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The Life of the Right Honourable Horatio Lord Viscount Nelson, Volume 2 online

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Lord Viscount Nelson's transcendent and heroic services will, I am
persuaded, exist for ever in the recollection of my people; and,
while they tend to stimulate those who come after him, they will
prove a lasting source of strength, security, and glory, to my

_The King's Answer to the City of London's Address on the Battle of

Printed at the Ranelagh Press,


In tracing the history of a hero so active as Lord Nelson, the mind can
scarcely be allowed a moment's pause. His multifarious transactions,
indeed, frequently arise in such rapid successions, that they become far
too much involved with each other to admit of any precise chronological
arrangement. Operations are commenced, which cannot always be soon
brought to a conclusion: and, while these are transacting, an attention
to other occurrences, of more or less magnitude, becomes perpetually
requisite; which are, in their turn, subjected to similar
procrastinating delays and necessarily diverted attentions.

The cares of Lord Nelson can hardly be said to have one minute ceased,
even when he landed, in safety, at Palermo, the royal and illustrious
characters, and their immense treasure, which he had successfully
conveyed thither, amidst such alarming difficulties and dangers. His
anxious bosom, it is true, was now relieved from the apprehensions which
it had suffered during the storm; and felt, no doubt, as it ought, a
sympathetic sense of the grateful felicitations of beloved friends, on
the event of their happy arrival at a place of secure refuge. He could
not, indeed, fail to rejoice in their joy: but it was, with all of them,
a joy mingled with melancholy; and, with him, it was particularly so.

An intellectual tempest, at this apparently enviable period of our
hero's glory, was violently agitating the secret recesses of his too
susceptible heart. Justly jealous of honour, his soul ever kindled with
alarm at the most remote idea of aught that could, by any possibility of
implication, be considered as having the smallest tendency to sully or
impair a single particle of that celestial inheritance which he felt
conscious of having a legitimate right to possess in undiminished
lustre, If it should be thought, by the more calmly philosophical mind,
that he might sometimes too soon take the alarm; let it, at least, not
fail to be remembered, that the true votary of honour must never be,
even once, a single moment too late.

The reader who has attentively perused the preceding part of Lord
Nelson's history, will long since have discovered, that one grand trait
of character, in this exalted man, was a determined resolution of
accomplishing, to it's fullest possible extent, the business, whatever
it might be, which was once committed to his charge; and that, in every
expedition, it formed his chief pride, to effect even more than could
have been expected, by those who had, from the greatest possible
confidence in his skill and ability, selected him for the enterprise. It
was this invariable principle that, by prompting him to serve on shore,
at the batteries before Calvi, cost him the vision of an eye; and it was
to this same cause, that he owed the loss of his arm at Teneriffe.
Conformably to this grand characteristic, having so honourably received
the Earl of St. Vincent's orders to seek and to destroy the French
armament, which he had at length gloriously encountered at the mouth of
the Nile; he still internally regretted, that the wound on that occasion
received in his forehead, by rendering him almost wholly blind, had
proved the sole cause of a single French ship's escape. Not that this
undoubted conviction in his own bosom, that he should certainly have
captured or destroyed the whole fleet, conveys the smallest reflection
on any other officer for not having effected the same purpose: for, most
assuredly, though many captains in this noble squadron might boast of
equal bravery with himself, and of much skill too, Lord Nelson greatly
surpassed them all, and perhaps every other naval commander, in that
promptitude of vigorously winged imagination which instantaneously rises
to the exigency. The moment Captain Berry had, on first beholding the
position of the French fleet at anchor, fully comprehended the entire
scope of his adored admiral's design for the attack, he exclaimed, in an
extacy - "If we succeed, what will the world say?" - "There is no if in
the case," coolly replied the admiral: "that we shall succeed, is
certain; who may live to tell the story, is a very different question!"
So positive was this great man of success, even before the battle

