trick of the vessel, the wind, and the sea. It was a common saying in those days when vessels were being overpowered with canvas, "The old lady was talking to us now," i.e. the vessel was asking to have some of the burden of sail taken off her. I have known topmasts to be carried away, but it generally occurred through some flaw in a bolt or unseen defect in the rigging. So much depends on the security of little things. But when a catastrophe of this kind occurred on board a British merchantman or war vessel the men had both the courage, skill, training, and, above all, the matchless instinct to clear away the wreck and carry out the refitting in amazingly short time. That was because we were then, and are now under new conditions, an essentially seafaring race. And it was this superiority that gave Nelson such great advantages over the French commanders and their officers and seamen, though it must be admitted they were fast drilled by the force of circumstances into foes that were not to be looked upon too lightly.
The elusive tactics of the French admirals then were in a lesser degree similar to those practised by the Germans now, if it be proper to speak or think of the two services at the same time without libelling them. The French were always clean fighters, however much they may have been despised by Nelson. They were never guilty of cowardly revenge. They would not then, or now, send hospital ships to the bottom with their crews and their human cargoes of wounded soldiers and nurses. Nor would they indiscriminately sink merchant vessels loaded with civilian passengers composed of men, women, and children, and leave them to drown, as is the inhuman practice of the German submarine crews of to-day.
The French in other days were our bitterest enemies, and we were theirs. We charged each other with abominations only different from what we and our Allies the French are saying about Germany to-day, who was then our ally. We regarded Germany in the light of a down-trodden nation who was being crushed and mutilated under the relentless heel of the "Corsican Usurper." "Such is the rancorous hatred of the French towards us," says Collingwood in January 1798, "that I do not think they would make peace on any terms, until they have tried this experiment (i.e. the invasion of England) on our country; and never was a country assailed by so formidable a force"; and he goes on to say, "Men of property must come forward both with purse and sword, for the contest must decide whether they shall have anything, even a country which they can call their own." This is precisely what we are saying about Germany with greater reason every day at the present time (1918).
It has been the common practice for German submarine commanders to sink at sight British, neutral cargo, and passenger vessels, and hospital ships loaded with wounded troops and nurses. They have put themselves outside the pale of civilization since they forced the whole world into conflict against them. Nothing has been too hideous for them to do. They have blown poor defenceless fishermen to pieces, and bombarded defenceless villages and towns, killing and maiming the inhabitants.
Nelson's ardent soul must have been wearied with the perversity of the "dead foul winds" (as he described his bitter fate to Ball) that prevented him from piercing the Straits of Gibraltar against the continuous easterly current that runs from the Atlantic and spreads far into the Mediterranean with malicious fluctuations of velocity. Many a gallant sailing-ship commander has been driven to despair in other days by the friendly levanter failing them just as they were wellnigh through the Gut or had reached the foot of the majestic Rock, when the west wind would assert its power over its feebler adversary, and unless he was in a position to fetch an anchorage behind the Rock or in the bay, their fate was sealed for days, and sometimes weeks, in hard beating to prevent as little ground being lost as possible. But ofttimes they were drifted as far back as Cape de Gata in spite of daring feats of seamanship in pressing their vessels with canvas until every spar, sail, and rope was overstrained. A traditional story of sailors of that period was that only a fast clipper schooner engaged in the fruit trade and a line-of-battle ship which fired her lee guns on every tack was ever known to beat through this channel, which mystified the sailors' ideas of God. They could not understand how He could have committed such an error in planning the universe which so tried the spirits of His loyal believers!
We know how catholic Nelson was in his religious views; and his feats of expressive vocabulary, which was the envy of his class at the time, became their heritage after he had accomplished his splendid results and passed into the shadows. Such things as the strength of the adverse sea winds, his experience of the capriciousness of the official mind—a capriciousness which might be reflected in the public imagination were he not to be wholly successful in getting hold of the French fleet, and the indignity of having a man like Sir John Orde put over him, all filled his sensitive nature with resentment against the ordinances of God and man. His complaints were always accompanied with a devotional air and an avowal of supreme indifference to what he regarded as the indecent treatment he received at the hands of the amateurish bureaucrats at the Admiralty. At times they were out of humour with the great chieftain, and perhaps at no time did they make him feel their dissatisfaction more than when adverse winds, a crazy fleet, and deadly current were eating deep into his eager soul at a time when the genius of seamanship was unavailing in the effort to get through into the Atlantic in pursuit of the French fleet, which his instinct told him was speeding towards the West Indies.
Sir John Orde, who was an aversion to him (as well he might be), had seen the French fleet off Cadiz, and failed to procure him the information as to their course. Nelson believed, and properly believed, that an alert mind would have found a way of spying out the enemy's intentions, but Sir John's resource did not extend to anything beyond the fear of being attacked and overpowered. He obviously was devoid of any of the arts of the wily pirate or smuggler. A month after the French had passed through the Gut, Nelson got his chance. A change of wind came within five hours after a southerly slant brought his ships to anchor in Gibraltar bay for water and provisions. He immediately gave the signal to heave the anchors up, and proceeded with a fair wind which lasted only forty-eight hours. He anchored his fleet to the east of Cape St. Vincent, and took on board supplies from the transports. He received from different sources conflicting accounts as to the objective of the French, but the predominating opinion was that they had gone to the West Indies. Nelson was in a state of bewilderment, but decided to follow his own head, and pinned his faith on the instinct that told him to follow westward "to be burnt in effigy if he failed, or Westminster Abbey if he succeeded." The adventure was daring, both in point of destination and the unequal strength of the relative fleets. Nelson had ten ships of the line and three frigates, against Villeneuve's eighteen and two new line-of-battle ships.
But the British Admiral's genius and the superiority of his commanders, officers, and men, should they come to battle, would more than match Villeneuve's superiority in ships. Nelson, always sure of his own powers, could also depend upon the loyalty of men of every rank under him. He knew that the terrible spirit which shattered and scattered Spanish Philip's armada was an inheritance that had grown deep into every fibre of the generations of seamen that followed Hawkins and Drake's invincibles. When Nelson delivered himself of death-or-glory heroics, he did so with the consciousness that he was the spirit that enthused masses of other spirits to carry out his dominating will.
On the 14th May, 1805, anchors were picked up and the fleet left Lagos Bay under full sail for the West Indies. The trade-winds were soon picked up, and every stitch of canvas that would catch a breath of wind was spread. The speed ranged from six to nine knots, according to the strength of the wind, the Admiral taking any available opportunity of conveying to the commanders the plan of attack and action should they fall in with the Frenchmen. The task of keeping his own ships together was not easy, as some were faster than others, and many had foul bottoms. There was much manipulation of yards and sails in order to keep the line in order, and Nelson even went out of his way to have a note of encouragement and kindness sent aboard the Superb (seventy-four guns) for Commander Keats, whose ship had been continuously in commission since 1801, and was in bad condition. Her sailing qualities were vexatious. Keats implored that he should not be disconnected from the main fleet now that the hoped-for battle was so near at hand, and being a great favourite of Nelson's, he was given permission constantly to carry a press of canvas; so the gallant captain carried his studding sails while running before the trade-winds, but notwithstanding this effort, the lazy, dilapidated Superb could not keep pace with the others, even though he was granted the privilege of not stopping when the others did. His urgency not to be dropped out on this occasion caused him the hard luck of not being at the battle of Trafalgar.
The British fleet arrived at Barbadoes after a twenty-four days' passage from Lagos Bay. The French took thirty-four from Cadiz to Martinique, so that Nelson had a gain of ten days on them, and although his zeal yearned for better results, he had performed a feat that was not to be despised, and of which he and his comrades in quest of battle were deservedly proud. The French had been three weeks in the West Indies, but had done no further mischief than to take the Diamond Rock, a small British possession situated off the south end of Martinique. The whereabouts of the elusive enemy was uncertain. General Brereton, who commanded the troops at Santa Lucia gave information that they had passed on the 28th May, steering south. The admirals decided that they had proceeded to Tobago and Trinidad. Nelson was doubtful, but was obliged to pay some regard to intelligence coming from such a quarter. Accurate information received on the 9th June, 1805, confirmed the Admiral's doubts as to their objective, for they had passed Dominica on the 6th. Brereton had unintentionally misled him. Nelson was almost inarticulate with rage, and avowed that by this slovenly act the General had prevented him from giving battle north of Dominica on the 6th. "What a race I have run after these fellows!" he exclaimed, and then, as was his custom, leaning on the Power that governs all things, he declares, "but God is just, and I may be repaid for all my moments of anxiety." His belief in the advent of Divine vengeance on those who doubted or threatened the awful supremacy of British dominion on land or sea was stimulating to him. Like the Domremy maiden, who saved her king and country, he had "visions and heard voices."
Whatever the mission of the French fleet may have been, there was certainly no apparent lust for aggrandizement. We may be certain that Napoleon's orders were to carry out vigorous bombardments on British possessions, and instead of doing so, Villeneuve seems to have been distractedly and aimlessly sailing about, not knowing what to do or whither to go. Apparently without any definite object, he arrived off Antigua on the 9th June, and had the good fortune, whether he sought for it or not, of capturing fourteen British merchant vessels; but he would appear to have been quite phlegmatic about making the haul. He was more concerned about the news the crews were able to give him of Nelson's arrival at Barbadoes; not that he was constrained to give him the opportunity of measuring strength with his now twenty-six of the line, but as a guide to the best means of making his escape; this may have been a strategical move of wearing down; or he may have been carrying out a concerted plan for leaving Nelson in bewilderment and proceeding with all speed to some British European point where resistance would be less and success assured, since there was no outstanding naval figure, bar Collingwood, who could stand up against so powerful a combination of ships of the line. It is questionable whether Villeneuve ever took this man of great hidden power and foresight into account. It was Nelson, his chief, who put terror into the fleet. In any case, whatever his plans may have been, the intelligence he gleaned from the seized merchant seamen caused him to make arrangements to sail from Antigua the next day for Europe. The present writer's opinion is that he may have had secret orders from Napoleon to make an attack on Ireland, as the Emperor never faltered in his view that this was the most pregnable spot in which to hazard an invasion and strike a crushing blow at the main artery. He little knew the real loyalty of the great mass of Irishmen to their own and to the mother-land, and only realized later that his way to England was not through Ireland.
The exit of the French was hard fate for Nelson, who had fired his enthusiasm with the hope of a great conflict and a sure victory. It was a creeping nightmare to him which was only relieved by his resolute opinion that his fame and the terror of his name had caused Villeneuve to fly from inevitable destruction. The idea of strategy did not enter into his calculations. A further consolation to him was that his arrival had saved the islands and two hundred ships loaded with sugar from being captured, so that the gain was all on his side. So far as the West Indies were concerned, the French expedition ended not only in a dead loss, but was a humiliating fiasco, unless, as I have stated before, it was a preconceived decoy for some other purpose. But whether it were strategy or decoy, it taxes one's intelligence to conceive why the French fleet did not proceed to bombard the British possessions on arrival, then steal into safe obscurity and make their way back to European waters. The evasion of Nelson's scouts in any case was a matter of adroit cunning. Had a man of Nelson's nimble wits and audacious courage commanded the enemy's fleet, the islands would have been attacked and left in a dilapidated condition. Nelson's opinion was that the Spanish portion of the expedition had gone to Havana, and that the French would make for Cadiz or Toulon, the latter he thought most likely, with the ultimate object of Egypt. And with this vision floating in his mind, he determined to make for the Straits. On the 13th June, 1805, he sailed from Antigua, and was almost merry at the thought of getting close at their heels, and toppling them into ruin before they had got into the Mediterranean. He regarded them in the light of miserable naval amateurs that could be whacked, even with the odds against him. Five days after sailing, one of his scout ships brought the news given by a vessel they spoke that she had sighted them steering north on the 15th, and as the colours of each dying day faded away and brought no French fleet in view or intelligence of them, he grew restive and filled with apprehension. He had no delusions about the accuracy of his perceptions, or the soundness of his judgment, nor the virtue of his prudence. Without a disturbing thought he pursued his course towards the Mediterranean, and unless intelligence came to him that would justify a diversion, no wild fancies would be permitted to take possession of him. On the 18th July he sighted Cape Spartel, and any sailor will say that no grass had been allowed to grow under the bottoms of the ships that made so quick a passage. But Nelson was "sorrowful" that no results had accrued. Like a strong man who has opinions and carries them through to the bitter end, he did not "blame himself." He blew off some of the pent-up bitterness of an aching heart by writing to a friend, "But for General Brereton's damned information, I would have been living or dead, and the greatest man England ever saw, and now I am nothing and perhaps would incur censure for misfortunes which may happen and have. Oh! General Brereton! General Brereton!"
This explosion was indicative of bitter disappointment. It is these outbursts of devotion to a great burning ideal that give an impulse to the world. His anxiety when he made his landfall and was informed by scouts sent to meet him that the allied squadrons had not been heard of was intense. It was not until then that his vigorous mind was smitten with the possibility of the French having cheated him by going to Jamaica. Orde had been superseded by Collingwood, and was stationed off Cadiz, the purpose of which was to watch the entrance to the Mediterranean. Nelson wrote and sent him the following letter:—
MY DEAR COLLINGWOOD,—I am, as you may suppose, miserable at not falling in with the enemy's fleet; and I am almost increased in sorrow in not finding them here. The name of General Brereton will not soon be forgot. I must now hope that the enemy have not tricked me, and gone to Jamaica; but if the account, of which I send you a copy, is correct, it is more than probable that they are either gone to the northward, or, if bound to the Mediterranean, not yet arrived.
The vivid symptoms of disquietude in this communication to his old friend are distinctly pathetic. In parts he is comically peevish and decidedly restrained. He mixes his fierce wrath against the hapless General Brereton with the generalizing of essentials, and transparently holds back the crushing thoughts of misadventure for which he may be held responsible by the misanthropic, scurrilous, self-assertive experts. His impassive periods were always associated with whimsical sensitiveness of being censured if his adventures should miscarry. No one knew better than he that a man in his position could only be popular if he continued to succeed. He had many critics, but always regarded them as inferior to himself, and his record justified him. What he secretly quaked at and openly defied was a general outburst of human capriciousness. There are veiled indications of this in his letter to Collingwood, who replied in well-reasoned terms, interwoven with that charm of tender sympathy that was so natural to him.
He says: "I have always had the idea that Ireland was the object the French had in view," and that he still believes that to be their destination; and then he proceeds to develop his reasons, which are a combination of practical, human, and technical inferences. His strongest point is one that Nelson did not or could not know, though it may be argued that he ought to have foreseen; even then it is one expert's judgment against another's. Collingwood affirms that the Rochefort squadron, which sailed when Villeneuve did in January, returned to Europe on the 26th May. Collingwood maintains that the West Indian trip was to weaken the British force on the European side, and states that the return of Rochefort's squadron confirmed him in this. He is too generous to his mortified comrade to detract in any degree from the view that, having escaped from the West Indies, they would naturally make for Cadiz or the Mediterranean. Here is one of the many wise sayings of Napoleon: "In business the worst thing of all is an undecided mind"; and this may be applied to any phase of human affairs. Nelson can never be accused of indecision. His chase to the West Indies was a masterpiece of prescience which saved the British possessions, and, but for the clumsy intelligence he received, the French would have been a hammered wreck and the projected ruse to combine it with the Rochefort squadron off Ireland blown sky-high.
The present generation of critics can only judge by the records handed down to them, and after exhaustive study we are forced to the opinion that Nelson was right in following Villeneuve to the West Indies, nor was he wrong in calculating that they were impulsively making their way back to the Mediterranean. Consistent with his habit of never claiming the privilege of changing his mind, he followed his settled opinion and defended his convictions with vehement confidence. He had not overlooked Ireland, but his decision came down on the side of Cadiz or Toulon, and there it had to rest, and in rather ridiculous support of his contention he imputes faulty navigation as the cause of taking them out of their course, and finding themselves united to the Rochefort squadron off Cape Finisterre. The bad-reckoning idea cannot be sustained. The French were no match for the British under Nelson's piercing genius as a naval strategist, or in the flashes of dazzling enthusiasm with which he led those under his command to fight, but it must also be admitted, and has been over and over again, that Villeneuve was a skilled seaman who was not likely to allow any amateur navigators in his service, and we shall see that in the plan of defence this great French Admiral showed that he was fertile in naval skill when the time came for him to fight for existence against the greatest naval prodigy in the world.
Whatever the reason was that caused Villeneuve not to make for the Mediterranean, it certainly cannot be ascribed to lubberly navigation, and Nelson should never have tried to sustain his perfectly sound belief by seeking refuge in that untenable direction. God bless him all the same.
On his arrival at Gibraltar on the 20th July, 1805, he set foot on shore for the first time for two years less ten days. This in itself was a great feat of hard endurance for a man who had to carry so heavy a burden of continuous physical suffering and terrible anxiety. Maddened and depressed often, stumbling often, falling often, but despairing never, sorrow and sadness briefly encompassed him when fate ordained disappointments. But his heart was big with hope that he would accomplish complete victory before the sentence of death came, which he never ceased to forebode. He was a human force, not a phenomenon. On the 22nd July, Sir Robert Calder and Villeneuve fought a drawn or indecisive battle. Only two Spanish ships of the line were taken. The French Admiral put into Vigo on the 28th, and managed to slip out, and arrived at Ferrol without being intercepted. Nelson provisioned his ships for four months, and sailed from Tetuan on the 23rd. On the 25th he passed through the Straits with the intention of going to Ferrol, Ireland, or Ushant, whichever his information and judgment told him was the best course to pursue. He experienced strong northerly winds along the Portuguese coast, which prevented him from joining the Channel Fleet off Ushant until August 16th, and as no news had been received of the French being in the Bay of Biscay or off the Irish coast, he was ordered by Cornwallis to Portsmouth, and anchored at Spithead on the 18th August. His reception from every quarter was most cordial, as well it might be! But the thought of how much greater it would have been if he had not been misguided and thereby deprived of coming to grips with the foe that was still at large and outwitting every device of bringing them to close quarters, had eaten like a canker into his troubled mind. In his letters to friends (Davison and others) his postscripts were for ever being embellished with reference to it and the darting of an incidental "damn" to General Brereton, who, it is contended, was himself deceived. But Nelson, generous as, he always was to people who were encompassed by misfortune, never would allow that Brereton had any right to allow himself to be misled. One wonders how the immortal General Brereton worked it out. In any case, the great Admiral has given him a place in history by his side.
Nelson first heard of Sir Robert Calder's scrap from the Ushant squadron, and was strong in sympathy and defence against the unworthy public attacks made on the Admiral for not succeeding as he would. In writing to Fremantle about Calder, he says, amongst other things: "I should have fought the enemy, so did my friend Calder; I only wish to stand upon my own merits, and not by comparison, one way or the other upon the conduct of a brother officer," etc. This rebuke to a public who were treating his brother officer ungenerously may be summarized thus: "I want none of your praises at the expense of this gallant officer, who is serving his country surrounded with complex dangers that you are ignorant of, and therefore it is indecent of you to judge by comparing him with me or any one else. I want none of your praises at his expense."
This is only one of the noble traits in Nelson's character, and is the secret why he unconsciously endeared himself to everybody. His comical vanity and apparent egotism is overshadowed by human touches such as this worthy intervention on behalf of Sir Robert Calder, who he had reason to know was not professionally well disposed to him. But his defence of Calder did not close with Fremantle, for in a letter to his brother soon after he got home he says, "We must now talk of Sir Robert Calder. I might not have done so much with my small force. If I had fallen in with them, you might probably have been a lord before I wished; for I know they meant to make a dead set at the Victory." These lines alone show how reverently the writer adhered to the brotherly tie of the profession. He seems to say, "Let us have no more talk of puerilities. I am the stronger. I have recently been frustrated myself. I know this business better than Calder's traducers do, and therefore conceive it my duty to defend him. He also has rendered great services to his country."
When it was known that he had arrived in England, he was overwhelmed with generous tokens of affection and gratitude from all classes. Thousands crowded into Portsmouth to see him land, and the cheering was long and lusty. In London the mob, drunk with excitement, struggled to get sight of him, many crushing their way so that they might shake him by the hand or even touch him. Lord Minto said he met him in Piccadilly, took him by the arm, and was mobbed also. He goes on to say: "It is really quite affecting to see the wonder, admiration, and love for him from gentle and simple the moment he is seen," and concludes by stating that it is beyond anything represented in a play or in a poem of fame.
Commercial men everywhere passed resolutions of gratitude for the protection he had secured in their different interests. The West India merchants sent a deputation to express their never-to-be-forgotten thanks, and would have loaded him with material tokens of their goodwill had it been proper to do so. He lost no time in getting to Merton, which was the thought and happiness of his soul. He was invited here, there, and everywhere, and always replied that he could not accept, as all his family were with him. Lord Minto, who was a devoted friend, visited him on the 15th August, and says that he "found him in the act of sitting down to dinner with his brother the Dean, his wife, and their children, and the children of a sister. Lady Hamilton was at the head of the table, and her mother, Mrs. Cadogan, at the bottom. His welcome was hearty. Nelson looked well and was full of spirits. Lady Hamilton," he continues, "had improved, and had added to the house and place extremely well, without his knowing she was doing it. She is a clever being, after all the passion is as hot as ever."
These glad moments of keen rapture, which filled Nelson with a sort of mystic joy, were soon to be cut short. Swiftly the sweet days were passing away, and the sombre parting from "dear Merton and loving hearts for evermore" was drawing near. In his day-dreams he saw more fame, more professional gladness, more triumph. He saw, too, as he pensively walked in his garden, the grave nearly ready to receive him and the day of his glory and brightness coming. These were his abiding premonitions, which were jerked out to his close friends, and even during his last sojourn at Merton, to those he loved so well. Even at this distance of time we cannot think with composure of this many-sided man declaring sadly that death had no terrors for him, and that he was ready to face the last great problem in the conflict which was to break the power at sea of the great conqueror on land. He had not been long in the plenitude of domestic bliss before Captain Blackwood called one morning at five o'clock with dispatches sent by Collingwood for the Admiralty. Nelson was already dressed, and in his quick penetrating way told him that "he was certain he brought news of the combined enemy's fleet," and, without waiting for an answer, exclaimed, "I think I shall have to beat them," and subsequently added, "Depend upon it, Blackwood, I shall yet give M. Villeneuve a drubbing." The latter had slipped out of Ferrol and elusively made his way to Cadiz without having been seen by the British. Nelson's services were again requested by the Government, and eagerly given, though he declared that he was in need of more rest and that he had done enough. But these were mere transient observations, probably to impress those with whom he talked or to whom he wrote with the importance of his position with the Cabinet, who now regarded him as indispensable, which was in reality quite true, though he was none the less proud of the high confidence they had in him and the popular approval their selection had with the public. The phrase "Let the man trudge who has lost his budget" was mere bluff. He wanted to go all the time, and would have felt himself grievously insulted had the Government regarded even his health unequal to so gigantic a task or suggested that a better man could be found.
Nelson, always hungering for approbation, slyly hinted that it would be a risky thing for the Government's existence had they not placed full control of the fleet in his hands, so popular a hold had he on all classes of naval men and the entire public imagination. Nelson was often exasperated by the dull ignorance of the Government as to how naval policy should be conducted, and by their combined irresolution and impatience at critical periods, when success depended upon his having a free hand to act as circumstances arose. Of course, he took a free hand and never failed to succeed. But he frequently complained that he laid himself open to be shot or degraded by doing so, and it is only one man in a century that is possessed of sufficient audacity to ignore the authority over him and with supreme skill to carry out his own plans. In support of the views that were bound to be held by a man of Nelson's calibre as to the qualities of some of his superiors in the Government who wished to impose upon him a definite line of action, we quote a letter written to Captain Keats, which has appeared in almost every life of Nelson that has been published. It is pregnant with subtle contemptuous remarks which may be applied to the naval administration of the present time (March 1918). It is not only a danger, but a crime, in the process of any war, but especially during the present, to gamble with the safety of the nation by neglecting to have at the head of a great department a man who has not only a genius for administrative initiative in this particular sphere but an unerring instinct to guide and grapple with its everyday perplexities. It is colossal aptitude, not mechanicalness, that is needed.
But here is the matchless sailor's opinion of the situation in this respect in his day: "The Secretary of State (Lord Castlereagh), which is a man who has only sat one day in his office, and, of course, knows but little of what is passed, and indeed the Prime Minister, Pitt, were all full of the enemy's fleet, and as I am now set up for a conjurer, and God knows they will very soon find out I am far from being one, I was asked my opinion, against my inclination, for if I make one wrong guess the charm will be broken; but this I ventured without any fear, that if Calder got close alongside their twenty-seven or twenty-eight sail, that by the time the enemy had beaten our fleet soundly, they would do us no harm this year."
