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Narrative of Services in the Liberation of Chili, Peru and Brazil, from Spanish and Portuguese Domination
Vol 2, Chapter VI


REMONSTRANCE AGAINST DECREE OF PRIZE TRIBUNAL--SETTLEMENT OF PRIZE QUESTION BY THE EMPEROR--HIS MINISTERS REFUSE TO CONFORM TO IT--OBSTACLES THROWN IN THE WAY OF EQUIPMENT--MY SERVICES LIMITED TO THE DURATION OF WAR--MY REMONSTRANCE ON THIS BREACH OF FAITH--MINISTERS REFUSE TO PAY THE SQUADRON ANYTHING--A FRESH INSULT OFFERED TO ME--OFFER TO RESIGN THE COMMAND--MY RESIGNATION EVADED--LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER--LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF MARINE.

On the 1st of January, 1824, I communicated to the Minister of Marine the contents of a despatch received from Captain Haydon at Pernambuco, in which he apprised me of a plot on the part of the revolutionary Government to seize his person and take possession of the Imperial brig of war which he commanded; the latter intention having been openly advocated in the Assembly.

On the 6th, I addressed to the Minister of Marine the following remonstrance against the before-mentioned regulation of the Admiralty Court, that vessels captured within a certain distance of the shore should not be prize to the captor; this regulation being evidently intended as retrospective, with a view of nullifying the captures which had already been made:--

As I have before endeavoured, by anticipating evils, to prevent their occurrence, so in the present instance, I feel it my duty to His Imperial Majesty to place you, as Minister of Marine, on your guard against countenancing any such measure in regard either to the vessels captured in the blockade of Bahia, or to those taken in the colonial possessions, and under the forts and batteries of the enemy--and also in the case--if such there should be--of vessels captured on the shores of Portugal.

It is quite clear that these cases of capture are distinct from those in which protection is afforded by independent states to belligerents approaching within a certain distance of neutral shores. But you must be perfectly aware that, if enemy's ships are not to be prize--if captured navigating near the shore no blockade can be effective, as there will be no right to disturb them; besides which the mass of the people engaged in a naval service will certainly not encounter toil and hazard without remuneration of any kind beyond their ordinary pay.

Should such a decree be really in contemplation, there is nothing to hope from the naval service useful or creditable to the state; and this opinion is founded on more than thirty years' unremitting experience of seamen--that where there is no premium there is no permanent zeal or exertion.

(Signed) COCHRANE & MARANHAO.

On the 10th of January, I communicated to the Government the contents of another despatch from Captain Haydon, at Pernambuco, reporting that the new Junta there had seized the Imperial ship of war, Independencia ou morte, and had removed the officer in command, at the same time threatening to treat Captain Haydon as a pirate.

The revolt was now becoming serious, and His Majesty--anxious to expedite the equipment of the squadron--on the 12th of February, 1824, sent for me to consult on the subject. Having told His Majesty the course which had been pursued by the prize tribunal, he said he would see justice done in spite of faction, and asked me to make a moderate valuation of the prize property taken in the late campaign, ascertaining, at the same time, if the seamen were willing to accept a specific sum in compensation of their claims? On asking His Majesty what assurance could be given that the administration would carry out such an arrangement, he replied that he would give me his own assurance, and ordering me to sit down beside him, wrote with his own hand the following proposal--now in my possession:--

"The Government is ready to pay to the squadron, the value of the prizes which have been, or may be judged bad, the value thereof being settled by arbitrators jointly chosen, and to pay the proprietors their losses and damages; that in the number of the said prizes, the frigate Imperatrice is not included, but the Government, as a remuneration for her capture, will immediately give from the public treasury the sum of 40,000 milreis to the captors; that the value of the prizes already declared bad, shall be immediately paid, this stipulation relating to all captures up to the present date, February 12th, and that henceforth captures shall be adjudged with more dispatch, the Government being about to decree a provisional arrangement, remedying all errors and omissions that may have occurred."

