The Life of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, Tenth Earl of Dundonald, Vol. II
by Thomas Lord Cochrane
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

That letter was forwarded to Lord Auckland from Halifax, where Lord Dundonald then was, in the beginning of August. "Assuredly the reasons which you give for the use of the means suggested are such as it is difficult to controvert," wrote Lord Auckland on the 18th; "but I would at least defer my assent or dissent to the time when the question may be more pressing than it is at present." "I would postpone my own reflections on the 'secret plans,'" he wrote again on the 1st of September, "and would fain hope that events will allow the Government long to postpone all decision upon them. I agree with you, however, in much that you say upon their principle, and am well satisfied that to no hands better than yours could the execution of any vigorous plans be entrusted."

When, however, as will be seen on a latter page, an opportunity did arise for enforcing those plans against another power than France, their execution was not permitted to Lord Dundonald.

Strongly as he himself was impressed with their importance, they formed only a part of a complete system of opinions respecting the defence of England at which he arrived by close study and long experience. These have already been partially indicated. He did not wish that his plans should be lightly made use of; but, believing that they would ultimately become a recognised means of warfare, and that even without them a great revolution would soon take place in ways of fighting, he deprecated as useless and wasteful the elaborate fortifications which were in his time beginning to be extensively set up at Dover, Portsmouth, and other possible points of attack upon England, and urged, with no less energy, that vast improvements ought to be made in the construction and employment of ships of war.

Fortifications, he considered, were only desirable for the protection of the special ports and depots around which they were set up; and even for that purpose they ought to be so compact as to need no more than a few troops and local garrisons for their occupation. To have them so complicated and numerous as to require the exclusive attention of all or nearly all the military force of England, appeared to him only a source of national weakness. His own achievements at Valdivia and elsewhere showed him that skilful seamanship on the part of an invader would render them much less sufficient for the defence of the country than was generally supposed. If all our soldiers were scattered along various parts of the coast, it would not be difficult for the enemy, by a bold and sudden onslaught, or still more by a feint of the sort in which he himself was master, to take possession of one, and then there would be no concentrated army available to prevent the onward march of the assailant. Much wiser would it be to leave the seaboard comparatively unprotected from the land, and to have a powerful army so arranged as to be ready for prompt resistance of the enemy, if, by any means, he had gained a footing on the shore.

To prevent that footing being gained, however, Lord Dundonald was quite as eager as any champion of monster fortifications could be; but this prevention, he urged, must be by means of moveable ships, and not by immoveable land-works. A strong fleet of gunboats, stationed all along the coast, and with carefully-devised arrangements for mutual communication, so that at any time their force could be speedily concentrated in one or more important positions, would be far more efficacious and far more economical than the more popular expedients for the military defence of England. He heartily believed, in fact, in the old and often-proved maxim that the sea was England's wall, and he desired to have that wall guarded by a force able to watch its whole extent and pass at ease from one point to another as occasion required.

Desiring that thus the coast should be immediately protected by efficient gunboats, he desired no less to augment the naval strength of the country by means of improved war-ships as much like gunboats as possible. To large ships, if constructed in moderation and applied to special purposes, he was not averse; but he set a far higher value upon small and well-armed vessels, able to pass rapidly from place to place and to navigate shallow seas. "Give me," he often said, "a fast small steamer, with a heavy long-range gun in the bow, and another in the hold to fall back upon, and I would not hesitate to attack the largest ship afloat." His opinion on this point also was confirmed by his own experience—most notably in the exploits of his little Speedy in the Mediterranean—and by the whole history of English naval triumphs. Since the time when the so-called Invincible Armada of Spain entered the British Channel, designed to conquer England by means of its huge armaments, and when the bulky galleons and galeasses of Philip's haughty sailors were chased and worried by the smaller barks and pinnaces of Drake, Hawkins, Frobisher, and the other sea-captains of Elizabeth, who sailed round and round their foe, and darted in and out of his unwieldy mass of shipping, never failing to inflict great injury, while his volleys of artillery passed harmlessly over their decks to sink into the sea, there had been abundant proof of the constant superiority of small warships over large. A "mosquito fleet," as he called it, was what Lord Dundonald wished to see developed; a swarm of active little vessels, just large enough to carry one or two powerful guns, which could go anywhere and do anything, to which the larger crafts of the enemy would afford convenient targets, but which, small and nimble, would be much less likely to be themselves attacked, and, even if attacked and sunk, would entail far less loss than would ensue from the destruction of a large war-ship. "As large a gun as possible, in a vessel as small and swift as possible, and as many of them as you can put upon the sea," was Lord Dundonald's ideal. For this he argued during half a century; for this he laboured hard and long in the exercise of his inventive powers. In 1826, the plan of the war-steamers which he was to have taken to Greece was explained to Lord Exmouth—no slight authority on naval matters. "Why, it's not only the Turkish fleet," exclaimed the veteran, "but all the navies in the world, that you will be able to conquer with such craft as these."




The restoration of his naval rank to the Earl of Dundonald in 1832, was slowly followed by other acts reversing the injustice of previous years by which a large portion of his life had been embittered.

"Your lordship and the Admiralty," he wrote to Lord Minto, then at the head of naval affairs, on the 30th of March, 1839, "may have been surprised that I have never solicited any appointment since my reinstatement in the naval service by his late Majesty, whose memory I shall ever cherish for this magnanimous act of justice. The cause, my lord, has not been from any reluctance on my part, but from a feeling which, I have no doubt, will appear satisfactory to your lordship, if you do me the favour to read the enclosed copy of a letter which I have written this day to the Marquess of Lansdowne as President of the Council." The letter to Lord Lansdowne referred in great part to Lord Dundonald's rotary-engine, and to his secret war-plan, which he expressed his willingness to put in execution if ever it was required. "Your lordship and the Privy Council, however," it was added, "will not fail to observe that, if it shall ever be the intention of the Government, under any circumstances, again to employ me in the naval service, it would be quite inconsistent with the character of that service, as well as my own reputation, for me to assume command, unless the Order of the Bath, gained on the 12th of April, 1809, now thirty years ago, shall be restored to me."

"I hope it will appear to your lordship," said Lord Dundonald, in a letter to Lord Melbourne, dated the 11th July, 1839, "that my services as a naval officer have been useful and honourable to my country; and, referring to those services and to the peculiar opportunities I have since had of acquiring further professional knowledge, I may say, without vanity, that her Majesty has no officer in her navy more experienced than myself; and yet, from the extraordinary circumstances of my case, I am the only flag-officer in her Majesty's service who, if called upon to take a command, could not do so consistently with his own honour and the respect due to those who might be appointed to serve under him. For where is the officer who could not conveniently call to mind, that I, who when only a captain was a Knight of the Bath, was deprived of that honour, and that now, though a flag-officer, I have not been deemed worthy of having it restored?" "I am sensible," wrote Lord Dundonald in another letter to the Premier, written eight days later, "that the act of justice which I experienced from the late King, under the ministry of Earl Grey, of which your lordship was a distinguished member, in restoring me to my naval rank, was a great favour, inasmuch as it evinced a considerate feeling towards me; and I was then fully satisfied with it, under the impression that it would be viewed by the public, and especially by the navy, as a testimony of the belief of the Government, at that time, that I was innocent of the offence that had been laid to my charge, and also that I should stand as good a chance as most of my brother officers (and perhaps, from my experience, a better) of being called to active service. I did not then foresee that the restoration of my naval rank alone would be viewed as a half-measure. Still less did I anticipate that, in the event of my being offered an appointment, I should be incapacitated from accepting it by reason of the feelings of other officers that I still laboured under some imputation which would render it derogatory to them to serve under me. But it is now impossible for me to conceal from myself the fact that, while the navy generally is kindly disposed towards me, and would rejoice to see me fully reinstated in all that I once enjoyed, I am considered by many to remain as completely precluded from active service as if my name had never more appeared in the Navy List, I trust, my lord, that it cannot be thought reasonable to reduce me to the inglorious condition of a retired or yellow admiral at home, and at the same time to deny me the privilege of acquiring either emolument or distinction in foreign service."

Lord Dundonald's hope was that, on the occasion of her Majesty's marriage, there would be a bestowal of honours, which would afford a convenient opportunity for the restoration of his dignity as a Knight of the Bath. But in this he was disappointed.

A minor favour was conferred upon him, however, and in a very gratifying way, eighteen months later. "You are probably aware," wrote Lord Minto to him on the 3rd of January, 1841, "that the death of Sir Henry Bayntam has vacated one of the pensions for good and meritorious service. Before I left town a few days ago I made my arrangements to enable me to confer this pension upon you, if you should think it worthy of your acceptance, either as evidence of the high estimation in which I have ever held your services, or as convenient in a pecuniary point of view. Although you are one of the few who have not applied for this, I do not fear that any one of the numerous claimants can show so good a title to it."

