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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 2


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Muir and Palmer, having been detained till Skirving and Margarott could be brought up from Scotland, they were all put on board the same convict ship, the Surprise, and it sailed with them, towards the end of April. The fate of some of these unjustly-sentenced men was extraordinary. Skirving died soon after their arrival at Sydney, as did Gerald, who had been sent after them. Muir made his escape to South America, and thence to France, where he died at Bourdeaux. Palmer had a still more adventurous voyage. He served out his term of transportation, and then embarked for New Zealand with the intention of getting thence to the Cape of Good Hope. He afterwards changed his route, and made for China. Driven by want of provisions and danger of wreck into the island of Guam, Palmer died there, in 1802, of dysentery. The only one of them who regained England was Margarott, who appears to have been a very indifferent character. On the voyage out he had made a plot against Palmer and Skirving, as intending to seize the ship. This was to ingratiate himself with the captain, by whom, accordingly, he was treated with great favour, whilst his victims were closely imprisoned below deck, and severely handled. His conduct in the colony appears to have been profligate and abandoned; yet this black sheep survived his term of sentence, and had his passage paid home by subscription. He died, however, soon after his arrival in London.

The success of the Scotch courts in sentencing reformers encouraged the ministers to try the experiment in England; but here it did not succeed so well. First, one Eaton, a bookseller, of Bishopsgate, was indicted for selling a seditious libel, called, " Politics for the People; or, Hog's-wash." On the 2nd of April Thomas Walker, a merchant, of Manchester - a much more turbulent man than any of the Scotch reformers, a leader of political societies, and who, with his brother Richard, had been in correspondence with the jacobins of France - was, with six others, indicted at the Lancaster assizes; but both Eaton, in London, and these Manchester men, were all acquitted. Rather irritated than discouraged by these failures, Pitt and Dundas made a swoop at the leaders of the corresponding society, and the society for constitutional information in London; and, in the month of May, Home Tooke, John Thelwall - a celebrated political lecturer - Thomas Hardy, Daniel Adams, and the Rev. Jeremiah Joyce - private secretary to the earl of Stanhope, and tutor to his son, lord Mahon - were arrested and committed to the Tower on a charge of high treason. No sooner was this done, than, on the 12th of May, Dundas announced to the house of commons that, in consequence of the government having been informed of seditious practices being carried on by the above-named societies, they had seized their papers, and he now demanded that a committee of secrecy should be appointed to examine these papers. This was agreed to; and, on the 16th, Pitt brought up the report of this committee, which was so absurd in its results, that nothing but the most blind political desperation could have induced the government to make it known. The committee found nothing amongst these papers but the reports of the societies since the year 1791, which had been annually published and made known to every one. Yet, on this miserable evidence, Pitt called for the suspension of the habeas corpus act, and it was accordingly granted, Burke - who now seems to have grown quite politically mad by dwelling on the horrors of the French revolution - believing it the only measure to insure the safety of the country. Windham and others asserted that the mere suspension of the habeas corpus act was hardly sufficient: there required yet more stringent measures. Similar language was held in the lords, but did not pass without severe comments from the duke of Bedford, and the earls Stanhope, Lauderdale, and Albemarle, who declared that ministers, instead of suppressing, were creating a veritable reign of terror. The bill was, notwithstanding, readily passed; and, on the 13th of June, an address was carried to his majesty, expressing the determination of their lordships to punish the men who had been concerned in the so-called conspiracy. Fox and Lamb ton condemned this course energetically in the commons, declaring that, if there were any conspiracy, the ordinary laws and tribunals were amply sufficient for their punishment. Fox moved that all that part of the address which expressed a conviction of the existence of a conspiracy should be struck out, but it was carried entire; and such was the alarm of the country at the reverses of the allies on the continent and the successes of France, that far more violent measures would have been as readily assented to.

The only other business of the session worth note was a vote of thanks to Burke in the commons for his share in the management of the trial of Warren Hastings, which only now terminated; and the passing of a bill of Wilberforce's, for abolishing that part of the slave trade by which we supplied foreign countries. This bill, however, was thrown out in the lords, and the king prorogued parliament on the 11th of July, on which occasion he congratulated the houses on the great naval victory of lord Howe over the French on the 1st of June.

