OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of George III. (Continued.)


Taking of St. Eustatia from the Dutch, by Rodney, with other Islands and Settlements - Rodney's Severities - Capture of Dutch Ships and of little Dutch Settlements in the East Indies - Negotiations with Russia - Spanish Attack on Minorca - Battle off the Dogger Bank-Other Sea Fights - Meeting of Parliament - Debates on the American War - Altered Views of Ministers- Meetings and Petitions for Peace - Retirement of Lord George Germaine - Year 1782 - War in the West Indies - At the Cape - Loss of Minorca - King's Project of retiring to Hanover - Lord North resigns - Lord Rockingham Prime Minister - Irish Distress - Grattan on Irish Questions - Irish Demands conceded - Popular Gratitude to Grattan - Arrears of the Civil List - Enormous Pension to Barre - Pitt in favour of Parliamentary Reform - North American Affairs - Proposals to make Washington King - Rodney's Great Victory over De Grasse - Rodney made a Peer - Death of Lord Rockingham - Lord Shelburne Minister - Pitt Chancellor of the Exchequer - Loss of the Royal George - General Elliot's Splendid Defence of Gibraltar - Treaty of Peace with America - With France - These Treaties Signed - John Adams at the British Court as First American Ambassador - Pitt becomes Prime Minister.
Pages: <1> 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

There were other transactions besides those of the American campaign, during the year, which demand notice. Rodney co-operated with a body of troops under general Vaughan in an attempt to recover the island of St. Vincent, which the French had taken in the previous year, but they were not successful. They then turned their attack on the island of St. Eustatia. belonging to the Dutch, and the governor not having heard the news of the war, they met with no resistance. The capture was a most valuable one; the whole island seemed one great store of Dutch and American products and goods. There were one hundred and fifty merchant vessels in the harbour all secured, besides six ships of war and a fleet of thirty Dutch West Indiamen, which had just left, but which were sent after and brought back. The value of the whole prize was estimated at three millions eight hundred thousand pounds. A large quantity of the merchandise belonged to Englishmen, who were engaged thus in supplying the Americans through this channel. Rodney confiscated the whole of it. In vain did the owners demand, through the assembly of St. Kitt's, the restoration of these goods; Rodney would not listen to them. The clamour was carried thence to the English parliament, and even into the English courts of law. Rodney protested against any concession; he declared the island a vast den of thieves and nest of vipers; that he had seized the whole for the king and the state, and hoped that it would aid the revenue of the country. The Americans resident there and the Jews raised bitter outcries at their banishment from the island; but it was shown that the Americans had been the avowed agents and correspondents of their insurgent countrymen, but that the moment the island was taken they boldly declared themselves subjects of the British crown. As for the Jews, general Vaughan, in the house of commons, said - " I had ordered a ship to carry them to St. Thomas's at their own request; and, after they had been taken to St. Kitt's without my knowledge, I ordered their houses and property to be restored to them; and that they were well satisfied with my conduct will appear from an address presented to me from their synagogue."

Vaughan kept the Dutch flag flying at St. Eustatia, and thus inveigled into his hands a considerable number more of Dutch, French, and American vessels that were ignorant of the change. Besides Eustatia, the small neighbouring islands of St. Martin and Saba, and the Dutch settlements on the rivers of Demerara and Essequibo, in Guiana, were taken with their ships and property. The Dutch trade in these parts received a mortal blow. On the other hand, the French, under the marquis de Bouille, captured the island of Tobago.

The English now began to contemplate taking the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch. General Johnstone was dispatched in April with five ships of the line, some frigates, and smaller vessels, having on board general Meadows and three regiments for this purpose; but encountering admiral Suffrien in the way, after an indecisive action, Johnstone fell in with and took a Dutch East Indiaman of great value, and learned through it that Suffrien had managed to reach the Cape, given the alarm, and that the Cape was put into strong defence. Johnstone, therefore, made for Saldanha Bay, where he learned that a number of other Dutch East Indiamen were lying. Four of these he secured; the rest were run ashore by their commanders and burnt. During the autumn both Dutch and French suffered much from the British on the coasts of Coromandel and the island of Sumatra. They also took from the Dutch Negapatam, Penang, and other places.

