Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/319

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The whole force of the confederate powers was assembled at Saint Helen's in the second week of May, more than ninety sail of the line, manned by between thirty and forty thousand of the finest seamen of the two great maritime nations. Russell had the chief command. He was assisted by Sir Ralph Delaval, Sir John Ashley, Sir Cloudesley Shovel, Rear Admiral Carter, and Rear Admiral Rooke. Of the Dutch officers Van Almonde was highest in rank.

No mightier armament had ever appeared in the British Channel. There was little reason for apprehending that such a force could be defeated in a fair conflict. Nevertheless there was great uneasiness in London. It was known that there was a Jacobite party in the navy. Alarming rumours had worked their way round from France. It was said that the enemy reckoned on the cooperation of some of those officers on whose fidelity, in this crisis, the safety of the State might depend. Russell, as far as can now be discovered, was still unsuspected. But others, who were probably less criminal, had been more indiscreet. At all the coffee houses admirals and captains were mentioned by name as traitors who ought to be instantly cashiered, if not shot. It was even confidently affirmed that some of the guilty had been put under arrest, and others turned out of the service. The Queen and her counsellors were in a great strait. It was not easy to say whether the danger of trusting the suspected persons or the danger of removing them were the greater. Mary, with many painful misgivings, resolved, and the event proved that she resolved wisely, to treat the evil reports as calumnious, to make a solemn appeal to the honour of the accused gentlemen, and then to trust the safety of her kingdom to their national and professional spirit.

On the fifteenth of May a great assembly of officers was convoked at Saint Helen's on board the Britannia, a fine three decker, from which Russell's flag was flying. The Admiral told them that he had received a despatch which he was charged to read to them. It was from Nottingham. The Queen, the Secretary wrote, had been informed that stories deeply affecting the character of the navy were in circulation. It had even been affirmed