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was then appointed to the Boreas, 28 guns, going to the Leeward Islands as a cruiser on the peace-establishment. While the vessel was at anchor in Nevis Road, a French frigate passed to leeward close along shore. Nelson had received information, that this frigate was sent from Martinico for the purpose of making a survey of our West India islands. This he determined to prevent. Accordingly, he followed her to St. Eustatia ; and being invited by the Dutch governor to meet the French officers at dinner, he seized an occasion of assuring the Captain, that ' understanding it was his intention to honour the British possessions with a visit, he meant to accompany him, in order that such attention might be paid to him, as every Englishman in the island would be proud to show!' The French, with equal courtesy, protested against 'giving him this trouble : ' but Nelson with the utmost politeness insisted upon paying them the compliment, followed them close in spite of all their attempts to elude his vigilance, and never lost sight of them; till finding it impossible either to deceive or to escape him, they abandoned their intention in despair, and beat up for Martinico.
The Americans at this time, taking advantage of the registers of the vessels issued while they were British subjects, carried on a great trade with our West India islands. Nelson, knowing that this was in direct breach of the Navigation Act, resolved to put an end to it. “ If once,” said he, “ the Americans are admitted to any kind of intercourse with these islands, the views of the loyalists in settling Nova Scotia are entirely done away; and, when we are again embroiled in a French war, the Americans will first become the carriers of these colonies, and finally gain possession of them.”. The Commander in Chief was disposed to gratify the planters by winking at this illicit trade. The Governor of the Leeward Islands, Sir Thomas Shirley, when Nelson addressed him upon the subject, told him that old Generals were not in the habit of taking advice from young gentlemen.' Resolved to do his duty however, the
young gentleman’ ordered all American vessels to * quit the islands in eight and forty hours; ' declaring that if they refused, or presumed to land their cargoes, he would seize them. The Americans resisted these orders. The planters were, to a man, against him. The Governors and Presidents of the islands gave him no support; and the Admiral was, at first, afraid to act on either side. Yet after a while he issued an order, requiring the officers under his command not to hinder the Americans from having free ingress and egress, if the Governor chose to allow them. General Shirley and others sent him letters, little different from orders in their stile.
“ These persons,” says he, “I soon trimmed up, and silenced. Sir Richard Hughes' was a more delicate business. I must either disobey my orders, or disobey acts of parliament. I determined upon the former, trusting to the uprightness of my intentions, and believing that my country would not allow me to be ruined by protecting her commerce.” Accordingly, in a letter to the Admiral, he respectfully told him, he should decline obeying his orders, till he had an opportunity of seeing and talking to him.' For this Sir Richard, in his first feeling of irritation, was about to supersede him; but on previously consulting his Captain, he found that all the squadron were of Nelson's opinion upon the subject. Though he wanted vigour of mind
to decide upon what was right, he fortunately was not obstinate in wrong; and he, afterward, thanked Nelson for having shown him his error.
At Nevis, the Boreas found four American vessels deeply laden, with the island-colours flying : these were ordered to hoist their proper flag, and depart in eight and forty hours.' At first, they denied their country, and refused to obey ; but, upon being examined before the Judge of the Admiralty, they confessed that their vessels and cargoes were wholly American property. Upon this, Nelson seized them. The Governor, the Custom-House, and the Planters, were all his enemies: the Admiral, though his flag was then in the roads, stood neutral; and subscriptions were raised to carry on the causes against him. But this was not all: the marines, whom he had sent on board the vessels, prevented some of the masters from going on shore. Instigated by an attorney, they declared, that 'they had been put in bodily fear while the depositions were taking, for that a man with a drawn sword stood over them the whole time. This was the sentry at the cabin-door ; but the exaggeration served their purpose : suits were taken out against Nelson, and damages laid to the enormous amount of 40,0001. At the trial, he was protected by the Judge for the day. The Marshal was called upon to arrest him, and the Merchants promised to indemnify him for so doing. The Judge, however, did his duty, and threatened to send that officer to prison, if he attempted to violate the protection of the court. The President of Nevis, Mr. Herbert, behaved with singular generosity upon the occasion, Though no man had suffered more by Nelson's proceedings, he offered to become his bail for 10,0001., if he chose to suffer the arrest. His lawyer proved an able, as well as an honest, man; and notwithstanding the opinions of the counsel of the different islands, that ‘ships of war were not authorised to seize American traders without a deputation from the Customs, from the plainness of the law and the clearness of the case Nelson maintained his cause so well, that the four ships with their cargoes were condemned. During this affair, he sent a memorial to the King, in consequence of which orders were forwarded to defend him at the expense of the crown; and upon the representation, which he made at the same time to the Secretary of State, the · Register-Act' was framed. Yet the Treasury Board transmitted their thanks to Sir Richard Hughes, and the officers under him, for their activity and zeal in protecting the commerce of Great Britain ! *
At Nevis, Nelson became acquainted with Mrs. Nisbet, a widow in her eighteenth year; and married her March 11, 1787: Prince William Henry, at his own desire, giving away the bride. Some part of his stay in the West Indies was employed in detecting public frauds, and in endeavouring to obtain justice. But the peculators were too powerful; and they succeeded not only in impeding inquiry, but in raising against him, at the Board of Admiralty, prejudices which prevailed for many years. He returned to England a few months after his marriage. By a
* “ I feel much hurt,” said Nelson, “ that after the loss of health and risk of fortune, another should be thanked for what I did, and did against his orders. I either deserved to be sent out of the service, or at least to have had some little notice taken of what I had done. They have thought it worthy of notice, and yet have neglected me."
cruel neglect, the Boreas was kept from the end of June till the end of November at the Nore, 'as a receiving-ship. This unworthy treatment, occasioned probably by the influence of the peculators, excited in Nelson the strongest indignation. During the whole four months he seldom quitted the ship, carrying on the duty with strict and sullen attention. When orders, however, were received to prepare her for being paid off, he expressed his joy to the senior officer in the Medway: “ It will release me for ever from an ungrateful service, as it is my firm and unalterable determination never again to set my foot on board a king's ship. Immediately after my arrival in town, I shall wait on the First Lord of the Admiralty; and resign my commission.” The officer, finding it in vain to reason with him against this resolution in his present state of feeling, used his secret interference with the First Lord of the Admiralty to save him from adopting so injurious a measure; little foreseeing, how deeply the welfare and honour of England depended upon his decision.
This friendly representation produced a letter from Lord Howe, intimating
a wish to see the disgusted hero on his arrival in town. Pleased with his conversation, and perfectly convinced of the propriety of his conduct, he desired to present him to the King on the first levee-day; and the gracious manner, in which Nelson was received, effectually removed his resentment.
The affair of the American captains was not yet over. Nelson had retired to his father's parsonage, where he amused himself with rural occupations and rural sports. It was his great ambition, at this time, to possess a poney.
While he was gone to purchase one at a neighbouring fair, two men left with Mrs.