Contents Back Chapter XI Home Exmouth
Edward Pellew - By Parkinson, C. Northcote, London, 1934
CHAPTER X - The East Indies
'A man had better have 10,000l at the end of ten years passed in England, than 20,000l at the end of ten years passed in India, because you must compute what you give for money . . . .' - Dr. Johnson.
(321) IN after years, Addington often said to Pellew's third son: "There were three persons Pitt never forgave for their adherence to me - Lord Cornwallis, Sir Will'm Grant, and your father." If Pellew had gained a right to the protection of Addington, he had damned himself for ever in the eyes of Pitt. And it was Pitt who was in office. Since forgiveness was out of the question for one who had not only opposed Pitt with effect but come all the way from the Spanish coast for no other purpose, it may seem remarkable that the East Indies Command was not instantly given to some one else. No one at that time expected that Pellew would succeed in retaining it. Pellew himself was doubtful. He had, however, two cards to play, and he played them well.
He had, in the first place, a friend at Court in the person of Pitt's brother, Lord Chatham. And he had, in the second place, his seat in the House of Commons. It was this last asset which saved him. Pitt had used Fox and Grenville as allies in the attack on Addington but had not given them a share of the spoils. This sent them into opposition and made his position very unstable for a few months - until, that is to say, he was able to secure Addington's support. In those months every vote was of consequence to him. Now, if Pellew went out to India he might resign his seat. But if he was relieved of his command he most certainly would not. That much was evident, and Pellew saw to it that Pitt should not overlook the fact. He wrote to Lord Chatham and asked him to act as intermediary. In the event of his going abroad he would not only resign his seat he would also do his best to promote the candidature of any one Chatham should nominate. But he would not resign his seat until the eve of his departure. Throughout (322) June there were many rumours afloat as to who was to have the East Indies Command - Troubridge's name was mentioned; but it was generally understood by the middle of the month that Pellew was to retain it. Pitt had swallowed the bait.
Pellew was little disposed to trust Pitt or his henchman Dundas, now Lord Melville and St. Vincent's successor at the Admiralty, although he was assured by the latter in person, and in broad provincial accents, that he was not to be disturbed in his command. But they could not cheat him with any ease while he retained his seat to bargain with. There were rumours of his intention to resign and Mr. Cleveland began to canvass the borough on the strength of it. But these rumours were not substantiated until the last moment.
It was perhaps during the short interval between his arrival in England and his joining the Culloden, which was to be his flagship, that Pellew found time to write a small notebook of advice for his eldest son in the West Indies.
A gift from Rear Admiral Sir Edward Pellew Bart. M.P., to his affectionate Son Pownoll Bastard Pellew Esq. on receiving his first Commifsion as Captain of His Majesty's Ship the Fly, of 10 Guns.
From your affectionate Father to his Dutiful Son
Avoid as certain destruction both of Soul and Body all excefses of whatever Nature they may be, in the Climate you are going to you must use great Caution to avoid all the Night dews - and when you are exposed by Night never permit your breast to be uncovered or your neck exposed without something tied round it - Never stop upon Deck unlefs covered by something to keep off the Dew. It is equally necefsary to avoid the Sun in the Middle of the Day from wch, much danger is to be expected; it may at a moment produce Giddynefs of head, sicknefs and fever - take great care never to over-heat your blood by drinking or exercise - never go out shooting on any account or riding in the Sun and be very particular never to check perspiration or sit in a draft of Wind so as to produce it - altho it is so pleasant to the feeling it is almost certain Death. At night always sleep in Calico - be you ever so hot - it is a great security against the diseases of that Country. On your first arrival be extremely careful not to indulge in eating too much fruit - and do not go into the Water when the Sun is high. Take great care to keep your body regular and never pafs a day without Evacuation - the moment you feel your Body-bound take directly a pill or two of those you carry (323) of the size of a large pea. And should you ever feel unwell instantly take a strong Emetic or a good dose of Physic. If you are seized with a flux take directly a large dose of Rhubarb and apply directly to your Surgeon. Always wear a piece of White paper inside your hat. If you should take prizes I need scarcely recommend you to treat your Prisoners with kindnefs, but be very careful to keep safe and proper Guards over them - An Officer who suffers his Prisoners to retake his Ship can never recover the Stain on his Character.
Mr Wedderburn's letters will show you Who's care you ought to put your Prize Concerns in - at the same time ask them to let the Admiral's agent be joined with yours.
Be extremely Cautious and Correct in your Conduct. The first imprefsion of your Character will be formed from it and the companions of your choice; always endeavour to keep in with the Captains and Admiral as much as pofsible, behaving with quiet Modesty - you will always learn something in their Company and they will soon respect and esteem you.
Never become one of the Tavern parties on shore, they always end in drunkennefs and Difsipation.
In your Command be as kind as you can without suffering imposition on your good Nature, be steady and vigilant. Never neglect any opportunity of writing to your Mother Who deserves your utmost love and attention for her unceasing goodnefs to you and all your family. I hope you will believe I shall be equally glad to hear of you. I am sure you will never dishonour yourself or your family or the Service of your King.
In your Expenses be as frugal as you can. You know the situation of your Father and how many calls he has for Money and should you get any of your own to send to England I recommend your sending it to Wedderburn . . as the most secure . . . Be attentive to your person and drefs. Nothing recommends a young Man more to notice. If you meet Capt. O'Brien tell him I ordered you to ask his protection. Admiral Dacres will be as a Father to you, never fail to consult him and ask his advice on any occasion of difficulty. Take great care to examine all papers you put your name to and be satisfied of the truth of them and avoid any accident on this point, never sign a paper when bro't to you in a hurry - if it is one of account - but desire it to be left for our perusal. Get into a habit of signing your name well and [in] one uniform manner and at least once a Month look over your Ship's Books and the diff't Officers expenses - and do not pafs by any extraordinary Expense without strictly investigating the circumstance, as it is your Duty to be as honest and careful for the King as for yourself. Mr Hemming has wrote a recipe for some pills for you to use occasionally when you are at all Costive. I have (324) used them many years and found them safe and easy-do not fail to get a good quantity of them made up at Cookwortheys at Plymouth, to take with you and always remember to have the recipe back again and keep it in this Book.
Never fail to keep the Ships reckoning yourself and observe both by Day and Night, it is a great Duty for you have in charge the Lives of hundreds. I hope you will never from idlenefs excuse yourself from this sacred Duty and never lay down to rest without sending for your Master and together with him mark the Ships place in the Chart - do not let any false Modesty or Shame prevent you from this or asking his aid in working your Lunars - it is madnefs to do so in the extreme and must ultimately end in the ruin of any Young Officer who practises it.
It is hardly to be believed that this formidable body of advice lacks anything it ought to include. But if there is no loophole for error in it, Pownoll must clearly have failed to obey his instructions in some particular. For he lost his sloop on the Carynford Reef some nine months afterwards. The remainder of the notebook is appropriately filled with the details of his court martial - by which he was honourably acquitted.
When not guarding his eldest son's health by proper exhortation, the newly promoted admiral had many other affairs to attend to. Although he owned Hampton House for many years, he saw very little of it himself. The two months he was ashore in 1804 were chiefly spent in London and at Portsmouth. He was in London at the end of May and beginning of June, trying to retain his appointment. Once he had succeeded in this, he was busy in buying the necessary tropical kit, and all the apparatus needed to hedge the divinity of a commander-in-chief. The process seems to have been incredibly expensive, and his want of money must have been acute. By the beginning of July he was at Portsmouth.
The Culloden (74), which had been allotted to him since April 30th, was a famous ship for having gone ashore at the Battle of the Nile. She lay at Spithead, fully manned. As captain, Pellew appointed the younger brother of his earliest friend, Frank Cole. Christopher Cole, it will be remembered, had served under him in the Winchelsea. The Culloden was practically his first command as a post-captain.
On July 4th, at 8 a.m., Pellew's flag was hoisted and a salute of fifteen guns fired, and returned by the Royal William. Four days later came the real ceremony the arrival on board of the admiral. Such days do not often (325) happen in a man's life, and it is a proper instinct that makes the occasion a solemn one. The thrill of a first command can perhaps never be repeated. But if something of it can be recaptured in middle age, no ritual is wasted that may tend to reproduce it, Life is not so full of pleasure that such moments can be thrown away. On the morning of the 8th the ship's company was mustered and the ship herself prepared to receive the honour that was to be hers; then, with a ruffle of drums and the crash of arms presented, with due deliberation and dignity, the admiral came on board. Then, but not until then, did Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew apply for the Chiltern Hundreds.
The Culloden weighed and made sail, with a convoy of Indiamen, on the 10th. But before following her to the Indies it is necessary to follow certain events in England. Pitt and Melville had grudgingly allowed Pellew to sail, perhaps feeling themselves outwitted, and perhaps aware that it would be scarcely decent to supersede him at once. At the same time they probably intended to remove him as soon as they could. Chance put it in their power to take a more subtle revenge.
Within a few months of Pellew's departure Addington allowed himself to be persuaded to enter the Cabinet, on the plea that nothing else would satisfy the King. It is the one blot on a phase of his life of which he had every reason to be proud. Half ashamed of what he had done, wholly afraid of what St. Vincent would say, he tried to break the news to the old admiral on December 24th. He could not face him in person, and so he sent Sir Charles Pole as ambassador. Hoping vaguely to placate the man he was deserting he had made conditions on joining the Cabinet. If not admitted to the administration, the members of his Board of Admiralty were to be 'provided for.' This was the sop he could offer to St. Vincent. But what did it mean ? To 'provide for' St. Vincent himself was a matter of some difficulty, for many reasons. It was doubtful whether Markham or Tucker would accept anything on such terms either. Even Troubridge would not ordinarily have accepted a favour from Pitt or Melville - 'devoured with rage and chagrin' as he was. But in his case there was a difference. Like Pellew, he had a son in the navy for whom he desired promotion. And, again like Pellew, he had few scruples where his son was concerned. He was ready to take what was offered him.
The method devised by Pitt and Melville for employing (326) Troubridge was a masterpiece of cunning. It was decided to divide the command in the East Indies and give half of it to Troubridge. By this plan several happy strokes were delivered simultaneously. To begin with, it punished Pellew - particularly as Troubridge was to have the better half. Then, it might end in punishing Troubridge. In the meanwhile, it satisfied Addington how, it is difficult to understand. They were well aware that, whatever Addington thought, there was certain to be a desperate quarrel between two of St. Vincent's supporters - a quarrel, if not a duel. At one stroke, they filled the ranks of St. Vincent's friends with dissension, punished one if not two of them, and yet satisfied Addington that they were provided for. The move was a cunning one, from every point of view. That it endangered the whole of our possessions in the East was a minor consideration. One cannot think of everything at once. It is enough to put the most important considerations first.
Early in 1805 Troubridge set out, therefore, for India. He sailed with instructions to supersede Pellew in the eastern half of his command and take under his orders half the squadron in those seas. Pellew had hardly arrived in India before Troubridge, in the Blenheim, had sailed after him.
Although knowing nothing of this, Pellew fully expected something of the sort to happen. But any conjectures he may have formed on the subject were driven out of his head by another matter. Some days before he sailed he heard that Cochrane, who had taken his place off Ferrol, had accused the purser of the Tonnant of dishonesty in his transactions with the Spaniards. This angered Pellew both as a reflection on himself and as a wrong inflicted on a perfectly upright man. His efforts did Fitzgerald no good and may have made his own name even more detested at the Admiralty than it was before. This affair, combined with a fear that Melville would find an excuse for breaking his brother, sufficiently occupied Pellew's mind during his last few days in England. Once at sea he had other things to think about.
The voyage out to India was uneventful but for a call at Madeira which Pellew took the opportunity of making. The Culloden carried troops and escorted a fleet of some nine Indiamen, all of which arrived in safety. On reaching Indian waters, it was Pellew's first object to find Vice-Admiral Rainier. The search gave him some opportunity of realizing (327) the extent of the command that officer was about to surrender to him. He went first to Penang, working into the harbour on November 27th. Rainier was not there, nor was there any certain information as to where he was. There was much booming of cannon in salutes from Fort Cornwallis, and then the Culloden went to Madras. Arriving there on December 12th, Pellew found the harbour empty but was consoled with definite news that Rainier wished to meet him at Penang. Back to Penang he accordingly went, and he had not been there many days before the vice-admiral appeared.
It was perhaps while waiting for him that the following letter was sent to Broughton
MY DEAR ALEX
Before the hurry and usual scene of businefs of a Comm'r in Chief commences I must give half an hour to my dear and valued friend, and he is the more entitled to it as I would not oblige him in the request he made me when I was in Town, but whenever I return I hope Mrs B. and you will devote a Summer to visit us at Plymouth where you will have both the original and portrait. I afsure [you] my dear Alex I contemplate this expected happynefs with more than common pleasure and promise you a fair return. I think it would add very much to my Comfort if it were pofsible we could be drawn nearer each other by your moving more Westward - or we may be able to accommodate by (settling) about London. I should delight in a little spot on the Borders of the Thames.
We have reached our destination without accident and have felt the glowing heat of a Thermometer at 88°, how I shall hold out against such melting I know not, hitherto my health continues and I think it will if I am prudent, and when I tell you that I still continue flannel next my skin and have not yet tasted Curry or any made dish, you will give me credit for my intention of being so. I cannot say I am much struck with the Country and am often very angry with myself for being instrumental to my leaving England and think I did not act wisely; however, here I am and will do the best I can until I am relieved and I 'hope that will be according to the usual rotation, for I dare say I shall have been fully gratified before that - don't however mistake me and think I mean money. I declare to you that is not my object. I long to deserve well of my Country and I came in the hope of giving a blow to the inveterate and restlefs Enemies of Mankind. If I succeed in that I shall be happy. I never cared much about Riches and we have enough to make me comfortable, what more can Man require. I must not omit saying a few words of your (328) Brother [in] Law, with whom I am much pleased - he is a good Seaman and a good Officer. At first sight I thought him cynical and ill natured, but I find him quite the reverse - one of the best humor'd Men, a great deal of fun, ingenuity and kindnefs. He is much beloved by his Mefs, and your [boy] Fleetwood who is in his Watch says he is the best temper'd Man alive - this you know may be Skulking interest, but really I am glad to say so much of him because I think I have heard he is not your favourite. He has been in bad hands - with Trollope and others, but I afsure you gives me much satisfaction and I shall feel much whenever I can remove him; Lord St. Vincent fairly told me he had forgot him or he would certainly have included his name in his last promotion - so much for your Wife's dear Brother who is a Mechanitian in Telegraphs. I hope his expectations in coming here will be realised as well as the moderate ones we have formed for my own part. I see nothing but luxury and extravagance in private, and robbery and plunder in public. I fear we are aggrandising in this Country full as much as your friend Bony at Home - but that's for your private Ear only. God be with you always, will ever pray, your affectionate friend
The Culloden had arrived at Penang on January 10th, 1805. On the 20th there appeared Vice-Admiral Rainier with the China fleet, homeward bound with a strong escort. The convoy of sixteen sail of Indiamen was under the protection of nine warships, the bulk of the naval force in those seas.
