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due to the character of her sex, as well as of her country.
Here, also, a faithful historian is called upon to pro-
nounce a severe and unqualified condemnation of Nel-
son's conduct. Had he the authority of his Sicilian
Majesty for proceeding as he did? If so, why was not
that authority produced? If not, why were the pro-
ceedings hurried on without it ? Why was the trial pre-
cipitated so that it was impossible for the prisoner, if he
had been innocent, to provide the witnesses who might
have proved him so ? Why was the second trial refused,
when the known animosity of the President of the court
against the prisoner was considered ? Why was the exe-
cution hastened so as to preclude any appeal for mercy,

220 The Life op Nelson

and render the prerogative of mercy useless ? — Doubtless,
the British Admiral seemed to himself to be acting under
a rigid sense of justice ; but, to all other persons, it was
obvious that he was influenced by an infatuated attach-
ment — a baneful passion, which destroyed his domestic
happiness, and now, in a second instance, stained in-
effaceably his public character.^

The body was carried out to a considerable distance,
and sunk in the bay, with three double-headed shot,
weighing two hundred and fifty pounds, tied to its legs.
Between two and three weeks afterwards, when the King
was on board the Foudroyant, a Neapolitan fisherman
came to the ship, and solemnly declared that Caraccioli
had risen from the bottom of the sea, and was coming,
as fast as he could, to Naples, swimming half out of the
water. Such an account was listened to like a tale of
idle credulity. The day being fair. Nelson, to please the
King, stood out to sea; but the ship had not proceeded
far before a body was distinctly seen, upright in the
water, and approaching them. It was soon recognized to
be, indeed, the corpse of Caraccioli, which had risen and
floated, while the great weights attached to the legs kept
the body in a position like that of a living man. A fact
so extraordinary astonished the King, and perhaps ex-
cited some feeling of superstitious fear, akin to regret.
He gave permission for the body to be taken on shore,
and receive Christian burial. It produced no better
effect. Naples exhibited more dreadful scenes than it had

1. stained , . . Ms public character. Regarding Nelson's con-
duct in the trial of Caraccioli, modern historians are on the whole
inclined to support Southey's judgment. Admiral Mahan (Life of
Nelson, Vol. I, p. 441) clears Nelson from "the stigma of treachery
and unworthy Influence," but regards the abrupt execution as "par-
donable perhaps in a Neapolitan royalist but not in a foreign officer
only Indirectly interested in the issues at stake." Nelson himself
speaks of "Sicllifying my own ccascituce."

Thi; Life of Nelson 221

witnessed in the days of Massaniello.^ After the mob
had had their fill of blood and plunder, the reins were
given to justice — if that can be called justice which an-
nuls its own stipulations, looks to the naked facts alone,
disregarding all motives and all circumstances; and,
without considering character or science, or sex, or youth,
sacrifices its victims, not for the public weal, but for the
gratification of greedy vengeance.

The castles of St. Elmo, Gaeta, and Capua,^ remained
to be subdued. On the land side, there was no danger
that the French in these garrisons should be relieved, for
Suvarof^ was now beginning to drive the enemy before
him; but Nelson thought his presence necessary in the
Bay of Naples : and when Lord Keith, having received in-
telligence that the French and Spanish fleets had formed
a junction, and sailed for Carthagena, ordered him to re-
pair to Minorca, with the whole or the greater part of
his force, he sent Admiral: Duckworth with a small part
only. This was a dilemma which he had foreseen.
"Should such an order come at this moment," he said,
in a letter previously written to the Admiralty, ' ' it would
be a case for some consideration, whether Minorca is to
be risked, or the two kingdoms of Naples and Sicily: I
rather think my decision would be to risk the former."
And, after he had acted upon this opinion, he wrote in
these terms to the Duke of Clarence, with whose high no-
tions of obedience he was well acquainted : " I am well
aware of the consequences of disobeying my orders ; but

1. Massaniello (contracted from Tommaso Aniello), 1623-1647. An
Amalfl fisherman who in 1647 led a successful revolt against the Span-
ish viceroy in Naples.

2. St. Elmo, Oaeta, and Capua. St. Elmo is a fortress overlooking
Naples, Gaeta is a town on the coast farther north, and Capua is
about twenty miles inland.

