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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 20


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The sailors, indignant at this miserable parsimony, returned on board and hoisted the red flag at every masthead. This was a sign that no concession would be made. Yet, on the 22nd, the delegates addressed letters to the admiralty, and to lord Bridport, firm, but respectful. Government then tried its usual resource, the proclamation of a pardon, but without taking notice of the necessary concessions. With this proclamation, lord Bridport went, the next day, on board the Royal George, and assured the seamen that be had brought a royal pardon, and also the redress of all their grievances. On this assurance, the crew hauled down the red flag, and all the other ships did the same.

News now came that the Brest fleet was putting to sea. On the 7th of May lord Bridport went on board and ordered anchor to be weighed. Not a man stirred; nor was it likely. No sooner had lord Bridport told them what was not true, that their demands were acceded to, than, in the house of lords and the house of commons, ministers had spoken in very ambiguous terms of the subject, and the board of admiralty had only ended the ambiguity, by issuing an order on the 1st of May, commanding, in consequence of " the disposition lately shown by the seamen of several of his majesty's ships," that the arms and ammunition of the marines should be kept in readiness for use in harbour, as well as at sea; and that on the first appearance of mutiny, the most vigorous measures should be applied to quell it. This was ordering the officers of marines to fire on the sailors who should refuse to be thus shamefully juggled out of their promised rights by the government. On board the London, vice-admiral Colpoys pushed the matter so far that his men resisted orders and as one was unlashing a gun, Simpson, the first-lieutenant, told him that if he did not desist lie would shoot him. The man went on unlashing, and Simpson shot him dead! On this, the sailors, in a rage, disarmed the officers, and proceeded to hang Simpson at the yard-arm. Colpoys then begged for the lieutenant's life, assuring them that the order was his own, and that Simpson had only done his duty in obeying it. The chaplain and surgeon joined in the entreaty; and the men, far more merciful and reasonable than their Commanders, complied. They ordered, however, Colpoys and all the officers to their respective cabins, and put the marines, without arms, below deck. Similar scenes took place on the other ships, and the fleet remained in the hands of the sailors from the 7th to the 11th of May, when lord Howe arrived with an act of parliament, granting all their demands. Howe, aviio was old and infirm, persuaded them to prepare a petition for a full pardon, though their conduct really required none, for they had displayed nothing but a proper English spirit, accompanied by far more wisdom and forbearance than their superiors possessed. They, however, accompanied this petition by an assurance that they would not serve again under the tyrannical officers whom they had put on shore; and this was conceded. Admiral Colpoys was included in this list of officers proscribed by their oppressed men, along with four captains, twenty-nine lieutenants, seventeen masters' mates, twenty-five midshipmen, five captains of marines, three lieutenants, four surgeons, and thirteen petty officers of marines. The whole being arranged on the 15th of May, the red flag was Struck; and the deputies waited on lord Howe to express their obligations to him for his kind services on behalf of the oppressed seamen. His lordship gave them luncheon, and then was escorted by them, along with lady Howe, on board the fleet. On their return, they carried lord Howe on their shoulders to the governor's house. Sir Roger Curtis's squadron had just come in from a cruise, and on learning what had passed, declared them- selves ready to support the rest of the fleet; but the news which Howe had brought at once satisfied them, and all eagerly prepared to set sail, and demonstrate their loyal zeal by au encounter with the Brest fleet.

