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Sir Sidney appointed to the command of the Tigre—Made joint Plenipotentiary to the Turkish Court-Arrives at Constantinople--His appointment gives umbrage to Earl St. Vincent
We are now approaching the most brilliant epoch of Sir Sidney’s martial career. It was necessary on the part of the English government to do all that lay in their power to oppose the aggrandising principles and the propaganding spirit of the French republic. That republic would fain have had but one nation in Europe, and that nation the French, but with many thrones and many kings at Paris.
Had these visionary schemes succeeded, the civilised world might have been excellently ruled by the departmental demagogues assembled in the French metropolis ;
every man out of France, who prized his nationality, and felt an honest glow at the simple
words, “ My country!" was ready to arm and to die in opposing this generalising and regenerating system.
After much diplomacy and infinite trouble, the obtuse Turk was made to see that if the republican power were not efficiently opposed, shortly everything within its scope would be French in name, and the subject and the slave to democrat France in reality. With all his faults, the Turk is obstinately national. He prepared to fight for what the new philosophy deemed a foolish prejudice.
In the September of 1798, the Sublime Porte began to show unequivocal symptoms of having awakened to a proper sense of his own position, and to the interests of the nation entrusted to his government. His new political feelings were energetically developed by a vigorous measure of reprisal against all the persons and property of the French that could be discovered in his dominions, and by fulminating a manifesto of extraordinary bitterness against the self-constituted government established in Paris.
This welcome display on the part of the Ottoman Porte caused the most active preparations in London for the speedy conclusion of a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, between Great Britain and Turkey. The more effectually to
bring this measure to a happy maturity, the British government resolved to bestow a ministerial character upon the English officer destined to the difficult task of associating and co-operating with the Turkish fleets and armies. The choice of the person to fulfil this character, at once so delicate and so arduous, naturally and very justly fell upon Sir William Sidney Smith; and he was accordingly included in the especial full powers as joint plenipotentiary with, and despatched to, the British minister then residing at Constantinople. Sir Sidney had been appointed, on the 2nd of July, 1798, to the command of the Tigre of eighty guns; and in that ship he sailed on his honourable mission from Portsmouth, on the 29th of October of the same year. This service was peculiarly grateful to our
. officer, as his brother was, at that time, the English envoy to the Ottoman Porte.
On the 5th of January, 1799, he had a conference with the Reis Effendi, at which was present Mr. Spencer Smith, the English ambassador. Among the presents destined for the Grand Seignior, and which Sir Sidney Smith was charged to present, were a perfect model of the Royal George, and twelve brass field-pieces, three-pounders with their caissons so constructed as to be portable on camels.
On the 11th he took up his residence at the beautiful palace of Bailes, in which the ambassadors of the Venetian republic formerly lived. He was accompanied by several military and naval officers, some French emigrants, and a guard of marines. He was received by the Ottoman court with all the distinction due to a foreigner in a public character.
The expediency of appointing naval and military officers to diplomatic functions has been often called into question. We not only think it often expedient, but also highly beneficial. In all negociations, the principal staple should be a singleness of purpose and an unswerving honesty. In all matters of treaty, the parties must have some definite object. To carry out this object, determination, good sense, and honesty are alone necessary These are always acquired in the naval and military services; they are too seldom found, and if once possessed, too often lost, amidst the suppleness and chicanery of a court, and the amusing tortuosities of diplomacy. Special pleading is not natural to the English character; but an Englishman knows both what is due to him, and what he wants; and he has invariably found that the worst method for him to obtain these, is by the negociation of those educated to negociate, who have generally finessed away all
their notions of integrity, and protocolled themselves out of their powers of perception of right and wrong. Need we cite instances, now going on before our eyes, of this melancholy truth? Whatever may have been the faults of the Tory administration, they evinced both good sense and vigour in the frequent employment of naval and military characters in diplomatic offices, and never more so than in the nomination of Sir William Sidney Smith to be joint plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Porte.
This appointment of Sir Sidney's gave, however, great umbrage in several eminent and influential quarters. There is but little doubt but that the already justly-acquired celebrity and the increasing renown of Sir Sidney had that influence upon human feeling which signal success will always have upon even the best of us. We have it upon an authority that it would be treason in literature to doubt, that Sir Sidney's appointment to a separate command in the Mediterranean was more than distasteful, even an annoyance, to Earl St. Vincent, and more especially so to Lord Nelson.
“ The Quarterly Review,” for October 1838, states distinctly that, owing to a little ambiguity in the orders of the Admiralty in appointing Sir Sidney Smith to serve under Lord Nelson en