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Narrative of Services in the Liberation of Chili, Peru and Brazil, from Spanish and Portuguese Domination
Chapter VIII


PROLONGED DESTITUTION OF SQUADRON--THE MEN MUTINY IN A BODY--THE SEAMEN'S LETTERS--SAN MARTIN SENDS AWAY THE PUBLIC TREASURE--MY SEIZURE OF IT--PRIVATE PROPERTY RESTORED--SAN MARTIN'S ACCUSATIONS AGAINST ME--THE SQUADRON PAID WAGES--ATTEMPT ON THE OFFICERS' FIDELITY--I AM ASKED TO DESERT FROM CHILI--ORDERED TO QUIT ON REFUSAL--MONTEAGUDO'S LETTER--MY REPLY--JUSTIFICATION OF SEIZING THE TREASURE--NO OTHER COURSE POSSIBLE.

Previous to this time I had on board the flag-ship the unexpended portion of the money captured at Arica, but as the Chilian Government, trusting to Peru to supply the wants of the squadron, neither sent funds or provisions, I was compelled to spend for our subsistence the uncondemned portion of the prize money belonging to the seamen--a necessity which, no less than their want of pay or reward, irritated them beyond measure, as, in effect, compelling them to fight the battles of the Republic not only without pay but at their own expense. In addition to this, I was in possession of the uncondemned portion of other sums taken on the coast, and these also I was obliged to expend, at the same time transmitting accounts thereof to the Minister of Marine at Valparaiso, the appropriation being fully approved by the Chilian Government. The destitute condition of the squadron, and the consequent dissatisfaction of the crews, will be best shewn by a few extracts from the letters of the officers and the men themselves.

On the 2nd of September, Captain Delano, the Commander of the Lantaro, wrote to me as follows:--

"The officers as well as the men are dissatisfied, having been a long time on the cruise, and at present without any kind of meat or spirits, and without pay, so that they are not able to provide for themselves any longer, though, until starved, they have borne it without a murmur."

"The ship's company have now absolutely refused duty on account of short allowance. The last charqui (dried beef) they got was rotten and full of vermin. They are wholly destitute of clothing, and persist in their resolution not to do duty till beef and spirits are supplied, alleging that they have served their time, with nothing but promises so frequently broken that they will no longer be put off."

"In your Lordship's absence I took the liberty to write to the Government and make their complaints known, but the Minister of Marine did not even give me an answer."

"The greater portion have now left the ship and are all gone ashore, so that under existing circumstances, and with the dissatisfaction of the officers and the remainder of the ship's company I do not hold myself responsible for any accident that may happen to the ship until these difficulties are removed, as the cables are bad and not to be trusted to, and we have no anchor sufficient to hold her."

"PAUL DELANO, Captain."

On Captain Delano sending his first lieutenant on shore to persuade the men to return to the ship, he was arrested by order of the Government and put in prison, the Protector's object being to get all the men to desert, thus furthering his views towards the appropriation of the squadron.

The Galvarino was even in a worse condition, so that I deemed it expedient to address a letter to the ship's company asking them to continue at their duty till I could devise means for their relief; with what result the following letter from Captain Esmond, commanding the Galvarino will shew.

Galvarino, Sept. 8th, 1821.

MY LORD,

Pursuant to your Excellency's order, I have read your letter of the 6th instant to the ship's company, respecting your communication with His Excellency the Protector, concerning arrears of pay, prize-money, &c.

I am sorry to inform your Excellency that they still persist in their demands, and are determined not to proceed to sea.

I. ESMOND, Captain.

On the 19th, the foreign seamen of the flag-ship itself mutinied in a body, on which my flag-captain, Crosbie, wrote me the following letter:--

MY LORD,

It is with the utmost regret I have to inform your Lordship that being ready for sea early this morning, the foreigners refused heaving up the anchor in consequence of arrears of pay and prize-money, and to my great surprise many of the natives also came aft.

I endeavoured by persuasive means to induce them to return quietly and willingly to their duty, which had no effect. Knowing well, had I commenced hostile measures to enforce those orders the consequence might be serious, I refrained therefrom, being aware of your Lordship's wish to conduct everything as peaceably as possible.

The names of the foreigners who refuse going to sea I have the honour to enclose to your Lordship, and also to enclose several letters sent me officially from Captain Cobbett, of the Valdivia.

I.S. CROSBIE, Captain.

Not to multiply these letters from other Commanders, I will adduce two written by the whole of the English and North-American seamen themselves.