3. Suvarof. Leader of the Russian army in Italy. See p. 198, and

222 The Life of Nelson

as I have often before risked my life for the good cause,
so I, with cheerfulness, did my commission, for, although
a military tribunal may think me criminal, the world will
approve of my conduct : and I regard not my own safety,
when the honor of my King is at stake. ' '

Nelson was right in his judgment : no attempt was
made upon Minorca; and the expulsion of the French
from Naples may rather be said to have been effected,
than accelerated, by the English and Portuguese of the
allied fleet, acting upon shore, under Troubridge. The
French commandant at St. Elmo, relying upon the
strength of the place, and the nature of the force which
attacked it, had insulted Captain Foote in the grossest
terms: but Citoyen Mejan was soon taught better man-
ners, when Troubridge, in spite of every obstacle, opened
^YQ batteries upon the fort. He was informed, that none
of his letters, with the insolent printed words at the top,
Liherte, Egalite, Guerre aux Tyransj^ etc., would be re-
ceived ; but that, if he wrote like a soldier and a gentle-
man, he should be answered in the same style. The
Frenchman then began to flatter his antagonist upon the
hienfaisance^ and humanite, which he said, were the least
of the many virtues which distinguished Monsieur Trou-
bridge. Monsieur Troubridge 's Ijienfaisance was, at this
time, thinking of mining the fort. — ''If we can accom-
plish that,'^ said he, "I am a strong advocate to send
them, hostages and all, to Old Nick, and surprise him
with a group of nobility and republicans. Meantime,"
he added, "it was some satisfaction to perceive that the
shells fell well, and broke some of their shins." Finally,
to complete his character, Mejan offered to surrender for
150,000 ducats. Great Britain, perhaps, has made but

1. Liberie, etc. "Liberty, Equality, War on Tyrants" — watchwords
of the French Revolution.

2. Bienfaisance. Kindness, i

The Life of Nelson 223

too little use of this kind of artillery, which France has
found so effectual towards subjugating the continent:
but Troubridge had the prey within his reach; and, in
the course of a few days, his last battery, ''after much
trouble and palaver, " as he said, ' ' brought the vagabonds
to their senses. ' '

Troubridge had more difficulties to overcome in this
siege, from the character of the Neapolitans who pre-
tended to assist him, and whom he made useful, than even
from the strength of the place and the skill of the French.
"Such damned cowards and villains," he declared, ''he
had never seen before. ' ' The men at the advanced posts
carried on, what he called, ' ' a diabolical good understand-
ing ' ' with the enemy, and the workmen would sometimes
take fright and run away. ' ' I make the best I can, ' ' said
he, ' ' of the degenerate race I have to deal with : the whole
means of guns, ammunition, pioneers, etc., with all mate-
rials, rest with them. With fair promises to the men, and
threats of instant death if I found any one erring, a little
spur has been given." Nelson said of him, with truth,
upon this occasion, that he was a first-rate general. "I
find, sir," said he afterwards, in a letter to the Duke of
Clarence, "that General Koehler^ does not approve of
such irregular proceedings as naval officers attacking and
defending fortifications. We have but one idea, — to get
close alongside. None but a sailor would have placed a
battery only one hundred and eighty yards from the
castle of St. Elmo : a soldier must have gone according to
art, and the ZZ way.- My brave Troubridge went
straight on, for we had no time to spare."

1. General Koehler. An artillery officer in the British army. In
the spring of 1799 Koehler was sent to aid the Turks against Na-
poleon, and passed through the Mediterranean on his way.

2. The ZZ way. Presumably, by zigzag trenches. Burke in the sec-
ond of his Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796) applies the phrase^
"the surer mode of zigzag," to the methods employed by politicians.

224 The Life of Nelson

Troubridge then proceeded to Capua, and took the
command of the motley besieging force. One thousand of
the best men in the fleet were sent to assist in the siege.
Just at this time Nelson received a peremptory order
from Lord Keith, to sail with the whole of his force for
the protection of Minorca ; or, at least, to retain no more
than was absolutely necessary at Sicily. ' ^ You will easily
conceive my feelings," said he, in communicating this
to Earl St. Vincent; "but my mind, as your lordship
knows, was perfectly prepared for this order ; and it is-
now, more than ever, made up. At this moment I will
not part with a single ship ; as I cannot do that without
drawing a hundred and twenty men from each ship, now
at the siege of Capua. I am fully aware of the act I have
committed; but I am prepared for any fate which may
await my disobedience. Capua and Gaeta will soon fall ;
and the moment the scoundrels of French are out of this
kingdom, I shall send eight or nine ships of the line to
Minorca. I have done what I thought right : others may
think differently: but it will be my consolation that I
have gained a kingdom, seated a faithful ally of his
Majesty firmly on his throne, and restored happiness to
millions. ' '

