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replied Davison, "am resolved you shall not." Nelson,
however, upon this occasion, was less resolute than his
friend, and suffered him^self to be led back to the boat.

The Albemarle was under orders to convoy a fleet of
transports to New York. — "A very pretty job," said
her Captain, "at this late season of the year" (October
was far advanced), "for our sails are at this moment
frozen to the yards." On his arrival at Sandy Hook
he waited on the Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Digby,
who told him he was come on a fine station for making
prize-money. "Yes, sir," Nelson made answer; "but
the "West Indies is the station for honor." Lord Hood,
with a detachment of Rodney's victorious fleet,^ was
at that time in Sandy Hook : he had been intimate with

1. Rodney's victorious fleet. Rodney had defeated Admiral de
Grasse at the Battle of the Saints' Passage, West Indies, April 12,


54 The Life of Nelson

Captain Suckling; and Nelson, who was desirous of
nothing but honor, requested him to ask for the Albe-
marle, that he might go to that station where it was
most likely to be obtained. Admiral Digby reluctantly
parted with him. His professional merit was already
well known : and Lord Hood, on introducing him to
Prince "William Henry, as the Duke of Clarence^ was
then called, told the prince, if he wished to ask any
question respecting naval tactics, Captain Nelson could
give him as much information as any officer in the
fleet. The duke, who, to his own honor, became from
that time the firm friend of Nelson, describes him as
appearing the merest boy of a captain he had ever seen,
dressed in a full-lace uniform, an old-fashioned waist-
coat with long flaps, and his lank unpowdered hair tied
in a stiff Hessian taiP of extraordinary length; making
altogether so remarkable a figure, *'that," says the
duke, *'I had never seen anything like it before, nor
could I imagine who he was, nor what he came about.
But his address and conversation were irresistibly pleas-
ing; and when he spoke on professional subjects, it was
with an enthusiasm that showed he was no common

It was expected that the French would attempt some
of the passages between the Bahamas : and Lord Hood,
thinking of this, said to Nelson, *'I suppose, sir, from
the length of time you were cruising among the Bahama
Keys, you must be a good pilot there?" He replied,
with that constant readiness to render justice to every
man, which was so conspicuous in all his conduct through
life, that he was well acquainted with them himself, but

1. DuTce of Clarence. Then a midshipman on board the Barfleur;
afterwards King William IV of England.

2. Hessian tail. Hessian troops, including those in British service,
wore pig-tails until 1820, long after they had ceased to be a general

The Life of Nelson 55

that in that respect his second lieutenant was far his
superior. The French got into Puerto Cabello on the
coast of Venezuela. Nelson was cruising between that
port and La Guayra, under French colors, for the pur-
pose of obtaining information, when a king's launch,
belonging to the Spaniards, passed near, and being
hailed in French, came alongside without suspicion, and
answered all questions that were asked concerning the
number and force of the enemy's ships. The crew, how-
ever, were not a little surprised when they were taken
on board, and found themselves prisoners. One of the
party went by the name of Count de Deux Fonts. He
was, however, a prince of the German empire, and
brother to the heir of the Electorate of Bavaria: his
companions were French officers of distinction, and
men of science, who had been collecting specimens in
the various branches of natural history. Nelson, having
entertained them with the best his table could afford,
told them they were at liberty to depart with their boat
and all that it contained: he only required them to
promise that they would consider themselves as prisoners,
if the Commander-in-Chief should refuse to acquiesce
in their being thus liberated : a circumstance which was
not by any means likely to happen. Tidings soon ar-
rived that the preliminaries of peace^ had been signed ;
and the Albemarle returned to England, and was paid
off. Nelson's first business, after he got to London,
even before he went to see his relations, was to attempt
to get the wages due to his men, for the various ships in
which they had served during the war. * ' The disgust of
seamen to the navy," he said, **was all owing to the
infernal plan of turning them over from ship to ship;

1. Preliminaries of peace. The treaty of peace at the close of the
American Revolution, signed November 30, 1782, and ratified in Sep-
tember, 1783.

