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Lowe
Lowe
192

misconceived the spirit prevailing among the exiles. Napoleon, whom he approached with studied politeness, speedily took a most violent dislike to him. They saw each other only five times, all within five months after Lowe's arrival. At the last two interviews Napoleon abused Lowe, who, by all trustworthy accounts, retained his self-command perfectly, and refused to see or communicate with him again (ib. i. 138–41, 158–62, 172–6, 220–6, 246–51). Endless quarrels with various members of Napoleon's suite ensued during the five succeeding years. Lamartine says that Napoleon evidently wished to provoke insults by insult, in order to excite pity and obtain a grievance for use in the English parliament (Lamartine, Hist. de la Restauration, vi. 416). Lamartine, though rejecting the monstrous tales of Lowe's inhumanity, agrees with other writers in condemning Lowe's want of tact and pedantic insistence upon trifles. Lowe has given explanations in his private papers (see Forsyth, vols. ii. iii.) Officers who were on the spot all the time, and were personal friends of various members of Napoleon's staff, have pointed out the real origin of many calumnies that have found general acceptance. Henry, assistant-surgeon in the 66th foot, which formed part of the St. Helena garrison from 1816 to 1821, states that he was prepossessed against Lowe, but became convinced by observation that Lowe's vigilance and his firmness in suppressing plots at Longwood were the cause of the hostility towards him, rather than any want of temper or courtesy (Henry, ii. 9–10, 50–60). Basil Jackson, a young staff corps officer constantly on duty about Longwood, after speaking of the reliance placed by the exiles on party sympathy in England, says: ‘The policy of Longwood—heartily and assiduously carried out by Napoleon's adherents, who liked banishment as little as the great man himself—was to pour into England pamphlets and letters complaining of unnecessary restrictions, insults from the governor, scarcity of provisions, miserable accommodation, insalubrity of climate, and a host of other grievances, but chiefly levelled at the governor as the head and front of all that was amiss.’ ‘C'était notre politique, et que voulez-vous?’ De Montholon said to Jackson in after years (Jackson, Notes and Reminiscences, pp. 104, 111).

Napoleon died on 5 May 1821. At the end of July Lowe handed over the government to Brigadier-general John Pine Coffin [q. v.] (Henry, ii. 70–3), and quitted St. Helena. Peace was made, at the dying wish of Napoleon, between the exiles and the governor before the general exodus. At his departure the inhabitants presented Lowe with an address acknowledging the justice and moderation of his rule, and the confidence felt in him, as evinced by the unanimous acceptance of his measures for the abolition of slavery (without compensation), which took effect from Christmas day 1818. His services in ‘giving the death-blow to slavery in St. Helena’ were very warmly acknowledged by Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton in the House of Commons in May 1823 (Parl. Debates, new ser. ix. 267). Lowe was cordially received by the king, and Lord Bathurst wrote to him by command to express general approbation of his conduct at St. Helena (Forsyth, iii. 313). He was appointed colonel of the first vacant regiment, the 93rd highlanders, on 4 June 1822.

In August 1822 Barry Edward O'Meara [q. v.], who had been Napoleon's medical attendant at St. Helena, published his ‘Napoleon in Exile: a Voice from St. Helena,’ London, 1822, 2 vols. O'Meara had resigned his post at St. Helena on account of the extra restrictions imposed on him by Lowe, and was sent away from the island in July 1818. On 2 Nov. 1818 his name was removed from the Navy List for making against Lowe calumnious charges, which, if true, it was his duty to have reported at the time of the occurrence of the alleged offences, two years previously (ib. iii. 47–114). Immediately afterwards O'Meara published his ‘Exposition of Affairs at St. Helena during the Captivity of Napoleon,’ London, 1819. The ‘Voice from St. Helena’ professed to give fuller details. The glaring inconsistencies between some of the statements and others previously made by O'Meara were criticised with great severity in an article in the ‘Quarterly Review’ for October 1822 (lv. 219–64); but the book went through five editions in a few months. Lowe sought legal redress. He took the opinions of Sir John Singleton Copley, afterwards lord Lyndhurst [q. v.], and Mr. Tyndal, Q.C., and a rule nisi for a criminal information against O'Meara was obtained in Hilary term 1823, but was afterwards discharged on a technical objection in respect of time. Lowe was then told that he had done all that was necessary by denying the various charges on affidavit, as O'Meara, if he challenged the truth of the denials, could proceed against him for perjury. Lowe's affidavits are now in the Public Record Office. He was dissuaded from further proceedings against O'Meara, but was strongly advised by Lord Bathurst to publish a full and complete vindication of his government of St. Helena from the materials in his possession (Forsyth, iii. 317–23). He appears to have thought that the government