Though Nelson did not and could not say all that was in his mind, we can read between the lines that he had no use for the theories of ministers, and would obviously have liked to have said in brutal English, "Here I am, gentlemen, do not encumber me with your departmental jargon of palpable nothings. You continue to trust in Providence; give me your untrammelled instructions as to what you wish me to do, and leave the rest to me." Here is another letter from Lord Radstock: "No official news have been received from Lord Nelson since July 27th. He then hinted that he might go to Ireland; nevertheless, we have no tidings of him on that coast. I confess I begin to be fearful that he has worried his mind up to that pitch, that he cannot bear the idea of showing himself again to the world until he shall have struck some blow, and that it is this hope that is now making him run about, half frantic, in quest of adventure. That such unparalleled perseverance and true valour should thus evaporate in air is truly melancholy."
What balderdash to write about a man ablaze with reasoning energy and genius of the highest order! The noble Lord is disillusioned on his arrival in Portsmouth, and writes again in another a strain: "He (Nelson) was received in town almost as a conqueror, and was followed round by the people with huzzas. So much for a great and good name most nobly and deservedly acquired"! The previous letter indicates the mind of a fireside colossus, and shows how dangerously a big man's reputation may be at the mercy of a little one or a coterie of them. One can only describe them as portentous human snipes, whose aggressive mediocrity spreads like an attack of infectious fever, until the awful will of Heaven, for the safety of humanity, lays hands on their power for mischief. The popularity of a public servant is always in danger of a tragical end if he lives long enough. One slip of inevitable misfortune seals his doom when the pendulum swings against him. And it is generally brought by a rhetorical smiling Judas who can sway a capricious public. The more distinguished a popular man may be, the greater is the danger that the fame and reputation for which he strove may be swiftly laid low.
The gallant and strenuous patriot whose fame will pass on to distant ages is now summoned to fulfil his destiny. He owns that he needs one more rest, but his "duty was to go forth." He "expected to lay his weary bones quiet for the winter," but he is "proud of the call," and all gallant hearts were proud to own him as their chieftain. He bargains for one of the Victory's anchors to be at the bows before he arrives at Portsmouth. All his belongings are sent off on the 5th October. Lord Barham, an aged man of eighty-two years, asks him with pride to select his own officers. "Choose yourself, my Lord. The same spirit actuates the whole profession; you cannot choose wrong." He told the Cabinet what was wanted in the "annihilation of the enemy," and that "only numbers could annihilate"—presumably ships and men. The conversations he had with the authorities and the spoken words and letters sent to his friends are ablaze with inspiring, sharp-cut sentences. But those who had intimate knowledge of his tender side felt he was ill at ease, and not free from heartache at the prospect of parting. I think, in connection with this, Lady Hamilton's version of what passed between them when he was walking the "quarterdeck" in his garden may be true in substance, as he was still madly in love with her, and she knew how to wheedle him into a conversation and to use words that might serve a useful purpose if need be. Nor were her scruples so delicate as to prevent suitable additions being made to suit any emergency that might occur.
Her account is that she saw he was looking downcast, and she told him so. He smiled, and then said, "No, I am as happy as possible"; he was surrounded by his family, his health was better since he had "been on shore, and he would not give sixpence to call the King his uncle." She replied that she did not believe him, that she knew he was longing to get at the combined fleets, that he considered them as his property, that he would be miserable if any man but himself did the business, and that he ought to have them as the price and reward of his two years' long watching and his hard chase. "Nelson," said she, "however we may lament your absence, offer your services; they will be accepted, and you will gain a quiet heart by it; you will have a glorious victory, and then you may return here and be happy." He looked at her with tears in his eyes, and said, "Brave Emma! Good Emma! If there were more Emmas, there would be more Nelsons."
It puts a heavy strain upon our credulity to believe that such words were ever used by Nelson, even though we know that he was so hopelessly enamoured of this untamed creature. That he needed to be coaxed into offering his services or that he ever demurred at accepting the distinguished honours the Government had conferred upon him may be regarded as one of Emma's efforts at triumphant self-glorification and easy dramatic fibbing. She was ever striving to thrust her patriotic ardour forward in some vulgar form or other, and this occasion gave her a chance that could not be resisted. The day before Nelson's departure for Portsmouth the scalding tears flowed from her eyes continuously, she could neither eat nor drink, and her lapses into swooning at the table were terrible. These performances do not bear out the tale of Nelson's spontaneous and gushing outburst in the garden at Merton of her bravery and goodness in urging him to "go forth." It is possible that her resolution and fortitude could not stand the responsibility of pressing him to undertake a task that might be fatal to himself and foredoomed to failure. In that case she does not bear herself like a heroine, and strengthens the suspicion, as we have said, that the story of pleading with Nelson to offer his services is an impudent fabrication. Minto says that the tears and swooning is a strange picture, and assures him as before that nothing can be more pure and ardent than this flame; and she might have added that they had in reality exchanged souls.
Napoleon, in conversing on one occasion with his brother Lucien about one of his love affairs, said "that Madame Walewska's soul was as beautiful as her face." In nearly all his letters to Lady Hamilton, Nelson plunged into expressions of love abandonment only different from those sent by Napoleon to Josephine when he was commander-in-chief of the army of Italy. Neither of these extraordinary men could do anything by halves, and we are not left in doubt as to the seventh heaven of happiness it would have been to the less flowery-worded sailor had he been given the least encouragement to pour out his adoration of Emma's goodness and beauty. He would have excelled Napoleon's picture of Madame Walewska. Amidst the many cares that surrounded these last active days, when the dockyards were humming with the work of getting his ships refitted so that they might be put quickly into commission, he grudged every moment of forced separation from her while he was in consultation with the Government and attending to his own private preparations, which were sedulously attended to. Nothing of moment seems to have been left to chance. Not even the coffin that Captain Hallowell had given him was overlooked, for he called to give instructions to the people who had it in safe keeping, and gave them instructions to have the history of it engraved on the lid, as he might want it on his return, which is further evidence that he was permanently impressed with the fate that awaited him.
The story of this strange incident of the coffin is this: After the battle of the Nile a portion of the Orient's mainmast was drifting about, and was picked up by order of Captain Hallowell of the Swiftsure, who had it made into a coffin. It was handsomely finished, and sent to Admiral Nelson with the following letter:—
Sir,—I have taken the liberty of presenting you a coffin made from the mainmast of Orient, that when you have finished your military career in this world, you may be buried in one of your trophies. But that that period may be far distant is the earnest wish of your sincere friend, Benjamin Hallowell.
Nelson received the weird gift in good spirits, and had it placed in his cabin. It was hardly a pleasant piece of furniture for his visitors to be confronted with, so he was prevailed upon to have it put below until it was required. A few more raging battles, and a few more years of momentous anxieties, and the prodigious hero was to become its occupant. It seems to have been landed and put in charge of a firm of upholsterers.
Before leaving his home he went to the bedside where his child Horatia lay sleeping, and offered up a heart-stirring prayer that those who loved him should be a guardian spirit to her, and that the God he believed in should have her in His holy keeping. On the 13th September, 1805, he writes in his private diary:—
At half-past ten, drove from dear, dear Merton, where I left all which I hold dear in this world, to go to serve my King and country. May the great God whom I adore enable me to fulfil the expectations of my country; and if it is His good pleasure that I should return, my thanks will never cease being offered up to the throne of His mercy. If it is good Providence to cut short my days upon earth, I bow with the greatest submission, relying that He will protect those so dear to me that I may leave behind. His will be done. Amen, Amen.
No more simple, fervent, and touching appeal and resignation to the will of Him Who governs all things has been seen in the English language. It is quite unorthodox in its construction, and impresses us with the idea that he is already realizing the bitterness of death, and that he is in the presence of a great Mystery, speaking to his own parting soul. The desire to live is there, but he does not ignore the almost unutterable submission of "Thy will be done."
Nelson joined the Victory at Portsmouth on the morning of the 14th September, and met with a great public ovation. He tells Captain Hardy, as he was being rowed to the Victory, that he had "their huzzas when he landed" (after his prolonged period in commission), "but now," he proudly remarked, "I have their hearts." His send-off was magnificent. The contagious flow of tears, the shouting of blessings, and the fervent petitions that the God of battles should give him the victory over the enemies of human suffering and liberty were symptoms of admiration and gratitude which went hot into his blood as he sat in his barge, the object of reverence. And with a calm air of conscious power he acknowledged the honour that was showered upon him by baring his head and bowing gracefully his thanks. It was manifestly his day of paradise, and with the plaudits still ringing in his ears the Victory's anchor was weighed on the following day, and he sailed from St. Helen's Roads to the great conflict and victory for which he panted, and to the doom that awaited him.
He experienced foul winds until he passed Cape Finisterre, and on the 28th September he joined the fleet of twenty-nine of the line. The 29th September was the anniversary of his forty-seventh year. He says: "The reception I met with on joining the fleet caused the sweetest sensation of my life. The officers who came on board to welcome my return forgot my rank as commander-in-chief in the enthusiasm with which they greeted me. As soon as these emotions were past, I laid before them the plan I had previously arranged for attacking the enemy; and it was not only my pleasure to find it generally approved, but clearly perceived and understood." In a further communication he explains to them the "Nelson touch," and all agree that it must succeed, and that he is surrounded with friends. Then he adds: "Some may be Judas's, but the majority are certainly pleased at the prospect of my commanding them."
These are joyous days for him, which are marked by the absence of any recorded misgivings. His mind is full of making preparations in every detail to cope with the advent of Villeneuve from Cadiz and for the plan of attack, of which a long memorandum was circulated to the fleet. He had planned the form of attack at Trafalgar during his stay at home, and some time before leaving Merton he confided it to Lord Sidmouth. He told him "that Rodney broke the enemy's line in one place, and that he would break it in two." One of the Nelson "touches" was to "close with a Frenchman, and to out-manoeuvre a Russian," and this method of terrific onslaught was to be one of the devices that he had in store for the French at Trafalgar, and which ended fatally for himself. But it gave the enemy a staggering blow, from which they never recovered so long as the action lasted. In the General Orders he says: "Captains are to look to their particular line as a rallying point, but in case signals cannot be seen or clearly understood, no captain can do wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy."
The feeling against Sir Robert Calder for not having beaten or forced another battle on the allied fleets in July did not abate. The public were out for impeachment, and the Government did nothing to discourage it; and when Nelson was on the point of leaving England the First Lord instructed him to convey to Calder the Government's condemnation of his evident negligence or incapacity. They gave him permission to ask for the inquiry, but should he not do so, it would be ordered. Nelson wrote to Barham that he had delivered the message to Sir Robert, and that it would doubtless give his Lordship pleasure to learn that an inquiry was just what the Vice-Admiral was anxious to have, and that he had already sent a letter by the Nautilus to say so, but that he (Nelson) had detained it. Nelson, in his goodness of heart, urged Sir Robert to remain until after the action, the result of which would inevitably change the feeling of the Government and the public in his favour, and he could then, without any fear, demand an inquiry. Sir Robert was so crushed with the charge hanging over him, that he insisted on being allowed to proceed to England at once, and Nelson, to ease the humiliation and suffering he was passing through, sent him off in his ninety-gun ship, instead of a frigate. The inquiry was held in due course, and judgment given against him. The finding is, in our opinion, based more on prejudice than on any fault he committed, and as to "committing an error of judgment," it is always difficult to know what is an error of judgment in circumstances such as he was confronted with. In any case, it is evident that the Government were terrified of the effect that public opinion would have on themselves if they failed to take steps to appease it. We think the Government would have been serving their country better by keeping this unfortunate officer in active service when its fleet was on the verge of a life-or-death struggle for naval supremacy than by dispensing with his services, which they had thought fit to retain from July to October. Nelson's attitude was the more patriotic and noble, and under such circumstances the verdict, however mild, was bound to be given against the man whose heart they had broken because they were afraid of public opinion. Nelson was a better judge than they. Discreet reprimand, combined with a few kindly words of encouragement, was the proper course at such a time, when every man and ship was so essential.
On a previous occasion, when a "seventy-four" had stranded, the officer whose skill and efforts had refloated her was told by Nelson that he had spoken favourably of him to the Admiralty. The officer showed in suitable terms his gratitude, but added that he did not regard what he had done as meriting any notice or praise. The Admiral pointed out that a battle might easily be lost by the absence of a line-of-battle ship. When Nelson conveyed the ill-considered and stupid instructions of the Government to Sir Robert Calder to return home to be court-martialled, and the latter replied that his letter "to do so cut him to the soul and that his heart was broken," Nelson was so overcome with sympathy for Calder that he sacrificed his own opinions already expressed, and also took the risk of bringing upon himself the displeasure of the Comptroller of the Navy by giving the unfortunate man permission to proceed home in a vessel that would have been so valuable an asset to his fleet. This worthy act, had he lived and the battle of Trafalgar been drawn or lost, might have laid him open to impeachment. Nelson's fine courage and sense of proportion when he thought an injustice or undue severity was being imposed was never allowed to be trifled with by any official, no matter how high or subordinate his position might be, and his contempt for men whom he knew were miserable cocksparrow amateurs was openly avowed.
Whatever the consequences, he would have sooner lost a victory than have gained one by lending himself to an act that was to injure or break his brother in arms. Calder left the fleet a few days before the action, and when it began Nelson remarked to Hardy, "What would poor Sir Robert Calder give to be with us now!" Even on the eve of a great encounter the stress of preparation did not dim his sympathy for the afflicted man, who, on more than one occasion, had allowed envy to rule his conduct towards him. After the battle of St. Vincent, for instance, Calder, in conversation with Jervis, criticized Nelson's action in departing from the plan of attack laid down by the Admiral. Jervis admitted it to be a breach, and added "if ever Calder did the same thing under similar circumstances, he would forgive him."
Nelson knew Calder was envious of his growing fame, but this did not prevent him from acting as though he had always been a loyal friend. On the morning of the 19th October, 1805, the signal was passed from ship to ship acting as lookouts to the main fleet that the combined fleet were putting to sea, and it was soon discovered that their force consisted of eighteen French line-of-battle ships, seven large frigates, and two brigs. The Spanish numbered fifteen sail of the line. The British had twenty-seven sail of the line and four frigates, so that Nelson was outnumbered by five of the line, three frigates, and two brigs. The whole of the allied fleet did not get clear of the port until the 20th. The commander-in-chief was Villeneuve, and his obvious intention was to get the Straits open and, by a cunning evasion of the British fleet, make a dash through. His elusive tactics had hitherto been skilfully performed, but the British Admiral, always on the alert, anticipated that an effort would again be made to cheat him of the yearning hope of his heart, and had mentally arranged how every contingency should be coped with to prevent escape and to get to grips with the enemy. "I will give them such a shaking as they never before experienced," and at least he was prepared to lay down his life in the attempt.
It is pretty certain that, after all his ships had got into the open sea, Villeneuve's intention was to see how the land lay as to the British strength, and his manoeuvring indicated that instructions had been given to hoodwink the British and slip through the Straits of Gibraltar; but seeing that the entrance was cut off for the moment, he headed westward, possibly to mislead, but always with the intention of getting into the Mediterranean. When this information was signalled by Blackwood, instructions were sent back to him that the Admiral relied on the enemy being kept in sight. Here is a letter to Lady Hamilton, dated the 19th October, 1805:—
CADIZ, BEARING E.SE. 50 MILES.
MY DEAREST BELOVED EMMA: THE DEAR FRIEND OF MY BOSOM,—The signal has been made that the enemy's combined fleet are coming out of port. We have very little wind, so that I have no hopes of seeing them before to-morrow. May the God of battles crown my endeavours with success; at all events, I will take care that my name shall ever be most dear to you and Horatia, both of whom I love as much as my own life. And as my last writing before the battle will be to you, so I hope in God that I shall live to finish my letter after the battle. May Heaven bless you, prays your
This was found unsigned on his desk. These are the last lines he wrote to the woman he called his "wife in the sight of God." There is none of the robust assurance of blazing deeds that he has in store for the enemy which characterize some of his earlier letters to Emma, nor is there any craving for continued existence or for extinction. But who can read this melancholy farewell without being impressed with the feeling that there is a subdued restraint to avoid uttering his thoughts on inevitable fate and eternal sleep, lest it gives anxiety and disheartens the woman he loved so well?
On the same day he wrote an affectionate letter to his daughter, which is clearly intended as a supplementary outpouring of a full heart to the mother whom he knew would have to read it. The tone and wording is what a father might have written to a girl of fifteen instead of five. There is a complete absence of those dainty, playful touches that would delight a child of her age. In reality, it rather points to the idea that it was intended not only as a further farewell to mother and child, but as an historical epistle and a legacy to Horatia which she would read in other days in connection with the great battle in which he was to be engaged only a few hours after he had written it.
MY DEAREST ANGEL,—I was made happy by the pleasure of receiving your letter of September the 19th, and I rejoice to hear you are so very good a girl, and love my dear Lady Hamilton, who most dearly loves you. Give her a kiss for me. The combined fleets of the enemy are now reported to be coming out of Cadiz; and therefore I answer your letter, my dearest Horatia, to mark to you that you are ever uppermost in my thoughts. I shall be sure of your prayers for my safety, conquest, and speedy return to dear Merton and our dearest good Lady Hamilton.
Receive, my dearest Horatia, the affectionate blessing of your Father,
NELSON AND BRONTE.
The importunities of Horatia's mother were continuously being forced upon Nelson in one way or another, but he seems to have stood firm, in an apologetic way, to the instructions laid down by himself, that no women were to go to sea aboard his ship; for, having been a party to the embargo, it would have been impossible for him to make her an exception. He anticipates, as her other lovers had done, that she can be very angry, like Horatia, when she cannot have her own way, but he soothingly says that he knows his own dear Emma, if she applies her reason, will see that he is right. He playfully adds an addendum that "Horatia is like her mother, she will have her own way, or kick up the devil of a dust." He reminds Emma that she is a "sharer of his glory," which settles the question of her being allowed to sail with him, and from encountering the heavy gales and liquid hills that are experienced off Toulon week after week. He warns the lady that it would kill her and himself to witness it. Emma was too devoted to all the pleasures ashore to risk losing her life in any such uncomfortable fashion at sea, so the project was abandoned, if it was ever seriously contemplated.
This astute actress knew where to touch Nelson's weak spot, and that it would send him into a frenzy of love to think of her yearning to be beside him. She would know that the rules of the Service prohibited, except under special circumstances, even the highest in rank from having their wives sail with them, and that the rule would apply more rigidly to herself, who was not Nelson's wife. She knew, in fact, that her request would flatter him, and that she would be compensated by receiving a whirlwind of devotion in reply. After the Gulf of Lyons days, no further request appears to have been made of that kind.
The combined fleets had been dodging each other on the 20th, light westerly winds and calms prevailing. At daylight on the 21st the belligerent fleets were within twelve miles of each other. Nelson was on deck early, and at 7.40 a.m. made the signal "To form the order of sailing," and "To prepare for battle." Then the signal was made to "Bear up," the Victory and Royal Sovereign leading the way in two lines; Nelson took the weather line with his ships, and the other division followed, but the wind being light, many had barely steerage way. Fourteen vessels followed Collingwood, who was to attack the enemy's rear, while Nelson slashed into the van and centre. Villeneuve, seeing by the British formation that his number was up and that he would have to give battle, manoeuvred to keep Cadiz open, which was about twenty miles NE. of him, but the wind, being light, made it as difficult for the French Commander-in-Chief to carry out the disposition as it was for the quick-witted British Commander to prevent it. Hence the development was a lazy process, and prevented, as varying circumstances always do, any rigid plan being adhered to. Had there been a fresh breeze before the battle commenced, the chances are that the French would have secured a position that would have enabled more of the crippled ships to get into Cadiz, but even this is doubtful, as only a fluke of wind could have saved them from the strategy of the British Commander-in-Chief before the fighting began. Between eleven and twelve o'clock on the 21st October every humanly possible, detailed arrangement had been completed. Each captain knew that, so far as it was possible, he was to follow where his admiral and vice-admiral led. The spirits of all those who manned the fleet were high of hope, and the inspiring spirit said he could do no more.
Nelson then went to his cabin and on his knees wrote a prayer that throbbed and will continue to throb through the universe. It exhales the spirit of bravery, and triumphant assurance of the eternal justice of the cause for which he is about to sacrifice himself, for a sombre document it is; but the soul that is in it is imperishable, and who can peruse it without vividly picturing the writer kneeling before the Omnipotent, pleading for his country's cause, and offering himself piously as a willing sacrifice!
May the great God, whom I worship, grant to my country, and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious victory, and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity, after victory, be the predominant feature in the British fleet. For myself individually, I commit my life to Him that made me; and may His blessing alight on my endeavours for serving my country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen, Amen, Amen.
Then, as though apprehension of the inevitable passing was growing, the thought of the woman who is the mother of his child, and for whom he had an unquenchable love, blinds him to all sense of propriety. It puts a severe strain on our imagination to realize how a man could composedly write such a request on the verge of the greatest naval conflict in history. It is dated "21st of October, 1805, in sight of the combined fleets of France and Spain, distant ten miles":—
Whereas the eminent services of Emma Hamilton, widow of the Right Honourable Sir William Hamilton, have been of the very greatest service to my King and country to my knowledge, without ever receiving any reward from either our King and country; First, that she obtained the King of Spain's letter, in 1796, to his brother, the King of Naples, acquainting him of his intention to declare war against England, from which letter the Ministry sent our orders to the then Sir John Jervis, to strike a stroke, if opportunity offered, against either the arsenals of Spain or her fleets. That neither of these was done is not the fault of Lady Hamilton; the opportunity might have been offered. Secondly: The British fleet under my command could never have returned the second time to Egypt, had not Lady Hamilton's influence with the Queen of Naples caused letters to be wrote to the Governor of Syracuse, that he was to encourage the fleets being supplied with everything, should they put into any port in Sicily. We put into Syracuse, received every supply; went to Egypt, and destroyed the French fleet. Could I have rewarded these services, I would not now call upon my country; but as that has not been in my power, I leave Emma, Lady Hamilton, therefore a legacy to my King and country, that they will give her an ample provision to maintain her rank in life. I also leave to the beneficence of my country my adopted daughter, Horatia Nelson Thompson; and I desire she will use in future the name of Nelson only. These are the only favours I ask of my King and country at this moment when I am going to fight their battle. May God bless my King and country, and all those I hold dear! My relations, it is needless to mention, they will, of course, be amply provided for.
NELSON AND BRONTE.
It is of little importance whether this codicil was written at the same time as the prayer or a couple of hours before; that neither adds to nor detracts from the object of it. No definite opinion of the time is given. Blackwood and Hardy, as witnesses, would know. In any case it is an extraordinary document, and indicates unusual mental control of which few human beings are possessed. His mind must have been saturated with thoughts of the woman when the great battle was within a few minutes of commencing. Early in the morning, when he was walking the poop and cabin fixings and odds and ends were being removed, he gave stern instructions to "take care of his guardian angel," meaning her portrait, which he regarded in the light of a mascot to him. He also wore a miniature of her next his heart. Unless Captain Hardy and Captain Blackwood and others to whom he confided his love potions were different from the hearty, unconventional seamen of the writer's early sea-life, a banquet of interesting epithets could have been left to us which might have shocked the severely decorous portion of a public who assume a monopoly of inherent grace but do not understand the delightful simple dialect of the old-time sailor-men.
