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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 28.djvu/102

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Howe
Howe
96

blown asunder in a violent gale. The French were completely dispersed and many of their ships wholly or partially dismasted, in which state some of them, and especially d'Estaing's flagship, the Languedoc of 80 guns, were very roughly handled by English 50-gun ships. By the 20th d'Estaing had gathered together his shattered fleet, but, after appearing again off Rhode Island, went to Boston to refit. Thither Howe followed him, after hastily refitting at Sandy Hook; but, finding the French ships dismantled, and evidently without any immediate thought of going to sea, he went back to Sandy Hook. Availing himself of the admiralty's permission to resign the command, he turned the squadron over to Rear-admiral Gambier, to await Byron's arrival, and sailed for England on 25 Sept. He had asked to be relieved as early as 23 Nov. 1777, and the admiralty had sent him the required permission on 24 Feb., at the same time expressing a hope in complimentary terms 'that he would find no occasion to avail himself of it.' He arrived at Portsmouth on 25 Oct. 1778, and struck his flag on the 30th.

His discontent seems to have been largely due to the appointment of a new commission to negotiate with the colonists; the two Howes were, indeed, named as members of it, but junior to the Earl of Carlisle [see Howard, Frederick, fifth Earl of Carlisle], with whom they declined to act (cf. Barrow, p. 103). He knew, too, that the war had been mismanaged by the interference of an incompetent minister; that the navy had been starved; and he believed that he was to be made the ministerial scapegoat. His promotion to be vice-admiral of the red had, he moreover considered, been unduly delayed. His suspicions of the bad faith of the ministry were soon confirmed at home. His conduct, he said in the House of Commons on 8 March 1779, had been arraigned in pamphlets and newspapers, written, in many instances, by persons in the confidence of ministers. He challenged the most searching inquiry into his conduct; he said that he had been deceived into his command; that, tired and disgusted, he would have returned as soon as he obtained leave, but he could not think of doing so while a superior enemy remained in the American seas; and that he seized the first opportunity after Byron's arrival had given a decided superiority to British arms, he finally declined 'any future service so long as the present ministers remained in office.' For the next three years, though attending occasionally in the House of Commons, he resided principally at Porter's Lodge, a country seat near St. Albans, which he had purchased after the conclusion of the seven years' war.

The change of ministry in the spring of 1782 called him again into active service. On 2 April he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Channel; on the 8th was promoted to be admiral of the blue; and on the 20th was created a peer of Great Britain by his former title in the peerage of Ireland, Viscount Howe of Langar in Nottinghamshire. It was also on the 20th that he hoisted his flag on board the Victory at Spit-head, and, being presently joined by Barrington [see Barrington, Samuel], he proceeded to the North Sea, where for some weeks he was employed in keeping watch over the Dutch in the Texel. In June he was recalled to the Channel by the news of the allied French and Spanish fleet, numbering forty sail of the line, having come north from Cadiz, and having on the way captured a great part of the trade for Newfoundland. A rich convoy was expected from Jamaica, and it became Howe's duty, with only twenty-two ships, to clear the way for this and to keep the Channel open. The real object of the allies was, no doubt, to prevent the relief of Gibraltar. But the jealousies between the admirals led, towards the end of July, to the retirement of their powerful fleet to Cadiz.

On 15 Aug. Howe anchored at Spithead, when the fleet was ordered to refit with all possible haste. While refitting, the loss of the Royal George occurred [see Durham, Sir Philip C.H.C.; Kempenfelt, Richard] on 29 Aug. On 11 Sept. the fleet sailed for Gibraltar; it consisted of thirty-four ships of the line, besides frigates and smaller vessels; and, what with transports, store-ships, and private traders, numbered altogether 183 sail. The passage was tedious; it was not till 8 Oct. that the fleet was off Cape St. Vincent, and the next day Howe learned that the allied fleet of some fifty ships of the line was; at anchor off Algeciras. By noon of the llth the relieving fleet was in the Straits, the transports and store-ships leading, the ships of war following in three divisions, ready to draw into line of battle. Cordova, in command of the allied fleet, made no attempt to interrupt them; but only four of the storeships got to anchor off Gibraltar ; the others, careless of orders and the force of the current, were carried to the eastward into the Mediterranean. Howe followed them; but to bring them back was a work of difficulty, which the enemy might have rendered impossible. Howe had only thirty- three ships of the line; Cordova had forty-six, and, had he brought the English to action, must have prevented the relief of the fortress. On the