Though Lord Nelson had hitherto failed in taking the fugitive ships from
Egypt, and the transports were not yet destroyed at Alexandria; he never
relinquished the idea, that some of his "band of brothers," the heroic
captains of the Nile, might finally fall in with, and either take or
destroy, the two line of battle ships, and two frigates, which had alone
escaped, and thus complete the destruction of all the ships of war. Nor
had the comprehensive mind of our hero limited it's hope to these alone:
he trusted that some of his brave band would at least assist in
effecting the destruction of the transports; as well as in preventing
every remaining Frenchman, who had been landed in Egypt, from ever
returning to France. For this purpose, he had not only left Captain Hood
on the coast; but solicited, both at home, and of our allies, the
requisite bomb-vessels, &c. by repeated most urgent epistles.

At length, the necessary preparations had been made, and dispatched from
England, under the command of Sir William Sidney Smith, brother of the
English minister, Mr. Spencer Smith, at the Ottoman court. The high
character of Sir Sidney Smith - as he is usually called - for intrepid
gallantry, as well as for incomparable dexterity and address in that
species of naval exploit which may be denominated incendiary warfare,
seemed to justify sufficiently the judgment of the Admiralty in
selecting a character so respectably enterprising for this service, and
the measure was certainly extremely popular at home. Every thing,
indeed, was expected from Sir Sidney Smith's ability: and truth requires
the acknowledgment, that neither government, nor the people, were
finally disappointed; as the history of the siege of Acre, where he
commanded on shore, and fairly defeated Bonaparte, will for ever afford
a most satisfactory and substantial proof.

A very obvious consequence, however, attended this appointment; which,
strange as it may seem, undoubtedly escaped the attention of the
Admiralty, as well as of the country at large: the former of whom, it is
certain, would not have adopted, nor the latter have applauded, any act
which they had foreseen could be liable to hurt the feelings of their
chief favourite, the gallant hero of the Nile.

Not only did this measure introduce a new British hero to assist in the
full accomplishment of the business originally committed, by the Earl of
St. Vincent, to Admiral Nelson; appearing, to his lordship's exquisite
feelings, an implied defectiveness in his noble band of brothers for the
completion of the enterprise: but, by the circumstance of Sir Sidney
Smith's authorization to take under his command Captain Hood, and the
ships left with him in Egypt, Lord Nelson felt himself deprived of a
part of his squadron, in favour of a junior officer, who would
consequently be placed above his brave friends.

The day after leaving Naples, his lordship had received dispatches from
Sir Sidney Smith, then off Malta, in his way to Egypt, apprizing him of
these intentions; and, on the 27th, at Palermo, others from the Earl of
St. Vincent, who does not appear to have been previously consulted,
respecting the appointment of Sir Sidney Smith. It is probable,
therefore, that the noble earl might participate with his gallant friend
in the unpleasant feelings thus excited. Unfortunately, too, Sir Sidney
had written, about this period, to our hero's friend, Sir William
Hamilton; in terms, as it should seem, of insufficient caution;
originating, perhaps, merely in the ebullitions of an honest overflowing
heart, alive to it's own importance. Be this as it may, that of Lord
Nelson was fired with an indignation, which he thus vehemently expresses
to his commander in chief.

"Palermo, 31st Dec. 1798.


"I do _feel, for I am man_, that it is impossible for me to serve
in those seas, with a squadron under a junior officer. Could I have
thought it; and, from Earl Spencer? Never, never was I so
astonished, as your letter made me. As soon as I can get hold of
Troubridge, I shall send him to Egypt, to endeavour to destroy the
ships in Alexandria. If it can be done, Troubridge will do it. The
Swedish knight writes Sir William Hamilton, that he shall go to
Egypt, and take Captain Hood, and his squadron, under his command.
The knight forgets the respect due to his superior officer. He has
no orders from you, to take my ships away from my command: but, it
is all of a piece. Is it to be borne? Pray, grant me your
permission to retire; and, I hope, the Vanguard will be allowed to
convey me, and my friends Sir William and Lady Hamilton, to
England. God bless you, my dear lord! and believe me, your
affectionate friend,


"Earl of St. Vincent."

