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Fire rakes her fore and aft from victorious enemies ; the Vengeur is
sinking. Strong are ye, Tyrants of the sea ; yet we also, are we weak ?
Lo! all flags, streamers, jacks, every rag of tricolor that will yet run on
rope, fly rustling aloft : the whole crew crowds to the upper deck; and
with universal soul-maddening yell, shouts Vive la Bepublique, — sinking,
sinking. She staggers, she lurches, her last drunk whirl ; Ocean yawns
abysmal : down rushes the Vengeui*, carrying Vive la Bepublique along
with her, unconquerable, into Eternity.'

2. Letter from Rear-Admiral Griffiths, in the ' Sun ' Newspaper
of— Nov. 1838

' Mr. Editor, — Since the period of Lord Howe's victory, on 1st June
1794, the story of the Vengeur French 74-gun ship going down with
colours flying, and her crew crying Vive la Repuhlique, Vive la Liberie,
etc., and the farther absurdity that they continued firing the maindeck
guns after her lower deck was immersed, has been declared, and has

1 Vol. iii. p. 241, Cent. Ed.


recently been reasserted by a French author. It originated, no doubt,
on the part of the French, in political and exciting motives, — precisely
as Bonaparte caused his victory at Trafalgar to be promulgated through
France. While these reports and confident assertions were confined to
our neighbours, it seemed little worth the while to contradict it. But
now, when two English authors of celebrity, Mr. Alison, in his History
of Europe during the French Revolution, and Mr. Carlyle, in his similar
work, give it the confirmation of English authority, I consider it right
thus to declare that the whole story is a ridiculous piece of nonsense.

'At the time the Vengeur sunk, the action had ceased some time.
The French fleet were making-ofF before the wind ; and Captain Renaudin
and his son had been nearly half-an-hour prisoners on board H.M.S.
Culloden, of which ship I was the fourth lieutenant; and about 127
of the crew were also prisoners, either on board the Culloden or in her
boats, besides I believe 100 in the Alfred's, and some 40 in the hired
cutter commanded by Lieutenant (the late Rear-Admiral) Winne. The
Vengeur was taken possession of by the boats of the Culloden, Lieutenant
Rotheram, and the Alfred, Lieutenant Deschamps ; and Captain Renaudin
and myself, who were by Captain Schomberg's desire at lunch in jtiis
cabin, hearing the cries of distress, ran to the starboard quarter-gallery,
and thence witnessed the melancholy scene. Never were men in distress
more ready to save themselves. A. J. Griffiths.'

This Letter, which appeared in the Sun Newspaper early
in November last, was copied into most of the other News-
papers in the following days ; I take it from the Examiner
of next Sunday (18th Nov. 1838). The result seemed to be
general uncertainty. On me, who had not the honour at that
time to know Admiral Griffiths even by name, still less by
character, the main impression his letter left was that this
affair was singular, doubtful ; that it would require to be
farther examined by the earliest opportunity. Not long after,
a friend of his, who took an interest in it, and was known to
friends of mine, transmitted me through them the following
new Document, which it appeared had been written earlier,
though without a view to publication :

3. Letter from Rear-Admiral Griffiths to a private Friend (penes me)

* Since you request it, I send you the state of the actual fact as respects
the sinking of the Vengeur after the action of the 1st June 1794.

' I was fourth lieutenant in the Culloden in that action. Mr. Carlyle,


in his History of the French Revolution, vol. iii. p. 241, gives, in his own
peculiar style, the same account of it that was published to the world
under the influence of the French Government, for political and exciting
purposes ; and which has recently been reiterated by a French author.
Mr. Carlyle, in adopting these authorities, has given English testimony
to the farce ; farce I call it, — for, with the exception of the Vengeur
" sinking," there is not one word of fact in the narration. I will first
review it in detail :