At Capua, Troubridge had the same difficulties as at
St. Elmo ; and being farther from Naples", and from the
fleet, was less able to overcome them. The powder was so
bad that he suspected treachery : and when he asked Nel-
son to spare him forty casks from the ships, he told him
it would be necessary that some Englishmen should ac-
company it, or they would steal one half, and change the
other. ''Every man you see,'' said he, "gentle and
simple, are such notorious villains, that it is a misery to
be with them." Capua, however, soon fell. Gaeta im-
mediately afterwards surrendered to Captain Louis of
the Minotaur. Here the commanding officer acted more

The Life op Nelson 225

unlike a Frenchman, Captain Louis said, than any one he
had ever met ; meaning that he acted like a man of honor.
He required, however, that the garrison should carry
away their horses and other pillaged property : to which
Nelson replied: "That no property which they did not
bring with them into the country could be theirs ; and that
the greatest care should be taken to prevent them from
carrying it away." — "I am sorry," said he to Captain
Louis, ' ' that you have entered into any altercation. There
is no way of dealing with a Frenchman but to knock him
down : to be civil to them is only to be laughed at, when
they are enemies. ' '

The w^hole kingdom of Naples was thus delivered by
Nelson from the French. The Admiralty, however,
thought it expedient to censure him for disobeying Lord
Keith's orders, and thus hazarding Minorca, without, as
it appeared to them, any sufficient reason ; and also for
having landed seamen for the siege of Capua, to form
part of an army employed in operations at a distance
from the coast ; where, in case of defeat, they might have
been prevented from returning to their ships ; and they
enjoined him ''not to employ the seamen in like manner
in future." This reprimand was issued before the event^
was known; though, indeed, the event would not affect
the principle upon which it proceeded. When Nelson
communicated the tidings of his complete success he said^
in his public letter, ' ' that it would not be the less accept-
able for having been principally brought about by Brit-
ish sailors. ' ' His judgment in thus employing them had
been justified by the result; and his joy was evidently
heightened by the gratification of a professional and be-
coming pride. To the First Lord he said, at the same
time, ' ' I certainly, from having only a left hand, cannot
enter into details which may explain the motives that

1. Event. Outcome.

226 The Life of Nelson

actuated my conduct. My principle is, lo assist in driv-
ing the French to the devil, and in restoring peace and
happiness to mankind. I feel that I am fitter to do the
action than to describe it." He then added, that he
would take care of Minorca.

In expelling the French from Naples, Nelson had, with
characteristic zeal and ability, discharged his duty; but
he deceived himself, when he imagined that he had seated
Ferdinand firmly on his throne, and that he had restored
happiness to millions. These objects might have been ac-
complished if it had been possible to inspire virtue and
wisdom into a vicious and infatuated court ; and if Nel-
son 's eyes had not been, as it were, spellbound by that
unhappy attachment which had now completely mastered
him, he would have seen things as they were ; and might,
perhaps, have awakened the Sicilian court to a sense of
their interest, if not of their duty. That court employed
itself in a miserable round of folly and festivity, while the
prisons of Naples were filled with groans, and the scaf-
folds streamed with blood. St. Januarius was solemnly
removed from his rank as patron saint of the kingdom,
having been convicted of Jacobinism ; and St. Antonio as
solemnly installed in his place. The King, instead of re-
establishing order at Naples by his presence, speedily
returned to Palermo, to indulge in his favorite amuse-
ments. Nelson, and the ambassador's family, accompa-
nied the court ; and Troubridge remained, groaning over
the villainy and frivolity of those with whom he was com-
pelled to deal. A party of officers applied to him for a
passage to Palermo, to see the procession of St. Rosalia : —
he recommended them to exercise their troops, and not
behave like children. It was grief enough for him that
the court should be busied in these follies, and Nelson
involved in them. *'I dread, my Lord," said he, "all the
feasting, etc., at Palermo. I am sure your health will be