There can be small doubt that Nelson's comrades had many a joke in private about his weird and to them unnecessarily troublesome love wailings, which would be all the more irksome when they and he had serious business in hand. Poor Sir Thomas Troubridge appears to have been the only one to have dealt frankly with him about carrying his infatuation to such lengths—especially at a time when the public service was in need of his undivided attention—and Nelson never had a kindly feeling towards him afterwards. This gallant officer and loyal friend was in command of the Blenheim (seventy-four guns) when she and the Java (twenty-three guns) foundered with all hands near the island of Rodriguez, in the East Indies, on the 1st February, 1807. Nelson harboured a childish bitterness against Admiral Troubridge because of his plain speaking, and especially after the latter was appointed a Lord of the Admiralty. He always believed the "hidden hand" to be that of his former friend, to whom he delighted at one time to give the term "Nonpareil." In a letter to a friend he says: "I have a sharp eye, and almost think I can see it. No, poor fellow," he continues, "I hope I do him injustice; he surely cannot forget my kindness to him," He boasts of how he spoke to St. Vincent, the former "Nonpareil." In another eloquent passage he complains that Troubridge refuses to endorse his recommendations of officers for promotion, that he has been so rebuffed that his spirits are broken and the great Troubridge has cowed him (this, of course, in derision), and if he asked for anything more he would not get it. He would never forget it. No wonder he was not well. The Admiralty are "beasts" for not allowing him to come to London, which would only deprive him of a few days' comfort and happiness, and they have his hearty prayers. He continues in the same ludicrous strain, "I have a letter from Troubridge urging me to wear flannel shirts, as though he cared for me. He hopes that I shall go and have walks ashore, as the weather is now fine." "I suppose he is laughing at me, but never mind." He suffers from sea-sickness and toothache, and "none of them care a damn about my sufferings," and so on. These misdirected outbursts of feverish antipathy to poor Troubridge were frequent, and always inconceivably comical as well as distressingly peevish. But behind it all there was a consciousness of unequalled power which every one who knew him recognized, and they therefore patiently bore with his weaknesses, trying as they sometimes were.
Lord St. Vincent believed, and stated to Nelson, that the only other man who possessed the same power of infusing into others the same spirit as his own was Troubridge, and no doubt this innocent praise of a noble and gallant sailor rankled in Nelson's mind, and was the beginning of the jealousy that grew into hate. He could not brook any one being put on an equality with himself, and he clung tenaciously, though generously, to this idea of authority and superiority when he requested in his last dying gasp that he should not be superseded.
After signing what is called the codicil to his will, Captains Hardy and Blackwood joined him on the poop to receive his instructions. He was calmly absorbed with the enemy's plan of defence and his own of attack. He asked Blackwood what he would consider a victory, and the latter replied, "Considering the disposition of both fleets, he thought fourteen captures would be a fine result." Nelson said he would not be satisfied with less than twenty, and that nothing short of annihilation was his object. Soon afterwards he gave orders to Mr. Pasco to make the memorable signal that
ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN TO DO HIS DUTY,
which sent a thrill of fiery enthusiasm throughout the whole fleet. Then the signal for "Close action" went up, and the cheering was renewed, which created a remarkable effect. Collingwood, whose attention was wholly on a Spanish three-decker that he had selected to engage, is reported to have been irritated, and spontaneously expressed the wish that "Nelson would cease signalling, as they all knew what to do."
At noon the French ship, the Fougeux, fired the first shot of the battle. The belligerent admirals saluted in the good old pious style, like professional boxers shaking hands before the attempt to knock each other out, and in a few more minutes were engaged in deadly conflict, hurling death at each other. Nelson, in his courageous melancholy way, confident of his own powers and trusting reverently in the continuance of the lavish bounty of God, resigned his fate to Him who had given him the opportunity of doing his duty. The conspicuous splendour of the decorations which he wore on the breast of his admiral's frocker was apprehensively looked upon by his comrades, who loved him with touching loyalty. They muttered their disappointment to each other, but shrank from hurting his feelings by warning him of the danger of the sharpshooters, to whom he would be a target, remembering how he had sharply replied to some anxious soul who on a previous occasion had cautioned him with regard to his prominent appearance, "that in honour he had gained his orders, and in honour he would die with them."
The battle quickly developed into a carnage. The Bucentaure had found her range soon after twelve o'clock, when some of the shots went over the Victory. Blackwood was at this time ordered to rejoin his ship. He shook hands with his chief, and in some brief parting words expressed the "hope that he would soon return to the Victory to find him well and in possession of twenty prizes"; and Nelson is reported to have calmly answered, "God bless you, Blackwood, I shall never speak to you again." His habit was to refer to death with eager frankness, and as though he were in love with it, without in the least showing any lack of alertness or detraction from the hazardous objects he had set himself to fulfil. His faith in the powerful aid of the Omnipotent was as unvarying in his sphere of warfare as was Cromwell's when he had the stern realities of human unruliness to steady and chastise. Nelson, like the latter, had in his peculiar way a deep-rooted awe and fear of God, which must have made him oblivious to all other fear. The magnificent fellow never showed greater mastery of the science of strategy, nor did he ever scan with greater vigilance the manner of carrying out the creation of his genius. Collingwood, who was first in the thick of the fight, set his heart throbbing with pride and admiration when he observed the Royal Sovereign dash through the lines of the enemy, spreading devastation and death with unerring judgment. "See," said Nelson to Captain Blackwood, "how that noble fellow, Collingwood, takes his ship into action!" Then he paused for a moment, and continued, "How I envy him!" And as though the spirits of the two men were in communion with each other, Collingwood, knowing that the Commander-in-Chief's eager eye was fixed upon him in fond admiration, called out to the flag-captain near him, "Rotherham, what would Nelson give to be here?"
One of those fine human touches of brotherhood which Nelson knew so well how to handle with his faultless tact had occurred the day before. Collingwood and some officers paid a visit to the Victory for the purpose of receiving any instructions he might have to give. Nelson asked Collingwood where his captain was, and when he replied that they were not on friendly terms, Nelson sharply answered, "Not on good terms," and forthwith gave orders for a boat to be sent for Rotherham; and when he came aboard he took him to Collingwood and said, "Look! there is the enemy, shake hands," and they renewed their friendship by gratefully carrying out his wishes. But for this, perhaps we should have been cheated of knowing the charming anecdote, which denotes the veneration the two old friends had for each other.
There is no need to make any apology for this digression, for it is to record one more of the many acts of wisdom and tenderness that were so natural to this man of massive understanding. The incalculable results that he was destined to accomplish may well be allowed to obscure any human weakness that sadly beset him.
Nelson, with blithe courage, sailed right into the centre of the French fleet, which in disorder surrounded their Commander-in-Chief's ship, his intention being to capture her and take Villeneuve prisoner. Never a gun was fired from the Victory, although many of her spars, sails, and her rigging had suffered severely, until she had rounded as close as it was possible under the stern of the Bucentaure and got into position. Then a terrific broadside was let fly from her double-shotted guns, which raked the Bucentaure fore and aft, and the booming of cannon continued until her masts and hull were a complete wreck. Many guns were dismounted and four hundred men killed. The Victory then swung off and left the doomed Bucentaure to be captured by the Conqueror, and Villeneuve was taken prisoner. After clearing the Bucentaure, the Victory fouled the Redoubtable, and proceeded to demolish her hull with the starboard guns, and with her port guns she battered the Santissima Trinidad, until she was a mass of wreckage, and the Africa and Neptune forced her to surrender. Meanwhile, the Victory kept hammering with her starboard guns at the Redoubtable until her lower deck cannon were put out of action. Then she used her upper deck small guns and muskets from aloft. Nelson was too humane a man to use this method of warfare from the lower tops, and too practical, lest the ropes and sails should be damaged. The writer is of opinion that he was wrong in this view, as was clearly shown by the deadly execution the French musketeers did from aloft before their masts were shot away by the British big artillery. It can never be wrong to outmatch an enemy in the methods they employ, no matter what form they take. Although the victory was all on the British side at Trafalgar, it would have been greater and with less loss of life on our side had musketeers been employed in the same way as the French and Spanish employed them. The men on the upper deck of the Victory were shot down by these snipers without having an equal chance of retaliating. The Redoubtable's mizzen-top was full of sharpshooters when the two ships fell alongside of each other, but only two were left there when Nelson was shot and dropped on his left side on the deck a foot or two from Captain Hardy. The Frenchman who shot him was killed himself by a shot fired from the Victory's deck, which knocked his head to pieces. His comrade was also shot dead while trying to escape down the rigging, and fell on the Redoubtable's poop. The other sharpshooters had been previously killed by the musketry from the Victory's deck.
Nelson told Hardy, when he expressed the hope that he was not seriously hurt, that "they had done for him at last, and that he felt his backbone was broken." He was hit on the left shoulder; the ball had pierced his left lung. The snipers from the tops of the other enemy ships killed a large number of the Victory's officers and men who were on deck. The French made an attempt to board, but were thrown back in confusion and with tremendous loss. The instinct of domination and the unconquerable combativeness of our race is always more fiercely courageous when pressed to a point which causes others to take to their heels or surrender.
It was not an exaggeration on the part of the French and Spanish to declare that the British sailors and soldiers were not ordinary men but devils, when the real tussle for mastery began, and when they were even believed to be beaten. The French and Spanish conclusions were right then, and the ruthless Germans, stained with unspeakable crimes, should know they are right now, for they have had many chances in recent days of realizing the power of the recuperating spirit they are up against, just at a time when they have become imbued with the idea that they have beaten our forces on land and destroyed our ships and murdered their crews at sea. The Kaiser and his advisers, military and naval, have made the German people pay dearly for the experiment of stopping our supplies by sea, for the loss of life by the sinking of their own submarines must have been enormous. But only those to whom they belong will ever know that they have not returned, and that they must have been sent to the bottom of the sea.
We can only judge by written records and authoritative paintings or prints of the period what the naval battles of the beginning of the last century were like. But it is only those who have studied minutely the naval battles of St. Vincent, the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar who can depict the awful character and thrilling nature of these ocean conflicts.
While the author was serving as an apprentice aboard a sailing vessel during the Prussian-Danish war in 1864 a dense fog came on, and continued the whole of one night. When it cleared up the next forenoon we found that the vessel had been sailed right into the centre of the Danish fleet, which had defeated the Prussians and Austrians off Heligoland. There were other merchantmen there, and the cheering as we passed each of the Danish warships was hearty and long, while they gracefully acknowledged by saluting with their flags. I am quite sure there were few British seamen who would not have gladly volunteered to serve in the Danish navy against the Prussians, so universal was their bitter dislike to the Hun bullies who had set themselves to steal by force the possessions to which they had not an atom of right. The sight of these fine frigates and line-of-battle ships manoeuvring to come to grips with their cowardly antagonists who were assailing their national rights has been revivified during a long course of study of Nelson's naval warfare, and makes the awful vision of Trafalgar appear as it really was, and makes me wish that I were gifted with the art of words so that I might describe it in all its gruesome wreckage and magnitude, as the recollection of the majestic sight of the Danish ships before they even went into action makes it appear to me.
My mind's eye pictures one after another of the French and Spanish ships surrendering, the hurricane of cheers that followed their defeat, and the pathetic anxiety of the dying chieftain for the safety of Captain Hardy, who was now in charge of the flagship acting as commander-in-chief. Hardy is long in coming; he fears that he may be killed, and calls out, "Will no one bring Hardy to me?" At last the gallant captain sees an opportunity of leaving the deck, for the Victory is shielded by two ships from the enemy's gunfire. "Well, Hardy," says Nelson to him, "how goes the battle?" "Very well, my Lord," says Hardy; "fourteen or fifteen of the enemy's ships are in our possession." "That is well," said Nelson, "but I bargained for twenty"; and then followed the memorable order, "Anchor, Hardy, anchor." "If I live," he says, "we will anchor"; and in answer to Hardy's supposition that Collingwood should take charge, he impulsively resents the suggestion and expresses the hope that this will not happen while he lives, and urges again on Hardy that the fleet may be anchored, and asks him to make the signal. He hopes that none of our ships have struck, and his devoted friend reassures him that none have and never will. He commissions Hardy to give "dear Lady Hamilton his hair and other belongings," and asks that his "body shall not be thrown overboard." Hardy is then asked in childlike simplicity to kiss him, and the rough, fearless captain with deep emotion kneels and reverently kisses Nelson on the cheek. He then thanks God that he has done his duty, and makes the solemn thoughts that are troubling his last moments manifest in words by informing Doctor Scott, with a vital sailorly turn of speech, that "he had not been a great sinner," and then bids him remember that he leaves Lady Hamilton and his daughter Horatia as a legacy to his country, and that Horatia is never to be forgotten.
Even at this distance of time one cannot help regretting that nature's power did not sustain him to see the total debacle of the enemy fleets. He knew that he had triumphed, and that his task had ended fatally to himself, but his sufferings did not prevent his spirit sallying to and fro, making him feel the joy of living and wish that he might linger but a little longer. He was struck down at a critical stage of the battle, though there was never any doubt as to how it would end, thanks to the adroit skill and bravery of Collingwood and those who served under him. It is a happy thought to know that our hero, even when the shadows were closing round him, had the pleasure of hearing from the lips of the faithful Hardy that fifteen of the enemy ships had struck and not one of ours had lowered a flag. But how much more gladsome would the passing have been had he lived to know that the battle had ended with the capture of nine French vessels and ten Spanish, nineteen in all. He died at 4.30 p.m. on the 21st October, 1805, just when the battle was flickering to an end. Villeneuve had given himself up, and was a prisoner on board the Mars. Dumanoir had bolted with four of the line, after committing a decidedly cowardly act by firing into the captured Spanish ships, the object being to put them out of the possession of the British. They could not succeed in this without killing large numbers of their allies, and this was all they were successful in doing. It was a cruel, clumsy crime, which the Spanish rightly resented but never succeeded in avenging.
Meanwhile the Spanish Admiral Gravina, who had lost an arm, took command of the dilapidated combined fleets, and fled into Cadiz with five French and five Spanish ships, and by 5 p.m. the thundering of the guns had ceased, and the sea all round was a scene of death, dismasted ships, and awful wreckage. The Rear-Admiral Dumanoir was sailing gaily towards the refuge of Rochefort or Ferrol when he came into view of, and ultimately had to fight on the 4th November, a squadron under Sir Richard Strachan. Dumanoir and his men are said to have fought with great fierceness, but his ships were beaten, captured, and taken in a battered condition, and subsequently sent to England, so that now twenty-three out of the thirty-three that came out of Cadiz with all the swagger of confidence and superiority to match themselves against Nelson and his fiery coadjutors were tragically accounted for.
Collingwood was now the commander-in-chief of the British fleet, and to him fell the task of notifying the victory. I insert the documents in full.
LONDON GAZETTE EXTRAORDINARY.
ADMIRALTY OFFICE, 6th November, 1805.
Despatches, of which the following are copies, were received at the Admiralty this day, at one o'clock a.m. from Vice-Admiral Collingwood, Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty's ships and vessels off Cadiz.
"EURYALUS", OFF CAPE TRAFALGAR, October 22, 1805.
SIR,—The ever-to-be-lamented death of Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, who, in the late conflict with the enemy, fell in the hour of victory, leaves me the duty of informing my lords commissioners of the Admiralty, that on the 19th instant, it was communicated to the Commander-in-Chief, from the ships watching the motions of the enemy in Cadiz, that the combined fleet had put to sea. As they sailed with light winds westerly, his Lordship concluded their destination was the Mediterranean, and immediately made all sail for the Straits' entrance, with the British squadron, consisting of twenty-seven ships, three of them sixty-fours, where his Lordship was informed, by Captain Blackwood (whose vigilance in watching and giving notice of the enemy's movements has been highly meritorious), that they had not yet passed the Straits.
On Monday, the 21st instant, at daylight, when Cape Trafalgar bore E. by S. about seven leagues, the enemy was discovered six or seven miles to the eastward, the wind about west, and very light; the Commander-in-Chief immediately made the signal for the fleet to bear up in two columns, as they are formed in the order of sailing; a mode of attack his Lordship had previously directed, to avoid the delay and inconvenience in forming a line of battle in the usual manner. The enemy's line consisted of thirty-three ships (of which eighteen were French and fifteen Spanish, commanded in chief by Admiral Villeneuve, the Spaniards under the direction of Gravina), bore with their heads to the northwards and formed their line of battle with great closeness and correctness. But as the mode of attack was unusual, so the structure of their line was new; it formed a crescent convexing to leeward; so that in leading down to their centre I had both their van and rear abaft the beam before the fire opened; every alternate ship was about a cable's length to windward of her second ahead and astern, forming a kind of double line, and appeared, when on their beam, to leave a very little interval between them, and this without crowding their ships. Admiral Villeneuve was in the Bucentaure in the centre, and the Prince of Asturias bore Gravina's flag in the rear, but the French and Spanish ships were mixed without any apparent regard to order of national squadron.
As the mode of our attack had been previously determined upon, and communicated to the flag officers and captains, few signals were necessary, and none were made except to direct close order as the lines bore down. The Commander-in-Chief in the Victory led the weather column, and the Royal Sovereign, which bore my flag, the lee. The action began at twelve o'clock by the leading ships of the column breaking through the enemy's line; the Commander-in-Chief about the tenth ship from the van; the second-in-command about the twelfth from the rear, leaving the van of the enemy unoccupied; the succeeding ships breaking through in all parts, astern of their leaders, and engaging the enemy at the muzzles of their guns. The conflict was severe; the enemy's ships were fought with a gallantry highly honourable to their officers; but the attack on them was irresistible, and it pleased the Almighty Disposer of all events to grant his Majesty's arms a complete and glorious victory. About three p.m., many of the enemy's ships having struck their colours, their line gave way; Admiral Gravina, with ten ships joining their frigates to leewards, stood towards Cadiz. The five headmost ships of their van tacked, and standing to the southward, to windward of the British line, were engaged, and the sternmost of them taken; the others went off, leaving to his Majesty's squadron nineteen ships of the line (of which two are first-rates, the Santissima Trinidad, and the Santa Anna), with three flag officers, viz. Admiral Villeneuve, the Commander-in-Chief; Don Ignacio Maria D'Alava, Vice-Admiral; and the Spanish Rear-Admiral Don Baltazar Hidalgo Cisneros.
After such a victory it may appear unnecessary to enter into encomiums on the particular parts taken by the several commanders; the conclusion says more than I have language to express; the spirit which animated all was the same; when all exert themselves zealously in their country's service, all deserve that their high merits should stand recorded; and never was high merit more conspicuous than in the battle I have described.
The Achille, a French seventy-four, after having surrendered, by some mismanagement of the Frenchmen, took fire and blew up; two hundred of her men were saved by the tenders. A circumstance occurred during the action, which so strongly marks the invincible spirit of British seamen, when engaging the enemies of their country, that I cannot resist the pleasure I have in making known to their Lordships: the Téméraire was boarded, by accident or design, by a French ship on one side, and a Spaniard on the other; the contest was vigorous; but in the end the combined ensigns were torn from the poop, and the British hoisted in their places.
Such a battle could not be fought without sustaining a great loss of men. I have not only to lament in common with the British Navy and the British nation in the fall of the Commander-in-Chief, the loss of a hero whose name will be immortal, and his memory ever dear to his country; but my heart is rent with the most poignant grief for the death of a friend, to whom, by many years of intimacy, and a perfect knowledge of the virtues of his mind, which inspired ideas superior to the common race of men, I was bound by the strongest ties of affection; a grief to which even the glorious occasion in which he fell does not bring the consolation which perhaps it ought. His Lordship received a musket ball in his left breast, about the middle of the action, and sent an officer to me immediately, with his last farewell, and soon after expired. I have also to lament the loss of those excellent officers, Captain Duff of the Mars, and Cooke of the Bellerophon; I have yet heard of none others.
I fear the numbers that have fallen will be found very great when the returns come to me; but it having blown a gale of wind ever since the action, I have not yet had it in my power to collect any reports from the ships. The Royal Sovereign having lost her masts, except the tottering foremast, I called the Euryalus to me, while the action continued, which ship, lying within hail, made my signals, a service which Captain Blackwood performed with very great attention. After the action I shifted my flag to her, so that I might the more easily communicate my orders to, and collect the ships, and towed the Royal Sovereign out to seaward. The whole fleet were now in a very perilous situation; many dismasted; all shattered; in thirteen fathom water off the shoals of Trafalgar; and when I made the signal to anchor, few of the ships had an anchor to let go, their cables being shot. But the same good Providence which aided us through such a day preserved us in the night, by the wind shifting a few points, and drifting the ships off the land, except four of the captured dismasted ships, which are now at anchor off Trafalgar, and I hope will ride safe until these gales are over.
Having thus detailed the proceedings of the fleet on this occasion, I beg to congratulate their Lordships on a victory, which I hope will add a ray to the glory of his Majesty's crown, and be attended with public benefit to our country.
I am, etc., (Signed) C. COLLINGWOOD.
William Marsden, Esq.
"EURYALUS", October 22, 1805.
The ever-to-be-lamented death of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronte, the Commander-in-Chief, who fell in the action of the 21st, in the arms of Victory, covered with glory, whose memory will ever be dear to the British Navy and the British nation, whose zeal for the honour of his King, and for the interest of his country will be ever held up as a shining example for a British seaman, leave to me a duty to return my thanks to the Right Honourable Rear-Admiral, the captains, officers, seamen, and detachments of Royal Marines, serving on his Majesty's squadron now under my command, for their conduct on that day. But where can I find language to express my sentiments of the valour and skill which were displayed by the officers, the seamen, and marines, in the battle with the enemy, where every individual appeared a hero, on whom the glory of his country depended! The attack was irresistible, and the issue of it adds to the page of naval annals a brilliant instance of what Britons can do, when their King and country need their service.
To the Right Honourable Rear-Admiral the Earl of Northesk, to the captains, officers, and seamen, and to the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates of the Royal Marines, I beg to give my sincere and hearty thanks for their highly meritorious conduct, both in the action and in their zeal and activity in bringing the captured ships out from the perilous situation in which they were, after their surrender, among the shoals of Trafalgar in boisterous weather. And I desire that the respective captains will be pleased to communicate to the officers, seamen, and Royal Marines, this public testimony of my high approbation of their conduct, and my thanks for it.
(Signed) C. COLLINGWOOD.
The Almighty God, whose arm is strength, having of his great mercy been pleased to crown the exertions of his Majesty's fleet with success, in giving them a complete victory over their enemies, on the 21st of this month; and that all praise and thanksgiving may be offered up to the throne of grace, for the great benefit to our country and to mankind, I have thought it proper that a day should be appointed of general humiliation before God, and thanksgiving for his merciful goodness, imploring forgiveness of sins, a continuation of his divine mercy, and his constant aid to us, in defence of our country's liberties and laws, and without which the utmost efforts of man are nought; and therefore that [blank] be appointed for this holy purpose.
To the respective Captains and Commanders.
N.B.—The fleet having been dispersed by a gale of wind, no day has yet been able to be appointed for the above purpose.
Against the desire of his dead comrade, Collingwood carried into practice his own sound and masterful judgment not to anchor either his conquests or any of his own vessels on a lee ironbound shore. Even had his ground tackle been sound and intact, which it was not, and the holding ground good instead of bad, he acted in a seamanlike manner by holding steadfastly to the sound sailor tradition always to keep the gate open for drift, to avoid being caught, and never to anchor on a lee shore; and if perchance you get trapped, as hundreds have been, get out of it quickly, if you can, before a gale comes on. But in no case is it good seamanship to anchor. There is always a better chance of saving both the ship and lives by driving ashore in the square effort to beat off rather than by anchoring. The cables, more often than not, part, and if they do, the ship is doomed, and so may lives be. Hundreds of sailing vessels were saved in other days by the skill of their commanders in carrying out a plan, long since forgotten, called clubhauling off a lee shore. Few sailors living to-day will know the phrase, or how to apply it to advantage. It was a simple method, requiring ability, of helping the vessel to tack when the wind and sea made it impossible in the ordinary way. A large kedge with a warp bent on was let go on either the port or starboard quarter at an opportune moment to make sure the vessel would cant the right way, and then the warp was cut with an axe. In the writer's opinion, it would have been just as unwise to anchor at Trafalgar after the battle, in view of the weather and all circumstances, as it would be to anchor on the Yorkshire or any part of the North-East Coast when an easterly gale is blowing. But apart from the folly of it, there were none of the ships that had ground tackle left that was fit to hold a cat.
Without a doubt, Nelson's mind was distracted and suffering when he gave Hardy the order to anchor. The shadows were hovering too thickly round him at the time for him to concentrate any sound judgment. Some writers have condemned Collingwood for not carrying out the dying request of his Commander-in-Chief. It was a good thing that the command of the fleet fell into the hands of a man who had knowledge and a mind unimpaired to carry out his fixed opinions. When Hardy conveyed Nelson's message, he replied, "That is the very last thing that I would have thought of doing," and he was right. Had Nelson come out of the battle unscathed, he would assuredly have acted as Collingwood did, and as any well-trained and soundly-balanced sailor would have done. Besides, he always made a point of consulting "Coll," as he called him, on great essential matters. If it had been summer-time and calm, or the wind off the land, and the glass indicating a continuance of fine weather, and provided the vessels' cables had been sound, it might have paid to risk a change of wind and weather in order to refit with greater expedition and save the prizes, but certainly not in the month of October in that locality, where the changes are sudden and severe. Collingwood acted like a sound hardheaded man of affairs in salving all he could and destroying those he could not without risk of greater disaster.