That compliment was accepted by Lord Dundonald in a spirit answering to that in which it was offered. Yet his reasonable anxiety for a restitution of the Order of the Bath was not abated, and thereupon he was engaged in a correspondence with the Earl of Haddington, then First Lord of the Admiralty, during the early part of 1842, which was closed by the intimation, bitterly disappointing to Lord Dundonald, that the Cabinet Council declined recommending the Queen to comply with his earnest request.

Equally disappointing was the result of another application with the same object which he made to Sir Robert Peel in the autumn of 1844. "Her Majesty's servants," wrote Sir Robert Peel on the 7th of November, "have had under consideration the letter which I received from your lordship, bearing date the 10th of September. On reference to the proceedings which were adopted in the year 1832, it appears that, previously to the restoration of your lordship to your rank in the navy, a free pardon under the Great Seal was granted to your lordship; and adverting to that circumstance, and to the fact that thirty years have now elapsed since the charges to which the free pardon had reference were the subject of investigation before the proper judicial tribunal of the country, her Majesty's servants cannot consistently with their duty advise the Queen to reopen an inquiry into these charges."

Lord Dundonald failed to see, in the partial reversal, twelve years before, of the unjust treatment to which he had been subjected eighteen years before that, a reason for refusing to inquire whether there was any injustice yet to be atoned for. He had not, however, very much longer to wait for the object which he sought.

One of his grounds for desiring a public recognition of the efficacy of his secret war-plans was a reasonable belief that, if it was seen that through half a lifetime he had steadfastly avoided using for his private advantage what might have been to him a vast source of wealth, in order that the secret might be reserved solely for the benefit of his country, it would be acknowledged to be incredible that, for insignificant ends, he could have resorted to the gross and clumsy fraud attributed to him at the Stock Exchange trial. And in this expectation he was right. Nearly all the reparation that was now possible quickly followed upon the investigation into the war-plans that was referred to in the last chapter.

While the investigation was pending he was pained by a letter from Sir Thomas Hastings, not unkind in itself, but showing that his real motives for courting that investigation were not understood. "I made a communication to-day," wrote Sir Thomas on the 27th of November, 1846, "that the commission had entered on its duties, and received instructions to inform you that it would be desirable, before the commission proceeded further, to ascertain your lordship's views as to the nature of the remuneration you would expect from Government in the event of your plans being reported on favourably."

Lord Dundonald's reply was characteristic. "You intimate a wish on the part of Government," he wrote on the 1st of December, "to ascertain my views in regard to the 'remuneration' I expect, in the event of my plans being favourably reported on. I reply that I devoted these plans, thirty-five years ago, to the service of my country, that I have reserved them through the most adverse and trying circumstances, satisfied that at some future time I should prove my character to be above pecuniary considerations or mercenary motives. I have looked forward to the restoration of those honours, of which I was most unjustly bereaved, and to freedom from mental anguish, endured throughout an isolation from society of one-third of a century. I cannot contrast with such sufferings, nor with my plans, any sum that Government could bestow. Nevertheless, I have implicitly relied that collateral deprivations and losses would be taken into consideration by some future, just, and impartial Administration. I do most earnestly hope that the period has now arrived."

That letter was communicated by Sir Thomas Hastings to Lord Auckland. "I return the letter," he wrote to Sir Thomas on the 16th of December, "which Lord Dundonald wrote to you upon the remuneration which he would expect in the event of a favourable report upon his plans; namely, first, his restoration to the honours of which he was deprived; and, secondly, a consideration of collateral deprivations and losses. I am sorry to acquaint you that the first condition is one to which I am not authorized to promise an acquiescence. It is not necessary that I should discuss the difficulties which occur to the restoration in question. I can only express my own deep regret that they should exist, and that the hopes which have been entertained by Lord Dundonald should be disappointed. For myself, I personally regard him. I look upon his naval career as most remarkable and most honourable; and I must lament whatever may seem to detract from the advantage and grace of his return to the navy."

"Sir Thomas Hastings," wrote Lord Dundonald to Lord Auckland on the following day, "has sent me your sympathizing note on the decision of the Cabinet Council in regard to the first item, designated as 'the remuneration I would expect in the event of a favourable report on my plans.' Now, after the expression of my deep sense of gratitude to your lordship for having brought the question before the Cabinet, I do most sincerely rejoice that 'the first condition is one to which you are not authorized to promise an acquiescence.' I could not deem acquiescence a remuneration, nor could I value it otherwise than as evidence of conviction, produced by facts and the tenor of a whole life, of my incapability of descending to base acts for gain at any period of my existence, especially at a moment when I can prove that I had objects of the highest national importance and the most brilliant personal prospects in view. In confirmation of disinterestedness, I further hold my retention of the 'secret war-plans' for a period of thirty-five years, notwithstanding frequent opportunities to use them to my incalculable private advantage. The merit of these plans, though I am well aware of their value, is yet officially unpronounced by the commission appointed to report. Therefore, the preceding facts being doubtful, I repeat that I do most sincerely rejoice that the Cabinet Council have manifested that their decision neither depends on favour nor on the value of the plans themselves. Foreseeing that, whatever may be the ultimate determination, it must be founded on facts and justified by an exposition of my conduct and character, I am preparing a document which, whatever may be my fate pending the brief remainder of my existence, will justify my memory when grievous wrongs shall cease to prey on a mind which, save from the consciousness of rectitude, would in brief time have bowed my head with humiliation to the ground." The document there referred to was a pamphlet entitled "Observations on Naval Affairs, and on some Collateral Subjects." In it were concisely enumerated Lord Dundonald's services as a British naval officer, and the hardships brought upon him by the unmerited Stock Exchange trial. The pamphlet was published in February, 1847, and immediately excited considerable attention. "I hope the difficulties which have prevented the realization of your wishes may be removed shortly," wrote Sir Thomas Hastings on the 2nd of March. "But services so distinguished, and a career so splendid and full of professional instruction as your lordship's, can never be blotted out or rendered dim in the annals of the naval history of our country." "I have had the kindest note possible from the Marquess of Lansdowne," said Lord Dundonald, in a letter written on the 27th of April. "Lord Auckland was at our house on Saturday, and spoke in the kindest and most feeling manner. I hear from all quarters that the pamphlet has made and is making a great impression, and I have every hope that all will end well."

All did end well. The public announcement, on the highest authority, of the value of his secret war-plans, and the consequent exhibition of his disinterested patriotism in so long preserving them for his country's use, followed by the bold appeal made by him to the public through his pamphlet, brought success at last to his long-continued efforts to obtain a restoration of his dignity as a Knight of the Bath. His best friends in the Cabinet, especially Lords Lansdowne and Auckland, had influence, though not all the influence they desired, upon other Cabinet and Privy Councillors who were opposed to the tardy act of justice. But they did not wait for the assent of all. On the 6th of May Lord Lansdowne represented the case to her Majesty the Queen, and received her promise that, with or without the approval of her Privy Councillors, she would confer the next vacant Order of the Bath upon Lord Dundonald.

Fortunately a vacancy occurred immediately, through the death of Admiral Sir Davige Gould. "Lord Auckland has called," wrote Lord Dundonald on the 9th of May, "and informed me officially that the Queen has placed at his disposal the vacant Order of the Bath; and that, in conformity with the intention with which it was so placed, he was to deliver it to me." "I have information from the palace," he wrote a few days later, "that her Majesty has had conversation as to the justice of some further atonement for the injuries that have been inflicted on me, and that she said it was subject of regret that such was not in her power; but, should the subject be entertained by her advisers, her concurrence would not be wanting."

That further act of justice was never rendered; but Lord Dundonald rejoiced that the more important measure—that which, by restoring the dignity wrongfully taken from him, would do more than anything else to set him right in the eyes of the world—was at last adopted. "It gives me sincere pleasure," wrote Lord John Russell on the 12th of May, in answer to a letter thanking him for the conduct of his Administration, "that the last act of the Government has been so gratifying to you. Your services to your country are recorded among those of the most brilliant of a war signalised by heroic achievements. I will lay before her Majesty the expression of your gratitude, and I can assure you that the Queen has sanctioned with the greatest satisfaction the advice of her ministers."

On the 25th of May—the order being dated the 22nd—Lord Dundonald was gazetted as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath; and this act of grace was rendered more graceful by the personal interest shown by Prince Albert, who, as Grand Master of the Order, dispensed with the customary formalities and delays, and, on the following morning, caused a warrant to be sent to him, in order that he might wear the cross at the birthday drawing-room, which he attended by her Majesty's command on the 27th of May. Thus another step was made in the way of retribution for the injuries inflicted on him in 1814 and in the ensuing years.

"To-day," he wrote on the 12th of July, "there was a grand muster at the palace of all the Knights Grand Crosses, and many inferior Crosses, and I was installed. Lord Ellenborough was one of my sponsors, and the Duke of Wellington shook hands with me, and expressed his satisfaction at my restoration to the Order. I am glad to tell you that the ceremony of knighting, of which I was afraid, was not resorted to; so my knightship dates back to the 27th of April, 1809."

