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He declared that he had followed the plans and principles recommended in your Naval Tactics, a work to which he gave the highest praise. I was so much pleased, and so much struck with what he said, that I know I communicated it soon after, either to yourself, or to my worthy and intimate friend, your brother-in-law. If I did so by letter, of which I cannot now be certain, I refer to that letter for a more particular account of what he said ; recollecting that he was copious and minute in his details, and I amn led now again to mention that conversation from my old friend Adam having lately told me, that some person bad represented Lord Rodney as having held a different language, claiming himself the merit of the discovery of that system of attack, which I heard him so explicitly and unequivocally give to you. Indeed I happened on another occasion, and a very remarkable one, to hear this declaration of Lord Rodney's very strongly confirmed by another unquestionable testimony. I bappened to be down at Walmer Castle with Mr Pitt at the time of Lord Duncan's great battle on the coast of Holland; Lord and Lady Melville were living with him at the same time. We were sitting drinking a glass of wine, I remember, after dinner, when a man, whose name I do not at present recollect, a smuggler, came rather abruptly into the room and told us, he had just come on shore from his vessel, returning from the coast of Holland, where he had witnessed the great victory gained by Lord Duncan. He described the action, and having mentioned the breaking through the line, Lord Melville took notice of that new instance of the success of your system ; and then mentioned Rodney's having often told him, that he had taken that mode of attack from you; and this Lord Melville again told me a few days ago, just before he went to the North, that Lord Rodney had repeatedly mentioned in his hearing and I know that Lord Melville will most willingly confirm this to yourself, to Adam, or to any other friend who may desire it. Give my best compliments to your family, and believe me, my dear Sir, very sincerely yours,
(Signed) JOHN FORDYCE,' Putney Hall, 11th June, 1809.'
John Clerk, Esq. of Eldin.'
We can scarcely conceive any thing more decisive than this. But as the matter was then for the first time supposed to have taken an aspect of controversy, application was soon afterwards made to Lord Melville, in consequence of Mr Fordyce's suggestion; and his Lordship in the following year (1810) was kind enough to draw up in his own hand-writing, a Memorial of all he recollected on the subject, which he put into the hands of the Lord Chief Commissioner, for the purpose of being delivered to Mr Clerk's family—and it also is now accordingly in the possession of Lord Eldin. In that paper, Lord Melville, who, it will be recollected, as Treasurer of the Navy, had the best access to all euch information, confirms in the fullest manner every thing that is stated by Mr Fordyce; and he transmitted at the same time, the letter from General Ross, a portion of which
we have already copied in our extracts from Mr Playfair's Essay. Indeed, the greater part of the context of that extract is in the very words of Lord Melville's Memorial, which was in the hands of Mr Playfair, when he drew up this statement; and does not therefore require to be here repeated. It states in the most positive and distinct manner, that he had very frequently heard Lord Rodney acknowledge that he had got his first idea of the manæuvre in question from Mr Clerk; and, in particular, that he had so expressed himself, before sailing for the West Indies in 1782; and that, though the subject was often discussed after his return, he never varied from that first statement, or failed to ascribe the merit to the true author. Now, considering that there is not yet before the public any statement or testimony directly to an opposite effect, or importing unequivocally either that Lord Rodney ever claimed the discovery as his own, or denied that it belonged to Mr Clerk, we humbly conceive that the matter can no longer be regarded as doubtful; and cannot but think that few debateable matters have ever occurred, which, after so long a period, could still be confirmed by proofs so conclusive. A great part, however, of the indirect evidence which has been represented as hostile to the claims of Mr Clerk, appears to us, when illustrated by the positive facts which we think we have now established, to constitute the strongest and most extraordinary confirmation of these facts. We must be allowed, therefore, to say a word or two on some of the most remarkable parts of that evidence.
And we must beg our readers' attention, in the first place, to the following remarkable passage in the Memoirs of the late ingenious Mr Cumberland, in which, speaking of a period recently before the termination of the American War, he says
It happened to me to be present, and sitting next to Admiral Rodney, when the thought seemed first to occur to him of breaking the French line, by passing through it in the heat of the action. It was at Lord George Germain's house at Stourland, after dinner, when, having asked a number of questions about the manquvring of columns, and the effect of charging with them on a line of infantry, he proceeded to arrange a parcel of cherrystones which he had collected from the table, and forming them as two Fleets drawn up in line, and opposed to each other, he at once arrested our attention, which had not been very generally engaged by his preparatory enquiries, by declaring he was determined so to pierce the enemy's line of battle, (arranging his manœuvre at the same time on the table,) if ever it was in his power to bring them into action. I daresay this passed with some as a mere rhapsody; and all seemed to regard it as a very perilous and doubtful experiment, &c.; and he concluded his process, with swearing he would lay the French admiral's flag at his sovereign's feet,-a promise which he actually performed,' &c.
