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having, like Nelson, that lively spring of hope within him,
which partakes enough of the nature of faith to work
miracles in war, he thought it ^* evident, that unless a
respectable land force, in numbers sufficient to undertake
the siege of such a garrison, in one of the strongest places
of Europe, and supplied with proportionate artillery and
stores, were sent against it, no reasonable hope could be
entertained of its surrender." Nelson groaned over the
spirit of over-reasoning caution, and unreasoning obedi-
ence. "My heart," said he, "is almost broken. If the
enemy gets supplies in, we may bid adieu to Malta ; all the
force we can collect would then be of little use against the
strongest place in Europe. To say that an officer is
never, for any object, to alter his orders, is what I cannot
comprehend. The circumstances of this war so often
vary, that an officer has almost every moment to consider,
"What would my superiors direct did they know what is
passing under my nose ? But, sir, ' ' said he, writing to
the Duke of Clarence, ' 'I find few think as I do. To obey
orders is all perfection. To serve my king, and to destroy
the French, I consider as the great order of all, from
which little ones spring; and if one of these militate
against it (for who can tell exactly at a distance?) I go
back and obey the great order and object, to down — down
with the damned French villains ! My blood boils at the
name of Frenchman ! ' '

At length General Fox arrived si Minorca, — and, at
length, p'^rmitted Colonel Grahsm to go to Malta, but with
means miserpblv limiiecl. In fact, the expedition was
at a stand for want of money ; when Troubridge arriving



The Life of Nelson 233

at Messina, to co-operate in it, and finding this fresh
delay, immediately offered all that he could command of
his own. ' ' I procured him, my lord, ' ' said he to Nelson,
"fifteen thousand of my cobs : ^ — every farthing, and
every atom of me shall be devoted to the cause. " ' ' What
can this mean ? ' ' said Nelson, when he learned that Colonel
Graham was ordered not to incur any expense for stores,
or any articles except provisions, — "the cause cannot
stand still for want of a little money. If nobody will pay
it, I will sell Bronte, and the Emperor of Russia's box." ^
And he actually pledged Bronte for £6600, if there
should be any difficulty about paying the bills. The long
delayed expedition was thus, at last, set forth ; but Trou-
bridge little imagined in what scenes of misery he was to
bear his part. He looked to Sicily for supplies ; it was
the interest, as well as the duty, of the Sicilian govern-
ment to use every exertion for furnishing them ; and Nel-
son and the British Ambassador were on the spot to press
upon them the necessity of exertion. But though Nelson
saw with what a knavish crew the Sicilian court was sur-
rounded, he was blind to the vices of the court itself, and
resigning himself wholly to Lady Hamilton's influence,
never even suspected the crooked policy which it was
remorselessly pursuing. The Maltese, and the British in
Malta severely felt it. Troubriclge, who had the truest
affection for Nelson, knew his infatuation, and feared that
it might prove injurious to his character, as well as fatal
to an enterprise which had begun so well, and been car-
ried on so patiently. "My Lord," said he, writing to
him from the siege, "we are dying off fast from want.
I learn that Sir William Hamilton says Prince Luzzi
refused com some time ago, and Sir William does not
think it worth while making another application. If that

1. Cobs. Nautical slang for Spanish dollars.

2. Emperor of Rtissia's how. See p. 181.



234 The Life of Nelson

be tlie 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 ns 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 is in my power.
I foresee much mischief brewing. God bless your lord-
ship ! 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.'' Soon afterwards he
wrote, ^'I have this day saved thirty thousand people
from starving, but with this day my ability ceases. As
the government are bent on starving us, I see no alterna-
tive but to leave these poor, unhappy people to perish
without our being witnesses 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 honor, if the Pa-
lermo 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 you is known at
the Queen's. For my own part, I look upon the Nea-
politans as the worst of intriguing enemies : every hour
shows me their infamy and duplicity. I pray your lord-

1. Engine, Trick, macliination.



The Life of Nelson 235

ship be cautious : your honest, open manner of acting
will be made a handle of. When I see you, and tell of
their infamous tricks, you will be as much surprised as I
am. The whole will fall on you. ' '