There was a negotiation with Catherine of Russia to induce her, by the bribe of the transfer of Minorca to her, to mediate a peace betwixt England, France, Spain, and Holland, on the basis of each country restoring all its conquests since the war, and all these nations binding themselves to abandon the Americans. Catherine was, however, to purchase the stores and artillery at Port Mahon, valued at two millions sterling, and her favourite, Potemkin, was to be bribed by this sum being put into his pocket. Had the island and the stores been all freely presented as a gift to the czarina, the scheme might have succeeded; as it was, she regarded the money to be paid to her favourite as a great sum to be drawn from her, and the whole failed. Moreover, the scheme coming to the knowledge of Florida Bianca, the Spanish minister, he took immediate steps to forestall the business by seizing the island himself. He prevailed on France, though with difficulty, to assist. The duke de Crillon, a Frenchman, was made commander of the expedition, and on the 22nd of July the united fleets of France and Spain sailed out of Cadiz Bay, and stretched out into the ocean, as if intending to make a descent on England. The main part of the fleet did, in fact, sail into the English Channel. It consisted of thirty Spanish ships-of-the- line, under Cordova and Gaston, and nineteen French ships-of-the-line, under De Guichen, De Beausset, and De la Motte Piquet, besides lesser vessels - nearly sixty vessels, in all - a most formidable armada. Admiral Darby, who had just anchored in Torbay, had only twenty-three sail-of-the-line, twelve frigates, and six fireships; but they did not venture to attack him, but contented themselves with picking up a number of merchant vessels; and again dissensions and disease breaking out, this great fleet separated, and each nation returned to its respective ports, without effecting anything worthy of such an armament.

But a lesser portion of this fleet, on coming out of harbour, carrying eight thousand troops, stores, and ordnance, had passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, and appeared suddenly before Port Mahon. On the 19th of August the troops were landed near Port Mahon, and, being favoured by the inhabitants, formerly under the sway of Spain, and good catholics, they soon invested the fort, and compelled general Murray, who formerly so bravely defended Quebec, to retire to Fort St. Philip, leaving the town of Port Mahon in their possession. General Murray had second in command Sir William Draper, the old antagonist of Junius, and the conqueror of Manilla, who bravely supported him. But they had only a garrison of two English and two Hanoverian regiments; still the Spanish court trusted more to bribery than to their arms. They had commissioned the duke de Crillon to offer Murray one hundred thousand pounds, with high rank and employment in the Spanish or French service, to surrender the place.

Murray returned this answer to De Crillon: - " When your brave ancestor was desired by his sovereign to assassinate the duke of Guise, he returned the answer which you should have done when the king of Spain charged you to assassinate the character of a man whose birth is as illustrious as your own, or that of the duke of Guise. I can have no communication with you but in arms. If you have any humanity, pray send clothing to your unfortunate prisoners in my possession. Leave it at a distance to be taken up for them; because I will admit of no contact, for the future, but such as is hostile in the most inveterate degree." Crillon, young and a Frenchman as he was, felt the full force of the reproof, and acknowledged it. He replied: - " Your letter places us each in our proper stations. It confirms me in the esteem I have always had for you. I accept with pleasure your last proposition." His siege of the fort he saw would be ineffectual without more force. This was sent him from Toulon. Four thousand new troops arrived, attended by able engineer officers and powerful artillery; but Murray still held out, though suffering much from disease amongst his troops, and 1781 was not destined to witness the fall of Minorca.

There were various actions at sea, in one quarter or other. Sir Hyde Parker, convoying a merchant fleet from the Baltic, on the 5th of August, fell in with admiral Zouttman near the Dogger Bank, also convoying a fleet of Dutch traders. An engagement took place, Zouttman having a few men-of-war more than Parker. The engagement was terrible. Parker had one hundred and eleven men killed, and three hundred and eighteen wounded; Zouttman, one hundred and sixteen killed, and three hundred and eighty- two wounded. The ships on both sides were severely damaged, and the Hollandia - a sixty-four-gun ship of Zouttman's - went down with all its crew. Many of the other ships were with difficulty kept afloat. On reaching the Nore, the king and prince of Wales went on board, where they highly complimented both Parker and the rest of the officers. Sir Hyde Parker then resigned his command in favour of his son, Sir Peter Parker, who was sent to blockade the Dutch ports.

On the 14th of the same month a Dutch lugger, m conflict with the Chameleon, sloop-of-war, captain Drury, took fire, and perished with all its crew. On the 12th of December admiral Kempenfelt, with thirteen ships-of-the-line, discovered, off Ushant, the French fleet, under De Guichen, convoying a fleet of transports and merchantmen, bound, some for the East, and others for the West Indies, with troops and stores. The fleet of De Guichen was far superior to that of Kempenfelt - consisting of one-arid- twenty ships-of-the-line, larger than Kempenfelt's, and two of them armed en flute; but, the convoy being at a considerable distance from the transports and traders, Kempenfelt adroitly made himself master of twenty sail of these vessels, and made off with them; and within a few days afterwards he captured five more of these ships. There were also other fights of minor importance.