Now, this appears to us to afford a very striking confirmation of Lord Melville's statement of the gallant admiral's intimation to him, about the same period, that Mr Clerk had taught them how to fight the enemy; and that if ever be came up with the French fleet, he was determined to try his way.' Nor does it in the least detract from the value of this confirmation, that in this conversation at Lord George Germain's he did not mention the name of the person by whom the idea had been suggested, or that Mr Cumberland supposed that it had originated at the moment with himself; though, with all deference to his penetration, we must observe, that the whole course of the dialogue, as reported, the preparatory questions as to analogous operations in land war, and the ready exhibition of his own manæuvre with the cherrystones on the table, seem to us to point very clearly to a different conclusion; and to indicate, first, that the notion was not taken up by him at the moment, or on the spot, but had been the subject of previous discussion or reflection; and, second, that it was not the original or cherished offspring of his own genius, but had been recently communicated and recommended to him by some other person, whose authority, upon a new and startling proposition, he was anxious to have confirmed by the testimony of persons of skill in corresponding movements. While he was thus testing the suggestion he had received, and meditating on the future execution of an experiment so interesting in itself, and to him so full of responsibility, it is not at all wonderful that he should not have thought it necessary to bring forward the name of the person to whom he was indebted for the communication, or to embarrass the consultation in which he had engaged the company, by a detail of his conversations with Mr Atkinson, or of the sketches and calculations that had been furnished to him by Mr Clerk.
In the same way, we think that the omission of any direct or specific notice of his having first learned this maneuvre from Mr Clerk, in the Notes with wbich he had enriched his own copy of the Naval Tactics, affords no ground whatever for inferring that he could not be conscious of any such obligation, or was unwilling to acknowledge it. If there be any thing at all extraordinary in such an omission, as we shall show immediately there is not, it must, we think, to say the least of it, appear still more unaccountable that there should be no hint or intimation in these Notes, of the very astonishing coincidence which must have taken place, if he had not learned the maneuvre from Mr Clerk—that is, if he had actually of himself, discovered, over again, that very startling and extraordinary mancuyre which he found so fully explained, and so anxiously recommended, in that book. The copy, it will always be remembered, on which these Notes are written, bears openly on the title-page the date of 1st January 1782—so that the noble admiral could not fail to see that the maneuvre had been not only conceived, but fully investigated, and deeply considered, long before he himself sailed from England, and years probably before he carried it into effect in April 1782. Still less could he possibly imagine that the author had borrowed the idea from him. If he had been conscious, therefore, that there had been two independent discoveries of this same manœuvre, and had found out, for the first time, upon looking into the Naval Tactics, that he had been anticipated by a learned civilian, in the most brilliant conception and achievement of his whole professional life, is it to be conceived that be should sit down quietly to write annotations and remarks upon the author's various speculations, without once noticing this miraculous coincidence, and taking the opportunity, if the fact had been so, of asserting his own separate originality, and collecting the evidence of what was otherwise so obvious to suspicion ? Considering that this gallant admiral was as far as possible from despising, or being indifferent to the fame he had so justly and hardly earned, and that he was, on the contrary, almost as sensitive on that subject, and as much delighted with the glory of his great exploits, as his heroic successor Lord Nelson himself—we do submit that his silence, in these commentaries on this record of Mr Clerk's prior discovery, is the most conclusive proof that could be imagined of his being conscious that he himself had no claim to the enviable distinction there unequivocally asserted by another, and by that very silence, allowed and acquiesced in by himself. Even if the noble admiral, therefore, had maintained the same silence as to Mr Clerk's claims, in his conversation, which he appears to have done in these annotations on his work, we should have said that this was the only rational interpretation which could have been put on his silence; though, while it indicated clearly his own renunciation of any share in the discovery, it might have given rise to a suspicion, that he yielded with some grudging and jealousy what De yet felt he could not justly dispute, and was willing at least that the merits of the landsman should not be unnecessarily blazoned on the records of nautical distinction. But now that we know that he was actually above this somewhat unworthy, though not unnatural jealousy,—when it appears, that in frequent, open, and familiar conversation-at Mr Drummond's-at Sir John Dalling's,—to Lord Melville, to General Ross, to Mr Fors dyce, to General Fullarton, to Lord Cranstoun, to Lord Had. dington,—to all, in short, with whom he seems ever to have spoken on the subject, he gave the full credit that was due to his instructor,—and that freely, heartily, and loudly, from the first anticipating glimpse he seems to have caught of its importance, and before he had reduced it so gloriously to practice, down to his generous and exulting cheer on his death-bed-it does seem to us to be nothing less than ridiculous to endeavour to spell out and infer, from the omission of any repetition of this acknowledgment in the Notes, that it had never been distinctly made, or was, upon farther consideration, ultimately grudged and retracted. Unless seven or eight men of unimpeachable honour have put their hands to a deliberate falsehood, for which they had no motive, the fact of Lord Rodney's acknowledgment of Mr Clerk's discovery, and of his being indebted for all he knew in April 1782 to that discovery having been previously communicated to him, must be held to be incontestably established : And if the noble admiral was conscious, when he wrote the Notes in question, probably in 1788 or 1789, that this acknowledgment had been so publicly made, both before he sailed in 1782, while looking for the enemy at sea, and after his return, what occasion could he suppose there was to insert a needless repetition of it in the Notes which he afterwards privately amused himself by writing on particular passages of the Naval Tactics? These Notes, it will be observed, were not intended for publication, and do not embody, or profess to embody, any connected view of bis own systematic opinions, and far less any historical account of the sources from which they were derived, or the occasions on which they were adopted. They are mere scattered remarks on the particular paragraphs or positions to which they are severally appended—for the most part of a correctory or practical character; and consequently not leading naturally to any general remarks, either on the originality of the suggestions, or of his own obligation to them in the course of his professional career. If the noble admiral's avowal of those obligations, had been such as to leave any doubt as to his feelings and conviction, we have already said, that no interpretation could have been put on his silence in those Notes, but one conclusive in Mr Clerk's favour; but, taken along with the proofs we have already exhibited, of the uniform frankness and generosity with which that avowal was made, the idea of any other interpretation is not only untenable, but palpably ridiculous and absurd.