Secret Service Under Pitt



An old and very influential French newspaper, ‘Le Journal des Débats,’ published, on February 29, 1884, an article descriptive of the pleasure with which its writer had heard sung a touching but simple Irish lyric, ‘La Cocarde Verte,’ commemorative of the career of General Napper Tandy. It had been sung, he said, at Paris, by an English girl, who threw into its simple lines a power most entrancing. The melody and the words continued to haunt him at all hours,[190] and, some months later, we learn, found him in London, seeking information, but in vain, regarding Napper Tandy and the song. During a subsequent tour to the ‘Giant’s Causeway,’ his inquiries were not much more successful. ‘J’avouai que nos histoires de France ne nous parlent pas de Napper Tandy, et je quittai Portrush sans être absolument satisfait.’

When French history is silent as regards Tandy, and remote inquirers appear so much interested about him, the present chapter may not have been written in vain.

The arrest by British agencies of Tandy and others within the neutral territory of Hamburg and contrary to the law of nations was baldly denied for some time.[191] A similar tone was taken by official authority as regards the subsequent surrender of Tandy to England; but how true was the story, and with what striking circumstances fraught, will presently appear.

Soon after the departure of Humbert’s expedition for Ireland, Tandy, now a general in the French service, accompanied by a large staff, including Corbet and Blackwell, sailed from Dunkirk in the French ship ‘Anacreon,’ having on board a store of ordnance, arms, ammunition, saddles, and accoutrements. He effected a landing on the coast of Donegal, but, learning that Humbert, after having beaten Lake at Castlebar, had met with reverses and surrendered to Cornwallis, he abandoned the enterprise and re-embarked. It is told in the ‘Castlereagh Papers’ that the ‘Anacreon,’ when attacked by an English cruiser, gave battle near the Orkneys, and that ‘Tandy had put two twelve-pound shot in his pockets, previous to leaping overboard in the event of striking to the English ship.'[192]

An interesting memoir of Colonel Blackwell, who died in 1809, appears in Walter Cox’s ‘Irish Magazine’ for that year. William Murphy, an old ’98 man, and afterwards the well-known millionaire, said that Cox played fast and loose, betraying his own party and the Government alternately. Cox begins by saying that ‘few occurrences excited a stronger or more universal sensation than the treacherous arrest at Hamburg, in 1798, of Blackwell, Morres, Tandy and Corbet.’ Cox describes Blackwell’s perilous descent with Tandy on the Irish coast, and states that, when passing through Hamburg going back to France, the secret of his arrival and that of his comrades ‘was betrayed to the British envoy, Crawford, by two pensioned spies of England, Turner and Duckett.'[193]

Cox was a shrewd man; but when suspicion is once raised it is apt to extend beyond due limits. He was right as regards Turner; he wronged Duckett. His impression of at least the first was probably derived from Blackwell himself, for Cox acknowledges that some of the facts ‘the writer of this sketch received from the mouth of Colonel Blackwell.’

General Corbet privately printed at Paris, in 1807, strictures on the conduct of the Senate of Hamburg for having handed him over to the British minister. Appended to this brochure is a letter written by Tandy some days before his death, giving an account of his arrest. ‘The original,’ writes Corbet, ‘is in my possession.’

I arrived in Hamburg on the evening of the 22nd of November, 1798 [writes Tandy], and the next day I went with M. Corbet to visit the French minister and the Consul General Lagan to obtain passports to Paris. I passed the day with the consul general and prepared for my departure, which was to have taken place the following day. I was invited to sup the same evening by Messrs. T—- and D—-, in a house where Blackwell, Corbet, and Morres supped also; we remained there till midnight, and at four o’clock went to our hotel. Towards morning I was awakened by armed men rushing into my chamber.

Cox jumped at the conclusion that the names thus cautiously initialled by Corbet, are Turner and Duckett.[194] A coming chapter will vindicate Duckett; and I am bound to conclude that this man, if he really joined the supper party, had been duped by the plausibility of Turner. Turner and Duckett have been previously shown as on friendly terms.[195]

The accuracy of the information by which Crawford, the British minister at Hamburg, was able to effect his coup excited general surprise. According to the ‘Castlereagh Papers’ tidings reached him that Tandy and others were lodged at an inn in Hamburg called the ‘American Arms,’ and on November 24, 1798, soon after five o’clock A.M., this minister, accompanied by a guard, entered the house. Early as it was, Napper Tandy was found writing. The officer demanded his passport. Thereupon Tandy, with composure, said he would produce it, and going to his trunk he took out a pistol, which presenting, he said: ‘This is my passport.’ The officer grappled with him, and the guard rushing in secured Tandy. ‘He and his associates were put in irons, and confined by order of Sir James Crawford.'[196]

And now for a short digression ere finishing the story of Tandy’s woes.