A meeting between two admirals in those days was a formidable affair. An apprentice of a ship which arrived on the following day has left some hint of what happened.
21st Jan. 1805. Penang Harbour.
Found riding here Admirals Rainier and Pellew, the latter just arrived from England in H.M.S. Culloden, to relieve the former in command of the naval forces in India. Much saluting, manning yards etc took place between the two admirals.
(N.R.S. Vol. xx.]
The deafening compliments proper to the occasion were followed by the business of handing over the command. Rainier did not propose to leave for England immediately; but as he and Pellew did not meet again before his doing so, this was Rainier's only opportunity of explaining the naval situation in India to his successor. The two admirals spent (329) a week at Penang, and it seems best that the reader should, at this point, gain possession of some of the facts Rainier may be supposed to have imparted to Pellew.
In Pellew's day, the strategy of the Indian Ocean was dominated by the monsoons. Whereas in the extreme south of his command, the wind blew almost invariably from the west; and whereas the south-east trade wind prevailed to the eastwards, the wind about India itself blew part of the year from one direction and the rest of the year from the opposite quarter. It still does so, but without attracting quite so much attention. The south-west monsoon blew from May to the middle of September and rendered the west side of India unsafe, owing to the lack of secure harbours. To go from Madras to Bombay during the north-east monsoon was impossible-indeed, it was impossible at any time except between the middle of August and the middle of September. It was only possible to go from Bombay to China during the southwest monsoon. To these rules the exceptions were negligible, except for ships of war.
From the point of view of the naval commander-in-chief, the chief aim was always to keep to leeward of the peninsula of India. It became the custom for the naval forces to act from Madras during the summer and go round to Bombay before the north-east monsoon set in. Madras was the naval headquarters, more for political than geographical reasons. Bombay was important for half the year; Trincomalee, as a rendezvous, for all the year. Prince of Wales Island, better known as Penang, was important as the first port of call for ships arriving from Europe during the north-east monsoon, and as a port of call on the route to China.
The trade to be protected consisted partly in local traffic between the east and west sides of India. More important than this was the trade between India and England. More important still was the opium trade with China. On all routes there were very valuable cargoes afloat, whether of tea or silver or opium. The outbound Indiamen from England sometimes carried bullion but more often entrusted it to men-of-war. The freightage charged on bullion was a principal source of income to the commanders of warships. Before leaving England, Pellew protested strongly at the mean behaviour of the merchants in putting none of the silver on board the Culloden. But whether his protests had effect does not appear. (330) It was the custom to sail from England in the summer, from India in the autumn. The seasonal nature of the trade made it natural for ships to sail together in convoy, especially as the bulk of the tonnage afloat belonged to a single corporation. The China fleet used to sail, generally, in summer, and return in autumn.
The enemy against whom trade required protection in Pellew's day was France. England was also at war with Holland, and was soon to be at war with Spain. But neither of these countries constituted a menace to the East Indies. The Dutch had a small squadron at Batavia consisting of the ships Pellew had pursued in vain in 1803 but these were in no mood, and in no state for adventure. They had strict orders not to cooperate with the French. The Spaniards were still less to be feared.
The French were formidable and mischievous because they possessed a base in the Indian seas. This base, their sole remaining possession, was Mauritius; the isles, to be exact, of France and of Bourbon, situated to the east of Madagascar. From here they sent out a number of cruisers and a great number of privateers, which operated on the various trade routes. The possession of this base enabled them also to intrigue with the native powers in India, and to foster a growing interest in the Sea of Arabia and the Persian Gulf. The French officer in command of the ships at the Ile de France was Rear Admiral Durand Linois, who had come out in 1803 with one ship of the line and three frigates. He had begun the war badly by a defeat at the hands of some East Indiamen sailing without any naval protection. But he was undaunted by the English superiority as to numbers, and had written in 1803 that 'as they have many points to guard, their force must necessarily be divided, and I hope to be able to do them considerable mischief by directing my course successively to very distant parts of the Indian Ocean.' Linois was on bad terms with Decaen, the Governor of the Ile de France, and out of favour with Napoleon since his defeat at the hands of the Indiamen. He should have had another base, in Pondichery, which France obtained by the Peace of Amiens, but the English had refused to surrender it when called upon to do so. As it was, he was driven to use the Cape of Good Hope as a base when anxious to avoid Decaen. Pellew's difficulties in dealing with the French cruisers will be discussed on a later page.
Compared with the handful of French raiders, the English (331) naval forces in the Indies were overwhelming. They were designed to encounter not what the French actually had in those seas but what they might be expected to send there. A naval battle was anticipated in that part of the world, and Pellew's command was an important one, even in point of numbers. There were seven sail of the line, one 50-gun ship, eight frigates and three sloops. It was intended, moreover, to increase this force. It will be remembered that Lord St. Vincent had brought shipbuilding in England to a standstill by an attempt to combat the dishonesty of the contractors. One of his remedies to cover deficiencies until a reform of the dockyards should have saved the situation was the building of ships in India. Experiments in teak-built ships had been successful, and Lord Melville continued the policy. He had, of course, by this time, solved the problem of building and repairing ships in England. A simple process of surrender to the profiteering interests concerned - a going back to the old methods - and a generous distribution of contracts had extricated the Government from the deadlock St. Vincent had produced. More speedily to justify attacks on St. Vincent, Melville resorted to the buying of merchant ships and converting them into men-of-war. As a part of this programme, Pellew came out to India armed with orders to buy six Indiamen for this purpose. By construction, then, by purchase, and of course by capture, his force was likely to increase. To set against this a certain wastage was to be expected among the ships already there. Ships sent out to the East Indies were seldom in their first youth.
The interview between the two admirals, when these and many other matters were doubtless discussed, ended on January 28th. Before sailing from Penang, Pellew found time, on the 25th, to write to Addington. The letter betrays a certain anxiety to please and begins with gratitude and compliments. The last sentence is the most interesting:
. . . I could not help laying by in a corner of my ship a pipe of Madeira which if I ever reach England I hope you will permit me to convey to your cellar as a small testimony of the respect and high esteem with which I ever must be, dear Sir,
your obliged and most
On the 28th the two admirals separated. Rainier escorted (332) a part of the China fleet to Madras, and Pellew took the remainder to Bombay. When writing to the Marquis Wellesley from Penang, he stated what his immediate movements were to be:
. . . It is my intention to lose as little time as pofsible after my arrival at Bombay in getting round to Madras, but I imagine the requisite arrangements for the purchase of the Ships for His Majesty's Service at that Port, will detain me . . . .
This promise to reach Madras as soon as possible has reference to a letter Wellesley had written to him on his arrival in India, and also to Wellesley's intention of returning to England shortly. Certain extracts from the Governor-General's letter ought, perhaps, to be quoted.
. . .Your excellency will have
learnt with pain the vexatious list of the Captures recently made
by the French in these Seas, and carried into the Mauritius in
the face of our Cruizers off that Island . . . . I am
apprehensive that it will be difficult to oppose any effectual
restraint to these depredations, while the Mauritius & the
Cape remain in the hands of the Enemy but I shall be anxious to
afford every pofsible aid . . . .
. . . A personal interview with Your Excellency would have been particularly acceptable to me in various points of view . . . ; it is almost impossible . . . to state in writing all the Considerations which I anxiously desire to submit to you, with respect to the Naval affairs of India and China, or rather of Asia. I therefore venture to exprefs my most earnest wish that your Excellency may be enabled to visit Fort William at an early period of the Season.
My last advices from England are of the 20th of August, and from the Continent of Europe of the 9th of September, at which period no attempt had been made to invade the British Dominions; and the Emperor of the French appeared to be occupied in marshalling procefsions inventing Crowns and robes, founding orders of knighthood in honor of the Republican Revolution; and conferring public rewards on Actors, Singers and dancers.
A division of the Brest Fleet had escaped from that Harbour, but had been compelled to return by the approach of our Squadron of observation . . . .
The Culloden arrived at Bombay on February 23rd, with squadron and convoy. Pellew promptly began to impress seamen from the ships in the harbour. Thirty-three men were taken from the Devaynes and twenty from the Skelton (333) Castle. And when the East India Company's frigate Cornwallis arrived on March 26th, its naval character did not save it from the same treatment. It was boarded by the boats of the squadron and a part of the crew impressed. These activities are interesting, chiefly in the light of the following letter sent by Pellew at this time to Wellesley.
H.M.S. Culloden, Bombay Harbour
11 March 1805
. . . The very alarming Succefses of the Enemy's Cruizers have of late occupied my most serious attention, and I have been for some time collecting every species of information as to the Situation and Defences of the Island of Mauritius, from whence under the afsistance of neutral and other clandestine intelligence, they ifsue with every advantage, upon the defencelefs Vefsels employed in the British Trade, and very materially harrafs and interrupt the Commerce of our Indian Settlements . . . Under the present situation of the French Naval Force . . . (I propose) . . . with the afsistance of the Six Ships proposed to be added to the Squadron by purchase . . . to equip two flying Squadrons for the protection of the Bay of Bengal, and its Entrance . . . The Honourable Company's Frigate Cornwallis is still absent . . . The want of Ships at this Port eligible for the Service of the Royal Navy, at present, will I fear prevent me from equipping the entire Force so to be added to the Squadron, but I am now in treaty for the purchase of two Ships . . . .
Your Excellency's Sentiments with respect to the provision of a Convoy twice a year for the protection of the China Trade, as suggested in your annexed Paper, concur entirely with my opinion on that subject . . . .
I am desirous thus early to apprize your Excellency of my decided disapprobation of the former Custom of imprefsing Seamen from the Cruizers of the Honourable Company, upon which subject I have ifsued the strictest orders . . . .
That he issued the strictest orders is credible. The expression is equivocal. But the contrast between the impression conveyed by this letter and the fate of the Cornwallis a fortnight later is somewhat startling. Age and experience taught Pellew a not altogether laudable subtlety. His better qualities remained unimpaired.
The letter quoted above ends with a report of the capture of the French National frigate La Psyche by H.M.S. Fiorenzo, Captain Lambert. By a very remarkable coincidence, it happened that the captain of the captured ship was Pellew's (334) old friend Bergeret. Although a very able man, that officer was singularly unfortunate. He lived to rise high in the service by a process of outliving every one else. Merit and longevity combined to save him from the effects of persistent ill-luck. On this occasion, he did not surrender until half his men were dead or wounded, and the ship he fought was superior to his own. The action took place midway between Calcutta and Madras on February 14th, and the prize was taken to Calcutta. As soon as Pellew heard of it he tried to arrange for Bergeret's release on parole. This was the first success against the French since his coming to India, and he took the opportunity of proposing to General Decaen a regular exchange of prisoners by cartel. He wrote on the subject to the Ile de France on March 25th.
. . . Among those who in the chance of warfare thus have fallen into the hands of the British, the recent Capture of the National Frigate La Psyche by His Britannic Majesty's Ship St. Fiorenzo has in the person of Capt. Bergeret afforded to his Excellency the Most Noble the Marquis Wellesley an occasion of exhibiting that liberal line of Conduct which the exalted gallantry of this most deserving officer has secured to him . . .
By dispatches received from Calcutta I learn, as a testimony of His Excellency's high opinion of Capt. Bergeret's character, a Residence has been provided for him at the Charge of the Government and that a Ship has been directed to be equipped without lofs of time for his Conveyance to the Ile of France, with an offer of being accompanied by such of his Companions as he may select on his parole.
With the coming of spring it became necessary for Pellew to complete what he had to do on the west side of India before the south-west monsoon should set in. By reaching Point de Galle in May it was possible to avoid the north-east monsoon and have the aid of the south-west monsoon for the voyage up to Madras. Pellew sailed accordingly on April 30th. With him was the frigate Concorde and two frigates in the service of the East India Company, the Cornwallis and Howe. At Goa he landed the 17th Regiment, which he had brought out from England; and then, rounding Point de Galle, he came into Trincomalee on May 21st.
At Trincomalee Pellew found his friend Bergeret, then on his way to the Ile de France on parole. The meeting took place as the Culloden was working into Back Bay. Whether (335) accidental or otherwise, it was very moving to both men, and even to those who saw it. Pellew's secretary, Edward Hawke Locker, was the author of the following account:
We were at the Admiral's side when his gallant prisoner was presented to him on the Culloden's quarter-deck. They embraced with lively feelings of sympathy; and the manly tears then shed found an honest welcome in every heart which witnessed the interview.
The Culloden sailed on the following day and came into Madras on the 24th. Rainier had by this time sailed for England, so that this was the true entry of Pellew into his own. In the harbour lay the Albion (74), and four smaller ships, the Duncan, Rattlesnake, Harrier, and Albatross. There was, therefore, sufficient force to make the arrival of the commander-in-chief at his headquarters as impressive as decency required.
This, his first visit to Madras, was not altogether happy. News of the outbreak of war with Spain came while he was there. That may not have been unwelcome, but there were less pleasant events. Pellew had recently been ill, for almost the first time in his life. The gunner and boatswain of the Culloden had to be tried by court martial. Worse still, there was a dispute with the authorities ashore on the subject of Pellew's official residence. All former commanders-in-chief had always had a furnished house provided for them, complete with servants. And he, it seems, was to be the exception. In protesting he was careful to explain that only public considerations weighed with him - the service might suffer were this custom discontinued. A proper residence, with furniture and table utensils and an establishment of servants, at each of the presidency ports, was not only just but necessary. At the same time, he reminded Wellesley and Bentinck that the recent resolution of the Court of Directors respecting the freight to be paid on bullion had curtailed his income by three thousand a year. And his predecessors had been more fortunate than he in being provided with a country house by the nabob. It was not, however, for him to complain ....
On June 29th, Linois, unexpectedly appearing off Ceylon, took the Brunswick East Indiaman. He had with him the Marengo, bearing his flag, and the frigate Belle Poule (44). As soon as the news reached Madras, frantic efforts were made to prevent further damage. Pellew sent ships out in (336) every direction to intercept the raiders or prevent merchant ships from sailing. He himself awaited further intelligence at Madras. The French ships were seen off Point de Galle on July 11th, and the Sarah of Bombay ran ashore in attempting to escape from them. Linois, satisfied with his prize and the general uproar and confusion he had caused, set off for his base while the way was clear. The flying squadrons thirsted for his blood in vain. He was miles to the southward before they began to arrive. It was not in his power, however, to regain harbour at once. The southwest monsoon which had taken Pellew up to Madras had brought Linois to the scene of action from the Ile de France. It now prevented him returning there by the way he had come. He had to make a long detour to the south and east in the hope of picking up the trade wind to carry him westwards to Mauritius. Meanwhile, Troubridge was on his way from England. He had sailed early in the year with eleven Indiamen under the protection of his flagship. He was already in Indian waters.