But the fleet at Sheerness, which sympathised with that at Portsmouth, did not think fit to accept the terms which had satisfied the seamen of Portsmouth. They were incited by a sailor, named Richard Parker, to stand for fresh demands, which were not likely to meet with the sympathy of either sailors or landsmen. On the 20th of May, the ships at the Nore, and others belonging to the North Sea fleet, appointed delegates, and sent in their demands, in imitation of the Portsmouth men. The admiralty flatly rejected their petition. On the 23rd of May the mutineers hoisted the red flag; and all the ships of war lying near Sheerness dropped down to the Nore. On the 29th, a committee from the board of admiralty went down to Sheerness, to try to bring them to reason, but failed. The mutineers then drew their ships in a line across the Thames, cutting off all traffic betwixt the sea and London. On this, the government proceeded to pull up the buoys at the mouth of the river, to erect batteries along the shores for firing red- hot balls; and a proclamation was issued declaring the fleet in a State of rebellion, and prohibiting all intercourse with it. This soon brought some of the mutineers to their senses. They knew that every class of people were against them. On the 4th of June, the king's birth-day, a royal salute was fired from the whole fleet, as a token of loyalty; the red flag was pulled down on every ship but the Sandwich, on board of which was Parker, and all the gay flags usual on such occasions were displayed. Several of the ships now began to drop away from the rest, and put themselves under protection of the guns of Sheerness. On the 13th of June the crew of the Sandwich followed this example, and delivered up the great agitator, Richard Parker, who was tried, and hanged at the yard-arm of that ship on the 30th. Some other of the delegates were executed, and others imprisoned in the hulks; and thus terminated this mutiny, as disgraceful to the sailors as that at Portsmouth was reason- able and honourable.

On the 20th of July parliament was prorogued, nothing further having been brought forward but another abortive motion for parliamentary reform by the opposition.

Early in this year admiral sir John Jervis fell in with the great Spanish fleet, and defeated it. Nelson had predicted that the Spanish fleet would not take much destroying. Admiral de Langara had had a fortunate escape in the Mediterranean, in venturing to Corsica. He had now been superseded by Don Juan de Cordova, and Jervis, on the 4th of February, met with him off Cape St. Vincent. Cordova had twenty-seven sail of the line. Jervis only fifteen; but he had Nelson in his fleet, which more than counter- balanced the inequality of numbers; and the discipline on board the Spanish ships was far below that of the English. Nelson broke through the Spanish line, and chiefly by his exertions and manoeuvres, four of the largest vessels were taken, including one of one hundred and twelve guns. The rest escaped into Cadiz, and there the English blockaded them. The news of this brilliant victory arrived in London when the public was greatly dispirited by the exhausted state of the bank of England, and helped to revive confidence. Sir John Jervis was made earl of St. Vincent, and Nelson, the real hero, a knight of the bath.

A still more signal victory was won by admiral Duncan in the autumn. On the 11th of October, the admiral, who had been watching the Dutch fleet in the Texel, found that during a storm it had stolen out, and was on its way to join the French fleet at Brest. There were eleven sail of the line, and four fifty-six gun ships, commanded by admiral de Winter. Duncan had sixteen sail of the line. Notwithstanding our superiority of numbers, the Dutch fought with their accustomed valour, but Duncan ran his ships between them and the dangerous coast, to prevent their regaining the Texel, and so battered them that they were compelled to strike. Eight sail of the line, two fifty-six gun ships, and two frigates remained in our hands; but the Dutch had stood it out so stoutly, that the vessels were few of them capable of being again made serviceable. The loss in killed and wounded on both sides was great. Duncan was elevated to the peerage for this victory of Camperdown.

Nelson, after the victory of Cape St. Vincent, was dispatched to make an attack on Vera Cruz, in the island of Teneriffe. The attempt was made in July, but was one of the most unfortunate affairs in which he ever was engaged. His force was wholly unequal to the enterprise, and resulted in the loss of two hundred men, and of his own arm. In the West Indies our troops still continued to perish in great numbers, from the unhealthy posts which they had to occupy. Some attempts were made on the Spanish islands, and Trinidad was taken by admiral Harvey, supported by general Abercromby; but in a similar attempt on Porto Rico, they were not successful.

On the 10th of February of this year, a descent of French was made on the Welsh coast, which created much alarm at the time, and no less speculation as to its meaning. Four armed vessels, containing about fourteen hundred men, had appeared in the British channel, off Ilfracombe, in north Devon. They did not attempt to land there, but stood over to the Welsh coast, and landed in a bay near Fishguard. They were commanded by a general Tate, and commenced marching inland, and the whole country was in alarm. Lord Cawdor marched against them with three thousand men, including a considerable body of militia, and they at once laid down their arms, and surrendered without a shot. Many were the conjectures as to the object of this descent, and historians have much puzzled themselves about a matter which appears plain enough. The men looked ragged and wild, more like felons than soldiers, and were apparently not unwilling to be made prisoners. They were, no doubt, a part of the great Brest fleet meant for Ireland, which had been driven about by the tempests ever since they quitted that port on the 17th of December, and were only too glad to set foot on any land at all, and probably were by this time so famished and bewildered, that they did not know whether they were in England or Ireland. Many of their comrades of the same unfortunate expedition never did see land again.

