at the close of the action, that the Americans were obliged to set her on fire; they were thus deprived of the satisfaction of carrying her in triumph into port. Yet although this affair, so far from reflecting discredit on the officers and crew .#the Guerriere, was such as to sustain the reputation of the British navy, a deep feeling of disappointment and regret was experienced in consequence of the disaster. The revocation of the orders in council produced no effect on the American government, which still insisted on the principles—that free bottoms should make free goods; that British seamen should in no instance be taken out of American ships; and that the British principle of blockade should be abandoned. The first principle no British minister would have dared to concede; on the second, England was always willing to have come to an amicable arrangement with America. She had officially intimated her readiness to prohibit impressments from American vessels, if the Americans would enact laws prohibiting their officers from granting protections, or certificates of citizenship, to British subjects. The third and last principle, that of blockade, was one on which there could be no compromise, without sacrificing the superiori. ty of Great Britain at sea. The surrender of General Hull produced a deep sensation of gloom throughout America, and violent altercations arose with respect to his conduct. The government contended that he had been guilty of the basest cowardice; while he and his friends maintained, that the means with which he had been supplied were inadequate to the expedition entrusted to him. The project of conquering Canada was by many represented as ridiculous and whimsical in the extreme. “On what principle,” it was asked, “could the rulers of a country, part of which was

uninhabited; a country whose government, and almost every man living under it, had land to sell; a country in which husbandry and the arts languish for want of men, endeavour to purchase lands with the lives of its citizens? America wants men and money, not land ; and yet the government was about to surrender men and money in the uncertain hope of adding millions of acres, covered with eternal snow, to those millions of fertile soil which America already possessed, and which remained useless for want of hands to cultivate them.” The British arms were destined to attain yet higher honours in the defence of Canada. A second attempt to invade this settlement was made under the American General Wadsworth, who, on the 13th of October, attacked Queenstown with a considerable force. He was, in the first instance, successful in carrying the position, but was not allowed to retain it long. Major-General Brock having come up with a small body of men, composed of regular troops, militia, and Indians, a successful attempt was made to turn the flank of the Americans, while their attention was engaged by an attack of artillery in front. The enemy was thus assailed at all points, and, after a short but spirited conflict, was completely defeated. BrigadierGeneral Wadsworth, with the whole of his officers, and upwards of 900 men, were made prisoners; the loss of the Americans in killed and wounded was very considerable. That of the British was trifling; yet the country had to regret the § of Major-General Brock, who perished in this gallant and successful enterprize. Thus were the British arms once more victorious against a prodigious superiority of numbers; and the attempt of the Americans to accomplish the conquest of Canada was again defeated. The American people, disheartened with these repeated disasters, seem to have been anxious for an adjustment of their differences with Great Britain; but their government was determined to prevent any pacific arrangement by the terms which it demanded. An armistice was proposed by the president, on condition that the orders in council should be repealed without a revival of the blockade; that American seamen in British ships should be discharged; and that a stop should be put to their impressment in future. The advantages were thus to be all on the side of America; she was to have the benefit of the repeal of the orders in council, and to obtain the unconditional discharge of all seamen who had obtained certificates of American citizenship. And all this she demanded as the condition of her suspending, for a time, the operation of her mighty means of warfare against England l—Such propositions could not be acceded to. The president, in another speech to congress, com}. much of the conduct of Great

ritain, and indulged in numerous misrepresentations. He repeated his assertion, that the Indians in our service had committed the most shocking cruelties; and contrasted our conduct with the pacific demeanour of the people of the United States, who were anxious only to promote civilization among these tribes. Yet the best evidence to prove the humanity of the British in this respect, is to be found in the dispatches of MajorGeneral Brock, an officer whose memory will be dear to every Englishman.—“ When this contest commenced,” he said, “many of the Indian nations were engaged in actual war with the United States, notwithstanding the greatest endeavours of this government to dissuade them from it. From the moment the war commenced, they took a most active part, and appeared firm on every occasion.

