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were both shrewd, sensible men of business; they did not affect to be actuated by a sense of justice, but required a per centage upon so much as government should actually recover through their means.
Nelson examined the books and papers which they produced, and was convinced that government had been most infamously plundered. Vouchers, he found, in that country, were no check whatever: the principle was, that “a thing was always worth what it would bring :”. and the merchants were in the habit of signing vouchers for each other, without even the appearance of looking at the articles. These accounts he sent home to the different departments which had been defrauded : but the peculators were too powerful ; and they succeeded not merely in impeding inquiry, but even in raising prejudices against Nelson at the board of admiralty, which it was many years before he could subdue.
Owing, probably, to these prejudices, and the influence of the peculators, he was treated, on his return to England, in a manner which had nearly driven him from the service. During the three years that the Boreas had remained upon a station which is usually so fatal, not a single officer or man of her whole complement had died. This almost unexampled instance of good health, though mostly, no doubt, imputable to a healthy season, must, in some measure, also, be ascribed to the wise conduct of the captain. He never suffered the ships to remain more than three or four weeks at a time at any of the islands; and when the hurricane months confined him to English Harbour, he encouraged all kinds of useful amusements; music,
dancing, and cudgeling among the men; theatricals among the officers : any thing which could employ their attention, and keep their spirits cheerful. The Boreas arrived in England in June. Nelson who had many times been supposed to be consumptive when in the West Indies, and perhaps was saved from consumption by that climate, was still in a precarious state of health; and the raw wet weather of one of our ungenial summers brought on cold, and sore throat, and fever: yet his vessel was kept at the Nore from the end of June till the end of November, serving as a slop and receiving ship. This unworthy treatment, which more probably proceeded from intention than from neglect, excited in Nelson the strongest indignation. During the whole five months he seldom or never quitted the ship, but carried on the duty with strict and sullen attention. On the morning when orders were received to prepare the Boreas for being paid off, he expressed his joy to the senior officer in the Medway, saying,
“ Ît will release me for ever from an ungrateful service, for it is my firm and unalterable determination never again to set my foot on board a king's ship. Immediately after
arrival in town I shall wait on the first lord of the admiralty, and resign my commission.” The officer to whom he thus communicated his intentions behaved in the wisest and most friendly manner; for finding it in vain to dissuade him in his present state of feeling, he secretly interfered with the first lord to save him from a step so injurious to himself, little foreseeing how deeply the welfare and honour of England were at that moment at stake. This interference
produced a letter from Lord Howe, the day before the ship was paid off, intimating a wish to see Capt. Nelson as soon as he arrived in town: when, being pleased with his conversation, and perfectly convinced, by what was then explained to him, of the propriety of his conduct, he desired that he might present him to the king on the first levee day: and the gracious manner in which Nelson was then received, effectually removed his resentment.
Prejudices had been, in like manner, excited against his friend, Prince William Henry. “Nothing is wanting, sir,” said Nelson, in one of his letters, “ to make you the darling of the English nation, but truth. Sorry I am to say, much to the contrary has been dispersed.” This was not flattery; for Nelson was no flatterer. The letter in which this passage occurs shows in how wise and noble a manner he dealt with the prince. One of his royal highness's officers had applied for a court martial upon a point in which he was unquestionably wrong. His royal highness, however, while he supported his own character and authority, prevented the trial, which must have been injurious to a brave and deserving man.
“ Now that you are parted,” said Nelson, “ pardon me, my prince, when I presume to recommend that he may stand in your royal favour as if he had never sailed with you, and that at some future day you will serve him. There only wants this to place your conduct in the highest point of view. None of us are without failings; his, was being rather too hasty: but that, put in competition with his being a good officer, will not, I am bold to say, be taken in the
scale against him. More able friends than myself your royal highness may easily find, and of more consequence in the state; but one more attached and affectionate is not so easily met with. Princes seldom, very seldom, find a disinterested person to communicate their thoughts to: I do not pretend to be that person : but of this be assured, by a man who, I trust, never did a dishonourable act, that I am interested only that your royal highness should be the greatest and best man this country ever produced."
Encouraged by the conduct of Lord Howe, and by his reception at court, Nelson renewed his attack upon the peculators with fresh spirit. He had interviews with Mr. Rose, Mr. Pitt, and Sir Charles Middleton; to all of whom he satisfactorily proved his charges. In consequence, it is said, these very extensive public frauds were at length put in a proper train to be provided against in future : his representations were attended to; and every step which he recommended was adopted: the investigation was put into a proper course, which ended in the detection and punishment of some of the culprits: an immense saving was made to government, and thus its attention was directed to similar peculation in other parts of the colonies. But it is said also, that no mark of commendation seems to have been bestowed upon Nelson for his exertion. And it is justly remarked,* that the spirit of the navy cannot be preserved so effectually by the liberal honours bestowed on officers, when they are worn out in the service, as by an
* Clarke and M'Arthur, vol. i. p. 107.
attention to those who, like Nelson at this part of his life, have only their integrity and zeal to bring them into notice. A junior officer, who had been left with the command at Jamaica, received an additional allowance, for which Nelson had applied in vain. Double pay was allowed to every artificer and seaman employed in the naval yard: Nelson had superintended the whole business of that yard with the most rigid exactness, and he complained that he was neglected. “It was most true,” he said, “ that the trouble which he took to detect the fraudulent practices then carried on, was no more than his duty; but he little thought that the expenses attending his frequent journeys to St. John's upon that duty (a distance of twelve miles), would have fallen upon
рау as captain of the Boreas.” Nevertheless, the sense of what he thought unworthy usage did not diminish his zeal. I,” said he, “ must still buffet the waves in search of — What? Alas! that they called honour is now thought of no more. My fortune, God knows, has grown worse for the service: so much for serving my country. But the devil, ever willing to tempt the virtuous, has made me offer, if any ships should be sent to destroy his majesty of Morocco's ports, to be there; and I have some reason to think, that, should any more come of it, my humble services will be accepted. I have invariably laid down, and followed close, a plan of what ought to be uppermost in the breast of an officer,—that it is much better to serve an ungrateful country, than to give up his own fame. Posterity will do him justice. A uniform course of honour and integrity seldom