56 The Life of Nelson

so that men could not be attached to the officers, nor
the officers care the least about the men." Yet he him-
self was so beloved by his men, that his whole ship*s
company offered, if he could get a ship, to enter for her
immediately. He was now, for the first time, presented
at court. After going through this ceremony, he dined
with his friend Davison, at Lincoln's Inn.^ As soon as
he entered the chambers he threw off what he called his
iron-bound coat, and putting himself at ease in a dress-
ing-gown, passed the remainder of the day in talking
over all that had befallen them since they parted on the
shore of the River St. Lawrence.

1. Lincoln's Inn. One of the famous London Inns of Court, occu-
pied by lawyers and law students.


Nelson goes to France during the peace — Re-appointed to the
Boreas, and stationed at the Leeward Islands — His firm conduct
concerning the American interlopers and the contractors — The West
Indies — Marries and returns to England — Is on the point of quit-
ting the service in disgust — Manner of life while unemployed — Ap-
pointed to the Agamemnon on the breaking out of the war of the
French Revolution.

**I HAVE closed the war," said Nelson, in one of his
letters, ''without a fortune; but there is not a speck
in my character. True honor, I hope, predominates in
my mind far above riches." He did not apply for a
ship, because he was not wealthy enough to live on
board in the manner which was then become customary.
Finding it, therefore, prudent to economize to his half-
pay^ during the peace, he went to France, in company
with Captain Macnamara, of the navy, and took lodg-
ings at St. Omer's.^ The death of his favorite sister,
Anne, who died in consequence of going out of the ball-
room, at Bath, when heated with dancing, affected his
father so much, that it had nearly occasioned him to
return in a few weeks. Time, however, and reason and
religion, overcame this grief in the old man ; and Nelson
continued at St. Omer's long enough to fall in love with
the daughter of an English clergyman. This second
attachment appears to have been less ardent than the
first; for, upon weighing the evils of a straightened in-
come to a married man, he thought it better to leave

1. Ealf-pay. Reduced pay allowed oflScers not in active service.

2. 8t» Omer's. A city in the extreme north of France, near Calais.


58 The Life op Nelson

France, assigning to his friends something in his ac-
counts as the cause. This prevented him from accepting
an invitation from the Count of Deux Ponts^ to visit
him at Paris, couched in the handsomest terms of ac-
knowledgment for the treatment which he had received
on board the Albemarle.

The self-constraint which Nelson exerted in subduing
this attachment, made him naturally desire to be at sea :
and when, upon visiting Lord Howe^ at the Admiralty,
he was asked if he wished to be employed, he made
answer, that he did. Accordingly, in March, he was
appointed to the Boreas, twenty-eight guns, going to the
Leeward Islands, as a cruiser, on the peace establish-
ment.^ Lady Hughes and her family went out with
him to Admiral Sir Richard Hughes, who commanded
on that statioh. His ship was full of young Midship-
men, of whom there were not less than thirty on board ;
and happy were they whose lot it was to be placed with
such a captain. If he perceived that a boy was afraid
at first going aloft, he would say to him, in a friendly
manner: ''Well, sir, I am going a race to the mast-head,
and beg that I may meet you there." The poor little
fellow instantly began to climb, and got up how he
could, — Nelson never noticed in what manner, but when
they met in the top, spoke cheerfully to him, and would
say, how much any person was to be pitied who fancied
that getting up was either dangerous or difficult. Every
day he went into the school-room, to see that they were
pursuing their nautical studies; and at noon he was

1. Count of Deux Fonts. See p. 55.

2. Lord Howe (1725-1799). Commander of the British fleet on the
American coast, 1776-78; First Lord of the Admiralty, 1783-88; in
command at the victory over the French fl!eet on June 1, 1794.

3. Cruiser, on the peace establishment. In time of peace war ves-
sels were detailed to move from station to station, taking the place
of ships put out of commission.

The Life of Nelson 59

always the first on deck with his quadrant/ Whenever
he paid a visit of ceremony, some of these youths accom-
panied him: and when he went to dine with the Gov-
ernor of Barbados he took one of them in his hand, and
presented him, saying, ''Your Excellency must excuse
me for bringing one of my Midshipmen. I make it a
rule to introduce them to all the good company I can,
as they have few to look up to, besides myself, during
the time they are at sea."