Collingwood's account of his difficulties after the battle was won is contained in the following letter to his father-in-law:—
2nd November, 1805.
MY DEAR SIR,—I wrote to my dear Sarah a few lines when I sent my first dispatches to the Admiralty, which account I hope will satisfy the good people of England, for there never was, since England had a fleet, such a combat. In three hours the combined fleet were annihilated, upon their own shores, at the entrance of their port, amongst their own rocks. It has been a very difficult thing to collect an account of our success, but by the best I have twenty-three sail of the line surrendered to us, out of which three, in the furious gale we had afterward, being driven to the entrance of the harbour of Cadiz, received assistance and got in; these were the Santa Anna, the Algeziras, and Neptune (the last since sunk and lost); the Santa Anna's side was battered in. The three we have sent to Gibraltar are the San Ildefonso, San Juan Nepomuceno, and Swiftsure; seventeen others we have burnt, sunk, and run on shore, but the Bahama I have yet hope of saving; she is gone to Gibraltar. Those ships which effected their escape into Cadiz are quite wrecks; some have lost their masts since they got in, and they have not a spar or a store to refit them. We took four admirals—Villeneuve the commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral D'Alava, Rear-Admiral Cisneros, Spanish, and Magon, the French admiral, who was killed—besides a great number of brigadiers (commanders). D'Alava, wounded, was driven into Cadiz in the Santa Anna; Gravina, who was not taken, has lost his arm (amputated I have heard, but not from him); of men, their loss is many thousands, for I reckon in the captured ships we took twenty thousand prisoners (including the troops). This was a victory to be proud of; but in the loss of my excellent friend, Lord Nelson, and a number of brave men, we paid dear for it; when my dear friend received his wound, he immediately sent an officer to me to tell me of it, and give his love to me. Though the officer was directed to say the wound was not dangerous, I read in his countenance what I had to fear; and before the action was over Captain Hardy came to inform me of his death. I cannot tell you how deeply I was affected, for my friendship for him was unlike anything that I have left in the Navy, a brotherhood of more than thirty years; in this affair he did nothing without my counsel; we made our line of battle together, and concerted the mode of attack, which was put into execution in the most admirable style. I shall grow very tired of the sea soon; my health has suffered so much from the anxious state I have been in, and the fatigue I have undergone, that I shall be unfit for service. The severe gales which immediately followed the day of victory ruined our prospect of prizes; our own infirm ships could scarce keep off the shore; the prizes were left to their fate, and as they were driven very near the port, I ordered them to be destroyed by burning and sinking, that there might be no risk of their falling again into the hands of the enemy. There has been a great destruction of them, indeed I hardly know what, but not less than seventeen or eighteen, the total ruin of the combined fleet. To alleviate the miseries of the wounded, as much as in my power, I sent a flag to the Marquis Solano, to offer him his wounded. Nothing can exceed the gratitude expressed by him, for this act of humanity; all this part of Spain is in an uproar of praise and thankfulness to the English. Solano sent me a present of a cask of wine, and we have a free intercourse with the shore. Judge of the footing we are on, when I tell you he offered me his hospitals, and pledged the Spanish honour for the care and cure of our wounded men. Our officers and men, who were wrecked in some of the prize ships, were received like divinities; all the country was on the beach to receive them; the priests and women distributing wine, and bread and fruit among them; the soldiers turned out of their barracks to make lodging for them, whilst their allies, the French, were left to shift for themselves, with a guard over them to prevent their doing mischief. After the battle I shifted my flag to the Euryalus frigate, that I might the better distribute my orders; and when the ships were destroyed and the squadron in safety, I came here, my own ship being totally disabled; she lost her last mast in the gale. All the northern boys, and Graydon, are alive; Kennicott has a dangerous wound in his shoulder; Thompson is wounded in the arm, and just at the conclusion of the action his leg was broken by a splinter; little Charles is unhurt, but we have lost a good many youngsters. For myself, I am in so forlorn a state, my servants killed, my luggage, what is left, is on board the Sovereign, and Clavell wounded. I have appointed Sir Peter Parker's grandson, and Captain Thomas, my old lieutenant, post captains; Clavell, and the first lieutenant of the Victory, made commanders; but I hope the Admiralty will do more for them, for in the history of our Navy there is no instance of a victory so complete and so great. The ships that escaped into Cadiz are wrecks; and they have neither stores nor inclination to refit them. I shall now go, as soon as I get a sufficient squadron equipped, and see what I can do with the Carthagenians; if I can get at them, the naval war will be finished in this country. Prize-money I shall get little or none for this business, for though the loss of the enemy may be estimated at near four millions, it is most of it gone to the bottom. Don Argemoso, who was formerly captain of the Isedro, commanded the Monarca, one of our captures; he sent to inform me he was in the Leviathan, and I immediately ordered, for our old acquaintance sake, his liberty on parole. All the Spaniards speak of us in terms of adoration; and Villeneuve, whom I had in the frigate, acknowledges that they cannot contend with us at sea. I do not know what will be thought of it in England, but the effect here is highly advantageous to the British name. Kind remembrances to all my friends; I dare say your neighbour, Mr.—— will be delighted with the history of the battle; if he had been in it, it would have animated him more than all his daughter's chemistry; it would have new strung his nerves, and made him young again. God bless you, my dear sir, may you be ever happy; it is very long since I heard from home.
I am, ever, your most truly affectionate,
I have ordered all the boys to be discharged into this ship; another such fight will season them pretty well. Brown is in perfect health. We had forty-seven killed, ninety-four wounded.
Great efforts were made to get all the people out of the disabled vessels before they drifted ashore. It is really splendid to read the official account of the deeds of bravery of our fine fellows risking their own lives to save the lives of those they had defeated. Seven days after the battle, the Victory arrived at Gibraltar, and although her masts had been shot away and her hull badly damaged, she was refitted and sailed for England on the 4th November, the same day that the straggling Dumanoir and his ships fell into the hands of Sir Richard Strachan in the Bay of Biscay.
On the Victory's arrival at Spithead with Nelson's remains aboard, preserved in spirits, the body was taken out and put in a leaden coffin filled with brandy and other strong preservatives. On the arrival of the Victory at the entrance of the Thames, the body was removed, dressed in the Admiral's uniform, and put into the coffin made out of the mainmast of L'Orient and presented to Nelson some years before by Captain Hallowell. It was then put into a third case, and on the 9th January, 1806, after lying in state for three days, the remains were buried in St. Paul's.
The imposing demonstrations of sorrow could not be excelled. Parliament voted a monument in St. Paul's Cathedral, and others were erected in all the principal towns in England and Scotland. There were neither material honours nor eulogies great enough to express the gratitude that was felt throughout the United Kingdom for the late Admiral's achievements. His widow, whom he had not seen for years, and from whom he was definitely parted, was granted £2,000 per annum for life. His brother was made an Earl, with a perpetual income of £6,000 a year, and £15,000 of national money was voted to each of the sisters, while £100,000 was given for an estate to be attached to the title. The human legacy left by Nelson of Emma Hamilton and their daughter Horatia were not mentioned, though he seems to have implored Heaven and earth in their behalf. Obviously, the Government felt that they dare not be generous to everybody, even though it were Nelson's dying injunction. Collingwood, who had as much to do with the triumph of Trafalgar as Nelson himself, without making any ado about it, was treated pretty much like a provincial mayor. The mayor, of course, may and often does adopt a luxurious Roman style of living in order that his local deeds may not escape observation, but such self-advertisement was entirely foreign to Collingwood's character. It was fitting that every reasonable honour should have been paid to the memory of a great Englishman, whose deeds, in co-operation with others, have never been surpassed. But to make grants and give honours of so generous a character to Nelson's relatives, and especially to his wife, who had been a torment to him, and to measure out Collingwood's equally great accomplishments with so mean a hand, is an astonishing example of parsimony which, for the sake of our national honour, it is to be hoped rarely occurs. Even the haughty, plethoric nobles of a fourth-rate town council (if it be not a libel to mention them in connection with so discreditable an affair) would have judged the manifest fitness of things better than to make any distinction between Admiral Collingwood and his lifelong friend Nelson.
Surely this famous and eminently worthy public servant was as deserving of an Earldom as was Nelson's brother, and his wife and daughters of a more generous allowance than that of his dead chief's widow and sisters!—this distinguished man, who helped to plan the order of battle at Trafalgar and was the first to take his ship into action in a way that inflamed the pride and admiration of the Commander-in-Chief, and made him spontaneously exclaim, "See, Blackwood, how that noble fellow Collingwood takes his ship into battle! How I envy him!"
No one knew as well as Nelson that his comrade, next to himself, was to play the leading part in not only assuring a victory, but in completely annihilating the French and Spanish fleets. Yet the British Government of that day only counted the services he had rendered to the nation worthy of a peerage, plus the same pension as Nelson's widow; i.e. he was to have a pension of £2,000 a year, and after his death Lady Collingwood was to have the munificent sum of £1,000 per annum and each of his two daughters £500 a year. He never drew his pension, as they kept him in the service he had made so great until he was a physical wreck. He died on his way home aboard the Ville de Paris on the 7th March, 1810, and was laid to rest in St. Paul's Cathedral alongside of his distinguished friend Lord Nelson.
I have already drawn attention to Nelson's blind prejudice to and hatred of the French. Collingwood was tainted with the same onesided views, but tempered them with more conventional language. In his letters to Lady Collingwood he expresses delight at receiving a letter written to him in French by his daughter, and exhorts the mother to see that she converses when she can in that language, and to remember that she is never to admire anything French but the language. On another occasion he enjoins his daughter Sarah to write every day a translation of English into French, so that the language may soon become familiar to her; and then, as though he regarded these instructions as unpatriotic, he qualifies them by reminding her "that it is the only thing French that she needs to acquire, because there is little else in connection with that country which he would wish her to love or imitate." A kinsman of his, after the battle of Trafalgar, wrote to inform him that his family were descended from, and allied to, many great families, Talebois amongst the rest. He brushed the intended compliment aside, and in his quaint manner remarked that "he had never troubled to search out his genealogy but all he could say was, that if he got hold of the French fleet, he would either be a Viscount or nothing." This is one of the very rare symptoms of vaunting that he ever gave way to; and though his dislike of the French was as inherent as Nelson's, he never allowed his chivalrous nature to be overruled by passion. In a letter to Lord Radstock in 1806 he closes it by paying a high tribute to the unfortunate French Admiral Villeneuve by stating "that he was a well-bred man, and a good officer, who had nothing of the offensive vapourings and boastings in his manner which were, perhaps, too commonly attributed to the Frenchmen."
Collingwood was a man of high ideals with a deeply religious fervour, never sinning and then repenting as Nelson was habitually doing. Physical punishment of his men was abhorrent to him, and although he enforced stern discipline on his crew, they worshipped him. "I cannot understand," he said, "the religion of an officer who can pray all one day and flog his men all the next." His method was to create a feeling of honour amongst his men, and he did this with unfailing success, without adopting the harsh law of the land made by English aristocrats.
In a letter to his wife, dated September, 1806, Collingwood informs her that the Queen of Naples expected to be put on the throne of Naples again and had intimated the desire of showing her gratitude to himself by creating him a Sicilian Duke and giving him an estate. "If a Dukedom is offered to me," he tells her, "I shall return my thanks for the honour they wish to confer upon me, and show my estimate of it by telling them that I am the servant of my sovereign alone, and can receive no rewards from a foreign prince." Napoleon denounced Marie Caroline, Queen of Naples, as "a wicked shameless woman, who had violated all that men held most sacred." She had ceased to reign, and by her crimes she had fulfilled her destiny. Collingwood, who knew her public and private character to be notoriously untrustworthy and loose, looked upon the proposed honour from such a person as an affront, and refused to accept it if offered. Nelson, on the other hand, who had a passion for window-dressing and flattery, accepted with a flowing heart both a Dukedom and an estate from their Sicilian Majesties. His close intimacy with the Royal Family, and especially with the Queen, was a perpetual anxiety to his loyal and devoted friends.
There were no two men in the Service who had such an affectionate regard for each other as Nelson and the amiable Northumbrian Admiral, and certainly none equalled them in their profession or in their devotion to their King and country. Each was different from the other in temperament and character, but both were alike in superb heroism—the one, egotistically untamed, revelling at intervals in lightning flashes of eternal vengeance on the French fleet when the good fortune of meeting them should come; and the other, with calm reticence elaborating his plans and waiting patiently for his chance to take part in the challenge that was to decide the dominion of the sea. Each, in fact, rivalled in being a spirit to the other. Nelson believed, and frequently said, that he "wished to appear as a godsend"; while Collingwood, in more humble and piercing phrase, remarked that "while it is England, let me keep my place in the forefront of the battle." The sound of the names of these two remarkable men is like an echo from other far-off days. Both believed that God was on their side.
Neither of them knew the character or purpose of the exalted man on whom their Government was making war. Like simple-minded, brave sailors as they were, knowing nothing of the mysteries of political jealousies and intrigue, and believing that the men constituting the Government must be of high mental and administrative ability, they assumed that they were carrying out a flawless patriotic duty, never doubting the wisdom of it; and it was well for England that they did not. Men always fight better when they know and believe their cause is just.
Collingwood, like most of his class, gave little thought to money matters. He had "no ambition," he says, "to possess riches," but he had to being recognized in a proper way. He wished the succession of his title to be conferred on his daughters, as he had no son. This was a modest and very natural desire, considering what the nation owed to him, but it was not granted, and the shame of it can never be redeemed. In one of his letters to Mr. Blackett he says to him, "I was exceedingly displeased at some of the language held in the House of Commons on the settlement of the pension upon my daughters; it was not of my asking, and if I had a favour to ask, money would be the last thing I would beg from an impoverished country. I am not a Jew, whose god is gold; nor a Swiss, whose services are to be counted against so much money. I have motives for my conduct which I would not give in exchange for a hundred pensions."
These lines speak eloquently of the high order of this illustrious man. He despises money, but claims it as his right to have proper recognition of his services, which the Government should have given him generously and with both hands. In so many words he says, "Keep your money, I am not to be bought, but confer on me if you will some suitable token that will convince me that you do really, in the name of the nation, appreciate what I have done for it." Services such as he had rendered could never have been adequately rewarded by either money or honours, no matter how high in degree. In the affairs of money these two great Admirals were pretty similar, except that Collingwood knew better how to spend it than Nelson. Both were generous, though the former had method and money sense, while the latter does not appear to have had either. He was accustomed to say "that the want of fortune was a crime which he could never get over." Both in temperament and education Collingwood was superior to Nelson. The former knew that he had done and was capable of doing great deeds, but he would never condescend to seek for an honour reward; while Nelson, who also knew when he had distinguished himself in the national interest, expected to be rewarded, and on occasions when it was too tardily withheld, he became peevish, whimpered a good deal about his illtreatment, and on more than one occasion showed unbecoming rage at being neglected.
After Copenhagen, the wigs were fairly on the green because he was created a Viscount instead of an Earl. He talked a good deal about the Tower, a Dukedom, or Westminster Abbey, and had ways of demanding attention for which Collingwood had neither the aptitude nor the inclination, though his naval qualities were quite equal to Nelson's. But with all their faults and virtues, there was never any petty jealousy between the two heroes, who lie at rest side by side in the tombs at St. Paul's. Faithful to their naval orthodoxy that it was incumbent for every Christian sailor-man to wash clean his conscience when he was passing from time into eternity, Nelson on the 21st October, 1805, and Collingwood five years later, avowed to those who had the honour of closing their eyes for evermore that they "had not been great sinners," and then slipped into eternal sleep; each of them leaving behind a name that will live and descend into distant ages.
We left Villeneuve, the unfortunate but distinctly brave French Commander-in-Chief of the allied fleet at Trafalgar, aboard the Mars. He was subsequently sent a prisoner to England, and after a short stay, he was allowed to go to France, and broke his journey at Rennes on his way to Paris. The poor broken-hearted fellow was found dead in his room, having committed suicide. There is not the remotest foundation for the unworthy report that was spread that he was put to death by Napoleon's orders. The Emperor was much too big a man, occupied with human projects too vast, to waste a moment's thought or to stain his name over an unfortunate admiral who had brought his fleet to grief by acting against his instructions. It is only little men who write, not that which is founded on fact but that which they imagine will appeal to the popular taste of the moment; and so it was with the French Emperor; a lot of scandalmongers were always at work hawking hither and thither their poisonous fabrications. A great many people get their living by appealing to the lowest passions. Napoleon, when in captivity, referred incidentally to the misfortunes of Villeneuve, and made the following statement to Dr. O'Meara:—
"Villeneuve," said he, "when taken prisoner and brought to England, was so much grieved at his defeat, that he studied anatomy on purpose to destroy himself. For this purpose he bought some anatomical plates of the heart, and compared them with his own body, in order to ascertain the exact situation of that organ. On his arrival in France I ordered that he should remain at Rennes, and not proceed to Paris. Villeneuve, afraid of being tried by a court-martial for disobedience of orders, and consequently losing the fleet, for I had ordered him not to sail or to engage the English, determined to destroy himself, and accordingly took his plates of the heart, and compared them with his breast. Exactly in the centre of the plate he made a mark with a large pin, then fixed the pin as near as he could judge in the same spot in his own breast, shoved it in to the head, penetrated his heart and expired. When the room was opened he was found dead; the pin in his breast, and a mark in the plate corresponding with the wound in his breast. He need not have done it," continued he, "as he was a brave man, though possessed of no talent."
I have given this communication in full as it appears in O'Meara's book, because the scribes would have it that Villeneuve was destroyed by the Emperor's orders. There was not at the time, nor has there ever appeared since, anything to justify such a calumny on a man who challenged the world to make the charge and prove that he had ever committed a crime during the whole of his public career. No one has taken up the challenge except in sweeping generalities of slander, which are easily made but less easy to substantiate. If the Emperor had really wished to take Villeneuve's life, it would have been more satisfactory to have him condemned to death by a court-martial composed of his countrymen than to have the already ruined man secretly destroyed for mere private revenge. The common sense of the affair compels one to repudiate the idea of the Emperor's complicity in so stupid a crime. It is more likely that Napoleon wished to save him from the consequences of a court-martial, so ordered him to remain at Rennes. He rarely punished offenders according to their offences. After the first flush of anger was over, they were generally let down easily, and for the most part became traitors afterwards.
We need not waste time or space in dilating on what would have happened to Nelson had he put at defiance the authority that controlled him and the irreparable disaster that would have followed. Villeneuve has been belauded for his gallantry in the fight at Trafalgar; indeed, we learn, from sources that may be relied upon, that his bravery, dispositions in battle, and art of enthusing his followers could not be surpassed. His signals to the fleet were almost identical with Nelson's. Here is one: "Celui qui ne serait pas dans le feu ne serait pas à son poste"; the literal translation of which is: "He who would not be in the fire would not be at his post"; or, "The man who would hold his post must stand fire," which is quite an inspiring signal. But I wonder what the eulogists of Villeneuve would have written of him had he been the victor instead of the defeated. It is generous to give praise to the unfortunate Admiral for whom Nelson had such an aversion and who was constantly threatened by him with vigorous chastisement when he caught him; but generosity was not the motive—it was only part of the loose-lipped, unclean policy of decrying Napoleon. It is horrible, ungrateful, and foul brutishness of the Corsican tyrant to court-martial so amiable and brave a man as Villeneuve because he proceeded out of Cadiz against orders and suffered a crushing defeat! It is quite permissible for a French admiral to put authority at defiance if doing so complies with the sentiments of anti-Napoleon writers, who were either ill-informed, purblind critics or eaten up with insincerity or moral malaria! But it is the maintenance of discipline to have men like Sir John Byng court-martialled and shot after being tried, it is said, by a not entirely impartial court, on the supposition that he had neglected his duty in an engagement with the French off Minorca on the 20th May, 1756, and committed an error of judgment. A rather remarkable method of enforcing discipline, to shoot an admiral for an error of judgment!
Take another case of high-ordered, solemn devotion to discipline: Sir Robert Calder, who had gained an important victory over the French at Finisterre, was court-martialled, condemned and ruined, ostensibly because he did not achieve a greater victory. The decisions of both cases were crimes, not desire for the maintenance of discipline. It was, and ever will be, a stain on the name of justice. I need not carry this further, except to say that according to the solemn logic of some writers, it was murder for Napoleon or some of his ministers to have the Duc d'Enghien shot for having conspired with others for the overthrow of the established French Government, but it is the saintly enforcement of discipline to have a British admiral shot and another ruined for no other reason than an error of judgment on the one hand and an insufficient victory on the other. Sir Robert Calder's heart was broken by cruelty. Villeneuve lost his fleet and killed himself, not that he had anything to fear from the decision of the court-martial—so it is said on the authority of an English writer of note. Certainly he had nothing to fear from the Emperor, who has indicated that he had no intention of dealing severely with him. It was fitting that he should be reprimanded, and no doubt he would have been, after which, as was his custom, the Emperor would have conferred some kindly favour upon him. Serene authors have entangled themselves a good deal over this matter in their efforts to take up the impossible position of making the Emperor and not Villeneuve responsible for the disaster at Trafalgar to the Spanish and French fleet. Of course, Napoleon was badly chagrined, and so would the King of England have been, if it were thinkable that such a calamity could possibly have befallen any British fleet. The head of the French nation would have been less than human had he not felt the full force of the terrific blow to his country, and especially to himself.
Disposition of Fleets at TRAFALGAR
TRAFALGAR, 21ST OCTOBER, 1805. DETAILED LIST OF SHIPS ENGAGED.
(A) BRITISH ORDER OF BATTLE, WITH THE NAMES OF THE FLAG OFFICERS AND CAPTAINS.
VAN, OR WEATHER COLUMN. Ships. Guns. Commanders. Killed. Wounded. Victory 100 Vice-Ad. Visc. Nelson 51 75 Captain T. M. Hardy Téméraire 98 Eliab Harvey 47 76 Neptune 98 T.F. Freemantle 10 34 Conqueror 74 Israel Pellew 3 9 Leviathan 74 H. W. Bayntun 4 22 Ajax 74 Lieut. J. Pilfold -- 9 Orion 74 Edward Codrington 1 23 Agamemnon 64 Sir Edward Berry 2 7 Minotaur 74 C. J. M. Mansfield 3 22 Spartiate 74 Sir F. Laforey, Bart. 3 20 Britannia 100 Rear-Ad. Earl Northesk 10 42 Captain Charles Bullen Africa 64 Henry Digby 18 44 --- --- 154 383 --- --- FRIGATES. Ships. Guns. Commanders. Euryalus 36 Hon. H. Blackwood Sirius 36 William Prowse Phoebe 36 Hon. T. B. Capel Naiad 38 T. Dundas Pickle 12 Lieut. J. R. Lapenotiere Intreprenante 12 Lieut. R. B. Young (cutter) REAR, OR LEE COLUMN. Ships. Guns. Commanders. Killed. Wounded Royal Sovereign 100 Vice-Ad. Collingwood 47 94 Captain E. Rotherham Mars 74 George Duff 29 69 Belleisle 74 William Hargood 33 93 Tonnant 80 Charles Tyler 26 50 Bellerophon 74 John Cooke 27 133 Colossus 74 J. N. Morris 40 160 Achille 74 Richard King 13 59 Polyphemus 64 Robert Redmill 2 4 Revenge 74 R. Moorsom 28 51 Swiftsure 74 W. G. Rutherford 9 7 Defence 74 George Hope 7 29 Thunderer 74 Lieut. J. Stockham 4 16 Prince 98 Richard Grindall -- -- Defiance 74 P. C. Durham 17 53 Dreadnought 98 John Conn 7 26 --- --- 263 794 --- ---
NOTE.—Lieutenants Pilfold and Stockham were acting for Captains W. Brown and Lechmere, absent on Sir R. Calder's trial; the Lieutenants, W.P. Camby, of the Bellerophon, and W. Hannah, of the Mars, having their Captains killed, the whole of these officers, with Lieutenant Quillam, first of the Victory, were made Post immediately.
(B) A LIST OF THE COMBINED FLEET OF FRANCE AND SPAIN, SHOWING HOW THEY WERE DISPOSED OF.
1. Spanish ship, San Ildefonso, 74 guns, Brigadier Don Joseph de Varga, sent to Gibraltar.
2. Spanish ship, San Juan Nepomuceno, 74 guns, Brigadier Don Cosme Cherruca, sent to Gibraltar.
3. Spanish ship, Bahama, 74 guns. Brigadier Don A.D. Galiano, sent to Gibraltar.
4. French ship, Swiftsure, 74 guns, Monsieur Villemadrin, sent to Gibraltar.
5. Spanish ship, Monarca, 74 guns, Don Teodoro Argumosa, wrecked off San Lucar.
6. French ship, Fougeux, 74 guns, Monsieur Beaudouin, wrecked off Trafalgar, all perished, and 30 of the Téméraire's men.