They were led yesterday by Colonel Elliot, and nothing could exceed their ardour and steadiness. A few prisoners were taken by them, whom they treated with every humanity, and it affords me much pleasure to state, that such was their forbearance and attention to what was required of them, that the enemy sustained no other loss in men than what was occasioned by the fire of our batteries.”—Such therefore were the proposals of the American government for an armistice, and such its misrepresentations as to the mode in which the war had been conducted. Yet, confident as the rulers of America were, they were forced to acknowledge that the war was unpopular; that the states of Massachusets and Connecticut had refused to furnish their proportions of militia towards the defence of the maritime frontier; and that the finances were in a state of decay. The Americans were destined most unexpectedly for a while to enjoy an apparent triumph at sea, which the confidence of the British in the virtue of their navy rendered at once surprising and afflicting. The Macedonian frigate was, on the 25th December, captured after a severe and desperate action by the American frigate United States. The inequality in the size of the vessels, in the number and weight of the guns, and the disproportion in the number of men, were not less striking in this instance than in that of the Guerriere. Yet the action was obstinately contested, and the British frigate surrendered only in consequence of a number of untoward accidents which could not have been foreseen, but not till she had been reduced to a state which sufficiently evinced the bravery and perseverance of the officers and crew.—A violent and unjust clamour was now raised against the admiralty and the government, which, however, was very easily put down, by an impartial enquiry into the circumstances in which these distressing events had occurred. It was asked, why had not the Macedonian been manned in the same manner with the American frigate 2 The obvious answer was, that she had

not been intended to meet an American vessel called a frigate ; that on.

the extended scale of the British navy, it had not been considered possible, and never had been thought necessary, to arm or man British frigates in that manner. There had been no insufficiency of naval force on the American station at the commencement of the war; from Halifax to the West Indies there were stationed ships seven times more powerful than those of the whole American navy collected. But to the groundless apprehensions generated in a moment of disappointment, the best answer was given in the following sensible, observations, which may be read with interest, when the puny navy of America shall cease to be remembered. “There are three of the American frigates, viz. the Constitution, the President, and the United States, which were originally intended for line of battle ships, and are of 1600 tons burthen, and upwards, admeasurement. They carry fourteen twenty-four pounders, long guns, on a side, on their main-deck, and are armed on their quarter-deck and forecastle, which nearly meet, with thirteen thirty-two pounder carronades of a side, making a total of fifty-four heavy guns. By their capacity this battery is elevated possibly ten feet above the lead water line, from the lower sill of the maindeck ports. “It is right further to remark, that this great capacity enables them to possess considerably larger scuttles for ventilating them betwixt decks, and by such combined power of space and air, they are enabled to carry a com

plement of 450 to 500 men. It is also worthy of remark, that this portion of their navy is the elite of the corps, has been long in commission, and commanded by their best officers; add to which, that they are our own degenerate sons that man them, many of whom are absolutely fighting against us (as it were) with halters about their necks. “The rest of their frigate navy are like our own, and of a similar size and equipment. “The out-cry made against the government is, that this small comparative force has not already been swallowed up. They, however, like a “mouse on Salisbury plain,” and having a roving commission, are of course not long in one spot. When met at sea by, the Guerriere and Macedonian, two of our heaviest frigates now in commission, the fight was between single ships, and the result has been known, to the sorrow certainly of all lovers of their country. But will it be asserted by any one that our whole frigate navy must be remodelled in consequence of this check, possibly a salutary one, for our vanity might require it; would it not be better at once to declare, that their three ships, viz. the Constitution, President, and United States, are line of battle ships, having equipments in men and ordnance and capacity equal thereto, and exonerate our captains of frigates from going alongside of them, unless assisted by some additional force. It should be remembered by the public that a captain of a British 32-gun frigate mounting only 12-pounder carronades, is bound to fight any single-decked ship (meaning thereby “ gun-deck” as contradistinguished from quarter-deck and fore-castle, though their two platforms nearly meet) and consequently proceeds into battle, a willing sacrifice to the honour of the flag, whose independence he is most certainly bound to maintain. But surely there should be some bounds to such honourable chivalry. Formerly it was necessary, or at least thought so, for a regiment to remain exposed to a severe galling fire which possibly they could not return to advantage, merely because a British soldier was never to turn his back on an enemy. But such courage is better managed now a-days, thanks to Lord Wellington and other able men who have learnt in his lordship's school. And why not permit our frigates (of which I repeat again the Guerriere and Macedonian are as good specimens of force as we can bring; and being both taken in single action, shews that they are not equal to such frigates of the American navy as before described) to retire from such force, as they are accustomed to do from two-deck ships ? “It is said by some who rather delight in exhibiting any loss of war (this country must in common share with other nations) as the faults of the persons whose cause they do not espouse, that we do not man our ships enough. Why, say they, not put the Same number of men as the American frigates? The answer is easy, our frigates cannot stow them ; and, if stow them, or rather crowd them, they could not take the necessary supplies of provisions, for the usual period of a common foreign service. Our frigates of the first class, with the exception of the Endymion and Cambrian, the former now repairing, and the latter either taken to pieces or about to be, are about 1050 tons, 600 tons less than either of the frigates before described. . “It may be then said, and indeed is already said, build them —This “tainly may be done, and possibly will be to a proper extent, if any fit two-decked ships whose upper works are in a state of decay, can be found to cut down. It is also possible


that the department of the government, to which this great responsibility attaches, may be disposed to do so; but it requires considerable care in the selection of the ships, not only as to their state of repair, but also as to their form of body, for an easy two-decked ship may be a most laborious single-decked ship, and she may be dismasted in the first gale she encounters. Time must also be given for such a process. It is easy for persons who [. little of the subject to clamour, why have we not this or this 2 the moment it is wanted. Do our countrymen, at least the sensible part, forget that our navy, with the most rigid economy, costs us twenty millions annually, and would, if such prodigality were used, cost us thirty millions: Do they forget of what perishable materials ships are composed ? Do they forget that dreadful disease the dry rot But suppose we had three or four or six, say of this description of frigates, like the American ones, either by building or cutting down larger ships for the purpose, it may happen, and most likely will happen, that they never meet the large Americans. The two finest frigates of ours, the Endymion and Cambrian, have, I will not say not been engaged at all, but certainly never with a frigate of any sort. “But even admitting that we had them, and that they did meet, might not some of our fast-sailing two-decked ships now in the American seas be equally and successfully employed—may better; for the certainty of victory, with a comparatively less loss, would be greater. On the whole, therefore, I consider that the nation should at once vote, as it were, these three American soi disant frigates, line of battle ships, and support a man, and not run his character down, who considered it right to retire from one—they would then be of no more consequence than o other ship of war; and by being liable to capture by one of our two-deckers, are the description of ships, that, if the American war could long continue, would be too expensive as frigates, and not of force for the line.” Such then was the result of the first operations of this second American war, a war which had been undertaken by the government of the United States from the most unworthy motives; from a system of policy which sought to undermine the energies of the British empire, and to support the ambition of France; to overwhelm the only state which resisted the arrogance of despotism, and stood manfully forward in defence of the independence of nations. The glory of

the British arms was fully sustained by the operations of that little band of heroes to whom the defence of Canada was entrusted. The military prowess of the Americans had appear. ed contemptible in the eyes of the world ; nor had their naval efforts gained them any great credit with those who were capable of reflecting on the prodigious advantages under which their short-lived triumphs had been gained, and on the energy and resolution which had been evinced by British sailors, even at a moment when all the chances of war and every combination of circumstances conspired against them to a degree, which must have repressed the ardour of all but those, in whom heroism is an inmate and indestructible principle.

« ForrigeFortsett »