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REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
Arr. I. - The Life of Admiral Viscount Exmouth. By EDWARD
OSLER, Esq. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1835. Pp. xvi. 448.
In introducing to our readers a sketch of the life and character of the late Lord Exmouth, which appeared in our number for April, 1833, we stated in a note the reasons which induced us to insert an account of a person, who, however illustrious in his province, might seem to claim his record less appropriately in the pages of the CHRISTIAN REMEMBRANCER than in other quarters. To the apology we then gave we must now refer in noticing the brilliant piece of biography which heads this article. “ The union in one character of the great commander, the true Christian, and the sincere Churchman," is that which gives to Mr. Osler's work its claim to a niche in our critical panheroicon; and it is in this view that we purpose principally to consider it. The book is written with a spirit and vigour every way worthy of its illustrious subject; and, we doubt not, with corresponding fidelity. The accounts of the engagements in which Lord Exmouth distinguished himself are vivid and picturesque in the highest degree ; the action between the Nymphe and Cleopatra, and the great crowning glory of the hero's career, the demolition of Algiers, combine the minuteness of the official despatch with the freedom of the historian and the graphic delineation of the poet. But these things are beside our line : we pass them, however reluctantly, to come to matters of a different kind
quod magis ad nos
Pertinet, et nescire malum est, agitamus” we come to the opinions and conduct of Lord Exmouth in regard to religious and ecclesiastical matters. To our readers, indeed, it would
VOL. XVIIT. NO. I.
be superfluous to abridge the narrative part of the work. They will find this already done in the number to which we have above referred, in a manner we could but feebly have endeavoured to imitate.
Lord Exmouth's career belongs to a period of English history when the national principle was, that religion must be the Alpha and Omega of every thing-education, legislation, military operations. The contrary opinion exhibited itself in respectable life about as often as the American Leviathan appears on the surface of the ocean; and was held to be about equally monstrous. It was also the belief of the country that this fundamental principle had been faithfully cherished and maintained in the guardianship of the national Church ; and that to attempt the injury of that sacred ark, was an aggression upon the holy law which it contained, and an insult to the favouring power which protected it. Accordingly, in defence of our religion we fought, and under its banners. The war with France was a war of Christianity against Infidelity, the two principles then met in collision. The spirit of the war was maintained throughout. In our reverses,
government ordered public fasts ; in our successes, public thanksgivings. Even a volunteer corps could not be raised without consecrating their object by first attending on divine service ; and when colours were presented, or any other regimental ceremony of importance took place, a formal recognition of the Lord of hosts invariably accompanied the proceeding “ Church and King” was the battle call which rang through the land ; which re-echoed through the lines of Britain, wherever her standard was displayed in the field; which was the cry in her ships whenever her navies swept the ocean in their victorious career. Church and King were, indeed, regarded as so essentially united, that the very idea of separation appeared a kind of treason. Whether this state of things were right or not, one fact there is, which no effrontery can deny or qualify : that under it this country achieved successes unparalleled in history—that she stood against all confederated Europe in arms; overpowered and retorted the confederacy ; attained to the proudest eminence of national power and splendour ; became the envy and the terror of the world. Nor is it less questionable that, in proportion as these opinions have relaxed their operation on the counsels of Britain, our national honour and consideration with foreigners, to say nothing of our internal peace and prosperity, have greatly declined.