7. French ship, Indomitable, 84 guns, Monsieur Hubart, wrecked off Rota, all perished, said to have had 1,500 men on board.
8. French ship, Bucentaure, 80 guns, Admiral Villeneuve, Commander-in-Chief, Captains Prigny and Magendie, wrecked on the Porques, some of the crew saved.
9. Spanish ship, San Francisco de Asis, 74 guns, Don Luis de Flores, wrecked near Rota.
10. Spanish ship, El Rayo, 100 guns, Brigadier Don Henrique Macdonel, taken by Donegal, and wrecked near San Lucar.
11. Spanish ship, Neptuno, 84 guns, Brigadier Don Cayetano Valdes, wrecked between Rota and Catalina.
12. French ship, Argonaute, 74 guns, Monsieur Epron, on shore in the port of Cadiz. (By subsequent account not lost.)
13. French ship, Berwick, 74 guns, Monsieur Camas, wrecked to the northward of San Lucar.
14. French ship, Aigle, 74 guns, Monsieur Courage, wrecked near Rota.
15. French ship, Achille, 74 guns, Monsieur de Nieuport, burnt during the action.
16. French ship, Intrepide, 74 guns, Monsieur Infernet, burnt by the Britannia.
17. Spanish ship, San Augustin, 74 guns, Brigadier Don Felipe X. Cagigal, burnt by the Leviathan.
18. Spanish ship, Santissima Trinidad, 140 guns, Rear-Admiral Don Baltazar H. Cisneros, Brigadier Don F. Uriate, sunk by the Prince and Neptune.
19. French ship, Redoubtable, 74 guns, Monsieur Lucas, sunk astern of the Swiftsure; Téméraire lost 13, and Swiftsure 5 men, in her.
20. Spanish ship, Argonauta, 80 guns, Don Antonio Parejo, sunk by the Ajax.
21. Spanish ship, Santa Anna, 112 guns, Vice-Admiral Don Ignacio D'Alava, Captain Don Joseph de Guardequi, taken, but got into Cadiz in the gale, dismasted.
22. French ship, Algeziras, 74 guns, Rear-Admiral Magon (killed), Captain Monsieur Bruaro, taken, but got into Cadiz in the gale, dismasted.
23. French ship, Pluton, 74 guns. Monsieur Cosmao, returned to Cadiz in a sinking state.
24. Spanish ship, San Juste, 74 guns, Don Miguel Caston, returned to Cadiz, has a foremast only.
25. Spanish ship, San Leandro, 64 guns, Don Joseph de Quevedo, returned to Cadiz, dismasted.
26. French ship, Le Neptune, 84 guns, Monsieur Maistral, returned to Cadiz, perfect.
27. French ship, Le Heros, 74 guns, Monsieur Poulain, returned to Cadiz, lower masts standing, hoisted Admiral Rossily's flag.
28. Spanish ship, Principe de Asturias, 112 guns, Admiral Gravina, Captain Don Antonio Escano, returned to Cadiz, dismasted.
29. Spanish ship, Montanez, Don Francisco Alcedo, returned to Cadiz.
30. French ship. Formidable, 80 guns, Rear-Admiral Dumanoir, escaped to the southward, with the three following.
31. French ship, Montblanc, 74 guns, Monsieur Villegries.
32. French ship, Scipion, 74 guns. Monsieur Berouger.
33. French ship, Du Guay Trouin, 74 guns. Monsieur Toufflet.
At Gibraltar 4 Destroyed 15 In Cadiz 10 Escaped 4 -- 33 --
 BATTLE OF ABOUKIR.
At the battle of Aboukir Bay the British losses were reported to be 896 killed and wounded. Only one captain fell. 5,225 of the French perished, and 3,105, including wounded, were sent on shore.
When the battle was over, Nelson gave instructions that thanksgiving aboard every ship should be offered to Almighty God for giving His Majesty's forces the victory. It is the author's opinion that but for a good deal of slashing genius and not a little of the devil on the part of Nelson and his men the French would not have fared so badly.
 Portraits painted by poor Romney for £40, or less, sell for many thousands at Christie's in these days.
 Italics are the author's.
 Italics are the author's.
 Some authorities speak of Sir William Hamilton as being an amiable, accomplished man, who left on record a letter which reads as follows:—"My study of antiquities has kept me in constant thought of the perpetual fluctuation of everything. The whole art is really to live all the days of our life. Admire the Creator and all His works, to us incomprehensible, and do all the good you can on earth; and take the chance of eternity without dismay."
 Sir Harris Nicolas is inclined to believe in the purity of Nelson's attachment and Southey says there is no reason to believe that it was more than platonic. But these views are certainly not borne out by those who knew Nelson and his connection with the Hamiltons intimately.
 The name by which Nelson speaks of her occasionally in his correspondence with Lady Hamilton. His daughter bore this name before his death, but he desired that afterwards she should drop the name of Thompson.
 "Correspondence and Diaries of John Wilson Croker," vol. ii. p. 233.
 O'Meara, vol. i. p. 308.
 O'Meara, "Voice from St. Helena," vol. ii. p. 229. "Talks of Napoleon at St. Helena," Gourgand, p. 118.
 The body was first seen floating by a Neapolitan fisherman, who reported the matter, but his story was ridiculed. Finally, in order to verify the statement, the principal actors in the shameful tragedy went for a sail in Naples Bay and soon met the body borne along by the swift current as though to meet them. The incident created a profound impression at the time.
 This girl of twenty-two, who is known to fame and immortality, purchased a dagger, and called on Marat, who was the most infamous arch-butcher of the Reign of Terror. He was in his bath at the time, but this did not prevent her from making her way to him. He wrote down the names of the conspirators she told him of having seen in Normandy, and he told her he would swiftly have them guillotined. The assurance had scarcely left his lips when in an instant she thrust the instrument of death through his heart. She repudiated the stigma of being thought a murderess, and believed that her act would be the means of saving thousands of lives. She was dragged through the streets, taken to the executioner, and asked for the loan of his shears and cut off a lock of her hair. When asked if she found the journey long, she replied with perfect composure, "Oh no, I am not afraid of being too late." Subsequently one of the Girondin deputies said of her, "She has killed us, but she has taught all how to die."
 TROUBRIDGE'S BLUFF LETTER TO LORD NELSON.
"Pardon me, my Lord, it is my sincere esteem for you that makes me mention it. I know you have no pleasure in sitting up all night at cards; why then sacrifice your health, comfort, purse, ease, everything, to the customs of a country where your stay cannot be long? I would not, my Lord, reside in this country for all Sicily. I trust the war will soon be over, and deliver us from a nest of everything that is infamous, and that we may enjoy the smiles of our countrywomen.
"Your Lordship is a stranger to half that happens, or the talk it occasions; if you knew what your friends feel for you, I am sure you would cut all the nocturnal parties. Gambling of the people at Palermo is publicly talked of everywhere. I beseech your Lordship leave off. I wish my pen could tell you my feelings, I am sure you would oblige me.
"I trust your Lordship will pardon me; it is the sincere esteem I have for you that makes me risk your displeasure."
No reply, so far as is known, was ever sent to this outspoken letter.
 Castlereagh and Canning fought a duel. Canning was wounded by a bullet in the leg, and it prevented Castlereagh from being an unpopular figure. Indeed, he became for a time, in limited circles, popular. Percival was assassinated. Lord Liverpool was Prime Minister for fifteen years, and departed this life insane. Canning was brilliant, witty, and eloquent, and his outlook was large. It was said that he was spoiled by Pitt, and was consumed by vanity, and was broken by Tory calumniation. Political, commercial, or social intrigue success is always followed by the most deadly reaction on those who practise or encourage it, and I trust that a merciful Providence will shield from the tragedies and maladies that came to some members of this former coalition those of the present, which apparently excels every other in its colossal efforts at doing harm. The best brains are needed now, not romancers.
 Subsequent information has proved this statement wanted confirmation.
 Captain John Clavell, then first lieutenant of the Royal Sovereign.
 The lamented Sir Peter Parker, Bart., who fell in the Chesapeake in 1814, when captain of the Menelaus, leading his men against the Americans.
 "Napoleon in Exile," vol. i. p. 56.
Napoleon, when at the height of his fame, was looked upon by the European Powers as a man whose lust of conquest was a terrible menace to all constituted authority. The oligarchies thought themselves bound to combine against him in order to reseat the Bourbons on the throne of France and restore law and order to that distracted country. What a travesty of the actual facts!
The people of France had risen against the tyranny and oppression of the French kings and nobles, and out of the welter of the Revolution Napoleon rose to power and, by his magnetic personality, welded the chaotic elements into unity, framed laws which are still in operation, and led his country to wonderful heights of glory.
Well may the crowned heads of Europe have feared this man, whose genius put all their mediocre and unenlightened achievements in the shade. Had they been blessed with the same vision as he, they would not have opposed but co-operated with him, by introducing into their own constitutions saner laws such as some of those in the Code Napoleon. But instead of this, they began a campaign of Press vilification, and Napoleon's every act was held up as the deed of a monster of iniquity. Plots, open and secret, to dethrone him were continually in progress, only to be frustrated by the genius of the man of the people.
As an instance of this, and of the one-sided view taken by all ranks and classes of Napoleon's opponents, let us contrast two cases which are in some respects parallel. The many plots to assassinate the First Consul—especially the one that very nearly succeeded when he was on his way to the opera—and the knowledge that an organized band of conspirators were in red-hot activity and, headed by the Duc d'Enghien, Cadoudal, Moreau, and Pichegru, were determined to kill the head of the State, overthrow the Government, and re-establish the Bourbon dynasty, caused the Duc to be arrested, tried by his fellow-countrymen, and found guilty of the charges brought against him, and, by the blundering of Savary, afterwards Duke of Rovigo, and the persistence of Murat, the death penalty was carried out and he was shot. Had he been permitted to live another twenty-four hours, Napoleon would unquestionably have pardoned him, though he never doubted the justice of the sentence. Much political capital has been made in this country against Napoleon for even sanctioning his arrest and in not preventing the capital sentence of the court from being carried out.
Unquestionably Napoleon regretted the execution, and would have granted a free pardon had some one not blundered or been too zealous in what they conceived to be his and the country's best interests. Almost every writer on this subject is strong in his condemnation of the execution and of Napoleon for not taking surer steps to prevent it. But in judging him in regard to this matter, it is only fair to take into account that he was the ruler of a great empire. Whether he became so by force or not, does not matter; he saved the Revolution, and had already brought some form of order out of bloody chaos.
He had already become the popular head of the French nation, and it devolved upon him to take the most minute precautions against the disturbing effects of the secret and avowed conspirators who directed their operations against his life and the overthrow of his government from London. The precautions taken were drastic, skilfully organized, and far-reaching, and his agents kept him advised of the danger that continually beset him. Even though he had no thought of reprieving the Duc, and deliberately allowed him to be shot, the act of self-preservation, extreme though it may appear, can hardly be termed, under the circumstances, unwarranted. It was a period of wild, uncontrollable passion, and the survivors of the old aristocracy hated the man of genius who had risen to power from the ranks of the people to take the place of the Bourbons. This was the canker that stimulated their enmity.
Had the Duc d'Enghien kept himself aloof from conspirators, and been willing to recognize the facts he would never have been molested. He took the risk of co-operating with desperate men, and paid the penalty by being shot on the 24th March, 1804, at 6.0 a.m., at Vincennes. Had the ruler of any state in Europe carried out a death-sentence for the same reason and under the same circumstances, it would have been regarded as well-merited punishment, and the Press would have preached the gospel of warning to evil doers. But with Napoleon it was different. He was an interloper who had nothing in common with the galaxy of monarchs who ruled Europe at that time. Subsequently they licked his boots, not for love, but through fear. The shooting of the Duc was a fine opportunity for his enemies. They sedulously nursed the Press, published books and pamphlets in every language, and employed the most poisoned pen that could be bought to portray the future ruler of kings in terms of obloquy. The performance of the scribes who direct the pen, which is said to be mightier than the sword, is enough to kill any one with a real sense of humour. Some of the literary productions which were to send the greatest of living men off the face of the earth are quite grotesque in their feminine, shrill advocacy of force towards the "eater of pigs"; the "Anti-Christ"; and the murderer of a kindly-disposed gentleman who was on an innocent visit to the frontier of France for the purpose of negotiating a few private matters that had no political significance; what if he were one of the leaders of a band of fine, desperate fellows who had combined, and sworn to rid France of the Usurper, even at the risk of death! This being their aim and heroic determination, they had no ground of complaint if the iron hand which ruled the country took measures to prevent them from carrying out their beneficent intentions. Of course, I give the sense and not the actual words of the gallant writers of that time who, with a glare in their lion eye (judging from the style of their vapourings), thought that Napoleon could never survive so vigorous a stream of invective! What loose fabrications have been scattered over the earth about this regrettable incident, and what abominable cant has been sent forth extolling the virtues of men like the unfortunate Duc, who put the law at defiance by secretly carrying out a purpose that he knew was pregnant with danger to himself!
Let us contrast, if we can, the Duc d'Enghien's reckless gamble, the consequences of which have been used so consistently to blacken the fame of the Emperor Napoleon, with Nelson's connection with the hanging of the rebel prince Carraciolli; of the latter little has been said, though the shooting of the Duc seems to have been more justifiable than the hanging of the prince, who was an old man. Both were tried and condemned to death by men who, it is said, were prejudiced against them. Nelson could have saved the aged Admiral had his heart been free from revenge and his mind free from the influence of Emma Hamilton. The guilt of the Admiral's death must eternally lie at his door. The outrage can never be effaced, and must for all time be associated with the mean executioners who, to begin with, had naught but vengeance in their minds. Nelson was an Englishman entrusted with England's high sense of honour and love of compassion, and in its name he stained its reputation for fair dealing. On entering the Bay of Naples, a flag of truce was flying at the mast-head of the Seahorse and at the castles of Nuovo and Uovo. The treaty had been ratified by Captain Foote, a high-minded officer. Nelson did not approve of the truce, nor did Lady Hamilton, who was aboard the Foudroyant. One can almost see this brazen figure standing on the quarterdeck of this British ship of war calling out to Nelson, "Haul down the flag of truce, Bronte. There must be no truce with rebels." It almost takes one's breath away to think that a man in Nelson's position should have allowed private feelings to enter into and influence his professional duty. Every now and again we get glimpses of this blatant paramour of his being allowed to assert herself in matters which involved the honour of Great Britain. We are anxious to believe that Nelson put some limit to this lady's interference in matters of high naval policy, but he seems to have been such a fool with women that almost anything ridiculous can be believed of him where they were concerned. Both of them figure badly in the Uovo and Nuovo and Carraciolli affair. The garrison there was so vigorously bombarded that it was driven to capitulate, but only on condition that the safety of the garrison would be guaranteed. Captain Foote at once agreed to this, and to see that it was duly carried out. One of the reasons that led Captain Foote so readily to agree to the conditions submitted to him was the extreme strength of the forts, which could have pounded the city to pieces. The other was the desire to spare human life. What need was there for Nelson to take umbrage at and violate the treaty made by Foote in the British name? Foote had made a good bargain by getting possession of the forts, and a better and nobler one in making it part of his policy to save human life. We wonder whether Nelson's anger did not arise from his being deprived of some of the glory himself. He was desperately fond of it! In any case, he let down England's name badly over the whole transaction.
Fox made a speech on it in the House of Commons which was, and will ever continue to be, an awful indictment. There is nothing in the French Revolution, or in the whole of Napoleon's career, that can be compared with it for ferocity. Great efforts were made to fix the responsibility for breach of faith on Captain Foote, but they failed, since there was not a vestige of foundation on which a case could be made against him, as the documents conclusively proved. He demanded a court-martial, but his friends prevailed upon him to let his case rest on the conclusive facts which were produced and made public and which have never been questioned. There cannot be found a more astonishing revelation of perfidy or inhuman violence in the archives of Europe than that related by Mr. Fox. Here is an extract from his amazing speech:—
When the right honourable gentleman speaks of the last campaign, he does not mention the horrors by which some of these successes were accompanied; Naples, for instance, has been, among others (what is called) delivered; and yet, if I am rightly informed, it has been stained and polluted by murders so ferocious, and cruelties so abhorrent, that the heart shudders at the recital. It has been said, that not only were the miserable victims of the rage and brutality of the fanatics savagely murdered, but that in many instances their flesh was devoured by the cannibals, who are the advocates, if the rumours which are circulated be true. I will mention a fact to give Ministers the opportunity, if it be false, to wipe away the stain that must otherwise affix on the British name. It is said that a party of the Republican inhabitants at Naples took shelter in the fortress of Castle del Uovo. They were besieged by a detachment from the royal army, to whom they refused to surrender, but demanded that a British officer should be brought forward, and to him they capitulated. They made terms with him under the sanction of the British name. It was agreed that their persons and property should be safe, and that they should be conveyed to Toulon. They were accordingly put on board a vessel, but before they sailed, their property was confiscated, numbers of them taken out, thrown into dungeons, and some of them, I understand, notwithstanding the British guarantee, absolutely executed.
This appalling narrative, which was never refuted, is really too horrible to ponder over. It puts in the shade any responsibility Napoleon had for the death of the Duc d'Enghien. It is needless to enlarge on the silly and altogether baseless attacks that were not only allowed to be made, but, we have good grounds for stating, were manufactured by members of the Government and their agents, and circulated for the purpose of distracting the public mind from their own iniquities, and inflaming bitter passions and prejudices by accusing Napoleon of deeds of blood for which he was in no greater degree responsible than were they. The nations were all out for blood at that period (just as they are now), and each claimed a monopoly of all the virtues. "Down, down, with the French is my constant prayer," shouts our greatest hero, and by way of addendum, he announces in Christ-like accents that he hates a Frenchman as he hates the devil. "Down, down, with the British is our constant prayer" shout back the French, who are at present our Allies against another nation who were our Allies against them at that time, showing that Fraternity is decidedly a possible consummation, though it fluctuates from one to another with amazing eccentricity.
In the name of this fraternal spirit, we see the great Napoleon surrounded by a hotbed of assassins demanding his life in the name of the Founder of our faith. He was the ruler, as I have said, of a vast Empire, sworn to protect its laws, its dignity, and its citizen rights by defending himself and his country against either treachery, plotters against his life, or open enemies, no matter from what quarter they came. The Duc d'Enghien violated the law, and was therefore as liable to suffer the consequences as any peasant or middle-class person would have been. But this did not meet with the approval of the international oligarchy, so they set up a screaming factory and blared this murderous deed into the minds of all the Western world. These fervent professors of the Christian faith were in no way particular as to the form or authenticity of their declamatory ebullitions.
But what of Nelson? He was a subject of his King, employed by the King's Government under certain plenary powers to fight the country's battles, defend its right, uphold its dignity, guard its honour, and commit no violence. That is, in plain English, he was to play the game. But he assumed an authority that no Government of England would have dared to have given him by revoking the word of honour of a distinguished officer who had pledged England's word that the lives of the beleaguered men would be spared. I think the writer of the gospel of "Let brotherly love continue," and the rhetoricians who claim that Britons have no competitors in the science of moral rectitude, will have a hard task to square the unworthy declamations against Napoleon's responsibility in the Duc d'Enghien affair with their silence on Nelson's in breaking the truce already referred to, and the awful consequences set forth in Mr. Fox's speech, which is reminiscent of the powerful disciplinary methods of that manly martinet Ivan the Terrible, who was responsible for the massacre of men by the thousand, flaying of prisoners alive, collecting pyramids of skulls, slaughtering of innocent men, and the free use of other ingenious forms of refined scientific torture which tires the spirit to relate. It is hard to forgive Nelson for having smirched his own and England's name with atrocities so terrible. But more humiliating still to British honour is the fact that his part in the breaking of the treaty was dictated to him from the quarter deck of the Foudroyant by a woman whom my vocabulary is unable to describe in fitting terms. I shall emphasize this masculine female's orders to Nelson by quoting them again. Were it not for the comic impertinence of the order, I think it would almost make me feel the bitterness of death. Nelson seems to have been the victim of her dominating spirit, though the evidence in support of him swallowing the whole dose of medicine is quite feeble. That he swallowed too much of it will always detract from his fame. "Haul down the flag of truce, Bronte. No truce with rebels." Nelson lost a great opportunity of adding romance to his naval glory by neglecting his imperative duty in not putting Sir William Hamilton's wife in irons or having her thrown into the sea. A story of this kind would have sounded better, and its effect would have electrified the world in subsequent days, and have given scope to the talents of actors and authors who are eager for dramatic copy.
I think Cardinal Ruffo would have been a supporter of imposing some form of disciplinary restraint on Emma Hamilton. He did strongly insist on the treaty being honourably adhered to, but his view was overruled, and he retired in consequence in bitter indignation.
So much for the vaunted fairness and impartiality of our treatment of Napoleon!
It is only when we come to study the life of this man that we realize how he towered above all his contemporaries in thought, word, and deed. Napoleon's authentic doings and sayings are wonderful in their vast comprehensiveness and sparkling vision, combined with flawless wisdom. When we speak or think of him, it is generally of his military genius and achievements and of what we term his "gigantic ambition"; and in this latter conclusion the platitudinarians, with an air of originality, languidly affirm that this was the cause of his ruin, the grandeur of which we do not understand. But never a word is said or thought of our own terrible tragedies, nor of the victories we were compelled to buy in order to secure his downfall. His great gifts as a lawgiver and statesman are little known or spoken of. Nelson's views of him were of a rigid, stereotyped character. He only varied in his wild manner of describing him as a loathsome despot, whose sole aim was to make war everywhere and to invade England and annihilate her people.
In the light of what is happening now in the world-war 1914-1917, and the world-wide views expressed about the German Kaiser, it may be interesting to write Pitt's opinion of Napoleon, though they are scarcely to be mentioned in the same breath. The former, who is the creator of the world-tragedy, is a mere shadow in comparison to the great genius of whom Muller, the Swiss historian, says: "Quite impartially and truly, as before God, I must say that the variety of his knowledge, the acuteness of his observations, the solidity of his understanding (not dazzling wit), his grand and comprehensive views, filled me with astonishment, and his manner of speaking to me with love for him. By his genius and his disinterested goodness, he has also conquered me." But I give another authority, Wieland, the German author, who was disillusioned when he had the honour of a conversation with Napoleon on the field of Jena. Amongst the many topics they spoke of was the restoration of public worship in France by Napoleon. In his reply to the German writer as to why religion was not more philosophical and in harmony with the spirit of the times, Napoleon replied, "My dear Wieland, religion is not meant for philosophers! They have no faith either in me or my priests. As to those who do believe, it would be difficult to give them, or leave them too much of the marvellous. If I had to frame a religion for philosophers, it would be just the reverse of that of the credulous part of mankind." Wieland's testimony of Napoleon is quite as appreciative as that of Muller, and coming from him to the great conqueror of his native land makes it an invaluable piece of impartial history which reverses the loose and vindictive libels that were insidiously circulated by a gang of paid scoundrels in order to prejudice public opinion against him. Wieland, among other eulogies of him, says: "I have never beheld any one more calm, more simple, more mild or less ostentatious in appearance; nothing about him indicated the feeling of power in a great monarch." He conversed with him for an hour and a half, "to the great surprise of the whole assembly."
Here we have a brief but very high testimony from two men of literary distinction, who had formed their impressions by personal contact. The present writer's belief is that had members of the British Government been guided by reason and sound judgment instead of blind, wicked prejudice; had they accepted overtures made to them from time to time by the head of the French nation during his rule, we should not have been engaged during the last five years in a world-war watering the earth with the blood of our race with reckless extravagance. The great soldier-statesman foretold what would happen. What irony that we should be in deadly conflict with the Power which, as an ally, helped to destroy him and is now engaged in frantic efforts to destroy us! Had Pitt and those who acted with him been endowed with human wisdom, he would not have written the following lines, but would have held out the olive-branch of peace and goodwill to men on earth:—
I see (says Pitt in a scrap of MS. found amongst his papers) various and opposite qualities—all the great and all the little passions unfavourable to public tranquillity united in the breast of one man, and of that man, unhappily, whose personal caprice can scarce fluctuate for an hour without affecting the destiny of Europe. I see the inward workings of fear struggling with pride in an ardent, enterprising, and tumultuous mind. I see all the captious jealousy of conscious usurpation, dreaded, detested, and obeyed, the giddiness and intoxication of splendid but unmerited success, the arrogance, the presumption, the selfwill of unlimited and idolized power, and more dreadful than all in the plenitude of authority, the restless and incessant activity of guilt, but unsated ambition.