Captin Crosby,

Sir, It his the request of us all in the Ship's Company to inform you that we would wish to acquaint his Lordship that we was promised by General San Martin to receive a bounty of 50,000 dollars and the Total Amount of the Spanish Frigate Ismeralda, it his the Sole thought of us all that if San Martin had any Honure he would not breck his promises wish out to have been fulfilled Long a go.

Ship's Company of O'Higgins.

Capt. Corbet

It is the request of us all On Bord the Chili States ship Valdivia To aquaint you that we are disatisfied on account of our pay and prize money, and likewise the promises made to us on leaving Valpariso, it is likewise our Determination not to weigh the anchor of the Valdivia untill we get the whole of our wages and prize money, likewise a number of us is above twelve months above our time that we Shipt for And we should likewise wish our Discharge and let them that wish to Reenter Again May do as they think proppre as we consider this a patriot port.

The Ship's Company at large of the Valdivia.

Capt Crosby, Esq

We would wish to acquaint you of wot his bean read to us on board of the different C. States ship under his Lordship's Command Concerning the Capture of the Ismeralda.

Sir it was thus the importance of the Service performed by your Lordship to the States by the Capture of the Spanish Frigat Ismeralda, and the brillant manner in which this noble enterprize was conducted under your Command on the memorable night of the fifth of November, has aurgumented the claims which your previous services gave to the Consideration of the government and those that is Interested in thar cause as well as my present esteem.

All those who partook in the risk and glory of this Interprise deserves also the estermation of thar Companions in the Army, and I enjoy the pleasure of being the Organ of thar Sentiments of Admiration Wich so important an action as praduced in the officers and army, Permit me tharfore to express such thar sentiments to your Lordship that may be communicated to the Officers and Seamen and troops of the Sqwardon.

Regarding the premium for the Frigat It is to be regretted that the memorey of so herioic an Interprise should be mixed with the painful ideer that blood as been shed in Accomplishment, and we hope that your Lordship and the Gallant Officers and Seamen may be enabbled to give new days of Glorry to the cause of indispendence.

Ship's Company, O'Higgins.

N.B.--Warre One Single Sentiment his not been fulfilled.

This letter, though somewhat incomprehensible, was intended as a farewell complimentary address to myself, previous to the desertion of the flag-ship; and, had this taken place, there was no doubt that the ships' companies of the whole squadron would have followed the example, so that the Protector would have gained his ends, in spite of my endeavours to keep the men faithful to the flag under which they were engaged to serve.

Fortunately for Chili and myself, an occurrence took place which averted the evil, and was brought about by the very means which the Protector had devised to promote his individual views.

The occurrence alluded to, was the embarkation of large sums of money by the Protector in his yacht Sacramento, which had cast out her ballast to stow the silver, and in a merchant vessel in the harbour, to the exclusion of the Lantaro frigate, then at the anchorage. This money was sent to Ancon, on the pretence of placing it in safety from any attack by the Spanish forces, but possibly to secure it for the further purposes of the Protector. The squadron having thus ocular demonstration that its arrears could be paid, but were not, both officers and men refused longer to continue in a service which had brought them nothing but prolonged suffering.

My own views coincided with theirs, and I determined that the squadron should be no longer starved nor defrauded. I therefore sailed to Ancon, and personally seized the treasure, before witnesses; respecting all that professed to belong to private individuals, and also the whole of that contained in the Protector's schooner, Sacramento, considering it his private property, though it could not have been other than plunder wrested from the Limenos. Independently of this yacht-load of silver, there were also on board, seven surrones (sacks) of uncoined gold, brought down on his account by the Legate Parroisien; so that, after all the moveable wealth of Lima was supposed to have been previously deposited for safety in the castles of Callao, but carried off by Cantarac, the condition of the unhappy Limenos may be imagined, from the additional sums of which they were subsequently deprived.

I immediately made proclamation, that all private individuals, having the customary documents, might receive their property upon application, and considerable sums were thus given up to Dr. Unanue, Don Juan Aguero, Don Manuel Silva, Don Manuel Primo, Don Francisco Kamirez, and several others, though connected with the Government. Besides which, I gave up 40,000 dollars to the commissary of the army, who claimed it; so that, having returned all the money for which dockets were produced, there remained 285,000 dollars, which was subsequently applied to the payment of one year's arrears to every individual of the squadron; but relying on the justice of the Chilian Government, I took no part myself, reserving the small surplus that remained for the more pressing exigencies and re-equipment of the squadron.

