Imatges de pÓgina

of a whole friendly nation, that ought immediately to have been alleviated, were increasing — was he, thus situated, to wait for months for instructions? Common sense decides in the negative. Even the ordinary powers of a commanding officer on the spot were, in our opinion a sufficient justification for the course that he adopted.

Well, we will grant, that neither as a plenipotentiary fully accredited, nor as a commander-inchief fully endowed with the usual discretionary powers, had he authority to sign the convention. But was he, was Great Britain, the only parties to it? Who were the most concerned ? Against whom did the sharp edge of war come in actual contact ? Whose provinces were occupied ? whose subjects plundered and slain? The Sultan's an independent sovereign of himself, perfectly competent and free, by his proper ministers, , without the sanction of the British government, to make what treaty or convention he pleased, that was not, according to the terms of his alliance with England, an actual peace with the enemy. Such a justifiable convention he made to rid his provinces of a consuming host, and his diadem of a galling insult; and Sir Sidney Smith did no more than agree to the act on the part of his own government. What a mockery to say that he had not full powers to do so small a thing!

But we now come to the second category; and in that Sir Sidney stands in a still more triumphant light. What he did was eminently well done, and the undoing of it very nearly proved the undoing of England's pre-eminence on the southern shores of the Mediterranean; for, after the loss of some of our best generals, and many of our best officers, together with a dreadful slaughter of some of our bravest troops, our authorities at home were obliged to do tardily, and not very gloriously, that which Sir Sidney Smith had before done, with honour to himself and with glory to the English name, without, in the slightest manner, committing an outrage upon humanity.

It was this transaction that called forth, some time after, the honourable testimony to the great merits of Sir Sidney Smith, from one from whom eulogium must at all times have been most gratifying and distinguishing: we mean the good, the philanthropic, and the pious Mr. Wilberforce. After mentioning our gallant officer's exploit at Acre, in which he observes, “ that if he, Sir Sidney, had had with him regular officers of engineers, he must have reported the place untenable and abandoned it,” he goes on to state, that “ the extraordinary achievements of that gallant officer had been but ill requited,”—with many observations to the same effect.

Mr. Wilberforce spoke truly. Sir Sidney Smith was not adequately rewarded. The peerage was, at that time, plentifully lavished upon individuals who required that distinction to make them stand apart from their fellow men-Sir Sidney Smith did not.

As we have been just reverting to parliamentary proceedings, it may not be misplaced to mention that our late sovereign, William IV., when Duke of Clarence, thus spoke of Sir Sidney in the House of Peers :-“ The first important check which the formidable army of French invaders met, was from a handful of British troops, under Sir Sidney Smith, long before the landing of the army which became, in their turn, the conquerors of Egypt.”

[ocr errors]


Sir. Sidney Smith's personal appearance at this time- His

humanity to his crews, The English government sends reinforcements to Egypt - The state of the country English land at Aboukir Bay - Battle of Alexandria – Death of Sir Ralph Abercromby.

BEFORE we proceed further in these Memoirs, we shall briefly state the appearance of their subject at this juncture. It is a very natural curiosity, that of being anxious to be acquainted with the looks and bearing of those who have been able, by their merits, to stand separate from their fellow men.

But alas ! man is still more variable in his physical than in his mental identity. The portrait of the youth of fourteen presents but little similitude to the man at the mature


of thirty, and the virility of thirty would look with disgust upon the lineaments of the same individual when he had numbered the average years allotted to humanity, three score and ten.

[ocr errors][merged small]

We have described Sir Sidney Smith's appearance as the fresh, amiable, and rosy-cheeked boy. We now, upon the testimony of one who was in daily communication with him, portray him in the vigour of his manhood, shortly after he had effected the expulsion of the French from Acre. Then, though small in stature, he had all the appearances that indicate a brave and generous hearted man, with a fine dark countenance, and eyes that sparkled with intelligence. His very appearance showed that he possessed an ardent imagination, which naturally prompted him to form and execute bold and important enterprises : he seemed, as it were, to be born to deserve glory and to acquire it.

This testimony to the dignity of his presence is from a Frenchman, and, so far as his public character was concerned, an enemy; and as the narrator was allowed, on all hands, to be a person of probity and honour, we must place implicit belief that he has put upon record the actual impression that Sir Sidney Smith made upon him.

But let us have recourse to other and less refined evidence. It is that of a worthy old Greenwich pensioner, who held an office about our officer's person, and who had the fullest opportunities of seeing him in all situations and in all moods, in full dress, in undress, and in no dress

« AnteriorContinua »