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rific of all wars would be incessantly waged against us. Our conduct was not much wiser than that of the weary traveller, who having proceeded half-way on his journey, procured a short rest for himself by getting up behind a chaise which was going the contrary road. In the strange treaty of Amiens, in which we neither recognized our former relations with France, nor with the other European powers, nor formed any new ones, the compromise concerning Malta formed the prominent feature : and its nominal re-delivery to the Order of St. John was authorized in the minds of the people by Lord Nelson's opinion of its worthlessness to Great Britain in a political or naval view. It is a melancholy fact, and one that must often sadden a reflective and philanthropic mind, how little moral considerations weigh even with the noblest nations, how vain are the strongest appeals to justice, humanity, and national honor unless when the public mind is under the immediate influence of the cheerful or vehement passions, indignation or avaricious hope. In the whole class of human infirmities there is none, that makes such loud appeals to prudence, and yet so frequently outrages its plainest dictates, as the spirit of fear. The worst cause conducted in hope is an overmatch for the noblest managed by despondence : in both cases an unnatural conjunction that recalls the old fable of Love and Death, taking each the arrows of the other by mistake. When islands that had courted British protection in reliance upon British honor, are with their inhabitants and proprietors abandoned to the resentment which we had tempted them to provoke, what wonder, if the opinion becomes general, that alike to England as to France, the fates and fortunes of other nations are but the counters, with which the bloody game of war is played : and that notwithstanding the great and acknowledged difference between the two governments during possession, yet the protection of France is more desirable because it is more likely to endure ? for what the French take, they keep. Often both in Sicily and Malta have I heard the case of Minorca referred to, where a considerable portion of the most respectable gentry and merchants (no provision having been made for their protection on the re-delivery of that island to Spain) expiated in dungeons the warmth and forwardness of their predilection for Great Britain.
It has been by some persons imagined that Lord Nelson was considerably influenced, in his public declaration concerning the
value of Malta, by ministerial flattery, and his own sense of the great serviceableness of that opinion to the persons in office. This supposition is, however, wholly false and groundless. His lordship's opinion was indeed greatly shaken afterwards, if not changed ; but at that time he spoke in strictest correspondence with his existing convictions. He said no more than he had often previously declared to his private friends : it was the point on which, after some amicable controversy, his lordship and Sir Alexander Ball had “ agreed to differ.” Though the opinion itself may have lost the greatest part of its interest, and except for the historian is, as it were, superannuated; yet the grounds and causes of it, as far as they arose out of Lord Nelson's particular character, and may perhaps tend to re-enliven our recollection of a hero so deeply and justly beloved, will forever possess an interest of their own. In an essay, too, which purports to be no more than a series of sketches and fragments, the reader, it is hoped, will readily excuse an occasional digression, and a more desultory style of narration than could be tolerated in a work of regular biography
Lord Nelson was an admiral every inch of him. He looked at everything, not merely in its possible relations to the naval service in general, but in its immediate bearings on his own squadron ; to his officers, his men, to the particular ships themselves his affections were as strong and ardent as those of a lover. Hence though his temper was constitutionally irritable and uneven, yet never was a commander so enthusiastically loved by men of all ranks from the captain of the fleet to the youngest ship-boy. Hence too the unexampled harmony which reigned in his fleet year after year, under circumstances that might well have undermined the patience of the best balanced dispositions, much more of men with the impetuous character of British sailors. Year after year, the same dull duties of a wearisome blockade and of doubtful policy ; little if any opportunity of making prizes ; and the few prizes, which accident might throw in the way, of little or no value ; and when at last the occasion presented itself which would have compensated for all, then a disappointment as sudden and unexpected as it was unjust and cruel, and the cup dashed from their lips -Add to these trials the sense of enterprises checked by feebleness and timidity elsewhere, not omitting the tiresomeness of the Mediterranean sea, sky,