On the 27th of November, only two days after the receipt of the news of the surrender of lord Cornwallis, parliament met. The king adverted to the unhappy event, but still declared that he should be betraying his trust, as sovereign of a free people, if he did not refuse to give up the contest; that he still trusted in Divine Providence, and he called for fresh, animated, and united exertions. He turned with more satisfaction to the successes in the East Indies, and the safe arrival of our principal mercantile fleets. In the lords, the earl of Shelburne attacked the address, supported by the duke of Richmond and the lords Camden and Rockingham; but the most tempestuous burst of indignant eloquence from the opposition took place in the commons. Fox declared that he had listened to the address with horror and amazement. He declared himself confounded at the hardihood of ministers, after such a consummation of their imbecile management, who dared to look the house of commons in the face. He would not say that they were paid by France, for it was not possible for him to prove the fact; but, if they were not, he declared that they deserved to be, for they had served the French monarch more faithfully and successfully than ever ministers served a master. He especially singled out lord Sandwich for reprobation, as the author of the wretched condition of our fleets, which were inferior in lumber of ships and their appointments to those of the enemy all over the globe. He called on the house to insist on the total and immediate change of ministers, and urged the adoption of measures which should, if possible, repair the incalculable injuries they had inflicted on the nation.

Lord North replied with indignation at the suggestion of ministers being paid by France, and asked whether, because we had lost some troops in Virginia, we were to lie down and die? On the contrary, he regarded the misfortune as only a reason for fresh exertions.

Burke started up and exclaimed, " Good God! Mr. Speaker, are we yet to be told of the rights for which we went to war? Oh, excellent rights! oh, valuable rights! Valuable you should be, for we have paid dear at parting with you. Oh, valuable rights, that have cost England thirteen provinces, four islands, a hundred thousand men, and more than seventy millions of money! Oh, wonderful rights, that have lost to Great Britain her empire on the ocean - her boasted, grand, and substantial superiority, which made the world bend before her! Oh, inestimable rights, that have taken from us our rank amongst nations, our importance abroad, and our happiness at home; that have taken from us our trade, our manufactures, and our commerce; that have reduced us from the most flourishing empire in the world to be one of the most unenviable powers on the face of the globe! Oh, wonderful rights, that are likely to take from us all that yet remains. 4 We had a right to tax America,' says the noble lord, 'and as we had a right, we must do it.'" Burke then compared ministers to a foolish fellow, who, thinking the wolf had wool, was determined to shear it; and that we had for our shearing of the Americans precisely what such a simpleton would have from shearing his wolf.

The ministers, however, had strength enough to carry the address by two hundred and eighteen votes against one hundred and twenty-nine; but the debate was resumed on the address being reported, and then William Pitt delivered a most scathing speech, declaring that so far from our being warranted in pressing this ruinous war, he was satisfied that, if he went from one end of the treasury bench to the other, such was the condition of the ministry, he should find that there was not one man who could trust his neighbour; and the truth of this was becoming strikingly evident. Dundas, the lord advocate, hitherto one of the stanchest supporters of lord North, spoke now as in astonishment at the language of ministers, declaring that some of them in council clearly did not give their honest opinions. There were other like symptoms of defection; the sensitive placemen perceived the end of the North administration at hand. Several independent members - amongst them Thomas Powys, afterwards lord Lilford - declared against any further contest with the colonies. Sir George Saville compared the ministers to the Spartan who, in a sea-fight, had swum to a galley, on seizing it with his hand, had the hand cut off, then his other hand, and, lastly, seizing the galley with his teeth, had his head cut off. Lord North, seeing the ground failing beneath him, now lowered his tone, and, on Sir James Lowther, seconded by Mr. Powys, proposing a resolution that the war against America had been an utter failure, he explained that he did not advocate, in future, a continental warfare there, a marching of troops through the provinces, from north to south, but only the retention of ports on the coast, for the protection of our fleets in those seas, and the repulse of the French and Spaniards.

Thus, at the very last minute, was this most incompetent of ministers compelled to admit the justice of lord Barrington's advice for the prosecution of the war, given seven years before. The only difference was, that lord Barrington's plan would then have saved America, and lord North's had now undoubtedly lost it! Sir James Lowther's motion was got rid of, but only by a majority of forty-one. On the 14th of December, however, Mr. Pitt again reviewed the state of the war, and declared that, amid all the differences of ministers, they appeared all along to have been united in one object - the destruction of the empire.

>>> Next page >>>
Pages: <1> 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.)

Admiral Sir John Jervis
Admiral Sir John Jervis >>>>
View of Minden
View of Minden >>>>
Surrender of the Garrison
Surrender of the Garrison >>>>
Shandon Steeple
Shandon Steeple >>>>
Washingtons house
Washingtons house >>>>
Jean Francois Galaup de la Perouse
Jean Francois Galaup de la Perouse >>>>
Comte de Grasse
Comte de Grasse >>>>
Gibraltar
Gibraltar >>>>
Siege if Gibraltar
Siege if Gibraltar >>>>
Washington in New York
Washington in New York >>>>
John Adams
John Adams >>>>
Thomas Erskine
Thomas Erskine >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About