It seems essential at this point to give some account of Troubridge in order that subsequent events may be understood. It is essential, above all, because the reader may otherwise be led to forget how fine a man he was. He was, in the first place, a follower of Lord St. Vincent. He had gone with St. Vincent to the Channel fleet from the Mediterranean. He had gone with him to the Admiralty. He was essentially St. Vincent's man. It was St. Vincent who called him 'the ablest adviser and best executive officer in the British Navy, with honour and courage as bright as his sword.' This is a fine thing to be said of any man, and St. Vincent was little disposed to flatter.
But if Troubridge admired and copied St. Vincent, the man he loved was Nelson. They had been friends since boyhood, and, on one side, friendship continued until death. On the other, it ceased soon after the Battle of the Nile. When Troubridge went to the Admiralty he was still unforgiven for daring to say to Nelson what no other man dared say. He would have given his life to avoid this quarrel. Then had come the period of ruthless reform at the Admiralty. As the senior lord under St. Vincent he had taken a leading part in the bitter disputes occasioned by reform and the ruin of those who feared and opposed it. There had been savage attacks on the Admiralty until at last corruption triumphed as corruption apparently must. For Troubridge, the downfall of St. Vincent was tragedy, (337) the end and the failure and the undoing of noble work. Worst of all was the knowledge that Nelson had sided against him. The man he admired and the man he loved had fought each other, and the one was defeated and the other become his enemy. When Troubridge snatched at a command in the East Indies he partly desired to provide for his son. But his chief wish was to leave England - and forget.
Troubridge came out to India an embittered man, neither old nor sick, but disappointed and robbed of his faith in mankind. He despised Lord Sidmouth - such now was Addington's title - for joining the new ministry and yet looked to him for a patronage which only that weakness could have made possible. He hardly thought of the wrong that was being done, that he was doing, to Pellew. His own grievances absorbed him. He had, besides, a motive for wishing to displace Pellew. It was his ardent desire to reform the East Indies command even as he and St. Vincent had failed to reform the English dockyards. The remoteness of India made something of the sort not altogether impossible, and Troubridge had caught from his chief a love of reform for its own sake, a love of setting things in order. Like St. Vincent, he enjoyed doing it with violence, with a hatchet. He had something of the spirit of some fierce Hebrew prophet. He was as eager to avenge as to remedy - perhaps more eager. On the Indian Navy officials, on the civil department at Madras, he wished to descend like an avenging angel spreading terror among the unjust.
Now, Pellew had no passion for reform and no special hatred for the corrupt. If he wanted to set things in order, it was solely as a means of beating the French. Any reform he carried out would be done with as little friction as possible. He might seek a remedy but he would never seek vengeance. As a young man he had been inclined to severity, but his middle age had brought him subtlety and tolerance and caution. He was hot-tempered on occasion but usually inclined to forgive offenders. And he had enemies enough without wishing to make more. That there was room for improvement, and that Pellew knew it, is certain. But he dared not destroy what he might be unable to rebuild. Let there be no mistake about this, however. He was himself a pattern both of honesty and economy. In telling his son to be as careful with the king's money as with his own he was describing his own practice. His official correspondence leaves no doubt of it. He was always a ready contriver of (338) expedients to eke out material. Troubridge was nevertheless right in supposing that all possibility of extensive reform depended on himself.
During the latter half of July, Troubridge and Linois were, without knowing it, steadily approaching each other. As Troubridge testily drove his convoy northwards, Linois was winging his way southward and away from the hornets' nest he had overturned. As they were steering they were bound to meet ; and meet, in the end, they did. It was on August 6th that they met, to their mutual astonishment. It was in a fog and they all but ran into each other's arms. The fog happened to clear a little at midday and Linois suddenly found himself almost on top of a fleet of Indiamen. The Marengo was not particularly well handled or trained, and the surprise was complete. With a good deal of confusion the men, who were having their dinner at the moment, were set to clear the decks. The prisoners from the Brunswick, who were patronizingly watching the process, were bundled forward into the cable-tier. The French opened fire as soon as their guns were run out.
The conduct of Linois on this occasion must be viewed in the light of certain previous events. In 1803 he had been defeated, as we have seen, by a number of Indiamen. There was great difficulty in distinguishing a man-of-war from an Indiaman, and he seems to have been in genuine doubt as to whether there were any ships of war among them. Their unexpectedly bold behaviour upset him, and when the merchant ships, about forty in number, showed a disposition to attack him, he incontinently fled. As an Indiaman was a vessel the size of a ship of the line and armed with about the same number of guns as a frigate, Linois had no difficulty in proving that he had done the right thing. This failed to save him, however, from a stinging rebuke. He had been too careful of his ship, he was told, and Napoleon added, in his loftiest tone: 'C'est l'honneur que je veux qu'on conserve et non quelques morceaux de bois et quelques hommes.' The essence of Linois's offence was not a violation of his country's honour, whatever Napoleon might say. If that had been all he would have been forgiven more readily. He had done worse than that-he had provided the English with a joke.
Considering these events, it is not surprising that he should have made the opposite mistake in 1805. Having mistaken Indiamen for warships and been rebuked for it, he was now in the mood for mistaking a warship for an Indiaman. He (339) found out his mistake just before sunset and escaped with a little damage after a few broadsides. Troubridge sent an account of the affair to Lord Sidmouth.
Blenheim at Sea, Aug l0th 1905
As I may fall in with a Homeward bound ship crofsing the SE Trade I write this in readinefs to drop on Board, to tell your Lordship I fell in with Mon'r Linois, on my pafsage out in Lat. 19.09 and Long. 81.17 E: in very thick Squally Weather, and just at the close of day exchanged a few shots with him, I fancy he thought we were all Indiamen, for the moment he made the Blenheim out through the Haze, he bore away, and without separating from my valuable charges it was impofsible to pursue him, the next Morning he was again discovered about 4 Leagues to Windward. I placed myself between the Convoy and Enemy, under easy Sail, to induce him to bear down, but no act of mine could bring him nearer than 6 or 7 miles, and that directly to Windward; from Noon to Dark he weathered fast on us, and evidently sail'd superior, and took himself off in the Night. I trust I shall yet have the good fortune to fall in with him when unencumber'd with Convoy, and the Contest I think will be short, to see him and not be able to bring him to close Action has fretted me much, for if I had one wish more particular than another, it was to fight Mr. Linois, his plan appears to me to be to cruize in parts where he can annoy our Trade, without meeting our Men of War, but avoid fighting unlefs he meets a very inferior force. This Convoy has given me much trouble to drag them on, but I consider the importance of their arrival with the Troops of such consequence that I shall be amply repaid, if I am able by my exertions to get them out quick, and in health, to meet the want we must experience of Europeans in our Army, about 16 days more will put us in Madrafs when I shall write your Lordship any thing I may have worth your notice. I have the honor to be
your Lordships truly obliged
Linois actually had no further designs on English trade in the East. He 'took himself off' permanently and spent the rest of the year off the Cape of Good Hope. When the Cape was taken by the English, the Marengo was captured in an attempt to reach France.
In the general rush to intercept Linois, Pellew had taken no part. The Culloden sailed on August 22nd, but merely to convey some treasure to Vizagapatam. Pellew did not (340) go with it, having by this time taken up his residence ashore. On the same day as the Culloden sailed, the Blenheim came into the harbour.
It must not be supposed that the arrival of Troubridge took Pellew by surprise. He had heard rumours of his coming as early as July, with more than a hint as to his errand. Although knowing no details, he knew that the command was to be divided, and had written to St. Vincent stating his intention of preventing the division as far as he could. Knowing what he himself intended, he was on his guard and prepared for battle. Troubridge was not.
On seeing the Blenheim come into Madras Roads with a blue flag at the mizen, Pellew had two sources of consolation. The first was that the flag was blue and not, like his own, white. Although promoted at the same time, he was beyond question the senior. The second was that he was at least on a level with Troubridge as regards interest. Sidmouth was the only friend of importance either of them could boast, and the coolness between that statesman and St. Vincent was all in his own favour. He could not stand as well with St. Vincent as Troubridge, but then, St. Vincent was out of office. Nor, for that matter, was St. Vincent hostile to him. His last letter had been friendly.
MY DEAR ADMIRAL
This will be delivered to you by Mr Thos Shent, in whose fortunes I am very much interested, he will have served his time before the Weymouth reaches India and as she will have two vacancies for Lieutenants I will thank you to appoint him to one of them, after he has served his time.
Your Succefsor at Ferrol has been dealing largely in Dollars, and has Quarel'd largely with Fremantle, Oswald and others, crimination and recrimination have been attempted, but Lord Melville has quashed it, or rather smother'd it.
You will find in the Newspapers strange political Events Domestic and foreign, suffice it to say that I stand upon higher ground than any who either attacked me or were formerly my Colleagues.
That all honor and prosperity may constantly attend you, is the fervent wish of your steady Friend
Mortimer St. 12th Jan'y 1805
The hint as to his standing on higher ground than Mr. Addington must have given Pellew some notion of a split between them. Had that taken place, Pellew knew that his (341) being less definitely a follower of St. Vincent would recommend him to Addington - to Viscount Sidmouth, that is to say. The division of the command was madness, from every point of view, and he was determined to withstand it.
There seems to be no existing account of the meeting between the two admirals. It must have taken place at Pellew's official residence. If the characters of these two middle-aged gentlemen and the heat of a tropical sun may be taken as evidence, the interview may be supposed to have begun with civility and ended in uproar. Visions, however, of a purple-faced and spluttering Troubridge stamping his way out of the building must remain mere supposition. That they were not on speaking terms a week later is certain.
Troubridge began by showing Pellew his instructions. He was to take over about half the squadron - thirteen out of a total of twenty-seven ships - and have as his station that part of the command situated to the east of a line drawn due south from Point de Galle. Pellew was to keep the western half, and the two stations were to be independent of each other. It was not intended that the two flag-officers should serve together. The scheme ended with a saving clause to the effect that the approach of a superior number of the enemy would justify the senior flag-officer in resuming command of the whole or part of the ships of the line assigned to the junior division.
Now, the reader who recalls to mind the peculiar conditions in the Indian Ocean with the naturally resulting migration of warships from one side of India to the other, will see why Pellew thought the division of the command nothing less than raving lunacy. His private objections are partly obvious but we are quite justified in assuming that the public danger struck him more forcibly. This division of the command prevented either commander-in-chief from sheltering during the monsoon. If the squadron to the eastward could survive this, which it probably could, the squadron to the westward could not. The whole west side of India contained no single port capable of sheltering ships of the line in safety during the south-west monsoon. Then, as regards more personal considerations, the assignment to him of the western station had the effect of giving the senior officer all the work and the junior officer all the profit. Before the digging of the Suez Canal, or rather before the steamship came to render the Red Sea navigable, the western half of the Indian Ocean was practically deserted. (342) The commander-in-chief on the western station would have the valueless privilege of escorting a part of the China fleet from Bombay to the rendezvous appointed by his junior. He might have to protect a few grain ships coming round to Bombay from the other side of India. Of trade to the westward there was none. Some worthless local craft came and went on their dubious occasions, and that was all. The western command contained nothing; nothing, that is to say, except Mauritius.
Now, it may be thought that the exclusive right to assail the enemy's base was a privilege worth having. It was not, simply because that base was hardly open to attack, and certainly not open to attack from a mere half of the squadron. With so limited a force it was impossible even to blockade it with any effect. Mauritius, in short, offered plenty of hard work, but could not be said to offer anything else.
To the commander-in-chief on the eastern station was assigned all the best ports, the trade with England, the opium trade with China, the trade in the Bay of Bengal - a large income in freightage alone. With this went all chance of harassing enemy trade and of building ships at Penang, and also the opportunity of dealing with the Dutch ships tamely awaiting their fate at Batavia,
Considering all these and many other matters, Pellew decided to delay carrying out his instructions. He chiefly wanted to gain time. With this object, he read with care the saving emergency clause which some official had been sane enough to insert. As he was to judge whether such a state of emergency did or did not exist, he promptly concluded that the present danger was almost beyond example. As a first move, he took the junior flag-officer under his orders. Fleetwood Pellew, then serving in the Culloden, said that Troubridge 'protested strongly against it and was very violent.' Violent he must have been, and not without reason. That Pellew should disobey orders had never occurred to him. And with the realization of what Pellew intended to do came the recollection that letters took six months to reach England. The orders from the Admiralty which he confidently expected - orders for Pellew's recall, arrest, trial and execution - could not arrive within twelve months. Until they came he would have to obey his senior officer.
After a few days of wrangling, the two admirals ceased to meet. They merely sent each other stiff notes. Only one of these need be quoted. (343)
His Majesty's Ship Weymouth
29th August 1805
I am favoured with your Letter of yesterday's date, in answer to which I beg to acquaint you that the motives upon which I judged it expedient to take you under my Command on your arrival are grounded upon the information I have received of the Enemy's intention to unite for the purpose of a concerted attack upon the China Convoys of the present season, and that this resolution has been made known to the Board of Admiralty previous to your arrival on this Station.
When the Service shall be performed upon which I have judged it necefsary to collect the principal force under my Command I shall proceed to the completion of those arrangements which the Right Honourable the Lords Commifsioners of the Admiralty have directed, according to my judgment of the circumstances under which their Lordship's Instructions can be carried into effect for the welfare of His Majesty's Service in the Indian Seas.
I have the Honour to be
Your most obedient
SIR THOS TROUBRIDGE BT.
Rear Admiral of the Blue
In thus calmly discussing the propriety of carrying out his orders, Pellew was taking a certain risk. There is reason to believe that he was gambling on a change in the administration. At the same time, it will be well not to exaggerate the risk he took. There were only three courses open to the Admiralty. They might recall Pellew, they might recall Troubridge, or they might order Pellew to obey his instructions. In this last event, Pellew clearly intended to resign. Now, unless it was resolved to court-martial him, the difference between resigning and being recalled was not very great. In either case he would not be given another command while Pitt was in office. So that, in effect, an appeal to the Admiralty was unlikely to make matters worse and might possibly make them better.
Once Pellew's determination was known, both he and Troubridge began to write their protests. A babbling brook of correspondence swelled into a shining river as each admiral sought to use what influence he possessed. Lord Sidmouth received letters from both of them, and so of course did St. (344) Vincent. Pellew had naturally secured a lead by writing letters to explain what he intended to do, before Troubridge arrived. The two letters to Sidmouth were written practically on the same day, and if they went by sea must certainly have gone by the same ship. Both deserve quotation in full. That from Troubridge will be given first as having a slight priority in time.