People were puzzled to know how the complicated intrigue which achieved his capture–contrary to the law of nations–could have been completed in a few hours. There can be little doubt that Turner–whom Cox broadly charges with the betrayal, by furnishing information to Crawford had ample notice of their coming.[197] Besides Turner’s personal acquaintance with Tandy, official ties of brotherhood had arisen between them, and nothing was more natural than the invitation to sup.

A letter headed ‘Secret Information from Hamburg,’ and bearing date August 16, 1798, has found its way into Lord Castlereagh’s correspondence.[198] The writer, clearly Turner, is found back at Hamburg after one of his periodic visits to Paris, where, with his usual audace, he claimed to be an accredited envoy of the United Irishmen, and sought to discredit the mission of Lewins.

Before Tandy had left Paris for Dunkirk, where the ‘Anacreon’ was being equipped for Ireland, he had some unpleasant differences with Lewins and Wolfe Tone.[199] This afforded prospect of a golden harvest for our spy. Tone had long avoided Turner; Lewins repudiated his pretensions. Our spy now ‘sided’ with Tandy’s party, and intrigued to such purpose that he seems to have got himself appointed locum tenens of the general. In this affair Muir and Madgett, with honest motives, bore a part. Muir, a distinguished Scotch advocate, had attached himself to the republican interest, and was tried for sedition.[200] Madgett–an old Irish refugee–held a post in the Foreign Office in Paris, and will be remembered by readers of Tone’s Diary as in constant communication with him. It is needless to quote in full the anonymous letter of our spy. It will be found in the ‘Castlereagh Papers,’ vol. i. pp. 306-9. The men noticed in it, McMahon and O’Coigly, McCann and Lowry, had been old allies of Turner’s; and ‘Casey, brother to the priest,’ Tone, Tandy, Lewins, Teeling, Orr of Derry, McCormack, all figure in the original information conveyed to Lord Downshire.

The letter begins by saying that ‘Tandy, having quarrelled with Lewins and Tone, called a meeting of United Irishmen, at which a division took place; the numbers pretty equal.’ Tandy’s rupture with Lewins was quite enough to make Turner take Tandy’s side. Dating from Hamburg, and believing that the real ‘minister of the interior’ was a good cook, he writes:–

A General Creevy, who goes with the great expedition [to Ireland], called on me one day at Paris and stayed dinner. Muir and Madgett were of the party. It was for the purpose of inquiring into Tone’s character, which we gave him. Madgett and Muir swore me into the Secret Committee for managing the affairs of Ireland and Scotland in Tandy’s place: there are only we three of the committee.

He then proceeds to describe his visit to the Hague, and the information he acquired there. It may be asked if any evidence exists that Samuel Turner left his usual quarters at Hamburg and was in Paris at this time, and afterwards at the Hague. On p. 409 of the same volume of Castlereagh, Turner is described by name as in Paris on business connected with the United Irishmen, and that from thence he repaired to the Hague. Here he was consulted, as he stated, by General Joubert on various points, including the ‘safest places for debarkation.’ The West coast, he tells Wickham, ‘seemed to be the most eligible, from Derry to Galway.’ In the letter to Talleyrand[201] the West coast is also suggested as the best point to invade.[202] The spy, after alluding to the ‘contrivances of Lewins,’ who ‘strives to prevent any person doing anything with the (French) Government but himself,’ reports Duckett as a most active rebel. He makes this statement in a paper meant for the private perusal of Portland[203] and Wickham. Thus it would appear that Blackwell and Cox wronged Duckett in accusing him of informing against Tandy. To Duckett, a man hitherto maligned, it is necessary in justice to return.

Lord Edward had died in Newgate June 4, 1798. The departure of his widow from Dublin and return to Hamburg are announced in the ‘Evening Post’ of August 16, ensuing. Our spy, as the ‘friend’ of the dead Geraldine, welcoming Pamela back and tendering sympathy and consolation, would be a good subject for a picture. Mr. Froude tells us that the great power wielded by this seeming exile of Erin lay in his intimacy with Lady Edward Fitzgerald at Hamburg. Morres had been sojourning here previous to Tandy’s arrival, and, like Turner, received hospitality at her hands. ‘Lord Downshire’s friend,’ who we are told had access to her house and post-bag, could not fail to know Morres well. It will be remembered that Dr. Madden blows hot and cold on Reinhard, the French minister at Hamburg, and suggests that he may have betrayed to Pitt his correspondence with De la Croix; but Reinhard had now been succeeded by a new man; and if further exculpation[204] of Reinhard were needed after the testimony of Mignet, it is found in the fact that the correspondence of his successor was also tampered with. The letter of ‘Lord Downshire’s friend,’ in which he proposes to become a spy, mentions, as a striking proof of his power, that he had full access to the bureau of the French resident at Hamburg: M. Maragan now filled this post. A letter addressed by him to Talleyrand may be found in the ‘Castlereagh Papers.’

