[ It has been matter of surprise to many that LORD HOWE returned to port
without bringing the French fleet to action. We are happy in being able to
lay before the Public a letter from a Gentleman on board the "Edgar", in
which the causes which prevented the attack of the French fleet, are stated
in so convincing a manner, that no idea can remain of an English fleet
having shunned that of anenemy. ]
"Edgar, Torbay, August 16.
"On the 31st ult. at three P.M. we discovered from the mast head five sail,
and were shortly after enabled to make out a large fleet. The wind was
nearly north, and the enemy's ships, as we immediately conjectured them to
be, to windward of us, Belleisle being on our lee. The morning had been
dull and hazy, with showers of rain, and the wind varying from N.W. to
North. In bearing before it, and in the haze, we had passed the fleet to
the Eastward of *******.
"When the wind cleared up, which it did entirely, we had the enemy's rocky
shore on the lee, and the enemy, with the wind directly opposite. Thus
situated we endeavoured to reach them, but they made from us with all the
sail they could croud, continuing to fly as we pursued. Had all our ships
sailed equally well, there was a possibility of our bringing them to action;
but unfortunately this was not the case. The Queen Charlotte being the best
sailer of the fleet, made her own signal to reconnoitre; she brought too
considerably to windward of the fleet, and had a complete view of the
enemy's force, but could not bring her bow-guns to bear upon them. In these
endeavours we were occupied till the *st instant at night: on the following
morning we had entirely lost sight of the enemy's fleet.
For more than thirty hours this fleet was in sight, was superior in force,
and might during the whole of this time have borne down upon us and brought
us to action. The French had every thing to favour them, but resolution:
they knew Englishmen too well to hazard a contest, notwithstanding they had
the wind directly on one quarter, and their own coast on the other. We
could not fly unless upon rocks as barbarous as the modern French.
"The British valour could not be displayed to more advantage, even in a
victory - it was a victory: a force superior to ours held us, by the
changeable weather, in their lee; we there offered them battle, and they
dared not approach us. From that position of safety to them, we chaced them
till a favourable change of wind brought them, for still further safety, to
Quiberon Bay. On the following day we chaced a French frigate on the rocks
called the Saints: it is possible, but scarcely probable, that she may have
been since saved.
"When I consider the whole of my LORD HOWE's behaviour on this occasion, it
apears to me great; and, as formerly, worthy of his Sovereign's approbation.
He could not subdue light winds and perfect calms--he could not overpower
strong tides and eternal currents setting into the bosom of the bay; -- but,
with an inferior force, he dared to action, and chaced with a true British
spirit, an enemy's fleet infinitely superior both in strength and position
to his own.
"In short I think my LORD HOWE might have brought the Queen Charlotte
herself, that single ship, up with the rear of the French fleet; for she is
the best sailing ship I ever saw; but he could not have brought up the
fleet. He did all that prudence and valour could do; he scoured the
enemy's coast, drove in a superior force, and braved that force afterwards.
" I cannot conclude without noticing the following particular. On the
second instant, we were near the south west coast of Brittany, that we
observed an engagement on shore between the Royalists and Republicans. We
plainly saw, in the contending armies, the tri-coloured and white flags
displayed, as well as firing, closing of the adverse parties, &c., but could
not tell which side came off victorious. That unhappy country now claims
our pity; it is already inbrued with the blood of numberless victims, and
daily increasing in crimes. One might naturally ask -- "Where is eternal
justice?" It will be found -- it never sleeps. But poor, proud, blind man,
like the moles of the earth he inhabits, sees a very little way, and that
small distance is obscured by a cloudy and deceitful atmosphere.