Madrafs Sept'r 3rd 1805
I have the Honor to inform your Lordship I arrived at this place after a pafsage of 17 weeks and found Sir Edwd Pellew laying here, on showing him my Commifsion and Instructions, which I think is quite clear, he told me he should not obey them, and that if he gave up anything to me hereafter, it would only be Prince of Wales Island and perhaps the China Seas, with a more limited force than I was order'd, even this must wait till he hears from England and he may go on quibbling for ever, without the Admiralty send out positive orders - your Lordship can easily conceive how unpleasantly I am situated. I have written fully to the Adm'y and trust your Lordship will be pleased to see the first Lord, and get me placed in the situation intended by their Orders - to come out here to be treated in the way Sir Edward has done, is what I am sure your Lordship never thought of when you did me the honor to get me the appointment. I shall rest quiet till answers arrive and then return or remain, as their Lordships' Orders may be. I cannot forbear saying Sir E. Pellew has taken more upon himself than I ever thought an officer would do, and the Admiralty must see the Contempt he treats their Orders with, he may go on misconstruing their meaning and calling for farther Explanation, to try my patience and endeavour to force me home, but as I feel I am indebted to your Lordship for the Command the Admiralty gave me, I have not resigned as Sir E. Pellew's unmerited treatment would authorize, because I feel your Lordship will Interest yourself as far as to have the Command Originally intended put into my pofsefsion, as your Lordship must have your hands full of businefs I shall leave off with afsuring your Lordship I shall ever retain a proper sense of all your kindnefs and attention to me, believe me with great truth,
In another letter from Troubridge to Sidmouth written at this period there appears some satisfaction at the arrival of Lord Cornwallis, the Governor-General succeeding Wellesley. (345) If unable to reform matters himself, Troubridge was glad to discern a reforming spirit in some one else. 'Lord Cornwallis I hear began to retrench and correct the moment he arrived at Calcutta.' On the other hand 'Gen Maitland writes me he found all in confusion at Ceylon and seems to despair of making peace.' The letter ends tactfully: 'If you or Lady Sidmouth have any Commifsions that I can execute in this Country . . . etc.'
Pellew's letter to Sidmouth is in his grandest manner, reserved for such occasions. It has real dignity and real literary merit. Although an unlettered man, Pellew had a natural feeling for style.
Sept'r 5th 1805
If I had not been previously known to your Lordship both in my Public situation, and Private Life, it would be unbecoming in me to bring myself before you upon any Question of a Public Nature; but having enjoy'd that honor, and received the Appointment of the Chief Command on this Station under the Sanction of your Administration, I am desirous of pointing out to your Lordship how severely the recent division of this Command and the part of it which has been afsigned to Sir Tho's Troubridge affects my reputation as an officer, and as a Man of honor. I most truly profefs that every Personal consideration is most completely abandon'd, but where a junior flag Officer is sent to remove a Senior from the most important part of that Command of which he pofsefsed the Whole, it is evident to every Man of nice honor and discriminating powers, that an officer so circumstanced must be held degraded in the opinion of the Public, and his brother officers, if he fails to contend for a revision of so unmerited and so hard a regulation. It was natural, My Lord, for me to conclude that if such a Division was consider'd necefsary, that the usual attention to Seniority of Rank, as well as to my Character and Services, would have pointed the, propriety and delicacy of submitting to my choice the Division of the Command for acceptance, from hence My Lord, you can appreciate what my sensations must have been on finding myself precluded from the Seat of Government-and the first and second Presidency's of India, the long establish'd rendezvous of the Naval Comm'r-in-Chief - Madras - taken from me, and transferred to the hands of my junior; Myself driven to the lowest Presidency, of Bombay, and my ships unsheltered by any other Port during all the year. What but dishonor can await the officer who can thus submit to be degraded - and consider'd at best but (346) an honorable Exile. And that it is so considered by every Man of Character in India, is a fact incontrovertible. No, My Lord, I have only to request I may be removed, and order 'd to Europe, where I can eat the bread of cheerfulnefs with an unsullied reputation; but I can never sanction my own disgrace. Sir Tho's fairly says he would not accept of that portion afsigned me, how then my Lord can I do so. I am only ambitious of supporting my Character amidst those friends who have honored me with protection; and among the good opinions I am solicitous of, is that of your Lordship. I am the only sufferer under your Administration. I must suffer with honor.
I am my Lord with high respect
Your very obed't Ser't
I have wrote the first Lord on this point.
By a convention this letter is dated from the Culloden. That ship had returned from Vizagapatam on the preceding day, and Pellew's flag as commander-in-chief was hoisted on the day the letter was written. He was no more on board than he had been in the Weymouth on September 29th. He remained ashore until the 7th. By that time the Blenheim had sailed with a convoy for Prince of Wales Island. Pellew followed on the 10th with the Culloden and three other warships. With him went the remainder of the opium ships trading from Madras - five sail of Indiamen. The two convoys met again at Port Cornwallis on the 23rd. There they had to wait for the Bombay division of the China fleet. This delay was prolonged for some days after the Bombay ships arrived on the 26th, and the two admirals resumed their dispute while the China fleet assembled.
At their first meeting Pellew had reasoned with Troubridge with the object of arriving at a compromise. He had offered him the Malabar Coast, for instance. Troubridge, surprised and indignant, had pressed hard for his full command. Now, in this second encounter, the subject was again brought up. There was an interview between the two admirals on the 25th, on board the Culloden, the upshot of which was that Sir Thomas declared himself ready to consider proposals in writing. Pellew accordingly drew up a modified arrangement of the two stations. He agreed to give Troubridge the whole of the squadron assigned him as long as there was no occasion for assembling the line of battle ships. But he proposed that the boundary between the two stations should be 82 ½ East Long., which would have (347) the effect of bringing Madras and also Trincomalee into the western command. He suggested that the two commanders-in-chief should share patronage and emolument equally between them.
These proposals were sent to Troubridge on the 27th. His refusal to accept these terms came on the following day. Pellew thereupon replied that he nevertheless intended to divide the command on the lines he had suggested. After a final, and unsatisfactory, meeting on the 30th, the two admirals parted and never spoke to each other again.
On the 1st of October the Russell (74) arrived from Madras, bringing secret intelligence which had just come from England by the overland mail. Pellew was warned to expect an enemy squadron, then believed to be on its way to India. The news happened to be false, but it was exactly what Pellew wanted to hear. He had not only the distant prospect of a battle but the immediate prospect of annoying Troubridge. That the news should come at that moment was a wonderful piece of good fortune. Fate was playing into his hands. Troubridge was at once informed that some intelligence of weighty importance had come which made it essential to concentrate all the ships of the line.
. . . For this purpose it will be necessary to require the Services of His Majesty's Ships Blenheim and Sceptre, and I regret that the recent Instructions of their Lordships upon the Division of the Command forbids me from taking your Flag.
I propose sailing immediately with the whole force of Line of Battle Ships to take a station most advantageous for the execution of their Lordship's Instructions, leaving you here in your Command, and with the entire direction of the Convoy to China.
The only ship he could spare for the protection of the China fleet would be the Lancaster (64). But in case Troubridge would prefer not to go with the convoy himself, the Rattlesnake would be left to bear his flag. The letter ends with an offer to exchange the Lancaster for the Blenheim and a further assurance that Troubridge may now consider himself in full possession of his command. The sting of this communication lay in the fact that the Rattlesnake was an 18-gun sloop.
Troubridge accepted the Blenheim, which was accordingly detailed to escort the opium to China. The rest of the squadron sailed on the 4th under Pellew's command. and (348) Troubridge was left in full possession - of His Majesty's Sloop Rattlesnake.
The voyage of the squadron to Madras occupied the remainder of the month, and Pellew spent a part of that period in writing a detailed protest to the Admiralty. He had written briefly on Troubridge's arrival to say that he had judged it expedient to take the rear-admiral under his orders until the homeward-bound trade should have come from China. He had written again on September 30th, suggesting that their lordships might not have been fully apprised of the various local considerations when they divided the command. Now, on October 22nd, the day after the battle of Trafalgar was fought, he wrote a long and masterly disquisition on the subject.
He began by stating that the idea of dividing the Indian command was not a new one, and that Lord Melville had contemplated it even before he came to the Admiralty, and had disclosed his intention to the Governor-General of India soon after he himself had departed for India. A short time, however, before he, Pellew, set out, Melville had spontaneously assured him 'that he did not intend to interfere with him.'
'The necefsary Secrecy which the Measures of Ministry may no doubt very generally require, will probably appear to many as a sufficient explanation of this apparent Duplicity.' Nevertheless it seems strange to allow an admiral to sail from England under such a delusion. It is not intended to arraign 'the integrity of those with whom the Measure first originated;' still less to discuss 'the merits of the two officers appointed to the Station.' But the division of the command is one by which the junior officer is given the best and most important station, and the public service is likely to suffer from it. In particular he asked what point there was in empowering the senior flag-officer to take all the ships of the line under his orders in an emergency when he had no port from the Cape to the Indus capable of sheltering them. He asserted that to defend India a fleet must wait at either Madras or Trincomalee, where all naval battles in those seas had been fought. To fight the French the senior flag-officer would have to go outside his station. If he did not, he could only wait for them in a part of the world they would certainly never go near. Pellew ended by suggesting that it was very proper to have two flag-officers in the East Indies - or even three - but that one of them must have supreme authority.
(349) The Culloden reached Madras on November 1st, and on that day Pellew wrote once more to the Admiralty, explaining his intentions in the event of a French squadron arriving, and his immediate intention of collecting all available forces at Trincomalee which would be the first object of any French attack. The dispatch ends with an account of the negotiations with Troubridge and his own proposals 'dictated by the sincerest desire to preserve a mutual good Understanding, and to support my own dignity without exacting any sacrifice of his personal Consideration or Emolument.' 'I trust it will appear that every Motive of Self Interest was wholly abandoned in preference of worthier Considerations.' But unhappily 'I found that I must have been from the outset wholly mistaken in his Sentiments and that he could not for a moment have ever entertained a serious intention of conceding a single point, though he appeared very ready to accept the personal advantages which I tendered him at the expense of those Concefsions.'
At the same time as writing to the Admiralty he wrote again to Lord Sidmouth.
Maj's Ship Culloden
at Sea Nov 1st 1805
Not having kept by me a copy of the letter I did myself the honor to write your Lordship last Month on the unexpected arrangement for the Division of this Command, I am under some degree of anxiety whether in the warmth of my feelings upon a case which bears so severely on my prospects in Life, I may not lead your Lordship to imagine I had formed some expectation from your former civilities - that I was entitled to your protection from the effects of the New Arrangement. I do believe your Lordship will think me hardly treated by the great disparity of the division whenever it shall be known to you; My Seniority, and the pofsefsion of the Whole Command, with which I was invested - appear strikingly to claim an equal proportion of the Command, instead of which the whole importance is given to the junior Flag - and I am restricted to the Presidency third in rank. I have requested from the Admiralty a modification of their late instructions, in which the Dignity of my flag, and my Personal Credit, are so much involved. I beg your Lordship to excuse any improper warmth if I have trespafsed and to believe me
with high respect and Esteem
Your ever faithful Ser't
(350) On arriving at Madras, later in the day on which he wrote this letter, he stayed at that port hardly longer than was necessary to hear the sixty-six gun salute fired to mark the death of the Marquis Cornwallis, who had died almost as soon as he came to India. He sailed again almost at once, to gain the tranquil side of the peninsula before the northeast monsoon should set in. The French menace came to nothing, but as he did not hear of Calder's action until December 14th it was long before he had any news to set his mind at rest on this point. He kept the ships of the line together for the winter, but at Bombay, not Trincomalee.
As no decision could be expected for many months in the matter of the division of the command, Pellew now turned his attention to the pressing problem of how to check the French cruisers and privateers. Since half his own cruisers had been taken from him, it was increasingly difficult to protect trade or pursue the raiders. There were the same number of English ships as before, it is true - or rather more, owing to the purchase and construction of ships at Bombay - but there was now a complete lack of co-ordination among them. By the quarrel between Pellew and his colleague the French profited largely. But their position was, in any case, a strong one, so long as they held the Ile de France.
Mauritius, or the Ile de France, is a rocky island some thirty miles long. The Ile de Bourbon is little bigger. At the time of which we are speaking the white population of the two islands together was quite small and the garrison was only a few thousand strong. In an economic sense, the islands were of importance only as slave-markets. In peace time the few white inhabitants engaged principally in a species of enterprise known to the ancien régime as the slave-trade. The principles of the Revolution had naturally abolished this commerce and substituted for it a scarcely distinguishable traffic known as 'The importation of free labourers.' In war time the chief business of the islands was the utilization of their fast slave-ships for privateering.
It will be seen from the above account that the importance of the Ile de France was purely political. As a naval base, a base for privateers, and the last foothold of the French in the Indian Ocean, it performed an important negative function. Although of no great use to France it was a perpetual annoyance to England. Cruisers could issue from it to prey upon the immensely important trade of the Indies or intrigue with the native powers of India and Persia. And so vast is the Indian Ocean that the pursuit of these (35I) raiders was a hopeless task. They were sometimes caught by sheer accident and they sometimes mistook warships for Indiamen and so came to an untimely end. But, in general, the mere chasing of them did little to reduce their numbers. Some nine privateers, with a few frigates, were enough to keep nearly thirty English warships very fully occupied for as long as the English saw fit to run after them.
Now, it will be obvious to the reader, as it was obvious to Pellew, that the only way of dealing with the French raiders was to meet them at the Ile de France. The ideal method would be to take the island and wait for them to come home. Unfortunately, there were difficulties about this. The Ile de France was not assailable by ships alone. When the colony was founded the hand of power had intervened to construct the chief port on the north-west side of the island. The reason why this side should be chosen was purely military. In that part of the ocean the wind blows from the eastwards - SSE. to ESE. - except for three months in winter when there is a hurricane season. As the hurricane months were unsuitable for naval operations, the wind can be considered as fixed throughout the campaigning season. A port facing north-west was, therefore, facing to leeward. Given batteries of any strength, such a port could not be attacked from the sea. The process of working up to the entrance and then towing in would occupy too much time. The attacking ships would be under fire for hours before they could fire a shot. Such an attack could not be made. The only way of attacking Port Louis was to land an army somewhere else and let it attack the port from the land side. There were places at which troops could land, the resistance was bound to be feeble, there were no insuperable difficulties in the way of such a landing.
On January 4th, 1806, Pellew sent proposals for attacking the Ile de France to the Hon. George Udney, vice-president in Council at Bombay. The idea was not new, but the long period of internal warfare in India had 'Entirely Suspended the adoption of any proposal for the accomplishment of this Enterprize.' On the other hand 'the present prosperous state of Politics seems to offer a rational Expectation that some measure of this nature be adopted.' Pellew pointed out how easily the islands might be taken by a combined force. No French squadron was now expected from Europe. And if such a squadron came it would first call at Mauritius and so run into the arms of the squadron attacking the island. White troops could be carried in the (352) ships of the line and black troops might go in transports. He ended by offering co-operation in any attempt to annihilate the French possessions and interests in the East.