Nothing can be more clear than the above stipulations in His Majesty's own handwriting, to pay the squadron immediately the value of their prizes despite the Court of Admiralty, to pay 40,000 milreis for theImperatrice, and that even the value of the prizes adjudged bad should be paid, His Majesty thus rightly estimating the conduct and motives of the Court of Admiralty. Not one of these conditions was ever complied with!

On the 1st of March, His Majesty, through his minister, Francisco Villela Barbosa, informed me that he had assigned 40,000 milreis in recompense for the acquisition of the frigate Imperatrice; stating that, with regard to the other prizes made at Para, they must be sentenced by the tribunal, in order that their value might be paid by the public treasury--the said treasury taking upon itself to satisfy all costs and damages on captures judged illegal; but that with regard to my assertion, that there were amongst them no illegal prizes, the Government could not itself decide the question.

That His Majesty gave the order for payment of 40,000 milreis, as compensation for the Imperatrice, there is no doubt; but not a shilling of the amount was ever paid by his ministers, nevertheless even within the past few months the present Brazilian Ministry has charged that sum against me, as having been received and not accounted for! It is quite possible, that, in ignorance of the practices common amongst their predecessors of 1824, the present ministers of Brazil may imagine that the orders of His Majesty were complied with; but if so, the 40,000 milreis never reached me or the squadron. Had it done so, nothing can be more easy than to find my receipt for the amount, which I defy them to do.

Considering our difficulties in a fair way of now being settled, I willingly undertook to conciliate the seamen, and having made the low calculation of Rs. 650.000 milreis--a sum scarcely one-fourth the value of the prize property--reported to the Minister of Marine the willingness of the squadron generally to accept 600,000 dollars (about L.120,000) in compensation of their full rights; agreeing, moreover, to give up all claim on the Imperial Government on payment of one-half, and security for the remainder.

Notwithstanding this easy mode of arrangement, solely brought about by my personal influence with the men, not a milrea was allotted, His Majesty's ministers deliberately evading the Imperial wishes and promises. On the contrary, the more His Majesty was determined to do the squadron justice the more was the Portuguese faction in the ministry bent on frustrating the Imperial intentions--notwithstanding that, by the revolutionary proceedings in the North, the integrity of the empire was at stake. I may indeed go farther and state with great truth, that whilst His Majesty was most anxious for our speedy departure, in order to suppress the revolution at Pernambuco, his ministers were, day by day, addressing to me letters on the most insignificant subjects, with the apparent object of delaying the squadron by official frivolities, the necessity of replying to which would prevent my attention to the fulfilment of the Imperial wish. The best proof of this is the fact which will be apparent in the course of this chapter, viz.--that although the province of Pernambuco was in open revolt, the Administration contrived to delay the sailing of the squadron for six months beyond the events just narrated.

On the 24th of February, the following extraordinary portaria was transmitted to me by the Minister of Marine:--

Desiring to give a further testimony of the high estimation in which the Marquis of Maranhao, First Admiral of the National and Imperial Armada, is held, by reason of the distinguished services which he has rendered to the state, and which it is hoped that he will continue to render for the independence of Brazil, I deem it proper to name him Commander-in-Chief of all the naval forces of the empire during the present war. The Supreme Military Council is hereby informed thereof, and will cause this decree to be executed.

Palace of Rio Janeiro, the 23rd of February, 1824. Third of the Independence of the Empire, with the Rubrica of His Imperial Majesty.

FRANCISCO VILLELA BARBOSA,

Secretariat of State,

27th February, 1824.

(Signed) ANASTASIO DE BRITO,

Acting Chief Secretary.

The audacity of this portaria--setting aside the stipulations of His Majesty and his late ministers in my commission, thus rendering it null and void without my consent--was only equalled by its hypocrisy. As a "further testimony of the high estimation in which I was held," &c.--His Majesty's ministers were graciously pleased to annul my commission, in order that they might get rid of me at a moment's warning!

The document transmitted to me did not bear the Rubrica of the Emperor, though falsely asserted so to do. If the reader will take the trouble to compare it with my two commissions, he will agree with me in the inference that it was written by Barbosa without the Emperor's knowledge or consent, with the object of terminating my command--the Imperial patents notwithstanding, as will be evident from the expression, "during the present war;" the war being already ended by my expulsion of the Portuguese fleet and army.