This scrap of mere phrases indicates a mind that was far beneath the calibre of that of a real statesman. It was a terrible fate for Great Britain to have at the head of the Government a man whose public life was a perpetual danger to the state. Had Pitt been the genius his eloquence led his contemporaries to believe he was, he would have availed himself of the opportunities the Great Figure, who was making the world rock with his genius, afforded the British Government from time to time of making peace on equitable terms. But Pitt's vision of the large things that constituted human existence was feeble and narrowed down to the nightmare of the "tumultuous mind" whose sole aim was the conquest of the Continent of Europe and the invasion of these Islands. The "usurper" must be subdued by the force of arms, the squandering of British wealth, and the sanguinary sacrifice of human lives. That was the only diplomacy his mental organism could evolve. He used his power of expression, which was great, to such good purpose that his theories reflected on his supporters. Had Pitt been talented in matters of international diplomacy, as he was in the other affairs of Government, he would have seized the opportunity of making the Peace of Amiens universal and durable. It is futile to contend that Napoleon was irreconcilable. His great ambition was to form a concrete friendship with our Government, which he foresaw could be fashioned into a continental arrangement, intricate and entangled as all the elements were at the time. Napoleon never ceased to deplore the impossibility of coming to any reciprocal terms with England so long as Pitt's influence was in the ascendant, and he and a large public in France and in this country profoundly believed that Fox had not only the desire but the following, and all the diplomatic qualities to bring it about. Any close, impartial student of history, free from the popular prejudices which assailed Napoleon's origin and advent to power, cannot but concede the great possibilities of this view.
It was only statesmen like Fox who had unconfused perception, and inveighed against the stupidity of ministers acclaimed by an ignorant public as demigods. Napoleon's starting-points were to "Surmount great obstacles and attain great ends. There must be prudence, wisdom, and dexterity." "We should," he said, "do everything by reason and calculation, estimating the trouble, the sacrifice, and the pleasure entailed in gaining a certain end, in the same way as we work out any sum in arithmetic by addition and subtraction. But reason and logic should be the guiding principle in all we do. That which is bad in politics, even though in strict accordance with law, is inexcusable unless absolutely necessary, and whatever goes beyond that is criminal." These were briefly the general principles on which he shaped his ends, and they are pretty safe guides. His mentality, as I have said, was so complete that it covered every subtle and charming form of thought and knowledge, even to the smallest affairs of life. No theologians knew more than he or could converse so clearly on the many different religions; and he was as well versed in the intricacies of finance and civil law as he was in the knowledge of art, literature, and statecraft.
His memory was prodigious, and a common saying of his was that "A head without a memory was like a fort without a garrison." He never used a word that was not full of meaning. The unparalleled amount of literature that surrounds his name teems with concise, vivid sentences on every conceivable subject, and the more they are read and studied, the more wonderful appears their wisdom. On the eve of a great battle, his exhortations to his soldiers were like magic, burning hot into their souls, making them irresistible. The popular idea in the country in his time, when passion ran rampant, and indeed, in a hazy way, affects some people's minds now, was that he and his family were mere perfidious Corsicans without mental endowments or character, and unworthy of the stations in life in which his genius had placed them. His sisters have been caricatured as having the manners of the kitchen, and loose morals, and his brothers as mediocrities. A great deal of the same stuff is now written about other people who have occupied and do occupy high stations in life.
Here is Napoleon's own version of each of his brothers and sisters and of his mother. It was given in course of conversation to Las Cases at St. Helena. "The Emperor," he says, "speaks of his people; of the slight assistance he has received at their hands, and of the trouble they had been to him; he goes on to say that for the rest, we should always, as a last resort, endeavour to form a judgment by analogy. What family, in similar circumstances, would have done better? And, after all, does not mine furnish, on the whole, a record which does me honour? Joseph would be an ornament to society wherever he might happen to reside; Lucien, an ornament to any political assembly; Jerome, had he come to years of discretion, would have made an excellent ruler; I had great hopes of him. Louis would have been popular, and a remarkable man anywhere. My sister Elisa had a man's intellect, a brave heart, and she would have met adversity philosophically. Caroline is a very clever and capable woman. Pauline, perhaps the most beautiful woman of her day, has been, and will be until the end, the most charming creature living. As for my mother, she is worthy of every respect. What family as numerous could make a finer impression?"
If unprejudiced history counts for anything, this testimony is true, and it is doubtful whether any of the ruling families of France who preceded them, or even those of other countries, who took part in bringing about their downfall (taking them as a whole), could tabulate a better record of worthiness. Certainly no previous ruler of France ever made the efforts that the head of the Bonaparte family did to fashion his brothers and sisters into filling the positions he had made for them in a way that became princes and princesses.
The fact is, the political mind was whirling and permeated with the idea of his ambition only, and the human aversion to the introduction of new and improved conditions of life. The ruling classes were seized with alarm lest the spirit of the French Revolution would become popular in this country, and that not only their possessions might be confiscated, but that their lives would be in peril if the doctrines he stood for were to take hold of the public imagination. They were afraid, as they are now, of the despotism of democracy, and so they kept the conflict raging for over twenty years. Then came the fall of the greatest genius and most generous warrior-statesman who has ever figured in the world's history; he had staggered creation with his formidable power, and the instruments of his downfall flattered themselves that the day of Divine vengeance had arrived.
Only a few short months had elapsed when the indomitable hero, well informed of the Allies' squabbling deliberations, at the seat of Conference over the division of their conquest, and their vindictive intentions towards himself, startled them by the news of his landing and uninterrupted march on Paris, and was everywhere acclaimed by the cheers of the Army and the civilian population. Louis XVIII, whom the conquerors had set on the throne, flew in panic when he heard that the man of destiny was swiftly nearing his palace to take his place again as the idol and chief of a great people. Meanwhile, the Allies had somewhat recovered from their apoplectic dismay, and one and all solemnly resolved to "make war against Napoleon Bonaparte," the disturber of the peace, though he was the welcomed Emperor of the French. It was they who were the disturbers of the peace, and especially Great Britain, who headed the Coalition which was to drench again the Continent with human blood. Napoleon offered to negotiate, and never was there a more humane opportunity given to the nations to settle their affairs in a way that would have assured a lasting peace, but here again the ruling classes, with their usual impudent assumption of power to use the populations for the purpose of killing each other and creating unspeakable suffering in all the hideous phases of warfare, refused to negotiate, and at their bidding soldiers were plunged into the last Napoleonic conflict though many other conflicts have followed in consequence. Nothing so deadly has ever happened. The French were defeated and their Emperor sent to St. Helena with the beneficent Sir Hudson Lowe as his jailer.
What a cynical mockery of a man this creature of Wellington, Castlereagh, and Lord Bathurst was! He carried out their behests, and after the ugly deed of vindictiveness, rage and frenzy had wrought the tragic end, they shielded their wicked act by throwing the guilt on him, and he was hustled off to a distant colony to govern again lest his uneasy spirit should put them in the dock of public opinion. He pleaded with them to employ the law officers of the Crown to bring an action against Doctor Barry O'Meara, whose "Voice from St. Helena" teemed with as dark a story as was ever put in print, in which he and his coadjutors figured as the base contracting parties. And the more he urged that the book was a libel against himself, the more O'Meara demanded that the action against him should be brought, and for very substantial reasons it never was. The Duke of Wellington said of Sir Hudson, "He was a stupid man. A bad choice and totally unfit to take charge of Bonaparte." And the great French Chieftain has left on record his contemptuous opinion of the Duke, as I have already said. "Un homme de peu d'esprit sans générosité, et sans grandeur d'âme." (He was a poor-spirited man without generosity, and without greatness of soul.) "Un homme borné." (A man of limited capacity.) His opinion of Nelson was different, although our Admiral had hammered the French sea power out of existence and helped largely to shatter any hope Napoleon may have had of bringing the struggle on land to a successful conclusion.
But these tragic happenings did not bring repose to the nations. Pitt died in 1806, so he missed seeing the fulfilment of his great though mistaken ambition. Who can doubt, as I have said, that the lack of diplomatic genius in preventing the spreading of the Napoleonic wars has been the means of creating other wars, and especially the greatest of all, in which the whole world is now engaged!
That Napoleon himself was averse to a conflict which would involve all Europe and bring desolation in its train is shown by the following letter, written by his own hand, to George III. How different might the world have been to-day had the letter been received in the same spirit in which it was conceived.
SIR AND BROTHER,—Called to the throne of France by Providence, and the suffrages of the Senate, the people, and the Army, my first sentiment is a wish for peace. France and England abuse their prosperity. They may contend for ages, but do their Governments well fulfil the most sacred of their duties, and will not so much bloodshed uselessly, and without a view to any end, condemn them in their own consciences? I consider it no disgrace to adopt the first step. I have, I hope, sufficiently proved to the world that I fear none of the chances of war, which presents nothing I have need to fear; peace is the wish of my heart, but war has never been inconsistent with my glory. I conjure your Majesty not to deny yourself the happiness of giving peace to the world, or leave that sweet satisfaction to your children; for certainly there never was a more fortunate opportunity nor a moment more favourable than the present, to silence all the passions and listen only to the sentiments of humanity and reason. This moment once lost, what bounds can be ascribed to a war which all my efforts will not be able to terminate. Your Majesty has gained more in ten years, both in territory and riches, than the whole extent of Europe. Your nation is at the highest point of prosperity, what can it hope from war? To form a coalition with some Powers on the Continent? The Continent will remain tranquil; a coalition can only increase the preponderance and continental greatness of France. To renew intestine troubles? The times are no longer the same. To destroy our finances? Finances founded on a flourishing agriculture can never be destroyed. To wrest from France her colonies? The colonies are to France only a secondary object; and does not your Majesty already possess more than you know how to preserve? If your Majesty would but reflect, you must perceive that the war is without an object; or any presumable result to yourself. Alas! What a melancholy prospect; to fight merely for the sake of fighting. The world is sufficiently wide for our two nations to live in, and reason sufficiently powerful to discover the means of reconciling everything, when a wish for reconciliation exists on both sides. I have, however, fulfilled a sacred duty, and one which is precious to my heart.
I trust your Majesty will believe the sincerity of my sentiments, and my wish to give you every proof of the same, etc.
This letter indicates the mind and heart of a great statesman. The thinking people, and therefore the most reliable patriots, would receive a similar appeal to-day from the Kaiser in a different spirit than did the King and the Government of George III.
We believe that the war with Germany was forced upon us, and that Mr. Asquith's Government, and especially Sir Edward Grey (his Foreign Secretary) used every honourable means to avoid it, but the cause and origin of it sprang out of the defects of managing and settling the wars that raged at the beginning of the last century, and Pitt, aided by those colleagues of his who were swayed by his magnetic influence, are responsible to a large degree in laying the foundation of the present menace to European concord. Napoleon's plan of unification would have kept Prussian militarism in check. He looked, and saw into the future, while Pitt and his supporters had no vision at all. They played the Prussian game by combining to bring about the fall of the monarch who should have been regarded as this country's natural ally, and by undoing the many admirable safeguards which were designed to prevent Prussia from forcing other German States under her dominion. Napoleon predicted that which would happen, and has happened. He always kept in mind the cunning and unscrupulous tricks of Frederick and knew that if his power were destroyed, that would be Prussia's opportunity to renew the methods of the Hohenzollern scoundrel, the hero of Thomas Carlyle, and the intermittent friend of Voltaire, who made unprovoked war on Marie Theresa with that splendid Prussian disregard for treaty obligations, and who then, with amazing insolence, after the seven years' butchery was over, sat down at Sans Souci in the companionship of his numerous dogs to write his memoirs in which he states that "Ambition, interest, the desire of making people talk about him carried the day, and he decided for war;" he might have added to the majestic Hohenzollern creed, incurable treachery, falsehood, hypocrisy, and cowardice!
But the law of retribution comes to nations as well as to individuals, and after the disappearance of Frederick, Prussian ascendancy came to an end and sank to the lowest depths of hopelessness before the terrible power of Napoleon; after his fall, the old majestic arrogance natural to their race began to revive. It took many years for the military caste to carry their objectives to maturity, and had we stood sensibly and loyally by our French neighbours, the tragedy that gapes at us now could never have come to pass. Possibly the Franco-German war would never have occurred had our foreign policy been skilfully handled and our attitude wisely apprehensive of Germany's ultimate unification and her aggressive aims. The generations that are to come will assuredly be made to see the calamities wrought by the administrators of that period, whose faculties consisted in hoarding up prejudices, creating enmities, and making wars that drained the blood and treasure of our land. We do not find a single instance of Pitt or Castlereagh expressing an idea worthy of statesmanship. What did either of these men ever do to uplift the higher phases of humanity by grappling with the problem that had been brought into being by the French Revolution?
When we think of responsible ministers having no other vision or plan of coming to an understanding with the French nation except by their screams, groans, and odour of blood, it makes one shudder, and we wish to forget that the people allowed them to carry out their hideous methods of settling disputes. A galaxy of brilliant writers has sung their praises in profusion, but while the present writer admires the literary charm of the penmen's efforts, he does not find their conclusions so agreeable or so easy to understand. There was never a time, in our opinion, even during the most embarrassing and darkest phases of the Napoleonic struggle, in which our differences with France were insoluble. Napoleon, as I have said, never ceased to avow his willingness to make vital sacrifices in order that peace between the two peoples should be consummated. The stereotyped cant of maintaining the "Balance of Power" is no excuse for plunging a nation into gruesome, cruel, and horrible wars. It is when our liberties are threatened that circumstances may arise when it would be a crime not to defend them. But where and when were any of our interests threatened by Napoleon until we became the aggressors by interfering with the policy of what he called his "Continental system"? Even before Napoleon became Consul, First Consul, and subsequently Emperor of the French, it was deemed high policy on the part of our statesmen to take sides against the French Directorate in disputes that were caused and had arisen on the Continent out of the Revolution, and once involved in the entanglement which it is hard to believe concerned us in any degree, the nation was committed to a long and devastating debauch of crime which men who understood the real art of statesmanship would have avoided.
Many of the famous statesmen who have lived since their time would have acted differently. Fox, with a free hand, would have saved us, and but for the senseless attitude of the Pitt-Castlereagh party, the Grey, Romilly, Horner, Burdett and Tierny combination would have prevented the last of Napoleon's campaigns between his return from Elba and his defeat at Waterloo, which proved to be the bloodiest of all the Emperor's wars.
Amongst a certain section of the community the belief is that they who can steer the State along peaceful lines are mediocrities, and they who involve us in war are geniuses and earn the distinction of fame and Westminster Abbey, though it may be that they are totally void of all the essentials that are required to keep on good terms, not only with other Powers, but with our own masses. Take, first of all, the unostentatious old Scotsman, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was regarded in the light of a mediocrity by the bellicose-minded people. Had he lived and been in power at the time of Pitt and Castlereagh, his finely constituted, shrewd brain and quiet determined personality would have guided the State in a way that would have brought it credit and kept it out of the shambles. Another personality who is possessed of attributes that have been scantily recognized is that of Lord Rosebery who, during his Foreign Secretaryship under Mr. Gladstone, and when he became Premier himself, saved this country more than once from war with Germany, leaving out of account the many other services rendered to his country. It is a tragedy to allow such merits to be wasted because of some slight difference of opinion in matters that do not count compared with the advantage of having at the head of affairs a man with an unerring tactful brain who can deal with international complexities with complete ease and assurance.
Although Mr. Gladstone must always be associated with those who were responsible for the guilt of dragging this country, and perhaps France, into the Crimean war in defence of a State and a people whom he declared in other days should be turned out of Europe "bag and baggage" because of her unwholesome Government and hideous crimes to her subject races, he had the courage and the honesty to declare in later life that the part he took in allowing himself to acquiesce in a policy he did not approve, would always be a bitter thought to him. Had he been at the head of the Government then, and had he lived at the time of the continental upheaval that followed the French Revolution, all the evidences of his humane spirit and prodigious capacity lead us to the belief that there were no circumstances affecting our vital national interests that would have led him to take up arms against France. Nor do we think that a statesman of Lord Salisbury's stamp would have failed to find a way out. Disraeli was a different type. He lived in a picturesque world, and thirsted for sensation. The enormity of war was meaningless to him. He was not a constitutional statesman, but merely a politician who liked to arouse emotions. Mr. Asquith, whose head is free from the wafting of feathers, would, with strong and loyal backers, have applied his inimitable powers of persuasion and tact in accomplishing his ends without a rupture; and Lord Morley would as soon have thought of dancing a hornpipe on his mother's tomb as have yielded to the clamour for war by any number of the people or any number of his colleagues, no matter how numerous or how powerful they might be; even though his opinion of the French Emperor were strongly adverse, he would have angled for peace or resigned. I would rather place the guidance of the country through intricate courses in this man's hands than in that of a man mentally constituted as was Pitt. The present Viscount Grey would have taken the line his namesake took in 1815 by strongly advocating a peaceful solution.
Take another man of our own time, the Right Hon. Arthur Balfour. He would have parleyed and schemed until the time had passed for any useful object to be gained by our joining in the war, always provided that the Jingo spirit were not too irrepressible for him to overpower and bewilder with his engaging philosophy. If George III had been blessed with these types of statesmen to advise him instead of the Castlereaghs, he might not have lost his reason. Napoleon would never have gone to Egypt, and our shores would never have been threatened with invasion. Nor would British and neutral trade have been paralysed in such a way as to bring in its wake ruin, riots, bankruptcies, and every form of devastation in 1811. And as a natural corollary, we were plunged into a war with America which lasted from 1812 to 1814, and which left, as it well might, long years of bitter and vindictive memories in the minds of a people who were of our race and kindred. Our people as a whole (but especially the poorer classes) were treated in a manner akin to barbarism, while their rulers invoked them to bear like patriots the suffering they had bestowed upon them.
But the canker had eaten so deeply into their souls that it culminated in fierce riots breaking out in Lancashire and London which spread to other parts and were only suppressed by measures that are familiar to the arrogant despots who, by their clumsy acts, are the immediate cause of revolt. Pitt and Castlereagh were the High Commissioners of the military spirit which the Whigs detested, and when the former died in 1806 the latter became the natural leader.
Pitt was buried peaceably enough in the Abbey, but when his successor's tragic end came in 1822, the populace avenged themselves of the wrongs for which they believed he was responsible by throwing stones at the coffin as it was being solemnly borne to its last resting place beside William Pitt. Both men made war on Napoleon because they believed him to be the implacable disturber of peace and a danger to their country. Pitt, as we have seen, left among his MS. his opinion of the great soldier, and here is the latter's opinion of Pitt, expressed to his ministers on the eve of his leaving Paris for his last campaign against his relentless foes.
"I do not know," he said (to his ministers in speaking to them of the new constitution he had granted), "how in my absence you will manage to lead the Chambers. Monsieur Fouché thinks that popular assemblies are to be controlled by gaining over some old jobbers, or flattering some young enthusiasts. That is only intrigue, and intrigue does not carry one far. In England, such means are not altogether neglected; but there are greater and nobler ones. Remember Mr. Pitt, and look at Lord Castlereagh! With a sign from his eyebrows, Mr. Pitt could control the House of Commons, and so can Lord Castlereagh now! Ah! if I had such instruments, I should not be afraid of the Chambers. But have I anything to resemble these?"
This piece of pathetic history is given to us by the French historian, M. Thiers, the lifelong enemy of his Imperial master, Napoleon III. We are faced now with the Power that we helped to build up against ourselves at the expense of the wreck of the First French Empire.
The political situation then and now bears no comparison. We made war on the French without any real justification, and stained our high sense of justice by driving them to frenzy. We bought soldiers and sailors to fight them from impecunious German and Hanoverian princes. We subsidized Russia, Prussia, Austria, Portugal, Spain, and that foul cesspool, Naples, at the expense of the starvation of the poorest classes in our own country. The bellicose portion of the population, composed mainly of the upper and middle classes, shrieked their deluded terrors of extinction into the minds of the people and believed that if we did not make common cause with the downtrodden sanctified allies who were fighting a man-eating ogre who was overrunning their respective countries, putting every one to the sword, we should become the objects of his fierce attention, be invaded and ground down to slavery for ever and ever. Our statesmen, hypocritically full of the gospel of pity, could not speak of our ally of other days without weeping, while at the same time pouring further subsidies into their greedy traitorous laps, in order that they might secure their co-ordination.
It is futile for historian apologists to attempt to vindicate men who obviously were afflicted with moral cupidity, begotten of intellectual paralysis. It is merely an unwholesome subterfuge to state that they were free from enmity against the French nation, and that their quarrel was with the head of it. There would be just as much common sense in contending that the French Government had no hostile feeling against the British people, and that their quarrel was only against George III. Devices such as these, under any circumstances, are not only unworthy, but childish, and their sole object is to throw dust in the eyes of those they flippantly call the common people. As a matter of fact, it was not only the Emperor Napoleon whom they made it their policy to charge with being a public danger to the world, but the principles of the Revolution which he sprang from obscurity to save, which was slyly kept at the back of their heads.
But the Republic, which was the outcome of the Revolution, was an approved ordinance of the people, and in addition to Napoleon being their duly elected representative, he was regarded by them as the incarnation of the Republic. The difference between him and the other monarchs of Europe was, that while they inherited their position, his election was democratically ratified by millions of votes. These votes were given by the people with whom a foreign Government declared it was at peace while at the same time it was at war with their Chief, whom they had from time to time duly elected. This is a method of warfare which represents no high form of thought or action, and to the everlasting credit of the French people be it said, they not only resented it, but stood loyally by their Emperor and their country until they were overpowered by the insidious poison of treason and intrigue from within and without.
What a howl there would have been if the German Kaiser had sent out a proclamation that he was not at war with the British nation, but with their King and Government! Suppose he had committed the same act of arrogance towards the President of the United States, the revulsion of feeling would be irrepressible in every part of the world.
We recognize at the same time that Napoleon's position was made insecure by an important element of his own countrymen, composed of the Bourbons and their supporters, who never ceased to intrigue for their return. Besides, there was a strong Republican element who never forgave him for allowing himself to become Emperor. But the most serious defection was that of some of his most important Generals, amongst whom were Marmont and Bertheur. The former subsequently became the military tutor of his son, the King of Rome, who died at Schonbrunn on the 22nd July, 1832, eleven years after his father's death at St. Helena.
A notable fact is that there were very few of his common soldiers and common people who did not stand by him to the last, and who would not have continued the struggle under his trusted and revered generalship, had he elected to fight on. He implored the Provisional Government to give their sanction to this, and had they done so, he has stated that he could have kept the Allies at bay and would have ultimately made them sue for peace. Most authorities declare that this would have been impossible, but his genius as a tactician was so prodigious and unrivalled, his art of enthusing his soldiers so vastly superior to that of any general that could be brought against him, his knowledge of the country on which he might select to give battle so matchless that one has substantial grounds for believing that his assertion was more than a mere flash of imagination, and that even with the shattered, loyal portion of his army, he might have succeeded in changing defeat into a victory which would have changed the whole political position of Europe. He frequently reverted to his last campaign and his last battle at Waterloo, when he was in captivity at St. Helena, and declared he should never have lost it, as his plan of battle at every point was never better devised, and that by all the arts of war he ought to have defeated the Allies; then he would lapse into sadness and soliloquize, "It must have been fate."
In the effort to crush a cause and a nation which had been brought out of the depths of anarchy and raised to the zenith of power by the advent of a great spirit, the British Government of that period made their country parties to the slaughter of thousands of our fellow-creatures, which, in the light of subsequent events, has left a stain upon our diplomacy that can never be effaced, no matter what form of excuse may be set forth to justify it. Never, in the whole history of blurred diplomatic vision, has there evolved so great a calamity to the higher development of civilization.
By taking so prominent a part in preventing Napoleon from fulfilling the eternal purpose for which all nature foreshadowed he was intended, we made it possible for Germany to develop systematically a diabolical policy of treason which has involved the world in war, drenching it with human blood. The Allies pursued Napoleon to his downfall. Their attitude during the whole course of his rule was senselessly vindictive. They gloated over his misfortune when he became their victim, and they consummated their vengeance by making him a martyr. The exile of St. Helena acted differently. When he conquered, instead of viciously overrunning the enemy's country and spreading misery and devastation, he made what he wished to be lasting peace, and allowed the sovereigns to retain their thrones. How often did he carry out this act of generosity towards Prussia and Austria, and who can deny that he did not act benevolently towards Alexander of Russia, when at Austerlitz and Tilsit, he formed what he regarded as lasting personal friendship with the Czar! It is all moonshine to say that he broke the friendship. The power of Russia, Prussia, and Austria were hopelessly wrecked more than once, and on each occasion they intrigued him into war again, and then threw themselves at his feet, grovelling supplicants for mercy, which he never withheld.