Pellew's proposals were at once put before Sir George Barlow, the new Governor-General, who replied at the end of the month. He agreed that the enterprize was desirable 'I entirely concur in the opinion stated by your Excellency with regard to the absolute impossibility of obviating the depredations of the French . . . by any other means than the capture of the French Islands.' He agreed that it was feasible - 'with the aid of your Excellency's able Exertions, approved skill, and Gallantry.' But the plan was nevertheless impossible. To begin with, there was no money. The finances were in such a hopeless state that it was hoped to economize 'by placing the Troops in Cantonments and retrenching all field Equipment.' What was more decisive, the Company would not do it. The orders from the Court of Directors were such as 'to preclude the British Government from undertaking such an Expedition.' The letter concludes with a hint as to why such orders should have come. After doubting whether it would ever be possible to spare the troops he conjectures that 'an Expedition against the French Islands could alone be prudently undertaken by an armament from England, dispatched express for that purpose.' He thought it 'by no means improbable that this object . . . will engage the attention of the legislature at home.'
From this it is perfectly clear why Mauritius was allowed to remain in French hands for so long. The Government and the East India Company each thought the other would take it. The result was that France won the game and persisted in winning it for years. The excuse Barlow offered concerning the impoverished state of the finances comes to less than nothing. The Company lost far more in shipping and insurance than the expedition could possibly have cost. But it was the nightmare of the East India Company that the Government might use the Company's funds for Imperial purposes. In this instance, the shareholders lost heavily through an attempt to place their burden on the taxpayer. But they were not the only sufferers. Pellew and his officers suffered as keenly, for they were prevented from striking the one blow the navy could hope to strike in the Indian Seas.
The Ile de France, then, was to be taken neither by bombardment nor landing. But, since the island was not (353) self-supporting, it may be asked why it could not be starved into surrender. The answer to this is that it was too far off. The passage from India to Mauritius occupied about seven weeks-or rather, fourteen weeks was the time spent in going and returning. As provisions in so hot a climate would hardly last for six months, no ship could remain on blockade duty off the Ile de France for more than ten weeks. The sickly state of their crews usually prevented them remaining as long. Now, to blockade the island with any effect, it was necessary to have at least six ships there. But, as ships could stay for only some two months, at least twelve ships would be needed to maintain a perpetual blockade. It was impossible for Pellew to spare that number because half his squadron had been taken from him. Even with two groups of six ships to relieve each other, the nature of the place made a perfect blockade difficult. With less than that force very little could be done.
It is now necessary to follow events in England. The division of the command in the East Indies, resulting from the re-entrance of Addington into office in December 1804 had been decided upon in February 1805. By the end of April, Troubridge had sailed. Pitt was responsible for this adroit and spiteful move but it was Melville who ordered it. While these two remained in power the evil was unlikely to be remedied. But neither of them was to hold office for long.
In vacating the Admiralty, Lord St. Vincent had left a bomb under the desk of the man who was to succeed him. This bomb was a Commission to inquire into the administration of the navy. Melville had hardly carried out Pitt's revenge on Pellew before the bomb exploded. As treasurer of the navy for many years, Melville's financial methods had been somewhat in advance of his age. One of the Commissions reports made this fact apparent and Melville was forced to resign. He had covered his tracks well. Nothing was proved beyond gross negligence. Nevertheless, here was one of Pellew's enemies hors de combat.
The first hint of the Government's intention to divide the command had reached India in July. His first protest arrived in London early in January 1806, and the full flood of correspondence from him and from his rival burst on the town shortly afterwards, continuing throughout the spring and summer. The disciplinarian in St. Vincent recoiled in horror from the crime Pellew proposed to commit. He answered Pellew's letter on the day he received it.
MY DEAR SIR
Your letter of the 9th July reached me this morning and has occasioned a great degree of Alarm in my Mind - Whether Lord Melville acted wisely in dividing the Indian Command is no affair of yours, and it is your indispensable duty to comply strictly with the Spirit of his intentions, for be afsured that no succeeding Admiralty can support you in the smallest deviation from them - you may resign your Command, but it would be perfect Insanity to controvert the plan in view or to impede it in any sort; and if you lose your temper you are ruin'd. Your Brother has probably informed you of the wicked stain Sir Evan Nepean attempted to stamp upon you in a conversation with him. Before this reaches you, accounts will probably be received in India of the utter annihilation of all resources upon the Continent for ages to come, by the Incapacity of Ministers here - how they will, atone for it is to be seen - or who will be found hardy enough to take their places. The Newspapers are really worse than those of France - the Treasury and Secretary of States offices have the absolute control over all excepting a very few violent opposition Papers, so that the medium is difficult to hit. Admiral Dacres has totally forgot the infinite obligations he owes me and never writes to me, or accepts an application with a good grace - when the Tales turn, he will trim, but it wont do.
I hope and trust you have not put any of my Friends in any but Death vacancies or dismifsal by Court Martial, for you well know, none of them will be confirmed, and a lefs friendly conduct towards me will be their ruin and my entire difsatisfaction.
Yours very truly
11th Jan'y 1806
I am perfectly well and go to Town on the 17th to attend the Birth Day and Parliament. I never heard a word of the Command in India having been offer'd to Sir J. Warren - I doubt the fact. ST. V.
Eleven days after this letter was written Pitt was dead. Pellew's other enemy was removed. It was fortunate that it should be so, especially in that St. Vincent was soon to turn against him.
After Pitt's death, Lord Barham, whom Pitt had appointed to succeed Melville at the Admiralty, went out of office. He was succeeded by Lord Howick. The result of this change was that the correspondence coming from India came to be considered by unbiased minds. Sidmouth's attitude was still in doubt, and Markham, who returned at (355) this time to office, was friendly both to Troubridge and Pellew. There was every chance, then, of justice being done. The case was, however, confused by his insubordination. There were those who thought him ill-used, but were nevertheless shocked at his disobedience. St. Vincent was not only shocked - he was soon biased against Pellew by the letters he received from Troubridge.
A scandal of such magnitude could hardly remain a secret. The quarrel between the two admirals was not only the gossip of India - where one of the aggrieved parties was proclaiming his wrongs from the house-tops but also the talk of London and Portsmouth. It is probable that Pellew was the favourite ashore - for political reasons. In the Service he was probably less popular than Troubridge. Although the Cabinet was fairly unprejudiced, the matter seems to have hung in the balance for some time. Admiral Sir Sidney Smith began to intrigue with a view to going to India himself. He wrote to the Marquis Wellesley on February 3rd, pointing out that Pellew's dislike for the climate and anger at his treatment would soon produce a vacancy. As it happened, he was wrong.
Pellew's memorandum on the dividing of the command cannot have reached England earlier than March or April, and there can have been no attempt to come to a final decision before it arrived. In influencing the new Government in its decision the reasoning of the memorandum seems to have done less than the intervention of the Duke of Northumberland. Why he should have interfered must remain something of a mystery, but it is clear that the Duke did Pellew an essential service in this matter. In April it was decided to restore Pellew to his original command and appoint Troubridge to command at the Cape - recently fallen into our hands. The dispatch was sent on the 23rd of the month.
It was fortunate for Pellew that St. Vincent was now at sea again, for his influence was exerted in favour of Troubridge. The fact of his being at sea seems to have delayed the exercise of his influence until it was too late. He wrote to Markham on the subject a month after it was settled.
You must take some strong measure about Pellew, who is going the whole game at Madras. The whole race of he Pellews is bad in grain; and some very bad traits of the family have lately come to my knowledge.
Pellew did not hear of St. Vincent's attitude until long (356) afterwards. And even when he did hear of it, he was little inclined to bear malice. The same cannot be said of St. Vincent. The two men ceased at this time to be friends. Other causes of friction arose soon afterwards, with the result that they never spoke to each other again as long as they lived. The news of his reinstatement took long to find Pellew, and much had happened before he heard of it. Leaving Bombay on February 24th, the Culloden started on her annual migration to Madras. On the way Pellew found time to write to Broughton.
March 16th 1806
I cannot permit the moment of the departure of the Convoy without giving my valued friend Broughton a few lines, it will tell you that I am well but not well used since I turn'd my back upon England, but there is no help for it and I must bear it at least until the answer arrives to my remonstrance. You may say half a loaf is better than no bread - but then my half is embittered by the insignificant comparison with the other half, in its importance, so that really if I had not and did not take upon me from my superior responsibility, I must have been disgraced. Your poor brother Sneyd will feel the ill effects of this half loaf, the patronage being so reduced by this means. I did all I could for him in a Six Months Cruize in a fine Frigate and altho on paper he took and destroyed a dozen Sail yet I fear the profit will not give him 500l, he was then of necefsity superseded and I gave him a Commander's Commifsion as Governor of the Naval Hospital at Madras you must desire his friends to exert themselves for a confirmation, for poor fellow, it is the only chance - all promotion here goes by Admiralty list - and I daily expect one as long as my Arm. Do not be surprised at my returning early next spring I afsure you it will be as poor as I came. This is not the Country for riches or honor - indeed it is the reverse, for Soldiers have got prize Money and Sailors none. I hope your little flock go on to your satisfaction. I expect to hear you have a House full. I shall greatly rejoice to be introduced to them on my return and once more embrace my old friend. I have no time at this moment to enlarge but I never cease to feel for you and yours, My dear Alex, the most affectionate regard. My dear boys are both here and well. Fleetwood is everything the fondest father can wish. Pownoll arrived at Madras I have not seen but shall in a few days - Adieu once more, my dearest friend
(357) The Culloden came into Madras on March 22nd. Pellew had not long been there before some good news reached him. He had kept all seven of the line of battle ships with his flag during the winter on the plea that the French had designs on the East Indies. He did not believe this himself, but the excuse was sufficient. Now, with the spring, there came ample justification for continuing to keep them. Sir John Duckworth had fallen in with six French sail of the line off Cape Verde Island on Christmas Day, 1805. Failing to bring them to action with his squadron, Duckworth assumed they were bound eastwards and sent to warn Pellew. He detached a ship of the line, the Powerful, for this purpose, so that Pellew might be reinforced as well as warned. The Powerful arrived at Madras on April 18th, 1806, and was welcome from every point of view. Pellew had thus a new seventy-four, an excuse for retaining Troubridge's ships, and a prospect of fighting the French. The French never appeared but the other advantages remained. It was also probably at about this time that the news came of the promotion following the Battle of Trafalgar, by which Pellew became rear-admiral of the red. These consolations were needed, for his troubles were not yet over.
In the spring of 1806 the English cruisers attempting to blockade the Ile de France seem to have had some success. Although actually too few for the purpose, they managed to reduce the island to a state bordering on famine. Unfortunately, the blockade was broken up by the arrival of Surcouf, a noted slaver and privateer. His ship, the Revenant, saved the situation in August, and one of the blockading ships, the Laurel (22), was actually taken by a French frigate which came from France at that time.
The French cruisers and privateers preyed with success on the English trade throughout the year. Pellew tried to persuade the merchants to accept convoy, and was assiduous in chasing the marauders. The East India merchants were many of them filled with the 'vindictive profligacy' of which Wellesley complained, and Pellew found little satisfaction in his dealings with them. Some of them disliked convoys on account of the delay involved in assembling them. Others feared English warships almost as much as French, on account of the pressgang. In hunting the French there was more success. Pellew's recent acquisition, the Powerful, was rather faster than two of the French ships allowed for. Two others went in chase of English warships by mistake, with the most disheartening results. Some (358) half-dozen vessels were taken, altogether. The captors received neither gratitude nor profit. The merchants had lost heavily and continued to bewail their approaching ruin with bitterness and frequency. And as for profit, privateers were poor game; especially when compared with the rich prizes taken by the ships under Troubridge's orders.
Apart from the pursuit of privateers, Pellew was chiefly concerned, during the summer and autumn of 1806, with the promotion of his sons and the quarrel with Troubridge. The correspondence of this period may be left to tell of these matters. The first letter to be quoted is from Troubridge to Sidmouth - written at about the time when Pellew was writing to Broughton.
March 29th 1806
I am still shut up here by Sir E. Pellew, and we have not heard from the West side of India this 10 weeks, so that I am quite ignorant of what is going on, but I have not been idle; my time has been fully employed going along the Coast and up the Rivers in my Boats in search of timber to increase our Navy, as I have afcertain'd we can build here very reasonable; money is the only Article wanted, which the dreadful state of the Company's Finances will not admit of our drawing on, but I have written to Marsden to say money must be sent out and placed in the Company's Treasury, for the sole purpose of Building Ships and purchasing timber, which will amply repay Government. I am working as much reform as the limited part of the Command Pellew has thought proper to assign me will admit of, say 25 pr Ct (%) on the Hospital, besides a considerable diff'ce in the Exchange. I fancy my purchases will also be found much lower, but should the Adm'y enforce their Orders, which for their own credit, I think they must, I shall then cut up by the Roots all the buses (Madrafs is the scene to work on). I wrote your Lordship by the Weymouth and Devaynes which I hope reached you safe - I wish I may be able to add so much to my fortune as to enable me to purchase a seat, should a difsolution take place, which should be devoted to your Lordship in the good cause, for I feel most sensibly your kind attention to me on many occasions. We have no letters from England since we sail'd, but report says your Lordship has resigned your office of President in Council.
If there is anything I can do here or Commifsions you or Lady Sidmouth may have, I pray command me. Lieut Phillemore and Mr Egleston which your Lordship recommended to me, I enquired for the moment I arrived, and found (359) Adm'l Rainier had taken them home in the Trident, as well as Mr. Steele's relation . . . .
I have just returned from a thirteen hours row and sail along the Coast and up the Rivers looking at Timber; by way of treat, I took the Governor with me - the Thermometer 93. I am so well season'd that it does not effect me. I see nothing to hinder us from Launching 74-Gun Ships, Frigates and Sloops, Admiralty, and one or two large Ships for the Company besides; but money must be sent out in Dollars, tied in such a manner that it shall not be used for any thing except the purchase of timber and Building Ships.
Sir G. Barlow was by the last accounts retrenching as much as pofsible, which is absolutely necefsary, for Lord Lake was giving notes for l00 Rupees on the Treasury at Calcutta, for 75 paid him in Cash - add 10 pr Ct (%) for interest of the Company's debt, and your Lordship will see clearly how deranged their affairs must be, it requires a few years peace and Rigid Economy to restore them, nothing else will do it. When I go to Madrafs I will write your Lordship any thing that may be worth knowing.
I have the
Honor to be
Your Lordships much obliged
and ob't Se't
I take the liberty of sending two Fans which I request Lady Sidmouth's acceptance.
On the 1st of June, two months after the above was written, Pellew wrote to Sir Evan Nepean, pointing out what chaos the divided command had soon produced and how universally it was complained of.
Sir Thomas is more outrageous than ever, and from a Public Correspondence full of invective and low insinuation, has now commenced a private one of no lefs scurrility and abuse . . . . Language which degrades the Gentleman is ever flowing from his lips .... As I would not suffer him to kick me, he becomes furious and outrageous . . . .
