« AnteriorContinuar »
debate without any, answer from the Ministry. From a regard to Lord Nelson's reputation, and a wish to avoid any proceeding that could incur the imputation of the obnoxious party principles; together with a persuasion, as it should seem, that his own part in the transaction would not be materially misjudged by the public; he was induced to maintain silence for several years, and should, he says, have maintained it still, but for the manner in which the events were beginning to be represented by the deceased hero's biographers. One large and formal, though ill-written memoir, regarded as of no ordinary authority, unceren oniously called the capitulation which Captain Foote had signed "an infamous truce;' and gave a copy of what was called a private letter to Earl Spencer, in which Lord Nelson called it an infamous treaty entered into with rebels.' A private communication to the author having obtained no attention, and no change of language, as it seems, in, a second edition, the Captain thought himself absolutely called upon at last to make his own statement, and he published the first part of this Vindication. When the the magnificent Life of the Admiral was preparing, the principal author sought the acquajutance of Captain F. for the purpose of obtaining information on a point which was perceived to threaten no small embarrassment to a panegyrist, The correspondence, a great part of wliich is inserted, did not result in such a representation of the affair, in this splendid, authorized, and patronized work, as he judged hiinself to have a right to claim. He found that the greater man was at all events to be justified; and he regarded the case to be spch that this would necessarily include his own condeinnation. He therefore published a second edition with an additional vin, dication,
The essential particulars of the history are not nýmerous, The inany defeats sustained by the French in Italy, in the spring of 1799, from the combined Austrian and Russian grmies, compelled the withdrawment of all their troops from Naples, except a few left as garrisons in two or three of the forts. On this the royal party, which the bad conduct of the French agents had contributed to render the most numerous, and which was strengthenied by the Lazzaroni, rose in, hostility against the newly constituted republic of Naples, and against that portion of the people at whose desire the state had been reduced, by the assistance of the Freneb, to that form, Cardinal Ruffo also, with the title and powers of Vicar General of the king of the two Sicilies, was at hand, with an army drawn from Calabria , a body of Russians were in the same service, and an active English marine force was in the Bay, ready to cooperate; while
a large fleet commanded by Lord Nelson was at Palermo. The Patriots, as the Neapolitan republicans assumed to call themselves, seeing no possibility of maintaining themselves against such a combination of force, threw themselves into the Castles Uovo, and Nuovo, in order to secure a more mitigated fate than that which they would be certain to incur, by submitting unconditionally to the now prevailing party.
There is no occasion to enter into any question relative to the political inerits of the persons thus shat up in these castles. ludeed how could there be: any question? The great European jury of their peers would not have to deliberate a moment on the just verdict, according to the: Filmer code, which appears to have been reverentially accepted by the greatest proportion of the civilized world, if not of this nation. We will only just observe, that if the former government of Naples was in truth such as many English writers have concurred in representing it, nay such as we must conclude, from certain recent transactions, that it has shewn itself to be in Sicily, even after having become ever so much wiser and better, under the discipline of time and adversity,--that if its merits were really such, there can be 'no doubt at all, whether men like Hampden and Sidney, had. there been any such in Naples at the juncture in question, would have been found in or out of the castles Uovo and Nuovo. The fortresses made a gallant defence; and the military Cardinal, who had also other operations to think of at the same time, began to feel, or at least to complain, that bris means were inadequate to his undertakings : while his conduct appears to have been marked with considerable deficiency of energy and systein, and his communications to the English commander were less frequent and unreserved than the latter considered to be due ito him, in virtue of his being the authorized representative sof England on that station. A suspension of hostilities took place between the Cardinal and the garrisons of the castles ; and was protracted, without a decided result, considerably longer than the active-spirited Englishman approved, but terminated at length in a Capitulation, which provided, in the most precise and formal manner, for the safety of both the French and the Neapolitan republicans in the two castles, -and of another division of the republicans, who had taken refuge under the walls of Fort St. Elmo, a very strong place in the possession of the French. The articles of capitulation, signed by the Cardinal, and by the chief officers of the Russian and of some Turkisn forces co-operating with hioi, were sent to Captain Foote, with a request that he also would sign them. And it is very evident from some remarkable and repeated expressions of the Cardinal, that Captain Foote is fully authorized in the opinion, that the parties capitulating regarded the signature which was to pledge the British faith to their protection, as by far the most important of all, -as that which would be certain to secure the inviolability of the engagement to which they were going to trust their lives and property. He observed to the Cardinal that the terms were very favourable to the republicans, but readily and immediately signed the instrument. · He says, he should have thought it his duty to do so, even though he had not perfectly comprehended the necessity or wisdom of the measure, as he should have been bound to regard the acknowledged representative of his Sicilian majesty as the authorized and competent judge of the proceedings most proper to be adopted, in behalf of his government. But the posture of things was such, that the Captain was himself most fully convinced of the wisdom of the measure.
