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of counsels which prevailed at this period in the BOOK British cabinet, the admiral had no positive or ders as to the commission or avoidance of actual hostilities, but was invested with an unmeaning and, as to himself, dangerous discretion of acting according to circumstances. Perceiving the frigates intent on taking an accurate survey of his fleet, he thought it expedient to fire a gun in order to compel them to bring to; and on their refusal to obey the signal, a chace ensued, when the Licorne, after wantonly discharging a whole broadside, struck to the America of seventy-four guns. The Belle Poule, after a warm engagement with the Arethusa, escaped by running on shore. The Pallas also, another French frigate, was in the mean time captured and detained. From the papers found on board these frigates the admiral discovered, to his inexpressible astonishment, that the French fleet lying in Brest water amounted to no less than thirty-two sail of the line: he was therefore under the immediate necessity of returning to port for a reinforcement; and, on transmitting accounts of his proceedings to government, he received no intimation of approbation or disapprobation.

On the 9th of July, however, he was enabled again to sail with twenty-four ships, and was soon afterwards joined by six more. In a few days

BOOK he came in sight of the French fleet off Ushant, XVIIL conmanded by M. d'Orvilliers, who seemed, on 1778. perceiving the English fleet nearly equal in force, inclined to avoid an engagement; but the wind changing some points in favour of the English, they gained so much upon the enemy that an engagement became inevitable, and the French ranging in order of battle, but on the opposite tack, the fleets passed each other about noon in a diagonal direction. The action, though very warm, was consequently partial; but the English admiral having in a short time sufficiently repaired his damages, made the proper signals for the van and rear divisions to take their respective stations. This order was instantly obeyed by sir Robert Harland, of the van; but admiral sir Hugh Palliser, of the rear or blue division, who had fallen a great way to leeward, took no notice whatever of the signals. ral Keppel, after waiting perhaps too long, sent the Fox frigate at five o'clock with peremptory directions to sir Hugh Palliser, to bear down into his wake in order to renew the engagement. Sir Hugh answered, "that he was knotting and splicing, but would obey the order as soon as possible."


At six o'clock the commander threw out another signal for ALL SHIPS to come into their stations; and at seven o'clock, wearied with


expectation, he threw out a third signal, for each BOOK particular ship of the blue division to come into her station in the line-but all to no purpose; and the day finally closed before sir Hugh Palliser rejoined his commander. In the night the French made sail for their own coast, and in the morning scarcely were the rearmost ships discernible from the topmast heads of the English fleet. Admiral Keppel therefore returned to Portsmouth to refit; but his public letter, containing an account of this transaction, occasioned great speculation-his desire to screen the misconduct of the admiral of the blue inducing him to give such a relation of this engagement as seemed to imply great impropriety of behaviour in the commander himself: for no reason whatever was assigned for not renewing the engagement in the afternoon, except the expectation of the admiral that the French would fight it out handsomely the next day.

It was impossible that the truth should not in some degree transpire; and a well-written letter appearing some time afterwards in the public prints, severely reflecting on the conduct of sir Hugh Palliser, that officer thought proper to require from the commander in chief a formal disavowal of the charges it contained, and a public justification of his character. This the com

BOOK mander absolutely and indignantly declining, the XVIII. vice-admiral immediately exhibited articles of

accusation against admiral Keppel, for miscon duct and neglect of duty on the 27th of July (1778), although he had in the month of October a second time sailed with admiral Keppel, and had never before this so much as whispered a word to his prejudice.

The lords of the admiralty, to the astonish ment of the nation, without the least hesitation, and even with apparent alacrity and satisfaction, fixed a day (January 7, 1779,) for the trial of the commander in chief; the result of which was in the highest degree honorable to that brave and injured officer, who was not only unanimously acquitted by the court-martial, but received the thanks of both houses of parliament for his services. Sir Hugh Palliser afterwards demanded a court-martial upon himself, which terminated in a slight censure only; but the resentment of the public was so great, that it was deemed expedient by the ministers to accept his successive resignations of his place at the board of Admiralty, his lieutenant-generalship of marines, his government of Scarborough Castle, and to permit him to vacate his seat in the house of commons. The acquittal of admiral Keppel was celebrated with illuminations and rejoicings in all parts of the


kingdom; and the houses of lord Sandwich and BOOK sir Hugh Palliser were insulted by the populace, and the demolition of them with difficulty 1778. prevented.

The ready acquiescence of the board of Admiralty in the appointment of the court-martial on a charge so grossly invidious and unjust, gave the highest disgust to the officers of the navy. A strong memorial was presented to his majesty on the subject by the duke of Bolton, signed by twelve admirals, with the venerable Hawke at their head, stating to his majesty, in strong colors, the ruinous consequences which the precedent now introduced would inevitably bring upon all naval service and discipline.

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If," said these gallant defenders of their country, "we had conceived that this board had no legal use of their reason in a point of such delicacy and importance, we should have known on what terms we served; but we never did imagine it possible that we were to receive orders from, and be accountable to, those who by law were reduced to become mere passive instruments to the possible ignorance, malice, or treachery, of any individual who might think fit to disarm his majesty's navy of it's best and highest officers. We conceive it to be disrespectful to the laws of our country, to suppose them capable of such manifest injustice and absurdity."

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