I wish to God I was out of it. I would rather command a Frigate with her Bowsprit over the rocks of Ushant all my Life, than command here on such terms: for Heavens sake call one of us home, or contract the junior's Command to the Eastern Seas of China and Malacca . . . .
My objects here were my two Sons - could I provide for them I should cheerfully return . . .
(360) The letter goes on to say that, should he be recalled and a junior flag-officer sent out to serve under Troubridge, they had better choose for that post 'a man who can bear abuse and put up with every indignity.' In the conclusion of this letter there is singular proof that Troubridge's 'private' correspondence was less private than that officer supposed. For Pellew encloses a copy of one of Troubridge's letters 'sent me by some friend, as it is by Post, how they got it I don't know.' To whom the letter was written does not appear.
Sir Ed. P. has thought proper to set the Admiralty's instructions on side, and carve out the command as he finds most pleasing and advantageous to himself, and has retained Madras in order to control the Civil department, which I was determined to set to rights, while he tried all in his power to get me to resign.
He describes how he has been treated; how, to prevent him reaching Madras, Pellew had sent his flagship to China and all his squadron to distant ports. He concludes
. . . his conduct to me has been infamous, and such as I think the Adm'ty will be much dissatisfied with, and of which he may be afsured at a proper time I shall not FORGET.
There can be little doubt that Troubridge intended to challenge Pellew as soon as they should both be in England. Pellew's seniority, of course, prevented any such meeting in India. It is very probable, however, that his religious views prevented his fighting a duel anywhere. That he disapproved of duelling is certain. And it must be remembered that the custom was already tending to die out. It was possible to refuse a challenge without disgrace. Lord St. Vincent did so on one occasion, and Pellew was at least equally exempt from any suspicion of cowardice.
In another letter written by Pellew at about this time - possibly to Nepean - these sentences occur
. . . I afforded an opportunity for honorable service to this man, who so
ungenerously refuses every accomodation by wh. I might avoid the
degradation of being driven from the small remainder.
. . . The circumstance affords general conversation all over India . . . . I sincerely regret that I ever came here - certainly (361) the Command does not afford any active Service, and as for profit, I declare to you that I shall not if I return soon, have paid off my outfit. Prize Money is made here only by the Army, the Navy gets none but by accident . . . .
Towards the end of the month, the situation remaining unchanged, it was Troubridge's turn to write. The following letter is addressed to Sidmouth.
June 22nd 1806
Lieutenant Sutherland is just arrived from Madrafs and deliver'd me your Lordship's Letter of the 20 August, be afsured every attention on my part shall be paid him; and when placed in my Command, I hope soon to have it in my power to promote him; my former Letters will have informed your Lordship of Sir E. Pellew's conduct towards me, and his usurping the Command in defiance of the Admiralty Orders. I just learn that all the Civil Departments which he kept from my examining have resigned, by which I fancy. they expect orders to put me in pofsefsion and dread investigation, they take all papers with them, I hear, on the plea of pafsing their accounts, but I shall be able to find enough out to puzzle them; I fear great irregularitys have been going on in this Country, and encouraged or not supprefsed by those whose duty it was. I have work'd all the reformation here in my power, I cut the Hospital down 25 pr Cent (%) and about 2o pr Cent (%) in addition by the Exchange, I have also made all Ships water themselves which saves a Dollar a Ton, with various other corrections. I shall continue to do all the good I can, the Admiralty Decision must soon come; if they do not enforce their own Orders, I shall never get credit under them. I observe what your Lordship says about the Charges, I freely own I saw enough of Mr P[itt] to tell me he was a man void of Principle, and his Defence of Lord M[elvill]e and Popham I am induced to think has made the Country in General of my way of thinking. Your Lordship was too honest to deal with him. I have a letter from Batavia, just come, which says Pitt is Dead, the news is said to have come out in an American Brig from Antwerp; if true I look on it the greatest thing for the Country that ever happened, partys will unite and I trust his profligate System knock'd down, and an Economical one set up. I am constantly at work learning the resources of the Country here for Building Ships, much may be done if an Active proper person was here - this for your private information. As this (362) goes by a Circuitous route I will not trouble [you] with more but subscribe my[self]
faithful and obliged
We are now 7 Months without news from England. I took the liberty of sending home two Fans to Lady Sidmouth in March last. I expect some other things which I commifsioned in Jan'y next which I trust Lady Sidmouth will do me the Honor to accept as a small acknowledgement of your attention to me.
There is a certain similarity between the letters written by Pellew and Troubridge. The two baronets had somewhat the same circle of friends and the letters they wrote to the same people centred on the same topic. But the parallelism between the following letters to Admiral Markham verges on the absurd. It is necessary to explain that the events they refer to are the taking of the Bellone, privateer, by the Powerful, and the Dutch frigate Pallas by the Greyhound and Harrier. The first capture was made by Pellew's ships. The second - which included the taking of two valuable Dutch spice ships, was made by ships of Troubridge's squadron. By August, it may be noted, the rumours of Pitt's death had been confirmed.
Madras, Aug. 15 1806
MY DEAR MARKHAM
I have some doubts in the present state of continents if this will reach you. If it does it breathes you my sincere congratulations on your return to office, as thereby Mrs. M. will secure you from wandering over the ocean. You will find in office the appointment of young Elton which has no doubt met your attention - he is as fine a young man as is on the station. I have now had an opportunity of putting Lieutenant Henry Hart . . . into a vacancy . . . . Hart's friends I know are your supporters at Portsmouth . . . . We have by good fortune hemmed la Bellone between the Powerful, Rattlesnake, and the land, so that she had but one loop-hole which she fought manfully to pass, and nearly obliged Plampin to compliment him with his lower deckers. She is the most beautiful of little ships . . . I promoted Mr Bastard from the Rattlesnake to her as a 28; and made my son, who is uncommonly well informed and capable, into Rattlesnake. Since that poor old Bogne died, captain of the Terpsichore, and I have filled his vacancy by my son. This is the only DD vacancy I have had (363) in my unhappy command, and it is the only reward I look to for all my anxieties to get him confirmed. I know your situation too well to encumber you more than to ask your support whenever it may come before you . . . . I would not go through my last year again to be governor-general of India. Adieu . . . . Do me all the kindness for my son you can; I may live to return it to one of yours, for you see the wheel goes round and round.
[N.R.S. Vol. xxviii.]
Penang, August 23rd, 1806
The public letter will show you how fortunate my cruisers have been. It was a bold dash, and I have great pleasure in saying Elphinstone says Tom in the Harrier behaved like a brave, good fellow; had he done otherwise I would with great composure put a pistol ball through his nob. Now, my good friend, I have made him post into the Dutch frigate Pallas - by name now the Macassar. May I request your influence with the first lord to confirm him, and you will add an everlasting favour to many others before bestowed ? I know you will make allowances for my pressing request, and attribute it to the anxiety of a parent to see his son as high in the Service as it will admit. With best regards to Mrs Markham, and shake of the fist to Rice and Jack.
Yours most truly
[N.R.S. Vol. xxviii.]
It must be noted that Pellew had appointed Pownoll as acting-captain of the Sir Francis Drake (32) almost as soon as he arrived at Madras. It was Pownoll, already a commander, who was given the Terpsichore (32) by way of promotion to post-rank. Fleetwood, until then a lieutenant and aged seventeen, was made commander into the sloop. This second appointment was the greater scandal of the two, on paper. But it was in reality more to be commended than the other. Fleetwood was a more promising boy than his elder brother, and to some extent justified his promotion soon afterwards. Pellew was fortunate in being able to find vacancies for his two sons, and more fortunate in having both appointments confirmed. This seems to have been the turning of the tide in his fortunes. Within six months he had destroyed the Dutch squadron, seen the last of his rival, and made a small fortune in prize-money: so 'the wheel goes round and round.'
(364) It was apparently in October that the first news came of the decision of the Admiralty in Pellew's favour. He was then at Madras, where he had been the greater part of the summer. Still in some expectation of the French squadron arriving, he was forming plans to destroy the Dutch before the French could form a junction with them. This joyful and unexpected intelligence confirmed him in his determination ; but for this there might have been some difficulty arising from the situation of the Dutch possessions in the eastern command. The actual dispatch reappointing him to his former dignity did not arrive until after he had sailed for Batavia. It pursued him for eight or ten weeks in consequence. But its purport was known long before. Before sailing from Madras, he explained his intentions in a letter to Markham.
Madras Oct. 16 1806
The packet goes off this moment, I have only to tell you how we are situated. The convoy is late from detentions at Bengal. I have been obliged, to lessen the risk of this road, to move ten sail on to Trincomalee and have the other five here completing; they are reported ready by the 20th. I think by the 22nd we shall move off. We have no arrivals from Europe, and I fear it is now too late to approach the coast, so that my situation is most embarrassing. However I shall do my best. The great point I have in view is to guard against Jerome's division, who may think of joining the Dutch, and making an effort on the China fleet. I shall proceed with four that way, and I hope be joined by Albion, strengthened by new iron knees intended for the new ship at Bombay; they feared to take her into dock, she is so broke and lumbered. Sceptre I hear ought to be relieved or they will never return again after another year I fear. I shall take the chance of Batavia and act accordingly. If the French squadron should be there, don't be alarmed for us, I will not deceive your expectations. I hear Troubridge says he shall return home with his 10,000 and not go to Cape. If so I have only to hope you will not believe me quite so bad as he will paint me. When we meet I will endeavour to throw a little white upon his black. I would have disappointed the hopes of the world in the expectation of our falling out, if he would; and I often used that very argument. We are both warm enough, God knows; but brothers could not agree as we were placed. I wish you all happiness and am ever, with esteem etc etc.
[N.R.S. Vol. xxviii.]
(365) Pellew sailed, as he hoped to do, on the 22nd, saw the convoy for Europe leave Trincomalee under escort, and then made for the Straits of Sunda. His squadron consisted of his flagship, the Powerful (74), Russell (74) Belliqueux (64), Terpsichore (32), and Seaflower (14). The Albion was expected to join off the Straits but did not do so - only the Sir Francis Drake (32) appeared. This was on November 23rd. Pellew did not wait for further reinforcements. He went straight through the Straits, took the Dutch armed brig Maria Wilhelmina, on the 26th, off Bantam, and was off Batavia on the following day. The Seaflower led the way inshore to the attack, followed by Terpsichore. The latter ship was now under the command of Fleetwood Pellew, who thus became post-captain. Pownoll had been moved on to command the Sir Francis Drake. The corvette William was taken outside the port.
No attempt will be made to describe the action which followed in any detail. The results were not very important, for several reasons. The two Dutch line of battle ships were not there, to begin with, having been moved to Griessee. Then, as Pellew heard at this time, 'Jerome's division' which was really commanded by Willaumez, was not bound eastwards at all. So that the original motive for the raid was gone. Although technically enemies, the Dutch were comparatively inoffensive. Finally, all the ships destroyed were quite small and harmless.
From a more personal point of view, however, this little action meant a great deal to Pellew. It was a crumb of success to one who had not had any opportunity for distinction for years. It was a chance for his sons to distinguish themselves. And there was a chance of profit, although little was made as events turned out. Considered as a fight, the affair was nothing. A great deal of gallantry was involved and a great deal of damage was done, but that is all that can be said. The resistance was overcome with some difficulty but might perhaps have been dealt with in less spectacular fashion. The result was not in doubt. Considered as a feat of navigation, however, the incident is more respectable. The Dutch were taken by surprise when the squadron appeared, partly because the Seaflower had been disguised as a French corvette, but partly also from the difficulty of the approach. When the passage had been passed in safety Pellew took out his gold watch and gave it to his faithful follower, Gaze, who was acting as master of the Culloden, and who had conned the squadron inside the thousand (366) islands. There can be no doubt that John Gaze deserved it. Such triumph as there was belonged more to him than to any one else.
When the squadron approached Batavia, it was soon found that there was no depth of water near the town. The ships of the line could not move in far enough to admit of bombardment. Meanwhile, the Dutch ships all ran themselves on shore under the batteries. To burn these the boats of the squadron assembled alongside the Terpsichore, and then went in to attack the shipping. The Dutch frigate Phoenix (36) was the first objective. Fleetwood Pellew led the boats in, manned by five hundred volunteers. He took the Phoenix and turned her guns on the remainder of the vessels. Then under a heavy fire from the ships and batteries, the boats boarded and burnt the rest of the shipping. There were two small corvettes, two armed ships, two armed brigs, and nearly twenty sail of merchantmen. All but three vessels were destroyed. That more could not be brought off seems to have been due to the fire of the batteries. The boats returned after some four hours fighting. There were practically no casualties.
On the day after the destruction of the shipping, on the 28th, that is to say, the two frigates which had covered the boat attack, commanded by Pellew's two sons, worked nearer the town and set fire to the dockyard. Almost the only losses incurred were the result of accidentally blowing up a powder magazine among the Dutch store-houses on the Isle of Onroost.
The squadron sailed on the 1st of December. Three ships, suffering wretchedly from scurvy while becalmed, went to Trincomalee; two were left to cruise in the eastern seas; and the flagship and another went to Madras. The end of the expedition was somewhat marred by the escape of the Dutch convoy from Japan. These ships went, by mistake, outside Bankar Island, while Pellew was waiting for them inside. Consolation came in the form of the official restitution to the whole command, which reached him at Malacca on January 1st, 1807. It was while still there that Pellew wrote an account of his affairs to Broughton.
