Contents Back Chapter VIII Home Exmouth
Edward Pellew - By Parkinson, C. Northcote, London, 1934
CHAPTER VII - Mutiny
It is a great error to suppose that the lower orders are always right in their complaints, and the higher orders always in the wrong. - The Duke of Wellington.
(184) ALTHOUGH the action with Les Droits de l'Homme had occasioned very few casualties in the Indefatigable, none being killed and only some nineteen wounded, the ship itself had received considerable injury. At Plymouth she was taken into dock, and her refitting was not completed until the beginning of March 1797. On the 2nd of that month, Pellew took his ship to Falmouth and collected his squadron there. He had at last succeeded in getting his brother Israel appointed to a frigate under his command, the Greyhound. This frigate, with La Revolutionnaire and the Argus lugger, and later the Sally cutter, made up the whole of his force. The squadron sailed in a hurry on the 4th, under orders to seek a French frigate squadron seen off the Land's End, but returned to Falmouth in a few days without having caught the intruders.
Lord Bridport was by this time already off Brest with the Channel fleet, and Pellew feared that he would soon be put under Bridport's orders and made to perform arduous and unprofitable service with the inshore squadron. He accordingly wrote to Spencer on the 10th, as soon as he had returned to Falmouth, begging to be sent elsewhere and, not for the first time, pleading poverty. He suggested that the French did not meditate any further expeditions from Brest and that watching the port was no longer necessary. Lord Spencer was not sympathetic.
I received yesterday your letter of the 10th and am sorry you have had an uselefs Trip to the Coast of Wales, which we had attempted to prevent as soon as we were informed that the Alarm was groundlefs, but were too late. There were so many Frigates from different Ports cruising on the same errand, that (185) it is very wonderful these Gentlemen should have escaped to the Southward. I have not however the least doubt but that the Frigates and Lugger seen by the American you spoke, were the same.
On the principal subject of your Letter, I am sorry that I cannot say anything more satisfactory than I feel my Duty calls upon me to do; the Naval Service, and more particularly that description of it in which you are employed with so much Credit to yourself is and always must be a Lottery, as to profit. Your Station from the opportunities it frequently affords of meeting with objects of Pursuit and Capture, has ever since I have been at the Board been looked upon by all the Officers in the Navy, as the most desirable in my appointment, and accordingly scarce a day pafses that I have not some application or other from Officers to be placed upon it; to all these applications I make it an invariable Rule to return the same answer, namely, that the particular destination of Ships can only be determined by Considerations arising out of the exigencies of the publick Service, and not from any of a more private Nature, and I really do not know (if I could with propriety change your Station or destination on any grounds other than publick ones) where I could employ you with a better chance for your gaining Emolument as well as Distinction and Credit. As to cruising more at large, nothing can be more pernicious, as you well know; the War with Spain has now been long enough made publick to put them on their guard and that harvest therefore is pretty well over, besides it would be impofsible to allow any Ship from the Channel, for the purpose of cruizing only, to go into the Limits of Sir J. Jervis's Orders.
Your conjectures about Brest are well enough found on the premises on which you found them, but we have very late and very authentick Information which materially differs from what you have collected and which will probably make it necefsary to keep a much stricter and more systematick Watch on that Port by the means of Frigates, than we have heretofore done this will probably cut out some Employment for the Falmouth Squadrons of the Description they have lately been called upon to fulfil, but I would not by any means have you suppose from thence that you will not be in the way of as much advantage and succefs as I am sure you highly deserve to meet with, and as I hope you will do me the justice to believe I sincerely am,
Dear Sir, with great truth
your very faithful
Ad'ty 14th March 1797
SIR ED. PELLEW BART.
Lord Spencer had, naturally, a more detached view on the subject of the blockade of Brest than the man who had most (186) of the hard work to do. As to there being no more profitable station than the Channel, it may be assumed that Pellew knew more about it than Lord Spencer. On the other hand, he had other motives for wishing to leave the Channel. He loathed Lord Bridport, and he hated control of any kind. His plea of poverty was altogether disingenuous, or else the standard of wealth to which he thought himself entitled was remarkably high. Within six months of making this plea, his agent was bidding up to £7,000 for an estate for him near Plymouth. A poverty which allowed him to rent the Manor of Trefusis and yet have £7,000 to lay out in land can only have been comparative. That bid was not high enough to secure Moditonham, but it indicates his perceptible removal from beggary.
Before sailing again for Ushant, in obedience to orders, Pellew made another attempt to avoid falling into the clutches of Lord Bridport; but without effect. Lord Spencer replied with courtesy and patience:
In Answer to your Letter of the 18th I beg you will believe that I give you full Credit for the Motives on which you state what you do in it, but at the same time I cannot help feeling that you will yourself see the Necefsity that may occasionally arise for your being placed in a situation where you will come under the Orders of the Admiral commanding the Channel Fleet.
While the Enemy sent only small Squadrons to Sea, it was sufficient for us to keep detached Squadrons cruising, and they were better employed by being independent of each other, but as there now appears an Intention again of forming their Brest Fleet into a large Body, our Channel Fleet must also be enlarged, and being so cannot be kept up in Succefsion as the smaller Divisions of it have been; Quick and authentic information of what is doing at Brest becomes absolutely necefsary in such a State of things, and the only way that suggested itself for that purpose was the Plan detailed in your Orders; from this statement, I think you will readily perceive that you are not intended to be constantly under the Orders of the Channel Fleet Admiral, on the contrary, for the sort of cruising which that Fleet will be to carry on during the Summer, It will very probably be but seldom that you will meet, unlefs you seek him for the purpose of giving intelligence. As to a more profitable cruising ground, I really do not know how that is to be found for as I said in a former Letter the whole of that Question depends on an uncertainty, and I believe on looking back it will be seen that the greatest Prizes which have (187) been made in most Wars have been fallen in with from accidental Circumstances rather than any forethought for the Purpose, which I am inclined to believe most frequently ends in Disappointment.
In answer to your Letter of the 25th I will lay the application for the Exchange of the Persons mentioned in it before the Board, and if there is no material difficulty, the request will be complied with. I cannot help remarking on M. Lacrofse's letter that if he had commanded a Ship a good deal lefs superior in force to yours, it would have been very well; however, I think upon the whole we may feel pretty well satisfied if the Captain of a French Line of Battle Ship thinks he has done his Duty handsomely when he has been well beaten by two English Frigates.
Believe me Dear Sir
your very faithful humble Servant
Adm' ty 28 Mar: 1797
SIR ED: PELLEW BART.
The letter from Captain Lacrosse referred to at the end of the above letter was written in reply to a note from Pellew asking how many men Les Droits de l'Homme had carried. Most of the French crew had been drowned but Lacrosse himself had survived. The object of Pellew's request was to determine the amount of 'head-money' due to the crew of the Indefatigable.
Lord Spencer was adept at soothing and humouring the many difficult personalities over whom he had to rule. So that it may be believed that his letter to Pellew on this occasion was not altogether ill-designed for its purpose. On the other hand his theory stated here that the Channel station was as profitable as any, is open to criticism. Under the circumstances, it may well have been the correct thing to say. But it was not true. The best cruising ground for prize-money was almost certainly where Pellew had wanted to go - 'the coast of Portugal, with the circuit of the Azores, Canaries, and Cape de Verd' - which was in the station where Sir John Jervis commanded. And to Spencer's opinion that prize-money came by accident, Pellew might have replied: "How do you know?" The capture of rich prizes probably had an accidental air as stated in official reports. But Pellew, who was making a small fortune out of prize-money, may be assumed to have known how it was to be made. He possibly imagined that the presence of a frigate in the path of a Spanish register ship was not always as remarkable a coincidence as the captor's report might lead the Admiralty to suppose. However, all plans of (188) every kind, including those for the employment of the western squadrons, were soon to be upset by unexpected events. These events delayed the placing of Pellew under Lord Bridport's command; but they did not spare him the watching of Brest.
His appeal having failed, Pellew sailed for Ushant on April 1st, with the Phoebe, Greyhound, Argus, and Duke of York lugger. Lord Bridport was at this time returning to Spithead with the Channel fleet, and Sir Roger Curtis had not yet arrived to take his place with a smaller force. Pellew had apparently to bridge the gap, and was allowed, having done so, to return to Falmouth on the 15th in order that some of his ships might refit. The Indefatigable herself returned to the cruising ground with only the Phoebe and the lugger in company. Having taken two small privateers, Pellew came into port again on May 21st.
Meanwhile, unlooked-for events had taken place at Spithead. Bridport had returned there on March 30th, and his entire fleet had mutinied on April 15th. Before pursuing the narrative, some account of the causes of the mutiny is necessary in order to explain why the western squadrons were comparatively immune from the disease.
It is sufficiently well known that the mutiny was not political in character, and that it was occasioned by the too long continuance in port of the Channel fleet, for which Lord Bridport was responsible. The current misconceptions about it have arisen in connexion with causes more than with the occasion; and some discussion of the current ideas is therefore unavoidable.
To the general historian the temptation to prelude the story of the mutiny with some remarks on the press-gang and a description of the cat-o'-nine-tails seems to be strong. In fact, it seems to be irresistible. Neither institution, however, need concern us; for neither had much to do with the mutiny. The original grievance of the sailors was the inadequacy of their pay. Other grievances were added in course of time, and the movement eventually acquired a revolutionary tendency. This was only to be expected. But its political aspect was a late development, and the added grievances were more or less unreal. Too much has been made of the complaints about the provisions: By modern standards the food issued to the eighteenth-century fleet left something to be desired. But it has still to be shown that the merchantmen of the time, in which the seamen of the fleet would otherwise have been serving, (189) knew any better fare. Salt beef was as salt, beer as sour, biscuit as weevily, in the merchant service as in the navy. The owners and masters of merchant ships possessed no secret way of preventing butter from becoming rancid. They had no private means of preserving cheese from colonization. The only difference in this respect between the King's ships and those of other men, seems to have been that the former used lemon juice to prevent scurvy, whereas the latter did not. It is true that more than half of the men on board ships of war at this period were not seamen at all. But they were mainly drawn from the poorer classes and accustomed to a diet which was rather different from sea fare than superior to it. There was no way of keeping soft bread on board ship, so that this article of their diet had inevitably to disappear; while salt beef and salt pork was less of a hardship than might be supposed to those who would seldom have had meat of any kind on shore. No error has been made in describing the provisions in the navy as bad. But the merchant seamen knew no better, and the poorest landsmen were accustomed to worse.