His lordship now, certainly, had it in contemplation to retire, as
expressed in the above letter. He even went so far, as to request the
Earl of St. Vincent's permission, that he might leave the command to his
gallant and most excellent second, Captain Troubridge, or some other of
his brave friends who so gloriously fought at the battle of the Nile - if
his health and uneasiness of mind should not be mended. In the mean
time, he resolved to send Captain Troubridge to Egypt, as he had before
intended, that he might endeavour to destroy the transports in
Alexandria; after which, he was now to deliver up the Levant Seas to
the care of Sir Sidney Smith.

Piqued as Lord Nelson evidently was, on this occasion, by what he felt
as the obtrusion of Sir Sidney Smith, to the exclusion of his favourite
band of brothers, he nevertheless wished him all possible success, and
readily yielded him every requisite assistance in his power. At the same
time, with abundant address, his lordship selected, from the dispatches
which had been transmitted to him, an extract from Lord Grenville's
instructions, which he transcribed into the following letter to Sir
Sidney Smith, as a gentle hint that this officer's authority was not
wholly without restriction.

"Palermo, Dec. 31, 1798.


"I have been honoured with your letter from off Malta, with it's
several inclosures: viz. An extract of a letter from Lord Grenville
to John Spencer Smith, Esq. &c. - "And his majesty has been
graciously pleased to direct, that your brother, Sir Sidney Smith,
shall proceed to Constantinople with the eighty-gun ship Le Tigre.
His instructions will enable him to take the command of such of his
majesty's ships as he may find in those seas - unless, by any
unforeseen accident, it should happen that there should be, among
them, any of his majesty's officers of superior rank; and he will
be directed to act with such force, in conjunction with the Russian
and Ottoman squadrons, for the defence of the Ottoman empire, and
for the annoyance of the enemy in that quarter:" - Also, an extract
of another letter, from Lord Grenville to yourself and brother - And
the Earl of St. Vincent having sent me an extract of a letter from
Earl Spencer to him; saying that, for certain circumstances, you
should be the officer selected for the command of a small squadron
in the Levant Seas: and, his lordship having also informed me, that
Captain Miller was the officer of your choice; and directing me to
give you a frigate, or a sloop of war, till Captain Miller's
arrival - You may rest assured, that I shall most strictly comply
with the instructions sent by Lord Grenville to your brother; also,
those of Earl Spencer, and the Earl of St. Vincent. For this
purpose, I must desire that you will lose no time in proceeding to
Alexandria, to take upon you the command of the blockade, &c. which
I shall direct to be delivered up to you; and, from my heart, I
wish you every success. The united squadrons of the Turks and
Russians, and of two sail of the line under your command, must be
sufficient for the two ships _armée en flute_, and three frigates;
which, thank God! are all the enemy have left in those seas.

"I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient servant,


It is by no means improbable, that Lord Nelson, while coolly
transcribing the above passage from Lord Grenville's judiciously guarded
instructions, to convince Sir Sidney Smith, that he was not restrained,
had in some measure convinced himself that those instructions could not
possibly be intended to give him, or his gallant friends, the smallest
just cause of offence.

On this same day, the last of the glorious year 1798, his lordship also
wrote the following answer to a letter from John Julius Angerstein, Esq.
Chairman of the Committee at Lloyd's, which he had just received.

"Vanguard, Palermo,
31st Dec. 1798.


"I have had the honour of receiving your's of the 10th October,
inclosing a circular letter addressed to the commanders in the
squadron under my command, requesting them to favour the committee
with the lists of the killed and wounded on board their respective
ships at the battle of the Nile: and I beg leave to acquaint you,
that I have given the necessary directions to the captains of the
ships at present under my command to furnish the committee with
lists, agreeable to their wishes; and will write to the captains of
those ships which are gone down the Mediterranean with the prizes,
to do the same as soon as possible, in order to forward their
charitable intentions.