Jan'y 10th 1807
MY DEAR ALEX
I cannot permit the New Year to commence without wishing my oldest and dearest friend a long continuance and enjoyment (367) of that Domestic happynefs he so well deserves, and be afsured my dear Alex, that you are infinitely a more happy man in your retirement and disappointment of worldly rank than you could have been had fortune still retained you in Active Service. And I was going to say that I envy my friend his enjoyment, but that would not convey my meaning. I wish only to partake of them and I hope by this time next year to be on my way to the best of Wives who's value I can never estimate - her prudence, affection and upright character will I trust shed its influence over all my Children. My daily hope and prayer is [that] they may be all the Mother and nothing of the Father, for I know not of one single estimable virtue that I ever had I would at times wish to believe myself pofsefsed of a good heart but, alas, it is so hidden among rubbish and vile pafsion of temper, nursed by too much good fortune, that I am every day lamenting the opportunities power affords to the indulgence of Caprice. To say that I do not deliberately commit a bad action or do any Man injury - is indeed but a very negative sort of virtue and I am obliged at last to seek Consolation in the recollection of the practice of others who I consider worse than myself. I have that Character before me in Sir T. Troubridge who is I fear a Weak Man - entirely commanded by his pafsion; Who is every week dishonouring himself by striking some of his Midshipmen or any body else who comes in his way - his good fortune (and Lord St Vincent's example of violence - who he attempts to follow without talents to bear him thro') have overset him for want of ballast - Un Garcon Patisser from St Martin's Lane. And who once served in this very Country as fore Topman should not give himself so much rope. He is now nearly frantic - on being order'd to the Cape, and on my restoration to the supreme Command of India. He has however - taking out of my Birds Nest - as many eggs as give him fifty thousand pounds already paid hard cash - and thirty to his Son - but with this he is not satisfied but took off the Admiral's share of a Frigate lately taken after he had rec'd his orders, so that I am literally left to starve, as well as your Brother and poor Sneyd. Of him poor fellow you should know the whole, as I fear without an Admiralty recommendation he will get no good here. Lord St. Vincent forbid me under pain of considering himself ill treated to put any of his recommendations into what are called Admiralty Vacancies. And as to deaths and Court Martials, we have none - so that if he does not interest himself with the Admiralty to confirm the Hospital Appointment, he will not succeed. The pay etc is good while he gets it, but no further does it go. You must get at Lord Howick - for I must tell you only indeed what you already know, that every new Lord has sent me out a List longer than his predecessors and so it (368) will be to the end of the Chapter. Lord Howick I do not know but I shall ever revere him for his honourable conduct towards me in restoring me to the Rank I had never forfeited in the Eyes of the Nation. And what is still more valuable to my own good opinion and Confidence in my own integrity. My Mind is put at ease. Lord Melville forfeited his word of honor to me - for I put it to him, namely if he intended to interfere with my Command - wishing not to go under such an expectation - he afsured me on his honor he did not. He is a Poltroon and Lord St. Vincent is worse for permitting Sir Tho's to accept an appointment which he knew dishonor'd me, who was sent by his nomination. I am sure you will think with me on this point.
[four pages of the letter missing]
You will know from my dear Susan with whom I understand you correspond that I am restored but I must tell you that Lord Howick has behaved in the most liberal and honorable manner - he now says I had been ill used, and he exprefses a Confidence in my character and Conduct which will not only secure my exertions but will command my affection and reverence for his honorable procedure towards me. I am entirely unknown to him but I am certain the Duke of N[orthumberland] took means to influence him unknown to me. I have never looked that way for support as I knew your history in that Quarter, but I have strong grounds to believe his Grace has given me this proof of his regard. I should never have thought of asking any favour of this kind but I am greatly obliged by it. I have reason to think Lord St. V., Fox-like, took some pains to prevent this, at least he sounded to see how it would go down; on all wh I hope you and I may hold long conversation by our fire sides either in your cold Country or our Mild one. This brings to my recollection our old friend Ad. Dacres. I am sorry to say he did not behave in so friendly a manner to my Boy Pownoll as he might have done. And I hear he is enveloped in self only. If he should get riches I think the whole family will be overset - vanity seems to prevail among them very much. I remember his once showing me a letter from Lord St V. wherein he said 'I have been long tired with the importunities and insolence of the Dacres family' - What think you of that for a Coup. You will I know rejoice to hear of any good fortune which may attend your Godson Fleetwood - well then, you will and may rejoice with me. I made him a Post Capt into the Terpsichore upon the death of Capt. Bogne - but whether Bogne will be considered as a post Capt. I cannot yet say but I do hope Lord Howick will do me the favour to confirm him, either as Comm or Post he must be by this Death-room Commifsion. I must own to favour - but (369) as Troubridge has made his Son post and also deprived me of what was fairly mine in expectation if he had not been sent, to the large amount I have told you of before, I think they will not refuse my son. I realy cannot do him justice - a more firm, Manly, decided young man of the mildest manners and civilest deportment there cannot be - the management of his ship is excellent, his officers and men love him - so just and so temperate, so regular and so minute upon all examinations of complaint, that I can truly say he is equal to the Command of a first rate. As an Artist he is compleat and navigates by his own judgment. He led the squadron thro' Sunda and to Batavia with the greatest judgment, was never at fault. I followed, leading my own line-without ever having reason to exprefs a doubt of our Courses. He placed his ship ag't the Dutch Frigate and Batteries with equal skill, and in my barge led on the boats to Boarding with so much cool determin'd spirit that he is become the admiration of the whole Squadron, even the Dutch Prisoners volunteered for his ship, among twenty of which he has 7 Pilots of their Squadron to afsist his Cruise - upwards of 100 pieces of Cannon were opened at once on the boats - and in three minutes after they boarded the Phoenix of 36 Guns she was in full action ag't her old friends and protecting his Boats while firing the ships. He fought her until the Water overflowed her magazine, as they had scuttled her. I afsure you, a prettier exploit I never saw. You will say, Aye Aye, here is the Father. I have therefore done - but I afsure you I say not half what others say of him, and so let it rest; it is a great comfort to see that one has not reared a bevy of Pigeons. I afsure you my Eyes ran over and my heart swelled when I heard a general shout on board the Culloden from the lookers on when the Dutch frigate opened her fire under British Colours over Dutch - Well done, Fleetwood well done, bravo - was the cry all around me. What Father could have kept his Eyes dry. I was obliged to wipe them before I could again look thro' the Glafs - and thats true; but don't let Mrs B. know it I have not told it to my dear Susan because I know she will say it was cruel to expose the dear Boy, and upon my Soul every shot seem 'd to go through me and made me quite forget that shells were dropping all round us. I hope it will lift his promotion. It was a pretty Command, 24 boats in three divisions towing each other until just within reach of Grape shot, where they all rested to take breath and cast off, and with three Cheers off they set thro' shot and shells of all sorts, flank'd by two ships of 20 Guns on each side, the spair Bowman standing erect waving his Cutlafs over his head, all the officers standing with drawn swords - I never saw such a rush, they were like Bees sticking all over the side of the Frigate, Mynheer walking out with a Quick step (370) the other side as they came in. Now you will ask, what have you got by this. I answer little or nothing. I think if we had had 500 Troops we should have carried Batavia. We burnt about half a Million or more - bro't off scarcely anything - £500 may be my share and that I shall present to my dear Fleetwood - he is a nice boy to do this at 17; but don't mention his age for your Life, he is full 30 in discretion, sense and manners. And you may be proud of your God son. Who knows but he may, if confirmed, become useful to some of your Cubs when you and I are gone. Apropos, Alex, do you ever think about that said affair. How many warnings have you had. I begin to wear - have lost several teeth, have had so much East India bile that Mercury is become habitual - three Salivations since have loosened every tooth - weaken'd my Eyes, have a fistule Lachrymitis forming from a broken nose I got in saving the life of a fellow not worth his salt who fell overboard in the Indefatigable some years ago. My floor timbers are very shaky, and I must very soon go into my Wife's Dock for a thorough repair, or become hors de Combat. Grey as a badger and fat as a pig, running to Belly - such will you see me one day in the Year 1808, knocking at your friendly door, for meet we will somewhere.
You will be
angry with me if I do not tell you how my Pagoda plantation
thrives. I am sorry to say not well. I believe I have received
about 4000l. sterling,
and my outfit before I left England cost me 3250 - so that I am
not much more than square, but if Fleetwood should be confirmed I
have provided for two Sons, and my dear Emma, wch is a great
object indeed. I do not expect much; the profitable part of my
Command was given to Troubridge. However, my dear Alex, I still
hope I may add something more, if not, I am content. I only wish
to compafs a Carriage for my dear Susan when unable to walk, and
a horse for myself. We can muster 2000 a year as we are, and as
we are moderate, it will do - and we have a House of our own. One
more lucky hit of ten thousand would make up my wishes. I should
destine the interest of that to a Seat in the Chapel and that is
the cheapest way to get in and pay by the year as long as you sit,
this puts Difsolution at defiance. My only fear is that Poor
Susan will not like this - therefore be silent upon it. Pownoll I
believe has made about 30001. - if he looks out for a good Girl
with either Money or Connections he may do well. He is always in
love; and I have hard work to keep him out of the noose. Cast
about you for a nice thing who will take an open hearted good Boy
- without money. You are all rich in the North. All boys are in
great danger in India - snap is the word, as the following story
will convince you . . . .
. . . in short I never permit Pownoll or Fleetwood to sit twice (371) at Table with the same young Lady, for they really push them upon the boys in so bare faced a manner they can hardly get off without saying soft things. I have been obliged to wash Pownoll with the spray of a long Cruize - to avoid consequences which neither he nor I intended.
What, my dear Alex, will you say to all this. You will naturally conclude I am in high spirits, and have nothing to do. The latter is true, for this day; When walking in the stern Gallery and bringing to my mind all my dear friends at Home, I thought I would sit down, broiling as I am with heat, and write you a long letter, and here it is, puffing as I go, pens dried up, Ink scarcely to be moved upon paper and a hand half shaking - yet I hope it may arrive, as it will afsure you, My dear Friend, of the unceasing and unalterable affection of his
Adieu - love to the Cubs and Madam
On the day after this letter was written, Pellew arrived at Penang. He found that Troubridge had sailed from there for Madras on December 7th. In a dispatch written to the Admiralty on that day he stated the fact but added that he purposed 'to proceed this day in search of his Flag,' in order that arrangements might be made 'which shall permit of his immediate departure to his appointed station.' It is necessary, at this point, to explain that the Admiralty, in deciding to support Pellew, had apparently acquiesced in his right to take Troubridge under his orders. In consequence, the dispatch sent to Troubridge seems to have been a mere notification of his transference to the Cape. Pellew, on the other hand, was given full instructions and generally placed in a position to give Troubridge his sailing orders. He was, in particular, either told what ships Troubridge was to have or else told to assign him a certain number. Either in pursuance of orders or otherwise, Pellew apparently intended to give Troubridge the Sceptre (74) and Lancaster (64) - the former probably to replace the Blenheim as his flagship. It was notorious that the Blenheim was worn out and unfit for a long voyage - least of all at that time of year. The ship was not only old but had been all but wrecked a year before in the Straits of Malacca. Troubridge had somehow repaired her at Penang, and succeeded in reaching Madras under jury-masts.
Now, Troubridge was 'nearly frantic', as Pellew said. The decision of the Admiralty - which he had confidently expected to be in his favour - was a staggering blow to his pride. It is clear that his one desire, as soon as his first (372) fury had spent itself, was to avoid meeting Pellew. He had no malevolence to fear from that quarter, as he probably knew. What he feared was something worse - kindness, pity, condescension. He could not trust his tortured nerves to endure the patronage of his rival. He must have known that Pellew would offer him a safer ship and compel him, if necessary, to accept it. The thought of this was intolerable. For almost the first time in his life, Troubridge was afraid. There was one man in the world he dared not face. He almost literally ran away.
At Madras the un-sea-worthiness of the Blenheim became apparent. The ship was practically falling to pieces. The pumps had to be kept going even while she lay at anchor, and even so the leaks were barely kept from gaining. The captain's protests were unavailing. Troubridge would sail in her to the Cape and immediately, even if the ship's back was broken. And sail he did, on January 12th, 1807, the day after Pellew had set out to look for him, ten days before the Culloden arrived at Madras. He took with him the Java (36) and the Harrier brig (18) - neither of which had he the right to take. The Java was an old ship, a prize taken from the Dutch, and utterly worn out. The squadron was caught in a heavy gale on February 1st, when off the SE. end of Madagascar. The Blenheim and Java sank with all hands, probably during the night of the 1st - 2nd. The Harrier arrived safely at the Cape and reported that her consorts were last seen on the evening of the 1st, both with signals of distress flying, and the Blenheim visibly settling in the water. It was thought that the Java collided with the Blenheim while attempting to render her some assistance. It was not until June that Pellew heard of this and knew that Troubridge was dead.
In so far as Troubridge entered into the life of Pellew he played an unworthy part. All men act badly sometimes; and Troubridge, in coming to India, fled from bitter experiences only to find fresh bitterness awaiting him. It would not be fantastic to think that the very fact of Pellew's flag flying in the ship Troubridge had once commanded was a source of bitterness. But behind all lay the quarrel with Nelson. While he was Nelson's friend a noble affection protected him from what was worst in himself. His honour was then as bright as his sword, with a brightness as surely reflected. When that light no longer shone the steel was found to be dull; and, after a while, it was seen to tarnish. Lord St. Vincent was no man to imitate. His vices were (373) more easily to be copied than his virtues. So it came about that the tarnished blade caught the glare of some consuming flame. In that dreadful light it snapped and shivered and was cast aside.
Pellew came into Madras on January 22nd and reported to the Admiralty his regret at finding Troubridge already gone, and at his having taken with him two vessels properly belonging to the East Indies Command. It is fortunate that so much evidence exists to prove how far Pellew was from being responsible for the sailing of the Blenheim and Java. Even as it was, some legend arose of his having murdered his enemy. In April of that year, for instance, Admiral Murray wrote
Our poor friend Troubridge I have very little hopes of. I fear he must have foundered in that gale in February . . . .
I find the Sir E. Hughes has twice been ordered home but I fear from some little pique between Pellew and Troubridge she has been stopped, for first one gave her orders and the other stopped her, and then the other gave orders, and those were contradicted by the other . . . . Captain Ratsey's account of the state of the Blenheim when at Penang gives more reason to suppose she could not weather the very heavy gale on the 1st February, so that I really have no hopes for his safety; it seems he wanted another ship and had ordered her, but Pellew would not let her go . . . .
[N.R.S. Vol. xxviii.]
Here there is no special accusation against Pellew, but where a flag-officer could be so misinformed as this it may be taken for granted that other people formed wilder conjectures from more extravagant rumours. The dispute had been too notorious for mankind to fail in this respect. The picture of Pellew resolutely pushing his enemy into a sinking ship was more than imaginative minds could well resist. It was perhaps as well that Pellew remained abroad until the imaginative had found other objects for romantic contemplation.
During the month in which Pellew came to Madras, and in which Troubridge fled from it, an important event happened in another part of the station. This was the capture by the Caroline (36) of the Spanish register ship San Rafael, of sixteen guns and ninety-seven men. The galleon was out of Lima and bound for Manilla with a cargo of immense value, including one thousand seven hundred quintals of copper and half a million dollars in specie. It (374) was Captain Rainier who made this capture, in the Straits of St. Bernadine. Pellew's share, as commander-in-chief, came to about £26,000.
Pellew left Madras early in February 1807, and reached Bombay on the 28th of that month. Before sailing he sent a dispatch to the Governor-General, pointing out how feebly Batavia had been defended and asking his co-operation in a combined expedition against the island. He gave it as his opinion that 2,000 men, half to be English, would be sufficient to annex the whole of Java. Sir George Barlow's reply was influenced by the policy of the Court of Directors. Without actually rejecting this proposal, he stultified it by offering Pellew exactly a quarter of the number of men he asked for. Pellew was, it has been said, 'permitted to amuse himself with a simple demonstration.' A better instance of economy defeating its own end would be difficult to find. If Java was to be taken it was clearly necessary to send at least two thousand men to take it. If it was not to be taken there was no point in sending any men at all. All the mere damage to be done was well in the power of the navy to do. The beautiful compromise which is the soul of parliamentary government breaks down when a real problem demands solution. To the question, is Java to be taken or is it not, the voice of power replied uncertainly. It was neither to be taken nor left alone. This answer was not the outcome of some deep policy; it resulted from mere inability to decide. Pellew protested in vain, and eventually accepted the force offered him.