The Life of Nelson 227

hurt. If so, all their saints will be damned by the Navy.
The King would be better employed digesting a good gov-
ernment: everything gives way to their pleasures. The
money spent at Palermo gives discontent here : fifty thou-
sand people are unemployed, trade discouraged, manu-
factures at a stand. It is the interest of many here to
keep the King away : they all dread reform. Their vil-
lainies are so deeply rooted, that, if some method is not
taken to dig them out, this government cannot hold to-
gether. Out of twenty millions of ducats, collected as the
revenue, only thirteen millions reach the treasury; and
the King pays four ducats where he should pay one. He
is surrounded by thieves ; and none of them have honor
or honesty enough to tell him the real and true state of
things." In another letter, he expressed his sense of the
miserable state of Naples. ' ' There are upwards of forty
thousand families," said he, ''who have relations con-
fined. If some act of oblivion is not passed, there will be
no end of persecution ; for the people of this country have
no idea of anything but revenge; and, to gain a point,
would swear ten thousand false oaths. Constant efforts
are made to get a man taken up in order to rob him.
The confiscated property does not reach the King's treas-
ury. — All thieves! It is selling for nothing. His own
people, whom he employs, are buying it up, and the vaga-
bonds pocket the whole. I should not be surprised to
hear that they brought a bill of expenses against him for
the sale."

The Sicilian court, however, were at this time duly
sensible of the services which had been rendered them by
the British fleet, and their gratitude to Nelson was shown
with proper and princely munificence. — They gave him
the dukedom and domain of Bronte,^ worth about £3000

1. Bronte. The town and estate connected with the title are located
in Sicily.

228 The Life of Nelson

a year. It was some days before he could be persuaded to
accept it: the argument which finally prevailed is said
to have been suggested by the Queen, and urged, at her
request, by Lady Hamilton, upon her knees. "He con-
sidered his own honor too much," she said, "if he per-
sisted in refusing what the King and Queen felt to be
absolutely necessary for the preservation of theirs. ' ' The
King himself, also, is said to have addressed him in w^ords
which show that the sense of rank will sometimes confer
a virtue upon those who seem to be most unworthy of the
lot to which they have been born : "Lord Nelson, do yon
wish that your name alone should pass with honor to pos-
terity ; and that I, Ferdinand Bourbon, should appear un-
grateful?" He gave him also, when the dukedom was
accepted, a diamond-hilted sword, which his father,
Charles III. of Spain, had given him, on his accession to
the throne of the Two Sicilies. Nelson said, ' ' The reward
w^as magnificent, and worthy of a king, and he was deter-
mined that the inhabitants on the domain should be the
happiest in all his Sicilian Majesty's dominions. — Yet,"
said he, speaking of these and the other remunerations
which were made him for his services, "these presents,
rich as they are, do not elevate me. My pride is, that, at
Constantinople, from the Grand Seignior to the lowest
Turk, the name of Nelson is familiar in their mouths ; and
in this country I am everything which a grateful monarch
and people can call me." Nelson, however, had a par-
donable pride in the outward and visible signs of honor,
which he had so fairly won. He was fond of his Sicilian
title; the signification, perhaps, pleased him; — Duke of
Thunder^ was what in Dahomy would be called a strong
name; it was to a sailor's taste ; and, certainly, to no man
could it ever be more applicable. But a simple offering,
which he received not long afterwards, from the island

1. Duke of Thunder. Eronte is Greek for thunder.

The Life of Nelson 229

of Zante, affected him with a deeper and finer feeling.
The Greeks of that little community sent him a golden-
headed sword, and a truncheon, set round with all the
diamonds that the island could furnish, in a single row.
They thanked him ' ' for having, by his victory, preserved
that part of Greece from the horrors of anarchy; and
prayed that his exploits might accelerate the day, in
which, amidst the glory and peace of thrones, the miseries
of the human race would cease." This unexpected trib-
ute touched Nelson to the heart. ''No officer," he said,
''had ever received from any country a higher acknowl-
edgment of his services. ' '