Most Secret.

Hambourg, 29 Brumaire.

M. Harvey Montmorency Morres,[205] of Kivesallen, in Ireland, has called upon me, on the part of the interesting Lady Edward Fitzgerald: he has been outlawed, and fears that he is not safe at Hamburg. He was an intimate friend of the late Lord E. Fitzgerald’s; he has, therefore, acquired a right to the kindness of the widow, and it is on this ground alone that she has allowed herself to express it. Mr. Morres was the leader of the numerous corps of United Irishmen: he is utterly ruined in consequence of his attachment to the cause of liberty. He wishes to go to France, where he has important matters to communicate. He is expecting from day to day an officer, who has commanded some expedition, and he hopes to make the journey with him.[206]

This was Tandy, as a succeeding letter explains. Tandy and Morres were seized at the same moment, and doubtless on the same whisper. Hamburg encouraged an impression that Russia prompted this arrest; but, unless on the hypothesis that Pitt had the Senate of Hamburg in his pay, it is hard to understand how orders were sent to effect arrests there, just as if it were on British territory. Mr. Secretary Elliot was a member of the family which some months previously received the peerage of Minto in acknowledgment of diplomatic service. This official, writing to Lord Castlereagh, says: ‘I learn from Mr. Hammond, Canning’s colleague [in the Foreign Office], that Napper Tandy is suspected to be at Hamburg, and instructions have been sent to our resident there to apprehend him.'[207] Thus Crawford must have heard in advance of Tandy’s coming, and taken his steps accordingly. Of course he at once acquainted the head of his department; and hence the remark of Mr. Elliot.[208] Some historians convey that Tandy, after his ill-fated expedition to Ireland, returned direct from Donegal to Hamburg, en route for France. The words of the editor of the ‘Cornwallis Papers’ are that ‘he returned immediately to France.’ But these accounts are most misleading. Tandy did not get back to France until after his liberation in 1802, and instead of the few days which might be supposed to intervene between the departure from Donegal and arrival at Hamburg, it was nearer to two months. Dreading renewed trouble with the English cruisers, Tandy gave orders to steer for Norway. All landed at Bergen, and after suffering many vicissitudes sought to reach France by land. The cold became so intense that, as Corbet notes, people were found frozen to death at the gate of Hamburg. Weary and footsore, Tandy arrived here at twilight on November 22, 1798. Hungry for Irish news, he readily embraced Turner’s invitation to sup.[209]

This meeting between Tandy and the man whose ‘wearing of the Green'[210] had forced to fly his native land may have been in the thoughts of the rebel bard when writing the rude ballad which, a century later, so excited the querist in the ‘Journal des Débats:–‘[211]

‘I met with Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand,
And he said ‘How’s poor old Ireland, and how does she stand?’
“Tis the most distressful country, for it’s plainly to be seen
They are hanging men and women for the wearing of the Green.’

It was no isolated secret that Turner had acquired and disclosed. General Corbet, speaking of Morres, Tandy and Blackwall, gives an interesting account of their subsequent imprisonment at Hamburg, and how successive plans to effect their escape became marvellously foiled. ‘I lost myself in vain conjectures,’ he writes. ‘It was not until a long time after that I learned the infamous treason of which I was the victim. I was very far from suspecting the author.’ And then, in a foot-note, he indicates him with great caution, dreading the penalty of an action for libel.

A man [he writes] residing at Hamburg, who had all my confidence, and that of my three companions in misfortune, was at this precise time sold to England, and was one of Crawford’s numerous agents. He was informed of all our projects, and communicated them to this minister. This man is now [1807] actually in London,[212] and pensioned by the Government.[213]

It is strange that Corbet was able to anticipate by half a century the revelation made in the ‘Cornwallis Papers,’ that a secret pension had been given to Turner for information in Ninety-eight. But his privately printed brochure may indeed be styled a sealed book.

Some hours after the arrest Maragan, the French resident, wrote to the Senate at Hamburg claiming Tandy and his colleagues as French citizens, and threatening to leave the Hague unless they were released. Crawford opposed the demand in terms equally strong, and, needless to say, carried his point. The French chargé d’affaires, observing Tandy’s critical state of health, offered a large sum to the officer of the guard to permit his escape, but the superior influence of Crawford overrode all obstacles.