It may be argued that the Government's promise of 1797 to increase and improve the sailor's rations was an admission of the mutineers' case. The Government, however, at that time, was ready to admit anything. The argument, besides, breaks down at another point. For there is no reason to suppose that the provisions were much altered as a result of this promise; and yet the mutiny did not recur. In theory the rations had been ample before the mutiny; and, again in theory, they were excessive after the mutiny. But it is to be doubted whether the amount actually issued varied very much. Few pursers can have allowed the sailor to have more than was good for him. And it is still more unlikely that the mutiny had the slightest effect in improving the quality of the food.
To grumble about the food is the privilege of those who feed at a common table; and it is natural that this complaint should have been made. But there is little reason for supposing that this was a source of mutiny; and less for supposing that the grievance was, or could be, rectified. The trouble originated in the inadequacy of the pay, and it is needless to look for other causes. This was the only complaint the Government redressed. Once it was redressed the mutiny did not recur.
To detail the rise in prices in 1795-6 which made the pay of the married seamen unequal to the support of their (190) families; to compare the seaman's pay with that of the soldier, and the merchant seaman's high war-time wage with that of the seaman in the navy - all this is needless. For our present purpose it is only necessary to observe that the mutiny began with a demand for better wages, and that the other grievances were a ritual adornment of which little notice was, or need be, taken.
The importance of this conclusion is that we have here the explanation of why the mutiny should have begun at Spithead and spread to the Nore and to Plymouth - and to everywhere but Falmouth; why, in short, ships of the line mutinied when frigates did not. If the mutiny was a matter of pay, it is easy to understand why the men who served in fast frigates were less inclined to mutiny. For it is clear that such men never thought in terms of pay. A frigate's crew thought only of prize-money. Wages were to them a secondary consideration. They did not want more pay. They wanted to be transferred to a more lucrative station. And as they and their officers wanted precisely the same thing, there was no need for them to quarrel.
At the same time, it must not be thought that frigates never mutinied. A mutiny, once started, is infectious; and few frigates altogether escaped infection. Some of them mutinied against particular officers, some followed the example of the big ships they were moored among, and all were more or less tainted. But the movement did not start among them spontaneously. Nor did it last for long. The thought of the few loyal frigates catching all the prizes was probably more than the rest of them could stand.
Now, while the Indefatigable and Phoebe were cruising together in the latter half of April and the first three weeks of May, the Greyhound and Argus were refitting at Plymouth. About the Plymouth mutiny little appears to be known, beyond that it took place at about this time. The Argus may have been involved. The Greyhound certainly was, and deeply. Israel Pellew was accused of tyranny and put on shore by his own men. Soon after Pellew's arrival at Falmouth towards the end of May, he heard of this, and heard that the admiral in command at Plymouth had asked Israel to resign his command. He instantly protested.
You will no doubt believe that I feel extremely affected upon hearing from my Brother of his unexampled and cruel (191) Situation by an infamous accusation not grounded upon any misconduct during his present Command but arising from a malicious and infamous report as false as wicked. I trust my Lord that you will consider his case as perfectly distinct and separate from the general causes of Mutiny held forth by the Seamen of the Fleet. He tells me that he has been called upon by Sir Richard King to wish to be superseded but that he has declined doing so. You my Lord cannot but see the impofsibility of a Man of Honour signing his own sentence and stamping himself a Tyrant to the World: he afsures me that he will suffer death before he puts his hand to such a letter. I most heartily and cordially approve his determination; the peculiar Circumstance of his Case makes me propose to your Lordship either removing all the Men who wish to go from the Greyhound and re manning her, or removing him to another Frigate. The Indefatigable's Ship's Crew who have bled in his Company will serve under him with pleasure. Your Lordship will excuse me for afserting that I see at present no other expedient by which justice and honour can be reconciled. The Dead cannot be recalled to give the lie to a report so heinous and so truly Malevolent, the Living have already done so by coming forward to a Man, after his Trial by Court Martial to entreat sailing with him again and you know my Lord that he applied to you for them.
Relying on your Lordships Justice
I have the honour to be with great respect
Your Lordships most devoted Servant
'The Dead' referred to in this letter meant, of course, the crew of the Amphion. The 'Living' may have volunteered to serve again with Israel Pellew, but they cannot have been many in number as practically the entire crew had been killed. Whatever the crime of which Israel was accused, there were few left beside his boatswain who could either deny or assert his guilt. He was probably innocent enough of any crime but unpopularity.
Once more Lord Spencer did not feel bound to oblige one brother for the sake of the other.
At the moment when several of the very best Officers in the Service have been subjected to Aspersions of the most unfounded and malicious kind, you need be under no apprehensions that the Complaints which have been made against your Brother can have produced any other Effect on me or the B'd of Adm'ty than that of the utmost Indignation ag't (192) those who have brought them forward. Not having immediately the Means of disposing of the Ship's Co: of the Greyhound, I cannot adopt the Plan you suggest at present but I shall feel it my duty to find a situation for Capt. Pellew on board some other Ship as soon as I can.
Believe me Dear Sir
your very humble Ser't
Adm'ty 3 June 1797
SIR ED. PELLEW Bart.
Sir Edward now protested more strongly, anything but pleased by the vague promise with which this letter ends.
I was this day honoured with your Lordship's answer to the representation I made to you on the Cruel treatment my Brother had received from the Malicious Crew of the Greyhound. It was not pofsible to believe that such an outrage would create in Your Lordships breast any other sensation than that of indignation and abhorrence - and feeling thus your Lordship has not hesitated in admitting the justice of his Claim to your protection that no future plea may be urged against his Employment in the Service wherein he has spent the greatest part of his Life.
I entertain no doubt of your Lordships intention and that of the Board's to do justice to all the Officers who have been so injuriously defamed - but as I have observed before to your Lordship, my brother's case is so perfectly separated and distinct from the general cause of Complaint, that the Crew of the Greyhound might with equal justice, try him a second time for the lofs of the Amphion, as exhibit so infamous a charge against him; on this account I am more particularly prefsing that his Character should meet an early Vindication, it is as necefsary for his honour as much as it is for the peace of my future Life. If the injured Character of an Officer remains unsupported by his superiors, Public service can no longer be the pursuit of any honourable Man. The Records of your Lordship's Board are immutable and however great the indignation felt by their Lordships may be, Yet any Change in the Administration of the Country would leave a New Board at full liberty to govern itself by the Records only and the Re-Appointment of Officers so unjustly and Capriciously removed may then become involved in a Question of state policy and be decided by the danger of reviving any subjects of that nature between the Government and the Seamen of the Fleet - viewing it in this light I can not but again call upon your Lordship most earnestly, but I hope respectfully, for your speedy attention to the Circumstances I have had the honor to state, afsuring your Lordship that not only my Brother's (193) future prospects in the Navy are at Stake but that my own can not but be greatly influenced by the measures taken respecting him, in the steps I may be induced to pursue myself.
I have the honour to be
with the greatest Respect
Your Most Devoted
and most Obedient
I do not mean to complain, my Lord, but had Sir Jn McBride been suffer'd to conduct the businefs at Plym'th I am firmly persuaded not an Officer would have been removed.
The unusual number of words separating 'I have the honour' from the long-looked-for conclusion, combined with the hint of resignation in the last lines of the letter itself, were doubtless intended to give this letter the air of an ultimatum. Respect, devotion, obedience and humility, when piled on top of each other in eighteenth-century correspondence, have an ominous aspect. They suggest that the writer is passing through the second of the stages in a progression which has been described as containing four 'loud, then cuttingly polite, then slaughteringly sarcastic, and at last, exceeding wroth.' But even the last stage in Sir Edward's annoyance had no particular terrors for a Peer of the Realm situated at a safe distance from the Indefatigable's quarterdeck. And Israel Pellew was not, in fact, immediately employed. It is very much to be doubted whether Sir Edward seriously contemplated resigning as a protest against his brother's treatment. Nor is it likely that Lord Spencer took the threat seriously. It was probably a ruse de guerre, and, as such, a failure.
Meanwhile, Pellew's squadron was in danger of extinction. One ship, the Greyhound, was now useless. The Argus was not again attached to the squadron. Worst of all, there were signs of mutiny on board the Phoebe, and in the Indefatigable herself. It will be seen from the following report that Pellew had not expected any trouble from his own men.
May 26th 1797
I beg you will report to their Lordships that Jn. Peter Nibbs, by birth an American, at present Cook of H.M. Ship under my Command & pensioner of the Chest at Chatham from having (194) lost an Arm in the Nymph under my command, has long been a Drunkard & riotous man and nothing but an opinion of his being harmlefs in other respects & humanity for his sufferings have prevented me from, long since, Trying him by a Court Martial. At present I have to complain of the badnefs of his heart, having found that he has endeavoured by all pofsible means for some time past, to seduce the Ship's Company from their Duty & allegiance. He is very desirous of being discharged and I have taken upon myself to grant it . . . . I have the honour to enclose the state & condition of the ships under my Command & to report them perfectly ready to execute any orders their Lordships may Direct & I am also proud to say that, Notwithstanding many temptations have been offered since here to disturb the harmony which has subsisted among us, the Conduct of the Ships Companies has been perfectly good hither too & I trust will continue so . . . .
What trouble there was arose simultaneously in the Phoebe and in the Indefatigable, shortly before the squadron was due to sail. Captain Barlow reported to Pellew that his crew had come aft and, 'in a manner not disrespectful' asked that their arrears of pay and prize-money might be paid. Pellew wisely granted this request, but must at the same time have been saddened by it. The Phoebe could only be paid at a King's port, which would necessitate her going to Plymouth and anchoring among the mutinous ships in Cawsand Bay. He could not be sure that she would return. His only consolation was the arrival of the Cleopatra. Although she had been at Spithead at the time of the mutiny, her crew had remained loyal to Captain Penrose, who had commanded the ship for three years. Penrose adroitly escaped from Spithead and brought the Cleopatra to join the hitherto loyal frigates at Falmouth. His arrival was welcome, both as a reinforcement to the dwindling squadron and as an example to other ships.