His lordship had been on the look-out some time for the French fleet, which, it was understood, was about to leave Brest, in order to meet a convoy of merchant ships from the West Indies, and aid it in bringing that trade fleet into port. On reaching Brest, however, he discovered that the French fleet had sailed, and it was not till the 28th of May that he caught sight of it out at sea, opposite the coast of Brittany. The French fleet, commanded by admiral Villaret Joyeuse, was greatly superior to Howe's, both in ships, number of seamen, and weight of metal. Howe had twenty-five sail of the line and five frigates, carrying two thousand and ninety-eight guns, in weight of metal twenty- one thousand five hundred and nineteen pounds, and sixteen thousand six hundred and forty-seven men. Joyeuse, now joined by admiral Neilly, had twenty-six line-of-battle ships and smaller vessels, carrying two thousand one hundred and fifty-eight guns, in weight of metal twenty-five thousand five hundred and twenty-one pounds, and nineteen thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight men. After some skirmishing, owing to prevalence of fog and want of wind, on the 1st of June Howe came to close quarters with the enemy. He ordered his fleet to follow his ship, the Charlotte, in cutting right through the enemy's line. Only five ships, however, accomplished this so as to engage the French to the leeward, and prevent them escaping. Howe afterwards complained that some of his captains had not obeyed his orders, and threatened them with a court-martial; but some of them replied that their ships were in such bad sailing condition that they could not effect this movement, and others that they did not understand the signal, but thought that they were to engage every man the ship opposite to him. Thus, five vessels fighting to the leeward, and the rest to the windward, the battle raged furiously from nine in the morning till three in the afternoon, when the French admiral sheered off for Brest, leaving behind seven of his finest vessels in the hands of the English. The English lost in the action two hundred and seventy-nine men, and had eight hundred and seventy-seven wounded. The French lost in the six captured ships alone six hundred and ninety men, and had five hundred and eighty wounded. The seventh, the Vengeur, went down almost as soon as the English flag was hoisted on her, with, it is supposed, three hundred men in her. Altogether, it is likely that the French did not lose less than fifteen hundred men, besides wounded, and two thousand three hundred prisoners. The English lost a number of officers, who were either killed in the battle, or died afterwards of their injuries. Amongst these were Sir Andrew Douglas, second captain of Howe's own ship; captains Montagu of the Montagu, Hutt of the Queen, and Harvey of the Brunswick; rear-admirals Pasley of the Bellerophon, and Bowyer of the Barfleur. Admiral Graves and captain Berkeley were severely wounded.

Howe made every effort to pursue and bring again to action the French admiral; but, owing to the bad sailing qualities of English ships at that time, and the shattered state of many of them, he could not overtake Villaret, who made the best of his way to Brest. Yet Jean Bon Saint- André, the jacobin commissioner, who was on board to threaten with the guillotine all who failed in their duty, and who hid himself in the hold during the whole action, announced it as a most splendid victory to the convention, declaring that the Vengeur went down, all the men shouting, " Vive la République! Vive la France! " and continuing these cries even at the bottom of the ocean! This amusing fiction was, moreover, put into verse by Chénier, the revolution poet: -

"Les voix des braves expirans
Qui chantent au fond des abîmes!"

Barrère, also, announced to the convention the victory in still more glowing terms, declaring that the Vengeur had never surrendered, but fought to the very moment that the waves engulphed her; the fact being that the unfortunate officers and crew were shrieking for help to their enemies, and crowding so to the side, as to threaten to swamp, by their numbers, the boats that generously rushed to their aid. Notwithstanding that these facts were witnessed by thousands, the French have continued to maintain this impudent falsehood. The shattered condition of the English fleet, however, enabled the French convoy to gain Brest. During the remainder of the year there were various engagements betwixt small squadrons in different quarters, in which the advantage generally remained with the English, besides the training thus afforded to the officers and sailors for the mighty victories which awaited them.

