« ZurückWeiter »
however, by the way, seem to believe all on one side, and are quite paralitic of belief on the other. Any thing strange, un. natural, or monstrous, is pretty sure to obtain full credit among them, whether it be the supernatural abstinence of Ann Moore, the existence of the lady with the pig's face, the immaculate conception of Joanna Southcote, or the enormous size of an American frigate. But their astonishing credulity on one hand is singularly contrasted with their scepticism on the other; for while they give full and entire credit to the relations of victories that they never gained, with a most preposterous inconsistency they refuse their assent to defeats that are notorious to all the world. It is therefore little to be wondered at that such a people should believe in that magazine of wonders, the British Naval Chronicle, and, by a natural consequence of this peculiar feature of character, disbelieve in the claims of America to a naval superiority. The doubts, as well as the credulity of ignorance, are without limits, and it is not uncommon to see men, who believe in the wildest creations of fancy, refusing their assent to the most irrefragable evidences of sense. It would seem, indeed, to be a natural consequence, that a man, who gives all his faith to impossibilities, should have none left for the natural effects of known and received causes.
The ministerial writers of England, whose business it is to keep John Bull in a good humour, by patting him on the back, and persuading him that he is altogether invincible by sca and land, have taken advantage of this peculiar instinct of the good man, who, like an oyster, opens his mouth, and swallows every thing that comes in with the flood tide, but obstinately shuts it when it is ebb with him. Knowing that he will believe any thing to his own advantage, they every day invent pretty stories for his gratification, and whenever the tax-gatherer knocks at his door, which is almost every day in the year, he is sure to bring an account of some great victory. either in the west, or the east, or somewhere or other.
But these dextrous jugglers in literature were never so hard put to it, for victories to tickle the good squire, as during the late contest with this country, and indeed were at length obliged to resort to the inglorious task of accounting for deseats, rather than boasting of triumphs. Not being able to persuade, even him, that his ships have not been beaten, they have exercised all their ingenuity in proving how it was utterly impossible that they should not have been beaten. This, to be sure, is but a sorry consolation, and it is almost a pity to attempt undeceiving him. Had his claims been urged with a becoming modesty, and not been mingled with sneers and abuse of his gallant enemy, they might perhaps have passed. Had his apologists, in fact, contented themselves with extenuating alone, and “set down nought in malice,” John might have remained in the full enjoyment of his delusion. He might have continued to sing “Rule Britannia” till his dying day, and enjoyed the full fruition of his belief in this, as in the story of Ann Moore, Joanna Southcote, and the lady with the pig's face. The war being over, and the two nations friends, we would never have thought of reviving this question while the peace continued. We have no enmity to England except what arises from her enmity to us. Hitherto the wars waged against that nation by the writers of this country have been defensive wars, and were they to let us alone we should never think of attacking them. But the people of the United States of America are not Hindoos, or Portuguese, or Italians, to be trod under foot or calumniated with impunity, That time is past: the worm has turned—and now, as we will be at all times ready to return courtesy for courtesy, so will we be equally ready to return contempt for contempt, scorn for scorn, obloquy for obloquy. It is but a sorry business, after all, for two nations to be abusing each other at a distance of three thousand miles; like two of Homer's heroes, with the Scamander between them. But we desire our countrymen to remember who cast the first stone, and to remember also that hitherto acquiescence in misrepresentation, has only called new vials of wrath from the British press upon our heads. All things must have a beginning, and perhaps the time may come when the insignificant example we have set will call forth the exertions of others, more qualified for this contest. The history of England, even as written by her own writers—the conduct of her government, as displayed by her most illustrious orators in parliament, furnishes us with ample means of turning the abuse of her writers back upon herself. The laborious industry of her statistical, the complaints and statements of her religious and moral writers, have let us into all the secrets of the interior and exterior, the moral and political state of England, and where she is obliged to resort for materials against us, to writers without credit or authority, we can gather those to be employed against her from the most unquestionable sources. The progress of this system of abuse of our national character, our manners and our government, will assuredly provoke reprisal, and the time will perhaps come when the character, manners and government of England will be laid open to the world, at different times, in a way that will not redound to her credit. It may, therefore, be worth while for these people to consider, which is likely to suffer most in the end, and whether the superior knowledge we possess of them may not give us many advantages in the contest, inasmuch as the more we know of some people the less they are thought of; and whether, finally, the weapons which this superior knowledge furnishes us with, may not make ample amends for the want of equal dexterity in their management. With these observations we will now proceed with the “Synopsis,” which naturally gave rise to them.