Nelson was not, and could not be, insensible to the dis-
tress which his friend so earnestly represented. He
begged, almost on his knees, he said, small supplies of
money and corn, to keep the Maltese from starving. And
when the court granted a small supply, protesting their
poverty, he believed their protestations, and was satisfied
with their professions, instead of insisting that the re-
strictions upon the exportation of corn should be with-
drawn. The anxiety, however, which he endured affected
him so deeply, that he said it had broken his spirit for
ever. Happily all that Troubridge, with so much reason,
foreboded, did not come to pass. For Captain Ball, with
more decision than Nelson himself would have shown at
that time and upon that occasion, ventured upon a reso-
lute measure, for which his name would deserve always
to be held in veneration by the Maltese, even if it had no
other claims to the love and reverence of a grateful peo-
ple. Finding it hopeless longer to look for succor or
common humanity from the deceitful and infatuated
court of Sicily, which persisted in prohibiting, by san-
guinary edicts, the exportation of supplies, at his own
risk he sent his First Lieutenant to the port of Messina,
with orders to seize, and bring with him to Malta, the
ships which were there lying laden with com, — of the
number of which he had received accurate information.
These orders were executed to the great delight and ad-
vantage of the shipowners and proprietors ; the necessity
of raising the siege was removed, and Captain Ball waited
in calmness for the consequences to himself. ' ' But, ' ' said
Mr. Coleridge,^ '*not a complaint, not a murmur, pro-

1. Mr. Coleridge. The poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, while voyag-



236 The Life of Nelson

ceeded from the court of Naples : the sole result was,
that the governor of Malta became an especial object of
its hatred, its fear, and its respect. ' '

Nelson himself, at the beginning of February, sailed
for that island. On the way he fell in with a French
squadron bound for its relief, and consisting of the
GenereuXy seventy-four, three frigates, and a corvette.
One of these frigates and the line of battle ship were
taken ; the others escaped, but failed in their purpose of
reaching La Valette. This success was peculiarly grati-
fying to Nelson, for many reasons. During some months
he had acted as Commander-in-Chief in the Mediter-
ranean, while Lord Keith was in England. Lord Keith
was now returned, and Nelson had, upon his own plan
and at his own risk, left him, to sail for Malta; "for
which," said he, "if I had not succeeded, I might have
been broke ; ^ and if I had not acted thus, the Genereux
never would have been taken." This ship was one of
those which had escaped from Aboukir. Two frigates
and the Gtiillaume Tell, eighty-six, were all that now
remained of the fleet which Bonaparte had conducted to
Egypt. The Guillaume Tell was at this time closely
watched in the harbor of La Valetta ; and shortly after-
wards, attempting to make her escape from thence, was
taken, after an action in which greater skill was never
displayed by British ships,^ nor greater gallantry by an

Ing in th'e Slediterranearf for H's healTlC was appointed by Captain Ball
"Public Secretary for Malta and its Dependencies," and held the posi-
tion for over a year, 1804-1805.

1. Broke. Degraded in rank, or dismissed from the service. Nelson
was guilty of no disobedience at this time, but in the preceding sum-
mer he had been reprimanded by the Admiralty for remaining off
Sicily contrary to Keith's urgent and repeated orders.

2. iikill . . - displayed hy British sMps. As the Guillaume Tell
ran out of the harbor, she was pursued by the Penelope frigate.
Captain Blackwood, which followed close in her wake, yawing to port
and starboard, and keeping up a continual fire to attract other ships.
The French vessel was later overpowered by the Lion and Foudroyant,



The Life of Nelson 237

enemy. She was taken by the Foudroyant, Lion, and
Penelope frigate. Nelson, rejoicing at what he called
this glorious finish to the whole French Mediterranean
fleet, rejoiced also that he was not present to have taken
a sprig of these brave men's laurels. ''They are,'' said
he, ' ' and I glory in them, my children ; they served in my
school ; and all of us caught our professional zeal and fire
from the great and good Earl St. Vincent. What a
pleasure, what happiness, to have the Nile fleet all taken
under my orders and regulations!" The two frigates
still remained in La Yaletta: before its surrender they
stole out: one was taken in the attempt; the other was
the only ship of the whole fleet which escaped capture or
destruction.

