Графични страници
PDF файл

him accordingly. They laid their damages at the enormous amount of £40,000; and Nelson was obliged to keep close on board his own ship, lest he should be arrested for a sum for which it would have been impossible to find bail. The marshal frequently came on board to arrest him, but was always prevented by the address of the first lieutenant, Mr. Wallis. Had he been taken, such was the temper of the people, that it was certain he would have been cast for the whole sum. One of his officers, one day, in speaking of the restraint which he was thus compelled to suffer, happened to use the word pity ! Pity !” exclaimed Nelson :

Pity! did you say? I shall live, sir, to be envied ! and to that point I shall always direct my course. Eight weeks he remained in this state of duresse. During that time the trial respecting the detained ships came on in the court of admiralty. He went on shore under a protection for the day from the judge: but, notwithstanding this, the marshal was called upon to take that opportunity of arresting him, and the merchants promised to indemnify him for so doing. The judge, however, did his duty, and threatened to send the marshal to prison, if he attempted to violate the protection of the court. Mr. Herbert, the president of Nevis, behaved with singular generosity upon this occasion. Though no man was a greater sufferer by the measures which Nelson had pursued, he offered in court to become his bail for £10,000, if he chose to suffer the arrest. The lawyer whom he had chosen proved to be an able as well as an honest man; and, notwithstanding the opinions and pleadings of most of the counsel of the different islands, who maintained


that ships of war were not justified in seizing American vessels without a deputation from the customs, the law was so explicit, the case so clear, and Nelson pleaded his own cause so well, that the four ships were condemned. During the progress of this business he sent a memorial home to the king: in consequence of which, orders were issued that he should be defended at the expense of the

And upon the representations which he made at the same time to the secretary of state, and the suggestions with which he accompanied it, the register act was framed. The sanction of government, and the approbation of his conduct which it implied, were highly gratifying to him : but he was offended, and not without just cause, that the treasury should have transmitted thanks to the commander-in-chief, for his activity and zeal in protecting the commerce of Great Britain. “ Had they known all,” said he, “ I do not think they would have bestowed thanks in that quarter, and neglected me. I feel much hurt, that, after the loss of health and risk of fortune, another should be thanked for what I did against his orders. I either deserved to be sent out of the service, or at least to have had some little notice taken of what I had done. They have thought it worthy of notice, and yet have neglected me. If this is the reward for a faithful discharge of my duty, I shall be careful, and never stand forward again. But I have done my duty, and have nothing to accuse myself of.”

The anxiety which he had suffered from the harassing uncertainties of law is apparent from these expressions. He had, however, something

to console him, for he was at this time wooing the niece of his friend the president, then in her eighteenth year, the widow of Dr. Nisbet, a physician. She had one child, a son, by name Josiah, who was three years old. One day, Mr. Herbert, who had hastened, half-dressed, to receive Nelson, exclaimed, on returning to his dressing-room, “Good God! if I did not find that great little man, of whom every body is so afraid, playing in the next room, under the dining-table, with Mrs. Nisbet's child !” A few days afterwards Mrs. Nisbet herself was first introduced to him, and thanked him for the partiality which he had shown to her little boy. Her manners were mild and winning: and the captain, whose heart was easily susceptible of attachment, found no such imperious necessity for subduing his inclinations as had twice before withheld him from marrying. They were married on March 11, 1787: Prince William Henry, who had come out to the West Indies the preceding winter, being present, by his own desire, to give away the bride. Mr. Herbert, her uncle, was at this time so much displeased with his only daughter, that he had resolved to disinherit her, and leave his whole fortune, which was very great, to his niece. But Nelson, whose nature was too noble to let him profit by an act of injustice, interfered, and succeeded in reconciling the president to his child.

“ Yesterday," said one of his naval friends, the day after the wedding, “ the navy lost one of its greatest ornaments, by Nelson's marriage. It is a national loss that such an officer should marry : had it not been for this, Nelson would have be

come the greatest man in the service.” The man was rightly estimated : but he who delivered this opinion did not understand the effect of domestic love and duty upon a mind of the true heroic stamp.

We are often separate,” said Nelson, in a letter to Mrs. Nisbet, a few months before their marriage; “ but our affections are not by any means on that account diminished.

Our country has the first demand for our services; and private convenience or happiness must ever give way to the public good. Duty is the great business of a sea officer : all private considerations must give way to it, however painful." “ Have you not often heard,” says he, in another letter, is that salt water and absence always wash away love ? Now I am such a heretic as not to believe that article: for behold, every morning I have had six pails of salt water poured upon my head, and instead of finding what seamen say to be true, it goes on so contrary to the prescription, that you must, perhaps, see me before the fixed time.” More frequently his correspondence breathed a deeper strain. “ To write letters to you,” says he, “is the next greatest pleasure I feel to receiving them from you.

What I experience when I read such as I am sure are the


sentiments of your heart, my poor pen cannot express :-nor, indeed, would I give much for any pen or head which could express feelings of that kind. Absent from you, I feel no pleasure: it is you who are every thing to me. Without you, I care not for this world; for I have found, lately, nothing in it but vexation and trouble. These are my present sen

timents. God Almighty grant they may never change! Nor do I think they will. Indeed there is, as far as human knowledge can judge, a moral certainty that they cannot : for it must be real affection that brings us together; not interest or compulsion.” Such were the feelings, and such the sense of duty, with which Nelson became a husband.

During his stay upon this station he had ample opportunity of observing the scandalous practices of the contractors, prize-agents, and other persons in the West Indies connected with the naval service. When he was first left with the command, and bills were brought him to sign for money which was owing for goods purchased for the navy, he required the original voucher, that he might examine whether those goods had been really purchased at the market price: but to produce vouchers would not have been convenient, and therefore was not the custom. Upon this Nelson wrote to Sir Charles Middleton, then comptroller of the navy, representing the abuses which were likely to be practised in this manner. The answer which he received seemed to imply that the old forms were thought sufficient: and thus having no alternative, he was compelled, with his eyes open, to submit to a practice originating in fraudulent intentions. Soon afterwards two Antigua merchants informed him, that they were privy to great frauds, which had been committed upon government in various departments : at Antigua, to the amount of nearly £500,000; at Lucie, £300,000; at Barbadoes, £250,000; at Jamaica, upwards of a million. The informers

« ПредишнаНапред »