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ment, have turned the scale against him; and had it not been for his consummate ability, and the love and veneration 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 hundred English and Portuguese Marines, and about fifteen hundred armed peasants. Long and repeatedly did Nelson solicit troops to effect the reduction of this important place. “It has been no fault of the navy,” said he, “that Malta has not been attacked by land; but we have neither 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 Erskine was expecting General Fox: he could not act without orders; and not having, like Nelson, that lively spring of hope within him which partakes enough of the nature of faith to work miracles in war, he thought it “evident that unless a respectable land-force, in numbers sufficient to undertake the siege of such a garrison, in one of the strongest places of Europe, and supplied with proportionate artillery and stores, were sent against it, no reasonable hope could be entertained of its surrender.” Nelson groaned over the spirit of over-reasoning caution, and unreasoning obedience. “My heart,” said he, “is almost broken. If the enemy gets supplies in, we may bid adieu, to Malta: all the force we can collect would then be of little use against the strongest place in Europe. To say that an officer is never, for any object, to alter his orders, is what I cannot comprehend. The circumstances of this war so often vary, that an officer has almost every moment to consider, What would my superiors direct, did they know what is passing under my nose? But, sir,” said he, writing to the Duke of Clarence, “I find few think as I do. To obey orders is all perfection. To serve my King, and to destroy the French, I consider as the great order of all, from which little ones spring; and
if one of these militate against it-for who can tell exactly at a distance ?-I go back, and obey the great order and object, to down, down with the damned French villains ! My blood boils at the name of Frenchman !”
At length General Fox arrived at Minorca; and at length permitted Colonel Graham to go to Malta, but with means miserably limited. In fact, the expedition was at a stand for want of money; when Troubridge arriving from Messina to co-operate in it, and finding this fresh delay, immediately offered all that he could command of his own. “I procured him, my lord,” said he to Nelson, “fifteen thousand of
farthing, and every atom of me, shall be devoted to the
“What can this mean ?” said Nelson, when he learnt that Colonel Graham was ordered not to incur any expense for stores, or any articles except provisions. “The cause cannot stand still for want of a little money. If nobody will pay it, I will sell Bronté and the Emperor of Russia's box.” And he actually pledged Bronté for £6,600, if there should be any difficulty about paying the bills. The long-delayed expedition was thus at last sent forth; but Troubridge little imagined in what scenes of misery he was to bear his part. He looked to Sicily for supplies; it was the interest as well as the duty of the Sicilian Government to use every exertion for furnishing them; and Nelson and the British ambassador were on the spot to press upon them the necessity of exertion. But though Nelson saw with what a knavish crew the Sicilian court was surrounded, he was blind to the vices of the court itself; and, resigning himself wholly to Lady Hamilton's influence, never even suspected the crooked policy which it was remorselessly pursuing. The Maltese and the British in Malta severely felt it. Troubridge, who had the truest affection for Nelson, knew his infatuation, and feared that it might prove injurious to his character, as well as fatal to an enterprise which had begun so well and carried on so patiently. “My lord,”
PRIVATIONS OF THE BESIEGERS.
said he, writing to him from the siege, “we are dying off fast for want. I learn that Sir William Hamilton says Prince Luzzi refused corn some time ago, and Sir William does not think it worth while making another application. If that be the case, I wish he commanded this distressing scene instead of me. Puglia had an immense harvest : near thirty sail left Messina before I did, to
Will they let us have any? If not, a short time will decide the business. The German interest prevails. I wish I was at your lordship’s elbow for an hour. All, all will be thrown on you ! I will parry the blow as much as is in my power: I foresee much mischief brewing. God bless your lordship! I am miserable: I cannot assist your operations more. Many happy returns of the day to you-[it was the first of the new year]-I never spent so miserable an one. I am not
tenderhearted; but really the distress here would even move a Neapolitan.” Soon afterwards he wrote, “I have this day saved thirty thousand people from starving; but with this day my ability ceases.
As the Government are bent on starving us, I see no alternative but to leave these poor unhappy people to perish, without our being witnesses of their distress. I curse the day I ever served the Neapolitan Government. We have characters, my lord, to lose; these people have none. Do not suffer their infamous conduct to fall on uş. Our country is just, but severe.
Such is the fever of my brain this minute that I assure you, on my honour, if the Palermo traitors were here, I would shoot them first, and then myself. Girgenti is full of corn : the money is ready to pay for it : we do not ask it as a gift. Oh, could you see the horrid distress I daily experience, something would be done! Some engine is at work against us at Naples; and I believe I hit on the proper person.
If you complain, he will be immediately promoted, agreeably to the Neapolitan custom. All I write to you is known at the Queen's. For my own part, I look upon the Neapolitans as the worst of intriguing enemies ; every hour shows me their
infamy and duplicity. I pray your lordship be cautious; your honest, open manner of acting will be made a handle of. When I see you, and tell of their infamous tricks, you will be as much surprised as I am.
The whole will fall on you.
Nelson was not, and could not be, insensible to the distress which his friend so earnestly represented.
He begged, almost on his knees, he said, small supplies of money and corn, to keep the Maltese from starving. And when the court granted a small supply, protesting their poverty, he believed their protestations, and was satisfied with their professions, instead of insisting that the restrictions
upon the exportation of corn should be withdrawn. The anxiety, however, which he endured, affected him so deeply that he said it had broken his spirit for ever. Happily, all that Troubridge, with so much reason, foreboded, did not come to pass. For Captain Ball, with more decision than Nelson himself would have shown at that time and upon that occasion, ventured upon a resolute measure, for which his name would deserve always to be held in veneration by the Maltese, even if it had no other claims to the love and reverence of a grateful people. Finding it hopeless longer to look for succour, or common humanity, from the deceitful and infatuated court of Sicily, which persisted in prohibiting, by sanguinary edicts, the exportation supplies, at his own risk he sent his firstlieutenant to the port of Messina, with orders to seize and bring with him to Malta the ships which were there lying laden with corn ; of the number of which he had received accurate information. These orders were executed, to the great delight and advantage of the shipowners and proprietors. The necessity of raising the siege was removed; and Captain Ball waited, in calmness, for the consequences to himself. But,” says Mr. Coleridge, not a complaint, not a murmur, proceeded from the court of Naples; the sole result was, that the Governor of Malta became an especial object of its hatred, its fear, and its respect."
Nelson, himself, at the beginning of February, sailed
THE LAST OF THE NILE FLEET.
for that island. On the way he fell in with a French squadron, bound for its relief, consisting of the Genereux, 74 guns, three frigates, and a corvette. One of these frigates and the line-of-battle-ship were taken ; the others escaped, but failed in their purpose of reaching La Valette. This success was peculiarly gratifying to Nelson, for many
During some months he had acted as mander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, while Lord Keith was in England. Lord Keith was now returned ; and Nelson had, upon his own plan, and at his own risk, left him, to sail for Malta—“for which,” said he, “if I had not succeeded, I might have been broke ; and, if I had not acted thus, the Genereux would never have been taken.” This ship was one of those which had escaped from Aboukir. Two frigates, and the Guillaume Tell, 86 guns, were all that now remained of the fleet which Bonaparte had conducted to Egypt. The Guillaume Tell was at this time closely watched in the harbour of La Valette ; and shortly afterwards, attempting to make her escape from thence, was taken, after an action in which greater skill was never displayed by British ships, nor greater gallantry by an enemy. She was taken by the Foudroyant, Lion, and Penelope frigates. Nelson, rejoicing at what he called this glorious finish to the whole French Mediterranean fleet, rejoiced also that he was not present to have taken a sprig of these brave men's laurels. “ They are," said he," and I glory in them, my children; they served in my school ; and all of us caught our professional zeal and fire from the great and good Earl St. Vincent. What a pleasure, what happiness, to have the Nile fleet all taken under my orders and regulations!' The two frigates still remained in La Valette. Before its surrender they stole out: one was taken in the attempt ; the other was the only ship of the whole fleet which escaped capture or destruction.
Letters were found on board the Guillaume Tell showing that the French were now become hopeless of preserving the conquest which they had so foully acquired,