Letters were found on board the Guillaume Tell show-
ing that the French were now becoming hopeless of pre-
serving the conquest which they had so foully acquired.
Troubridge and his brother officers were anxious that
Nelson should have the honor of signing the capitulation.
They told him that they absolutely, as far as they dared,
insisted on his staying to do this; but their earnest and
affectionate entreaties were vain. Sir William Hamilton
had just been superseded ; Nelson had no feeling of cor-
diality towards Lord Keith; and thinking that, after
Earl St. Vincent, no man had so good a claim to the com-
mand in the Mediterranean as himself, he applied for
permission to return to England ; telling the First Lord
of the Admiralty, that his spirit could not submit pa-
tiently, and that he was a broken-hearted man. From
the time of his return from Egypt, amid all the honors
which were showered upon him, he had suffered many
mortifications. Sir Sidney Smith had been sent to Egypt,
with orders to take under his command the squadron
which Nelson had left there. Sir Sidney appears to have
thought that this command was to be independent of



238 The Life of Nelson

Nelson '} and Nelson himself thinking so, determined to
return, saying to Earl St, Vincent, " I do feel, for I am a
man, that it is impossible for me to serve in these seas
with a squadron under a junior officer.'' Earl St. Vin-
cent seems to have dissuaded him from this resolution:
some heart-burnings, however, still remained, and some
incautious expressions of Sir Sidney's were noticed by
him in terms of evident displeasure. But this did not
continue long, as no man bore more willing testimony
than Nelson to the admirable defense of Acre.^

He differed from Sir Sidney as to the policy which
ought to be pursued towards the French in Egj^pt ; and
strictly commanded him, in the strongest language, not,
on any pretence, to permit a single Frenchman to leave
the country, saying that he considered it nothing short
of madness to permit that band of thieves to return to
Europe. ' * No, ' ' said he, ' ' to Egypt they went with their
own consent, and there they shall remain, while Nelson
commands this squadron ; for never, never, will he con-
sent 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." If Nelson had
not thoroughly understood the character of the enemy
against whom he was engaged, their conduct in Egypt
would have disclosed it. After the battle of the Nile, he
had landed all his prisoners, upon a solemn engagement,

1. Independent of Nelson. As commander of the eastern squadron
Smith was subordinate to Nelson, but as envoy to Turkey (a duty
included In his commission) he was independent or even superior.
Nelson carefully discriminated between Smith the diplomat and Smith
the officer. "I beg your excellency," he wrote to the former, "to
forward my letter to Sir Sidney Smith, Captain of the Tigre." —
Mahan, Life of Nelson^ Vol. I, p. 402.

2. Defense of Acre. Napoleon's defeat at Acre, on the coast of
Palestine, was due chiefly to the previous capture of French supply
ships by the British fleet, and to Smith's able leadership of the Turkish
garrison.



The Life of Nelson ' 239

made between Troubridge on one side and Captain Barre
on the other, that none of them should serve till regu-
larly exchanged. They were no sooner on shore than part
of them were drafted into the different regiments, and
the remainder formed into a corps called the nautic
legion. This occasioned Captain Hallowell to say that
the French had forfeited all claim to respect from us.
''The army of Bonaparte," said he, ''are entirely desti-
tute of every principle of honor : they have always acted
like licentious thieves." Bonaparte's escape^ was the
more regretted by Nelson, because, if he had had suffi-
cient force, he thought it would certainly have been pre-
vented. He wished to keep ships upon the watch to inter-
cept anything coming from Egypt; but the Admiralty
calculated upon the assistance of the Russian fleet, which
failed when it was most wanted. The ships which should
have been thus employed were then required for more
pressing services, and tlie bloody Corsican was thus en-
abled to reach Europe in safety, there to become the
guilty instrument of a wider-spreading destruction than
any with which the world had ever before been visited.
Nelson had other causes of chagrin. Earl St. Vincent,
for whom he felt such high respect, and whom Sir John
Orde had challenged for having nominated Nelson in-
stead of himself to the command of the Nile squadron,
laid claim to prize-money, as Commander-in-Chief, after
he had quitted the station. The point was contested,
and decided against him.- Nelson, perhaps, felt this the
more, because his own feelings, with regard to money,
were so different. An opinion had been given by Dr.
Lawrence, which would have excluded the junior flag

1. Bonaparte's escape. Napoleon left Alexandria secretly In a
frigate, reaching France October 9, 1799.

2. Against him. Against Nelson, who had contested the Earl's
claims. In 1803 the decision was reversed, Nelson receiving £13,000.