The opening of the campaign on the Rhine in 1797 restored the positions of the French. On the lower part of the river, Hoche, who now commanded them, defeated general Krey; on the upper Rhine, Moreau retook the fortress of Kehl, opposite to Strasburg; and such was the alarm of Austria, that she began to make overtures of peace. The fortunes of her army in Italy made these overtures more zealous; Alvinzi was defeated at Rivoli on the 14th of January, and Provera soon after surrendered with four thousand men, and Wurmser capitulated at Mantua. The archduke Charles was now sent into Italy with another army, but it was an army composed of the ruins of those of Beaulieu, Alvinzi, Wurmser, and Davidowich, whilst it was opposed by the victorious troops of Buonaparte, now supported by a reinforcement of twenty thousand men under Bernadotte. The archduke, hampered by the orders of the Aulic council in Vienna, suffered some severe defeats on the Tagliamento in March, and retreated into Styria, whither he was followed by Buonaparte. But the danger of a rising in his rear, where the Austrian general Laudon was again collecting numerous forces, induced Buonaparte to listen to the Austrian terms for peace. The preliminaries were signed on the 18th of April at Leoben, and Buonaparte, to bind the emperor to the French cause, and completely to break his alliance with England, proposed to hand over to the Austrians the territory of Venice. This admirable ally of ours, on whom we had expended so much good cash, eagerly snatched at the offer, and a secret article to that effect was included in the treaty. This being effected, Buonaparte hurried back to seize and bind the promised victim. He took a severe vengeance on the people of Verona, who had risen against the French in his absence, and then marched to Venice, where, under pretence of supporting the people in their demands for a republic, he put down the doge and senate, set up a democratical provisional government, seized on all the ships, docks, arsenal, and stores - in fact, took full possession. The deluded democrats, untaught by Belgium and Holland, were mad with joy at what they called their liberation; sung Ca ira, and danced the carmagnole with the French soldiers round the tree of liberty, little dreaming that they were already sold to Austria.

Matters in Italy now moved on at a rapid rate. All further pretence of regard for the neutrality of Genoa was abandoned. Buonaparte took possession of that city and its fortifications. French troops swarmed over the state; four millions of livres were levied on the aristocracy, and all who resisted were shot. He then scattered the troops of the pope, on the plea that he had not paid up the stipulated sums and fifteen millions of livres were ordered to be paid in a month, and thirty more millions in three months. There was a vast seizure of horses and cattle, and the Vatican was again ransacked of its most valuable statues, paintings, and manuscripts. No bandit had appeared on so large a scale as Buonaparte since Timour the Tartar or Gengis Khan.

Austria having submitted, and all Pitt's puppet allies thus having disappeared, he sent lord Malmesbury again to be insulted and dragged through the diplomatic dirt at Lisle. He arrived there early in July, and found the French commissioners most insolent in their tone, demanding the immediate restoration of every French, Dutch, and Spanish settlement that we had taken. The result was precisely as before - Malmesbury was ordered, in September, to quit Lisle in four-and-twenty hours.

On the 17th of October the peace betwixt France and Austria was definitively signed at Campo Formio. Austria ceded to France, Belgium, the left bank of the Rhine, including Mayence, the Ionian islands, and the Venetian possessions in Albania, both of which really belonged to Venice. Venice itself, and its territory as far as the Adige, with Istria and Venetian Dalmatia on the other side of the Adriatic, were made over to Austria without ceremony. The Milan and Mantuan states were given up by Austria, with Modena, Massa, Carrara; and the papal provinces of Bologna, Ferrara, Ravenna, and the rest of them, as far as the Rubicon, were included in a new so-called Cisalpine Republic belonging to France. Tuscany, Parma, Rome, and Naples were still called Italian, but were as much, Naples excepted, in the power of France as the rest. In fact, except Venetia, which Austria secured, all Italy except Naples was subjected to the French, and the regular process of democratising was going on, in the latter kingdom, for an early seizure.

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