In another effort to obtain full justice for himself, however, he was unsuccessful. The great expenses that sprang out of his long-continued scientific and mechanical pursuits had absorbed all his scanty sources of income, and he forcibly urged that in accordance with the precedent furnished by a similar grant to Sir Robert Wilson, in 1832, he was entitled to the arrears of pay due to him for the seventeen years during which he had been kept out of his position in the British navy. But his request was refused; and the heavy pecuniary loss, as well as other and much heavier deprivations, consequent on a persecution that has been since admitted to have been wholly undeserved, has never been compensated.[20]

[20] Part of a letter which Lord Dundonald received on this subject four years afterwards from Mr. Joseph Hume, though quoted in his "Autobiography," is too important to be here omitted. "I considered," wrote the great champion of public economy, on the 10th of May, 1852, "that you were incapable of taking the means that were resorted to by Mr. Cochrane Johnstone, and for which you suffered; and I was pleased to learn that you had been restored to your rank. I considered that act a proof that the Government which had restored you to the rank and honours of your profession, and had afterwards appointed you to the command in the West Indies, must have come to the same conclusion; and, until the perusal of your draft petition, I concluded that you had all your arrears paid to you as a tardy, though inadequate, return to your lordship, whose early exploits did honour to yourself, and gave additional lustre to the naval service of the country to which you belonged.... His Majesty King William IV. was satisfied with the innocence of Sir Robert Wilson, and he was restored to the service—was, I understand, paid all the arrears of pay and allowances during his suspension, and afterwards appointed to the command of Gibraltar. I was pleased at the result; and it would give me equal pleasure to learn that your application to her Majesty should be attended with an act of justice to you equally merited." Lord Palmerston subsequently, in answer to an application from Lord Dundonald—forgetting Sir Robert Wilson's case—said there was no precedent for such an act. Lord Dundonald answered that there was no precedent for such injustice as had been done to him.

Shortly after that event Lord Dundonald sought to be elected one of the Scotch representative peers in the House of Lords. Now that his load of unmerited disgrace was shaken off, he desired to resume his old functions as a legislator—and this with no abatement of his zeal for the welfare of the people; but with none of the violence which his own heavy sufferings at the time of their first and heaviest pressure had partly caused him to show during his former parliamentary career. Being now a peer, he could not return to his seat in the House of Commons, and being a Scotch peer, he could only sit in the House of Lords as one of the delegates from the aristocracy of his native land. Among these he therefore asked for a place at the election in September, 1847. He did not, however, begin to seek it early enough. Other candidates had, according to custom, obtained promises of a majority of votes from the electors before he thought of canvassing, and he was thus left in a minority. Many peers, however, who on this occasion were unable to support him, offered to pledge their votes to him for the next election.

A minor favour was at this time shown to Lord Dundonald, which afforded him real gratification. In 1835, he had been allowed by King William IV. to use the insignia of a Grand Commander of the Order of the Saviour of Greece, conferred upon him by King Otho. In August, 1847, he applied to the Cabinet for permission to use the title of Marquis of Maranham and the Grand Cross of Brazil, both of which had been conferred upon him by the Emperor Pedro I., in 1823. "I have to acquaint your lordship," wrote Lord Palmerston, then Foreign Secretary, on the 11th of October, "that under the peculiar circumstances of the case, which have prevented the application being made earlier, the Queen has signified her pleasure that you should be permitted to accept the Grand Cross of the Order of the Cruziero. With regard, however, to the title of Marquis of Maranham, it is my duty to state to your lordship that, after full consideration, her Majesty's Government regret that they cannot advise the Queen to grant you the desired permission. While her Majesty's Government duly appreciate the services rendered by your lordship to the Crown of Brazil, they consider it to be on general principles so undesirable that distinguished officers of the British navy should have foreign titles, that they feel themselves compelled to decline complying with the request." "I beg to assure your lordship," wrote Lord Dundonald in reply, on the 18th of October, "that I feel more gratitude in being informed of the sentiments of her Majesty's Government in regard to my faithful and zealous services in Brazil than I ever experienced from the title conferred on me as the honorary portion of my reward for such services. As far as relates to assuming the title in my native country, I entreat your lordship to believe that I never entertained the intention."

A memorable occurrence soon followed. Now that his honours as well as his naval rank were restored to him, he had no reason for holding back from active service in his profession; and the Earl of Auckland, anxious to make use—as far as use could be made in peace-time—of his great and varied experience, and also to give further proof of the desire at last to render him all possible honour, was prompt in offering him fresh employment on the sea. "I shall shortly have to name a Commander-in-Chief for the North American and West Indian Station," wrote Lord Auckland on the 27th of December, 1847. "Will you accept the appointment? I shall feel it to be an honour and a pleasure to have named you to it, and I am satisfied that your nomination will be agreeable to her Majesty, as it will be to the country, and, particularly, to the navy."

Lord Dundonald did accept the appointment, rejoicing in it as a further step in reparation for the injuries by which he had been hindered, a whole generation before, from rising to the highest rank in the naval service of his country. He might then have achieved victories over the French which would have surpassed his brilliant exploit at Basque Roads. He could now only direct the quiet operations of a small fleet in time of peace. This, however, being the best that it was now possible for him to do, he gladly undertook. "Permit me," he wrote to Lord Auckland, "to assure your lordship that this gracious act has further tended to obliterate the deep and painful impressions made by thirty years of mental suffering, such as no language can describe; for, my lord, the agony produced by false accusations on an honourable mind is infinitely greater than merited infliction of death itself. I leave your lordship then to estimate the amount of obligation I fail to convey, and beg you will allow me to express a hope that your generous recommendation to her Majesty will be justified by my zealous endeavours to fulfil the duties I owe to my sovereign and country."

"I have waited for her Majesty's assent to your appointment," said the Earl of Auckland in a letter written on the 3rd of January, 1848, "before answering your letter of the 28th ultimo. This assent has been most cordially given, and you may now consider yourself Commander-in-Chief of the North American and West Indian Station, and I may repeat that my share in this proceeding has given me very great pleasure, and that I am confirmed in my feelings of gratification by the terms in which you speak of occupying your proper place in the navy. I am glad for you, and I am glad for myself that I have done this just and honourable act."

Very hearty was the satisfaction expressed by all classes as soon as Lord Dundonald's appointment was made public. "I beg," wrote Mr. Delane, the editor of the "Times," earliest of all in tendering his compliments, "to offer my very hearty congratulations upon your appointment—all that remained to efface the stain of such unmerited persecution." "The communication you have just made to me," wrote the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, "is most gratifying, and the First Lord of the Admiralty has done himself immortal honour in appointing that naval officer commander in one hemisphere who had previously illustrated his name by his most brilliant exploits in the other. Everything I think has now been done to undo the foul aspersions with which you have been assailed; and I am sure now everything will be done that can most serve to establish the ability of the officer and the delicacy of the gentleman. I congratulate you most sincerely upon your appointment, and I hope you will meet with difficulties when you arrive at your destination. Don't be surprised at this my wish. It proceeds from knowing the ample resources of my friend to overcome them, and his constant desire to sacrifice everything to duty and honour." "I derive the greatest pleasure and satisfaction from your appointment to the command of a British fleet," wrote Sir George Sinclair, "an appointment not less creditable to the ministry than honourable to yourself. I cannot help contemplating with affectionate sorrow the portrait of our dearest friend, Sir Francis Burdett, now suspended over the chimney-piece, and thinking how happy he would have been had he witnessed this most welcome and delightful consummation." "Permit me the honour," wrote Admiral John White, "to bear testimony to the high gratification I felt at seeing by the papers the announcement of your lordship's having taken the command of the West India and Halifax Stations. The whole British empire has expressed great joy at this justice having been done to the bravery of your lordship as an officer and your goodness and honour as a man." That last sentence told no more than the truth.




Lord Dundonald left London for Devonport on the 16th of March, 1848, and on the following day hoisted his flag on board the Wellesley as Admiral in command of the North American and West Indian Fleet. On the 25th of March he set sail for Halifax, which was soon reached, and was, during three years, the head-quarters from which he proceeded on numerous voyages in fulfilment of the duties of his office. These duties were not very onerous or various. They were relieved, however, by much careful study of the circumstances and prospects of our colonies in British North America, and by correspondence thereupon, and on other subjects, with influential friends at home, and especially with Lord Auckland, the First Lord of the Admiralty. From this correspondence some selections will be made in the ensuing pages.

"I am very much pleased with your letter of the 19th," wrote Lord Auckland, on the 21st of March, while the Wellesley was still at Devonport, "and the good spirit with which you look forward to your coming duties. I know how irksome is the succession of the petty duties which are incident to places of authority, and how far more attractive is the excitement of great actions to those who are capable of performing them. But even the first class of duties is not without interest, and carries credit as it is performed with justice and exactness; and I hope that for the second the necessity of great exertions will not arise. But it is always well that the possibility of their being called for should be borne in mind; and, while you follow the peaceful avocations of your station, I should be glad that you become acquainted with all its points of strength and of weakness. All the information and advice that you may give to me will be gratefully received and carefully considered."

