LORD DUNDONALD's l'TO1IIDoRAPNY.4
['sitcom) votrits.—sr( oat, in:Frier-1 ' SOON after he had played out his Maltese interlude, Lord Coch-
rane laid before the Prince Regent those secret plans which he offered more than forty years afterwards to employ against Cron- st,adt, and which he describes as :" a new and most formidable method of attacking and destroying an enemy's fleet, and of per- forming other warlike operations on a large scale." The Prince referred these plans to a Secret Committee consisting of the Duke of York, Lord Keith, Lord Exmouth, and tho two Congreves, one of whom was the celebrated inventor of the rocket which bears his name. The unanimous opinion of these officers, as stated in a private letter from Lord Keith, was, that the proposed mode of at- tack would be irresistible and infallible, but that if the plan
were divulged it might become perilous to. our colonial possessions —au observation in which Lord Dundonald fully concurs, for, says be, "had the same plan been known to the rebels in the late Indian mutiny, not a European in India would have es- caped:". Lord Melville then signified his intention to put an exe- cution a portion of the plans, and to this Lord Cochrane un- willingly assented at the urgent instance, of Lord Keith, who did not doubt the practicability of destroying, with a portion only, the French ships in Genoa harbour and the outer roads of Toulon. The cost of the expedition would have been less than that resulting from three months of blockade ; yet Lord Mel- ville shrank from incurring it, overruled, as Lord Dun-
donald believes, by the of the Admiralty, as the concur- rence of the Board would have placed him in command of a spadron, with his flag flying in a line-of-battle ship. At last, Lord Melville gave permission for an attempt on Toulon "on a small scale ;" but this was refused, because, says Lord Dun- donald, it was "in other words, that I might, on a small scale, show the enemy how to put any plans in operation against our- selves on a large scale." The subject was then dropped until 1846, when war with France seemed imminent, and when the secret plans were submitted to another commission, one of whose members is still living. They were Sir Thomas Hastings, Sir J. F. Burgoyne, and Lieutenant-Colonel Colquhoun. They deemed it inexpedient to incur the risk of publicity which experiments would involve, and they were unanimously of opinion that the adoption of the proposed plans "would not accord with the feel- ings and principles of civilized warfare." It may have been for this reason that the subsequent offers to employ them against Sebastopol or Cronstadt were not accepted. But will it always be possible to retain exclusive possession of so terrible a secret, or can it be hoped that others, into whose hands it may fall, may always be as forbearing as ourselves ? Nay, are we sure that Lord Dun- donald is wrong in believing that it is already known to the French Government ? It is absolutely impossible that all men and nations shall for ever lay themselves under a self-denying
ordinance against the use of a means in war which no known force on earth can resist. I repeat, says its inventor-
" I repeat—and the assertion will one day be confirmed—that these plans afford the infallible means of securing at one blow our maritime superiority and of thereafter maintaining it in perpetuity—of at once commencing and terminating war by one conclusive victory. A hundred millions em- ployed in war could not complete the ruin of our maritime opponents so effectually as could be done by the simple methods indicated in my plans; and that too in spite of the apparently formidable fortifications and other defences of ports and roadsteads. The expenditure of millions in the con- struction of such works on the coasts of any country would be in vain, when any hostile power in possession of the knowledge of such means of attack, coulditt a trifling cost and with the utmost facility accomplish in a few hours any assignable amount of destruction without impediment from such costly but really impotent safeguards. . . . . None to whom my plans have been submitted, have ever pretended to throw doubt on their effi- cacy. Some, it is true, have said, For Heaven's sake, don't encourage such plans—what is to become of us ? ' What ? 'Universal peace : for, after their disclosure, not a man would be found to engage in war except for de- fence of his country, when, as was said of the cholera by an eminent French surgeon, 'Ii cadavrisera le monde.'"
In the report of 1846, the Commissioners declare that " great credit is due to Lord Dundonald for the right feelings which prompted him not to disclose his secret plans when serving in war as naval commander-in-chief of the forces of other nations, under very trying circumstances, on the condition that those plans might eventually be of the highest importance to his own country." In 1820, Lord Dundonald could with the aid of a small portion only of his plans, have possessed himself in an hour of the property deposited in the Castles of Callao, his share of which could not have been less than half a million sterling. This was but a fraction of the immense fortune which he had the absolute power of amassing, if only he had yielded to the urgent solicita- tions of the South American Governments, that he should give them the benefit of his tremendous invention ; but, monstrous as were the wrongs inflicted on him by his country, he preferred her welfare to his own. Can all history show an example of stronger temptation overcome by more heroic purity of soul?