Lord Exmouth, then, was a hero bronght forth by the system under which the country prospered, in the reign of George III.—a system which, indeed, owed much to the court of that truly patriot king. Firm in " the principles which placed his family on the throne,” that monarch was ever ready to die for the holy cause, in support of which he lived and reigned. Desiring to see the time when "
every poor child in his dominions should read the Bible,” he could have little sympathy
with a community which “invariably condemns free access to Scripture," and carries its condemnation into practice by burning the book, since it can no longer (in this country) burn the readers. Resting his reliance on the word of God, George III. was a firm supporter of the Church of God. Lord Exmouth's father was an eminently loyal man, who was in the habit of making his children drink the king's health on their knees; and the principle of loyalty, in that reign, was, as we have said, in great measure identified with the principle of religion. We do not mean to question that Lord Exmouth had been, in other respects, religiously educated. The interesting memoirs of his brothers which Mr. Osler has supplied, abundantly shew that the good seed had been sown in all their hearts. Lord Exmouth was cast very early on the world, and in a profession where he had many temptations. Yet, observes his biographer,
Young as he was when he first entered the service, and though such principles and feelings could not be supposed then to be very strongly fixed, yet he was guarded in his conduct, and always pronipt to check any irreverent allusion lo serious subjects. His youth was passed in camps and ships, at a time when a carse and profane conduct too much prevailed, now happily almost unknown; but he was never deterred by a false shame from setting a proper example. On board his first frigate, the Winchelsea, the duties of the Sunday were regularly observed. He always dressed in full uniform on that day, and, having no chaplain, read the morning service to his crew, whenever the weather permitted them to be assembled. Advancing in his brilliant career, the same feelings were more and more strikingly displayed. It was his practice to have a special and general service of thanksgiving after every signal deliverance, or success. Too often is it found, that with the accession of worldly honours, the man becomes more forgetful of the good Providence from which he received them. From this evil Lord Exmouth was most happily kept; and additional distinctions only the more confirmed the unaffected simplicity and benevolence of his character. Finally, after the last and greatest of his services, a battle of almost unexampled severity and duration, and fought less for his country than for the world, his gratitude to the Giver of victory was expressed in a manner the most edifying and delightful.-Pp. 353, 351.
We will here supply an anecdote which the biographer has omitted. When Lord Exmouth was fitting out the fleet with which he was to attack Algiers, he took care that all the crews should be properly supplied with Bibles; and with this view, he obtained from the Portsmouth Depôt of the Naval and Military Bible Society, of which he was a VicePresident, every copy which could be procured for him. This fact, so honorable to his character, is related in the Society's Report for 1833.
The politics of a Christian may be summed in a short sentence, “ Fear God; honour the king.” We shall illustrate Lord Exmouth's by extracts from two of his letters ; the first, written during the Queen Caroline riots.
« Travels of an Irish Gentleman." See our Numbers for July to October, 1834.
As sure as we live, the days of trouble are very fast approaching, when there will be much contention and much bloodshed, and changes out of all measure and human calculation. You and I have no choice. Loyalty is all our duty, and we shall, no doubt, stick to it.-P. 350.
Just eleven years afterwards, when his prediction was being so fatally accomplished, he writes :
I am fast approaching that end which we must all come to. My own term I feel is expiring, and happy is the man who does not live to see the destruction of his country, which discontent has brought to the verge of ruin. Hitherto thrice happy England, how art thou torn to pieces by thine own children ! Strangers, who a year ago looked up to you with admiration as a happy exception in the world, at this moment know thee not! Fire, riot, and bloodshed, are roving through the land, and God in his displeasure visits us also with pestilence; and in fact, in one short year, we seem almost to have reached the climax of misery. One cannot sit down to put one's thoughts to paper, without feeling oppressed by public events, and with vain thought of how and when will the evil terminate. That must be left to God's mercy, for I believe man is at this moment unequal to the task.”—P. 356.