"I hope," wrote Lord Auckland, three days later, "that the Mosquito affair will have been brought to a termination before your arrival, and that the necessity for the presence of ships in the Bay of Mexico will have terminated with a cessation of hostilities between the United States and Mexico. You will then have the slave-trade and the fisheries mainly to attend to. You will learn from the Consul at Cuba whether the slave-trade is now actively carried on. It had for some time entirely ceased, but it may have revived, and, with good information and force for interception applied at the right time, I should hope that it will not require many of your ships. The fisheries will, for a season, be a regular and fixed object of attention. Though I feel that your number of ships is small, it is difficult for me to increase it. I hate to fritter away our men and naval strength on a multitude of brigs and sloops and petty objects."

Lord Auckland communicated to his friend many interesting opinions respecting the state of politics and the condition of affairs on both sides of the Atlantic. A letter from him, dated the 30th of April, had reference chiefly to the troubles occasioned at that time by the interference of Nicaragua with British commerce, which had necessitated the sending of Captain Lock, in the Alarm, to watch the course of events and compel proper behaviour by the turbulent state. "A 'little war' is always a vexatious thing," he wrote, "and our relations with the state of Mosquito, though they have long and ancient standing to recommend them, are strange and anomalous. But the insults of Nicaragua were highly provoking. The detention of British subjects was not to be borne, and the spirit which has been exhibited by Captain Lock, the spirit and enterprise with which his operations were directed, the conduct of all who served under him, and the successful results which have been achieved, are all highly to be applauded. I am glad, however, that they have left the river of San Juan. I see that in 1780 Nelson lost by the climate there fifteen hundred out of eighteen hundred men; and I well know what is the effect of a low country in the tropics, particularly after exertion and fatigue."

The rest of the letter related to the turmoil excited in Europe by the deposition of Louis Philippe in February, 1848, and the less successful revolutions in other countries. "We continue to be on the very best terms with the Provisional Government, and there is a better disposition towards us on the part of the French people than there was at the first outbreak of the Revolution. I have therefore at present no apprehension of war. There is, however, this danger; that Germany and Italy are greatly disturbed, and that Austria and Sardinia are engaged in war on the side of Italy, and Prussia and Denmark to the north, and it will not be easy for France and England to be peaceful lookers-on. Besides which, the Government of France will long be subject to popular gusts, and it is never easy to say in what direction they may blow. In the meantime, however, all wears the appearance of peace, and at home the chances of disturbance both from Chartists and Repealers have become less. We have only danger from the distress and want of employment which have followed upon the shock given to credit throughout Europe."

Unfortunately, most of the letters written by Lord Dundonald during these months have been lost; but something of their purport may be gathered from the replies to them. "I am very glad," Lord Auckland wrote, on the 28th of May, "that your thoughts appear to be very considerately given to the health of those that are under your command. You will, of course, have consideration for the ships that have served in the Gulf of Mexico, or other unhealthy places, and give them a turn in the north. I did not lose a moment in sending to Lord Grey your suggestions in favour of removing the convict hulks at Bermuda, and he has promised me that he will, without delay, issue orders accordingly."

Lord Auckland wrote again to his friend on the 23rd of June. "I have your valuable memoranda on the defences and dockyard of Bermuda," he said, "and I am greatly obliged to you for them, as will be Lord Grey. I will promise to give them early and deep consideration. In the meantime I will press the Board to give immediate authority for the improvement of the drains of the hospital, and of the supply of water. I am greatly obliged to you for the steadiness with which you keep considerations of economy in view. The disinterestedness with which you regard the schemes which have been proposed for a new Admiralty House at Bermuda will give you authority in checking expenditure in other objects."

"The affairs of France," we read in the same letter, written while General Cavaignac was suppressing the June revolution, "are most unsettled. There is no confidence in any man or party, and there are discontent, and mistrust, and alarm. All feel that things cannot go on in their present form; but none can foresee what will follow. It may be a continuance of internal dissension, but in an aggravated form. It may be a disposition to external violence. At home the condition both of England and Ireland is quieter than it was." "There is more brightness in our prospects at home just now," wrote Lord Auckland, three weeks later, on the 14th of July, "than has been the case for some months. Commerce and credit are reviving; Chartism is dormant, and Ireland is less troublesome. And on the Continent there is a more general disposition to return to institutions of order. I confess that I should be glad to hear that just at this moment there were a larger force than usual at Bermuda. The presence there of Mitchell[21] is apparently raising some excitement. Though I cannot apprehend any formidable attempt at rescue, yet the notoriety of a force being at or about the island may put an end to the vapouring menaces which are proclaimed, and prevent any rash or foolish enterprise that may be projected."

[21] The great Chartist who, having been tried and sentenced to transportation, had been sent to Bermuda in May, 1848.

"Thanks to you for your letter from Halifax," Lord Auckland wrote again, on the 21st of July, "and for your last sheets on the defences of Bermuda. I did not think, when we parted, that the question of these defences would so soon come under serious discussion, with a view to their practical efficiency, but I do not yet think they will be put to the test by any formidable attempt for the rescue of Mr. Mitchell. Such apprehensions of danger, however, as they occur occasionally, do good, and lead men to think of and correct their weak points. What you say of the accessible nature of the southern reef surprises me, and strengthens your recommendation of gunboats as the means of defence which are least to be neglected. I only hang back in regard to them, as the Naval Department could not bear the expense of such defences for the many colonies that would require them, and they must be provided by the Colonial Governments. Our arrangements, however, may in some cases be subsidiary to theirs, and, wherever it is possible, the craft of the dockyard and other establishments should be so fitted as to be capable of carrying a gun. I am glad you sent off the Scourge to Bermuda. She is a handy vessel and well commanded, and the notoriety of her presence will not be without a useful effect. What you say of the character of the emigrants that are sent forth from Ireland to our colonies is but too true. Yet it is better that they should go than accumulate famine and disturbance at home. The present condition of Ireland menaces trouble and difficulty."

"I am quite aware," wrote Earl Grey, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, to Lord Dundonald, on the 3rd of August, "of the unfortunate tendency of the emigration to the North American provinces being chiefly from Ireland; but I do not see how it is in the power of the Government effectually to counteract the causes which are leading to the settlement of so large a proportion of Irish in this part of the British dominion. I fear this will, hereafter, be attended with very unfortunate results." "I beg to thank your lordship," he also said, "for the important information you have transmitted to me, and for the pains you have taken in considering the subject of the defence of Bermuda, which I recommended to your attention before you left England. I am in communication with Lord Auckland upon this subject, and we shall endeavour to act upon your suggestions so far as we are enabled to do so, under the financial difficulties with which we have to contend."

In the next letter written by Lord Auckland to Lord Dundonald, on the 18th of August, he again referred to European politics. "There is, with regard to the Continent, more promise of peace at this moment than there has been for a long time past, and there is a tone of more moderation on the part of France towards other countries than I have ever expected to see. But she yet has within her fearful elements of disturbance; her Government is yet unsettled, and, whenever determined, it will be subject to strong popular influences, and there can be no security. I almost apprehend earlier mischief from the popular influences of the United States. They have had a task of conquest and annexation, and Cuba lies temptingly. The uneasiness of the black population of many of the West India Islands may lead to opportunities, and disagreeable events may grow out of such circumstances. But these are matters of speculation, and nothing turns out as men think that they foresee. I wish that your squadron was stronger; for you are weak in numbers for the many points that you have to cover. Our home politics are rather more satisfactory than they were; that is to say, the dangers of Irish insurrection and of formidable Chartist outbreak are over. But there is still much uneasiness and disaffection in both countries, and the various events of Paris have given encouragement to strange enterprises. I apprehend, however, no serious mischief from these quarters at present; but we have in prospect a very general failure of the potato crop, and a very indifferent harvest, and here will be new causes of embarrassment."

There were many causes of embarrassment to English statesmen during the ensuing months. "For the present," wrote Lord Auckland, on the 1st of September, "there is a cordial and friendly understanding between the Governments of this country and France, and the chances of war seem to be distant. General Cavaignac seems to be a prudent and moderate man. But no one can predict into what courses the popular influences of France may force him, or what changes may on any day occur. The extreme Communist party is weaker than it was; and a Royalist party—for some king, but not for Louis Philippe—is growing up; and between these is a Government of a republic and an army. The first political difficulty will be that of Italy, where the Austrians will not readily make any concession, and where the French will not readily see them again accumulate strength. It is to be seen whether their mediation and ours will be of any avail."

"The condition of the present French Government is precarious," Lord Auckland said in another letter, dated the 9th of November. "According to present appearances, Louis Napoleon will be elected President, not because he is personally esteemed, but from his name, with some parties, and because it is anticipated by others that his rule will be short, and that he will be made to make way for others." "The election of a French President is over," Lord Auckland was able to say on the 25th of December, "and has been carried at last with a rush; and we are to have a new dynasty of Napoleons. Louis Napoleon was supported by the army for his name, by the bulk of the nation because Cavaignac and the Republic were hated, and by the Legitimists because they think he may presently be overthrown. He is pronounced to be a foolish man; but his course has been lately one of prudence and perseverance, and he will enter upon power with good auspices. But he will have many difficulties to contend with, and we may yet see many changes before the condition of France will be settled."

