Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the British navy, it is impossible that the valour, generosity, and lofty sentiment, which form its prominent features, shall not command his admiration and applause. For of all the corps that, in the history of the world, have been formed for purposes of war, there is none to be found so eminently distinguished as the British navy for those qualities which the poet would panegyrise in the character of a warrior, which the philanthropist would desire to temper the calamities

of war.

When I call Sir Home Popham a distinguished member of such a profession--aware of the cavilling of his foes, of the active industry employed to depreciate his fame-I think it not amiss to state the grounds upon which this epithet is fairly applicable to his name. His talents as an officer stand high in the estimation of his profession--his valour is unquestionable-his skill and judgment as a naval coinmander were sufficiently exemplified, eren in the expedition which brought him to trial -- his capacity as a diplomatist was most conspicuously manifested in his negociations with the court of Russia, as appears, upon the testimony of Lord Grenville, in note M. of the appendix; while the penetration, promptitude, eloquence, and powers of reasoning, which belong to this officer, will be fully apparent to any man who reviews his con

troversies (which are literally reported in this pubę lication), who reflects upon his repeated victories over the eminent barrister appointed to conduct the prosecution against him,

[ocr errors]

In describing Mr. Jervis as an eminent barrister, I am naturally led so to consider him from the rank he holds in his profession, to which he was raised by the late administration, who thought proper to appoint him one of the " King's Counsel learned in the law;" and who could not be influ. enced in such an appointment, by the circumstance of Mr. Jervis being the nephew of Lord St. Vincent.

To the able, luminous, and comprehensive defence of Sir Home Popham there remains but little, indeed, for the ingenuity of any man to add. There is not, as I contend, one single allegation in the charge which this defence did not completely refute, at least to the satisfaction of the public judgment, and to the conviction of all reflecting men, who were capable of examining the subject without any undue prepossession.

The principal ground of accusation, relied upon by those who instituted, conducted, or advocated, the prosecution of Sir Home Popham, was this, “ that, by withdrawing his forces, he left the Cape of Good Hope undefended.” But will it be credited that, at the very moment this officer was on his trial at Portsmouth, the Admiralty, which put forth so prominently such an article of charge against him, had stationed only one frigate at the Cape of Good Hope for its security! And the reader of the trial will perceive that Sir Home Popham, upon proceeding to America, left behind him a frigate at the Cape; therefore, so far as regarded the naval defence of the Cape, the alledged neglect of Sir Home Popham was quite as effective as the actual vigilance of the Admiralty.

With this fact in the contemplation of the reader, how is it possible for him, if free from private pique and party prejudice, to reflect without astonishment, and something more, upon that which constitutes a main part of the charge. Sir Home Popham was placed with a large fleet in such a situation as, it appears from evidence, must have rendered it for some months incapable of action---positively useless. From this inaction that officer released the fleet, and employed it for the attainment of an object which he knew to be desirable to the Minister of the day---encouraged to think, by information obtained at the moment, that such an object was perfectly attainable. The Admiralty, however, who succeeded that Minister, prosecuted Sir Home Popham, alledging, as a principal ground for the prosecution, that he left the Cape of Good Hope

undefended, by withdrawing from it an amount of naval force such as that Admiralty itself proved, by its subsequent conduct, that it did not feel necessary to the defence of that establishment! For, mark, if they felt such a force to have been essentially necessary, they were guilty of criminal neglect in trusting, for its security, to a single frigate. The Admiralty must, indeed, either admit the fallacy of this article of impeachment against Sir Home Popham, or plead guilty to the charge of criminal neglect. Does not the simple statement of this, the most material, part of the case, preclude the necessity of comment ?

But let me suggest, for the consideration of the reader, in what a dilemma Sir Home Popham would have been placed had Mr. Pitt continued to live, and to preside in the Administration, and had this officer declined to pursue the course which rendered him obnoxious to the censure of the late Ministry. Had Sir Home Popham, in the circumstances I have mentioned, remained inactive at the Cape, what reception, I would ask, was he likely to have met with, on his return to England, from Mr. Pitt and Lord Melville?

That may be stated again which I have often heard, that Sir Home Popham was not warranted in acting apon the mere authority of Mr. Pitt. l'pon the character of this Court it is unnecessary for me to make any comments; the public seem already to have formed their judgment. It is certain that the number of Admirals upon this court-martial appears to have excited general observation and surprise; and few seem competent to decide what motive could have induced the appointment of such an increased number, still more the selection of some of the individuals of that number from stations so very distant from the scene of trial. Compared to any former court-martial, the number of admirals in this instance was nearly double. Upon Byng's trial there were four Admirals; upon Keppel's, five; upon Palliser's, four; upon Duckworth's, three; and upon Calder's, six; and it will be recollected that in each of these cases the accused was an Admiral.

There were,

In consequence of this extraordinary number of Admirals upon Sir Home Popham's trial, some have thought proper to go the length of stating that this officer was not tried by his

peers. in fact, among all the members of the court, but two who were junior to Sir Home. According to all the information I can collect, there is no case on record of a number of Admirals being collected to try a commodore. Such commanders have, as I learn, been always tried by the officers happening,

« PreviousContinue »