a message from the commodore, to the effect, that he lamented much " the unfortunate affair," and that, had he known the British ship's force was so inferior, he would not have fired into her. On being asked why he had fired at all, the lieutenant replied, that the Little-Belt had fired first. This was most positively denied on the part of Captain Bingham. Lieutenant Creighton, in the name of the commodore, then offered every assistance, and suggested that Captain Bingham. had better put into one of the ports of the United States. This the latter declined. The boat returned. The President made sail to the westward, and the Little-Belt, as soon as she was able, to the northward. On the 23d the latter was joined by the Gorée Captain Byng, and on the 28th the two vessels anchored in Halifax harbour.
In discussing the merits of the action between the Little-Belt and the President, we shall consider it in the double light of an attack by a neutral upon a belligerent, and an engagement between an American frigate and a British sloop of war. We shall begin by freely admitting, that the act of the Guerrière, in pressing a native American citizen out of an American coaster, in the very mouth of an American port, was an act unjustifiable, unnecessary, and impolitic ; and that this wanton encroachment upon neutral rights, coupled with many others which had been practised along the same coast, was a sufficient ground for the government of the United States to take every measure, short of actual war, for protecting their commerce and citizens from a repetition of such acts of violence.
Well, the American frigate sails forth, in diplomatic language, " to protect the coast and commerce of the United States, " but, in reality, to speak the British frigate Guerrière, to demand from her the American citizen whom she had impressed, and, in case of refusal, to endeavour to take that American citizen by force of arms. We must suppose that a refusal was anticipated ; or why were such preparations made ? why such quantities of ammunition brought upon deck; and why did the commodore, as the President was descending the bay, so significantly question his people as to their readiness for action ?
A ship is descried, a man of war, " from the symmetry of her upper sails " and her making signals, * she is supposed to be the British frigate Guerrière, and that supposition is confirmed in the mind of the captain of the President, from her proximity to the coast, and every person on board is so fully engrossed with the idea of that frigate, as to be incapable of bestowing a thought upon any other. Chase is given. The ships approximate, so that the upper part of the Little-Belt's stern shows itself to those on board the President. † Still the delusion continues. As evening approaches, the British sloop discovers her broadside.
* Official letter of Commodore Rodgers. † Ibid.
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