The Earl of Auckland, one of the worthiest and most generous statesmen of his time, Lord Dundonald's firm friend, and the friend of all with whom he came in contact, did not live to see these changes. Just a week after that letter was written, Admiral John Dundas, who had been his chief adviser on Admiralty matters, had to write to Lord Dundonald. "It is with great regret," he said, on the 1st of January, 1849, "I have to inform you of the death of Lord Auckland, after a few hours' illness. He was on a visit to Lord Ashburton, near Winchester, on Saturday—seized with a fit—never spoke after—and died this morning. You may well imagine the universal sorrow at such a loss; and I am sure you will join in that, for I know well the friendship that existed between you."

By Lord Auckland's letters, it has been shown that, among much else, Lord Dundonald made special study of the actual condition and the possible improvement of Bermuda, both as a convict settlement and as a centre of defence against any attacks that might be made upon the West Indies. He suggested various beneficial changes for the strengthening of its fortifications and for lessening its unhealthy character by better drainage and other expedients. In all of these he was supported by Lord Auckland. But from the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Francis Baring, he met with less encouragement. Bermuda had been made a subject of inquiry by a Parliamentary Committee, and the House of Commons being averse to any further expense, Sir Francis Baring was compelled to countermand much of the action that had been resolved upon.

With Sir Francis Baring Lord Dundonald corresponded on little but strictly official matters, and therefore their letters are of less general interest than those which passed between him and Lord Auckland.




The foregoing chapter consists chiefly of extracts from letters addressed to Lord Dundonald during 1848. In the present one free use will be made of his own journal of a tour among the colonies and islands whose interests he was appointed to watch as Admiral of the North American and West Indian squadron.[22] It furnishes much interesting information about the places visited, and has also additional interest as illustrating the writer's tone of mind and method of investigation concerning every object that came in his way. The journal describes his occupations during eight months, beginning with the summer of 1849, and includes reminiscences of less systematic visits to the various localities made during the previous year. Leaving Halifax, in Nova Scotia, on the 14th of July, Lord Dundonald proceeded northwards, passed Cape Breton Island to Newfoundland, the fisheries of which it was part of his duty to protect.

[22] Published in 1861 as a pamphlet, entitled, "Notes on the Mineralogy, Government, and Condition of the British West India Islands and North American Maritime Colonies."

He entered St. George's Harbour, the chief resort of the fishermen and traders, on the 27th of July. "It is situated," he said, "in the angle of a deep bay between Aguille and Cape St. George, the town being on the promontory and having deep water close to it. No village can be better placed for the herring fishery, as these gregarious fish at the season of their arrival on the coast enter this harbour, as it were, into the cod of a net, whence they are lifted into the boats by scoops and buckets. With such slender means possessed by the inhabitants, the average catch amounts to twenty-two thousand barrels; but hundreds of thousands might be taken, were encouragement afforded. Salmon are also caught in the neighbouring rivers, which are alive with undisturbed and neglected trout. The barrels in which the herrings are packed are said to cost two shillings and sixpence each, and some new regulation requires additional hoops, which, to those concerned, appears a grievance. It is said the herrings must realise ten shillings per barrel, in order to repay costs and labour, but the last advices from Halifax state that eight shillings only are offered by the merchants. The French, I understand, attend more to the cod fishery. They are not at liberty, if they adhere to the treaty, to draw nets on the shore. There is an American merchant here who deals in truck with the English settlers, and obtains from them about a third part of the herrings caught, which he sends to the United States in such of the numerous American schooners employed in the fishery as enter this bay. The unauthorised British settlers here are said to be very jealous of intruders, as they consider they have an exclusive right to the land and fisheries in their actual possession, and from which all are, by treaty, excluded. They seemed suspicious that the Wellesley might have some motive in entering the bay contrary to their interests. No person whatsoever came on board, nor did any one come off to the ship, even to offer himself as a pilot. Some persons were lately desirous to set up a saw-mill, which would have been important, as they obtain all their staves for herring-casks, &c., from abroad; but the sanction of the inhabitants could not be obtained. There is no magistrate or civil or military authority, no medical man, and, perhaps fortunately, no attorney. Indeed, there is no law, though justice is done amongst themselves after their own manner. There is a neat little church, at which the bishop is now officiating, and the people who are resorting to it seem well-dressed and orderly."

On the 30th of July Lord Dundonald left the harbour, to pass round the sharp promontory known as Cape St. George. "About midway," he said, "a remarkable change takes place to the northward of the table mountain, where the vertical strata become in appearance horizontal along the whole shore of the projecting isthmus. The colour of the strata is chiefly grey, in parallel layers of varying hardness, as appears from its projections and indentations. I could not, without delaying the ship longer than I wished, procure samples of the strata, but there was no appearance of carboniferous minerals. The same layers were visible in detached places up to the tops of the hills, which are of considerable altitude, though that is not denoted in the chart. When we rounded Cape St. George on the following morning, the strata, which before appeared parallel, were observed to dip at a considerable angle towards the N.E., and seemed, where sufficiently exposed to view, to be split into large diagonal flakes. There is an island close off the shore, about five miles to the eastward of the Cape, called Red Island, which is of quite a different formation seemingly red horizontal layers of sandstone, of a soft nature, as is obvious from the encroachments of the sea. The peninsula opposite to this island is of considerable elevation, as far as Round Head, whence it gradually lowers to a point about ten miles farther to the eastward. Here the level ground at first seems to be alluvial, but on closer observation indurated rocks are seen to protrude in flakes dipping into the sea. The bay formed by this promontory is of great magnitude. There are several islands at its mouth and in the interior, but there being no chart, and no motive for entering it, we stood on towards the mountains on the main shore, some of which are very high. In many parts the contortion of the strata, and the confusion of all kinds of materials, are extraordinary. The sides of the mountains on the shore are clad with moss alone, trees of very stunted growth only appearing in the sheltered valleys. No visible portion of the shore seems capable of producing food for man."

From the western coast of Newfoundland Lord Dundonald sailed due north to visit Labrador. With its natural resources, and the neglect of them, he was much surprised. "The British possessions in Labrador," he said, "extend over a tract of country as great as the northern regions of Russia from St. Petersburg towards the Pole, wherein the Ural Mountains compensate that Government for the sterility of the soil. I have often felt surprise at the indifference evinced by the Spanish Government towards developing the resources of its possessions; but it is with still greater astonishment I view the supineness of our own Government in leaving this vast tract unexplored, and its probable treasures undiscovered."

Similar complaints were suggested to him by his observations on the eastern side of Newfoundland, to which he sailed down on the 6th of August. "We passed several ports, wherein there were numerous French ships and square-rigged vessels dismantled, and schooners and multitudes of fishing-boats in full activity in the offing. These schooners and fishing-boats are manned by the crews of the large French vessels which are laid up in port, and constitute depots as well as the means of transporting the produce of the fishery to France, an arrangement highly advantageous to the French marine, and which we erroneously abandoned by erecting Newfoundland into a Colonial Government, thus surrendering our deep-sea fishery entirely, even without rendering the inshore fishery available to the newly-erected colony, throughout which it languishes from want of stimulus, or an adequate reward, even to induce the impoverished inhabitants of the shore to avail themselves of their small and almost costless boats to catch fish, which, by reason of the bounties given by France and America, are unsaleable with profit in any country in Europe. It is grievous to observe the difference in the mode of carrying on the British fishery compared to that of the French. The former in rudely-constructed skiffs, with a couple of destitute-looking beings in party-coloured rags; the latter in fine, well-equipped schooners, which may be called tenders to their larger ships, the seamen uniformly dressed in blue, with Joinville hats, looking as men ought and may be expected to look whose interests and those of the parent State are understood to be in unison, and attended to as such."

At St. John's, Newfoundland, Lord Dundonald made some stay before sailing down to Sydney, in Cape Breton. Then he returned to Halifax, to go thence for a second visit to Bermuda.

Respecting Bermuda, as we have seen, he had much correspondence. "This island," he now said, "ever since the discovery of the opening in the reefs by Captain Hurd, has been deemed of much naval importance, and plans were formed by the highest military authorities for its defence. A naval arsenal also has been designed for the accommodation of a large establishment of ships of war. Distant islands, however, cannot be defended on principles which would be the most judicious at home—by the erection of forts in all quarters that could be occupied by an enemy. It is obvious that, under the circumstances of Bermuda, troops cannot be spared from the parent State permanently to garrison the multitude of forts which, on such a principle of defence, would be requisite. If they could, the expense would be enormous, and therefore I cannot dismiss this subject without an expression of my satisfaction at the intelligence I lately received that such extravagant and unavailing system of fortification has been suspended. In my opinion it is a great error to imagine that naval officers are unfit to be consulted respecting maritime defences; had it not been for so mistaken a notion many hundreds of thousands of pounds, perhaps I might say a million, might have been saved. I unhesitatingly assert that gunboats not only would suffice, but are by far the most available, and infinitely the cheapest defensive force amongst the rocks around the island of Bermuda. The coloured population of this island are a fine race, incomparably superior to the generality of the coloured population in the West Indies. They are accustomed to navigate in their commercial vessels: their lives are almost spent in boats, and no better crews could be got for the defence of their own island than they would prove themselves to be."