The letter of Tandy, from which an extract has already been made, states that after his arrest one hundred louis d’or were taken from him and never returned. His sufferings in prison he describes as so severe that life became well nigh insupportable, and more than once he prayed to be led out on the ramparts and shot.

John Philpot Curran gives us some idea of what these sufferings were:–

He was confined in a dungeon little larger than a grave; he was loaded with irons; he was chained by an iron that communicated from his arm to his leg, and that so short as to grind into his flesh. Food was cut into shapeless lumps, and flung to him by his keepers as he lay on the ground, as if he had been a beast; he had no bed to lie on, not even straw to coil himself up in if he could have slept.

The details given by Corbet of their detention are hardly less painful. At last he and Morres were removed to a new prison.

What had happened to me [he writes] would have naturally discouraged and prevented me from making any new attempts; nevertheless, I managed to correspond with my two companions in misfortune; and we all three stood so well with our guards, the greater number of whom we had gained, that we resolved to arm ourselves and place ourselves at their head, to deliver Tandy, who was in another prison, and after to repair to the house of the French ambassador. Our measures were so well taken that we hoped this time at least to recover our liberty in spite of the impediments which fortune might put in our way. But the same traitor who had formerly deranged my plan discovered all to the English minister, Crawford, who immediately gave orders that our guards should be changed, and even that those of the different posts of Hamburg should be doubled, which continued even to our departure. Such was the result of the last struggle we made to obtain our liberty at Hamburg.

These incidents occurred at a time when wagers had been laid that the days of French power were numbered. England, Austria and Russia prepared to form an alliance. Suvarov, repulsing the French arms in Italy, had entered on French territory; the Archduke Charles advanced on the Rhine, and the Duke of York was in full march on Amsterdam. Hamburg felt that the time had come when England might be truckled to, and France slighted. At midnight on September 29, 1799, after ten months’ detention, Tandy and his companions were torn from the sanctuary they had sought and put on board an English frigate which had cast anchor at Cuxhaven.

Their departure was marked by a curious incident, which General Corbet thus notices in describing his arrest and extradition:–

In open sea, and half a league before us, an English frigate laden with gold, and on the way to Hamburg, was suddenly wrecked and only one sailor saved. What was the use of this? Was it to purchase additional mercenaries against France? Was it the price of that treachery of which the Hamburghers were just guilty? Happy would the Continent be if all the gold leaving England for such purposes had been buried in the sea![214]

Corbet, describing his arrest in the first instance, says that he asked the soldiers by what authority they acted. ‘They appeared not to be ignorant that we were French officers; they answered that they should fulfil the orders of the minister of England.'[215]

For a time France sought to stifle its wrath; but at last it was resolved that the conduct of Hamburg should be denounced to all States, allied and neutral; that all French consular officers quit the offending territory; and that every agent of Hamburg residing in France should leave in twenty-four hours. The Senate of Hamburg now became penitential, and wrote to say so. ‘Your letter, gentlemen,’ replied Napoleon, ‘does not justify you. You have violated the laws of hospitality, a thing which never happened among the most savage hordes of the desert.’

A deputation from the Senate arrived at the Tuileries to make public apology to Napoleon. He again testified his indignation, and when the envoys pleaded national weakness he said: ‘Well, and had you not the resource of weak states: was it not in your power to let them escape?’ In reply it was urged that such negligence would have irritated rather than appeased the Powers. Napoleon laid a fine of four millions and a half on Hamburg. This sum, it is naïvely remarked by Bourrienne, his secretary, mollified him considerably, and helped to pay Josephine’s debts.

An interesting account of the arrival in England of Tandy and his companions appears in the ‘Courier,’ a leading London paper, of October 31, 1799.[216] A military cortège accompanied them from Sittingbourne to Rochester, and thence over Blackfriars Bridge, up Ludgate Hill, to Newgate.

Had Buonaparte and his staff been sent here by Sir Sydney Smith, they could not have excited more curiosity [records the ‘Courier’]. A vast concourse of people was gathered at the landing place, who attended the prisoners and their escort to the garrison gates, where a new concourse was assembled, and so from stage to stage to the end of the journey, everybody, old and young, male and female, was anxious to get a peep at this wonderful man, now become, from the happy perseverance of Ministers, a new bone of contention among the powers of Europe.