When Nelson arrived in the West Indies he found
himself senior Captain, and consequently second in
command on that station. Satisfactory as this was, it
soon involved him in a dispute with the Admiral, which
a man less zealous for the service might have avoided.
He found the Latona in English Harbor, Antigua,
with a broad pendant^ hoisted ; and, upon inquiring the
reason, was presented with a written order from Sir
R. Hughes, requiring and directing him to obey the
orders of Resident Commissioner Moutray, during the
time he might have occasion to remain there; the said
resident commissioner being, in consequence, author-
ized to hoist a broad pendant on board any of his
Majesty's ships in that port that he might think proper.
Nelson was never at a loss how to act in any emergency.
**I know of no superior officers," said he, ''besides the
Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty and my seniors
on the Post list."^ Concluding, therefore, that it was
not consistent with the service for a resident commis-
sioner, who held only a civil situation, to hoist a broad
pendant, the moment that he had anchored he sent an

1. Quadrant. An instrument for measuring the altitude, or angle
above the horizon, of heavenly bodies, to determine latitude and longi-
tude. If weather permits, observations are always taken at noon.

2 Broad pendant. A square, swallow-tailed flag, hoisted by the
officer In supreme command on a station.

3. Post list. The official list of full-grade captains.

60 The Life of Nelson

order to the captain of the Latona to strike it, and
return it to the dock-yard. He went on shore the same
day, dined with the commissioner, to show him that he
was actuated by no other motive than a sense of
duty, and gave him the first intelligence that this pen-
dant had been struck. Sir Richard sent an account
of this to the Admiralty; but the case could admit
of no doubt, and Captain Nelson's conduct was ap-

He displayed the same promptitude on another occa-
sion. While the Boreas, after the hurricane months^
were over, was riding at anchor in Nevis Eoads, a
French frigate passed to leeward, close along shore.
Nelson had obtained information that this ship was sent
from Martinique, with two general officers and some en-
gineers on board, to make a survey of our sugar islands.
This purpose he was determined to prevent them from
executing, and therefore he gave orders to follow them.
The next day he came up with them at anchor in the
roads of St. Eustatia, and anchored at about two cables'
length^ on the frigate's quarter.* Being afterwards in-
vited by the Dutch governor to meet the French officers
at dinner, he seized that occasion of assuring the French
captain that, understanding it was his intention to honor
the British possessions with a visit, he had taken the

1. Conduct was approved. Moutray was a naval officer twenty years
senior to Nelson but not in active service. Both he and Nelson re-
ported the matter to the Admiralty, which returned no further com-
ment than that Nelson "would have done well to have submitted his
doubts to the commander-in-chief, instead of taking upon himself to
control Mr. Moutray's exercise of the functions of his appointment." —
Letters (ed. Laughton), p. 31.

2. Hurricane months. August, September, and October.

3. Cable's length. The length of a cable is about 120 fathoms, or
720 feet.

4. On the frigate's quarter. Astern of her and bearing about 45
degrees to the right or left. The quarter Is that part of a vessel's
Bide from opposite the mainmast to the stern.

The Life of Nelson 61

earliest opportunity in his power to accompany him,
in his Majesty's ship the Bof^eas, in order that such
attention might be paid to the officers of his Most Chris-
tian Majesty as every Englishman in the islands would
be proud to show. The French, with equal courtesy,
protested against giving him this trouble ; especially, they
said, as they intended merely to cruise round the islands,
without landing on any. But Nelson, with the utmost
politeness, insisted upon paying them this compliment,
followed them close, in spite of all their attempts to elude
his vigilance, and never lost sight of them till, finding
it impossible either to deceive or escape him, they gave
up their treacherous purpose in despair, and beat up
for Martinique.

A business of more serious import soon engaged his
attention. The Americans were at this time trading
with our islands, taking advantage of the register of
their ships, which had been issued while they were
British subjects. Nelson knew that, by the Navigation
Act,^ no foreigners, directly or indirectly, are permitted
to carry on any trade with these possessions: he knew,
also, that the Americans had made themselves foreign-
ers with regard to England; they had broken the ties
of blood and language, and acquired the independence
which they had been provoked to claim, unhappily for
themselves, before they were fit for it; and he was
resolved that they should derive no profit from those
ties. Foreigners they had made themselves, and as for-
eigners they were to be treated. **If once," said he,
*' they are admitted to any kind of intercourse with our
islands, the views^ of the Loyalists, in settling at Nova

1. "Navigation Act, An act, first established under Cromwell and in
force with slight changes until 1849, by which all trade with Great
Britain and her colonies was reserved to vessels of British registry,
manned in three-fourths part by British subjects.

