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MEMOIR OF VICE-ADMIRAL THE HON. SIR H. BLACKWOOD, BART., K.C.B., K.G.H.
THIS Island has mainly owed her greatness to her Navy; nor in all the revolutions among kingdoms and empires, that may be destined to take place in time, can we imagine a condition of the world in which her greatness will not still have to be guarded by the same power. It represents the national character in its most formidable attributes, and embodies the national might in the most magnificent impersonation. The British Navy-these are words of fear to tyrants, and of succour to slaves. All shores have been shaken by that thunder; and usurpation has felt the crown falling from its forehead,
"As patriot hopes arise, and doubts are dumb,
When bold, in Freedom's cause, the Sons of Ocean come!"
In none of those great sea-fights with the intrepid and skilful Hollanders were our fleets vanquished; some were doubtful or drawn battles; in most our flag flew in triumph. Previous to their Great Revolution, the French never could cope with us at sea; ever after it, whether engaging our fleets with their own, or in junction with the Spaniard, they sustained signal and total overthrows. As certain was the same issue in all single combats between ship and ship; and our enemies fought not for the glory of victory, but of resistance against inevitable defeat. The glories even of Hawke and Rodney were eclipsed by those of Jervis and Nelson-and the dominion of the seas was settled at Aboukir and Trafalgar.
The Americans are of our own blood, and they fought against us, both on shore and sea, in a way worthy of their national origin. At sea, in almost all their victories, but not
in all, they were greatly, in some overwhelmingly, superior in force; nor need we now either be surprised or mortified at the issue of such combats. Britain ought rather to be proud that her flag had never been struck on the sea, and then always with honour, but to her own sons, who, for that freedom's sake which has ever been her own glory, had been nobly rebellious, and in their independence had shown that they were worthy to contend with the heroes of that country from whom they derived their own descent. Never more may they meet as enemies! Providence seems to have assigned to this small island, and to that mighty continent, a different destiny, but equally great; and may both, now and ever, be fulfilled in peace! America, if her councils continue to be wise, will never seek to be a great naval power. Britain will never cease to uphold her Fleets, else of no avail will be her armies; together flourishing they will still go forth, should need ever be, "conquering and to conquer; "but against none, let us all devoutly hope, but the enemies of liberty, and law, and social order, without which, either to men or states, what is life?
We are not among the number of those who fear for the decay of our navy. Within these few years, indeed, many of our most illustrious naval heroes have died; and the rising race of officers and seamen have chiefly fought but at Algiers and Navarino, against the moored ships or the batteries of barbarians, which were of course demolished, under Exmouth and Codrington, and in a way worthy their former fame. But as long as the spirit survives, there will be no want of officers and men for our ships; let that languish, and the navy of England, going to rot in harbour, need never more put to sea.
The bright series of victories won by our invincible army in the Peninsula, and transcendently consummated at Waterloo, seemed for a while to throw our navy into the shade; but as well may the nation forget that name as that of Trafalgar, and allow the names of Wellington and Nelson to fall together into oblivion. The ach vements and character of navy and army are alike mighty and immortal; nor need we fear the decline of the spirit that alike animates both services, while that national spirit itself continues to be cherished and upheld by all who have it in their "holy keeping;" and all who breathe the air and tread the soil of liberty have some part in
its guardianship, which they perform, the humblest as well as the highest, while every man, in his own sphere, strives with heart and soul to obey the injunction conveyed in these sublime words 66 England expects every man to do his duty."
The achievements of our navy have not wanted their records; and they are now in course of fitting commemoration by the genius of one of the greatest men in England. Southey's History of the Navy will be a work of which all Englishmen will have cause to be proud; and it comes, with peculiar grace, from the biographer of Nelson. We have already innumerable narratives of the wonders wrought by us at sea; nor can we deny ourselves the pleasure of alluding to the United Service Journal, by which a knowledge of the valorous exploits of our warriors may now be spread far and wide among all classes, and justice done to many brave men who, unnamed in Gazettes, necessarily exclusive of almost all but officers of higher rank, and leaving numberless brilliant affairs to "blaze in the acting," afterwards unhonoured and unknown, might otherwise have gone down to the grave without their fame; while now their dangers and their duties, daringly encountered and performed, may be heard of far beyond their own firesides, and the memory of their virtues cherished in the hearts of their countrymen, along with the love and admiration for ever awake there for more illustrious leaders.
We rejoice to have had intrusted to our hands authentic documents for a memoir of the professional life of one of our most distinguished naval commanders, the late Sir Henry Blackwood; and while we are proud that our pages are so honoured, it is satisfactory to us to know that they will make thousands acquainted with his character and exploits, who might not have been so, had such a narrative appeared in any periodical publication, however excellent, exclusively dedicated to military and naval affairs.