Accounts of the whole money seized, were forwarded to the Minister of Marine at Valparaiso, as well as vouchers for its disbursement, and in due course, I received the approbation of the Chilian Government for what had been done.

General San Martin entreated, in the most earnest terms, the restoration of the treasure, promising the faithful fulfilment of all his former engagements. Letter after letter was sent, begging me to save the credit of the Government, and pretending that the money seized was all the Government possessed for indispensable daily expenses. To this I replied, that had I been aware that the treasure spared in the Sacramento was the property of Government, and not that of the Protector, I would have seized it also, and retained it till the debts due to the squadron were liquidated. Finding all arguments unavailing, and that no attention was paid to his threats, the Protector--to save the credit of his Government--addressed a proclamation to the squadron, confirming the distribution which was going on by my orders, at the same time writing to me, that I "might employ the money as I thought proper."

San Martin afterwards accused me to the Chilian Government of seizing the whole of the treasure, that in his yacht included, which, at a low computation, must have been worth several millions of dollars, which were all left untouched. He also asserted, that I had retained the whole belonging to private individuals, though each real claimed was given up, as was well known to every individual concerned, and he also knew that I did not retain a penny on my own account. Nevertheless, he added, that I had kept the whole myself,--that, in consequence, the squadron was in a state of mutiny, and the seamen were abandoning their ships to offer their services to the Government of Peru! the fact being, that those who went on shore to spend their pay after the fashion of sailors, were prevented from returning on board, a lieutenant of my flag-ship being put in jail for attempting to bring them off again.

The first intimation of this outrage was conveyed by the officer himself, in the following letter, from his place of confinement.

My Lord,

Whilst obeying your Lordship's orders in bringing off the men to the O'Higgins, Captain Guise sent his Lieutenant to tell me that I could not ship any more men. My answer was, that, till I received contrary orders from you I could not think of desisting. I then went to Captain Guise to tell him your orders, and he told me, that it was the Governor's order that I should not do it; he likewise told me, that several officers had spoken against the Government, instancing Captain Cobbett and others. He then asked me, whether I thought that your Lordship's robbery! of the money at Ancon was right? and, whether I believed that the Government meant to keep its promise, and pay us, or not? My answer was, that I thought your Lordship had acted perfectly right, and that, in my opinion, the Government never intended to pay us; upon which, he ordered me to be seized.

My Lord, I am now a prisoner in the Case-mates, and am told that the Governor has written to you on the subject. The men, my Lord, will, I have no doubt, come off, as many have promised me to do so, to-morrow morning. Hoping that your Lordship will enquire into the circumstance, I remain, &c. &c,

J. PAYNTOR.

On receipt of this, I immediately demanded his release, which was complied with.

Before distributing the money to the squadron, I took the precaution to request that a commissary of the Government might be sent on board to take part in the payment of the crews. As this was not complied with, I again urged it, but without effect--the object of not attending to the request being, as was afterwards learned, the expectation that I should place the money in his hands ashore, when it doubtless would have been seized, without payment to officers or men. This was, however, foreseen, the Government being informed by me that "the money was on board ready for distribution, whilst the people were on board ready to receive it, there was, therefore no necessity to take it on shore;" it was then distributed by my own officers.

Annoyed beyond measure at my having taken such steps to restore order in the squadron by doing justice to the officers and men, the Protector, on the very day, September 26th, on which he told me by letter to "make what use I pleased of the money," sought to revenge himself by sending on board the ships of the squadron his two aides-de-camp, Colonel Paroissien and Captain Spry, with papers for distribution, stating that "the squadron of Chili was under the command of the Protector of Peru, and not under that of the Admiral, who was an inferior officer in the service; and that it was consequently the duty of the Captains and Commanders to obey the orders of the Protector and not mine." One of these papers was immediately brought to me by that excellent and highly honourable officer, Captain Simpson, of the Araucano (now an Admiral in the Chilian service), to whose ship's company it had been delivered. These emissaries offered, in the name of the Protector, commissions, and the promise of honours, titles, and estates to all such officers as might accept service under the Government of Peru.

From the Araucano, the Protector's envoys went to the Valdivia, where similar papers were given to the men, and Captain Cobbett, nephew of the celebrated William Cobbett, was reminded of the preference which an officer, for his own interests, ought to give to the service of a rich state like Peru, in place of adhering to Chili, which must soon dwindle to comparative insignificance; besides which the authority of the Protector over the Chilian forces being unquestionable, it was the duty of the officers to obey the orders of the Protector as General-in-Chief. Captain Cobbett, who was a faithful and excellent officer, sarcastically inquired of Spry whether, if his disobedience to the Admiral brought him to a court-martial, the Protector's authority would ensure him an acquittal? This closed the argument; for Spry being at the time under sentence of court-martial, the question was much too pertinent to be pleasant, especially as he by no means felt confident that Cobbett might not seize him as a deserter.