It may seem remarkable that the Indefatigable's crew should give their captain any uneasiness. The ship was clearly much less of a floating hell than most men-of-war. A majority of the men had served with Pellew for some years, and the close connexion of the ship with Falmouth had made it very much of a family concern. At normal times, punishments were exceedingly rare on board her. Pellew was hot tempered, and there had been a run of floggings during the days of gloomy bewilderment which followed the sailing of the Brest fleet; but the men must by this time have accustomed themselves to their captain's (195) temper. Moreover, if not exactly popular, Pellew was the best seaman in the ship. A captain who would remain at the masthead, when watching Brest during the winter, for six or seven hours at a time without eating or drinking; who would defy any man in the ship 'to a race to the masthead and down again, giving him to the main top;' such a captain was respected. To add to this, it must be remarked that Pellew was not a man to trifle with. He was the last man on earth against whom a mutiny was likely to succeed.
The explanation of why his men should have given trouble seems to be that the bad example of the fleet, together with the bad influence of the cook, emboldened them to state what was a perfectly legitimate grievance. Their complaint had nothing to do with the general cause of the mutiny. It was a matter of prize-money.
June 2nd 1797
I think it my duty to state to you for their Lordships Information that some little clamor took place among the people under my command yesterday upon the subject of prize money which however I was able to explain & place in such a point of view as satisfied them under a promise of my stating to their Lordships the Circumstances of the Case which they alluded to.
The Squadron under my Command detained & sent into port five Spanish ships of Different Sizes in Consequence of their Lordships orders to that Effect, they were all detained & sent into port before the Declaration of War against Spain took place, but it has been understood among us all, by an Authority not doubted, that the Ships so detained would be condemned as prizes & given to the Captors. At present no steps have been taken upon this head by the Courts & the cargoes of some, altho' perishable, have not been sold . . . .
Pellew was becoming cunning as he grew older. There was a time when the least trace of sullenness among the seamen would have brought his sword from its scabbard in an instant. He was still capable of quelling a mutiny by force; but he now knew when to argue and when to overawe. It is at this period of his life that a different side of him began to appear. His perfection as a seaman had long since become almost legendary. He was famous throughout England as a daring and fortunate partisan ; and the fight with Les Droits de l'Homme, the last frigate (196) action he fought, was undoubtedly his masterpiece in that kind of warfare. But while still known as a dashing frigate captain, he was already much more than that. His daring was already a mask to cover a sober calculation; and his 'honest bluntness of manner' was already a diplomatic weapon. He could still lose his temper; but he also knew how to pretend to lose it, and how, on occasion, to keep it. He probably answered his men's clamour on this occasion by pointing out that his own pay was five months overdue, and that he was anxious to get his own prize-money as well as theirs. Whatever he said had the proper effect, and he was able to sail on June 4th, with the Cleopatra and the Duke of York lugger in company.
By this time, the mutiny in the Channel fleet was over, and Lord Bridport was once more off Brest with fifteen or sixteen sail of the line. Pellew, to his intense disgust, was now under Bridport's orders. Although the antipathy between himself and Bridport was mutual, the annoyance on this occasion was his alone. Bridport was anything but annoyed. He regarded Pellew's arrival with deep satisfaction. It gave him what he had been wanting for months - an opportunity for bringing the partisan to heel.
Bridport's detestation for Pellew requires explanation. It was not personal, in that the two men had hardly met. Like most naval feuds, it was a matter of prize-money. As long as Warren, Pellew, Saumarez, and their like, were given separate commands in the Channel, very little profit came to the commander-in-chief. Frigates under Admiralty orders did not share profits with flag-officers. Now, avarice was Bridport's peculiar weakness. His large fortune, based on what he acquired by marrying two heiresses in succession, would have been larger still but for Pellew. The continual presence of the Falmouth squadrons both literally and figuratively to windward of him was the commander-in-chief's perpetual grievance.
But while Bridport's opinion of Pellew can be traced fairly directly to his avarice, it must not be thought that he was singular in this respect. His captains were in hearty agreement with him on the subject. So, for that matter, was his successor St. Vincent. Earl St. Vincent's contempt for Bridport was boundless, but if he agreed with him on any single point it was in disapproval of the western commodores. He thought Sir John Borlase Warren 'a mere partisan, preferring prize-money to the public good at all times.' It was long before he thought any better of Pellew. He (197) was, of course, partly justified. That the frigate captains intended to feather their nests is not in dispute. It is not proved, however, that they neglected their duty in doing so. Their most serious fault was rather in quarrelling with each other over prize-money. It is nevertheless proper to remember that Bridport was not alone, nor entirely mistaken in regarding Pellew with suspicion. And if he erred, it was in good company.
On arriving off Brest with his depleted squadron, Pellew reconnoitred the port several times, being chased off by an advanced squadron which the French had stationed in Bertheaume Bay for that purpose. On June 7th this squadron prevented him from seeing more than enough to convince him that there were sixteen or twenty ships in the outer road. But a second reconnaissance on the 11th resulted in his being able to report that the place contained fourteen sail of the line, including three three-deckers, with four frigates. After attempting for some days to obtain a closer view of the enemy fleet, he sent his lugger to report to Lord Bridport, whose fleet was out of sight to the westward. The lugger returned without having found the fleet. After a second attempt to get in touch with Bridport, Pellew, on June 24th, sent the lugger to England. That evening, the fleet reappeared, and his lordship wanted to know by what authority Pellew had dared to send home any vessel belonging to his, Bridport's, command ? Pellew countered by begging to be informed in future before the fleet should leave its rendezvous.
Suspiciously soon after this passage of arms, Bridport offered to give Pellew the command of a ship of the line. It may be assumed that the ship he offered was in a state of mutiny, and that he wanted Pellew to restore order. Or perhaps he wanted to bring Pellew more immediately under his orders. Whatever the hook may have been, the bait was not swallowed. The refusal was, in its way, a diplomatic masterpiece. Its honeyed termination shows that new side of Pellew which middle-age and experience was bringing to light. Even had the bait been tempting, which it was not, the fish had grown wary and difficult to catch.
Indefatigable, off Brest July 1 1797
I am much flattered by the interest your Lordship takes in my welfare, and can not but feel very thankful for the (198) suggestions Your kindness offers to my Consideration, which I am well aware originate in the best motives; but it has long been my determination, my Lord, to serve the War out in my present Command, unlefs unexpected events should arise to draw me from my purpose, at present I am more than ever confirmed in these sentiments, it would be presumption in me, after the late deplorable Commotions in the Service, to believe I could succeed in gaining the confidence of a disorganized ships Company, when I am not certain of retaining for a single day, the Confidence of those I have now Commanded near five years. In fact, My Lord, I most sincerely hope a speedy Peace will return us all to an honourable retreat, all satisfaction, all inducement to honourable exertion, and all confidence is at an end. The Wisdom of Ages, I fear will not retrieve that wonderful, and unjust, sacrifice of the Officers, which has been so unnecessarily acceded to; and even encouraged. Such feelings do not afford the hope of satisfaction in any Command, but whenever I shall serve in a ship of the Line, I have long Cherish'd the Ambition of being under your Lordships Command; from motives both of great public respect, and private Esteem which have been so long the sentiments of Your Lordships
and most Devoted and Respectful
As if to justify his doubts of the loyalty of his men, the crew of the Indefatigable came aft two days later and demanded their head-money for Les Droits de 1'Homme, which had not yet been paid them. As their manner was respectful, Pellew passed on their request to Lord Bridport, as coming from the 'Ship's Company whose orderly Conduct & loyalty have steered them peaceably thro' all the Circumstances of the late Commotion.' By this time, all traces of sullenness among the Indefatigable's men had gone - although they would probably not have made this request but for the bad example of other ships. The arrival of the Phoebe from Plymouth, where her crew had refused to join the still mutinous crews around them, did much to create a better spirit.
On July 10th, Sir John Borlase Warren appeared with his squadron to relieve Pellew. Warren had a far stronger force, much better suited for watching Brest. Besides La Pomone, Artois, Jason, Anson, and Triton, frigates, and a brig, he had three sail of the line under his orders. This was more than enough to keep the squadron in Bertheaume (199) Bay from attempting to prevent his reconnaissance. Pellew went on board Warren's ship, La Pomone, to give his successor the news, and then sailed for Falmouth with the Cleopatra, Phoebe and the lugger.
Pellew was not at Falmouth for long before Lord Bridport wished to know the cause of his delay in rejoining the fleet. One cause of delay must have gone far to console Pellew for having to return to bondage. For Captain Penrose was forced to resign his command through ill-health, and Pellew succeeded in getting his brother appointed to the Cleopatra in his place. La Revolutionnaire was at this time placed once more under his command, and Pellew was glad to have Frank Cole with him again. In his letter to Bridport explaining his reasons for delay, Pellew took the opportunity of sending the news.
. . . We had yesterday news of Lord St. Vincent being anchor'd in Cadiz Road from whence the Spanish Fleet had fled up the Caracas. His Lordship Bombarded the Town on the 7th, with considerable effect, chiefly by Gun boats under the direction of Sir H. Nelson, the Culloden was said to be the only ship much damaged and it is said the Spaniards had offered 15 Million Dollars to spare the Town. The project for Peace on both sides has been rejected, parties at Pans run very high and every moment threatens some violent Convulsion from which however most people look forward in the hopes of Peace. . . .
Indefatigable Falm. July 29th 1797.
Pellew sailed from Falmouth on August 2nd and returned to his hated task off Brest. On the 8th - moved perhaps by envy of Warren - he asked Bridport for two ships of the line to reinforce him. The request was not complied with. It would have been rather remarkable had the result of this appeal been different. For Pellew had hardly joined the fleet before Bridport was wanting to know why some trifling incident on board La Revolutionnaire had not been reported to him. And his lordship may not have been much pleased by Pellew's prompt retort that Cole was not at that time under Bridport's orders.
