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this defect in his character was, during his life, the cause to him of much trouble, and has cast its shadow upon his. memory. On this occasion Shelburne wrote that Oswald was entrusted to "communicate his thoughts” upon the points he discussed.
Oswald was instructed to demand an interchange of trade, the payment of debts incurred in Great Britain before the war, and the restoration of the confiscated property of the loyalists, with their rights and privileges. The proposals of Franklin as to the cession of Canada were thus dealt with : “The private paper desires Canada for three reasons. Ist. By way of reparation. Answer.—No reparation can be heard of. 2nd. To prevent future wars. Answer. It is hoped that some more unfriendly method will be found. 3rd. Loyalists, as a fund for indemnification to them. Answer.—No independence to be acknowledged without their being taken care of. Privately, Oswald told Franklin that the written proposal apparently had made a favourable impression on Shelburne's mind, and he had reason to believe that the points involved might be settled to the satisfaction of the Americans ; but it was a condition not at present to be mentioned. On Oswald's return to England he carried with him a letter from Franklin in praise of his character, with the hope that he would return, as his presence would contribute to the conclusion of a peace. Franklin now precisely understood the man with whom he had to deal.
Grenville's interviews with de Vergennes conveyed the strong impression, that there was no desire to make peace with Great Britain either on the part of France or Spain. Spain had entered into the war solely with the idea of regaining Gibraltar, while France was desirous of prolonging the war as it would furnish the occasion of increasing her own power, and that she might dictate the terms upon which the United States should gain their national existence. Nevertheless, Grenville was authorized to propose terms of peace, and he had been but a few weeks charged with the duty, when Europe was convulsed by the news of Rodney's victory of 1782]
PROJECTS OF DE GRASSE.
the 12th of April. So crushing a defeat of the French totally changed the relative positions of the several powers. Spain and France, it is true, remained before Gibraltar, and it was not until September that their united force was shattered before the fortress. But the naval power of France was for the time destroyed by Rodney's victory, and if England did not entirely regain her ancient preeminence on the sea, she had obtained strength in the direction which caused her power to be felt most sensibly by the United States.
I cannot pass over in mere barren mention this remarkable victory of Rodney, for I hold that it preserved Canada to British rule. Had de Grasse obtained the success of the previous year at the Chesapeake, Jamaica would have fallen, and the French feet would in a few weeks have been in the Saint Lawrence dictating the terms of surrender at Quebec. Of all consequences, none was more dreaded by the ablest men in congress, than that the French should again be established in Canada.
Some stress is laid in many histories upon the fact, that Rodney fought this action after having been recalled by Rockingham's ministry. He had been replaced by admiral Pigott, and his recall by Keppel had been couched in the driest official language written by the secretary of the admiralty, Mr. Stephens. I do not consider it a duty to join in this censure.
To this day an official notification of recall will not find a place in the elegant letter writer. However great the service Rodney rendered to his country on this occasion, the painful fact stands, that it was his neglect of duty, there is no other word, which permitted the French fleet to appear in overpowering force in the Chesapeake in 1781, and to be supreme. It was this circumstance alone that led Washington to march from New York towards Yorktown, and to undertake the operations which closed with the surrender of Cornwallis. Rodney's conduct on this occasion naturally influenced the Rockingham government. Except for his brilliant services of the following year, the proceeding would to-day be regarded as legitimate.
After the surrender of Cornwallis, Rodney, who represented Westminster in parliament, took his seat and defended his conduct at Saint Eustatius. His past service obtained for him a favourable hearing ; Rodney was a favourite with the king, and lord North's majority was at the time able to sustain him, especially as none doubted his capacity and enterprise. We have only to conceive that if in place of lingering at Saint Eustatius, Rodney had proceeded to the Chesapeake and his victory of the 12th of April had been
in those western waters, it would have closed the war.
Vermont would have joined Canada, as the reported negotiations establish, and the work of disintegration of the provinces would have commenced. The congress army would have become too weak for any active operations, and the belief is reasonable that peace would have followed.
