Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/410

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
319
GENERAL DACAEN

character and actions in the light of full information. A postponement of epithets until we have ascertained the facts is in this, as in so many other cases, extremely desirable.

No candid reader of Decaen's Mémoires, and of Prentout's elaborate investigation of his administration, can fail to recognise that he was a conspicuously honest man. During his governorship he handled millions of francs. Privateers from Ile-de-France captured British merchant ships, to a value, including their cargo, of over £3,000,000 sterling,[1] a share of which it would have been easy for Decaen to secure. But his financial reputation is above suspicion. His management was economical and efficient. He ended his days in honourable poverty.

He was blunt and plainspoken; and though he could be pleasant, was when ruffled by no means what Mrs. Malaprop called "the very pineapple of politeness." His quick temper brought him into continual conflict with superiors and subordinates. He quarrelled repeatedly with generals and ministers; with Admiral Linois, with Soult, with Decres, with Barras, with Jourdan, and with many others. When General Lecourbe handed him a written command during the Rhine campaign, he says himself that, "when I received the order I tightened my lips and turned my back upon him." He speaks of himself in one place as being "of a petulant character and too free with my tongue." That concurs with Flinders' remark, after bitter ex-

  1. "Prentout, page 509, estimates the value of captures at £2,000,000, but Mr. H. Hope informed Flinders in 1811, that insurance offices in Calcutta had actually paid £3,000,000 sterling on account of ships captured by the French at Mauritius. Flinders, writing with exceptional opportunities for forming an opinion, calculated that during the first sixteen months of the war the French captures of British merchant ships brought to Ile-de-France were worth £1,948,000 (Voyage II., 416).