Lord Dundonald's brief story of his marriage in 1812 affords another proof of his disinterestedness, and strengthens our con- viction that no man ever was more incapable than he of snatching a paltry gain by any- base contrivance, such as that of which he was iniquitously convicted. The lady be had happily chosen had not wealth enough to satisfy his uncle, Basil Cochrane, who had realized it large fortune in India, and made its bequest to his nephew con- - • The Autobiography of a Seaman. By Thomas, tenth Earl of Dundonald, G.C.B. Vol. 2. Published 11) Bentley.
ditional on the latter's marrying a Indy whose money would aid in reinstating the earldom in its ancient position as regarded wealth. The condition being rejected, the nephew was forbidden his uncle's house, and did not inherit a shilling of his fortune. The old man even obtained an interview with Lord Liverpool for the purpose of informing his lordship of what be had done, and assuring him that he had never countenanced his nephew's pro- ceedings in Parliament. This extraordinary step was promptly followed by the payment of Basil Cochrane's long outstanding demand on the Government for a large sum due to him on account of some contracts undertaken before he quitted India.
The session of 1813 was occupied by Lord Cochrane in a series of attacks on naval abuses and administrative corruption, so damaging in their effect on Ministers, that their animosity against him was exasperated to the highest pitch. An opportunity for vengeance was afforded them by the Stock Exchange trial of 1814, and having caught their most dreaded foe upon the hip, they could not fail to feed fat the ancient grudge they bore him ; for the Cabinet itself presided at his trial in the per:on of Lord Ellenborough, who was not only Chief Justice of the King's Bench but at the same time a Cabinet Minister! Never before or since was this terrible combination of incompatible offices seen under the constitutional Government of England. "No other Chief Justice ever came hot-foot from a Cabinet Cuuncil to decide the fate of an accused person, politically obnoxious to the Cabi- net; the trial going on from day to day, so as to become open no less to Cabinet than to forensic 'discussion."
The events which led to the trial occurred in the beginning of 1814, at a moment when Lord Cochrane was rejoicing in the im- mediate prospect of being actively employed afloat. His uncle, Sir Alexander Cochrane, then commanding on the North Ameri- can station, had appointed him his flag captain, and thus in spite of the Admiralty, a door to professional distinction was at last opened to him after an exclusion of five , years. Sir Alexander had quitted England in a frigate, leaving his nephew to follow him in the flag ship ; and it was while busy in getting her ready for sea, that the latter became acquainted in January 1814, through his uncle, Cochrane Johnstone, with the man who eventually proved his ruin. This was Captain De Berenger, of the Duke of Cumberland's regiment of Sharpshooters' a corps of which the Victoria Rifles are the lineal successors. Sir Alexan- der Cochrane had a high opinion of De Berenger's skill as an en- gineer officer, and wished to have him on board the Tennant, but the Admiralty would not give its sanction. De Berenger now solicited Lord Cochrane to take him on board in any capacity, but the request was civilly refused; and thus ended the only interview between these two persons previous to the 21st of February. About midnight on the 20th of February, a person calling him- self Colonel de Bourg, aide-de-camp to Lord Cathcart, presented himself at the Ship Hotel, Dover, announcing that Bonaparte had been killed, the Allied armies were in full march for Paris, and immediate peace was certain. Having forwarded similar intelli- gence by letter to the Port Admiral at Deal, he started for Lon- don in a post-chaise, exchanged it there for a hackney-coach, and drove to Lord Cochrane's house. His course thither was subse- quently traced, but his person was unknown, and on the 7th of March, the Committee of the Stock Exchange offered a reward of two hundred and fifty guineas for his discovery. At this time, Lord Cochrane was at Chatham, preparing to sail, but immedi- ately on learning the report in which his name was involved, he obtained leave of absence, hastened to town, and lost not a mo- ment in publishing the name of De Berenger, his unknown visitor of the 21st. This he did by an affidavit dated March 11th, in which, contrary to the wishes of his legal advisers, he frankly accounted for all his acts, and the occupation of his whole time on the 21st of February. He was engaged that morning at a lamp manufactory in Cock Lane—not at the Stock Exchange or near it —when a note was brought him, the signature of which he could not decipher. His servant told him it was from an army officer, and thinking the writer might have come from his brother who was then dangerously ill with the army in Spain, Lord Coch- rane hastened home. There he found De Berenger, who again entreated to be taken on board the Tennant, telling a piteous tale of his debts and his distress. Receiving the same answer as before, he borrowed a civilian's hat and coat from Lord Cochrane, alleging that, being a prisoner within the Rules of the King's Bench, he could