The French still occupied the Koman states; from
which, according to their own admission, they had ex-
torted, in jewels, plate, specie, and requisitions of every
kind, to the enormous amount of eight millions sterling :
yet they affected to appear as deliverers among the peo-
ple whom they were thus cruelly plundering; and they
distributed portraits of Bonaparte, with the blasphemous
inscription — "This is the true likeness of the Holy Sav-
iour of the world ! ' ' The people, detesting the impiety,
and groaning beneath the exactions of these perfidious
robbers, were ready to join any regular force that should
come to their assistance; but they dreaded Cardinal
Ruffe's rabble, and declared they would resist them as
banditti, who came only for the purpose of pillage. Nel-
son perceived that no object was now so essential for the
tranquillity of Naples as the recovery of Rome ; which, in
the present state of things, when Suvarof was driving the
French before him, would complete the deliverance of
Italy. He applied, therefore, to Sir James St. Clair
Erskine, who, in the absence of General Fox, commanded
at Minorca, to assist in this great object with twelve hun-
dred men. "The field of glory," said he, "is a large one,
and was never more open to any one than at this moment

230 The Life op Nelson

to you. Rome would throw open lier gates, and receive
you as her deliverer : and the Pope would owe his restora-
tion to a heretic." But Sir James Erskine looked only
at the difficulties of the undertaking. ' ' Twelve hundred
men, he thought, would be too small a force to be com-
mitted in such an enterprise ; for Civita Vecchia ^ was a
regular fortress. The local situation and climate, also,
were such, that, even if this force were adequate, it would
be proper to delay the expedition till October. General
Fox, too, was soon expected ; and during his absence, and
under existing circumstances, he did not feel justified in
sending away such a detachment."

What this general thought it imprudent to attempt,
Nelson and Troubridge effected without his assistance, by
a small detachment from the fleet. Troubridge first sent
Captain Hallowell to Civita Vecchia, to offer the garrison
there, and at Castle St. Angelo,^ the same terms which
had been granted to Gaeta. Hallowell perceived, by the
overstrained civility of the officers who came off to him,
and the compliments which they paid to the English
nation, that they were sensible of their own weakness, and
their inability to offer any effectual resistance; but the
French know, that while they are in a condition to serve
their government, they can rely upon it for every possible
exertion in their support; and this reliance gives them
hope and confidence to the last. Upon Hallowell 's report,
Troubridge, who had now been made Sir Thomas for his
services, sent Captain Louis, with a squadron, to enforce
the terms which he had offered ; and, as soon as he could
leave Naples, he himself followed. The French, who had
no longer any hope from the fate of arms, relied upon
their skill in negotiation, and proposed terms to Trou-

1. Civita Vecchia. A seaport near Rome.

2. Castle St. Angela. A fortress in Rome ; originally the tomb of
the Emperor Hadrian.

The Life of Nelson . 231

bridge with that effrontery which characterizes their pub-
lic proceedings ; but which is as often successful as it is
impudent. They had a man of the right stamp to deal
with. Their ambassador at Rome began by saying, that
the Roman territory was the property of the French by
right of conquest. The British Commodore settled that
point, by replying, "It is mine by reconquest." A ca-
pitulation was soon concluded for all the Roman states,
and Captain Louis rowed up the Tiber in his barge,
hoisted English colors on the capitol, and acted, for the
time, as governor of Rome. The prophecy of the Irish
poet^ was thus accomplished, and the friar reaped the
fruits : for Nelson, who was struck with the oddity of the
circumstance, and not a little pleased with it, obtained
preferment for him from the King of Sicily, and recom-
mended him to the Pope.

Having thus completed his work upon the continent of
Italy, Nelson's whole attention was directed towards
Malta, where Captain Ball, with most inadequate means,
was besieging the French garrison. Never was any offi-
cer engaged in a more anxious and painful service : the
smallest reinforcement from France would, at any mo-
ment, have turned the scale against him; and had it not
been for his consummate ability, and the love and ven-
eration with which the Maltese regarded him, Malta must
have remained in the hands of the enemy. Men, money,
food, — all things were wanting. The garrison consisted
of five thousand troops, the besieging force of five hun-
dred English and Portuguese marines, and about fifteen
hundred armed peasants. Long and repeatedly did Nel-
son solicit troops to effect the reduction of this important

"It has been no fault of the Navy," said he, "that
Malta has not been attacked by land, but we have neither

1. Prophecy of the Irish poet. See p. 202.

232 The Life op Nelson

the means ourselves, nor influence with those who have."
The same causes of demurral existed which prevented
British troops from assisting in the expulsion of the
French from Rome. Sir James ErsMne was expecting
General Fox; he could not act without orders; and not

Online LibraryRobert SoutheySouthey's Life of Nelson → online text (page 18 of 29)