240 The Life of Nelson

officers from prize-money. When this was made known
to him, his reply was in these words : ' ' Notwithstanding
Dr. Lawrence 's opinion, I do not believe I have any right
to exclude the junior flag officers : and if I have, I desire
that no such claim may be made : no, not if it were sixty
times the sum, and, poor as I am, I were never to see
prize-money. ' '

A ship could not be spared to convey him to England ;
he, therefore, traveled through Germany to Hamburg,
in company with his inseparable friends. Sir William and
Lady Hamilton. The Queen of Naples went with them
to Vienna. While they were at Leghorn, upon a report
that the French were approaching (for, through the folly
of weak courts, and the treachery of venal cabinets, they
had now recovered their ascendancy in Italy), the people
rose tumultuously, and would fain have persuaded Nelson
to lead them against the enemy. Public honors, and yet
more gratifying testimonials of public admiration,
awaited Nelson wherever he went. The Prince of Ester-
hazy entertained him in a style of Hungarian magnifi-
cence — a hundred grenadiers, each six feet in height,
constantly waiting at table. At Magdeburgh, the master
of the hotel where he was entertained contrived to show
him for money ; — admitting the curious to mount a lad-
der, and peep at him through a small window. A wine-
merchant at Hamburg, who was above seventy years of
age, requested to speak with Lady Hamilton ; and told
Jher he had some Rhenish wine, of the vintage of 1625,
which had been in his own possession more than half a
century : he had preserved it for some extraordinary oc-
casion ; and that which had now arrived was far beyond
any that he could ever have expected. His request was,
that her ladyship would prevail upon Lord Nelson to
accept six dozen of this incomparable wine : part of it
would then have the honor to flow into the heart 's blood



The Life of Nelson 241

of that immortal hero ; and this thought would make him
happy during the remainder of his life. Nelson, when
this singular request was reported to him, went into the
room, and taking the worthy old gentleman kindly by
the hand, consented to receive six bottles, provided the
donor would dine with him next day. Twelve were sent ;
and Nelson, saying that he hoped yet to win half a dozen
more great victories, promised to lay by six bottles of his
Hamburg friend 's wine for the purpose of drinking one
after each. — A German pastor, between seventy and
eighty years of age, traveled forty miles, with the Bible
of his parish church, to request that Nelson would write
his name on the first leaf of it. He called him the sav-
iour of the Christian world. The old man's hope de-
ceived him. There was no Nelson upon shore, or Europe
would have been saved ; but, in his foresight of the hor-
rors with which all Germany and all Christendom were
threatened by France, th^ pastor could not possibly have
apprehended more than has actually taken place.



CHAPTER VII

Nelson separates himself from his wife — Northern Confederacy —
He goes to the Baltic under Sir Hyde Parker — Battle of Copen-
hagen, and subsequent Negotiation — Nelson is made a Viscount.

Nelson was welcomed in England with every mark of
popular honor. At Yarmouth, where he landed, every
ship in the harbor hoisted her colors. The mayor and
corporation waited upon him with . the freedom of the
town, and accompanied him in procession to church, with
all the naval officers on shore, and the principal inhabi-
tants. Bonfires and illuminations concluded the day;
and, on the morrow, the volunteer cavalry drew up and
saluted him as he departed, and followed the carriage to
the borders of the county. At Ipswich, the people came
out to meet him, drew him a mile into the town, and three
miles out. When he was in the Agamemnon, he wished to
represent this place in Parliament, and some of his
friends had consulted the leading men of the corpora -
tion ; the result was not successful : and Nelson observing,
that he would endeavor to find out a preferable path into
Parliament, said there might come a time when the peo-
ple of Ipswdch would think it an honor to have had him
for their representative. In London, he was feasted by
the city, drawn by the populace from Ludgate-hill to
Guildhall, and received the thanks of the Common Coun-
cil for his great victory, and a golden-hilted sword
studded with diamonds. Nelson had every earthly bless-
ing, except domestic happiness : he had forfeited that
forever. Before he had been three months in England,
he separated from Lady Nelson. Some of his last words
to her were : ' ' I call God to witness, there is nothing in