Rodney returned to the West Indies, reaching the fleet shortly after the capitulation of the island of Saint Christopher, on the gth of February. He brought with him twelve ships; he was shortly afterwards joined by Hood; and, strengthened by other vessels, he had with him thirty-six ships of the line.
Early in April the French fleet was assembled at Martinique. It consisted of thirty-three ships of the line and two ships of fifty guns. A large body of French troops were on board, in view of the expeditions to be undertaken. To my mind, the presence of these troops in such numbers is a proof of the design against Canada and Newfoundland, for they were required nowhere else, certainly not for the operations against Jamaica.
As Rodney knew it was the intention of the Spanish fleet to effect a junction with that of France, it was his policy to fight before they came together. He detached cruisers to watch the enemy's movements, and the signals were transmitted by a line of frigates. On the 8th of April it was known that the French were under way. The British fleet, then at Saint Lucia, in anticipation of this movement, had been kept in a constant state of preparation, and within two hours after the
RODNEY'S GREAT VICTORY.
news was received was standing out to sea. Rodney, in the “ Formidable," was in the van. Sir Samuel Hood, in the “Barfleur," led the second division.
second division. An indecisive action took place on the 9th, in which two of the French ships suffered. On the following night another French ship was greatly disabled by a collision. The result of this maneuvring was, that by the night of the nith Rodney succeeded in bringing his fleet so close to the French that avoidance of an action on the following day was not possible, if the English determined to fight, and such was Rodney's stern purpose.
He commenced the action as early as it was light, on the morning of the 12th of April, about seven.
There was little wind, so Hood's division only reached the scene of action towards the close of the battle.
on this occasion that Rodney, in the "Formidable,” led the way in breaking the French line, by which the ships so formed were thrown into confusion. The action lasted until dark. Five ships of the line were taken, one was sunk. Among those taken was the “ Ville de Paris,” which was fought with great gallantry to the last. The other French ships escaped, excepting four, subsequently taken by Hood. All the vessels were so disabled, that it was owing to the calm which succeeded and made pursuit impossible that any of them remained untaken. The loss of the French in the actions of the gth and 12th is generally named at 3,000 killed and 6,000 wounded. The British loss in killed and wounded was under 1,000, and Rodney did not lose a ship.
On board the “Ville de Paris” were the entire train of artillery and the military chest. The French ships which sailed away from the scene of action were so shattered that they sought shelter as soon as they could find it. They could not be re-united for any operation of war. In the view of continuing any further aggressive movement, the French fleet had been destroyed, and Jamaica and Canada remained unassailed.
Rodney repaired to Jamaica and thence to England. The service he had rendered to his country met the full appreciation it deserved. History has placed on record how this victory raised the fortunes of Great Britain from the desperate position into which they had fallen. Its influence on the peace was immediate. But as the operations were still actively urged on against Gibraltar, there was still the hope that England might be humiliated in that quarter. The recognition of Rodney's service, when estimated by the honours paid to lord North and Germain, does not exact our respect. Germain had received an earldom, lord North a pension of £4,000 a year, both at the personal desire of the king. In modern times no such reward for obsequious incompetence could be granted. Rodney was created a baron with a life pension of £2,000.
The strength which Rodney's victory gave the administration led to Grenville being authorized, if he found it to be expedient, to offer the recognition of the independence of the United States, previous to entering into the conditions of a general treaty. As secretary for foreign affairs, Fox had claimed that the negotiations entirely appertained to his department. Shelburne, however, still maintained, that his position as secretary for the colonies gave him control in all intercourse with them. In this view he had the support of the king, and he was sustained by a majority of the cabinet in his proposition for the return of Oswald to Paris, in accordance with the desire of Franklin. Fox desired to place the matter entirely in the hands of Grenville. Grenville on arriving at Paris had found Franklin ready to discuss the points for the negotiation of peace, but when Franklin had been informed by Oswald that Grenville would be one of a commission to treat with the United States ministers, Franklin's manner was changed to extreme reserve. Oswald spoke to Grenville as openly as to Franklin, and it was from Oswald that Grenville learned the fact of Franklin's paper being placed in Shelburne's hands. Grenville, accordingly, wrote to Fox, detailing this information, and suggested that