Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 4.djvu/25

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1807
15
THE "CHESAPEAKE" AND "LEOPARD."

treasure-ships were seized, the "bitterest complaint of Spain was not that she had been made the unsuspecting victim of piracy, but that her squadron had been waylaid by one of only equal force, and could not in honor yield without a massacre which cost four ships and three hundred lives, besides the disgrace of submission to an enemy of not superior strength. The "Leopard" did indeed carry fifty-two guns, while the "Chesapeake" on this cruise carried only forty; but the "Chesapeake's" twelve carronades threw heavier shot than the "Leopard's" heaviest, and her broadside weighed 444 pounds, while that of the "Leopard" weighed 447. In tonnage the "Chesapeake" was a stronger ship and carried a larger crew than the "Leopard;" and a battle on fair terms would have been no certain victory. That Captain Humphreys felt it necessary to gain and retain every possible advantage was evident from his conduct. He could not afford to run the risk of defeat in such an undertaking; and knowing that the "Chesapeake" needed time to prepare for battle, he felt not strong enough to disregard her power of resistance, as he might have done had he commanded a ship of the line. To carry out his orders with as little loss as possible was his duty; for the consequences, not he but his admiral was to blame. Without a moment of delay, edging nearer, he hailed and cried: "Commodore Barron, you must be aware of the necessity I am under of complying with the orders of my commander-in-chief."