not, without exciting suspicion, re- turn to his lodgings in the dress he then wore—namely, a grey great coat, a green uniform, and a military cap. The affidavit also gave full particulars of the deponent's transactions in the funds. He had no concern directly or indirectly in the imposi- tion practised by De Berenger. He had no secret information of any kind to guide him in the purchase and sale of stock, and his transactions in this way arose simply out of his belief that, in the existing favourable aspect of affairs, it was only neces- sary to hold stock in order to become a gainer without pre- judice to anybody. He bought, on the 12th of February, 139,000/. (minium on account at a premium of 281' and gave orders when he bought it that it should be sold upon a rise of 1 per cent. It was actually sold on the 21st of February at an average price of 291- premium' though on that same day it might have been disposed of at 33i. He held no other stock on account, and sold none besides of any kind on the day of the fraud, except 20001. in money which he had occasion for, and the profit on which was 10/. Had he been engaged in the con- spiracy, it is absolutely incredible that he should have speculated to so small an amount, or fixed so narrow a. limit to his rate of gain. He was not a needy man ; though daring to the utmost bounds of deliberate valour, no act of his life ever showed him to be rash and inconsiderate ; hopes that had been crushed down for -five long years had sprung up freshly within him; the dearest wish of his heart was about to be gratified ; the way to fresh fame and fortune lay broad and clear before him ; and is it to be imagined for a moment that this man of inexhaustible resources and gigantic projects would have risked all this and more—his untainted honour, the renown he had won, and his prospective greatness— for a paltry gain of a few hundred pounds ? He was not a fool either ; yet what folly could have been greater than his, if being implicated in the conspiracy, he had voluntarily supplied the only information upon which he and his confederates could have been brought to trial ? Before his affidavit was sworn, the com- mittee of the Stock Exchange was ignorant even of the name of any person concerned in spreading the false news ; after that coinplete disclosure, it had nothing to do but to prosecute Be Berenger. Would his accomplice have gratuitously denounced him, when, by holding his peace, he could have secured both from detection ? Would he have refused to take De Berenger on board the Tennant, when he could have effectually concealed him there, together with every trace of the plot, and either have carried him to America, or shipped him in safety to the Continent ?— " My fault," says the noble victim, " was that, being conscious, till too late, that nothing in the whole affair could in any way concern me, I was careless about my defence—had nothing to do with the brief beyond a few rough notes (see Appendix)—and never even read it after it was prepared for counsel. This was not the act of a guilty man. Yet, had I been guilty, Ishould have had every chance in my favour of acquittal ; first, by conceal- ing the fact that De Berenger was the stranger who came to my house on the 21st of February, in military uniform—and without this voluntary in- formation on my part, the case must have disappeared ; secondly, had I been guilty, my chance of acquittal would have been greater than if inno- cent, because the knowledge of facts which I must have possessed if guilty, and could not have possessed if innocent, would have enabled me to make an effectual defence in place of the aimless defence that was trade."
Aimless it was and grossly mismanaged. Needlessly and per- niciously mixed up with that of Cochrane Johnstone, one of the real culprits, it was left entirely in the hands of his counsel. Lord Cochrane's lawyers entirely overlooked the most material point in his case, namely, the colour of the uniform in which Be Berenger appeared before him, and did not call one witness to prove that it was green. Lord Ellenborough took it upon himself to assert that it was scarlet, and the jury, relying on the judge's dictum, which was wholly unwarranted by the evidence before the Court, found Lord Cochrane guilty. The principal witness for the Crown was Crane, the hackney-coachman who drove Be Berenger- " In his examination, Crane did not say a word about the colour of Be Berenger's coat, but in his cross-examination swore that he had on a red coat underneath his great-coat? At the same time, he stated that Do Berenger had with him a portmanteau bit' enough to wrap a coat in.' Other witnesses proved that he had drawn down the sun-blinds in the vehicle, so that he had abundant opportunity to exchange his red coat in which he appeared at Dover for the green sharpshooter's uniform, and this, no doubt, he had done. The person of whom the red uniform had been purchased also deposed that he had carried it away from his shop in a port- manteau, so that there was no doubt of the capacity of the latter to contain the coat. In short, he left London in the uniform of the rifles, and put on the scarlet uniform at Dover, to assume the pretended rank of a staff officer. On his return to London, he, in like manner ro doubt, changed his uniform by the way."