Unfortunately for the emissaries, my flag-captain, Crosbie, was on a visit to Captain Cobbett, and on learning their errand he pushed off to the flag-ship with the intelligence. Observing this movement they immediately followed, judging it more prudent to visit me than to run the risk of being compelled so to do. At one o'clock in the morning their boat came alongside, when Paroissien solicited an interview, Spry remaining in the boat, having his own reasons for not wishing to attract my attention. Paroissien then addressed me with the most high-flown promises, assuring me of the Protector's wish, notwithstanding all that had occurred, to confer upon me the highest honours and rewards, amongst others the decoration of the newly-created order of "the Sun," and telling me how much better it would be for me to be First Admiral of a rich country like Peru, than Vice-Admiral of a poor province like Chili. He assured me, as one of the Commissioners of confiscated property, that it was the intention of the Protector to present me with a most valuable estate, and regretted that the present unlucky difference should form an obstacle to the Protector's intentions to confer upon me the command of the Peruvian navy.

Perceiving that he felt nervously uneasy in his attempt at negotiation, I reminded him that the Peruvian navy had no existence except in imagination; that I had no doubt whatever of his desire for my prosperity, but that it might be more agreeable to him to join me in a bottle of wine than to reiterate his regrets and lamentations. After taking a glass he went into his boat, and pulled off, glad no doubt to escape so easily, not that it occurred to me to resent the treachery of visiting the ships of the squadron in the dark, to unsettle the minds of the officers and men.

This, however, and other efforts proved but too successful, twenty-three officers abandoning the Chilian service, together with all the foreign seamen, who went on shore to spend their pay, and who were either forced, or allured by promises of a year's additional pay to remain, so that the squadron was half unmanned.

The fortress, notwithstanding the supplies so successfully introduced by General Cantarac, having again--by the vigilance of the squadron--been starved into surrender, I received an order immediately to quit Callao and proceed to Chili, although the Peruvian Government believed that from the abandonment of the squadron by the officers and foreign seamen, it would not be possible to comply with the order. The following is Monteagudo's letter conveying the commands of the Protector:--\

Lima, Sept. 26th, 1821.

My Lord,

Your note of yesterday, in which you explain the motives which induced you to decline complying with the positive orders of the Protector, temporarily to restore the money which you forcibly took at Ancon, has frustrated the hopes which the Government entertained of a happy termination to this most disagreeable of all affairs which have occurred during the expedition.

To answer your Excellency in detail, it will be necessary to enter into an investigation of acts which cannot be fully understood without referring to official communications and documents which prove the interest which has been taken in the necessities of the squadron.

(Here follows a reiteration of the promises and good intentions of the Protector, with which the reader is already well acquainted.)

This has been a mortal blow to the State, and worse could not have been received from the hand of an enemy, there only remaining to us a hope in the moderation and patient suffering of the valiant men who have sacrificed all!

You will immediately sail from this port to Chili, with the whole squadron under your command, and there deliver up the money which you have seized, and which you possess without any pretext to hold it. In communicating this order to your Excellency, the Government cannot avoid expressing its regret at being reduced to this extremity towards a chief with whom it has been connected by ties of friendship and high consideration since August 20th, 1820.

I have to complain of the style of your Excellency's Secretary, who, perhaps from his ignorance of the idiom of the Spanish language, cannot express himself with decency--his soul not having been formed to conceive correct ideas.

MONTEAGUDO.

The complaining tone of this letter about the "valiant sacrificing all," is worthy of the writer; when I had left untouched many times the amount seized, and the army, according to the admission of the Protectoral Government, had received two-thirds of its pay, whilst the squadron had even been suffered to starve. On the 28th I replied to the Minister as follows:--

Sir,

I should have felt uneasy, had the letter you addressed to me contained the commands of the Protector to quit the ports of Peru without reason assigned, and I should have been distressed had his motives been founded in reason, or on facts; but finding the order based on the groundless imputation that I had declined to do what I had no power to effect, I console myself that the Protector will ultimately be satisfied that no blame rests on me. At all events, I have the gratification of a mind unconscious of wrong, and gladdened by the cheering conviction that, however facts may be distorted by sycophancy, men who view things in their proper colours will do me the justice I deserve.