The situation was becoming intolerable. Luckily, the expected 'violent Convulsion' at Paris had taken place. A temporary change in the French administration led to the cancelling of the project for using the Brest fleet for another attempt on Ireland. Instead, that fleet was dismantled and unmanned. It was now literally true, as Lord Hood (200) wrote at this time, that 'neither this Country or France' had 'any plan of offensive operations going forward.' Consequently, Bridport decided to return to Torbay, and there, on August 25th, Pellew joined him. Foreseeing that he would probably be kept at the station off Ushant still more constantly now that Bridport was in harbour, Pellew wrote asking Lord Spencer for employment elsewhere. He wrote urgently from Falmouth, where he had called on his way to the fleet; and the reply reached him soon after he reached Torbay.
If we were at present stronger in Frigates I should undoubtedly be very glad to employ the Indefatigable in pleasanter Service, but as that is not the case, we are under the Absolute Necefsity, at least for a while, of keeping you under Ld Bridport's Orders, and I cannot without impropriety interfere at all in the detail of the Arrangements he may judge it proper to make of the Ships under his command. I did rather suppose that he will not immediately send you off Brest on your joining him as he has recalled Sir J. Warren to that station but I cannot exactly say what will be his determination upon this.
I am Dear Sir with great truth
your very faithful
Adm'ty 25th Aug: 1797
Pellew was furious, but refrained, nevertheless, from writing to Lord Spencer again at that time. He contented himself with sending Spencer's letter to Lady Pellew, accompanied by suitable comments. His wife's reply, written on the back of the First Lord's note, was characteristic. It is doubtful, however, whether her attempts to console him were very successful.
. . . I trust at least as there will be no prizes so there will be no Bloody Bones - from Lord Spencers Letter you will see there is no hopes of your release speedily so pray My dear Edward compose yourself and Bear your Fate . . . it is all I have no doubt for the best . . . .
His release came more quickly after this 'Mortification' than might have been expected. Either Lord Spencer's prediction that Warren was to be sent off Brest was accurate; or, more probably, Bridport received a hint from the Admiralty that he had driven Pellew to the verge of mutiny, and that it would be advisable to release him. However (201) this may have been, Pellew was given charge of a convoy on September 22nd and sailed from Torbay with thirty-four sail. He lost most of these ships after passing Finisterre and arrived at Madeira with only half a dozen, on October 1st. A fortnight later, off Teneriffe, he took a French corvette brig, put the prisoners on board a Spanish fishing-boat, and sent the prize to England. Ten days afterwards, on the 25th, he took a large privateer out of Bayonne and brought her into Falmouth on November 15th. Then he went to refit in Cawsand Bay.
That winter of 1797-8 was chiefly spent by Pellew in making a survey of St. Mary's Road, Scilly, and reporting on its advantages as an anchorage for the Channel fleet, and as a base for watching Brest and defending Ireland. He went there in December and made his report on the 24th of that month. The report was favourable, and there was a great deal of discussion arising from it. Nothing, however, was done.
The spring of 1798 saw Pellew regularly stationed off Scilly, with two or three frigates and a brig in company. Lord Spencer's intentions concerning him were expressed in a memorandum written at the beginning of February:
. . . Sir Edward Pellew's squadron to continue at and about Scilly and the Land's End under orders occasionally to stretch over to Ushant for information, and to intercept and destroy or capture anything that may be moving in that neighbourhood.
[N.R.S. Vol. xlviii.]
This was a kind of service for which Pellew was well suited, and he had considerable success in taking privateers. He took three in January alone, and a number of others fell to him during the spring and summer. Otherwise, this period in his life was uneventful. His squadron was alternately off Scilly, Ushant and Cape Ortegal, when at sea; and it was based, as hitherto, on Falmouth. One event worthy of record, was his capture of the Vaillante French national corvette on August 8th. That vessel was bound from Rochefort to Cayenne, carrying a number of deported convicts. Among the prisoners were twenty-five priests, political offenders, who were cruelly treated on board the Vaillante, being confined in a very narrow space with an equal number of ordinary criminals. Pellew at once set the priests at liberty and treated them with great consideration. He sent them to England with the prize, in charge of a prize-crew composed of Irish Catholics, who knelt to the priests as (202) they came on board. His motive in thus getting rid of the worst characters in his ship may have been less altruistic than the gratified priests supposed. But his reward, if easily earned, was such as he was little likely to appreciate; for some of the priests, who were established in a monastery in Dorset, prayed for him daily henceforward. To so staunch a protestant this would have been a source of alarm. He did not, however, hear of it until long afterwards.
A more profitable prize than La Vaillante had fallen to Pellew much earlier in the year. Reference to it will be found in the following letter written to his friend Alexander Broughton.
MY DEAR FRIEND
The last letter I received from you and the subject of my return to it would I think have induced my valued friend to have written me before this had not some particular reason kept you silent. I am therefore anxious to hear if you are well, and if your good little Wife is well. I hope the sad lofs she has experienced has not produced any bad effects upon her health and I am doubtful also if you may not be experiencing an attack from that old and inveterate Enemy which has so persecuted you through Life, and perhaps you are at this moment lamenting your hard fate. But indeed none of your family can be more grieved at it than I am if it be so which I very much fear from your having escaped for these several Winters - that bleak Northern County is I fear too much for you. And I think you were always the better for changing your situation frequently. If however you have escaped sicknefs and Mrs B. is well - I shall soon expect to hear from you - how you are going on - and that you will give me some good advice What I shall do with My dear Boys about whom I wrote you in my last - they are really fine Boys - and will I trust do well - but I fear where they are they will lose all sort of polish and be mere scholars if not pedants. I have had some sort of good luck since I heard from you in the Privateer way, and a sort of doubtful Capture of a Ship worth 70 or 80 thousand from Batavia - an Eighth Salvage we are sure of and a Chance for the Whole - which would give me 5 or 6000. We are ready for Citizen Bonaparte whenever he likes, and as I have given up my pay for the War towards its expenses I of course wish it soon over. We shall lick them Hellishly. The old Dons had sailed but are gone back again - they are trying to effect a junction with ab't 20 Sail from Toulon and get to Brest, if they succeed they will number at least 60 Sail of the Line - never fear, we shall have 60 as good besides the old Indefatigable.
(203) Let me hear from you very soon, My dear Alex - and direct to Scilly Via Penzance. Present me most affectionately to Mrs. B. and her dear Brood and always consider me most truly and with the most fervent friendship and regard,
Indefatigable off St. Ives
March 12th 1798
Soon after this letter was written, Pellew was deprived of one who was, with Broughton, one of his oldest friends. Frank Cole died that spring, to his friend's bitter grief, and Pellew was left to condole with the surviving brothers, the elder who was rector of Exeter College, and Christopher, the younger, whom he befriended and brought forward in the navy.
Mention must now be made of certain other friends. Bergeret, the captain of La Virginie, had become a friend of Pellew's while his guest during a short period immediately after his capture. It will be remembered that the Government sent Bergeret back to France to arrange his own exchange for Sir Sidney Smith; and that he had to return without having effected the exchange. Since that time he had been on parole. But early in 1798, the Government put him and many other French officers in prison, either because some of them had broken their parole or because English prisoners were so treated in France. The treatment accorded to Sir Sidney Smith was in itself sufficient to justify this proceeding. The following extract from a newspaper of the period shows how real the friendship between Bergeret and Pellew had become.
A few weeks since, about 140 French officers, who had been on their parole, were conducted to Stapleton prison, near Briftol, in confequence of orders from Government; among them was M. Bergeret, late Captain of La Virginie, a large French frigate taken in April 1796, by Sir Edward Pellew, after a severe well-fought action on both sides . . . As soon as Sir Edward heard of M. Bugeret's confinement, he wrote to the Mafter of the Bufh Tavern, and defired he would wait on the French Officer, deliver a letter which he inclofed, and in his name to supply him with money and any other comfort or accomodation he could conveniently afford him. He accordingly repaired to the prifon with the money. Capt. Bergeret exprefsed himself infinitely grateful for the attention and kindnefs of Sir Edward, but declined the money, of which he was in no want.
(204) Bergeret's sufferings in Stapleton prison were soon to end. Sir Sidney Smith had escaped from prison in Paris and reached London in May 1798, and it was decided to make a generous gesture by releasing Bergeret, who accordingly returned soon afterwards to France.
In the following letter there is reference to two other friends - Captain Schanck, the ship-designer and centre-board enthusiast; and Richard Broughton, the 'Dick' of these pages, a young relative of Alexander Broughton whom Pellew had taken on his quarter-deck.
June 2nd 1798
MY DEAR FRIEND
By the date of your last letter which is now before me I am deserving some reproach for neglecting you so long, but as you have therein set my heart at ease with respect to Meares I went to sleep satisfied that whatever [interruption] might happen in our Correspondence none could happen to our friendship - I would have you as soon as pofsible make up your mind to the lofs of your property in his hands. I don't believe you will ever receive one penny, he has no more West India Estates than I have, indeed my dear Alex your unsuspecting heart has led you into a scrape, but from your story I think the Rascal may be tried for swindling and sent to Botany which is a very proper place for him. I shall now answer your questions about Dick; he is rated from the 1st of March Mid - before that Vol'r of the first Clafs; with wages 61 pr An'm - all his Wages and his Prize Money hitherto paid has been either rec'd by himself or carried to his Acc't Arr'd with his papa. He is the most extravagant Dog in Clothes you ever saw, a new Coat lasts him a whole fortnight and a hat a week but he is every other way a good boy and begins to attend to his Books. He is rather growing ashamed of his filth and has absolutely left off Sleeping in his dirty Table Cloths of Wch he used to make Sheets - his noddle used to be well stockd with German Ducks, and he has upon occasion planted a Colony on our Backs - in consequence of wch a Young Lady at our House (a brother Officer's Daughter) ventured to give a new Coat of Arms to the Broughton family and I send you the original. She was a sort of cher Ami of Dicks before but this brought on an open rupture by which symptom you will perceive that shame has begun to operate. He has the most enviable disposition and is universally a favorite and will one day make a good fellow.
Old Shanky and yr hble Serv't are as great as pickpockets. I can hardly tell you how we got together again - but I was (205) much flattered by some very handsome reports he made to their Lordships on my brothers Conduct . . . he did not know I could hear it and when I did I thanked him for it in my heart and we were friends. I question if it would have been so had I still cont'd his inferior in the Service but I had the start of him. We have since been extremely well together and he does me many favours for my Prisoners and particularly Bergeret, and you now have the whole.