"'The Vengeur neither strikes nor makes-off." She did- both. She
made-off as well as her disabled state admitted, and was actually taken
in tow by a French eighteen-gun brig; which cast her off, on the
Culloden, Alfred and two or three others, approaching to take posses-
sion of her. "Fire rakes her fore and aft from victorious enemies."
Wicked indeed would it have been to have fired into her, a sinking
ship with colours down ; and I can positively assert not a gun was fired
at her for an hour before she was taken possession of. " The Vengeur
is sinking." True. " Lo! all flags, streamers, jacks, every rag of tricolor
that will yet run on rope, fly rustling aloft." Not one mast standing,
not ONE rope on which to hoist or display a bit of tricolor, not one flag,
or streamer, or ensign displayed ; her colours down ; and, for more than
half an hour before she sunk. Captain Renaudin, and his son, etc.
prisoners on hoard the Culloden, — on which I will by and by more especially
particularise. ''The whole crew crowds to the upper deck; and with
universal soul-maddening yell shouts Vive la Republique ! " Beyond the
fact of the crew (except the wounded) being on the upper deck, not even
the slightest, the most trivial semblance of truth. Not one shout beyond
that of horror and despair. At the moment of her sinking, we had on
board the Culloden, and in our boats then at the wreck, 127 of her
crew, including the captain. The Alfred had many ; I believe about 100 :
Lieutenant Winne, in command of a hired cutter, a number ; I think, 49.
" Down rushes the Vengeur, carrying Vive la Republique along with her,
unconquerable, into Eternity." Bah ! answered above.

' I have thus reviewed Mr. Carlyle's statement ; I now add the
particulars of the fact. The Vengeur totally dismasted, going off be'''>re
the wind, under her sprit-sail, etc. ; five sail of the line come up with
her, the Culloden and Alfred two of these. Her colours down. Lieutenant
Richard Deschamps, first of the Alfred, I believe, took possession of her.
The next boat on board was the Culloden's, Lieut. Rotheram, who died
one of the Captains of Greenwich Hospital. Deschamps went up the
side. Rotheram got-in at the lower-deck port, saw that the ship was
sinking, and went thence to the quarter-deck. I am not positive which
boat got first on board. Rotheram returned with Captain Renaudin, his
son, and one man ; and reported her state, whereupon other boats were


sent. The Vengeur's main-yard was lying across her decks ; Rotheram,
etc. descended from its larboard yard-arm by the yard-tackle pendant ;
and I personally heard him report to Captain Schomberg the Vengeur's
state, " That he could not place a two-feet rule in any direction, he
thought, that would not touch two shot-holes." Except the Purser,
Mr. Oliver, who was engaged in arranging the prisoners in classes, etc.
as they came on board, I was the only officer who knew any French, and
mine very so-so. Captain Schomberg said : " You understand French ;
take Renaudin and his son into the cabin, and divert his mind from
attention to his ship while sinking." Having been in presence of the
French fleet for three days prior to the action, the accustomed cooking
had not gone on ; the galley-fire was little lighted. But the Captain,
foreseeing, had a cold mutton-pie standing by ; this, with wine, was
ordered for us : and I was actually eating it with Renaudin, a prisoner in
Captain Schomberg's cabin, when a bustle on deck made us start up; we
ran to the starboard quarter-gallery, and saw the Vengeur, then say a
stone's-throw from us, sink. These are the facts.

' A. J. Griffiths.
'Sept. 17, 1838.

* I have said, I am not certain which boat took possession ; and I gave
it to the Alfred, because there arises so much silly squabbling on these
trifles. But from Rotheram taking the Captain it seems probable the
CuUoden's boat was first. A matter, however, of no moment.'

Such a Document as this was not of a sort to be left
dormant : doubt could not sleep on it ; doubt, unless effectu-
ally contradicted, had no refuge but to hasten to denial. I
immediately did two things • I applied to Admiral Griffiths
for leave to publish this new letter, or such portions of it as
might seem needful ; and at the same time I addressed myself
to a distinguished French friend, well acquainted with these
matters, more zealously concerned in them than almost any
other living man, and hitherto an undoubting believer in the
history of the Vengeur. This was my Letter to him ; marked
here as Document No. 4 ■

4. Letter of T. Carlyle to Monsieur

'My dear * * *, — Enclosed herewith are copies of Admiral Griffiths's
two Letters concerning the Vengeur, on which we communicated lately.
You undertook the French side of the business ; you are become, so to


speak, advocate of France in this matter ; as 1 for my share am put into
the post of advocate for England. In the interest of all men, so far as
that can be concerned here, the truth ought to be known, and recognised
by all.