Napper Tandy is a large big-boned muscular man, but much broken and emaciated. His hair is quite white from age, cut close behind into his neck, and he appears much enervated. This is indeed very natural, if it be considered that he is near seventy years of age, and has just suffered a long and rigorous confinement, his mind the constant prey of the most painful suspense. He wore a large friar’s hat, a long silk black grey coat, and military boots, which had a very outré effect.

Blackwell and Morres seem to be about five and thirty. They are two tall handsome-looking men, wore military dresses, and have a very soldierlike appearance. The former is a man of a very enterprising genius, about the middle size, apparently not more than four or five and twenty, and has much the look of a foreigner.

Morres had not accompanied Tandy in his expedition to Ireland; and it may be asked on what grounds he was placed in irons, and made to share with the ill-starred general all the rigours of a tedious imprisonment. While Morres indignantly protested against this persecution, he little thought that a document, seriously compromising him, and penned by his own hand, had been given up to the Crown officials. This was a memorial which, on his arrival at Hamburg as an Irish refugee, he had written, in Lady Edward’s house most probably, and addressed to the French Minister at Paris. It was intercepted as usual, and may now be consulted in the ‘Castlereagh Papers.’ Colonel Hervey Montmorency Morres tells Bruix how he had been intrusted by Lord Edward with the direction of the intended attack upon Dublin, and especially as regarded the magazine and batteries in the Phœnix Park; how after the death of Lord Edward he escaped from Dublin, and remained concealed until the arrival of Humbert at Killala, when he assembled the men of West Meath to aid the invading army; but upon the surrender of Humbert he disbanded his followers, and, being pursued by the King’s troops, made his way to England, and thence to Hamburg on October 7, 1798. In conclusion he implored the protection of France for himself and his family.[217]

After Tandy and Morres had been removed to Ireland, they were placed at the bar of the King’s Bench, when the Attorney General prayed that sentence of death should be passed upon them. Historians curtly tell that the prosecution broke down on a point of law; but this explanation does not quite satisfy. The prisoners pleaded that they were arrested abroad by the King’s command, and were thereby prevented from surrendering themselves for trial before the day limited by the Act of Attainder for doing so. The case was argued for days. Tandy’s legal position was shown to be this: ‘Why did you not surrender and become amenable to justice? Because I was in chains. Why did you not come over to Ireland? Because I was a prisoner in Hamburg. Why did you not do something tantamount to a surrender? Because I was unpractised in the language of the strangers, who could not be my protectors, inasmuch as they were also my fellow-sufferers.’ Counsel argued that when the Crown seized Tandy at Hamburg it thereby made him amenable, and so satisfied the law. Lord Kilwarden, a most humane judge, ruled that Tandy should be discharged.[218] But their triumph was short-lived. Tandy was transferred to Lifford, Donegal, previous to being tried in the district where two years before he had made a hostile descent from France. In Lifford gaol Tandy lay for seven months, during which time great efforts were made to ensure the conviction of so formidable a character; and April 7, 1801, was at last fixed for his trial. Several applications to postpone it were refused by the court, and divers law arguments and objections overruled.

The compact with Turner that he should never be asked to brave public odium by appearing as an approver, was of course respected; but it would seem that he was now brought over to Ireland for the purpose of assisting the law officers in their difficult and delicate task. That the quondam spy at Hamburg was in Ireland at this very time, though soon after he is back again in Hamburg, can be shown. The Registry of Deeds Office, Dublin, records that on February 25, 1801, Samuel Turner, vaguely described as ‘of the United Kingdom of Great Britain,’ executed to George Lysaght a conveyance of lands in Clare. In society he was well trusted, unless by a few who kept their thoughts to themselves; and at this same time also he became the trustee of the marriage settlement of John Wolcot[219] and Dorothy Mary Lyons. One can hardly realise this man, whose more fitting post would be a funeral feast, presiding at a bridal breakfast and wishing joy and long life to his friends. His trip to Ireland ‘killed two birds with one stone,’ for the Book of Secret Service Money expenditure reveals that on July 8, 1801, 71l. 13s. 3d. is paid ‘per Mr. Turner to Chapman in Cork for one year and eleven weeks, at one guinea.’ Chapman I suspect to have been a minor agent employed by Turner to ferret out evidence against Morres and the Corbets (both Cork men), and in connection with the prosecution of Tandy.[220] The ‘one year and eleven weeks’ would cover the time that Tandy and his companions, after their removal from Hamburg, lay in an Irish gaol awaiting their trial.