I am heartily glad Mrs. B. has found a Companion for your little boy - but you must now give her a hint that the afsefsed Taxes upon Children are very heavy and next year the register of every Male Child born will cost 500, a female 100 - I shall therefore desire your utmost care of those you have but that we may hear nothing of breeding for at least 7 years. I hope your little fellow will do well - ours I have doubts about. Nurse lay on his leg - and partially diflocated the Ancle which our Conjurers of Surgeons never discovered until Six Months ago - and I fear he will always be lame, he is the last of the Brood and calld George, 5 years old. Pownoll and your God Son Fleet are still in Gloster and are remarkable good boys. Pow at present intends himself for College, Fleet goes to Sea - they are very forward in their books and extremely well taken care of, I am longing to see them and am much longing for Peace, and that we may be near each other I most sincerely pray. I begin to think I am old enough upon the list for something, a Yacht or Marines, what do you think; without something permanent I mean to be quiet at home, we have a clear 1000 a year and must rub on and thank God that we are not ostentatious and can walk to Church. We know nothing of the French for this fortnight past but I suspect they will not attempt England - and I fear they will procrastinate with Ireland until Winter and steal there in long stormy Nights and that we shall have another Years War; as the course you ought to take, I am clearly of the opinion that you should be quiet at Home until the Enemy are absolutely on Shore, then you should Mount your Horse and collect your Neighbors and lead them forwards En Mafse towards the Enemy - but they dare not come. And so My dear Friend God blefs you,
Your Wife and Cubs, Ever prays
Yours E. PELLEW
The sinecure to which Pellew thought himself entitled - the command of a royal yacht, or a colonelcy of marines - was not given him at this time. His seniority on the Captains List was to have a very different result. The plans for Pownoll's and Fleetwood's future mentioned in the above letter, were reversed in course of time, and it was the heir-apparent who first went to sea.
(206) His anticipation of a future French attempt on Ireland was amply justified by events. To the end of the war the French looked to that rebellious province as their potential salvation in the war against England. And in the same way the English never altogether lost touch with the Chouans in Brittany.
A month after writing to Broughton, the episode of the French priests took place, and a fortnight later Pellew took his ship into port.
With the arrival of the Indefatigable in Cawsand Bay on July 17th, Pellew's period of cruising came to an end. After refitting from then until the end of October, he was ordered to join Lord Bridport off Brest. He returned to the station off Ushant with a heavy heart, and all but lost his ship on the rocks almost as soon as he arrived, on November 9th.
. . . at 4 Bec du Raz S by E 5 or 6 miles, at 5 hove too, St. Matthieu's Light NNE ½ E 4 Leagues. a.m. at 2 Sounded in 50 fath's, found the Ship drifting to the South'd, at ½ past 6 saw the Breakers under our Lee & attempted to Wear, at ½ past 7 the Ship Struck upon the Saints, two minutes after the Tide floated her off, let go the small Bower Anchor, and brought her up with a whole Cable, Clewed up the Sails and out the Boats to Sound got a spring upon the Cable, ¾ past 7 sett Sail and cast the Ship to the Southward, Cut the Cable and stood to the SW clear of the Breakers, at 10 Bec du Raz NNE ½ E 7 Leagues. Saw a Lugger on the lee Bow. Made all Sail in Chase, performed Divine Service.
The divine service with which this episode closed was not a special service of thanksgiving. The 9th was a Sunday, and Pellew hardly ever missed reading prayers on, that day - whether in chase of a lugger or not.
The Indefatigable does not appear to have been injured by this accident to an extent requiring an immediate return to port. Pellew was off Brest, reconnoitring and reporting what he saw, until January 18th, 1799. On this occasion he found the work more profitable than usual, for some reason. He had taken half a dozen prizes before quitting the station and returning to Plymouth.
The following letter was written by him while on his way home on the 18th. It was sent to Broughton, who was manufacturing salt near Newcastle, Staffordshire. There are further references to the boy 'Dick', about whom there is a certain mystery. The Broughton correspondence was sent to Pellew's descendants after his death, by (207) Broughton's son. But the Broughton family was anxious to suppress certain facts concerning 'Dick', and many passages referring to him in these papers were carefully erased.
Altho I look back with shame and regret at the date of your last note brought on by your Eleve Dick yet I feel a sort of Conviction that you will not throw the offerings of your friend into the fire without reading. The truth is when I reed your note I was very much in the Dumps on being ordered Under Lord Bridport who had directed me to Watch and prey off Brest where I have been Nov. Dec'r and Jan'y in most delightful Weather - however we have weathered all storms and by God's Providence have escaped from Ship Wreck even by a Miracle - we have also been taking and re-taking a few small things just to pay the Mefs, and have been more fortunate in such a situation than any Man in the Fleet - we were ordered into Port this very day to repair a good deal of Damage and as She took a most delightful thump upon a bed of Rocks called les Pont des Saints, I believe we must look at her Bottom in a Dock for which purpose we are proceeding to Plymouth - and I gladly ask how you do and have even the impudence to ask you to answer me speedily that I may reply ere we leave Plym'th again. I shall also desire to hear every particular about your House and how the fire went off - Dick told me he believed there was no lofs sustained. I want also to know how your dear little Wifey goes on and the darling Cubs - when will the boundlefs Ambition of those French Monsters afford us the happy day of meeting either at your fire side or ours - it seems to me we get farther from Peace by every Victory we gain and I am sure the Tythe of our fortunes will very shortly increase to a Moiety in which case you must join your salt to our herrings that either of us may have a dinner. I have not heard from my Wifey these 6 weeks. She is still at Barnstaple with our youngest Lame boy, who is, thank God, in the fairest way of obtaining the use of his Leg again which has rejoyced us all very much. Your friend Dick is gone to Falmouth in a Prize, he is an odd boy and has slept on a Chest without Bed or Bedding this whole Cruize having lost his Hammock, but he is a good honest fellow. Speak of me with the warmest affection to Mrs. B, and ever believe me My dear Alex your most affectionate and faithful friend,
- so far I finish before we get into Port. Jan 18th 1799
That Pellew wished for peace is interesting, in view of the fact that war was proving highly profitable to him. The (208) prize with which Dick had gone into Falmouth was probably la Minerve, which arrived there on January 4th. She was a privateer of sixteen guns and 125 men, thirty-four days out of St. Malo, and had taken two prizes, both of which Pellew recaptured. One of these was the Asphelon, Captain Edgar, bound from Halifax to London with coffee and sugar 'said to be worth £60,000.' Although only a small part of this sum would go to Pellew, a part of what remained would go to his elder brother, and so remain in the family. Samuel, as prize-agent to two squadrons, Sir Edward's and Sir John Borlase Warren's, cannot have been far to leeward of his brother in worldly prosperity.
While still refitting the Indefatigable at Plymouth, Pellew received a thunderbolt in the form of a note from Lord Spencer.
The extensive Promotion of Flag Officers which His Majesty has been pleased to authorize me to make brings you so high on the Captains List that it is no longer consistent with the ordinary Practice of the Service that you should continue to serve in a Frigate: I have therefore given you an Appointment to the Impetueux as being the most active and desirable Line of Battle Ship which the Arrangement on this occasion enabled me to select for you, and I have no doubt but that you will in this new Line of Service continue to gain as much Credit as you have already, by the Acknowledgement of every one who knows you, obtained.
me Dear Sir
your very faithful
Adm'ty 15 Feb: 1799
SIR ED PELLEW BART.
The tone of this letter is so bland that the reader may easily miss its significance. It seems proper, therefore, to preface the other letters which passed on this occasion by an explanation of the complicated evils Pellew saw in this letter. The effect on him produced by these innocent looking lines can be compared, on the one hand, with the effect of a bomb; and, on the other, with the effect of a poisoned arrow. It had all the startling quality of the first and all the rankling after-effects of the second. The betrayal was unexpected and mean. It was an intolerable wrong inflicted in an intolerable manner.
Pellew's objections to this appointment were numerous and decided. He wanted to keep the Indefatigable. He did (209) not want a ship of the line. Least of all did he want that particular ship of the line.
With reference to his wishing to remain in the Indefatigable, care has already been taken to describe Pellew's position at Falmouth; so that it will be sufficient to remind the reader of that position and its peculiar advantages to an officer of an independent temper. The advantages of a fast and heavily armed frigate have also been described, and especially the advantages to an officer lacking independent means. This apparent promotion would deprive Pellew of the title of commodore, a squadron, a favourite ship, most of his income and much of his consequence. With these would go his reputation and his independence. From being the senior naval officer at Falmouth he would become a comparatively humble individual at Spithead. To Pellew a line of battle ship meant obscurity and insignificance, servility and boredom.
The profound disgust with which Pellew regarded the ships of the line arose not only from a comparison between his position at Falmouth and at Portsmouth. It must also be remembered that he had been a partisan for a quarter of a century; that he had never sailed in a ship carrying more than fifty guns. The idol of his young days, Philemon Pownoll, had died commanding a frigate. He himself had never thought in terms of anything larger. The tactics which absorbed the attention of men like St. Vincent and Nelson meant nothing to him. He had never given a thought to tactical problems. All his frigate actions were won by seamanship and gunnery. As for forming line-ahead, tacking in succession and the like, he had reached and passed the age of forty without ever performing one of these evolutions; and the prospect of performing them in obedience to the signals from a flagship appalled him. This is not to say that he was unwilling to interest himself in fleet tactics. He would have taken command of a fleet very readily. What he disliked was having to serve under an admiral's orders and study the subject from the point of view of a docile unit in an orderly procession. He hated control and spent a lifetime avoiding it. As a subordinate he was at once useless and wasted, and all the officers of his generation knew it.
His objection to the particular ship chosen for him was party based on a knowledge of the ship, and partly on a knowledge of its whereabouts. Regarded as apparatus, it was difficult to find fault with l'Impetueux She was (210) a French ship captured at the battle of the 'Glorious First of June,' and was thought to be the finest seventy-four gun ship in the Service. Her only defect was a mutinous crew. It was notorious. The whole fleet expected her to mutiny, and Pellew had been in company with the fleet far too long to be ignorant of it. Whoever took command of her risked his reputation, if not his life. Other ships were, it is true, in little better case; and the flagship of the Channel fleet was one of them. But the Impetueux was supposed to be the worst. Pellew knew why he had been appointed to her. It was supposed that he could quell the mutiny.