The scarlet coat was afterwards found in the river, and Lord F,llenborough's charge implied that Lord Cochrane had been in- strumental in putting it there. Now the latter remarks, "I had some reputation for shrewdness, and should not have been likely to tie up the coat in an old chair-cover, and three pieces of lead with some lumps of coal ! ' when the winter's fire in my grate would have destroyed the coat and its evidence altogether had it been stripped off in any house, or had I been a party to its de- struction.' The position in which the coat was found showed where it came from, viz., from the Southwark side of the river, where De Berenger's lodgings were." In every sentence of his charge on this part of the case, Lord Ellenbrough positively, and upon his own mere assumption, affirmed Lord Cochrane's guilt. Here is a passage from the Times verbatim report of the Judge's speech- " Having hunted down the game, the prosecutors showed what became of his skin, and it was a very material fact that the defendant, De Berenger, stripped himself at Lord Cochrane's. He pulled his scarlet untform of there, and if the circumstance of its not being green did not excite Lord Cochrane's suspicion, what did he think of the star and medal ? It became him on discovering these, as an otticer and a gentleman, to communicate his suspicious of these circumstances. Did he not ask &Tenger where he had been in this masquerade dress ? It was for the Jury to say whether Lord Cochrane did not know where he had been. This was not the dress of a sharpshooter, but of a mountebank. He came Wore Lord Cochrane fully blazoned in the costume of his crime !"
"The star and medal" were fraudulently imported into the case by Lord Ellenborough ; they had not been sworn to by any witness for the prosecution. It was not alone in his summing up that thejudge displayed his unscrupulous malice. "He refused," says Lord Campbell, "to adjourn the trial at the close of the prosecutor's case, about nine in the evening, when the trial had lasted twelve hours, and the jury, as well as the defendant's counsel, were all completely exhausted and all prayed for an adjournment." Next term Lord Cochrane presented himself in court to move for a new trial, grounding his demand upon a large body of exculpatory and thoroughly conclusive evidence. Lord Ellenborough would not hear him because the other de- fendants were not present. "Such a rule," says the present Lord Chancellor, "had before been laid down," [on one special occasion only] " but it is palpably contrary tothe first principles of justice, and ought iipmediately to have been reversed." In addition to fine and imprisonment, Lord Cochrane was sentenced to stand in the pillory, but the Government did not dare to carry out that part of the sentence. Sir Francis Burdett told. them that he would stand in the pillory beside his colleague, and they must look to the consequences. They had to forego that sweetest part of their revenge, and a bill was introduced into Parliament alto- gether to abolish the pillory as a punishment " on account of the manner in which the power of inflicting it had been recently abused." Lord Cochrane's conviction was followed by - his expulsion from the House of Commons, and this again by his unanimous reelection for Westminster.
After a lapse of eleven years, Sir Robert Wilson was fully reirs- stated in the rank, honours, and emoluments of which he had been deprived by a secret and most unjust decision of the Liverpool and Castlereagh Government. The muoh tardier justice done to Lord Dundonald wanted the grace of completeness, and his long life was embittered to the last by a sense of its partial and equivocal na- ture. His arrears of pay were withheld, and his banner, as a Grand Cross of the Bath, was not restored to its place in West- minster. until the day before his body was laid in the• grave. History will grant to his memory what the Government of his country denied to the living man. His name will be honoured by Englishmen to the latest generations, and when it is spoken among them they will never have to blush for him,. He will be dear to them as one of the greatest of English seamen and purest patriots, and in him too they will reverence one who was not least in the noble army of martyrs, whose toils have built up, and whose suffer- ings have hallowed the precious fabric of our English liberties.