« PreviousContinue »
my people az Intermine to runish them if they have aprended their Liberty.
Showshe tenor to how with mud estem (and mith fandouso despeet
FACSIMILE OF LAST PAGE OF LETTER TO COUNTESS OF SELKIRK.
(Scale, two-thirds of original.)
LETTER TO THE COUNTESS OF SELKIRK
[From the original at St. Mary's Isle.)
RANGER. BREST, 8th May, 1778. MADAM. It cannot be too much lamented that in the profession of arms, the Officer of fine feelings, and of real Sensibility, should be under the necessity of winking at any Action of Persons under his command which his heart can not approve:--but the reflection is doubly severe when he finds himself obliged in appearance to countenance such Action by his Authority.
This hard case was mine, when on the 23rd of April last I landed on St. Mary's Isle. Knowing Lord Selkirk's intrest with his King, and esteeming as I do his private Character, I wished to make him the happy Instrument of alleviating the horrors of hopeless captivity, when the brave are overpowered and made Prisoners of War. It was perhaps fortunate for you, Madam, that he was from home, for it was my intention to have taken him on board the Ranger, and to have detained him until thro' his means, a general and fair Exchange of Prisoners as well in Europe as in America had been effected. When I was informed by some men whom I met at landing, that his Lordship was absent, I walked back to my Boat, determining to leave the Island: by the way however, some Officers who were with me, could not forbear expressing their discontent, observing that in America no delicacy was shewn by the English, who took away all sorts of movable property, setting Fire not only to Towns and to the houses of the rich, without distinction, but not even sparing the wretched hamlets and Milch cows of the poor and helpless at the approach of an inclement Winter. That party had been with me as Volunteers the same morning at Whitehaven; some complaisance therefore, was their due:- I had but a moment to think how I might gratify them, and at the same time do your Ladyship the least Injury. I charged the Two Officers to permit none of the Seamen to enter the House, or to hurt any thing about it. To treat you Madam, with the utmost Respect, to accept of the plate which was offered, and to come away without making a search or demanding anything else. I am induced to believe that I was punctually obeyed; since I am informed that the Plate which they brought away is far short of the quantity expressed in the inventory which accompanied it, I have gratified my Men; and when the Plate is sold, I shall become the Purchaser, and will gratify my own feelings by restoring it to you, by such conveyance as you shall please to direct.
Had the Earl been on board the Ranger the following Evening, he would have seen the awful Pomp and dreadful Carnage of a Sea Engagement: both affording ample subject for the Pencil, as well as melancholy reflection for the contemplative mind. Humanity starts back from such Scenes of Horror, and cannot but execrate the Vile Promotors of this detested War.
For They, t'was They unsheath'd the ruthless blade,
And Heav'n shall ask the Havock it has made. The British Ship of War Drake, mounting 20 guns, with more than her full compliment of Officers and Men, besides a number of Volunteers, came out from Carrackfergus, in order to attack and take the American Continental Ship of War Ranger, of 18 Guns, and short of her compliment of Officers and Men. The Ships met, and the advantage was disputed with great Fortitude on each side for an Hour and Five minutes, when the Gallant Commander of the Drake fell, and Victory declared in favour of the Ranger. His aimiable Lieutenant lay mortally wounded, besides near Forty of the inferior Officers and Crew killed and wounded. A melancholy demonstration of the uncertainty of human prospects; and of the sad reverse of Fortune which an Hour can produce. I buryed them in a spacious Grave, with the Honors due to the Memory of the Brave.
Tho' I have drawn my Sword in the present generous Struggle for the rights of Men, yet I am not in Arms as an American, nor am I in pursuit of Riches. My Fortune is liberal enough, having no Wife nor Family, and having lived long enough to Know that Riches cannot insure Happiness. I profess myself a Citizen of the World, totally unfettered by the little mean distinctions of Climate or of Country, which diminish the benevolence of the Heart and set bounds to Philantropy. Before this War began, I had, at an early time of Life, withdrawn from the Sea service, in favour of "calm contemplation and Poetic ease," I have sacrificed not only my favourite scheme of Life, but the softer Affections of the Heart, and my Prospects of Domestic Happiness, and I am ready to sacrifice my Life also with cheerfulness, if that forfeiture could restore Peace and good will among Mankind.
As the feelings of your gentle Bosom cannot but be congenial with mine, let me entreat you Madam, to use your soft persuasive Arts with your Husband, to endeavour to stop this Cruel and destructive War, in which Britain never can succeed. Heaven can never countenance the barbarous and unmanly Practices of the Britons in America, which Sayages would blush at, and which if not discontinued will soon be retaliated in Britain by a justly enraged People. Should you fail in this, (for I am persuaded that you will attempt it; and who can resist the power of such an Advocate?) Your endeavours to effect a general Exchange of Prisoners, will be an Act of Humanity, which will afford you Golden Feelings on a Death bed.