The next action in the black list of the British naval officer on the American station" is that of the Wasp and Frolic, which the writer himself admits was, “ of all the actions between us and the Americans, in weight of metal the most equal.” After this candid acknowledgment he proceeds however to account, as usual, for the extraordinary result of this affair, by a train of petty excuses, and half-sided misrepresen
tations, which we are compelled to notice. The facts we shall adduce, are furnished upon authority at least fully equal to those of our antagonist. He has not told us whence he derived them; but we are not afraid to say we derived ours from officers, whose gallantry in these actions is ample security that they, at least, would not stoop to misrepresentation. The word of the victor is of greater weight than that of the vanquished, because he has not equal motives to tell a falsehood. It will be found, by all experience, that the thing that is beaten is always the most noisy, garrulous, and full of excuses. If it be a dog, he always barks the loudest, if a cock, he always cackles most vociferously, and if it be honest John Bull that gets worsted, he will always have the most to say in favour of his own prowess, as well as against that of his successful antagonist.
Thus the “ officer on the American station."-He sums up the balance of his account current as follows, to wit:-that the superiority on the American side was in the number of men as nine to five, and, “ in weight of metal-say nothing;" and certainly the less he says about that the better. We state it as a fact, derived from the authority above alluded to, that the Frolic carried twenty 321b. carronades on her main deck, and two large howitzers on her top gallant fore castle. The Wasp carried eighteen 321b. carronades on the main deck, and had no top gallant forecastle. Now were we as deep in Thomas Dilworth as the naval officer, we would calculate the difference in weight of metal; but in truth it is quite unnecessary, and we will go on to expose other misrepresentations. The officer states the crew of the Frolic at ninety-five men and boys, that of the Wasp at one hundred and sixty-five, all “men in buckram," as usual--all “ picked men." But there was something worse than all this. The crew of the Frolic were, a great part of them, invalids, just come out of the yellow fever, and “it is stated,” says the officer, prudently however, without giving his authority, " that VOL. VII.
captain Whinyates was not apprised of the war even when he met the Wasp."
The purser of the Frolic informed lieutenant Biddle, first of the Wasp, that the crew, at the commencement of the action, consisted of one hundred and nineteen men, and we are fully authorised to state, that in none of the conversations which took place after the capture, with the officers of the Frolic, did there occur the least hint or complaint that her crew were, or had been, recently sickly. To our officers the survivors appeared as well looking as the generality of sailors in British men of war, which, to be sure, is not saying much in their favour. The war was declared against England the 18th of June, and on the 18th of October, four entire months afterwards, captain Whinyates, “it is said," did not know of the war! Where had he been? Only in the West Indies, gentle reader, where news gets from the United States in eight or ten days. And yet poor captain Whinyates was ignorant of the war, and like his fellow ignoramus, captain Dacres, was “carelessly” sailing about singing “Rule Britannia,” we suppose, and not even so much as dreaming of being stung by such an overgrown Wasp.“ Prodigious! prodigious!” as Dominic Sampson says.
But there is still another and another excuse forthcoming, as if the weakness of each could be sustained by the weakness of all together. It seems that the “ American boys are as old and as stout as most men employed in the British service. “Our buys,” continues the officer, “besides being so numerous, are often so young as to be fitter for the nursery than the quarter bills of a ship of war.” Here this really silly apologist discloses another cause of the superiority which we contend for:—their ships, he says, are pestered with little boys, only fit for the nursery; whereas the American boys are a match for the British men on board their ships of war. If there is such a difference in the boys, what must there be between the men of the two nations? and what inhumanity in thus carrying little children, “fit for the nursery” only, inte scenes of bloodshed and carnage!