Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 40.djvu/197

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giving him experience. Of several prizes that were made not one came into port; and, with the exception of being once chased by a squadron of French line-of-battle ships, there seems to have been no excitement. In November he went in the Albemarle to New York, where Lord Hood [see Hood, Samuel, Viscount] formed a high opinion of him, and took him and his ship back with him to the West Indies. Hood also introduced him to Prince William (afterwards William IV), telling the prince ‘that if he wished to ask questions relative to naval tactics, Nelson could give him as much information as any officer in the fleet’ (Nicolas, i. 72). At this time Nelson had never served with a fleet, so that whatever knowledge of the subject he had could only be theoretical, learnt probably in conversation with Locker; but to have any at all, beyond the Fighting Instructions, was then remarkable, especially in a young officer.

In March 1783, when cruising on the north coast of San Domingo, Nelson had intelligence that the French had captured Turk's Island. With the Resistance frigate and two brigs in company he at once went there; but in an attack, on 8 March, the brigs were unequal to the fire of the enemy's batteries, and the garrison, strongly entrenched, repelled the landing party. Conceiving nothing more could be done, Nelson drew off his force. In May he was ordered for England, and on 3 July the Albemarle was paid off, when Nelson was placed on half-pay. In October, in company with Captain Macnamara, an old messmate in the Bristol, he went to France to economise and acquire the language. The two took up their abode at St. Omer, and no doubt learnt some French, though Nelson was never able to speak it with any ease. He describes himself in his letters as avoiding English society; in reality he seems to have gone little into any other, and he was frequently at the house of an English clergyman, Mr. Andrews, with one of whose daughters he fell deeply in love. It would appear that Miss Andrews rejected his proposals, for in the middle of January 1784, a few days after consulting his uncle, William Suckling, he returned suddenly to England; nor was the intimacy renewed, though he continued on friendly terms with the family; and when in March he was appointed to the Boreas, he took one of the boys, George Andrews, with him as a ‘captain's servant.’

In the Boreas Nelson again went to the West Indies, where public opinion was unwilling to accept the change in the commercial position of the United States. This was more especially the case at St. Christopher's and the adjacent islands; and in November 1784, when Nelson was sent to that part of the station as senior officer, he found that the Americans were trading there on the same footing as formerly, and that American-built and American-commanded ships were freely granted colonial registers. The commander-in-chief, Sir Richard Hughes [q. v.], had sanctioned this irregular traffic, and had given orders that it was to be permitted at the discretion of the governors. Nelson, however, conceived that in so doing the admiral was exceeding his power; and, rightly considering the trade an infringement of the navigation laws, he promptly suppressed it, and seized five of the ships which were engaged in it. This drew on him the anger of the merchants, who took out writs against him, laying the damages at 4,000l.; and for eight weeks Nelson avoided arrest only by remaining a voluntary prisoner on board his ship. Hughes had at first intended to supersede him, and to try him by court-martial for disobedience of orders, but changed his mind on ascertaining that all the captains in the squadron believed that the orders were illegal. Nevertheless, he declined to undertake the cost of Nelson's defence, which was finally done by the crown, on special orders from the king; but the measure of Nelson's disgust was filled in March 1786, when Hughes coolly accepted for himself the thanks of the treasury for his activity and zeal in protecting the commerce of Great Britain. ‘I feel much hurt,’ Nelson wrote, ‘that, after the loss of health and risk of fortune, another should be thanked for what I did against his orders.’ But this was not the only matter in which Nelson felt called on to disobey the admiral. Hughes had ordered Captain John Moutray [q. v.], the commissioner of the navy at Antigua, to hoist a broad pennant as commodore, and to carry out the duties of the port. As Moutray was on half-pay, the appointment was absolutely illegal; and Nelson, on arriving at Antigua early in February 1785, and finding the broad pennant flying on board the Latona, sent for her captain and ordered it to be struck, at the same time writing to Moutray that he could not obey his orders or put himself under his command. This action led to a correspondence with Hughes, who reported the matter to the admiralty, when Nelson was reprimanded for taking on himself to settle the business, instead of referring it to them. Notwithstanding this unpleasant episode Nelson was on the best possible terms with Moutray, and was a warm admirer of Mrs. Moutray, of whom he wrote in enthusiastic terms as ‘my dear, sweet friend,’ ‘my sweet, amiable friend.’ On her