2. Views. Expectations.

62 The Life of Nelson

Scotia, are entirely done away; and when we are again
embroiled in a French war, the Americans will first
become the carriers of these colonies, and then have
possession of them. Here they come, sell their cargoes
for ready money, go to Martinique, buy molasses, and so
round and round. The Loyalist cannot do this, and
consequently must sell a little dearer. The residents
here are Americans by connection and by interest, and
are inimical to Great Britain. They are as great rebels
as ever were in America, had they the power to show
it." In November, when the squadron, having arrived
at Barbados, was to separate, with no other orders than
those for examining anchorages, and the usual inquiries
concerning wood and water, Nelson asked his friend
CoUingwood, then Captain of the Mediator, whose
opinions he knew upon the subject, to accompany him to
the Commander-in-Chief, whom he then respectfully
asked, whether they were not to attend to the commerce
of the country, and see that the Navigation Act was
respected — ^that appearing to him to be the intent of
keeping men-of-war upon this station in time of peace ?
Sir Richard Hughes replied, he had no particular or-
ders, neither had the Admiralty sent him any acts of
parliament. But Nelson made answer, that the Naviga-
tion Act was included in the statutes of the Admiralty,
with which every captain was furnished, and that Act
was directed to admirals, captains, etc., to see it carried
into execution. Sir Eichard said, he had never seen
the book. Upon this Nelson produced the statutes, read
the words of the Act, and apparently convinced the
Commander-in-Chief, that men-of-war, as he said, *'were
sent abroad for some other purpose than to be made a
show of." Accordingly, orders were given to enforce
the Navigation Act.

Major-General Sir Thomas Shirley was at this time

The Life of Nelson 63

Governor of the Leeward Islands;^ and when Nelson
waited on him to inform him how he intended to act,
and upon what grounds, he replied, that ''Old generals
were not in the habit of taking advice from young gen-
tlemen. " — "Sir," said the young officer, with that con-
fidence in himself which never carried him too far, and
always was equal to the occasion, "I am as old as the
Prime Minister of England,^ and think myself as capa-
ble of commanding one of his Majesty's ships as that
minister is of governing the state." He was resolved
to do his duty, whatever might be the opinion or con-
duct of others ; and when he arrived upon his station at
St. Kitt's, he sent away all the Americans, not choos-
ing to seize them before they had been well apprised that
the Act would be carried into effect, lest it might seem
as if a trap had been laid for them. The Americans,
though they prudently decamped from St. Kitt's, were
emboldened by the suppor:t they met with, and resolved
to resist his orders, alleging that the King's ships had
no legal power to seize them without having deputations^
from the Customs. The planters were to a man against
him; the Governors and the Presidents of the different
islands, with only a single exception, gave him no sup-
port ; and the Admiral, afraid to act on either side, yet
wishing to oblige the planters, sent him a note, advising
him to be gi^ided by the wishes of the President of the
Council. There was no danger in disregarding this, as
it came unofficially, and in the form of advice. But
scarcely a month after he had shown Sir Richard

1. Leeward Islands. With the Windward Islands, farther north,
they form a chain called the Lesser Antilles, extending from Porto
Rico toward the South American coast. Tbe names Windward and
Lecuard are explained by the prevailing trade winds, which blow from
the northeast.