Then, as to the ship's whereabouts; Pellew knew that she was one of the Channel fleet, under the command of Lord Bridport. Even supposing he quelled the mutiny, he would be under the orders of a man he loathed. He disliked being under any control, but to be under Bridport was sheer torture. Of all the accumulated evils inherent in this appointment, this last was the least tolerable. His letter of protest to Lord Spencer gives but a slight indication of his feelings.
I know not how to exprefs my surprise on the receipt of your Lordships very unexpected letter; and had I conceived the intended arrangement of the Promotion could have affected my situation in the Command of the Indefatigable, I should have most earnestly entreated your forbearance, and shall now feel myself highly gratified if your Lordship will permit me to continue in my present situation, amidst Officers and Men, who have served under me thro' the War, and who look up to me for protection: I cannot at the same time that I exprefs my wishes, but feel very sensible of your Lordships attention to me in the selection you have been pleased to make, and if my request should not meet your approbation, I indulge myself with the Expectation of being permitted to remove with me such Officers and Young Gentlemen as I shall point out, and I confide in your Lordships goodnefs for throwing me as much into Active Service as pofsible. I have the Honour to be, My Lord
And very Hble Serv't
This letter is undated, but must have been written immediately after receiving the letter to which it is the answer. Lord Spencer's next letter was prompt, polite, and anything (211) but obliging. It must be remembered that Pellew had throughout the war chosen what ship he would, and manned it with his own followers, friends, and neighbours. Lord Spencer did not wish him to do this again. He wanted him to tame a mutinous crew. To shift the mutineers into another ship, to make room for Pellew's men, would profit the Service not at all. Spencer could be very friendly to even junior officers; but he put the interests of the Service first.
The arrangement by which you are appointed to Ship of the Line is one which considering your situation on the Captain's List cannot but appear very natural, and though at first sight it may not present to you as flattering a prospect of Service as remaining in the Indefatigable might have done, I think you will not on Consideration look upon it in the light of being laid up upon the Shelf. With respect to Officers (I mean Lieutenants) there may be probably some opportunities by degrees of removing some of them who have served with you round into the Impetueux, though I do not know that there are any vacancies in that Ship at present, and if you will send me a List of the Young Gentlemen (bona fide such) that may be fairly considered as your followers, I do not think there will be any objection to their remaining with you.
Your very faithful
Adm'ty 21st Feb. 1799
SIR ED. PELLEW BART.
Pellew controlled his temper with difficulty, still hoping to attain his end by fair words.
I am too much flattered by the Trouble your Lordship has taken to reconcile me to parting from my dear Indefatigable not to entreat your acceptance of my best thanks . . . near as it goes to my heart to separate myself from the People, who certainly for attachment have not been exceeded. Yet I will exert myself to be reconciled, and use my influence to render the Ship's Company so to their new Commander and I place implicit confidence on your Lordship for disposing of me to the best advantage. My thanks are no lefs due to your Lordship, for your accomodation respecting my Officers when opportunity offers - and I enclose a list of Young Gentlemen and some few Men who from Neighborhood and long Service with me I am very earnest to take and I flatter Myself your Lordship (212) will not think me unreasonable in asking this number over and above the usual proportion establish'd by the Board. I am my Lord with great Consideration and
Your Lordships Most obliged
and most Ob't Hble Ser't
Plym'th feb'y 24th 1799
Once more, the coming storm was forerun by studious politeness. It may be observed that neither Pellew nor Spencer mentioned what was in the mind of each. Not a word was said about the crew of the Impetueux. It was apparently nothing but sentiment that urged Pellew to go to his new ship with a bodyguard from his last frigate. It is to be hoped that Lord Spencer had not seen the letter in which Bridport was assured that Pellew was 'not certain of retaining for a single day' the confidence of the Indefatigable's crew. Had he done so, his reply could hardly have been more blandly unsympathetic.
The Custom adopted for some time past by the Board respecting removes from one Ship to another, does not admit of any Proportion of Men being removed unlefs in the Case where the two Ships happen to be together at the same Port, therefore the Persons for whom you apply (even suppose it should be pofsible to allow them all to be removed with you) will be the only ones which you can have. I am however rather in doubt whether it will be pofsible to permit so many Petty Officers to be at once taken from a Ship in Commifsion and in condition for immediate Service, without risking considerable inconvenience; more especially as it is probable that Capt. Curzon's followers, if he had any, may have been dispersed since the Lofs of the Pallas, and his Quarter Deck may by that means be left wholly destitute, which would not be proper. I would however recommend you to arrange the matter with Capt. Curzon when he joins the Indefatigable, and when your two Ships meet you may agree upon an exchange of a few men of respectively equal Qualities without its being the subject of an official Application. In the mean while with respect to the Persons you now apply to be removed, I will endeavour to procure an Order for the Removal of such of them as can be allowed consistently with what has been granted to other officers in a similar situation before.
Your very faithful
Adm'ty 26th Feb. 1799
SIR ED PELLEW BART.
(213) Apart from 'young gentlemen,' Pellew was prevented, in the end, from taking any one with him. And children were not to his present purpose. Little Cadogan may have been, and doubtless was, 'a delightful boy;' but Pellew's need was for petty officers of another kind. The official obstinacy which denied him the men he wanted, combined with the above letter, fired off his suppressed wrath with remarkably fine literary effect. He had seen by this time that Spencer was not to be moved by persuasion. So that nothing was to be gained by further politeness. And if his anger was unlikely to produce any better result, it could hardly do any harm. His position could not be worse than it was. He could risk writing in the third person.
On the 10th of Jan'y 1793, Sir Ed. Pellew commifsioned La Nymphe at Portsmouth, and equipped her by 70 Vol'rs raisd by his family in Cornwall, and brought to Port'th at his own expence; when the Ship was ready, he carried her by permifsion to Falm'th, where he entirely compleated her Complement by the same Means, and without any aid from Government whatever. He was permitted from Circumstances, afterwards to carry his Ship's Company into the Arethusa and Indefatigable, but after serving with them six years and upwards, he is on the 20th of February 1799, taken from his Command, against his inclination, and in a manner, he must say, very Contrary to the former custom of the Service, and without the smallest accomodation, placed in a 74 at Portsmouth, when five Ships of the same Clafs have been disposed of at the very Port where his Ship then lay; he hopes he may be pardoned for having considered, these twenty years past, all 74 s to be alike, and when the Article, which still stands a part of the Naval instructions, was laid aside, and a new arrangement made by your Lordships Board, respecting the number of Persons a Captain might be allowed to remove from his Ship according to her Rate; he little apprehended he alone would be excluded from its effect. He therefore does himself the honour to enclose Your Lordship, a few precedents appropriate to his case, wherein Commanders have been permitted to carry their Quota of men from one Port to another . . . .
Had the Boatswain of the Indefatigable been appointed to a Ship at Portsmouth, his servant by rule of Service, would be difcharged with his Master by pay Ticket. Sir E.P.- his Commander - is deprived of a desirable and advantageous appointment, after constant employment without relaxation for six years; and sent to a Ship at Portsmouth, amidst intire strangers and without being permitted to take One Officer, (214) One Man, or even One Domestic. It is fair then to presume Sir E.P. has no sensibility, no attachment, no feeling, that his heart must be adamant, that he can part from faithful, and attached Companions, grown from boys to manhood under him, without a sorrowful Countenance, or a Moistened Eve. He grants it may be thought so. But he begs to afsert the Contrary. And he dares to say, to those who think thus of him, that language does not furnish words sufficiently strong to exprefs his feelings upon such unmerited hard treatment; nor can time, however soothing on most other occasions, blot from his remembrance, Circumstances so debasing to the reputation of an Officer; to your Lordship he leaves the regret of having occasioned them.
And is with
Most Obt Servant
It does not appear that Lord Spencer was stricken with remorse on reading this letter. Nor was he mortally offended. When, in March, a further exchange of notes took place on the same subject, he contented himself with remarking coldly, over one of the details, 'it is impossible that the Board can know the wishes of an Officer who does not deign to communicate them.' Pellew's quarrel with the First Lord was not of long duration. His memory was very short; and that which time could not blot from his remembrance was probably forgotten within the year.
More sympathetic than Spencer was his predecessor in office, who would certainly never have played Pellew such a trick.
Hyde Park Corner, March 4th 1799
. . . I was of course extremely sorry to find (and not lefs surprised) that any change had taken place in your situation which did not accord with your wishes. When I think over, which I always do with great pleasure, the many honourable and important services you have mentioned, I should conceive there were few reasonable requests likely to be refused you, but the very moderate one of merely remaining as you were, seems very singular indeed to be denied you. As you very properly observe, your line is to submit cheerfully, and I have no doubt that in whatever situation you are placed, the Country and the Service will be benefited by your zeal and exertions. I have many acknowledgements to make you for your goodnefs in thinking of me, in the distribution of the Prize intercepted on (215) the way to Cayenn. In these days it is a most valuable one, as good Claret is very difficult to be had, and I really feel quite ashamed to rob you of any of it. I hope however we may drink some of it together, as your new situation will certainly not keep you so constantly at Sea, and at least we may have a chance of seeing you in Town.
My Dear Sir
Very faithfully Yours
Wine was the standard gift which Pellew invariably sent to his more influential friends. It was always acceptable, he was himself something of a judge of its quality, and he knew how to obtain it. He probably removed the claret before sending his prize-crew on board La Vaillante. Wine must be guarded as well as pursued.
Pellew left the Indefatigable on February 28th, at Plymouth, and came on board the Impetueux at Spithead on March 10th. On that day his commission was read; and on that day he wrote reporting his arrival to Lord Bridport, who was ashore. In course of time he received a pompous reply from his lordship - a reply little likely to soothe him.
Cricket Lodge, Chard. March 14th 1799
Your letter of the 10th instant, being directed to me near Bridport, Somerset, did not reach me so soon as it ought to have done if it had been directed near Chard, Somerset, as Bridport is in Dorsetshire. It acquaints me that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty had been pleased to supersede you in Command of the Indefatigable, and had appointed you to that of the Impetueux.