Tandy, finding the evidence against him overwhelming, admitted the accuracy of the indictment, and was sentenced to die on the fourth of the ensuing May. In this course he was doubtless influenced by his son, with whom, as will be seen, McNally, the debauched legal adviser of the rebels, could do what he liked.[221] Meanwhile Napoleon, on his return from Egypt, claimed him as a French general, and held an English prisoner of equal rank a hostage for his safety. It was now not so clear that Pitt had a legal claim to the life of a man who wore the uniform of a French officer, and had come into his hands under circumstances the most peculiar.

As regards Blackwell, the fellow-prisoner of Tandy, Portland, writing to Cornwallis, speaks of having been importuned by Mrs. Blackwell’s family, whom he describes as ‘of considerable influence in Somersetshire,’ and imagines that ‘there is no intention of inflicting any punishment on Mr. Blackwell.'[222] Soon after we find Blackwell[223] discharged, but, unlike Morres, he proudly refused to give bail. Morres after an imprisonment of more than three years regained his liberty on December 10, 1801. Tandy, less fortunate, was removed to Wicklow gaol, and his son asserts that while there the French minister in London signified that Buonaparte had sent directions to his brother Joseph not to sign the treaty of peace ‘at Amiens’ till Tandy was restored. M. Otto had in fact, as Bourrienne states,[224] previously negotiated with Lord Hawkesbury for his release. Mr. Froude says that ‘Tandy was spared as too contemptible to be worth punishing.'[225] This hardly conveys a true idea of the facts. A pardon was at last made out for him on condition of banishment to Botany Bay. To this proviso his son demurred; but, as Mr. Marsden, the Under Secretary at Dublin Castle, assured him, ‘all that was required was merely the name of transportation, in order to strike terror into others; and that he would pledge his honour, if he acquiesced, that his father should be landed wherever he pleased, that it might appear to the world as if he made his escape at sea.'[226]

Tandy arrived at Bordeaux on March 14, 1802. Bonaparte’s treaty with England was signed on the 27th of the same month. Military honours hailed Tandy. Bordeaux was illuminated, and he was promoted to the rank of a general of division. But in the midst of this jubilee the old rebel read with horror a speech of Pelham’s in Parliament stating that ‘Tandy owed his life to the useful information and discoveries he had given to the British Government.’ He addressed a letter to Pelham, now a peer, branding the statement as mean, audacious, and false. ‘This may appear uncouth language to a courtly ear,’ he added; ‘but it is the voice of truth. I never had any connection or correspondence with your Government, and if I had, they knew my character too well to attempt to tamper with me. Had you contented yourself with saying, “there were particular circumstances in my case,” you would have adhered to the truth, for you know the whole, though you have let out only a part!’ Tandy thus concluded: ‘I am, my Lord, with the same sentiments which I have uniformly cherished and supported, a friend to universal benevolence, and an enemy to those only who raise their fortunes on their country’s ruin!’

Pelham probably confounded Napper Tandy with James Tandy, from whom information had been given to his confidant, McNally, and by ‘Mac’ conveyed to Dublin Castle. Napper told his son all, not thinking it would transpire. His feelings had been roused by the imputation, and in a letter to the ‘Argus’ he gave them fuller vent. ‘Had discoveries been proposed to me, I should have rejected, with scorn and indignation, a baseness which my soul abhorred…. I had made up my mind for death in a cause which no mode of execution could stamp disgrace upon. It would have been death in the cause of freedom and of my country–a cause which would have converted the scaffold into an altar, the sufferer into a victim!’

Mr. Elliot, who, I think, afterwards succeeded his brother as Lord St. Germans, echoed in Parliament the taunt cast by Pelham, and spoke of ‘Tandy’s ignorance and insignificant birth.'[227] Tandy, addressing Elliot, said:–

The illiberal attack which you have made upon me in your speech of the 24th of November last, in the British House of Commons, is the cause of my troubling you with this. My ‘ignorance and insignificance,’ which you have painted in such glowing colours, ought, with a man of sense, to have been my protection; but you have proved yourself as deficient in this, as in point of good manners, which is the true criterion of a gentleman.

You cannot, sir, but know (for you pretend to be a man of information) that I hold a high rank in the army of this great and generous nation, which places me upon a footing with the proudest peer of your island. You know, also, that the honour of a soldier is dearer to him than life; yet, with these facts before you, you have dared to traduce my character, and have attempted to affix a stigma to my name which nothing can now wipe out but the blood of one of us. A French officer must not be insulted with impunity, and you, as well as the country which gave me birth, and that which has adopted me, shall find that I will preserve the honour of my station. I, therefore, demand of you to name some town on the Continent where you will be found, accompanied by your friend and your pistols–giving me sufficient time to leave this, and arrive at the place appointed.

NAPPER TANDY, General of Division.

Bourdeaux, December 12, 1802.