' Having read the story in some English book in boyhood, naturally
with indelible impression of it ; reading the same afterwards with all
detail in the Choiw des Rapports, and elsewhere; and finding it every-
where acted upon as authentic, and nowhere called in question, I wrote
it down in my Book with due energy and sympathy, as a fact forever
memorable. But now, I am bound to say, the Rear-Admiral has alto-
gether altered the footing it stands on ; and except other evidence than
I yet have, or know where to procure, be adduced, I must give-up the
business as a cunningly-devised fable, and in my next edition contradict
it with as much energy as I asserted it. You know with how much
reluctance that will be ; for what man, indeed, would not wish to
believe it.^

' But what can I do ? Barrere's Rapport does not even profess to be
grounded on any evidence except what ''the English Newspapers"
afforded him. 1 have looked into various " English Newspapers " ; the
Morning Chronicle, the Opposition or ''Jacobin " journal of that period,
I have examined minutely, from the beginning of June to the end of
July 1794, through all the stages of the business ; and found there no
trace or hint of what Barrere asserts : I do not think there is any hint
of it discoverable in any English Newspaper of those weeks. What
Barrere's own authority was worth in such cases, we all know. On the
other hand, here is an eye-witness, a man of grave years, of dignified
vank, a man of perfect respectability, who in the very style of these
Letters of his has an air of artlessness, of blunt sincerity and veracity,
the characteristic of a sailor. There is no motive that could induce him
to deny such a fact ; on the contrary, the more heroic one's enemy, the
greater one's own heroism. Indeed, I may say generally of England at
this day, that there could not be anywhere a wish to disbelieve such a
thing of an enemy recognised as brave among the bravest, but rather
a wish, for manhood's sake, to believe it, if possible.

' What I should like therefore is, that these circumstances were, with
the widest publicity of Journals or otherwise, to be set openly before the
French Nation, and the question thereupon put : Have you any counter-
evidence ? If you have any, produce it ; let us weigh it. If you have
none, then let us cease to believe this too-widely credited narration ; let
us consider it henceforth as a clever fable got up for a great occasion ;
and that the real Vengeur simply fought well, and sank precisely as
another ship would have done. The French, I should hope, have accom-
plished too many true marvels in the way of war, to have need of false


marvels. At any rate, error, untruth, as to what matter soever, never
profited any nation, man, or thing,

' If any of your reputable Journalists, if any honest man, will publish,
in your Newspapers or otherwise, an Article on these data, and get us
either evidence or no evidence, it will throw light on the matter. I have
not yet Admiral Griffiths' permission to print this second Letter (though
I have little doubt to get it very soon) ; but the first is already published,
and contains all the main facts. My commentary on them, and position
towards them, is substantially given above.

' Do what is fit ; and let the truth be known. Yours always,

'T. Carlyle.'

From Admiral Griffiths I received, without delay, the
requisite permission ; and this under terms and restrictions
which only did him farther honour, and confirmed, if there
had been need of that, one's conviction of his perfect candour
as a witness on the matter. His Letter to me is too remark-
able not to be inserted here; as illustrative of this controversy;
nay, especially if we consider the curious appendix he has
added, as conclusive of it. I have not his express permission
to print this ; but will venture to believe that I have a certain
implied discretionary permission, which, without my troubling
him with farther applications, may suffice :

6. Letter of Eear-Admiral Oriffiths to T. Carlyle

' Sir, — I have received a Letter from ; of which follows an

extract :

* ♦ * * + , * *

' In reply to the above, I have to say that you are at full liberty to use
the account I sent you, or that published in the Sun Paper, and copied
thence into the Globe, Morning Post, John Bull, etc. ; and to quote me as
your authority. But as I have no desire for controversy, or to be made
unnecessarily conspicuous, I do not assent to its being published in any
other language or Papers, as so put forth hy me.

' I never deemed it worth one thought to awaken the French from
their dream of glory in this case ; and should have still preserved
silence, had not Mr. Alison and yourself given it the weight of English
Authority. What I abstained from doing for forty-four years, I feel no
disposition to engage in now. So far as I am an active party, I confine
my interference to our side of the water ; leaving you to do as you see
fit on the other.


* The statement I have already made in the case is abundant. But I
will put you in possession of other facts. The action over ; the British
fleet brought-to ; the French making all sail, and running before the
wind ; their dismasted hulks having also got before the wind, and follow-
ing them ; — the Vengeur being the sternmost, having a French jack
flying on the stump of the foremast. Captain Duckworth of H.M.S.
Orion, ordered the first lieutenant, Mr. Meares, himself to fire a shot
over her. This Lieutenant Meares did, and the Vengeur hauled down the

' For his gallant conduct in that action, on his return to France,
Captain Renaudin, who commanded the Vengeur, was promoted to be
Rear-Admiral, and his flag was flying at Toulon on board the Tonnant,
when I was first lieutenant of the Culloden blockading that port. I
wrote to remind him of the treatment he had met with when prisoner
on board the Culloden ; and soliciting his kindness towards Lieutenant
Hills, who had been taken in H.M.S. Berwick, and being recognised as
having, in command of a battery at Toulon, at the period of its evacua-
tion, wounded a Frenchman, — was very ill-used. Renaudin's letter now
lies before me; and does him much honour, as, during the fervour of
that period, it was a dangerous sin to hold intercourse with us. I send
you a copy ; it is in English. I am, Sir, very faithfully yours,

' A. J. Griffiths.'