2. Prime Minister of England. William Pitt (1759-1806). a year
younger than Nelson.

3. Deputations. Authorization to act as deputy.

64 The Life op Nelson

Hughes the law, and, as he supposed, satisfied him con-
cerning it, he received an order from him, stating that
he had now obtained good advice upon the point, and
the Americans were not to be hindered from coming,
and having free egress and regress, if the Governor
chose to permit them. An order to the same purport
had been sent round to the different Governors and
Presidents; and General Shirley and others informed
him, in an authoritative manner, that they chose to
admit American ships, as the Commander-in-Chief had
left the decision to them. These persons, in his own
words, he soon ''trimmed up, and silenced"; but it was
a more delicate business to deal with the Admiral. *'I
must either," said he, ''disobey my orders, or disobey
acts of Parliament. I determined upon the former,
trusting to the uprightness of my intentions, and believ-
ing that my country would not let me be ruined for
protecting her commerce." With this determination he
wrote to Sir Richard, appealed again to the plain, lit-
eral, unequivocal sense of the Navigation Act, and in
respectful language told him, he felt it his duty to de-
cline obeying these orders till he had an opportunity
of seeing and conversing with him. Sir Richard's first
feeling was that of anger, and he was about to super-
sede Nelson; but having mentioned the affair to his
Captain, that officer told him he believed all the squad-
ron thought the orders illegal, and therefore did not
know how far they were bound to obey them. It was
impossible, therefore, to bring Nelson to a court-
martial,^ composed of men who agreed with him in
opinion upon the point in dispute ; and luckily, though
the Admiral wanted vigor of mind to decide upon what

1. Court-martial. The judges in such a court-martial would have
been from five to nine fellow-officers, at least a majority senior In
rank to the accused.

The Life of Nelson 65

was right, he was not obstinate in wrong, and had even
generosity enough in his nature to thank Nelson after-
wards for having shown him his error.

CoUingwood, in the Mediator, and his brother, Wil-
fred Collingwood, in the Rattler, actively co-operated
with Nelson The custom-houses were informed, that
after a certain day all foreign vessels found in the ports
would be seized; and many were in consequence seized,
and condemned in the Admiralty Court. When the
Boreas arrived at Nevis, she found four American ves-
sels deeply laden, and wdth what are called the island
colors flying — white, with a red cross. They were or-
dered to hoist their proper flag, and depart within eight-
and-forty hours ; but they refused to obey, denying that
they were Americans. Some of their crews were then
examined in Nelson's cabin, where the Judge of the
Admiralty happened to be present. The case was plain ;
they confessed that they were Americans, and that the
ships, hull and cargo, were wholly American property:
upon which he seized them. This raised a storm: the
planters, the custom-house, and the Governor, were all
against him. Subscriptions were opened and presently
filled, for the purpose of carrying on the cause in behalf
of the American captains : and the Admiral, whose flag
was at that time in the road,^ stood neutral. But the
Americans and their abettors w^re not content with de-
fensive law. The marines whom he had sent to secure
the ships, had prevented some of the masters from going
ashore; and those persons, by whose depositions it ap-
peared that the vessels and cargoes were American
property, declared that they had given their testimony
under bodily fear, for that a man with a drawn sword
in his hand had stood over them the whole of the time.
A rascally lawyer, whom the party employed, suggested

j 1. Flag in the road. His ship was off tte port.

66 The Life of Nelson

this story; and as the sentry at the cabin-door was a
man with a drawn sword, the Americans made no
scruple of swearing to this ridiculous falsehood, and
commencing prosecutions against him accordingly. They
laid their damages at the enormous amount of £40,000 ;
and Nelson was obliged to keep close on board his own
ship, lest he should be arrested for a sum for which it
would have been impossible to find bail. The marshal
frequently came on board to arrest him, but was always
prevented by the address of the first lieutenant, Mr.
Wallis. Had he been taken, such was the temper of the
people, that it was certain he would have been cast^
for the wdiole sum. One of his oincers, one day, in
speaking of the restraint which he was thus compelled to
suffer, happened to use the word pity! "Pity!" ex-
claimed Nelson: "Pity! did you say? I shall live, sir,
to be envied ; and to that point I shall always direct my
course." Eight weeks he remained under this state of
duress. During that time the trial respecting these de-
tained ships came on in the Court of Admiralty. He
went on shore under a protection for the day from the
Judge : but, notwithstanding this, the marshal was called
upon to take that opportunity of arresting him, and the
merchants promised to indemnify him for so doing.
The Judge, however, did his duty, and threatened to
send the marshal to prison if he attempted to violate the
protection of the court. Mr. Herbert, the President of
Nevis, behaved with singular generosity upon this oeca-
sion. Though no man was a greater sufferer by the
measures which Nelson had pursued, he offered in court
to become his bail for £10,000, if he chose to suffer the
arrest. The lawyer whom he had chosen proved to be
an able as well as an honest man ; and, notwithstanding

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