and climate ; and the unjarring and cheerful spirit of affectionate brotherhood, which linked together the hearts of that whole squadron, will appear not less wonderful to us than admirable and affecting. When the resolution was taken of commencing hostilities against Spain, before any intelligence was sent to Lord Nelson, another admiral, with two or three ships of the line, was sent into the Mediterranean, and stationed before Cadiz, for the express purpose of intercepting the Spanish prizes. The admiral despatched on this lucrative service gave no information to Lord Nelson of his arrival in the same sea, and five weeks elapsed before his lordship became acquainted with the circumstance. The prizes thus taken were immense. A month or two sufficed to enrich the commander and officers of this small and highly-favored squadron : while to Nelson and his fleet the sense of having done their duty, and the consciousness of the glorious services which they had performed were considered, it must be presumed, as an abundant remuneration for all their toils and long-suffering! It was indeed an unexampled circumstance, that a small squadron should be sent to the station which had been long occupied by a large fleet, commanded by the darling of the navy, and the glory of the British empire, to the station where this fleet had for years been wearing away in the most barren, repulsive, and spirit-trying service, in which the navy can be employed ; and that this minor squadron should be sent independently of, and without any communication with, the commander of the former .fleet, for the express and solitary purpose of stepping between it and the Spanish prizes, and as soon as this short and pleasant service was performed, of bringing home the unshared booty with all possible caution and despatch. The substantial advantages of naval service were perhaps deemed of too gross a nature for men already rewarded with the grateful affections of their own countrymen, and the admiration of the whole world. They were to be awarded, therefore, on a principle of compensation to a commander less rich in fame, and whose laurels, though not scanty, were not yet sufficiently luxuriant to hide the golden crown which is the appropriate ornament of victory in the bloodless war of commercial capture. - Of all the wounds which were ever inflicted on Nelson's feelings (and there were not a few), this was the deepest--this rankled most. “I had thought,” (said the gallant man, in a letter written in the first sense of the affront) “I fancied—but nay, it must have been a dream, an idle dream -yet I confess it, I did fancy, that I had done my country service; and thus they use me. It was not enough to have robbed me once before of my West-Indian harvest ; now they have taken away the Spanish ; and under what circumstances, and with what pointed aggravations! Yet, if I know my own thoughts, it is not for myself, or on my own account chiefly, that I feel the sting and the disappointment. No! it is for my brave officers ; for my noble-minded friends and comrades—such a gallant set of fellows ! such a band of brothers ! My heart swells at the thought of them !!!
This strong attachment of the heroic admiral to his fleet, faithfully repaid by an equal attachment on their part to their admiral, had no little influence in attuning their hearts to each other; and when he died it seemed as if no man was a stranger to another : for all were made acquaintances by the rights of a common anguish. In the fleet itself, many a private quarrel was forgotten, no more to be remembered ; many, who had been alienated, became once more good friends; yea, many a one was reconciled to his very enemy, and loved, and (as it were) thanked him, for the bitterness of his grief, as if it had been an act of consolation to himself in an intercourse of private sympathy. The tidings arrived at Naples on the day that I returned to that city from Calabria : and never can I forget the sorrow and consternation that lay on every countenance. Even to this day there are times when I seem to see, as in a vision, separate groups and individual faces of the picture. Numbers stopped and shook hands with me, because they had seen the tears on my cheek, and conjectured that I was an Englishman; and several, as they held my hand, burst themselves into tears. And though it may excite a smile, yet it pleased and affected me, as a proof of the goodness of the human heart struggling to exercise its kindness in spite of prejudices the most obstinate, and eager to carry on its love and honor into the life beyond life, that it was whispered about Naples that.Lord Nelson had become a good Catholic before his death. The absurdity of the fiction is a sort of measurement of the fond and affectionate esteem which had ripened the pious wish of some kind individual, through all the gradations of possibility and probability, into a confident assertion believed and affirmed by hundreds. The feelings of Great Britain on this
awful event have been described well and worthily by a living poet, who has happily blended the passion and wild transitions of lyric song with the swell and solemnity of epic narration :
- Thou art fall’n; fall'n, in the lap
I introduced this digression with an apology, yet have extended it so much further than I had designed, that I must once more request my reader to excuse me. It was to be expected (I have said) that Lord Nelson would appreciate the isle of Malta from its relations to the British fleet on the Mediterranean station. It was the fashion of the day to style Egypt the key of India, and Malta the key of Egypt. Nelson saw the hollowness of this metaphor ; or if he only doubted its applicability in the former instance, he was sure that it was false in the latter. Egypt might or might not be the key of India ; but Malta was certainly not the key of Egypt. It was not intended to keep constantly two distinct fleets in that sea ; and the largest naval force at Malta would not supersede the necessity of a squadron off Toulon. Malta does not lie in the direct course from Toulon to Alexandria : and from the nature of the winds (one time taken with another) the comparative length of the voyage to the latter port will be found far
* Sotheby's Saul.- Ed.