Firmly grounded in religious principle, Lord Exmouth was free from all pharisaical or sectarian leaven. That firmness of purpose, and native health of judgment which enabled him to quell mutinies and decide conflicts, where a mistaken leniency and spurious humanity would have shrunk from the prompt exhibition of painful example, and thereby have incurred the most appalling amount of crime and bloodshed, these guided his religious views no less than his professional conduct. A firm, sincere, practical Christian, he did not regard as alike all modes of religious improvement; he did not think it sufficient recommendation to any scheme that "it would do good," unless he was satisfied that it had no tendency to do harm. Regarding the Church as the great instrument of religious knowledge, he sensibly considered all religious contrivances injurious, whatever present good they might seem to promise, if they detached her friends, lowered her estimation, or interfered with her operations. With the same manliness of principle with which he despised the turbulence of a Queen Caroline mob, he turned a deaf ear to every reproach of illiberality incurred through his discountenance of disorderly plans of evangelization. Mr. Osler observes :
He cherished a very strong attachment to the Church; and for more than thirty years had been a member of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, which he joined when the claims of the Society were so little appreciated, that only principle could have prompted the step. It might therefore be expected that he would feel deep anxiety when the safety of that Church was threatened. But upon this subject his mind was firm; and in one of the last letters he ever wrote, dated August 28th, he declares bis confidence in the most emphatic language. After some personal observations to the friend he was addressing, one of his old officers, he alludes to the cholera, then raging in his neighbourhood ; "which,” he says, “ I am much inclined to consider an infiction of Providence, to show his power to the discontented of the world, who have long been striving against the government of man, and are commencing their attacks on our Church. But they will fail! God will never suffer his Church to fall; and the world will see that bis mighty arm is not shortened, nor his power diminished. I put my trust in bim, and not in man; and I bless him that he has enabled me to see the difference between improvement and destruction.”Pp. 359, 360.
On the Popish question, (which Mr. Osler, by a perversion which is the only blemish in his work, calls the Catholic,) Lord Exmouth was upright and honest.
On the Catholic question his opinions and conduct were most decided. His eldest son resigned his seat for a borough under the influence of the duke of Northumberland, which he held unconditionally, as soon as that nobleman declared his intention to support the claims. The ground of Lord Exmouth's opposition to the measure has been already given in his own words.-P. 353.
The letter to which the biographer here refers, is another proof of the clear foresight and sound judgment which Lord Exmouth displayed on political not less than on moral subjects. It was written at the fatal period when it was determined to concede the Popish claims.
The times are awful, when the choice of two evils only is left; a threatened rebellion, or the surrender of our constitution, by the admission of Catholics to Parliament, and all offices. I think even this will not satisfy Ireland. Ascendancy is their object. You may postpone, and by loss of character parry the evil for a short space; but not long, depend upon it. You and I may not see it, but our children will, and be obliged to meet the struggle man to man, which we may now shirk. By God alone can we be saved from such consequences; may he shed his power and grace upon us as a nation !-P. 133.
Dying men are held to be prophetic. We welcome the omen. Not many days after writing the above quoted letter and pronouncing that the enemies of the Church “ will fail,” Lord Exmouth was seized with his fatal illness.
The immediate danger was soon averted; but the extent of the disease left not the smallest hope of recovery. He lingered until the 23d of January, calmly waiting the event which his gradually increasing weakness convinced him was inevitable. Sustained by the principles which had guided him so long, his death-bed became the scene of bis best and noblest triumph. “ Every hour of his life is a sermon,” said an officer who was often with him; “I have seen him great in battle, but never so great as on his death-bed.” Full of hope and peace, he advanced with the confidence of a Christian to his last conflict, and when nature was at length exhausted, he closed a life of brilliant and important Service, with a death more happy, and not less glorious, than if he had fallen in the hour of victory.--Pp. 360, 361.
Lord Exmouth was buried at Christow, the parish in which are the family mansion and estate of Canonteign. The flag under which he fought at Algiers was used for a pall, and a young oak, to bear his name, was planted near the grave, –a suitable memorial for a British seaman,
A monument has since been erected to his memory in the church at Christow. A facia, supported by two Doric pillars, bears his crest and motto, encircled with the ribbon and motto of the Bath, surmounted with a coronet, and supported with naval trophies. Between the pillars, an urn, with the initials E. P., and crowned with sea-weed, rests on a sarcophagus. On the pediment are stanzas on his conduct at the wreck of the Dutton, which were written by a spectator, and recited at a public dinner given on the occasion by the corporation of Plymouth. The sarcophagus bears the following inscription :