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Wells's ship's crew being harangued by him refused to cheer with the other ships, till the 'Glory' loaded her guns to fire
MR. T. GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Charles Street, May 9th, 1797. MY DEAREST BROTHER,
I cannot express to you my disappointment in the Portsmouth news, which I found upon my return to town yesterday evening. By the post of Saturday, the letters from the fleet were better than they had ever been ; and the officers themselves seemed in much better heart and spirits. On Sunday, however, it broke out afresh : representations were handed about, complaining that the speeches of Lord Howe, Lord Spencer and the Duke of Clarence, were meant to disappoint the seamen of what had been promised them, and it was suggested that the ‘Marlborough' was to be kept back, and made an example of when the fleet had sailed. Upon these pretences, the delegates began going round to each ship : Colpoys told his crew he would not admit them; they mutinied, and he ordered his marines to fire, who did so, and badly wounded four mutineers; but the fire was returned by the crew, who overpowered the officers and the marines, confined Colpoys, and threatened to hang Lieutenant Bover. To save him, Colpoys asserted that Bover had been ordered so to act by him, and that he had an order for this discipline from the Admiralty, which order he gave to the delegates. The order was a very proper order from the Admiralty to every captain, requiring him to give no cause of complaint to the men on the subject of provisions, requiring him to keep up a proper discipline, and to exert a proper spirit in resisting any appearance of mutiny. This order, we since hear, is stated as an act of treachery in the Admiralty as against the seamen.
Upon this tumult in the 'London,' the crews of the other ships took possession of the arms, and many confined their officers to their cabins. The post of to-day brings no new or different state of things, except an account that three of the mutineers are dead in Haslar Hospital of their wounds; and that Campbell, Nichols, Talbot, one or two other captains, and many lieutenants, have been put on shore at St. Helen's.
A messenger was dispatched last night with the news of the vote of the House of Commons having passed unanimously, but it is doubtful whether in this high wind he could get to the fleet; and all these circumstances show so little colour or pretence of real complaint, that I cannot help fearing the evil is more deeply rooted in the influence of Jacobin emissaries and the Corresponding Society, and to their machinations the vote of yesterday will afford no answer. Upon the whole, this is the worst state of things which I have seen. The ground of the mischief is not known to the officers, and as far as I can see, they have no heart or nerves to meet this formidable calamity. With this wind they might have sailed; but with what has happened in the 'London,' and with so many officers put on shore, one can hardly now wish the fleet to sail.
The last accounts from Brest announce about twenty sail, but not in a very forward state of readiness ; but this state of our fleet cannot be news to them, and they will doubtless profit of an opportunity which perhaps they bave themselves created.
At half-past one no news was come. If I hear more before the post goes out, I will add it.
God bless you, dearest brother.
MR. T. GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Charles Street, May 11th, 1797. MY DEAREST BROTHER,
Great anxiety again prevailed here by an account which arrived at midnight, that the delegates were on board the * London,' and it was feared they were urging for the execution of Colpoys and his captain ; but a few hours afterwards, news arrived that Colpoys' crew had resisted the delegates ; that even the most mutinous ships, viz. the 'Duke' and 'Mars,' were returned to their duty, and that most of the ships had desired their officers to join them again. I have also read a letter from Payne, who writes in high spirits, and says that there is now a complete hostility on the part of the well-affected as against the mutineers, and that he has just spoke a cutter from the 'Queen Charlotte' with twenty or thirty well-affected men on board, who were going to every ship in the fleet, to insist upon everything being quiet, and upon their going instantly to sail in quest of the French. Lord Howe would arrive about nine this morning, with a warrant under the King's sign-manual, for making such final arrangement as might be necessary for the sailing of the fleet, if he should find it so disposed to sail. Not a word from Lord Bridport, except to acknowledge the communication of the Act of Parliament !
Under these circumstances, there is every reason to suppose that one may hope the immediate storm is a little blown over, and that no new resource need be looked for such as you suggest ; but the apprehension of my mind is still extremely great, because I am more and more convinced that Jacobin management and influence is at the bottom of this evil; and till that influence is traced and rooted out, there is, in my view, no chance of safety. The tampering with the soldiers by conversation and handbills is another unanswerable proof of the system by which all this mischief moves forward; and the activity of Brest in the last accounts, seems to confirm, as far as such preparation can, their knowledge of, if not their participation in, this mischief.
Orde has written from Plymouth, that he hopes to get the ships there to sea before any communication is had of this new mutiny.
Things look badly, as I believe, in Ireland; but those of Government, whom I ever see, are so entirely occupied, that I write to you more from my own guess than from their communication.
God bless you, dearest brother.
I know no foreign news of any sort, nor have I seen William these three or four last days.
A third effort to effect a pacification with France had been entered upon by Lord Grenville in the month of June. On this occasion his Lordship addressed a direct application to M. de la Croix, expressing his readiness without delay to open a discussion of the views and pretensions of both parties. To this communication M. de la Croix replied by accepting the proposal; and the town of Lisle was appointed for the meeting of the ambassadors.
Lord Malmesbury was again appointed on the part of England; and it became evident at once that his re-appearance in that capacity was not very satisfactory to the French Government, M. de la Croix coldly signifying the consent of the Directory to negotiate with Lord Malmesbury, but adding that another choice would have augured more favourably for the speedy conclusion of peace.
The conference at Lisle seems to have taken its colour all throughout from this preliminary distrust of the English envoy. It lasted up to the 17th of September ; and ended as it began, in a fruitless debate about Lord Malmesbury's powers to treat in full. In the meanwhile, the event known by the name of the Revolution of Fruc
tidor took place in Paris, the meeting was broken up, and Lord Malmesbury left Lisle on the 18th of September.
LORD GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Cleveland Row, Sept. 20th, 1797. MY DEAREST BROTHER,
Late last night we got a messenger from Lord Malmesbury, with an account that he was ordered away from Lisle, and was
way to London, where he arrived this morning. It is not easy to say beforehand what effects it will produce here, where people's spirits are so susceptible of alarm and depression ; but I really think, in the manner of doing the thing, the Directory have done everything they could to play our game.
The dissatisfaction will be great in France, but they seem, for the moment, completely masters there. Ireland is our weakest point, and to that our attention must be most directed; for anything else I have very little apprehension.
I think it probable that the consequences of this new state of things will be to detain me in and about town, and to put an end to my hopes of a journey to Stowe or Wotton ; but I am not yet quite sure as to this. I hope we shall not be in a hurry to meet Parliament, as I understand that it will not be necessary, in point of finance, till about the middle of November. Between this and that time many things may still happen to raise people's spirits, which I should fear would in the present moment be much depressed, whatever pains we took to raise them. Ever, my dearest brother, most affectionately yours,