During the spring of 1794 the English, under lieutenant- general Sir Charles Grey, took the French island of Martinique, in which attempt the duke of Kent, father of her present majesty, distinguished himself. They also took St. Lucie, Guadaloupe, and its dependencies, Marie-Galante, Deseada, and the Saintes. But they were not so successful in assisting the French royalists in St. Domingo in expelling the republicans. They beat the French in three successive battles, but our troops were then attacked by the yellow fever. General Whyte made himself master of the French capital, Port-au-Prince; but general Dundas, who was appointed governor, was carried off by the fever, as also were numbers of the troops. The French general also fell a victim to the fever; but at this juncture arrived the jacobin commissioner, Victor Hugues, with a reinforcement of from fifteen hundred to two thousand men. He immediately assumed the command, proclaimed freedom to all the blacks, and the plunder of the royalists. The royalists, terrified, submitted, or feebly supported their English allies, whereupon the English were compelled to yield them to their fate. Hugues, one of the bloodiest of the French revolutionists, set the guillotine to work in the hands of the negroes. The royalists were beheaded or fusilladed in troops, their houses burnt, and their estates ravaged. Before the end of the year, this monster had reduced the island to a dreadful desert. In his ferocious fury, he had caused the very sick and wounded in the hospitals to be massacred, and the dead to be thrown out of their graves. Amongst these were the remains of general Dundas, and the other dead British officers, which were flung into the river. Hugues managed also to recover Guadaloupe, and perpetrated the sama cruelties and abominations there, leaving a name of horror in the West Indies to this day.

During this summer the island of Corsica fell into our hands, and that by a conduct as brilliant on the part of Nelson and the troops and seamen under him, as was at the time the formal inefficiency of our generals there. At the outbreak of the French revolution, the Corsicans had hoped, like many other people, wonderful things from the promises of liberty, fraternity, and equality. Their great patriot, general Paoli, who had been living for twenty years in England on terms of great intimacy with its leading political and literary characters, went over to Paris, and was presented to the national assembly and the king. He swore to the new constitution of 1789, was fêted by all parties, and was made lieutenant-governor and military commandant of his native island. He proceeded thither, and Corsica remained firm to France till its republicans had murdered Louis XVI., and committed those atrocities which horrified the world. The Corsicans soon experienced the insolence and rapacity of the godless French republicans, and rose in general insurrection. Paoli was the first to advise them to renounce all connection with such a race of fiends, and was, in consequence, proscribed by the convention, but at the same time appointed general-in-chief and president of the council of government by his own people. As he well knew that little Corsica was no match for France, he applied to the English for assistance. Lord Hood was then engaged in the defence of Toulon, but he sent a few ships and troops during the summer and autumn to Paoli's aid, and by this assistance the French were driven out of every part of the island except San Fiorenzo, Calvi, and Bastia. The mother of Buonaparte, and part of the family, who were living at Ajaccio, fled to France, imploring the aid of the convention for her native island. Lord Hood, however, having evacuated Toulon, made haste to be beforehand with them. By the 7th of February, 1794, he had blockaded the three ports still in the hands of the French, and had landed five regiments, under the command of general Dundas, at San Fiorenzo. The French were soon compelled to evacuate the place, but they retreated to Bastia, without almost any attempt on the part of Dundas to injure or molest them. Lord Hood now urged the immediate reduction of Bastia, but Dundas, an incompetent officer, and tied up by all the old, formal rules of warfare, declared that he could not attempt to carry the town till the arrival of two thousand fresh troops from Gibraltar. But there was a man of very different metal and notions serving there, namely, Nelson, who was indignant at this timid conduct. He declared that if he had five hundred men and the Agamemnon ship-of-war, he could take the place. Lord Hood was resolved that he should try, whilst he himself blockaded the harbour. Nelson, who declared his own seamen of the Agamemnon were of the right sort, and cared no more for bullets than for peas, had one thousand one hundred and eighty-three soldiers, artillerymen, and marines, with two hundred and fifty sailors, put under his command, with the title of brigadier. They landed on the 4th of April, dragged their cannon up to the tops of the rocks overhanging Bastia, to the astonishment of French. Corsicans, and the timid Dundas. On the 10th Nelson was aloft with his whole force, and with all his cannon in position. A body of Corsicans rather kept guard, than gave any active assistance, on another side of the town; for they had no cannon, or could not drag them up precipices like British seamen. On the 11th lord Hood summoned the town to surrender; but the French commander and commissioner, Lacombe-Saint-Michel, replied that he had red-hot shot for the ships and bayonets for the English soldiers, and should not think of yielding till he had two-thirds of his garrison killed. But Nelson, ably seconded by colonel Vilettes, plied his artillery to such purpose, that, on the 10th of May, Lacombe-Saint-Michel made offer of surrender, and, on the 19th, the capitulation was completed. The French forces and the Corsicans in their interest were shipped off to Toulon, after the signing of the capitulation on the 21st; and now general D'Aubant, who had succeeded general Dundas, but who had continued lying at San Fiorenzo, instead of assisting at the siege, came up with his troops and took possession of Bastia. The whole loss of the English in this brilliant affair was only fourteen men killed and thirty-four wounded.

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