Eight weeks elapsed. Elliot failed to reply, and Tandy, in accordance with the fashion of the day, proclaimed him ‘a calumniator, a liar, and a poltroon!’ This fierce climax was preceded by a more temperate tone.

The question in debate [he said, when Elliot assailed him] was for laying a tax on Great Britain, in which I, as a French citizen, could not possibly be implicated, and, therefore, it is evident that I was wantonly dragged in for the sole purpose of calumny and abuse. Such conduct was unmanly, as no brave man would attack a defenceless person, much less an absent one.

Ignorant of the source to which his betrayal was due, it did not occur to Tandy that the speeches of Elliot and others may have aimed at diverting suspicion from their real informant. Tandy, in reply, advanced merely the suspicion that the charge of being an informer was fulminated to excite the jealousy and disgust of his adopted country France, which, unlike America, had opened her arms to afford him protection.[228]

The wearing worry of Tandy’s later life had sapped his strength, and left him sensitively open to hostile shafts, which his conduct provoked. His vanity was commensurate with his patriotism, and in his stoutest day was easily wounded. He gradually sank, and died at Bordeaux in 1803. ‘His private character,’ writes Barrington, ‘furnished no ground to doubt the integrity of his public one.’ He died, as he had lived, a staunch Protestant.[229]

Much has been written of the wonderful escape from Kilmainham Gaol of Corbet, afterwards a general in the French service, and one of the prisoners captured with Tandy at Hamburg, and thence removed to Dublin. Miss Edgeworth was so much struck by this romantic escape, that she made it the leading incident of her best novel. But, considering the subtle international difficulties that had arisen, and with the suggestion of Under-Secretary Marsden before us, it is a question how far Corbet’s escape may not have been connived at by Castlereagh.

The sermon which Napoleon preached to the Hamburg deputies on their infringement of the law of nations was in the mouths of his admirers for years after; but it lost in impressiveness by his own violation of the neutral territory of Baden, when, on the night of March 17, 1804, he sent a strong guard to seize and carry off to France the Duc d’Enghien. After a hasty trial by court-martial, and on unproven charges of conspiracy, he was cruelly put to death in the Castle of Vincennes. In the heated discussions to which this outrage gave rise, Buonaparte more than once quoted the case of Tandy, and feebly sought to find in the past conduct of Hamburg a precedent and justification.

Thomas Addis Emmet accused him of coldness and indecision as regards the long threatened invasion of Ireland, because, instead of steering for Erin in 1798, he changed his plan and went to Egypt. The arrest of Tandy in Hamburg rekindled Napoleon’s hostile feeling, and shortly after the death of that general he resolved to carry out comprehensively his oft-mooted design.

The ‘Correspondence of Napoleon'[230] contains a letter to Berthier, dated September 27, 1804. He says that an expedition to Ireland had been decided upon; that 18,000 men for that purpose were ready at Brest; that a simultaneous landing was to be attempted in Kent; while in Ireland the French army would march straight on Dublin. Meanwhile 200,000 men were encamped at Boulogne; but hostile plans collapsed with the smash of the French fleet at Trafalgar. A few weeks later the so-called ‘Army of England’ traversed the banks of the blue Danube instead of the Thames. General Mack capitulated at Ulm; Francis of Austria fled, and Napoleon’s legions entered Vienna.


[190] The words of the French writer will be found at p. 78, infra.

[191] The London Courier of September 14, 1799, displays the following translation of a letter addressed to a Paris journal: ‘Citizens,–The Redacteur has said, and many other Journalists have repeated it, that Napper Tandy had been given up by the Senate of Hamburg. I declare to you, Citizens, that not a word is said of this in any letters received in any of the Banking houses in Paris, nor in those which I myself have received. I hasten to give you this information, because the Public ought never to be deceived.

(Signed) ‘DANIEL C. MEYER, ‘Consul General from Hamburgh.’

[192] Castlereagh Papers, i. 405. The letter, of which this is a bit, was written by a spy who contrived to accompany Tandy as a sort of aide-de-camp, and was on board the ‘Anacreon’ during the voyage. Wickham divulges merely his initial, ‘O,’ but the reader will find his name and career successfully traced in the Appendix.

[193] Cox’s Irish Magazine, January 1809, pp. 32-4.

[194] It will be shown, later on, that an Irish spy named ‘Durnin’ resided at Hamburg.

[195] See letter to Talleyrand, ante, p. 27. Some persons supposed that because Duckett lived at Hamburg like Turner, he used that great gangway to France for espionage. In the Castlereagh Papers (ii. 6) Duckett is described as ‘Secretary to Léonard Bourdon.’ Bourdon is noticed in the Nouvelle Biog. Génèrale, was ‘l’agent du Directoire à Hambourg, d’où il fit partir les émigrés.’