Here next is the ' curious appendix ^ we spoke of ; which
might itself be conclusive of this controversy :

Copy of Rear-Admiral Renaudin's Letter

' " On hoard of the ship Tonnant, Bay of Toulon,
the seventeenth Vendimiaire, fourth yea/r of
the French Mepublic.

' " I have, Sir, received the favour of your letter. I am extremely
obliged to you for the interest you have taken to my promotion. I '11
never forget the attention you have paid me, as well on board the Cul-
loden as when going to prison. I wish you should be well persuaded
that your generosity and sensibility will be for ever present to my mind,
and that 1 can't be satisfied before it will be in my power to prove you
my gratitude. If your friend. Lieutenant Hills, had not already gone
back home, I should have returned to him all the attention you have
been so good to paie me. I '11 be always sincerely satisfied when it will
be in my power to be of some use to any of the officers of the English
navy that the circumstances of war will carry in my country, and particu-
larly to them that you will denote me as your friends.

* " Be so good as take notice of our French officers that you have


prisoners^ and particularly to Captain Conde that has been taken on the
ship Qa-ira. Please to remember me to Captain Schomberg, to Mr.
Oliver, and to all the rest of the Officers that I have known on board of
the Culloden. May the peace between our nations give leave to your
grateful Renaudin to entertain along with you a longer and easier
correspondence !"

'Addressed, "To Lieutenant Griffiths, on board of the Culloden,
Florenzo Bay, Corse Island." '

My French friend did not find it expedient to publish, in
the Journals or elsewhere, any ' article,' or general challenge
to his countrymen for counter-evidence, as I had suggested ;
indeed one easily conceives that no French Journal would
have wished to be the foremost with an article of that kind.
However, he did what a man of intelligence, friendliness and
love of truth, could do : addressed himself to various official
persons connected with the Naval Archives of France ; to men
of note, who had written French Naval Histories, etc. ; — from
one of whom came a response in writing, now to be subjoined
as my last Document. I ought to say that this latter gentle-
man had not seen Admiral Griffiths' written Letters ; and
knew them only by description. The others responded
verbally ; that much was to be said, that they would prepare
Memoir es, that they would do this and that. I subjoin the
response of the one who did respond : it amounts, as will be
seen, not to a recantation of an impudent amazing falsehood,
but to some vague faint murmur or whimper of admission
that it is probably false.

6. Lettre de Monsieur a Monsieur (24 Dec. 1838)

' MoN CHEB Monsieur, — Je regrette de ne pouvoir vous donner des ren-
seignemens bien precis sur la glorieuse affaire du Vengeur. Mais si
I'opinion que je me suis formee sur cetevenement pent vous etre de quel-
que utilite, je me feliciterai de vous I'avoir donnee, quelque peu d'influ-
ence qu'elle doive avoir sur le jugement que votre ami se propose de
porter sur le combat du 13 Prairial.

' Je suis de Brest ; et c'est dans cette ville qu'arriva I'escadre de
Villaret-Joyeuse, apres le combat meurtriere qu'il avait livree a I'Amiral
Howe. Plusieurs des marins qui avaient assiste a I'affaire du 13 Prairial


m'ont assure que le Vengeur avait coule apres avoir amenS son pavilion.
Quelques hommes de I'equipage de cet heroi'que vaisseau furent meme,
dit-on^ recueillis sur des debris par des embarcations anglaises. Mais il
n'en est pas moins vrai, que le Vengeur ne coula qu'apres s'etre sacrifie
pour empecher I'escadre anglaise de couper la ligne fran^aise.