As the Impetueux is one of the Ships composing a part of the Channel Fleet, you will of course stand in the same situation as you did in the Indefatigable, by serving with credit, under my orders. And whenever my Flag shall be again led into Battle, the Impetueux will certainly be placed in the Post of honour, being fully confident that you will Perform your Duty and be entitled to my approbation, by your zealous support to me, and the Public, from your active and spirited conduct.
I have the
honour to be
your most obedient
(216) Most of this letter is, of course, ritual. The assertion that the Indefatigable had been under his, Bridport's, orders, may have contained a sting; and was certainly, in the main, untrue. And what the 'Post of honour' may have been is difficult to understand in that the Impetueux was stationed as stern most ship of the lee line as soon as Pellew joined the fleet. Doubtless Pellew would have a theory why the stern most ship of Bridport's fleet occupied the post of honour. But that can hardly have been the impression Bridport intended to convey.
Meanwhile the captain of the Impetueux was facing, and facing alone, a sullen and mutinous crew.
Some attempt was made on an earlier page to prove that inadequate pay was the original cause of the mutiny; and that idleness in harbour was the. immediate occasion for it. And it may well be asked why the Channel fleet was still in a state of mutiny when both cause and occasion had been removed.
One answer to this question must be that a mutiny, once started, is not easy to stop. One successful defiance of authority undermines all discipline for a considerable period. And when a group of men has secured a rise in wages by any particular method, the temptation to secure a further rise by the same method is very strong. It may also be noted that a minor cause of discontent had not been removed in that certain officers of no great reputation still held important commands. On the other hand, no actual mutiny was likely until the occasion for mutiny was repeated. No general mutiny could take place at sea. For no crew could be certain that the other ships were not loyal. The organization of a general mutiny demanded a co-ordination impossible to attain while the fleet was at sea. Even a single ship at sea was comparatively safe from mutiny as long as it remained at sea. For the men had too little time to prepare for it, and the two watches saw too little of each other.
So far the only aspect of the question dealt with has been the cause and occasion for a mutiny taking place. There remains another aspect, and that is the causes of success and failure. Mutinies often failed. And they usually failed for the same reason; namely, because a determined minority remained loyal.
It is necessary to consider, at this point that the bulk of a ship's company had been collected by the press-gang; the bulk, that is to say, of a war-time ship's company. A (217) majority, therefore, of the crew were serving more or less unwillingly. Their unwillingness, and the evils of the press-gang, need not be dwelt on. Both have been exaggerated. The modern state has abolished the press-gang by a process of making it less easy to evade, and this entitles the modern citizen to shake his head over the iniquity of a former age. He may also smile at his ancestors' simplicity in acting on a principle which is still universally admitted. But if his pity is deserving of pity, and if his ancestors' simplicity appears to be hereditary, it is still true that the pressgang is open to criticism on practical grounds. For it inevitably takes from authority the power of dismissal, creating the need for a method of coercion to take its place. As there are certain objections to using the death penalty too freely, this coercion must be either the cat-o'-nine-tails or some more subtle modern version of it.
Now, there are two classes of men for whom the cat-o'-nine-tails has no particular terrors - those about to desert and those about to mutiny. The convict who intends to escape in the night is not to be coerced by deprivation of to-morrow's breakfast. In the same way, men about to desert or mutiny are not afraid of the 'cat.' They think they know how to avoid it.
On the other hand, if an eighteenth-century ship of war contained, or might contain, a majority of men only susceptible to coercion by a fear which certain circumstances could suspend, it invariably contained a minority of men open to the normal fear of dismissal. It was against this group that mutiny had to strive, and it usually strove in vain.
The men open to the fear of dismissal were the volunteers as opposed to the conscripts. They had all joined for sufficient reason, most of them had something to lose in leaving the ship, and many had no other occupation by which to earn their living. The officers, from the captain to the youngest reefer, hoped to rise in their profession. There are practically no instances of officers joining in a mutiny. The warrant-officers were equally tied to their trade, and so were many of the petty officers. These last were open to the fear of disrating as well as the fear of dismissal. Lastly, the marines could be coerced in every way; and were less capable of earning their living otherwise than any other men in the ship. Their lot may not have been particularly happy. But they could not improve it by mutiny or desertion.
(218) There was, it is true, one offence for which dismissal was sometimes part of the punishment, even in war time. But the unpopularity of the offence, combined with the severity of the treatment preceding dismissal, was enough to prevent its wide use as an equivalent for the Chiltern Hundreds.
Enough has been said to show that, whereas all methods of coercion might fail against a majority of a ship's company, there was almost invariably a minority who needed no coercion or else were open to every form of it.
So that Pellew was not in an impossible position when he took command of l'Impetueux. He had a body of men on whom he might rely, even if he had brought none with him from his last ship; and mutiny was unlikely while the ship was at sea. His position was not enviable, but he might hope to get the better of his mutineers by watchfulness and severity. The last word is used advisedly. For just as he knew that the Indefatigable could be handled by tact, so he knew that the crew of his new ship needed a different treatment.
Pellew took command of l'Impetueux on March 10th,1799 at Spithead. He weighed anchor on the 18th and proceeded to Cawsand Bay. There he punished three seamen with twenty-four lashes each for insolence, and two others with a dozen each for drunkenness. This was only the beginning. From this time onward punishments were incessant.
By April 7th, Pellew had joined the fleet off Ushant. Lord Bridport arrived ten days later in a flagship which he and Rear-Admiral Pole - 'equally an old woman' - had reduced to a state bordering on mutiny. The fleet consisted of twenty-four of the line and seven frigates, besides the flagship.
On April 25th, Vice-Admiral Bruix put to sea with the Brest fleet, eluded Bridport without difficulty, and sailed for the Mediterranean. The English frigates lost touch with the enemy and left Bridport free to guess the direction in which Bruix had gone. He guessed that Ireland was the French fleet's destination, and, after receiving a reinforcement of two sail of the line off Cape Clear, proceeded to Bantry Bay to wait for them. As the French had gone in the opposite direction he naturally had to wait for some time. This period of waiting created a splendid opportunity for mutineers. The ships were not only at anchor but at anchor in a harbour devoid of attraction, without women and without drink. There was plenty of spare time and no temptation to make use of it in any other way. With such (219) facilities for idleness and comparative sobriety, Bantry Bay was an ideal place for a mutiny. It was hardly suited for anything else.
On May 25th the Impetueux went into Bearhaven Harbour, along with the Mars, Ajax and Russell, in order to take in water. While moored there, Pellew took the opportunity to paint the sides and black the bends. The punishments on board his ship became more frequent, however, despite any such occupation. On the 27th three men received a dozen and two more received twenty-four lashes, for disobedience, drunkenness, or both. On the 29th, four men were punished. And on the 30th the crew mutinied. It was on that day that the signal was made to unmoor, and the mutineers made this the moment for rising.
The following extracts from Pellew's report give the only known account of the affair.
It appears by various evidence that a plot has existed in this ship soon after her leaving Cawsand Bay, for turning the captain and such other officers as were obnoxious to the people out of her, under pretence of grievances which are called insupportable; and for the execution of this intention various times have been proposed and rejected. It was at last fixed, and perhaps accelerated, by the signal being made for the fleet to unmoor in Bantry Bay; when the conduct of the ship's company became marked with the most unexpected acts of open and daring mutiny.
The mutiny was not altogether unexpected, as we have seen. Pellew may not, perhaps, have expected it at that moment. The Impetueux's crew was divided into three watches; and, on the morning of the 30th, all hands were turned up, one watch to clear the hawse, the other two to wash the decks, which had not been washed for two days owing to the ship being painted. This was shortly before noon, and Pellew, after leaving orders with the officer of the watch, had gone to his cabin to dress. A few minutes after the necessary orders had been given, 'a great noise' was heard from the main hatchway 'and a great part of the Seamen came aft in a riotous and tumultuous manner.' The officer of the watch at once ran to Pellew's cabin, and 'reported the ship's company aft with a complaint.'
Hearing a great noise, I instantly ran out, and on my appearance the noise was much increased, the people, about two or three hundred, still pressing aft, and crying out, 'One and all, (220) one and all; a boat - a boat.' I asked what was the matter, and was answered by Samuel Sidney (1st), and Thomas Harrop, and others, who were foremost in complaining of hard usage, flogging etc., and muttered something about a letter to Lord Bridport, which I repeatedly and vehemently asked for, saying on my honour I would carry it myself, or send an officer with it. To all this there was a constant cry of 'No - no - no ! a boat of our own !' and the more I endeavoured to pacify them, and bring them to reason, the louder the noise became; many saying - Sidney, Harrop, and Jones, particularly - 'We will have a boat; d----, we'll take one.' This convinced me they were determined to go the greatest lengths, and was more than either my patience or my duty permitted me to bear. I only answered 'You will, will you !' and flew into my cabin for my sword, determined to support the King's service and my own authority, and to kill Sidney or Harrop, who were addressing me, and appeared to be the leaders. Happily that measure became unnecessary . . . .
When Pellew reappeared, sword in hand, the mutiny suddenly collapsed. Peake, the carpenter, had run below and brought swords for a few other officers who were on deck. Captain Boyce, of the marines had his sword with him, and there were a few marines at hand to add their bayonets to the available number of side-arms. With these, Pellew cleared the unarmed sailors off the quarter-deck, drove them below, followed, and seized nine of the ringleaders. The anonymous letter to Lord Bridport was found under the cable bitts. The crew returned to their duty and were set to clear the hawse, unmoor, and hoist the boats in. That evening the ships in Bearhaven worked into Bantry Bay. They rejoined the fleet on the following morning.
