death of the czar had broken up the ‘armed neutrality,’ the defence of the coast against the threatened invasion by the Boulogne flotilla fully occupied his attention; and it was not till peace was concluded that he judged it fitting to begin his task of reform. Orders were sent to the several resident commissioners to place all books and papers under their private seal; and early in 1802 he, with his colleagues, made a personal and minute inspection of the establishments. This showed matters to be far worse than even he had suspected. On 19 Oct. the admiralty formally censured the navy board for neglect of duty and condoning, if not conniving at, gross irregularities (Parliamentary Papers, 1805, viii. 237); and in the cabinet St. Vincent insisted on the appointment of a royal commission of inquiry, which, after much opposition, was ordered on 29 Dec. 1802 (43 George III, c. 16). The reports of this commission, beginning in May 1803 and continuing for the next two years, laid bare a mass of corruption and iniquity almost incredible. In every department of the service there was the same dishonesty: there was no effective supervision of expenditure or control of accounts. Even in the office of the treasurer there was culpable laxness; the report on which led directly to the impeachment of Lord Melville, formerly treasurer of the navy and, at the time, first lord of the admiralty [see Dundas, Henry, first Viscount Melville]. The commission of inquiry was followed by one of reform, officially styled ‘for revising and digesting the civil affairs of the navy’ [see Briggs, Sir John Thomas], but with this St. Vincent had nothing to do. The rigorous manner in which he had exposed and checked illegal gains, some of which had come to be considered almost vested interests; the punishment of the guilty by dismissal or otherwise; the censures or reprimands which he liberally bestowed on those, often of high position, who, by neglect of duty, had permitted and encouraged these irregularities—together brought on him a storm of hate and invective almost without a parallel. His real offence was, of course, carefully kept out of sight, though he was accused of intolerable haughtiness; but the charges to which his enemies trusted referred rather to his administration: it was said that by not building new ships he had allowed the fleet to sink below the requirements of the country, and that by not building gunboats he had endangered the safety of the kingdom. Pitt, a political opponent of St. Vincent, but probably unconscious of being the catspaw of an almost criminal faction, constituted himself their mouthpiece in the House of Commons; and on 15 March 1804, in moving for comparative returns of ships built, made a vehement attack on St. Vincent's administrative policy. The motion was negatived; but naturally when, two months later, the Addington ministry collapsed and Pitt resumed the reins of government, there was no question on either side as to the necessity of St. Vincent's retirement from the admiralty.
The parliamentary attacks, however, were continued. Jeffrey, the member for Poole, a man without either ability or knowledge, was repeatedly put forward during 1805 to move for papers, and on 14 May 1806 to move for a committee of the whole house to consider them. This he did in a long, rambling speech, which had been written out for him, and which, under protest from the speaker, he was permitted to read. It was probably felt by St. Vincent's friends that it was better the charges should not be stifled; and after Markham, Lord Garlies, Lord Howick [see Grey, Charles, second Earl], then first lord of the admiralty, and Fox had completely demolished Jeffrey's speech, his motion was negatived without a division; on which Fox, rising again, moved ‘That it appears to this house that the conduct of the Earl of St. Vincent, in his late naval administration, has added an additional lustre to his exalted character, and is entitled to the approbation of this house;’ and this, after some unimportant conversation, was affirmed without a division.
Meantime, a few months after leaving the admiralty, St. Vincent had been requested, through Lord Sidmouth, to take the command of the fleet. He indignantly refused, ‘unless Mr. Pitt should unsay all he had said in the House of Commons’ on 15 March 1804 (Tucker, ii. 268). On the request being repeated by Lord Grenville after Pitt's death, he at once complied with it. The acting rank of admiral of the fleet was conferred on him; and early in March 1806 he hoisted the union flag at the main of the Hibernia, and resumed his old station off Ushant, continuing the work which, since the renewal of the war, had been excellently performed by Cornwallis. In August, on the threat of a French invasion of Portugal, he went to Lisbon, to concert measures for securing the Portuguese fleet and for escorting the king to the Brazils. On both sides, however, the projected measures were postponed, and St. Vincent returned to his station off Ushant till the end of October, when he brought the main body of the fleet into Cawsand Bay for the winter, he himself, by special arrangement with the admiralty, occupying