"I have the honour to be, with the greatest respect, your most
obedient and humble servant,


However, neither this nor any other pleasing employ, amidst his
lordship's numerous indispensible avocations, could hastily reconcile
him to the unpleasant circumstance of not being left to finish the
business which he had so nobly commenced, and so nearly closed. Even the
soothings of his amiable and illustrious friends were ineffectual; and,
on the next day, the first of the year 1799, he wrote to Earl Spencer
for permission to return to England. This fact will appear in the
following letter; though, happily, by the timely and judicious
interference of the Earl of St. Vincent, added to the earnest and united
requests of the King and Queen of Naples, and Sir William and Lady
Hamilton, he was induced finally to continue a command which the royal
sufferers felt so necessary for their protection.

1st Jan. 1799.


"I have transmitted to Mr. Nepean, by way of Vienna, a duplicate of
my letter to the commander in chief: which, of course, will
likewise be sent you from him; and it will inform you of all which
has passed, from the determination of leaving Naples to our arrival
at Palermo.

"The day after I left Naples, I received a letter from Sir Sidney
Smith, with several inclosures. I send you my answer. Every thing
which the extracts sent me by Sir Sidney Smith point out to him,
has been fully talked over, and fully explained, by Kelim Effendi;
a person holding the office similar to our under-secretary of
state, who had been sent with my Order of Merit: for, by the form
of the investiture, that seems to me the properest name to call it.

"And now, my lord, having left the command of the two sail of the
line in the Levant Seas to Sir Sidney Smith - than whom, I dare say,
no one could be so proper - Commodore Duckworth will ably, I am
sure, watch Toulon; for I shall very soon, I hope, be able to send
him one or two sail of the line: and, Captain Troubridge, or some
other of my brave and excellent commanders, being left to guard the
One Sicily, and the coast of Italy; I trust, I shall not be thought
hasty, in asking permission to return to England for a few months,
to gather a little of that ease and quiet I have so long been a
stranger to.

"Captain Troubridge goes directly to Egypt, to deliver up to Sir
Sidney Smith the blockade of Alexandria, and the defence of the
Ottoman empire by sea; for, I should hope, that Sir Sidney Smith
will not take any ship from under my command, without my orders;
although Sir Sidney, rather hastily, in my opinion, writes Sir
William Hamilton, that Captain Hood naturally falls under his
orders. I am, probably, considered as having a great force; but I
always desire it to be understood, that I count the Portuguese as
nothing but trouble. Ever believe, my dear lord, your most obliged


"January 2d. General Acton has just wrote me, that the French are
within thirty miles of Naples, on the 30th. Marquis De Niza is
prepared to burn the ships when the French get a little nearer.
Mack is at Capua, with a strong force, numbers not mentioned.
Dreadful weather! The great queen very ill: I fear for her.


Two causes, in a short time, particularly contributed, as it should
seem, to tranquillize the mind of our hero, with regard to what he could
not but consider as Sir Sidney Smith's too great assumption of
authority: one of these was, the hope that his friend Captain Troubridge
might effect the destruction of the transports at Alexandria before Sir
Sidney's arrival; and the other, immediate information from the Earl of
St. Vincent, that he was as little satisfied as Lord Nelson himself,
with the business which had so deeply affected his feelings, and had
therefore exerted his own power to prevent any such future occurrence.
"Sir Sidney Smith," says his lordship, writing this month to Captain
Ball, "from a letter he wrote the Earl of St. Vincent off Malta, has
given great offence; having said, that he presumed, all the ships in the
Levant being junior to him, he had a right to take them under his
command. His lordship has, in consequence, given him a broad hint, and
taken him handsomely down; and, to prevent any thing of the kind
happening in future, he has ordered Sir Sidney to put himself
_immediately_ under my command." These great men, however, though they
felt jealous of their own command, had minds superior to the retention
of any continued animosity; and, when they fully understood each other,
became very sincere friends. They were all equally anxious for the good
of the country; for the honour of the profession; and, for their own
individual reputation. Their differences consisted more in the manner
than in the form and substance of the thing; and, perhaps, on the whole,
Lord Nelson's excess of feeling may be regarded as having, for a time,
punished both himself and Sir Sidney with far more severity than the
necessity of the case, when coolly considered, could by any means render