' Les rapports du terns, et les beaux vers de Cbe'nier et de Le Brun sur
le naufrage du Vengeur, n'ont pas manque de poetiser la noble fin de ce
vaisseau. C'est aux cris de Vive la Republique, disent-ils, que le vaisseau
s'est englouti, avec le pavilion tricolore au plus haut de tons ses mats,
MaiS; je le repete, il est tres probable que si une partie de I'equipage a
disparu dessous les Acts aux cris de Vive la Republique, tout I'equipage
n'a pas refuse d'un commun accord le secours que les vaisseaux ennemis
pouvaient offrir aux naufrages. Au surplus, quand bien meme le Ven-
geur ait amene son pavilion avant de couler. Taction de ce vaisseau se
fesant cannoner pendant plusieurs heures pour disputer a toute une
escadre le passage le plus faible de la ligne fran^aise, n'en etait pas moins
un des plus beaux faits d'armes de notre histoire navale. Dans les
bureaux de la marine, au reste, il n'existe aucun rapport de Villaret-
Joyeuse ou de Jean-Bon Saint-Andre que puisse faire supposer que le
Vengeur ait coule sans avoir amene son pavilion. On dit seulement dans
ces relations du combat du 13, que le Vengeur a disparu apres avoir
resiste au feu de toute I'escadre anglaise qui voulait rompre la ligne pour
tomber sur les derrieres de I'armee, et porter le desordre dans tout le
reste de notre escadre.

'Voila, mon cher Monsieur, tout ce queje sais sur I'aiFaire qui vous
occupe. C'est peu de chose comme vous le voyez, car ce n'est presque
que mon opinion que je vous exprime sur les petits renseignemens que
j'ai pu recueillir de la bouche des marins qui se trouvaient sur le vaisseau

la Montagne ou d'autres navires de I'escadre Villaret. Recevez I'assu-

rance,' etc. etc.

The other French gentlemen that ' would prepare Memoires^
have now in the sixth month prepared none ; the ' much '
that * was to be said ' remains every syllable of it unsaid. My
friend urged his official persons ; to no purpose. Finally he
wrote to Barrere himself, who is still alive and in possession
of his faculties. From Barrere no response. Indeed, one
would have liked to see the ancient adroit countenance of
Barrere perusing, through its spectacles, a request to that
effect ! For verily, as the French say, tout est dit. What
can be added on such a matter ?


I conclude therefore, dear Yorke, with an expression of
amazement over this same ' glorieuse affaire du Vengeur ' ; in
which truly much courage was manifested ; but no un-
paralleled courage except that of Barrere in his Report of the
21st Messidor, Year 2, That a son of Adam should venture
on constructing so majestic a piece of blague ^ and hang it out
dextrously, like the Earth itself, on Nothing, to be believed
and venerated by twenty-five million sons of Adam for such a
length of time, the basis of it all the while being simply Zero
and Nonentity : there is in this a greatness, nay, a kind of
sublimity that strikes us silent, — as if ' the Infinite disclosed
itself,' and we had a glimpse of the ancient Reign of Chaos
and Nox ! Miraculous Mahomet, Apollonius with the Golden
Thigh, Mendez Pinto, Munchausen, Cagliostro, Psalmanazar
seem but botchers in comparison.

It was a successful lie too ? It made the French fight
better in that struggle of theirs ? Yes, Mr. Yorke ; — and
yet withal there is no lie, in the long-run, successful. The
hour of all windbags does arrive ; every windbag is at length
ripped, and collapses ; likewise the larger and older any
ripped windbag is, the more fetid and extensive is the gas
emitted therefrom. The French people had better have been
content with their real fighting. Next time the French
Government publishes miraculous bulletins, the very hadauds
will be slower to believe them ; one sees not what sanction,
by solemn legislative decree, by songs, ceremonials, wooden
emblems, will suffice to produce belief. Of Nothing you can,
in the long-run, and with much lost labour, make only —

But ought not the French Nation to hook-down that
wooden ' Modele du Vengeur^ now at this late date ; and, in
a quiet way, split it into brimstone lucifers ? The French
Nation will take its own method in regard to that.

As for Rear- Admiral Griffiths, we will say that he has, in
his veteran years, done one other manful service : extinguished
a Falsehood, sent a Falsehood to the Father of it, made the


world free of it henceforth. For which let him accept our
respectful thanks. I, having once been led to assert the
fable, hold myself bound, on all fit occasions, to Mwassert it
with equal emphasis. Till it please to disappear altogether
from the world, as it ought to do, let it lie, as a copper
shilling, nailed to the counter, and seen by all customers to be
copper. T. Carlyle.

10th June 1839.

P.S. — Curiously enough, while this is passing through the
press, there appears in some French Newspaper called Chro-
nique Universelle, and is copied conspicuously into the Paris
National (du 10 Juin 1839), an article headed ^ Sia^ Matelots
du Vengeur.'' Six old sailors of the Vengeur, it appears, still
survive, seemingly in the Bordeaux region, in straitened cir-

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