Well might he exclaim to Caulaincourt, his ambassador in 1814, when the congress was sitting at Chatillon: "These people will not treat; the position is reversed; they have forgotten my conduct to them at Tilsit. Then I could have crushed them; my clemency was simple folly."
The nations who treated him with such unreasonable severity would do well to reflect over the unfathomable folly of the past, and try to realize, at the present stage of their critical existence, that it may be possible that human life is reaping the agonies of a terrible retribution for a crime an important public in every civilized country believed, and still continues to believe, to have been committed. It is a natural law of life that no mysterious physical force ever dies, but only changes its form and direction. Individuals and vast communities may dare to mock at the great mystery that we do not understand. But it is a perilous experiment to defy its visitations. What incalculable results may arise through taking the wrong attitude towards the great laws that govern our being!
The autocratic rulers at the beginning of the last century were never right in their views as to how the vastly greater image than their own should be treated. They measured Napoleon and his loftier qualities by their own tumultuous limitations, which prevented them from seeing how wide the gulf was between him and the ordinary man. He was a magical personality, and they failed to comprehend it.
Heinrich Heine, the great German writer, who was pro-Napoleon, has told a vivid story of how he visited the East India Docks, while he was in London, and there saw a large sailing vessel with a great number of coloured people on board, Mohammedans for the most part. He wished to speak to them but did not know their language. He was particularly anxious to show them some courtesy if even, as he says, in a single word, so he reverently called out the name "Mohammed." In an instant the countenance of these strange people beamed with pleasure, and with characteristic Eastern devotion bowed themselves and shouted back to him "Bonaparte."
I have no thought, in writing of Napoleon, to draw a comparison between him and the ex-Kaiser and his guilty coadjutors in crime, who forced a peaceful world into unspeakable war. They have been guilty of the foulest of murders, which will outmatch in ferocity every phase of human barbarity. There can be no pardon or pity for them. They must pay the penalty of their crimes, as other criminals have to do. The following letter, addressed by William II to his late colleague in guilt, the Emperor Joseph of Austria, is enough in itself to set the whole world into a blaze of vengeance:—
"My soul is torn," says this canting outcast, "but everything must be put to fire and sword, men, women, children, and old men must be slaughtered, and not a tree or house be left standing. With these methods of terrorism, which are alone capable of affecting a people so degenerate as the French, the war will be over in two months, whereas if I admit humanitarian considerations, it will last years. In spite of my repugnance, I have, therefore, been obliged to choose the former system."
It is hard to believe that a document of this kind could be written by any one that was not far gone in lunacy, but in any case, I repeat it is to be hoped that St. Helena will not be desecrated by sending him to that hallowed abode.
It is never a difficult performance to become involved in war, and it is always a tax on human genius to find a decent way out of it; whether it be honourable or dishonourable does not matter to those who believe in conflict as a solution of international disputes. History can safely be challenged to prove that anything but wild wrath and ruin is the unfailing outcome of war to all the belligerents, whether few or many. More often than not, it is brought about by the exulting chatter of a few irrepressible and also irresponsible individuals who have military or political ambitions to look after, and no other faculty of reason or vocabulary than the gibberish "that war will clear the air." They ostentatiously claim a monopoly of patriotism; and convey their views on war matters with a blustering levity which is a marvel to the astonished soul. Their attitude towards human existence is that you cannot be a patriot or create a great nation unless you are bellicose and warlike.
This was the deplorable condition of mind that involved us in the wars subsequent to the French Revolution. But the diplomatists (if it be proper to call them such) and the oligarchy were responsible for the ruptures at that period, and certainly not the general public. In fact, it is doubtful whether the general public are ever in favour of breaking the peace. A minority may be, but they are the noisy and unreflecting section. There is a wide difference between the Napoleonic wars and that which was waged against the civilized world by the German Kaiser and his military myrmidons, who have acted throughout like wild beasts. There never has been perpetrated so atrocious a crime as the deliberately planned military outrage on the peace of the world.
The brief comparison between Kaiser William and Napoleon Bonaparte is that the one, like Frederick, the hero of Thomas Carlyle, is a shameless traitor to every act of human decency, and the other, in spite of what biassed writers have thought it their duty to say of him, was an unparalleled warrior-statesman, and his motives and actions were all on the side of God's humanity and good government. From the time he was found and made the head of the French nation, he was always obliged to be on the defensive, and, as he stated, never once declared war. The continental Great Powers always made war on him, but not without his thrashing them soundly until they pleaded in their humility to be allowed to lick his boots. You may search English State papers in any musty hole you like, and you will find no authoritative record that comes within miles of justifying the opinions or the charges that have been stated or written against him. Let us not commit the sacrilege, if he is ever made prisoner and is not shot for the murders and cruelties he and his subjects have committed on British men and women at sea and on land, of deporting the Kaiser to St. Helena to desecrate the ground made sacred for all time because of the great Emperor who was an exile there. Force of circumstances made Louis Philippe declare the truth to the world's new generations (doubtless to save his own precious skin) that "he was not only an emperor, but a king from the very day that the French nation called upon him to be their ruler." The kingly Louis would have given worlds not to have been compelled to say this truth of him, but his crown was at stake.
The Senate voted with enthusiasm that he should be First Consul for ten years, and he replied to the vote of confidence that "Fortune had smiled upon the Republic; but Fortune was inconstant; how many men," said he, "upon whom she has heaped her favours have lived too long by some years, and that the interest of his glory and happiness seemed to have marked the period of his public life, at the moment when the peace of the world is proclaimed." Then with one of those spasmodic impulses that compel attention, he darts an arrow right on the spot; "If," he says, "you think I owe the nation a new sacrifice, I will make it; that is, if the wishes of the people correspond with the command authorized by their suffrages." Always the suffrages, you observe, and never the miserable, slandering, backbiting dodges of the treasonists.
The mind of this remarkable man was a palatial storehouse of wise, impressive inspirations. Here is one of countless instances where a prejudiced adversary bears testimony to his power and wisdom. A few Republican officers sought and were granted an audience, and the following is a frank admission of their own impotence and Napoleon's greatness: "I do not know," their spokesman says, "from whence or from whom he derives it, but there is a charm about that man indescribable and irresistible. I am no admirer of his." Such persons always preface any statement they are about to make by asserting their own superiority in this way, and the officers, who, with others, had many imaginary grievances against Napoleon, determined to empty their overburdened souls to him. This gallant person emphasizes the fact that he dislikes "the power to which he (Napoleon) had risen," yet he cannot help confessing (evidently with reluctance) that there is something in him which seems to speak that he is born to command. "We went into his apartment to expostulate warmly with him, and not to depart until our complaints were removed. But by his manner of receiving us we were disarmed in a moment, and could not utter one word of what we were going to say. He talked to us with an eloquence peculiarly his own, and explained with clearness and precision the importance of pursuing the line of conduct he had adopted, never contradicting us in direct terms, but controverted our opinions so astutely that we had not a single word to offer in reply, and retired convinced that he was in the right and that we were manifestly in the wrong." It is a common delusion with little men to believe that they are big with wisdom and knowledge, even after they have been ravelled to shreds by a man of real ability. The French Republican officers were condescendingly candid in giving the First Consul a high character, and he, in turn, made these self-assertive gentlemen feel abashed in his presence, and sent them about their business without having made any unnatural effort to prove that they had had an interview with a majestic personality, who had made articulation impossible to them. I might give thousands of testimonies, showing the great power this superman had over other minds, from the highest monarchical potentate to the humblest of his subjects. The former were big with a combination of fear and envy. They would deign to grovel at his feet, slaver compliments, and deluge him with adulation (if he would have allowed them), and then proceed to stab him from behind in the most cowardly fashion. There are always swarms of human insects whose habits of life range between the humble supplicant and the stinging, poisonous wasps.
It would have been better for the whole civilized world had there been more wisely clever men, such as Charles James Fox, in public life in this and other countries during Napoleon's time. He was the one great Englishman who towered above any of the ministers who were contemporary with him in this country, and certainly no public man had a finer instinct than he as to the policy Great Britain should observe towards a nation that was being dragged out of the cesspool of corruption and violence into a democratic grandeur of government that was the envy of Continental as well as British antiquarians. Fox saw clearly the manifest benefit to both countries if they could be made to understand and not to envy each other. In 1802, Fox was received in Paris like a highly popular monarch. The whole city went wild with the joy of having him as the guest of France. He was the great attraction at the theatres next to the First Consul, whom Fox declared "was a most decided character, that would hold to his purpose with more constancy and through a longer interval than is imagined; his views are not directed to this, i.e. the United Kingdom, but to the Continent only." "I never saw," he says, "so little indirectness in any statesman as in the First Consul." Had Fox been supported by sufficient strong men to counteract the baneful influence of the weeds who were a constant peril to the country over whose destinies George III and they ruled, we should have been saved the ghastly errors that were committed in the name of the British people. The King's dislike to Fox was openly avowed. He used to talk incessantly of going back to Hanover whenever he was thwarted in his disastrous policy of giving the country a stab, or when the inevitable brought Fox into office. Everything that emanated from the great statesman was viewed with aversion and as being unjust and indecent by the royal Lilliputian, while Fox's estimate of the King could not be uttered on a lower plane. He says, in speaking of His Majesty, "It is intolerable to think that it should be in the power of one blockhead to do so much mischief"—meaning, I presume, amongst many other blunders, the mess he was persisting in making over American affairs.
Had there been capable statesmen during that crisis, the Continent of Europe and the vast dominions of Great Britain would not have been at war this day with the pernicious Power that we, more than any other nation, as has been previously stated, helped to create and foster.
Fox was the only genius in our political life at that time, while Pitt was a mere shadow in comparison, though it is fair to state that the former always believed that he and Pitt would have made a workable combination. As to the rest, they were pretty much on the level of the Lilliputians with whom the late traveller, Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, had such intimate and troublesome relations. The book by the Dean of St. Patrick's, "Gulliver's Travels," is a perfect caricature of the political dwarfs of his time, and vividly represents the men who misruled this country in George III's reign. But the Dean's laughable history of the pompous antics of the Lilliputians is a picture which describes the constitution of our present administration who are managing the critical affairs of the nation so ill that disaster is inevitable in many forms, seen and unseen. The administrative machine is clogged with experimental human odds and ends who have neither wit, knowledge, nor wisdom to fill the post allotted to them, and the appalling thought is that the nation as a whole is being blustered by the intriguers who are forcing every national interest into certain destruction. Truly the Lilliputians are a plague on all human interests, real patriotism, and capacity: always mischievous, always incapable, just the same now as when, in the eighteenth century, their type forced a peaceful and neutral Power into war because they refused to yield their fleet to them; always seeing things that do not exist, and foreboding perils that would never have come but for their dwarfish interference. They discovered in their flights of frenzy and fancy that Napoleon intended to take possession by force of the Danish fleet, when, as a matter of fact, he had never shown any indication, by word or thought, of committing an act so unjust and hostile to his own interests. A strong point in his policy was to keep Denmark on terms of friendly neutrality. Moreover, he was not, as many writers have said (in loyalty to fashion), an unscrupulous breaker of treaties. It was an unworthy act of the British Government to send Mr. Jackson as their representative to bully the Danes into giving up their fleet to the British, on the plea that they had learned by reports through various channels what Napoleon's intentions were. Count Bernsdorf, to whom Jackson insolently conveyed the nightmare of his Government, very properly raged back at him that "the Danish Government had no such information, and that he was adducing false reports and mere surmises quite unworthy of credit to fill the measure of British injustice in forcing Denmark into a ruinous war. It was folly to suppose that Napoleon could gain anything by throwing Norway and Denmark into an alliance with England and Sweden." Then he adds, with a dignified sense of wrong, "that the Regent knew how to defend his neutrality." "It might be possible," retorts Mr. Jackson, "though appearances are against that supposition, that the Danish Government did not wish to lend itself to hostile views; still, it could not resist France." Then Bernsdorf, who has right on his side, said in accents of crushing anger, "So! because you think Napoleon has the intention of wounding us in the tenderest part, you would struggle with him for priority and be the first to do the deed?" "Yes," responds the distinguished representative of the upholders of the rights of nations, "Great Britain would insist upon a pledge of amity." "What pledge," demands the Count. "The pledge of uniting the Danish forces to those of Great Britain," is the reply.
It will be seen that nothing short of vassalism will satisfy the policy laid down by the stupid emancipationists of downtrodden nations, as represented by the impressive effrontery of the noble Jackson. What a terrible piece of wooden-headed history was the effort to force Denmark to break her neutrality or make war on her! They seized Zealand, and because the Prince Regent refused to agree to their perfidy, they kept possession of it. The Prince sent written instructions to burn all the ships and stores, but the messenger was captured and the faithful person to whom the delivery of the document was entrusted swallowed it (i.e. swallowed the instructions). Copenhagen had been bombarded and practically reduced to destruction by Nelson, who had settled with the Danes on favourable British terms, one of the conditions being that they were to leave with their booty in six weeks. The Regent subsequently declared war and outwitted the British designs (so it is said) on Zealand.
Castlereagh sought the aid of Lord Cathcart to find a dodge by which his Government could inveigle the Danes to commit a breach of the Convention, but the latter stood firm by the conditions, and the commanders, being disgusted with the whole affair, declined to aid their Chiefs in the Government in any act of double dealing. But they had the Emperor Alexander of Russia to deal with. He offered to act as intermediary between Great Britain and France in order to bring about an honourable peace. The British Government refused, and it is stated on incontrovertible authority that Alexander was furious, and upbraided the British with having used troops, which should have been sent to Russia's aid, to crush Denmark. The outrage of attacking a small State which was at peace and with which she had no quarrel was powerfully denounced by Alexander. He accused the British Government "of a monstrous violation of straight dealing, by ruining Denmark in the Baltic, which it knew was closed to foreign hostilities under a Russian guarantee."
This caused Alexander to break off relations with Great Britain and annul all treaties he had with her. Canning feebly replied to the Russian Emperor's taunts, and, amongst other things, accused him of throwing over the King of the Huns. No wonder that Russia and some of the other Powers resented the perfidious conduct of British statesmen, employing British military and naval forces to overthrow and destroy not only a friendly Power, but one of the smallest and most strictly neutral States in Europe! Alexander jibed at them for using their resources for this unjust purpose, instead of sending them to help him when he was being so desperately driven to defeat by Napoleon. What a loutish trick it was to imagine that any real political or practical benefit could be derived from it! The seizure of the Danish fleet was a low-down act, for which those who were responsible should have been pilloried. The reasons given could not be sustained at the time, and still remain entirely unsupported by fact. There is no more disgraceful proceeding to be found in the pages of history than our raid on this small and highly honourable, inoffensive, and brave people.
This bad statesmanship was deplorable. It set the spirit of butchery raging. It made a new enemy for ourselves, and in an economic sense added hundreds of thousands to our national debt, without deriving a vestige of benefit from either a military or political point of view. It undoubtedly prolonged the war, as all those squint-eyed enterprises are certain to do. It made us unpopular and mistrusted, and had no effect in damaging Napoleon's activities, nor of taking a single ally from him. There are occasions when nations have forced upon them cruel stratagems and alternatives, revolting in their abominable unworthiness, but in the case I am discussing I have found no substantial justification, nor has the deed been backed up to now or supported by a single real authority. Nothing but condemnation still hangs round the memory of those hapless ministers who made the world so full of misery. I repeat, the greatest of all perils is to have a Government composed of men whose brains are full of kinks, and who do not reach beyond the bounds of basing their policy on the idea that some foreigner or other has designs on our national wealth, our trade, or our vast protectorates. In recent years that view has been dissipated, and the plan of broadening the national goodwill to men has been adopted and encouraged by a body of sound, unpretentious thinkers who have taken pains to train important gifts in the art of good government in all its varied aspects and international complexities. The whole public have had to pay appalling penalties in the past because an impulsive handful of the population is of opinion that self-advertising, harum-scarum politicians, in and out of office, are the geniuses who make and keep prosperity. This uncontrolled, emotional trend of thought comes in cycles and is unerringly followed by bitter disillusionment. It was so during the wars at the beginning of the last century, and it is so now. We always reflect after the tragedy has been consummated. Safe and astute administrators are always termed the "old gang" by the political amateurs, and the calamity is that a large public is so often carried away by the flighty delusions of the real cranks who style themselves the saviours of their country. At the present time we have as sure an example as ever the known world has witnessed of the awful disaster the resignation of the "old gang" has been to the whole of the Powers interested in this world-war, especially to our own country. We shall realize this more fully by and by when the naked truth presents itself. The very people who are conspicuously responsible for the destruction of unity always bellow the loudest to maintain it after they have been the high conspirators in breaking it, aided by their guilty followers. What bitter lessons this land of ours has been subjected to in other days! For twenty years the country was kept in the vortex of a raging war, with no more justification than giving Mr. Jackson instructions that the one imperative idea to keep in his mind was to take possession of the Danish fleet. Nothing was to stand in the way of this great adventure, shameless though it might be.
Lord Malmesbury writes in his diary: "Capture of Danish fleet by surprise on account of most undoubted information received from the Prince Regent of Portugal of Bonaparte's intention to use the Portuguese and Danish fleets for invasion of England. First hint of the plan given by the Prince of Wales to the Duke of Portland. The Portuguese refused the demand, and told the British Government of it; the Danes accepted, kept silence, and afterwards denied it." The entry in Malmesbury's diary has been proved to be a string of pure inventions, for which he or some other informants are responsible. I have said no record has been left to show that Napoleon ever had any intention of occupying the ports of Holstein or of using the Danish fleet for the invasion of Great Britain and Ireland. Members of Parliament in the House of Commons and members of the House of Lords proved beyond question that ministers' statements, taking the dates into account, were entirely erroneous. Canning defended the sending of the expedition, which was natural, as he was one of the principal advocates of it. But the House would stand none of his tricks of evasion or repudiation. He, like some more modern ministers, ventured on the hazardous plan of deceiving Parliament, and, as was said at the time, setting fair dealing at defiance. Canning, like all tricksters, read extracts from documents, authentic and otherwise, to prove that Denmark was hostile to Britain, but when a demand was made for their inspection, he impudently refused to allow the very documents he had based his case of justification on to be scrutinized, and in consequence no other conclusion could be arrived at than that he was unscrupulously misleading the country. In fact, the Government's case was so bad it would not bear the light of God's day!
I venture to say that Mr. Fox knew more of the character, political intricacies, and ambitions of the French race than any public man or writer of history of his own or in subsequent years. He always based his conclusions on a sound logical point. He was an accurate thinker, who refused to form his judgments on light, faulty and inaccurate newspaper paragraphs about what was going on around him. He was opposed to Pitt and his supporters' policy of carrying on war with France. He wanted peace, but they wanted the Bourbons, because the Bourbon section in France and the old autocracy in his own and other kingly countries were opposed to the new ruler the masses in France had chosen. He ridiculed the folly of our mental nonentities for "making such a fuss about acknowledging the new Emperor. May not the people give their own Magistrate the name they choose?" he asks. "On what logical grounds did we claim the right to revoke by the force of arms the selection by the French people of a ruler on whom they wished to bestow the title of Emperor?" Fox poured lavishly his withering contempt on those miscreants who arrogantly claimed the right to be consulted (for that is practically what their war policy amounted to) as to who the French should put on the throne and what his title should be. They had acknowledged Napoleon in the capacity of First Consul, but they shuddered at the consequences to the human race of having an Emperor sprung upon them whose glory was putting kingship into obscurity. Besides, an Emperor who combined humble origin with democratic genius and ambition created by the Revolution was a challenge to the legitimacy of the Divine Right of Kings and a reversal of the order of ages. George III raged at Pitt for including Fox in his Ministry when he was asked to form a Government. "Does Mr. Pitt," said he, "not know that Mr. Fox was of all persons most offensive to him?" "Had not Fox always cheered the popular Government of France, and had he not always advocated peace with bloodstained rebels? And be it remembered the indecorous language he had frequently used against his sovereign, and consider his influence over the Prince of Wales. Bring whom you like, Mr. Pitt, but Fox never."
George III, King by the Grace of God, relented somewhat in his dislike of Fox before the latter died, and his wayward son, the Prince of Wales, said "that his father was well pleased with Mr. Fox in all their dealings after he came into office." It is an amazing form of intelligence that commits a nation to join in a war against another for having brought about a revolution and for creating their first soldier-statesman an "Emperor," and ranks him and his compatriots as "bloodstained rebels." To class Napoleon as a bloodstained rebel and to put him on a level with the Robespierres and the Dantons is an historic outrage of the truth. He had nothing whatever to do with bringing about the Revolution, though his services saved it, and out of the terrible tumult and wreck superhumanly re-created France and made her the envy of the modern world. The great defender of the Rights of Kings and of the colossal European fabric was appealed to by the man whom George III associated with the "bloodstained rebels" to come to some common understanding so that the shedding of blood might cease, but that robust advocate of peace (!) contemptuously ignored his appeals to negotiate. In 1805 he was raised to the Imperial dignity, and one of his first acts was to write with his own hand that famous letter which I have previously quoted, pleading, with majestic dignity, for the King of England, in the name of humanity, to co-operate with him in a way that will bring about friendly relations between the two Governments and the spilling of blood to an end. The King "by the Grace of God" and his horde of bloodsucking, incompetent ministers insulted the French nation and the great captain who ruled over its destinies by sending through Lord Mulgrave an insolent, hypocritical reply to the French ministers.
The rage of war continued for another decade. If George III yearned for peace as he and his ministers pretended, why did the King not write a courteous autograph letter back to Napoleon, even though he regarded him as an inferior and a mere military adventurer? The nation had to pay a heavy toll in blood and money in order that the assumptions and dignity of this insensate monarch might be maintained, whose abhorrence of "bloodstained rebels" did not prevent him and his equally insensate advisers from plunging the American colonists into a bloody rebellion, which ended so gloriously for them and so disastrously for the motherland. They had asked for reforms that were palpably reasonable and necessary, and received insulting replies to their courteous demands, which compelled them to take up arms against the King of England, with a vow that they would not sheathe the sword until they had won complete independence from the arrogant autocracy that had driven them to war.
They were led by the noble genius of George Washington and Dr. Franklin, who were in turn strongly supported by and united to colleagues of high constructive and administrative talents. Their task was long and fierce, but the gallant, elusive Washington led them through the tremendous struggle to victory, which culminated in founding the greatest and best constituted of all republics, whose sons are fighting side by side with the descendants of those who were forced into fighting their own race, through the maladministration of the King and his guilty Government, at the head of which was the genial but ultra-reactionary Lord North, who was a special favourite of George because he was accommodating; and indeed, all the King's friends were reactionary and dangerous to the real interests of the State when in power. The King's terrific responsibility for the great calamities that befell the country during his reign can only be absolved by the knowledge that he was subject to fits of prolonged lunacy; in fact, it may be said that even in his saner periods his acts were frequently those of an idiot. Though he cannot be accused of lacking in integrity, he disliked men who were possessed of that virtue, coupled with enlightened views, having anything to do with the government of the State. In short, he was totally unsuited to govern at any time, but especially when the atmosphere was charged with violent human convulsions. He loved lick-spittles, because they did his will for value received in various sordid forms, and, as I have said, he loathed the incorruptible and brilliant Charles James Fox, because he refused to support his fatal policies and that of the cocksparrow members of his Government, who from time to time threatened the very foundations of our national existence.
The more George persisted, the louder became Fox's protests. Posterity can never accurately estimate how much it owes to statesmen who acted with Fox, but the influences the King had behind him were too formidable for Fox to grapple with. He would have saved us from the fratricidal war with America, and from the unpardonable wickedness of involving the country in the wars with France, who was fighting out her own prodigious destiny on the Continent, which was no concern of ours, except that the sane policy of the King and his Government should have been to encourage the democratizing of the Continental States. It was no love of liberty, or for the people, or for reforms of any kind, that led George III and his satellites to wage war against the man of the French Revolution. It was the fear of placing more power in the hands of the people and allowing less to remain in his own. But the main fear of the King and his autocratic subjects was lest Napoleon would become so powerful that he would destroy the whole monarchy of Europe! It was the view of small-minded men. Even Napoleon had his limitations, even if this had been his object. But there was no symptom, except that of panic, to justify the assertion that he ever intended to include war on the United Kingdom in his policy. There never was a truer statement made by the Emperor than "C'est avec des hochets qu'on mène les hommes"; which is, "Men are led by trifles." Hence we went to war with him, and the result of it is that the race that he mistrusted most and saw the necessity of keeping severely within limits has risen up against civilization and created a world-war into which we and our Allies have been obliged to enter in self-defence. That is the inevitable penalty we are having to pay for the action we took in helping the Germans to destroy France. I know it is asserted it was not France but Napoleon whose power they aimed at breaking, but the one could not be broken without the other.