"The existence of this solitary island so far from the continent of North America," we further read in Lord Dundonald's journal, "is a circumstance meriting the attention of geologists, as well as the uniform material of which it is composed. It is all of a calcareous nature, but differing in condition from any of the other islands of the same substance. The strata are exposed in the perpendicular cliffs on the sea-shore in numerous precipices, from a hundred feet to minor altitudes, and are composed either of the most minute shells, or of parts of shells so triturated that they scarcely indicate their origin. In some places, however, there are laminae containing shells in a more perfect state, all of a white colour, with the exception of one (which I found on digging a cave) of a semicircular shape, of a red colour, and almost as large as an oyster shell. The whole of the substance of Bermuda can be burnt into good lime; but there is an indurated calcareous stone, often containing many perfect shells, on the island on which the naval yard is being built, which is preferred as more adhesive and better in quality. Although there are no indications of volcanic products on this island, yet it exhibits manifest proofs that volcanic force has raised it from the depths of the ocean. In what stage of induration it was at that period it is difficult to conjecture. The hills and vales throughout the whole extent of Bermuda have the stratified calcareous material generally conforming on all sides to the inclination of the surface. There are, however, many situations in which the strata present themselves as manifestly broken by force. In the deep cutting in the road which enters into the enclosure around the Government House, one of these breaks appears at the apex of the hill, dividing its sides, which here incline towards the centre, exposing a wedge-formed supplementary part that fills up the interstice. In the grounds of the Admiralty House curious instances of unconformable strata are laid bare in old quarries. These indicate some other cause for their nonconformity than that before assigned, and I am quite at a loss to imagine how the stratified materials could have been placed one above another at such different angles by the action of water, or in any other way, without appearance of disruption. There are caves upon this island containing large stalactites. There is one on Tucker's Island where these stalactites reach from the top of the cave far below the surface of the salt water it contains. I am not aware of any other instance where similar crystalisations have taken place under the sea water. It seems to lead to the belief that this island was at some time less submerged. There are other caves much larger, and one which goes in so far that the officers who accompanied me did not scramble to its end. This cave is formed by two large masses of calcareous matter having been reared up one against the other. I have seen some very beautiful crystallisations taken from another cave recently found in a quarry at Ireland Island; but the absence of petrifactions here (for I have never seen one) constitutes a remarkable difference between this formation and that on the island of Antigua, where the roads are almost made with petrifactions.

"In clearing the surface of the rock, as has lately been done at the quarries, and in laying the foundation of the new convict barracks, the most irregular formation is exposed. Large holes are found contiguous to each other in the white calcareous rock, which are filled with a substance resembling chocolate in its colour, unlike everything else upon the island."

From Bermuda Lord Dundonald sailed down to Barbadoes, where he arrived on the 5th of February. "The negroes," he said, "who are much more numerous on this island than on any other of the West Indies, appear to be well fed, and cheery in their dispositions. They live in small wooden houses resting on clumps of wood or blocks of stone, a mode of construction which enables them, when tired of or displeased with their locality, to transport them elsewhere. I was told that a street of stone huts, constructed for their use, is almost abandoned, by reason of the immobility of such residences. I consider this locomotive propensity a favourable trait in their character. Behind the barracks we stopped at a hut on the rising ground whereon the barracks ought to have been placed, and assuredly I never saw a more contented scene. There was a young negro, and, I believe, his wife, together with an old woman, perhaps the grandmother of the child she fondled. We made inquiry as to their mode of living, and they showed us green peas, seasoned with red pepper, ready to be cooked, yams, and cassava bread, as good as oatmeal cakes. These peas grow on large bushes, and vegetables of all kinds surround their hut."

From Barbadoes Lord Dundonald proceeded by way of Tobago to Trinidad. "On the morning of the 11th of February," he said, "we weighed and returned through the Dragon's Mouth, shaping our course for the great natural curiosity of Trinidad, the Pitch Lake, which I hoped might be rendered useful for fuel for our steam-ships—so important in the event of war—as fuel is only obtained at present from Europe. The United States and Nova Scotia are never resorted to; hence, could this pitch be rendered applicable as fuel, our vessels would be supplied when an enemy would be almost deprived of the use of steam in these seas. We arrived at La Brea, and before daybreak on the following morning we were on the road to the lake, or rather on a stream of bitumen (now indurated) which in former ages overflowed the lake. Indeed the bitumen beneath this road seems still to be on the move, as shown by curvilineal ridges on its surface, like waves receding from a stone thrown into water. The appearance of the lake is most extraordinary. One vast sheet of bitumen extends until lost amidst luxuriant vegetation. Its circumference is full three miles, exclusive of the creeks, which double the extent. The bituminous surface is of a dark brown, waxy consistence, except in one or two places where the fluid still exudes; obviously this spring is in full vigour beneath, for the whole surface of the lake is formed into protuberances like the segments of a globe pressed together, having hollows between filled with rain-water, which (except in the immediate vicinity of the bituminous springs) is inodorous and without taste—an extraordinary fact, showing that this bitumen is of a nature quite different from that of pyrotechnic mineral or vegetable tar. In its dry state it is quite insoluble in water, though when charged with essential oil, as it exudes from nature's laboratory, it imparts a pungent and unpleasant taste. A considerable quantity of gas bubbles up through these bituminous springs, showing that decomposition is still active amongst the materials whence it exudes. Some of the recent bitumen has an odour resembling vegetable gum. Mr. Johnson, the very obliging proprietor of a neighbouring estate, had the goodness to cause some of his labourers and a cart to bring samples to the beach. Means of transport, however, were so inadequate, that we had recourse to digging the more impure pitch on the beach, in order to prosecute our trials for its substitution as fuel. This bitumen, which had flowed upwards of a mile from the lake, was combined with earthy and other substances which it had encountered in its course. Various attempts have heretofore been made to apply the bitumen to useful purposes, but without success, as we may judge from the total abandonment of those trials and expectations which for a brief period induced its shipment to England with a view to its application to the pavements of London and other cities. All excavation has consequently ceased, and so low is the estimation in which the bitumen is held, that the duty on embarkation is only one halfpenny per ton. The nature of this bitumen is very different from that of coal. When exposed to a naked fire it becomes fluid, and runs through the bars before gas is disengaged, or at least before it is raised to a temperature at which it will ignite; perhaps it requires more or purer air than enters through the bars of steamboat furnaces—a conjecture which seems to be confirmed by the dense smoke speedily produced."

"The plains of Trinidad," wrote Lord Dundonald, "have a fertile soil, which, simply by clearing the ground, is capable of being rendered the most productive in the West India Islands for the growth of sugar and whatever can be cultivated in a climate most uniform in its temperature, most congenial to tropical plants, free from the evils of hurricanes and from all impediments to vegetation. I am confident that, if the hands of the Governor were not bound by restrictions and routine, the progress of Trinidad would soon verify this opinion. Lord Harris, the present Governor, nobly tendered a portion of his official income in alleviation of the burthens which are so severely felt in the present depressed state of agriculture and commerce, but from some cause his lordship's liberal intention was not realized. The example would have proved salutary, as it must have been followed by reductions throughout other West India Islands, whose resources are even in a worse state than those of Trinidad. Is it reasonable, whilst the ground has ceased to be cultivated because production is unprofitable, not only that the land should continue to be taxed at the rate it was in prosperous times, but that a duty should be levied on the exportation of its produce? Is it reasonable that whilst householders can obtain no rent, and have no income save the bare means of providing a scanty subsistence, they should be assessed at the rack-rent of former valuation? Can any property be more entitled to protection than that of the owners of the soil or of the dwellings they inhabit? And yet all these, as appears by the numerous gazetted sales, are sacrificed to the collection of sums, the bulk of which is uselessly and prejudicially expended. Whilst the Government of the parent State has alleviated the burdens on the productive classes, is it just that taxes on food and on all the necessaries of life should be continued throughout the colonies, and that even their productions should be intolerably burdened with local imposts, whilst complaints are loud and true of the absence of all remuneration from the sources which once constituted the prosperity of those now impoverished and oppressed possessions? The above observations do not apply exclusively to Trinidad, but to the whole of the islands, which scarcely differ in degree in the causes of ruin which seem irremediable by any authority except the legislature of the parent State. I am persuaded that the chief of the Colonial Department at home would endeavour to counteract the causes of widely-spread and increasing ruin, were he in possession of correct information; but popular representations of grievances, often embodying misapprehensions as to their true origin, and accompanied by suggestions of impracticable remedies, are denied or disputed in counterstatements by interested officials, so that the Colonial Minister is bewildered, and can form no correct judgment from such conflicting statements. I hold it to be impossible that the monstrous absurdities and violations of every principle of good government which exist throughout these western colonies could be tolerated an instant, were their consequences known and believed by those in power, or were they laid before the British public by any person on whose judgment and opinion they could rely. Can it be credited that even in the island of Trinidad, not only multitudes of valuable properties are brought to sale from the inability of their owners to pay the fiscal demands, but that properties are consigned to the Government auctioneer even for so small an assessment as three-fourths of a dollar? This is, nevertheless, the fact. The emancipation of the slaves was a glorious act, but the rescue of these noble possessions from ruin, and the restoration of prosperity to an integral part of the empire, would redound to the honour of any one who would successfully advocate the cause of reason and justice, not only on the principles of equity, but with the less noble view of gain to the parent State, as it is certain that the consumption of British manufactured articles has fallen off in these colonies to an extent which has not been counterbalanced by the increase of exports anticipated from the questionable policy of concession to Brazil, in which I have reason to believe the supply of articles required for the slave trade constitutes a large proportion."