No time was lost in remonstrating against this insidious decree. After pointing out to the Minister of Marine the agreements which had been made with me by the late ministers, and ratified by the Imperial sign manual, I addressed His Excellency as follows:--

The late decree inserted in the Gazette of February 28th, instead of increasing my official rank and authority--as it professes to do--in effect circumscribes it, because there was no limitation of time in the offer which I accepted from His Imperial Majesty. But by this decree, my official rank and authority are limited to the duration of the present war. Now, if I could believe that the idea of this limitation originated with his Imperial Majesty himself, I should respectfully and silently acquiesce; but being satisfied--from the gracious manner in which he has been pleased to act towards me on all occasions--that it did not so originate, I can only consider it an intimation of an opinion prevalent in the councils of the state, that myself and services can very well be done without, as soon as the independence of Brazil shall be decided or peace restored.

As no man can be expected to dedicate his professional services to a foreign country, without having a prospect of some recompence more durable than that which such a limitation as is expressed in the document in question seems to indicate, I am naturally led to inquire whether it is the intention of His Majesty's advisers that, on the termination of the present war, my pay is to cease with my authority? or whether I am to receive any permanent reward for services, the consequences of which will be permanent to Brazil? Because--if no recompence is to be received for public services --however important and lasting in their effects those services may be--it is a duty to myself and family to consider how far I am justified in farther devoting my time to a service from which so little future benefit is to be expected; a consideration the more interesting to me, in consequence of repeated solicitations from the Chilian Government to resume my rank and command in that state.

In saying thus much, you may consider me of a mercenary disposition; but I have received from Brazil no recompence whatever, beyond the honours conferred by His Imperial Majesty. If you will peruse the accompanying papers, you will find that when I left Chili I had disbursed of my own monies, 66,000 dollars, to keep the Chilian squadron from starving, which sum, in consequence of my leaving Chili, and accepting the offers of His Imperial Majesty, has not been repaid. This amount His Majesty and his ministers agreed to repay on my acceptance of the command; but I declined to seek reimbursement at the expense of Brazil, "unless I should perform greater services to the Empire than I had rendered to Chili; but in the event of such services being rendered to Brazil, and of Chili continuing its refusal to pay me, then--and not otherwise--I should hope for indemnification." To this stipulation the late ministers gave their assent.

It is no proof of an avaricious disposition that I at once acquiesced in the proposition of His Imperial Majesty, that 40,000 dollars only for the Imperatrice, which is not one-third of her value, should be apportioned to her captors.

(Signed) COCHRANE AND MARANHAO.

I might have added that the squadron had received no emoluments of any kind whatever, notwithstanding the spontaneous stipulations of His Imperial Majesty to pay everything, there not being even an indication of handing over to them the 40,000 dollars awarded by His Majesty for the frigate captured at Para. On the contrary, I had been condemned in costs and damages to a great amount for having captured Portuguese vessels in pursuance of His Majesty's orders; so that had the Court of Admiralty been in a position to enforce these, I should not only be unpaid but be mulcted of a very large sum, as the price of having accepted the command of the Brazilian navy!

So far from the 40,000 dollars awarded by His Majesty for the capture of the frigate Imperatrice having been paid according to the Imperial directions, I received from the Minister of Marine a letter dated February 27th, implying that the above sum--one third the value of the vessel--was when paid, to be considered as the sole reward of the squadron. This violation of His Majesty's agreement was at once repudiated, and an explanatory letter from the Minister of Marine--almost as ambiguous as the former--assured me that I had misconstrued his intention, which, however, was not the case, for the 40,000 dollars were never paid.

On the 19th of March, a direct insult was offered me by Severiano da Costa, now first minister, by an intimation to attend in the Imperial chapel for the purpose of assisting at the ceremony of swearing to the Constitution, but I was distinctly told that I should not be permitted to swear; the reason no doubt being, that, by a clause therein contained, military officers who swore to it, could not be dismissed without trial, and sentence of court martial; so that the not permitting me to swear--coupled with Barbosa's portaria limiting my command to the duration of the war--indirectly gave power to the Administration to dismiss me at their option, whenever they might deem it expedient so to do. That such desire would arise the moment an opportunity might present itself, was certain, nor should I have waited for its expression, but from respectful attachment to His Majesty, and from the expectation of obtaining justice for the squadron, which relied on me for procuring satisfaction of their claims.

To have accepted an invitation of this public nature, under circumstances so insulting, was out of the question. I therefore joined Lady Cochrane at the island of Governador, and sent an excuse to the minister expressive of my regret at being prevented by unavoidable circumstances from sharing in the honour of the august ceremony.

In consequence of the insulting conduct of the Administration, and the impossibility of obtaining compensation for the squadron, notwithstanding His Majesty's orders to that effect, I made up my mind to quit a service in which the authority of the adverse Ministry was superior to that of the Sovereign. Accordingly, on the 20th of March, I addressed to the Minister of Marine a letter, from which the subjoined is an extract:--

If I thought that the course pursued towards me was dictated by His Imperial Majesty, it would be impossible for me to remain an hour longer in his service, and I should feel it my duty, at the earliest possible moment, to lay my commission at his feet. If I have not done so before--from the treatment which, in common with the navy, I have experienced--it has been solely from an anxious desire to promote His Majesty's real interests. Indeed, to struggle against prejudices, and at the same time against those in power, whose prepossessions are at variance with the interests of His Majesty, and the tranquillity and independence of Brazil, is a task to which I am by no means equal. I am, therefore, perfectly willing to resign the situation I hold, rather than contend against difficulties which appear to me insurmountable. I have only to add, that it will give me extreme satisfaction to find that Your Excellency is enabled to rear an effective marine out of the materials which constituted the fabric of the old marine of Portugal--or any Brazilian marine at all, without beginning on principles totally opposite to those which have been pursued since my return to this port.

(Signed) COCHRANE AND MARANHAO.

This proffer of resignation was met by an assurance that I had misconstrued both the acts and intentions of the Administration, and the expression of a hope that I would not think of abandoning Brazil for which I had done so much. The real fact was, that although the Administration was endeavouring to delay the expedition for the suppression of revolution in the North, they were afraid of its results, dreading that a republican Government might be established, as was indeed imminent. It was only from a conviction of not being able to meet such an emergency, otherwise than through my instrumentality--that my resignation was not accepted.

Determined to pursue the course I had now begun, I addressed the following letter to the prime minister:--

Rio de Janeiro, March 30, 1824.

Most Excellent Sir,

The late Prime Minister, Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva, was pleased to express a desire that I should communicate directly with him in all extraordinary difficulties with respect to the naval service. If I have not had recourse to your Excellency until the present juncture, it has not been from any doubt of your readiness to accord me similar indulgence, but because the evils of which I had to complain were so palpable, that I conceived a remedy would--of necessity be applied in the ordinary course of things. But now that a system is adopted which must very soon bring the naval service of His Imperial Majesty to utter insignificance and ruin, I can no longer abstain from calling on your Excellency as Minister of State for the internal affairs of the empire, to interfere before it is too late.

Here follow complaints of the wretched state of the squadron--its want of repairs--the neglect of pay--the illegal imprisonment of officers for months without trial and on untenable grounds, &c. &c.

By the promises held out last year of punctuality in payment, and of other rewards, foreign officers and seamen were induced to enter the service--believing in the good faith of the Government. The result--in the short period that has elapsed--has been the complete expulsion of the enemy's forces, naval and military; all of whom would have been still in arms against the independence of Brazil, had it not been for the assistance of the foreign officers and seamen.

In the course of these important services, various captures were made and sent for adjudication to Rio de Janeiro, under the authority of His Imperial Majesty's orders to make war on the subjects and property of Portugal. The captures made in prosecution of the war were--according to the engagements under which the expedition proceeded--to be the reward of the captors in return for the benefits derived by the empire for their exertions.

Judge then, Sir, of the astonishment of the officers and seamen at finding on their return to this port eight months afterwards, that the Court of Admiralty (chiefly composed of natives of Portugal) pretended to be ignorant whether the nation was at war or peace! Under this plea they have avoided the adjudication of the prizes--have thrown every impediment in the way of the captors--by giving sentences equally contrary to law, common sense and justice.

Great quantities of goods in the captured ships have decayed or wholly perished from lapse of time--great quantities more have been stolen--whilst whole cargoes, by the arbitrary authority of an auditor, have been given up without trial, to pretended owners, without even the decency of communication to the captors or their agents. In short, nothing has been done in furtherance of the gracious directions of His Majesty, given on the 12th ultimo, that the prize affairs should be instantly adjusted.

It is certainly a hardship to the Portuguese gentlemen in the Court of Admiralty, to be under the necessity of condemning property that belonged to their countrymen, friends, and relations; but if they have undertaken the duties of such an office, they ought not to be permitted to weigh their private feelings against their public duty--nor to bring upon the whole Government that character of bad faith, which has been so disgraceful, and has proved so injurious to all the Governments which have hitherto been established in South America.

Even the payment of wages was not made to the Pedro Primiero till nearly three months after her return, when the seamen-- irritated by the evasion of their dues--had nearly all abandoned the ship; and if the crews of the Nitherohy and Carolina did not follow their example on their return to port, it was entirely owing to my perseverance before their arrival in procuring this tardy justice.

It was a maxim of the Emperor Napoleon, that "no events are trifling with regard to nations and sovereigns, their destinies being controlled by the most inconsiderable circumstances,"-- though circumstances which have the effect of causing the Imperial marine to be abandoned, ought not--in a national point of view--to be regarded as inconsiderable; but whether this be of importance or not, the consequences of such abandonment by men who have so faithfully performed their duty, will be far from beneficial to those short sighted and vain individuals who imagine that the employment of foreign officers is an obstacle to their own advancement. If the present foreign officers are compelled to abandon their situations an explanation must be given of the cause, and public indignation must inevitably fall on the unreflecting heads of the prejudiced or selfish authors of such impolitic injustice.

I have heard it stated, as a motive for the delay in condemning the prizes, that the Government--in case of a treaty of peace-- might be called upon to refund the value to the original owners. But, Sir, let me ask such wretched statesmen, what would have been the situation of Brazil, if foreign officers and seamen had refused to enter the service--as would have been the case, had no prize money been promised? In that case, it is true, the vessels in question would not have been taken--but it is equally true that the enemy's troops would not have been starved into the evacuation of Bahia, nor their squadron have been intimidated to flee from these shores. Military warfare would still have raged in the interior, and the hostile fleet might now have been engaged in the blockade of Rio de Janeiro itself. Would it not be infinitely better that the Government should have to pay the value of these prizes even twice over--than that such calamities should not have been averted?

But how can it be argued that the Government may be required to restore to the enemy prizes lawfully taken in war? Is it possible that the victors can be compelled to make humiliating terms with the vanquished? Certainly not--unless the means by which victory was obtained are insanely sacrificed, by permitting the squadron to go to ruin and decay. The results which have been obtained could not have been accomplished by any other measures than those adopted by the wisdom of His Imperial Majesty. Is it then justifiable, to suffer the engagements which produced such results to be evaded and set at nought? Still more monstrous--decrees have been passed, both by the Auditor of Marine and the Court of Admiralty, to punish the captors for the execution of their duty, and by means of pains and penalties to deter them from the performance of it in future.

It is even more unjust and inconsistent, that although His Majesty's late ministers held out that ships of war were to be prize to the captors, they are now declared to be the property of the state! Do those narrow-minded persons who prompted such a decree, imagine this to be a saving to the country? or do they expect that seamen--especially foreign seamen--will fight heartily on such terms? The power which the British navy has acquired arises from the wisdom of the government in making the interests of the officers and men identical with the interests of the state, which gives bounties and premiums even in addition to the full value of the prizes; whilst the insignificance and inefficiency of the navies of governments which adopt opposite principles, sufficiently indicate whether such liberality, or the want of it, is the best policy in maritime affairs.

Having said thus much on public matters, I shall very briefly trouble you with respect to myself, by stating that, as regards all which does not depend on the uncontrolled exercise of the Imperial functions--there has been no respect paid to the written stipulations entered into with me on accepting the command of the Brazilian navy, and that since my return from freeing the Northern provinces and uniting them to the Empire, every promise--written and verbal--has been evaded or set at nought, which facts I am prepared to prove beyond the possibility of contradiction.

My nature is not suspicious, nor did I ever become doubtful of promises and professions of friendship till after the third year of my connection with Chili--when, having swept every ship of war belonging to the enemy from the Pacific, the Chilian ministers imagined that they could dispense with my services. They had not, indeed, the candour which I have experienced here, for, after appointing me to a command without limitation as to time, they did not publicly restrict the duration of that command to the earliest moment that they could dispense with me. It was their plan--while openly professing kindness and gratitude--to endeavour, by secret artifices, to render me odious to the public, and to transfer to me the responsibility which they themselves incurred by bringing the navy to ruin, and causing the seamen to abandon it, by withholding their pay, and even the provisions necessary for their subsistence. As for the rest, my remonstrances against such conduct were treated in Chili just as my representations have been treated here. Like causes will ever produce similar effects; but as there was no hostile or Spanish party in the Chilian state, four years elapsed before the mischiefs could be accomplished, which, by the machinations of the Portuguese faction, have been here effected in the short space of four months.

Truths are often disagreeable to those who are not in the habit of hearing them, and doubly offensive after long experience of the homage of blind obedience and subserviency. I have, nevertheless, always felt it my duty to the Governments under which I have served, not to abstain from uttering truths under any dread of offence, because I have ever been impressed with the conviction that speaking truth is not only the most honourable mode of proceeding, but that the time seldom fails to arrive when those who are warned of a wrong line of conduct feel grateful to the man--who at the risk of personal inconvenience, or even punishment--dared to apprise them of their danger.

In England--where mischiefs were heaped upon me for opposing a ministerial vote of parliamentary thanks to an undeserving officer--the people at once saw the propriety of my conduct, and the Government has since virtually admitted its justice. In Chili, the ministers who hated me, because they knew me to be aware of their deceitful and dishonest acts, were succeeded by others who have solicited my return. And the worthy and excellent Supreme Director (O'Higgins, whom those ministers, by their wickedness and folly, brought to ruin) found at last, and acknowledged--but too late to attend to my warnings--that I had acted towards him, in all cases, with honour and fidelity.

The error and fate of the excellent and eminent person whom I have just named--affords a proof of the folly and danger of the notion--that ministers who have forfeited the confidence of the public by breach of faith and evil acts, can be upheld by military force against public opinion, especially in Governments recently constituted. The people respected their Supreme Director; but when he marshalled his troops to uphold his evil ministers, he fell with them. Had he adopted the policy of Cromwell, and delivered to justice those who merited punishment, he would have saved himself.

Permit me to say, in conclusion, that the Ministers of His Imperial Majesty are identified with the Court of Admiralty, and with the officers whom they maintain in the different departments. Let them--I repeat--take heed that the operation of similar causes does not produce like effects; for if the conduct of these individuals shall cause the naval service to be abandoned, and shall thereby--as a necessary consequence--occasion great disasters to the Empire, I am convinced that in a short period, all the troops in Rio de Janeiro will not be able to repress the storm that will be raised against the factious Portuguese.

It is my fervent hope--that His Imperial Majesty, by gloriously adhering to the cause of independence and to Brazil, will save and unite the largest portion of his royal patrimony in defiance of the blind efforts of Portugal, and in spite of the cunning intrigues of the Portuguese faction here, to prolong civil war, and create dismemberment and disunion.

I have the honour to be,

&c. &c.

COCHRANE AND MARANHAO.

His Excellency Joao Severiano Maciel de Costa,

Chief Minister of State, &c. &c.

One effect of the preceding letter was--that the Court of Admiralty requested my consent to give up certain prize property, the object being to construe my acquiescence as regarded a small portion--into a precedent for giving up the remainder. This was firmly refused on the ground of its being a fraud on the captors.


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