 There are many conflicting accounts of Napoleon's part in the arrest, trial, and his intention of pardoning the Duc d'Enghien. It has been stated that he gave Murat his word that the Duc would be pardoned, and when Murat heard that the Prince had been shot, he exclaimed, "There has been treachery!" On the other hand, Bertrand was steadfast in his belief that Murat urged his immediate execution on the grounds that if it was not done at once, Napoleon would grant clemency.
 The terms of capitulation were agreed to and signed by Ruffo, the Russian and Turkish commanders, and by Captain Foote, representing the British Government. Thirty-six hours afterwards Nelson arrived in the Bay of Naples, and cancelled the treaty. Captain Foote was sent away, and the shocking indefensible campaign of Nelson's carried out. Nothing during the whole of Napoleon's career can match this terrible act of Nelson's.
 Italics are the author's.
 "History du Consulat et de l'Empire," vol. xix. p. 619, published August, 1861.
These quaint old doggerel songs are taken from an admirable selection of sailor songs published by John Ashton. The names of the writers are not given, but their strong nautical flavour and queer composition indicate their origin. No landsman can ever imitate the sailor when the power of song or composition is on him. He puts his own funny sentiment and descriptive faculty into his work, which is exclusively his own.
Many of the songs in Mr. Ashton's book I have heard sung with great fervour in my early days, by a generation of men ahead of my own, who must have long since passed away. Sometimes the audiences in the forecastle or on deck were appreciative of the efforts of the singer, but if they were not, they always had a boot or some other handy implement ready to throw at him. The reception given to some of my own singing efforts in boyhood on these merry occasions was mixed. Sometimes I forgot both words and tune, and had, therefore, to pass good-humouredly through the orthodox process of disapproval that was regarded as part of the entertainment.
Any song or recital concerning Nelson, Collingwood, or the later sea hero, Charley Napier, was eminently popular, and to break down in the rendering of any one of these was an offence to their exalted memories. "The Sailor's Grave," which I regret is not included in Mr. Ashton's collection, was in great demand when the sailors were in a solemn mood. Both the words and the tune were ridiculously weird, and when it came to the details of the hero's illness, his looks after death, the sewing up in his hammock, and the tying of two round shots at his feet for sinking purposes, the artist always sang with his hands linked in front of him and his eyes cast heavenward gazing fixedly at a spot on the ceiling. Then came the burial verse:—
This verse always drew tears from the sentimentalists in the audience, and if the singer had pleased by his efforts the song ended in a roar of tumultuous applause.
I have thought it appropriate to add to these doggerel rhymes "The Battle of Copenhagen," "The Death of Nelson," and "The Arethusa." These are sea songs, not sailor's songs, and are of distinctly greater merit, but as two of them deal with Nelson, and as all three have always been most popular, they may not be out of place here.
SOME INCIDENTS OF NELSON'S LIFE
1758. On 29th September he was born.
1767. On 26th December his mother died.
1771. On 1st January a Midshipman aboard the Raisonable.
1771. On 22nd May sent a voyage in merchant ship to West Indies, possibly as cabin-boy.
1772. On 19th July was Midshipman on Triumph.
1773. On 7th May was Midshipman on Carcass.
1773. On 15th October was Midshipman on Triumph.
1773. On 27th October was Midshipman on Seahorse.
1774. On 5th April becomes Able Seaman on Seahorse.
1775. On 31st October is again Midshipman on Seahorse.
1776. On 15th March becomes Midshipman on Dolphin.
1776. On 24th September is paid off from Dolphin.
1776. On 26th September becomes Acting-Lieutenant on Worcester.
1777. On 9th April passed examination.
1777. On 10th April is Lieutenant of Lowestoft.
1778. On 2nd July changes to Lieutenant of Bristol.
1778. On 8th December is appointed Commander of Badger.
1779. On 10th June is made Captain of Hinchinbroke.
1780. In January joins expedition to San Juan and Grenada, Nicaragua.
1780. On 2nd May he is made Captain of the Janus.
1780. On 1st September is invalided from Janus.
1780. On 4th September sailed in the Lion for home
1780. On 24th November arrived at Spithead and went to Bath.
1781. On 23rd August he became Captain of Albemarle.
1782. On 17th April sailed in Albemarle to North America.
1783. On 3rd July paid off from Albemarle.
1783. On 23rd October visited France.
1784. On 17th January back in England.
1784. On 18th March Captain of Boreas.
1784. On 15th May at Leeward Islands in Boreas.
1787. On 12th March married Widow Nesbit.
1787. On 4th July arrived Spithead in Boreas.
1787. On 30th November paid off, put on half pay, and resided mainly at Burnham Thorpe while on shore.
1793. On 26th January joined Agamemnon as Captain.
1793. On 6th June sailed for the Mediterranean.
1793. On 13th July blockaded Toulon.
1793. On 24th August Toulon is occupied and Agamemnon is ordered to Naples. A very full year's work.
1794. On 4th April, Siege of Bastia begun.
1794. On 22nd May, Bastia surrendered:
1794. On 19th June, Siege of Calvi.
1794. On 10th July wounded in the right eye.
1794. On 10th August, Calvi surrendered.
1795. On 13th March Hotham's first action.
1795. On 13th July Hotham's second action.
1795. On 15th July sent with a squadron to co-operate with the Austrians on the coast of Genoa.
1795. On 29th November Sir John Jervis took command of fleet.
1796. On 4th April he is ordered to hoist a distinguishing pennant.
1796. On 4th June shifted his broad pennant to the Captain.
1796. On 11th August appointed Commodore of the first class.
1796. On 10th December joined the Minerva.
1796. On 20th December captured the Spanish frigate La Sabina.
1797. On 13th February rejoined the Captain.
1797. On 14th December joined the Irresistible at the BATTLE OF ST. VINCENT.
1797. On 20th December is Rear-Admiral of the Blue.
1797. On 17th March was created Knight of the Bath.
1797. On 24th March joined the Captain again.
1797. On 1st April news of his promotion.
1797. On 24th May hoisted his flag on Theseus.
1797. On 24th July his right arm badly wounded while leading attack on Santa Cruz, which was repulsed. Arm amputated.
1797. On 20th August joins Seahorse, bound for England.
1797. On 1st September arrived at Spithead, lowers his flag, and proceeds to Bath to recoup his health.
1797. On 27th September has the Order of the Bath conferred on him.
1798. On 29th March joined the Vanguard.
1798. On 30th April arrived off Cadiz.
1798. On 7th June Troubridge reinforces Nelson's squadron of observation by adding ten sail of the line.
1798. On 17th June is off Naples in search of the French fleet.
1798. On 18th June, arrives off Alexandria.
1798. August 1st and 2nd, BATTLE OF THE NILE.
1798. On 22nd September arrives at Naples and is received with great rejoicing. On the 29th Sir William and Lady Hamilton give a grand fête in honour of him. The great battle establishes his fame as the greatest Admiral in the world.
1798. On 6th November he is created Baron Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe.
1798. On 23rd December he sailed for Palermo with the King of Naples and his family aboard.
1798. On 26th December arrives at Palermo and is much gratified by his reception as a popular hero.
1799. On 5th April he changed his flag from blue to red.
1799. On 8th June joins the Foudroyant.
1799. On 24th June arrives off Naples and cancels the agreement of capitulation of the forts.
1799. On 29th June has the aged Admiral Prince Carraciolo hung at the Minerva's fore yardarm at the instigation of Lady Hamilton and the royal profligates of Naples. This act remains a blot on his name.
1799. July 13th to 19th disobeyed Admiral Keith's orders to proceed to Minorca.
1799. On 29th July becomes Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean.
1799. On 8th August returns again to Palermo.
1799. On 13th August he is created Duke of Bronte.
1799. On 5th October sails for Port Mahon, Minorca.
1799. On 22nd October again returns to Palermo.
1800. On 6th January is officially notified that Lord Keith is reappointed to command in Mediterranean, which gives him offence.
1800. On 18th February he captures Le Généreux.
1800. On 30th March also captures Le Guillaume Tell.
1800. On 13th July hauls his flag down at Leghorn and proceeds home, visiting Trieste, Vienna, Dresden, and Hamburg. Is received everywhere as a monarch.
1800. On 6th November he arrives at Yarmouth.
1801. On 1st January becomes Vice-Admiral of the Blue.
1801. On 13th January he is separated from his wife.
1801. On 17th January hoists his flag on the San Josef.
1801. On 29th January Lady Hamilton gives birth to his daughter Horatia.
1801. On 12th February joins the St. George.
1801. On 12th March sails from Yarmouth Roads for the Sound.
1801. On 29th March joins the Elephant.
1801. On 2nd April the BATTLE OF COPENHAGEN. He again rejoins the St. George.
1801. On 5th May appointed Commander-in-Chief in the Baltic.
1801. On 22nd May is created Viscount Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe.
1801. On 19th June resigns command and sails in the brig Kite for Yarmouth, where he arrives on July 1st.
1801. On 2nd July is appointed Commander-in-Chief of the squadron defending the South-East Coast.
1801. On 16th August attacked Boulogne flotilla unsuccessfully.
1802. On 10th April hauled his flag down and took up his residence at Merton.
1802. On 26th April his father died.
1803. On 6th April his friend, Sir William Hamilton, died in Emma's arms.
1803. 16th May, Commander-in-Chief again in the Mediterranean.
1803. On 20th May sailed from Spithead in Victory.
1803. On 21st May his flag shifted to the Amphion.
1803. On 8th July arrives off Toulon.
1803. On 30th July rejoins the Victory and keeps up a steady blockade of Toulon until April 1805, and is troubled in body and soul.
1804. On 23rd April Vice-Admiral of WHITE SQUADRON.
1804. On 18th August death of his aversion, the immortal Admiral La Touche-Treville.
1805. On 17th January the French fleet sailed from Toulon, and falling in with stormy weather, their ships were disabled and put back for repairs.
1805. On 8th February Nelson arrives off Alexandria in search of French.
1805. On 9th March is off Toulon again, and
1805. On 1st April is in Pula Roads.
1805. On 4th April gets news that the Frenchmen have sailed again from Toulon, on the 30th April.
1805. On 4th May came to anchor at Tetuan.
1805. On 9th May came to anchor in Lagos Bay.
1805. On 11th May sailed for the West Indies.
1805. On 4th June arrived at Barbadoes.
1805. On 7th June arrived at Trinidad.
1805. On 12th June arrived off Antigua.
1805. On 13th June sails for Europe in search of the elusive French fleet.
1805. On 18th July joins Collingwood off Cadiz.
1805. On 15th August joins Cornwallis off Brest.
1805. On 18th August arrived at Spithead; joins Lady Hamilton and his little girl Horatia at Merton.
1805. On 13th September having heard from Captain Blackwood, who visited him at Merton, that the French fleet were at Cadiz, he prepares to leave Merton.
1805. On 15th September joins the Victory and sails from Spithead.
1805. On 25th September joins British fleet off Cadiz.
1805. On 21st October, BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR and death of Nelson.
1806. On 9th January buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.
Aboukir Bay, battle of (see Nile, battle of the)
Addington, Charles, 104
Alexander of Russia, 310, 321, 322
Arethusa, The (poem), 352
Armada, Spanish, 39 et seq., 43, 59
Asquith, H.H., 297, 303
Astley, Sir Jacob, 131, 134
Balfour, A.J., 303
Ball, Captain, 153, 154, 158, 160
Barham, Lord, 215
Bathurst, Lord, 295
Beatty, Admiral, 64
Bendero, Don Pedro, 47
Beresford, Lord Charles, 52
Bernsdorf, Count, 320
Berry, Captain. 66
Bertheur, General, 308
Blackett, Mr., 262
Blackwood, Captain, 210, 232, 235, 236, 237
Blake, Admiral, 134
Bonaparte, Caroline, 292
Bonaparte, Elisa, 292
Bonaparte, Jerome, 292
Bonaparte, Joseph, 144, 169, 292
Bonaparte, Louis, 292
Bonaparte, Napoleon (see Napoleon)
Bonaparte, Pauline, 293
Boulogne, battle of (sea song), 343
Brereton, General, 198, 199, 203, 207
Burleigh, Cecil, Lord (see Cecil)
Byng, Admiral Sir John, 161, 267
Cadiz, Drake's attacks on, 32, 39, 58
Cadogan, Mrs., 210
Calais, Armada at, 41
Calder, Sir Robert, 206, 208, 222 et seq., 267, 268
Calvi, siege of, 64
Campbell, Sir John, 108
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir Henry, 301
Capua, siege of, 139
Carlile, Christopher, 48, 51, 54
Carlscrona, Hyde Parker's departure to, 95
Carlyle, Thomas, 69, 78
Caroline (see Naples, Queen of)
Carraciolli, Prince, 118 et seq., 161, 279
Carribean Sea, Drake visits, 54
Carthagena, Drake's attacks on, 32, 54
Castlereagh, Lord, 180, 211, 295, 301, 303, 321
Cecil, Lord, of Burleigh, 27, 32, 44, 58
Champernowne, Sir Arthur, 32
Championnet, General, 147
Cobham, Thomas, 32
Collingwood, Admiral Lord, 31, 63, 64, 83, 84, 134, 193, 200, 203, 204, 210, 229, 235, 237, 238, 243, 245 et seq., 257 et seq.
Columbus, Christopher, 51, 53
Columbus, Diego, 51
Copenhagen, battle of, 89, 91
Copenhagen, battle of (sea-song), 340
Copenhagen (poem), 354
Corday, Charlotte, 141
Corunna, Drake's attack on, 39
Croker, J.W., 115
Cromwell, Oliver, 130, 133, 134, 237
Davis, Sir John, 17
Death of Nelson (poem), 360
Denmark, Prince Regent of, 320, 321
Domingo, San (see San Domingo)
Dominica, Drake's arrival at, 50
Doughty, Thomas, 24, 38
Drake, Sir Francis—
as prototype, 17
and Panama, 18, 56
and Elizabeth, 20, 21, 22, 23, 43
and War Fund, 20
Portuguese Expedition, 20
death at Puerto Bello, 21, 60
on Pelican, 22, 43
and Doughty, 24, 38
and discipline, 24, 38
at Cadiz, 32, 39, 58
at Carthagena, 32, 54
at Corunna, 39
West Indian Expedition, 44
at Vigo, 47, 48
and Spanish Gold Fleet, 49
at Santiago, 49, 50
at Dominica, 50
at San Domingo, 51, 53
at Bahamas, 57
rescues Roanoke settlers, 57, 58
connection with East India Company, 59
Newbolt's poem on, 60
and Fleet Tradition, 63
a religious man, 134
Nelson compared with, 180
"Drake's Drum" (poem), quotation from, 60
Dresden, Electress of, 83
Dropmore manuscript, 179
Dumanoir, 244, 245, 255
East India Company, 59
Edward VII of England, 82
Electress of Dresden, 83
Elizabeth of England, 20, 21, 22, 23, 32, 34, 35, 43, 44
Elliot, Sir George, 122, 123
Emma, Lady Hamilton, 65, 73 et seq., 95, 97, 98 et seq., 118, 119, 120 et seq., 143, 149, 159, 160, 161, 215, 216, 226, 243
d'Enghien, Duc, 268, 276 et seq.
Erskine, Sir James, 147
Featherstonehaugh, Sir Henry, 73
Fisher, Admiral Lord, 64, 95, 178, 180
Fitzwilliam, George, 26
Foote, Captain, 280, 281, 282
Fortescue's Dropmore MS., 179
Fox, Charles James, 282, 290, 301, 317, 318, 326, 327, 330
Francis Joseph of Austria, 312
Franklin, Benjamin, 329
Fremantle, Admiral, 208
Frobisher, Martin, 17, 40, 63, 134
George III of England, 81, 93, 296, 3O3, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331
George, Prince Regent (afterwards George IV), 87, 88, 96
Gilbert, Sir Humphrey, 17
"Give it to him, Charley!" (sea-song), 349
Gladstone, W.E., 301, 302
Goethe (on beauty of Lady Hamilton), 76
Graham, James, 73
Graves, Rear-Admiral, 92
Gravina, Admiral, 244
Greville, Charles, 73, 74, 80, 122
Grey, Earl, 301
Grey, Sir Edward, 297
"Gulliver's Travels," 318
Hallowell, Captain, 146, 218
Hamilton, Sir William, 65, 74, 76, 88, 100 et seq., 122
Hamilton, Lady (see Emma, Lady Hamilton)
Hardy, Captain (of the Victory), 92, 119, 225, 232, 235, 240, 242, 243, 251
Hart, Emily (afterwards Lady Hamilton), 73
Hawkins, Sir John, 17, 20, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 40, 63, 134
Heine, Heinrich, anecdote of, 311
Hood, Admiral, 72
Horatia (Nelson's daughter), 84, 87, 110 et seq., 219, 227, 243
Hotham, Admiral, 118
Howard, Admiral Lord, 17, 40
Inquisition, Spanish, 17, 22, 23, 34, 37
Jackson, Mr. (British representative to Denmark), 320, 324
Jellicoe, Admiral, 64
Jervis, Admiral (see St. Vincent, Admiral Lord)
Joseph of Austria (see Francis Joseph of Austria)
Joseph Bonaparte (see Bonaparte, Joseph)
Keats, Captain, 210
Keith, Lord, 139, 158, 160, 162
Kitchener, Lord, 178
Leslie, General, 130, 134
Louis XVIII of France, 294
Louis Philippe of France, 314
Louis, Captain, 146, 147
Lowe, Sir Hudson, 295
Lyon, Amy (afterwards Emma, Lady Hamilton), 73
Mack, General, 147
Malmesbury, Lady, 122
Malmesbury, Lord, 325
Marengo, battle of, 162
Maria Carolina (see Naples, Queen of)
Marie Louise of Austria, 107, 170
Marlborough, Duke of, 104, 105
Marmont, General, 308
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, 26
Mary Tudor, Queen of England, 35
Medina-Sidonia, Duke of, 19, 40, 41
Melbourne, Lord, 107
Meneval, Baron de, 171
Milas, General, 162
Minto, Lord, 103, 104, 155, 159, 209, 210, 217
Mulgrave, Lord, 328
Müller (Swiss historian), 287
Murat, 145, 169
Naples, Ferdinand, King of, 120, 128, 129, 140, 144, 145, 146, 147, 163 et seq.
Naples, Maria Carolina, Queen of, 77, 79, 118, 129, 148, 162, 163 et seq., 260
and Prussianism, 69, 298
aphorisms, 71, 131, 134, 205, 291, 314
comparison with Nelson, 94
and Marie Louise, 107, 170
his opinion of Nelson, 118
his opinion of Wellington, 117
Cromwell compared with, 133
and the French fleet, 191
and Villeneuve, 199, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268
and Madame Walewska, 217
comparison of his love letters with Nelson's, 218
his "Farewell to France" (poem), 274
as a statesman, 132, 133, 275
and plots against his life, 276
and Pitt, 287 et seq., 304
Müller's opinion of, 287
Wieland's opinion of, 288
and his family, 292
his return from Elba, 294
his letter to George III, 296
his son's death, 308
and Alexander of Russia, 310
and Treaty of Tilsit, 310
compared with William II of Germany, 313
contemporaneous testimony, 315 et seq.
Neipperg, Count, 170
Nelson, Rev. Edmund, 64
Nelson, Horatia (see Horatia)
Nelson, Horatio, Admiral Lord—
and contemporary admiration, 31
and Fleet Tradition, 63
joins Raisonable, 64
joins Triumph, 64
joins Agamemnon, 64
loses right eye at siege of Calvi, 64
loses right arm at Santa Cruz, 65
created K.C.B., 65
at the court of Naples, 65, 76 et seq., 141 et seq., 163 et seq.
at the Nile, 66
created Baron, 72
and gambling scandal, 80, 150
returns home after Nile, 81
and Lady Hamilton, 65, 73, 76 et seq., 95, 97, 98 et seq., 159, 210 et seq., 215, 216, 228, 231
at battle of Copenhagen, 91,
compared with Napoleon, 94, 218
joins St. George, 95
returns home in Kite, 98
at Merton, 100, 210 et seq.
letter to his niece, 111
incident of gipsy's prediction, 114
and Carraciolli, 118 et seq., 279
hatred of the French, 135, 173
at Toulon, 136
at Palermo, 149
and starvation of Neapolitans, 151
and "cracking on," 155
as "Duke of Thunder," 167, 172
homecoming via Magdeburg and Hamburg, 176
and Ministers of State, 139, 174, 180 et seq., 210 et seq.
and privateering, 181
sails to West Indies, 197
returns to England, 207
gift of coffin to, 218
joins Victory, 220
and Calder, 221 et seq.
at Trafalgar, 225 el seq.
last letters, 226, 228, 231
last prayer before battle, 231
death in action, 240, 242 et seq.
the nation's sorrow, 256 et seq.
Collingwood, compared with, 261
chronological data, 363
Nelson and Collingwood (sea-song), 347
Nelson, Lady, 78, 84, 85, 86, 88
Newbolt, Sir H., 60
Nile, Battle of the, 66 et seq.
Nile, Battle of the (sea-song), 337
North, Lord, 329
Norton, Hon. Mrs., 108
O'Meara, Dr., 265, 295
Orange, William the Silent, Prince of, 34
Orde, Sir John, 184, 185, 195, 196, 203
Pahlen, Count, 97
Parker, Sir Hyde, 89, 90, 91, 92, 184
Parma, Duke of, 42
Pasco, Yeoman of Signals, 235
Paul of Russia, 97
Philip of Spain, 17, 18, 26, 28, 32, 34, 36, 37, 40, 41, 42
Pitt, William, 134, 213, 287, 289, 290, 296, 298, 299, 301, 303, 344, 318, 326, 327
Poems, 60, 274, 337
Pole, Sir Charles, 98
Radstock, Lord, 213, 214, 259
Raleigh, Sir Walter, 57
Riou, Captain, 91
Roanoke, settlers of, rescue by Drake, 57, 58
Rome, King of, 308
Romney, George, 73
Rosebery, Lord, 301
Rotherham, Captain, 237, 238
Ruffo, Cardinal, 286
Salisbury, Lord, 302
San Domingo, Drake's attack on, 32, 51, 53
San Philip, 58
Santa Cruz, action at, 65
Santa Cruz, Admiral, 18, 37, 39, 41
Santiago, Drake's attack on, 49, 50
Scott, Dr., 243
Sea Songs, 333
Seymour, Admiral Lord, 40
Sidmouth, Lord, 221
Smith, Sir Sydney, 174
Southey, Robert, 128, 174
Strachan, Sir Richard, 245, 255
St. George, Mrs., 123
St. Vincent, battle of Cape, 65
St. Vincent, Earl, 63, 64, 65, 78, 92, 98, 174, 184, 185, 234
Suckling, Captain Maurice, 64
Thiers, M., 191, 305
Thurn, Count, 119
Touche-Treville, Admiral la, 136, 137
Trafalgar, battle of, 43, 225 et seq.
Trafalgar, Battle of (sea-song), 345
Troubridge, Admiral, 80, 98, 140, 141, 142, 143, 146, 151, 158, 159, 233, 234
Ulloa, San Juan d', catastrophe of, 26
Valdes, Don Pedro de, 19
Verde, Cape de, pursuit of Spanish to, 48
Vigo, Drake's attack on, 47, 48
Villeneuve, Admiral, 116, 189, 190, 199, 200, 206, 210, 225, 229, 244, 259, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268
Walewska, Madame, 217
Washington, George, 329
Wellington, Duke of, 39, 114, 295
Wieland (German historian), 287, 288
William II of Germany, 52, 311, 313
WINDJAMMERS AND SEA TRAMPS
SEA YARNS (FORMERLY ENTITLED "THE SHELLBACK'S PROGRESS IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY")
LOOKING SEAWARD AGAIN
THE TRAGEDY OF ST. HELENA
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK DRAKE, NELSON AND NAPOLEON***
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