The number of commissioned officers and masters, belonging, to the British navy at the commencement of the year, was:
and the number of seamen and marines, voted for the service of the year, was 120,000.*
As soon as the royalists in La Vendée were subdued, and Spain was on the eve of becoming an ally in the war, France bent her serious thoughts upon the invasion of England; in which attempt she was to be assisted by the fleets of Holland and Spain. A close intimacy subsisted between Vice-admiral Truguet,, the French minister of marine, and General Hoche, who was to command the army destined to be employed in the expedition; and, as is not invariably the case in combined operations, both the admiral and the general entered alike heartily into the cause, and concurred in all the principal details of the gigantic plan which their united labours had prepared.
Before, however, the plan was finally settled, a secret committee was summoned to meet at the house of the Director Carnot. Here it was discovered, that the state of the treasury would not admit of the plan's being adopted to its full extent. It was therefore resolved to confine the expedition, " for the present," to a descent upon Ireland ; a country whose disaffected inhabitants would, it was known, greet the invaders with joy, and yet whose capture by France would be inflicting a blow upon England, of which she might never recover.
In the summer of 1796 two agents, from the secret Executive Directory of the Society of United Irishmen, repaired to Paris, and held several conferences with the members of the French Directory; from whom the former received renewed assurances of the most prompt succour in men, arms, and munitions of war. The republican government offered to send 25,000 men; but the Irish directory expressed themselves satisfied with 15,000. As soon as matters were nearly ripe, Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Mr. Arthur O'Connor feigned a journey to Germany, and, having traversed that country, had an interview, by appointment, with General Hoche, at Bâle in Switzerland. Here the traitors and the French general finally arranged their plan of proceedings.
According to Vice-admiral Truguet's plan, the Brest fleet was
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