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Whilst our armies were barely holding their own in Spain, our fleets were the masters of all seas. In the north, though Sweden was nominally at war with us, in compliance with the arrogant demands of Buonaparte, Bernadotte, the elected Crown Prince, was too politic to carry out his embargo literally. The very existence of Sweden depended on its trade, and it was in the power of the British blockading fleet to prevent a single Swedish vessel from proceeding to sea. But in spite of the angry threats of Napoleon, who still thought that Bernadotte, though become the prince and monarch elect of an independent country, should remain a Frenchman, and, above all, the servile slave of his will, that able man soon let it be understood that he was inclined to amicable relations with Great Britain; and Sir James de Saumarez, admiral of our Baltic fleet, not only permitted the Swedish merchantmen to pass unmolested, but on various occasions gave them protection. Thus the embargo system was really at an end, both in Sweden and in Russia; for Alexander also refused to ruin Russia for the benefit of Buonaparte, and both of these princes, as we have seen, were in a secret league to support one another. Denmark, or, rather, its sovereign, though the nephew of the King of Great Britain, remained hostile to us, remembering not only the severe chastisements our fleets had given Copenhagen, but also the facility with which Napoleon could, from the north of Germany, overrun Denmark and add it to his now enormous empire. In March of this year the Danes endeavoured to recover the small island of Anholt, in the Cattegat, which we held; but they were beaten off with severe loss, leaving three or four hundred men prisoners of war.
He himself had never dreamed how it irked her until now. It was many years since he had been in the East, not, indeed, since Felipa had been a small child.[Pg 160] Keeping his promise to Cabot, as he understood it, had left him little for such pleasures as that. But he had done his duty then; he would do it again, and reap once more what seemed to him the inevitable reward, the reward which had been his all through his life,sheer disappointment, in all he prized most, ashes and dust.
All this time "the great Admiral Vernon," as the Opposition delighted to call him, in disparagement of all the commanders favourable to the Government, lay still with his ships and afforded no assistance to the land troops. When Wentworth bitterly complained of this, to show that it was impossible to operate on the town from the harbour, Vernon sent into the inner harbour the Galicia, a Spanish ship which had been taken. This ship kept up a cannonade on the town for several hours, producing little effect, and was fired on from the town with as little. The men were then brought off in boats, the Galicia's cable was cut, and she was suffered to run upon a shoal, where she soon filled. The troops were now hastily re-embarked; the unhealthy season was at its height, and the men were swept away by fever more rapidly than they had been mowed down on land. The heavy rains had set in, and the troops in a few days were reduced to one half their number. Admiral Vernon instead of undertaking any enterprise which might have retrieved the honour of the British arms, set sail from Jamaica with the forces in July, and anchored in the south part of Cuba in a bay, on which he bestowed the appellation of Cumberland Harbour. Here the remains of that fine fleet and army, capable of achieving the most brilliant conquests under able commanders, were suffered to corrode away under the influence of inactivity, the season, bad salted provisions, and excess of rum.