A great French and Spanish feet, which was known to have put to sea, was strongly expected in the Bay; and it was obviously therefore desirable to disarm, as soon as possible, the French, and the French party, in the city. It was urgently desirable to lessen the number of objects of the exertions of the royal forces, because all their exertions did not promise to ::
be more than sufficient for the reduction of the strong fort of St. Elmo, from which the French could fire on a great part of the city, and it was extremely desirable to do every thing possible to terminate a warfare, in which a horrible ferocity was already displayed, and would be aggravated every day. As to the terms granted to the republicans; that is the rebels, the Captain saw the greatest reason to approve of this lenity, on the ground of both equity and policy, and he had himself strongly advised the Cardinal to grant favourable terms. Without the very slightest leaning to what is called jacobinism, he extenuates the error or crime of the Neapolitan revolters, as the effect of a delusion wbich at that time pervaded a great part of Europe; and he represents, how much better it would have been for the king of Naples to prepare and signalize his re-entrance into bis capital by clemency, than by savage revenge. This is an opinion in which it is fortunate tor him that he is sanctioned by such an authority as Lord Keith, who became, about the period in question, commander in chief in the Mediterranean, and said, with strong marks of disapprobation, 'Do not let those good people carry their heads so high, when he heard of the style in which that re-entrance was preparing to be made.
The articles of capitulation engaged, among other things, that persons and property, both moveable and immoveable,
of every individual of the two garrisons, should be respected and guaranteed ;' and that all the said individuals should have their choice of embarking on board cartels, which should be furnished them to go to Toulon, or of remaining at Naples, without being molested either in their persons or families. They were to keep possession of the castles till the moment that these vessels should be completely ready, and hostages of high ecclesiastical rank were to be given to the French commandant of St. Elmo,to be retained till: information should be received of the arrival of the French, and the emigrant republicans at Toulon.
Thirty-six hours after the formal conclusion of this capitulation, Lord Nelson came into the Bay with his feet from Palerino. He had been informed on the way of what had taken place, and on seeing the Aag of_truce, which was still flying on the castles and Captain Fjote's, ship, he threw out a signal to annul the armistice, before he could have any personal communication with the Captain. In an interview with the Cardinal, who very naturally remonstrated loudly against the intention thus signified, Lord N. declared that such a compromise with rebels ought not to have taken place, and that, baving taken place, it ought not to be executed. He was assisted in this conference by a certain female, and that female's diplomatic husband; and there have not been wanting English writers, to represent the perversity and unreasonableness of the Care dinal, in pertinaciously insisting that a formal and finished capitulation ought to be held inviolable. Captain Foote repeatedly applies the term infatuation to that state of the admiral's mind which precluded, as far as appears, even a doubt on the negative of such a question. Most melancholy was now the situation of the republicans : for they had no protection, but the pledged faith of England; and this was not only no protection, it was actually turned into a snare, according to our author's repeated declaration, which we will quote in his own words,
• I believe it is but too true that the garrisons of Uovo and Nuovo were taken out of those castles under the pretence of putting the Capitu: lation I had signed, into execution, (which, after having annulled the treaty, must appear truly singular ;) and that some of those unfortunate people were treated with very great severity.' p. 39.
• The truth is, that some parts of the agreement had been performed, and actual advantage was afterwards taken of those parts of the Capitu. lation that had been executed, to seize the unhappy men who were thus deceived by the sacred pledge of a capitulation into a surrender of every thing that can affect a human being in the most critical moments of his existence.' p. 48.
The arrival of Lord Nelson in the Bay was on the 24th
of June, Captain Foote was sent by him on the 28th to convoy the royal family from Palermo tó Naples; and reaching the Bay with this higli charge or the 8th of July, was on the same day sent, with an additional ship pit under his orders, ‘on service at some distance from Naples.' He could be a personal witness therefore of only a part, perhaps a comparatively small part, of the transaction which formed a consistent sequel to the abrogation of the treaty. He deerns it not necessary to his precise ohject, the vindication of his own conduct, to relate these transactions; but his allusions to them are such as to imply both his complete knowledge of them, and that they were as iniquitous aid barbarous as they were represented in the statements which have made them partially known ' in this country.
The consequence of the violation of the convention was, he says, that the lives and property, of men who had trusted then selves to 'iis supposed sacraness, were sacrificed in a cruel and despotic manner.
We have never heard any effectual contradiction of the most material parts of the statement given in Miss H. M. Williams's Sketches of the French Republic,' from the report of some of the republicans who had the good fortune to escape from Naples to another Italian port, where they had the further good furtune to fall in the way of the late gallant Sir Thomas 'Troubridge, who by a prompt and decisive exertion expedited them on their way to Toulon, in contempt of authoritative orders which had pursued the fugitives to conimand their 'arrest. Indeed it is a plain unquestioned matter of iristory, that the capitulating garrisons were seized, under the authorization of the British commander, after a great proportion of them were embarked in the vessels which had been provided to carry them to Toulon, and were given up unconditionally to the royal revenge. How that revenge was likely to be indulged, how it was actually indulged, and how it was both preceded and seconded by the sanguinary fury of a Dost barbarous populace, wilt be to be told by faithful historians, who in writing the story man have at least this consolation, thut there can be no blacker page in their records.
The act which gave a commencement to these horrors, and which would maturally operate as an indefinite sauction, to what might follow, Captain Fonte regards as a great national dishonour,and zealously repels every imputation and refutes every cu strucion, that woult in any manner whatever implicate him in the guilt. He represents that his powers were competent to enter into the convention,--that his orders were to co-operate to the best of his ability with the royalists, at wliose 'head was