Meanwhile, Lord Bridport had heard of the arrival in the Mediterranean of the Brest fleet, and had, accordingly, to detach a part of his fleet to reinforce Lord St. Vincent. The Impetueux was one of this detachment, which sailed on June 1st. There were at first sixteen sail of the line, four frigates and two cutters, under the command of Sir Alan Gardner. But Gardner took four ships of the line and two frigates into the Tagus, as an escort for the Lisbon convoy, and the remaining twelve ships of the line went on to the Mediterranean under Sir Charles Cotton. It was to Cotton, on June 8th, that Pellew applied for a court martial on the mutineers. He had previously applied in vain to Bridport, and now this application to Sir Charles Cotton was equally unsuccessful. When the squadron reached Port Mahon, (221) becoming a part of the Mediterranean fleet, Pellew applied to Earl St. Vincent. He was refused. St. Vincent was ill and morose and would not even see him. The whole incident is shrouded in mystery, and the only evidence bearing on it is a letter written by Pellew to Sir George Grey nearly thirty years afterwards, in which the following words occur:
. . . nor have I ever ceased to be thankful for your kindnefs to me, when I was unfortunate with my Ship's Company, and could not gain a sight of that eminent Chief in whose confidence you lived. To your Goodnefs and liberal mind I was obliged for the opportunity of vindicating myself and the service, and should have been turned to Sea from Mahon, as I had been by Lord Bridport with a Ship's Company in a state of high Mutiny, from all which you relieved me at considerable risk to yourself. From that moment my heart was yours . . . .
The one fact that emerges is that the crew of the Impetueux was still mutinous owing to a belief that Pellew was not supported by the admirals. But Grey interceded with effect, and the court martial was held on board H.M.S. Prince on the 19th and 20th of June. Sir Charles Cotton presided, and Collingwood was a member of the court, which was otherwise composed of the captains from the Channel fleet. The Mediterranean fleet was not there at the time, Lord Keith having taken it to sea during St. Vincent's illness.
When the signal for a court martial was finally hauled down at noon on the 20th, three of the mutineers had been condemned to death and five to be flogged round the fleet. Sentence was carried out promptly. On the 21st:
A.M. at 9 Sam. Sydney, Will Jones and Thos. Harrop (Seamen) were hanged at the yard Arm and at 10 their Bodies were Committed to the Deep. Read the Articles of War etc.
On the 22nd:
A.M. at 7 made the Sig'1 for punishment. The following men were punished along side the Impetueux, Prince, Triumph, Formidable, - John Smith with 200 lashes, Law Rhodes, Mich. Pennell, W. McAram, Stephen Walford, 100 lashes Each.
On the following day, McAram, the sail maker, together with the carpenter's crew, Thorp and Smith, and Pennell, (222) Rhodes, Scott, Morley and Walford, able seamen, were exchanged into other ships. On that day the squadron sailed to join Lord Keith.
The hostile fleets in the Mediterranean rather queerly missed each other, and then the combined Spanish and French fleets left for Brest. Keith, reinforced by Cotton's division did not hear of their departure until August 8th. It was by then too late to overtake them. Pellew was sent with two other ships under his orders to discover whether the combined fleets were in Brest; and he was able to assure Lord Keith on August 14th, that they were. By the 16th, Cotton rejoined Bridport at Torbay and Pellew was once more with the Channel fleet; by September 2nd, that fleet was on its way to its station off Ushant. The weary task of blockading Brest began afresh and did not end, for Pellew, until the beginning of November. Just before sailing, he wrote to Broughton.
Impetueux Torbay Sep. 1st 1799
Had you been dead I do presume I should have heard from your unhappy Widow but as I hear you really are alive I suppose I must be a letter in your debt and then I know you mount your hobby and declare you will never write again to any great folks who have not regularly answered your letters. Now I know that I do not owe you any thing on this footing for I wrote you from Minorca a good long letter on the 26th of June three days after the Execution of my Vagabonds for Mutiny and that I was restored to quietnefs. I therein gave an acc't of our proceedings and if you have not received that letter I fear you never will as poor Susan has not received hers of the same date so that I consider that batch was lost. This being the case I dont know which of us ought to take most blame, me for not telling you how well I am after so long a chace or you for not inquiring after your old friend. I have my doubts if you may not be embarked in the secret Expedition to Holland. I trust your old complaints have not returned upon you in so early a season, tho' God knows it wears very much the appearance of Winter even in this rich part of the Country but pray my dear Alex let me hear from you as soon as in reason you think I ought. I very much wish to know how you are as well as what you are doing and how Mrs. B. does and all the Cubs - and pray have you finished the repairs of your House and can you receive us into it this Winter as I expect Leave before Xmas day. My Susan is here as round as a barrel. I hope we shall not throw doublets but she is excefsively large and lays in next Month-this is rather a take in (223) after a lapse of 6 years. Pownoll has been out thro' this long chace with me and likes a Sea Life, I am sorry to say, too well - he is a fine Idle boy but good parts - I have him under the care of a French Chevalier, my Companion a very . . . pleasant Man. Our eldest Daughter Emma comes from School this Xmas so you see if you had waited a few years I might have had you for my Son as well as a friend - but perhaps you thought you would not be able to lose so much time and I can tell you she would have tormented your Rheumatism a little. We are expecting to sail the first fair wind, but if we do not behave better than we have done I would not have you expect much from the Fleet - we are made up of blundering old Women. I dare not trust myself to speak upon our conduct nor is it proper that such a landsman as you should know any thing more than we chuse to communicate to you. Write to me by way of Plymouth and tell me all the good news pofsible of your family wch is worth more to me than all other News whatever. My Love to your Susan and Cubs, believe me ever . . .
your affectionate friend
The 'quietnefs' to which the execution of the mutineers restored their captain was comparative, merely. The Impetueux was never a happy ship. There was no more trace of mutiny on board her, but punishments were always fairly frequent. On the day the Channel fleet stood out of Torbay, for instance, one man was flogged with forty-eight, and another with thirty-six lashes, for attempted desertion; while one man received twenty-four, another eighteen, and three others a dozen each, for various offences of lesser weight. The Impetueux's punishment list was no longer than that of other ships of the line; but it was endless compared with that of the Indefatigable.
It is difficult to say what induced Pellew to take his eldest son to sea with him at this time. He may have hoped to cure him of wishing to enter the navy - or rather of making a career in it. But the lot of a youngster in his father's ship was not particularly hard. Pownoll all but certainly escaped all the bullying and privation the ordinary boy had to endure at sea, or, for that matter, in a boarding-school ashore. So that his choice of a sea-life is less extraordinary than Pellew's acquiescence in it. Considering that all naval officers were largely excluded from the innermost social and political circles by their not having been at school with the sons of the great, it is odd that one in the act of (224) founding a county family should allow his eldest son to be so handicapped from the start. But Pellew was blindly devoted to his sons and wanted to have them near him. Family affections often made him forget his duty to the Service. They may sometimes have made him forget his duty to the family.
The doings of the blundering old women off Ushant were uneventful. But before the fleet returned to port for the winter, Pellew wrote to Broughton again. This was on October 11th. The letter is incomplete, partly because it it torn, partly because a portion referring to the boy 'Dick' has been carefully erased.
. . . I wish you had rec'd my letter from Minorca, it contain 'd the narrative of our Mutiny: it was very serious and at one time I expected to have gone over board. But thank God neither my heart or sword faild me and with the help of my Capt. of Marines who luckily had his sword also, we cleared the QrDeck and drove them into the Bay where I followed and seized 9 of the Principals - three were hung and 6 flogged with 500 - and so ended our fight, ever since wch we understand each other, they think to find me always on my post - an act of oblivion has pafsed and we are quiet as lambs. They took prejudice against me ever since the first Mutinies, considering me the cause of preventing the Indefatigable from joining them.
Depend upon it we shall visit your Ship out of Dock whenever Peace visits the land, till then you may smoke your pipe and drink your own bole without interruption from your affectionate friend. I hope you like your House now it is out of Dock and will not think of repairing another while wages are so high and materials so dear, but if Mrs B. likes it no matter who finds fault with you. Pownoll chose a Sailors life ag'st my wishes. Fleetwood dear boy will go also in time, he is at his Uncle's near Cirencester fitting for Eton, at 12 I shall send him there for 3 years - before he embarks taking care to get over 4 years of his time, for Pown. I have a Tutor who lives with me and I pray God he may do well, he is clever and quick but idle and unmanageable. Emma is 15 at Christmas - too old for School and too young by 2 years for Life but she is a charming steady well informed Girl. Susan expects by the 1st of Nov. a Twin - we are waiting a wind 35 Sail at Brest and 43 ready or more nearly so and 2 new ones ready at L'Orient. We shall let them escape, be afsured again My dear Alex, adieu
Love to Mrs. B. & Cubs
. . . have you any confidence in our Dutch Expedition, I wish Ab[ercromby] was Chief. I then think Holland would be (225) relieved and peace follow this Winter. I wish we had Lord St.V[incent] with us - the fleet would be worth something to the Country . . . .
On November 2nd, the Channel fleet came into Cawsand Bay, thirty-eight strong, with five frigates, and the Impetueux was there for two months. Meanwhile, Sir John Borlase Warren watched Brest. At the same time the Dutch expedition was taking place. When it had ended, without a great deal of success, Pellew heard something of it from Lord Chatham.
Hyde Park Corner Nov. 14th '99
I had been till yesterday for a few days in Kent, or I should have thanked you for your very kind and obliging letter on the subject of my return home - I must confefs I am not a little glad to be once more on English Ground, as the latenefs of the Season had precluded all hopes of our further advance in such Country as Holland, and the re-embarkation of so large an army was, from a Port circumstanced as the Texel is, a matter of no small anxiety. I received your letter safe from Minorca and which gives me great satisfaction, as I had heard very unpleasant accounts of ye situation of your Ship, and in which nothing but your own vigour and exertion seems to have preserved you. I heartily wish, with you, that the French would be inclined to try their strength with ye Channel Fleet. I should have little doubt as to ye result, and unlefs they do, I fear you have in view many irksome winter Cruises, in watching them, and from which little is to be expected. - I will only add, that I am at all times happy to hear from you and most particularly of any succefs attending you, which I most sincerely wish you.
My Dear Sir
Your Very faithful
I have not tasted the Claret you was so good as to send me, since I came back, as it has not been very long bottled, but I tasted it in ye Cask and it then promised extremely well.
The Earl of Chatham's prediction concerning irksome winter cruises was partly fulfilled. But the following spring was to give Pellew a different kind of task. He too, before long, found that re-embarking an army is a matter of no small anxiety.