After seeing a new frigate launched at Bombay, and given the command of it to Cole, who was succeeded as flag-captain by an older follower, George Bell, Pellew sailed for Madras. This was at the end of April. He took occasion on the voyage to write again to Broughton.
Culloden, off Ceylon May 1, 1807
MY DEAR ALEX
I have not much time at this moment for my Private Letters nor do I consider the opportunity very favorable, however, I embrace it with satisfaction under the hope it will soon or late reach its destination and find my friend happy and well in the bosom of his amiable family, it will then also serve to convey the best wishes of a heart long devoted to your service and as warm in your interest as in the days of our youthful attachment. One motive more I have at this moment, if not two, for writing you. The first is to inform you that having got through Lord (375) Howick's list of Young Men for promotion, in which list your brother's name was not included (whatever Lord St. V may tell his father) I seized with pleasure the sort of interregnum before Mr Grenville's list can arrive, of giving him a Commifsion for the Rattlesnake Sloop, for the confirmation of which you must push all your interest; being an Admiralty Vacancy possibly St. V. may move on it. And if opportunity offers before my return, wch I suppose may be next year, I will embrace the other step for him . . . .
The next important part of my letter, altho Personal, will I know give pleasure to your heart as it will announce the independence of your friend, by a stroke of good fortune in the Capture of St Raphael Galleon by one of my Frigates, by which I touch somewhere between twenty and twenty-five thousand pounds - making the aggregate of my receipts since in Command about thirty thousand-add this to any man's fortune and he becomes rich - and so am I, to my heart's content. Have I not told you good news. My boy Pownoll was on the same ground and almost within hearing her Guns. Rainier of 22 who took her was 13 Months ago a Mid - he has since married, taken very handsomely a Frigate, and now pocketts full 50,0001. I wish you had been my Secretary, as he shares for Agency something like ten thousand pds. All that remains in store for me is superfluous - and may go to the boys to settle them. Your boy Fleetwood, who is a real treasure, is just ret'n from a long Cruize with only 30 Men on Deck, eat up with scurvy; he goes again in Psyche, a beautiful 18 pr, in hopes of the other ship we have information of. He is beyond comparison the finest youth of the Squadron, universally beloved. Adieu, my dearest, best of friends, present me affectionately to Mrs. B and your fireside. May we meet early in I808 in peace and happynefs.
God be with you, Adieu
Another letter followed swiftly on the heels of this:
Madras, July 22 1807
MY VERY DEAR FRIEND
If I did not rely on the affection you bear me and which I know you cannot shake off, I should myself be uneasy at my own neglect, for looking over my book of letters I blush to say the name of Broughton does not meet my Eye so often as my heart tells me it should - self reproach will induce you to forgive your friend. I wish I could promise Amendment but really my dislike to letter writing has wonderfully increased since I visited India, here it is a sort of fashionable Amusement to employ yourself Chit writing, wch begins with a note and ends (376) in half a dozen Sheets - Young Men throw themselves along on a Sopha and dictate to a black Clerk called Connicopaly - half a dozen sheets - full of elegant Quotations from Shakespeare wch he is reading - in short it is a climate of indolence and Luxury - united with Avarice and opprefsion of wch I am truly disgusted. I verily believe I have forgot to make you participate in my late good fortune. I have won a lottery Ticket worth 26000 and a Dft to that amount goes to my dearly beloved Susan to reward her for all her tender love for me and for her anxious endeavours to rear her family in the paths of Innocence and Virtue, to become one day an honor to their Country. I am now rich enough and shall be glad to return to have one kick at Bonnaparte's flag before I Dye. I would freely give back the Whole for such a day as Trafalgar - how sweetly could I give up Life in such a cause and surrounded by such Heroes. I know what your Knowing Head will say - and I believe you are right and that I am wrong. Would you have believed, or could you have thought that your pock marked, Ugly, Uninteresting and Uneducated Cub, your old friend Ned Pellew, would ever have become an Admiral, a Commander in Chief, a Col of Marines, a Baronet, and a man with a purse weighing fifty thousand pounds - And yet all that is true, but how I cannot tell you - I left out my visit to St. Stephens Chapel, for that by my dear good Susan is reckon'd amongst my Sins. God has been Merciful to a Miserable Sinner, in shame I say it, I have been a wicked fellow - Afore by Constitution than in heart, I hope; long have I repented, altho' I dare not look up with one atom of confidence but thro' the Mediation of my blefsed Saviour Who's blood has been shed for the propitiation of all our Sins. God pardon me, but at this moment I was going to say, I was happier when we were Mids together on the Lakes, than Now; were you near me I should expect to be knock'd down, and therefore I will humbly beg your pardon My dear friend; your progrefs - with infinitely superior prospects, has been spread with thorns and briars - do not for a moment believe me capable of wounding the delicacy of your feelings, or rouse thoughts which for your own peace have been long discarded; with talents to which I have no pretensions, you had no impediment but your interest, you had too many friends of power, who fed your expectations without carrying you over the difficulties every Officer meets in early Life; let us then My dear Alex still cherish the friendship which our youthful hearts engendered, and if it be pofsible let us transmit our alliance to our Children's Children. May the Sons of My friend be more fortunate than their father, and should it please God still to blefs my endeavours how truly rejoyced shall I be, to become useful to Your Children - say Amen.
(377) I must now tell you I have made David post into the Drake Frigate of 36 Guns, in a sort of Death Vacancy of poor Young Warden, one of my protégés, who was also just Made, but had not time for Confirmation, indeed his promotion, your brother's - and Warden's Death, all go Home in One dish by this Conveyance, a Duplicate by the Grampus from Bombay - to the Cape. I hope he will get confirmed, by that arch Jesuit, who you know, goad him well, he can stand it, and requires it . . . .
Inigo is going to China with a Convoy and brings back another by wch if he Manages well he will get a good freight of money, wch will give him from one to two thousand pounds and is the best thing going in my gift. I hope you write to my dear Susan and old Schanky, who is most uncommonly Kind to her and to me: I love the old boy. My two Boys are in two Frigates, Phaeton and Psyche, and gone after another Galleon. My lottery Ticket was the San Raffaeal, worth One Million Dollars, the Mexicano now expected has on board three, I really almost hope they will not take her, altho a few thousands to them to [keep] them from sucking me, instead of their Mother; they are both excellent boys, but I think expensive - but that is the order of the day. I go now upon Velvet and shall sit down with three thousand a year; the Devil in it, if that will not do; however, I will not take ten thousand for my next Six Months - and I truly hope to be Home in July 1808. I hope my dear old Wife will now treat herself with a snug leather Machine to drag her about in, and make her little house a paradise before old Adam returns to her Garden. She is a good Creature; if you shd go to Bath I wish you would persuade her to meet you with her Girl Julia for six Weeks, it would do them both good, and prevent Julia from Rusticating; Susan does not gad enough to get her Girl Married, and young Men must now be sought for you and I were not so lucky. I roused my Wife out of a snug Corner in a little retired Village before she had ever heard a Gun or seen the Sea - She has turned out well and I would not part with her for the princefs Charlotte, don't tell her so or I shall never be able to Manage her. Adieu, Adieu, My dear Alex - your young friend Dicky, as I told you . . . [two lines erased]
Present me kindly to Mrs B. and to all your Cubs offer a kifs of affection from, My dear friend,
July 22 - I have had no letter from you above a year. Inigo is well but I believe he never writes
The two young Pellews failed to find the galleon they were (378) looking for. Fleetwood, however, cruised profitably off Java and captured something of value at Samarang. He was rewarded on his return by being made acting-captain of the Powerful (74) - he was aged eighteen. Pellew was now about to finish his task at Java. Embarking 500 men and a few guns, he sailed from Madras on October 20th, taking with him a squadron sufficient to complete the discomforture of the Dutch. With the Culloden went the Powerful, two frigates, three sloops and the Worcester transport. At Griessie (Griessee) a port at the east end of Java, Pellew found the Dutch ships he had missed in 1806. He destroyed them. They consisted of two old and dismantled ships of the line, each of seventy guns, the sheer hulk, and an Indiaman pierced for forty guns. The Dutch authorities came to terms and the town was spared. Apart from the party of artillerymen who went on shore to demolish the batteries under the terms of capitulation, no troops were landed. Indeed, lacking sufficient force to take the whole island, the expedition was essentially futile or worse than futile. It merely spurred Napoleon to reinforce the feeble garrison, with the result that 12,000 men had to be sent to take it when the time came. The Dutch supplied the squadron with provisions and assisted the departure of the English with great solicitude. It was afterwards discovered that they were daily expecting the arrival of their valuable ships from Japan - which came in two days after Pellew had gone. Returning from this exploit, Pellew went to Bombay, where he arrived in February 1808. He was met by a letter from the merchants of Calcutta requesting him to take with him to England, when he returned home, a memorial to the Admiralty concerning the 'unprotected state of the Maritime trade of this Country against the Cruizers of the Enemy.' This was a direct insult to him. And it was the more irritating in that, as he happened to know, they had already sent a copy of it direct to the first lord. On the 25th April, Pellew's secretary replied from Admiralty House, Bombay, expressing the admiral's annoyance: 'the transmission of a Copy of the Memorial to him so long after the original has been clandestinely forwarded to England, he considers to be adding insult to injustice.' The injustice lay in the fact that the losses of which the merchants complained were the result of their rushing for an early market instead of asking for convoy. This quarrel with the merchants of Calcutta lasted for the rest of the time Pellew (379) was in India. The merchants of Bombay, on the other hand, persuaded by his friend Charles Forbes, a leading merchant of that town, passed resolutions in his favour. While still at Bombay, Pellew wrote to Broughton.
Culloden, Bombay 1st June 1808
MY DEAR FRIEND
Altho I have not heard from my inestimable friend a long while nor by this last direct fleet from England, yet I confefs I have no cause to complain but I believe on the reverse have reason to accuse myself of not being so attentive to my old friends as I ought to have been. But then, my dear Alex, I know you will never believe that I esteem and regard you lefs than before, indeed I feel that our regard and friendship can but end with our lives. At this moment I am full of excuse for you and knowing how you suffer by cold and Winter Weather I doubt not it my dear friend is now roll'd in flannel. What will become of me I know not but I dread the first years return more than I can exprefs myself and think I shall be worse than ever you have been, and God knows that need not be. I will not look forward to such grievous expectations but hope a cheerful Society and comfortable fire side; for you must know, my dear Alex, I am abundantly rich, far beyond my wish or expectations. When you and I, my dear fellow, and two or three more used to be happy knawing a tough beef stake at No. 2 Charles Street, Westminster, at an Oil Man's - who's shop afforded us a half penny worth of pickles - Who ever thought of being worth a City plumb. Query - am I one little happier, No; however, by way of secret, as I am so rich I mean to cheat old Nick out of his prey as long as I can by leaving bile and liver in this vile hot country, and trying Devon by way of change. I want to buy a good thing there for Pownoll of about 2000 pr Ann, that the Dog may be tied down not to spend his pa's Money. Can you find me a nice Wife for him, he is a good fellow and is extremely anxious to be married and settled as he calls it - look about for us any where but in Doddington Hall [where] they are all Gamesters, Rogues, and - s, and many of them lousy. As we may all be home in 1808 mayhap some tender Creature may be good enough to wait for a boy of 20. Fleetwood is the flower of my flock and the flower of my Fleet; he is a noble fellow and will marry well if he likes, he is so gentle, so well manner'd (after pa) and so correctly minded, that I think he may really do as he likes in that respect - he is now posted in the Death Vacancy of the poor gallant Hastings in his ship St. Fiorenzo and he has 50001 in his pocket - therefore he is out of mine; and he is a brave gallant little fellow, worthy of his God Sire. (380) Old Sneyd has been touching up a French Frigate very handsomely, altho' she escaped by her superior sailing. I hope it will help to make him Post, he is a good fellow altho we play rough and smooth, now and then . . . [erasure] . . . he knows how to give a french Man a good drefsing and had Mons'r Eperon (Spurs, I suppose) chose to take any more of it, I verily believe old Sneyd would have lugged him into Port, altho' no 18 pounders. If my dear old fashioned Wife does but like it, I shall have a little snug House in Town, and as you and a certain Lady are but handkerchief size, we may hope to be able to stow you away for a Winter, and much joy would it give your old friend, who will meet you with his heart brim full of affection-for believe me my dear Alex neither distance, heat, fortune, nor succefs, can for a moment make me otherwise than you always knew me, and ever most sincerely and truly your faithful friend,
To this letter was added a postscript referring to the outbreak of war with Denmark - news of which reached Pellew more quickly than it reached the Danish merchants in India. Pellew had sent to take the Danish settlement at Tranquebar immediately after his return from Java.
That sturdy dog of Denmark has given me by his obstinacy about fifty thousand pounds, poor Sneyd was out of the way, so that my money poured in upon me without sending Cruizers - all these were seized in Bengal River and at Tranquebar. I think you may as well congratulate Wifey. I know you are not one of those who are seized with the Grey pipes on the good fortune of your friends. I hope to leave India by next March. Adieu, dearest of friends, May we soon meet in peace and happynefs.
There is another foe to friendship besides distance and fortune. By the time this letter reached England, Broughton was dead. What this was to mean to Pellew, when he came to know of it, is not to be known and can be imagined only by those who have suffered such a loss. There is no reason to suppose that he often spoke of it; and, as for writing, he had now no friend in whom he could confide. That he had many friends, that he was to make many more, is true. But there was from this time a gap in his life which could not be filled, which could only be forgotten. (381) Two other important events happened before Pellew left India. One was his promotion to the rank of vice-admiral, which was dated April 28th, 1808. The other was the marriage of Pownoll Pellew with the eldest daughter of Sir George Barlow. This took place at Madras, on October 1st. Barlow was by then, since the arrival of Lord Minto, merely Governor of Madras. But the match was a good one, and marked Pellew's triumph over the many scheming Anglo-Indian mothers who had tried to entrap his sons.
Pellew sailed for England in February 1809, with a convoy of Indiamen. The Culloden nearly shared the fate of the Blenheim while passing near the Ile de France during the hurricane season. Four of the Indiamen, much too deeply laden with saltpetre, foundered in the gale. This produced a great deal of angry controversy as soon as the Court of Directors heard of it. He had left India, it seems, without waiting to be relieved. And fresh troubles awaited on him on account of the lost Indiamen. But such matters as these hardly troubled him. He had sorrow enough of another kind.
On July 14th, 1809, Pellew's flag was hauled down on the Culloden. It was almost exactly five years since he left England.