Reflections of that sort occurred to Lord Dundonald again and again, as, passing round from Trinidad, he visited all the principal British West India Islands, the last at which he called on his way back to Halifax being Jamaica. "No doubt," he said, "the generous and noble act by which, in the reign of his late Majesty, slavery was abolished, produced a prejudicial change in the economy of the sugar plantations, notwithstanding the large amount awarded to the proprietors, as the sums so paid were for the most part immediately transferred to mortgagees, leaving the proprietors in possession of the soil, but without the means of paying the expense of its cultivation by free labour. This is an evil which time has not remedied, and, of course, in the estimation of those who are, in consequence, losers, furnishes the pretext for imputing to the black population a degree of reluctance to labour far exceeding the reality. Those who pay a reasonable price for work, and are punctual in their payments, do not fail to get as many labourers as they require. I assert this not from any vague hearsay, but from various unquestionable and authentic documents, amongst which are the examinations taken by Committees of the House of Assembly appointed to inquire into the causes and difficulties alleged to exist in the cultivation of estates. Whilst the poverty of the planters and the destitution of the labouring population is so universal, it seems most extraordinary on inspecting the Custom House returns to find almost every article of necessary consumption brought from abroad paying high duties on entry; whilst the concession of small patches of land to the negroes, whom there is no capital to employ, would, if accorded, produce food, and in a great measure dispense with such injurious importations. Is it reasonable to instruct the negroes in their rights as men, and open their minds to the humble ambition of acquiring spots of land, and then throw every impediment possible in the way of its gratification? I perceive by the imposts and expenses on the transfer of small properties, that a barrier almost insurmountable is raised to their acquisition by the coloured population. I have learnt that small lots of Crown lands are scarcely ever disposed of, though three-fourths of these lands are still in the hands of Government.

"It is lamentable to see the negroes in rags, lying about the streets of Kingston; to learn that the gaols are full; the penitentiaries incapable of containing more inmates; whilst the port is destitute of shipping, the wharves abandoned, and the storehouses empty; while much, if not all, of this might be remedied. It may be asked, how is this to be effected? and I answer—by justice, resolution, patriotism, and disinterestedness. Never can this wretched state of affairs be remedied so long as taxes on the necessaries of life are heaped on an impoverished population. Never can the peasantry raise their heads with a contented aspect, whilst every animate and inanimate thing around them is taxed to the utmost. Not only is there a tax on land, and on the shipment of its produce, on houses, outhouses, and gardens, on horned cattle and horses, but on asses and pigs; and the severest penalties are enacted for concealment or suppression in the returns. Officials are employed for the gathering of pittances which do not defray the expense of collection. The harbour dues and exactions are such that no vessel, when it can be avoided, is brought into the Port of Kingston; consequently, though Jamaica is admirably situated, even more favourably than St. Thomas, the former port is abandoned, whilst that of the latter is filled with the shipping of all nations."

Lord Dundonald detailed the substance of these opinions in a letter to Earl Grey, the Secretary for the Colonies. "I have to thank your lordship," Lord Grey replied, "for your letter. The observations of a person of your lordship's knowledge and experience upon the present state of our colonies are most interesting and useful to me. I am aware that there exists much distress in the West Indies at present; but I am sorry to say I do not see what Parliament can do towards removing it, beyond freeing their trade from the remaining restrictions by the repeal of the Navigation Laws, which I hope will now be soon accomplished. I own I quite differ from your lordship as to the propriety of restoring to the planters the monopoly in the British market they formerly enjoyed, and I believe that the permanent interests of these colonies would be injured instead of being advanced by doing so."




The Earl of Dundonald's time of service as Admiral of the West Indian and North American Stations expired in April, 1851. On the 31st of December, 1850, Sir Francis Baring wrote to inform him that Sir George Seymour had been appointed his successor. "It is with some regret," said Sir Francis, "that I have performed this duty, as it has been my pleasure to have been in communication with you, and to feel that an important command has been placed in the hands of an officer of your lordship's high professional character and merits. You must permit me, in making this announcement, to add my sincere thanks for the manner in which you conducted the duties of your position, and particularly for the valuable information you have communicated to the Board, and the attention you have paid to the many points you had brought before you."

On the 14th of May Lord Dundonald left Halifax, and he reached Portsmouth in the beginning of June. During the next few years his mind was much occupied with the further consideration of various topics suggested by his observations and explorations on the other side of the Atlantic. It will be enough to make brief allusion to the most important of these.

Subjects of hearty regret to him, repeatedly brought under his notice during his three years' stay in the North American and West Indian waters, were the great depression of the British fisheries in the neighbourhood of Newfoundland, and the yet greater depression of trade consequent on the remission of slavery in the more southern colonies. For both he sought to provide a remedy. He urged, as has already been shown in the extracts from his journal, which was published, and attracted much attention, in the summer of 1852, that special help should be given to these colonies, not only by the removal of all restrictions upon their commerce and manufactures, but by protective enactments in their favour.

His reasons for this view, as regards the Newfoundland fisheries, in which he thought not alone of the interests of the colonists, were set forth by him in a letter addressed to the "Times," in August, 1852. "Were not the question of maintaining our nurseries for seamen," he there said, "more important than commercial considerations, I should not venture, through your favour, to trespass on public attention regarding the North American fisheries; but, perceiving that impressions are likely to be made by writers, avoiding responsibility for erroneous opinions by withholding their names, I feel it a duty explicitly to state that it is not to the amount of fish caught and cured, to the price at which it can be sold at home or abroad, or to the number of persons employed in the fishery, but to their nationality and vocation, to which I attach importance, in order that our fisheries shall form hardy British seamen in oceanic vessels, like those employed under the bounties paid by North America and France. These being the considerations, the question is not whether it is consistent with the enlightened theory of free trade to pay a premium which shall transfer capital from the pockets of one class to those of another, but whether it is wiser and more economical for the community at large to uphold such nursery, or to maintain even a skeleton of warlike establishments—perhaps to build, equip, and employ additional ships of war, squadrons, or fleets, to watch, perchance to contend with, power thus cheaply developed by rival nations. I ask whether the bounty given to enable steam-packets to cross the ocean is more consistent with free-trade principles than a bounty awarded to our fisheries as a nursery for seamen. A colonial premium is indeed talked of, and by those unacquainted with facts, who do not foresee its operation, it may be deemed a substitute for a bounty by the parent State; but I advisedly assert that such colonial premium would not rear one disposable seaman for our naval service, and that even the colonial fishermen would derive no commensurate advantage, such is the impoverishing effect of the inveterate system of truck-dealing that boat fishermen, even from the harbour of the capital of Newfoundland, are chiefly paid by daily wages; the advantages derived from the employment of two half-idle fishermen being greater to the truckmaster, in the absence of an available market, than the like amount of fish caught by one customer. It is manifest, by the true theory of free trade, that it is unimportant whether the French and Americans obtain their bait and catch fish within our limits or not, or even whether the world is supplied by them or by us; but it is not so if foreign nations thereby rear, employ, and maintain in time of peace fifty thousand seamen, who, in the event of war, are at the beck of their respective Governments, while Britain, the rightful owner, has not one available seaman from the fisheries. On subjects of such vital importance it is essential that general theories, however good, shall not be supported in detail by false reasoning, or by captivating appellations inconsistent with truth. Nine-tenths of our western colonies are still taxed on every article of food, and on all existing property, animate and inanimate; a state of things alike adverse to production and trade. Is it reasonable to imagine, if the interests of colonists are not considered jointly with those of the parent State, that they can continue to administer to our wants, comforts, and luxuries—above all, to our commercial nursery for seamen, the source of our national greatness? A Parliamentary investigation is indispensable to afford a chance of escape to these noble possessions of the Crown from impending ruin."

For the relief of the West Indian colonies Lord Dundonald was also anxious to obtain the intervention of Parliament; but he believed that he had himself discovered one source of possible advancement for them. His remarks concerning the pitch lake of Trinidad have already been partly quoted. Having first explored that lake in the beginning of 1849, he at once recognized the importance of its stores of bitumen, and much of his leisure from official duties was employed in observations and experiments with a view to its being utilized. He was soon convinced as to its great and various importance. The decomposed bitumen that lay in vast beds around the lake he found exceedingly valuable as a manure; and he perceived that the liquid mass, of which boundless supplies might be obtained, could be put to many very valuable uses. Here he discerned the presence of a new material of commerce which might prove of incalculable benefit not only to Trinidad but also to all the other West India Islands; therefore he urged its employment, and, though but little heed was paid to his advice, the successful results of the few cases in which it was adopted fully justified his opinions.