One of the first public measures taken by his Sicilian majesty, after
arriving at Palermo, was that of sending away, from the whole island of
Sicily, every Frenchman it contained, of whatever description. A
resolution which, if it did not originate with our hero, was too
consonant with his lordship's known inveterate Antigallicanism, not to
have received his hearty approbation.

The following notice, dated on board the Vanguard, 6th January 1799,
was accordingly issued by Lord Nelson.

"His Sicilian Majesty having directed, that all French, of whatever
description, should leave the Island of Sicily - A ship of six
hundred tons, an English transport, will be ready, by to-morrow
morning, to receive French emigrants; say, two hundred. She will
have put on board her biscuit, salt provisions, peas, oatmeal, and
the common wine of the country. As this will be an additional
gratuity, on the part of the King of Great Britain, the _emigrées_
will, if they chuse it, lay in such stock of fresh provisions, and
other comforts, as they please.

"All those pensioned by Great Britain, will be received by a note
from the British agent; and all those pensioned by his Sicilian
Majesty, by a note from the Neapolitan agent.

"A Neapolitan corvette to be attached to this ship, to convey her
to Trieste, and back again, and to receive on board such _emigrées_
as the court shall direct. The transports and corvette out to sail
as soon as possible. Their time of departure will depend on the
king's order."

On occasions of this sort, no doubt, there will always be some cases of
peculiar hardship; but the difficulty of discriminating between the
treacherous and the sincere, among a people so excessively insidious,
and the danger to be dreaded from deceit, by those who were so severely
suffering it's effects, maybe considered as sufficiently justifying the

Captain Troubridge, having arrived on the 5th, sailed on the 7th, with
the Culloden, Theseus, Bulldog, and victuallers, for Syracuse; with
orders to collect the bombs, and proceed with them and the Theseus to
Alexandria, for the purpose of making a vigorous attack on the shipping
in that harbour. In writing, on this subject, to the Earl of St.
Vincent, Lord Nelson says - "If the thing can be done, Troubridge will do

Captain Louis, of the Minotaur, the present celebrated Admiral Louis,
ever one of his lordship's most deservedly favourite friends, had been
now ordered to command on the coast of Italy towards Leghorn: and
Commodore Mitchell, of the Portuguese squadron, was directed by Lord
Nelson, if he could not, by the rules of the Portuguese service - a
subject which, his lordship remarked, this was not the time to enter
on - put himself under that very old and respectable officer, Captain
Louis; at least, to co-operate with him in the service on which he was
ordered, and to remain on that service till farther orders from his
lordship, or Captain Louis's consent for leaving it. In a letter of this
day, to the Earl of St. Vincent, his lordship says - "Minotaur is gone to
Leghorn, to endeavour to do good; and Louis will act, I am sure, for the
best, as circumstances arise." This very letter, sent by Captain Hope,
he thus concludes - "I must refer you, my dear lord, to Hope, who is
very zealous and active." So warmly affectionate was the heart of this
great and good man to all his worthy officers; and, indeed, to every
deserving person under his authority.

On this day, Lord Nelson wrote no less than five public letters: that
already noticed, to the Earl of St. Vincent; another, to Earl Spencer;
two to Constantinople, one of them for Spencer Smith, Esq. and the other
for Francis Wherry, Esq. a fourth to Commodore Duckworth; and the fifth,
to the Honourable Lieutenant-General Stuart.

Besides what has been extracted from the letter to the Earl of St.
Vincent, it contains the following intelligence relative to the then

Online LibraryJames HarrisonThe Life of the Right Honourable Horatio Lord Viscount Nelson, Volume 2 → online text (page 1 of 31)