|Naval history of Great Britain
||Light Squadrons and Single Ships
thrown off his belligerent character : he is a non-combatant of the most unequivocal description, and, as such, entitled to exemption from seizure. A passenger, especially if a military man, may be an exception.
With respect to her own subjects serving on board neutral vessels, Great Britain claims a right to take them, because she considers that they owe to her an allegiance previous and paramount to that exacted of them by the neutral. There can hardly be a doubt, as it appears to us, that a belligerent may take her native seafaring subjects from a neutral merchant vessel. We shall not, however, stop to discuss a subject that branches into so many ramifications, but proceed to the fourth class, deserters from the British army or navy. If such deserter owes a natural allegiance to the nation on board of whose vessel he is serving, he is in his proper place, and no other nation has a right to molest him. If he owes no natural allegiance to either, the right of present possession may be allowed to step in, and decide the clam on behalf of the neutral. If, on the contrary, the nation that claims him as a deserter, can claim him also as a native subject, surely that nation, a belligerent too, has a right to withdraw him from the service of the neutral. Having submitted these few remarks, we shall proceed to relate one or two occurrences, to which they will be found closely to apply.
In consequence of the two French 74-gun ships Patriote and Eole lying at anchor in one of the rivers of the Chesapeake, * it became necessary that a small British force should be stationed off the coast, to watch their motions. At the commencement of the present year that force consisted of the two 74-gun ships Bellona and Triumph, Captains John Erskine Douglas and Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Bart.; with a few smaller vessels. At this time the British store-ship (a reduced 44) Chichester, Captain Edward Stopford, lay alongside the navy-wharf at Gosport, Virginia ; where she had been hove down to be repaired, in consequence of having got on shore in the vicinity of Hampton roads.
Early in the month of February Captain Saunders, the commandant of Fort Nelson, with one sergeant, one corporal, and four privates, all under arms, proceeded to the lodgings of Captain Stopford near the wharf, and demanded to have three men, represented to have deserted from the fort, and to be then on board the Chichester, restored to him. Captain Stopford went with the party to the Chichester ; and, after a long search, the deserters were found, and delivered to the American commandant, who immediately marched them to the fort. " Captain Stopford, " says a sergeant of marines belonging to the Bellona, examined at the court-martial which will hereafter be noticed,
* See p. 211
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