After his return to England he also sought zealously to make his discovery beneficial to himself. He was to a great extent baffled by the obstacles common to new projects; but his projects afford curious illustration of the activity of his mind and the fertility of his inventive powers. "Used as a mastic," he said in a concise enumeration of the uses to which he found that the bitumen might be put, "it is peculiarly suited to unite and ensure the durability of hydraulic works. It renders the foundations and superstructure of buildings impermeable to humidity. It is admirably adapted, by its resistance to decomposition by the most powerful solvents, to the construction of sewers, and, being tasteless, it is an excellent coating to water-pipes, aqueducts, and reservoirs. When masticated and prepared, it is a substitute for costly gums as applied to numerous purposes. Combined with a small portion of ligneous matter, it constitutes a fuel of greater evaporating power than coal, and, when pulverized and scattered over growing potato-plants or other vegetables, it prevents their destruction by insects or blight, and acts also as a fertiliser of the soil. Essential and viscid oils are obtained by various well-known processes from bituminous substances, but from none in such abundance and possessing such valuable properties as the oils extracted from the bitumen of the lake of Trinidad, as well as from the petroleum of springs still in activity."[23]

[23] The following patents, for the use of the Trinidad bitumen, were taken out by Lord Dundonald:—1851. "Improvements in the construction and manufacture of sewers, drains, waterways, pipes, reservoirs, and receptacles for liquids or solids, and for the making of columns, pillars, capitals, pedestals, bases, and other useful and ornamental objects, from a substance never heretofore employed for such manufactures."—1852. "Improvements in coating and insulating wire."—1852. "Improving bituminous substances, thereby rendering them available for purposes to which they never heretofore have been successfully applied."—1853. "Improvements in producing compositions or combinations of bituminous, resinous, and gummy matters, and thereby obtaining products useful in the arts and manufactures."—1853. "Improvements in apparatus for laying pipes in the earth, and in the juncture of such pipes."

The "Observations on the long-desired, yet still unaccomplished proceeding, whereby to effect the embankment of the Thames and free the river from pollution," by the Earl of Dundonald, are especially interesting at the present time:—"It will probably be admitted that the Thames above bridge is unnecessarily broad, unless considered as a recipient for back-water; and that the long margin of shallow water between London Bridge and that of Vauxhall is of little importance, even for that purpose, as gravel, sand, and other substances, may advantageously be removed from the central bed of the river, fully to compensate for the water that would be excluded by an embankment of one-sixth on both sides of the channel.

"An easy method of accomplishing this object would be to cut a ditch on each shore, equidistant from the centre, and fill it with bituminous concrete, as the foundation of a parapet or wharf to be formed of similar materials. Within this a main sewer might be excavated, and constructed in like manner of conglomerated gravel and sand from the spot.

"It will of course occur that, although roads may be carried over the entrances of the various docks by swing-bridges, yet these entrances present obstacles to a direct line of sewers.

"To enable this difficulty to be overcome, very solid tunnels, floored with hard pavement stones, set in bitumen, may be caused to descend in subverted curves below the entrances of the docks, whence all matters deposited may occasionally be removed by see-saw locomotive dredges on wheels, worked either by mechanical power, or by the current acting directly on the dredge."

While thus urging the importance of bitumen, and initiating many mechanical operations which have quickly and extensively been turned to the great advantage of society, Lord Dundonald was not unmindful of his older inventions and the arguments by which he had long sought to promote the naval strength of England. Of these inventions one in particular—that of his improved steam-boilers—had been largely adopted, and found highly beneficial during his absence from England, and its use continued after his return. From them he hoped, and not in vain, that good would result to the general extension of naval science. He was cheered during the last years of his life by seeing the adoption of many of the views on these matters which he had advocated long before. Others have yet to be enforced.




When in June, 1851, he returned to England and surrendered his office as Commander-in-Chief of the North American and West Indian squadron, the Earl of Dundonald was in his seventy-sixth year. That he was still young and vigorous in mind is sufficiently shown by the illustrations of his inventive genius and philanthropic earnestness that have been given in the last chapter. The most striking proof of this, however, so far as he was allowed to prove it, has yet to be given.

Very soon after his return he sought to impress upon Sir James Graham, then First Lord of the Admiralty, under the Earl of Aberdeen's administration, the value of his secret war-plans, and before long a special reason for advocating their adoption arose. Their efficacy had been frequently acknowledged by the highest authorities, but as England was at peace, nothing more than an acknowledgment was made. The outbreak of our war with Russia induced Lord Dundonald to bring them forward again in 1853. At first Sir James Graham declined to entertain the subject. The Government believed that Russia would be easily and promptly defeated by the ordinary means of warfare, and therefore contented itself with them. In this decision Lord Dundonald acquiesced perforce; but, on its appearing that the fight would be harder than had been anticipated, he again claimed a hearing for his proposals, believing that by their acceptance he could not only bring his own career as a British seaman to a glorious termination, but also—a yet dearer object to him—by so doing render inestimable service to his country.

In this spirit he wrote again to Sir James Graham on the 22nd of July, 1854. "Important aggressive enterprises," he said, "being now suspended by Russia, whose armies, on the defensive, may indefinitely prolong the war, and thereby expose our country to perilous consequences, resulting from protracted naval co-operation, I am desirous, through you, respectfully to offer for the consideration of her Majesty's Cabinet Ministers a simple yet effective plan of operations, showing that the maritime defences of Cronstadt, however strong against ordinary means of attack, may be captured, and their red-hot shot and incendiary missiles, prepared for the destruction of our ships, turned on those they protect; a result of paramount importance, now that the forces in the Black Sea have been diverted from the judiciously-contemplated attack on Sebastopol, compared to the success of which any secondary enterprise in the Baltic would prove of very small importance to the successful result of the war. Permit me, therefore, in the event of my plans being approved, unreservedly to offer my services, without command or authority, except over the very limited means of attack, the success whereof cannot fail in its consequences to free and ensure, perhaps for ever, all minor states from Russian dominion. Personal acquaintance with Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Napier and Rear-Admiral Chads warrants my conviction that no feeling of rivalry could exist, save in the zealous performance of the service."

Sir James Graham's reply was complimentary. "You offer for the consideration of her Majesty's Government," he wrote on the 26th of July, "a plan of operations by which the maritime defences of Cronstadt may, in your opinion, be captured; and in the most handsome manner you declare your readiness to direct and superintend the execution of your plan, if it should be adopted. When the great interests at stake are considered, and when the fatal effects of a possible failure are duly regarded, it is apparent that the merits of your plan and the chances of success must be fully investigated and weighed by competent authority. The Cabinet, unaided, can form no judgment in this matter, and the tender of your services is most properly made by you dependent on the previous approval of your plan. The question is a naval one, into which professional considerations must enter largely. Naval officers, therefore, of experience and high character are the judges to whom, in the first instance, this question ought to be submitted. Let me therefore ask you, before I take any further step, whether you are willing, in strict confidence, to lay your whole plan before Sir Bryan Martin, Sir William Parker, and Admiral Berkeley, who, from his place at this Board, is my first naval adviser? If you do not object to this measure, or to any of the naval officers whom I have named, I should be disposed to add Sir John Burgoyne, the head of the Engineers, on whose judgment I place great reliance. I am sure that you will not regard this mode of treating your proposal as inconsistent with the respect which I sincerely entertain for your high professional character, resting on past services of no ordinary merit, which I have never failed to recognise. But my duty on this occasion prescribes caution and deliberate care; and you will do justice to the motives by which this answer to your request is guided."

To this suggestion Lord Dundonald readily acceded, and his secret war-plans were once more referred to a committee of investigation. Nothing, however, was gained by this step. "I have received," wrote Sir James Graham on the 15th of August, "the report of the committee of officers to whom, with your consent, the plan for the attack on Cronstadt was submitted. On the whole, after careful consideration, they have come to the unanimous conclusion that it is inexpedient to try experiments in present circumstances. They do full justice to your lordship, and they expressly state that, if such an enterprise were to be undertaken, it could not be confided to fitter or abler hands than yours; for your professional career has been distinguished by remarkable instances of skill and courage, in all of which you have been the foremost to lead the way, and by your personal heroism you have gained an honourable celebrity in the naval history of this country."

That letter was disappointing to Lord Dundonald; but, as the value of his plans was not disputed, he hoped that he might yet be allowed to put them in execution. "Be pleased," he said in his reply to Sir James Graham, "to accept the sincere assurance of the high estimation in which I hold the kind and favourable expression of your sentiments towards me. It is indeed gratifying to perceive that the experienced admirals to whom you referred the professional consideration of my secret plan have not expressed any doubt of its practicability."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse