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to Gibraltar. Soon after his return, on the 8th of April, 1777, he passed his examination for a lieutenancy. Capt. Suckling sat at the head of the board; and, when the examination had ended, in a manner highly honourable to Nelson, rose from his seat, and introduced him to the examining captains as his nephew. They expressed their wonder that he had not informed them of this relationship before; he replied, that he did not wish the younker to be favoured; he knew his nephew would pass a good examination, and he had not been deceived. The next day Nelson received his commission as second lieutenant of the Lowestoffe frigate, Capt. William Locker, then fitting out for Jamaica.
American, and French privateers under American colours, were at that time harassing our trade in the West Indies : even a frigate was not sufficiently active for Nelson, and he repeatedly got appointed to the command of one of the Lowestoffe's tenders. During one of their cruizes the Lowestoffe captured an American letter-of-marque : it was blowing a gale, and a heavy sea running, The first lieutenant being ordered to board the prize, went below to put on his hanger. It happened to be mislaid ; and, while he was seeking it, Capt. Locker came on deck. Perceiving the boat still alongside, and in danger every moment of being swamped, and being extremely anxious that the privateer should be instantly taken in charge, because he feared that it would otherwise founder, he exclaimed, “ Have I no officer in the ship who can board the prize?”. Nelson did not offer himself immediately, waiting, with his usual sense of
propriety, for the first lieutenant's return; but, hearing the master volunteer, he jumped into the boat, saying, “ It is my turn' now; and if I come back, it is yours.” The American, who had carried a heavy press of sail, in hope of escaping, was so completely water-logged, that the Lowestoffe's boat went in on deck, and out again with the sea.
About this time he lost his uncle. Capt. Locker, however, who had perceived the excellent qualities of Nelson, and formed a friendship for him, which continued during his life, recommended him warmly to Sir Peter Parker, then commander-in-chief upon that station. In consequence of this recommendation he was removed into the Bristol flag-ship, and Lieutenant Cuthbert Collingwood, who had long been in habits of great friendship with him, succeeded him in the Lowestoffe. Sir Peter Parker was the friend of both, and thus it happened that whenever Nelson got a step in rank, Collingwood succeeded him. The former soon became first lieutenant; and, on the 8th of December, 1778, was appointed commander of the Badger brig'; Collingwood taking his place in the Bristol. While the Badger was lying in Montego Bay, Jamaica, the Glasgow of twenty guns came in and anchored there, and in two hours was in flames, the steward having set fire to her while stealing rum out of the after-hold. Her crew were leaping into the water, when Nelson came up in his boats, made them throw their powder overboard, and point their guns upward : and, by his presence of mind and personal exertions, prevented the loss of life which would otherwise have ensued. On the Ilth of June, 1779, he was made post into the
Hinchinbrook, of twenty-eight guns, an enemy's merchant-man, sheathed with wood, which had been taken into the service. Collingwood was then made commander into the Badger. A short time after he left the Lowestoffe, that ship, with a small squadron, stormed the fort of St. Fernando de Omoa, on the south side of the Bay of Honduras, and captured some register ships which were lying under its guns. Two hundred and fifty quintals of quicksilver, and three millions of piastres, were the reward of this enterprise : and it is characteristic of Nelson, that the chance by which he missed a share in such a prize, is never mentioned in
any of his letters; nor is it likely that it ever excited even a momentary feeling of vexation.
Nelson was fortunate in possessing good interest at the time when it could be most serviceable to him: his promotion had been almost as rapid as it could be ; and before he had attained the age of twenty-one he had gained that rank which brought all the honours of the service within his reach. No opportunity, indeed, had yet been given him of distinguishing himself; but he was thoroughly master of his profession, and his zeal and ability were acknowledged wherever he was known. Count d'Estaing, with a fleet of one hundred and twentyfive sail, men of war and transports, and a reputed force of five and twenty thousand men, threatened Jamaica from St. Domingo. Nelson offered his services to the Admiral and to Governor General Dalling, and was appointed to command the batteries of Fort Charles, at Port Royal. Not more than seven thousand men could be mustered for. the defence of the island,-a number wholly in
adequate to resist the force which threatened them. Of this Nelson was so well aware, that when he wrote to his friends in England, he told them they must not be surprised to hear of his learning to speak French. D'Estaing, however, was either not aware of his own superiority, or not equal to the command with which he was intrusted; he attempted nothing with this formidable armament; and General Dalling was thus left to execute a project which he had formed against the Spanish colonies.
This project was, to take Fort San Juan on the river of that name, which flows from Lake Nicaragua into the Atlantic; make himself master of the lake itself, and of the cities of Granada and Leon; and thus cut off the communication of the Spaniards between their northern and southern possessions in America. Here it is that a canal between the two seas may most easily be formed ;-a work more important in its consequences
any which has ever yet been effected by human power. Lord George Germaine, at that time secretary of state for the American department, approved the plan : and as discontents at that time were known to prevail in the Nuevo Reyno, in Popayan, and in Peru, the more sanguine part of the English began to dream of acquiring an empire in one part of America more extensive than that which they were on the point of losing in another. General Dalling's plans were well formed; but the history and the nature of the country had not been studied as accurately as its geography: the difficulties which occurred in fitting out the expedition delayed it till the season was too far advanced; and the men
were thus sent to adventure themselves, not so much against an enemy, whom they would have beaten, as against a climate, which would do the enemy's work.
Early in the year 1780, five hundred men, destined for this service, were convoyed by Nelson from Port Royal to Cape Gracias a Dios, in Honduras. Not à native was to be seen when they landed: they had been taught that the English came with no other intent than that of enslaving them, and sending them to Jamaica. while, however, one of them ventured down, confiding in his knowledge of one of the party; and by his means the neighbouring tribes were conciliated with presents, and brought in. The troops were encamped on a swampy and unwholesome plain, where they were joined by a party of the seventy-ninth regiment, from Black River, who were already in a deplorable state of sickness. Having remained here a month, they proceeded, anchoring frequently, along the Mosquito shore, to collect their Indian allies, who were to furnish proper boats for the river, and to accompany them. They reached the river San Juan, March 24th : and here, according to his orders, Nelson's services were to terminate; but not a man in the expedition had ever been up the river, or knew the distance of any fortification from its mouth : and he, not being one who would turn back when so much was to be done, resolved to carry the soldiers up.
About two hundred, therefore, were embarked in the Mosquito shore craft, and in two of the Hinchinbrook's boats, and they began their voyage. It was the latter end of the dry season,