Sir Henry was the sixth son of Sir John Blackwood, Baronet, and Baroness Dufferin and Clanboye. At the age of eleven years, in April 1781, he entered his Majesty's service, under the protection of Captain M'Bride, on board the Artois frigate, and was present at the Dogger Bank action under Admiral Parker, as well as at the capture of the Pylades
and the Orestes, two Dutch sloops of war, by that frigate, after a short action; and, on serving the intermediate years under Captain Montgomery in the Boreas and the Concord frigates, Hawkins Whitshed in the Rose ditto, and Commodore Corby in the Trusty, of 50 guns, he was promoted from Earl Howe's ship to the rank of lieutenant, in November 1790. In the ensuing year, 1791, he was employed on board the Proserpine frigate, under Captain Curzon; and on the commencement of hostilities with France in January 1793,' was appointed to the Active frigate, Captain Nagle, from whence he was removed in July of the same year, by the particular desire and application of the Honourable Captain Pakenham, to become first lieutenant of the Invincible of 74 guns. That good judge of merit had formed a high estimate of Blackwood's abilities; and, in a letter to Admiral Cadwell, he had said, a short time before,-"I have seen your letter to Blackwood. I have only to say, that if your knowledge of him was equal to mine, you would esteem yourself fortunate in having as exact, as attentive, as capable
1 In the year 1792, or end of 1791, being unemployed, Lieutenant Blackwood went to Angoulême to improve himself in the French language, which he acquired with particular facility, and spoke better than most Englishmen. The beginning of the French Revolution, at this time so interesting to the world at large, too strongly excited his mind to allow him to remain at Angoulême, and he left that place for Paris. He was strongly requested to convey a small book addressed to a family who had emigrated, with a positive assurance it contained neither political matter, nor private correspondence, nor danger to him, but merely on domestic subjects, or he would not have undertaken to deliver it, knowing how the violence of the Revolutionary tribunals raged at this time against the emigrants. On his arrival at Paris, the book, which concealed some letters, was discovered among his effects, when he was seized and immediately taken before the Municipal Council, and then committed to a rigid imprisonment as a bearer of treasonable correspondence, and being an agent to convey money to the emigrants. His confinement was one of the most frightful suspense, as the contents of the concealed letters were unknown to him, and he had every reason to dread the utmost vengeance that Jacobin ferocity could inflict. In a few days he was again brought forward, when it was fortunately proved the papers were free from political topics, and he was to be admitted to bail if some person of responsibility would answer for his appearance at the bar of the Convention, to which the business was to be referred. His friends at Angoulême had given him an introduction to a respectable merchant at Paris, where he lodged for a few days in this critical situation. M. Lafitteau, the name of this generous friend, came forward, and when the court demanded, in stern and threatening terms, who would answer for le Citoyen Blackwood, he arose with great energy, and putting his hand upon his head, exclaimed,—" With my head I will go bail for Mr Blackwood;
an officer as ever I have met with. Having said so much, I do heartily hope that your arrangements will allot him the most distinguished station among your officers, because I know he will, in such a station, give satisfaction. As our first lieutenant is indisposed, if Blackwood is not to be your first, let me entreat you to send him to me until ours recovers." As First Lieutenant in the Invincible, he continued to serve under the same distinguished captain, until after the actions of the 28th and 29th of May, and 1st of June 1794, under Lord Howe, with the French Fleet. The Invincible engaged the Juste, of 84 guns, a ship vastly superior to her in force (she carried nearly 300 more men-her tonnage was upwards of 2100, the Invincible's little above 1600, and there must have been nearly a corresponding difference in weight of metal), and in half an hour her astonishing fire so demolished her huge opponent, that she bore up in great confusion, and shortly afterwards became an easy conquest to the Queen Charlotte. The Achille and Juste, after that noble ship had shattered and put to flight the Montague and the Jacobin, engaged her, but rather
I know him, and he is a man of honour!" The president of the court then angrily replied,-"Your head be that security-you answer with your life for the accused :" his friend, turning to Sir Henry, said, "Sir, my life is in your hands, but your honour is my protection." The case was represented to several leading members of the Convention, and the day the special report of his arrest was laid before it, he heard with surprise a motion made for his discharge; though one of the most furious of the Jacobins declared, in a speech of great length, that to his knowledge the prisoner was a spy-an emissary of a hateful faction-the agent of men France disowned, and of those apostates who were then plotting, in the cabinet of tyrants, the subversion of liberty and their country:-as an amendment, he should move that the prisoner be remanded and dealt with according to the law. One of the deputies, who had taken a lively interest in favour of Sir Henry, near whom he was seated in the court, arose, and used such strong arguments in favour of his innocence, and the injustice of criminating a stranger by assertions of a stranger only, that a vote was passed for his enlargement. When he requested to know of M. Lafitteau, his protector, in what way he could evince his gratitude, he said, only "by sending me a pair of jockey (Anglais) English leather breeches," which was faithfully done.
A singular coincidence occurred some years afterwards. On returning from Egypt, Sir Henry discovered one of his prisoners of war to be a M. Tallien (or some name near it), who had been taken by one of the English cruisers, the most violent of his Jacobin enemies, who had so loudly called for his condemnation in the Assembly.
Sir Henry was in Paris during the massacre in September, from the 2d to the 6th, 1792, and staid till obliged to fly for his life. He attended the Jacobin Clubs several times with Mr Huskisson.