The Life of Nelson 243

you, or your conduct, that I wish otherwise." This was
the consequence of his infatuated attachment to Lad}'-
Hamilton. It had before caused a quarrel with his son-
in-law, and occasioned remonstrances from his truest
friends ; which produced no other effect than that of mak-
ing him displeased, with them, and more dissatisfied with
himself.

The Addington Administration^ was just at this time
formed ; and Nelson, who had solicited emploj^ment, and
been made Vice-Admiral of the Blue, was sent to the
Baltic as second in command, under Sir Hyde Parker, by
Earl St. Vincent, the new First Lord of the Admiralty.
The three Northern Courts had formed a confederacy for
making England resign her naval rights." Of these courts
Russia was guided by the passions of its Emperor, Paul, a
man not without fits of generosity, and some natural
goodness, but subject to the wildest humors of caprice,
and crazed by the possession of greater power than can
ever be safely, or perhaps innocently, possessed by weak
humanity. Denmark was French at heart; ready to co-
operate in all the views of France, to recognize all her
usurpations, and obey all her injunctions. Sweden,
under a king whose principles were right, and whose feel-
ings were generous, but who had a taint of hereditary
insanity, acted in acquiescence with the dictates of two
powers whom it feared to offend. The Danish Navy,

1. The Addington Administration. Henry Addington, afterward Vis-
count Sidmouth, was premier from 1801 to 1804,

2. Naval rights. For the first "League of Armed Neutrality," see
p. 50, and note. The second league, formed by Denmark, Sweden
and Russia, and encouraged by a secret understanding between the
Czar and Napoleon, aimed to resist England's attempts to hold up
naval stores and other goods bound for France from the Baltic. It
stood for the principles that belligerent property is protected by a
neutral flag, that a blockade to be binding must be maintained by an
adequate force, and that goods to be regarded as contraband must be
so designated in agreements prior to the outbreak of hostilities.



244 The Life of Nelson

at this time, consisted of twenty-three ships of the line,
with about thirty-one frigates and smaller vessels, exclu-
sive of guard ships. The Swedes had eighteen ships of
the line, fourteen frigates and sloops, seventy-four gal-
leys and smaller vessels, besides gun boats ; and this force
was in a far better state of equipment than the Danish.
The Russians had eighty-two sail of the line and forty
frigates. Of these, there were forty-seven sail of the line
at Cronstadt, Revel, Petersburg, and Archangel : but the
Russian fleet was ill manned, ill officered, and ill equipped.
Such a combination, under the influence of France,
would soon have become formidable ; and never did the
British cabinet display more decision than in instantly
preparing to crush it. They erred, however, in permit-
ting any petty consideration to prevent them from ap-
pointing Nelson to the command. The public properly
murmured at seeing it entrusted to another : and he him-
self said to Earl St. Vincent, that, circumstanced as he
was, this expedition would probably be the last service
that he should ever perform. The Earl, in reply, be-
sought him, for God's sake, not to suffer himself to be
carried away by any sudden impulse.

The season happened to be unusually favorable ; so
mild a winter had not been known in the Baltic for many
years. When Nelson joined the fleet at Yarmouth, he
found the Admiral "a little nervous about dark nights
and fields of ice." — ''But we must brace up," said he,
''these are not times for nervous systems. — I hope we
shall give our northern enemies that hailstorm of bullets,
which gives our dear country the dominion of the sea.
We have it, and all the devils in the north cannot take it
from us, if our wooden walls^ have fair play." Before

1. Wooden walls. At the time of the Persian invasions, the Delphic
Oracle pronounced that the safety of Athens lay in "wooden walls."



Online LibraryRobert SoutheySouthey's Life of Nelson → online text (page 19 of 29)