You address me as though I required to be convinced of your good intentions. No, Sir, it is the seamen who want convincing, for it is they who put no faith in professions so often broken. They are men of few words and decisive acts, and say that "for their labour they have a right to pay and food, and will work no longer than they are paid and fed"--though this may be uncourtly language, unfit for the ear of high authority. They urge, moreover, that they have had no pay whatever, whilst their fellow-labourers, the soldiers, have had two-thirds of their wages; they were starved, or living on stinking charqui, whilst the troops were wholly fed on beef and mutton; they had no grog, whilst the troops had money to obtain that favourite beverage, and anything else they desired. Such, Sir, are the rough grounds on which an English seaman founds his opinions. He expects an equivalent for the fulfilment of his contract, which, on his part, is performed with fidelity; but, if his rights are withheld, he is as boisterous as the element on which he lives. It is of no use, therefore, to convince me, but them.

In what communication, Sir, have I insisted on the payment of 200,000 dollars. I sent you an account of money due, but told you in my letter that it was the mutinous seamen who demanded the disbursements, and that I was doing all in my power, though without effect, to restrain their violence and allay their fears. You tell me in your letter that it was impossible to pay the clamorous crews. How, then, is it that they are now paid out of the very money then lying at your disposal, I having left untouched ten times as much? My warning to you, that they were no longer to be trifled with, was founded on a long acquaintance with their character and disposition; and facts have proved, and may more fully prove, the truth of what I told you.

Why, Sir, is the word "immediate" put into your order to go forth from this port? Would it not have been more decorous to have been less peremptory, knowing, as you do, that the delay of payment had unmanned the ships--that the total disregard of all my applications had left the squadron destitute--and that the men were enticed away by persons acting under the Peruvian Government? This being so, why are matters pushed to this extremity?

I thank you for the approval of my services since the 20th of August, 1820, and assure you that no abatement of my zeal for the Protector's interest took place till the 5th of August, when I became acquainted with his Excellency's installation, and when, in your presence, he uttered sentiments that struck a thrill through my frame, which no subsequent act, nor protestation of intentions, has been able to mitigate. Did he not say--aye, did you not hear him declare, that he would never pay the debt to Chili, nor that due to the navy, unless Chili would sell the squadron to Peru? What would you have thought of me as an officer, sworn to be faithful to the state of Chili, had I listened to such language in cold, calculating silence, weighing my decision in the scale of personal interest? No, Sir, the promise of San Martin, that "my fortune should be equal to his own," will not warp from the path of honour

Your obedient, humble Servant,

COCHRANE.

After a lapse of nearly forty years' anxious consideration, I cannot reproach myself with having done any wrong in the seizure of the money of the Protectoral Government. General San Martin and myself had been, in our respective departments, deputed to liberate Peru from Spain, and to give to the Peruvians the same free institutions which Chili herself enjoyed. The first part of our object had been fully effected by the achievements and vigilance of the squadron; the second part was frustrated by General San Martin arrogating to himself despotic power, which set at naught the wishes and voice of the people. As "my fortune in common with his own" was only to be secured by acquiescence in the wrong he had done to Chili by casting off his allegiance to her, and by upholding him in the still greater wrong he was inflicting on Peru, I did not choose to sacrifice my self-esteem and professional character by lending myself as an instrument to purposes so unworthy. I did all in my power to warn General San Martin of the consequences of ambition so ill-directed, but the warning was neglected, if not despised. Chili trusted to him to defray the expenses of the squadron when its objects--as laid down by the Supreme Director--should be accomplished; but in place of fulfilling the obligation, he permitted the squadron to starve, its crews to go in rags, and the ships to be in perpetual danger for want of the proper equipment which Chili could not afford to give them when they sailed from Valparaiso. The pretence for this neglect was want of means, though at the same time money to a vast amount was sent away from the capital to Ancon. Seeing that no intention existed on the part of the Protector's Government to do justice to the Chilian squadron, whilst every effort was made to excite discontent among the officers and men with the purpose of procuring their transfer to Peru, I seized the public money, satisfied the men, and saved the navy to the Chilian Republic, which afterwards warmly thanked me for what I had done. Despite the obloquy cast upon me by the Protector's Government, there was nothing wrong in the course I pursued, if only for the reason that if the Chilian squadron was to be preserved, it was impossible for me to have done otherwise. Years of reflection have only produced the conviction, that, were I again placed in similar circumstances, I should adopt precisely the same course.


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