|Naval history of Great Britain
||Phœnix and Didon
have occasion again to introduce his lordship's name. For that reason we take this opportunity of disclaiming all " malevolence of intention " * towards Lord William Fitz-Roy. On the other hand, we should indeed be unfit for the office we have undertaken, did we allow the adventitious circumstances of high birth and extensive patronage to sway us in our remarks upon the conduct of individuals. Had the Æolus engaged the Didon, and, after a well-fought action, been compelled to yield to superior force, we do not believe that Lord William Fitz-Roy would have been tried for disobedience of orders. But, had he been so, and a condemnation been the result, we would have strained every nerve to show the injustice of the sentence, and doubt not that we should have succeeded in satisfying every unprejudiced mind, that the captain of the Æolus had acted in the noblest manner.
As to the supposed evil consequence, which would ensue to the public from the protracted, or even the non-delivery of despatches, † we think, with submission, that it has been much overrated. At all events, let the order to the commanding officer of the despatch vessel signify, in the plainest terms, that he is not to deviate from his course to chase any suspicious vessel. And, should he then discover an enemy's ship of his own class in a situation to be pursued or attacked, let the captain muster his officers and men, and read to them the peremptory clause in his orders. But, where an officer, from the obscure wording of his orders, is in doubt on the subject, or where, like Lord William Fitz-Roy, he is directed to do that which is incompatible with a continuance in the course he is directed to steer, he will find that, on the score of character, to which, notwithstanding the light manner in which a contemporary treats " the sacrifice of reputation, " some attention is due, the safer alternative is always to fight. ±
On the 10th of August, at 5 A.M., latitude 43° 16` north, longitude 12° 14` west, the British 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Phœnix, Captain Thomas Baker, standing on the starboard tack with the wind at north-east by east, discovered a sail in the south-west, and immediately bore up in chase. The weather being hazy and the wind light, it was not until 7 A.M. that the stranger, then on the larboard tack with foresail and royals set,
* A Brief Statement, &c.
† Brenton, Vol. iii., p. 388.
± The Editor begs distinctly to disclaim any participation in the personalities in which all parties on this occasion seem to have indulged. Lord William was the best judge as to the importance of his orders. Every remark tending to throw any slur upon his character would have been erased, had not the pamphlet of his lordship rendered it requisite that Mr. James should have substantiated his charges or withdrawn his assertions. It would therefore be very unfair to Mr. James had this answer to Lord William been withheld ; and it would be treating Captain Brenton with too much disrespect not to notice his elaborate defence of his brother officer.
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