[196] Sir James Crawford, British minister at Hamburg from 1798 to 1803. Crawford afterwards filled a similar post at Copenhagen, where Reynolds, the Kildare informer, is also found acting as British consul. Reynolds’s betrayals were long subsequent to those of Turner, and of a wholly different sort. His evidence was given in court publicly. The editor of the Cornwallis Papers states that Crawford died on July 9, 1839; but Mr. Ross confounds him with an utterly different man. The Black Book, published in 1820, records (p. 31) a pension of 1000l. ‘continued to the family of Sir James Crawford, late minister at Copenhagen, dead.’ The ‘most exhaustive’ works of biographical reference omit Sir James Crawford, a remarkable man, and one who played an important part in European history; and a letter of mine in Notes and Queries, asking for facts about him, failed to elicit a reply.

[197] Infra, p. 79.

[198] Castlereagh Papers, i. 306-9.

[199] Why Tone’s Diary, as published, does not once name Turner, may be due to the uncertainty as to whether Turner was alive in 1826, and perhaps Tone’s son, from motives of prudence, cut out some allusions to him. Tone died in a Dublin prison on November 19, 1798, three days before the arrest of Tandy. Tone and Turner were closely associated in their studies, distinctions, and political pursuits. Turner entered Trinity College, Dublin, on July 2, 1780; Tone entered on February 19, 1780. Turner was called to the Bar in 1788; Tone in 1789.

[200] Muir’s trial took place on August 30, 1793. He was transported to New South Wales, from which he escaped by American agency. After a series of great sufferings he arrived at Paris in February 1798, but died on September 27 that year from the effect of the hardships he had endured. The papers of the Home Office show that in 1793 Muir came to Dublin to confer with the United Irishmen, and on January 11 in that year was elected one of the brotherhood. Vide also Life of Thomas Muir, Advocate, by P. Mackenzie (Simpkin, 1831).

[201] Ante, pp. 25-9.

[202] A man whom he found in consultation with Joubert, planning the invasion of Ireland with a map of it before them, he describes in this and subsequent letters as O’Herne. Students of the Castlereagh Papers have been unable to identify this man; but it is clear that the O’Herne who figures in them was no other than Ahearne, so often mentioned by Tone in his Diary. The letter to Wickham mentions General Daendels as a co-conspirator with O’Herne. In Tone’s Diary we read (p. 460): ‘Received a letter from General Daendels, desiring me to send on Aherne to him, without loss of time, to be employed on a secret mission.’

[203] The writer mentions his election in Tandy’s place as proof of his unsleeping vigilance and increased power to betray. Portland, instead of seeing that the man thus ready to take a false oath would not scruple to say anything, was so struck by the importance of the letter that he sent a copy of it to Dublin for the guidance of Lord Castlereagh. Here was a man, as Curran once said of an approver, ‘willing to steep the Evangelists in blood.’ Turner, in a previous letter (ante, p. 28), glibly writes: ‘I attest the business on oath.’

[204] Vide ante, p. 68 et seq.

[205] Harvey Morres, of the ennobled family of Frankfort (b. 1767), had been in the Austrian service previous to joining the Irish rebellion; married, in 1802, the widow of Dr. Esmonde who was hanged in ’98. He subsequently gained the rank of a French colonel, and died in 1839.

[206] Castlereagh Papers, ii. 96.

[207] Ibid. i. 405.

[208] Tandy had borne a part in every Irish national movement from November 1783, when the Volunteer Convention met. He was a most determined man and a firm believer in artillery, a brigade of which he commanded in Dublin, with the words ‘Free Trade or —-‘ inscribed on the breeches of the guns. The procession of Volunteer delegates from the Royal Exchange to the Rotunda was announced by the discharge of twenty-one cannon.

[209] It is doubtful whether the supper formed part of the plan for the arrest. All arrangements with that design had been already organised. In vino veritas; and the effect of the supper was, of course, an increased knowledge and command of the conspiracy, with proportionate profit to the spy. For such suppers he had a special gusto. ‘I supped last night with Valence, who mentioned having introduced Lord Edward, &c., &c.’ See letter to Lord Downshire, p. 4 ante.

[210] See Carhampton’s command to Turner, when at Newry, to remove his green neckcloth, p. 11, ante. Reinhard, writing to De la Croix, says that these ‘imprudences’ compelled Turner to leave Ireland.

[211] These are his words: ‘Pauvre de forme et bien simple de style, mais d’une puissance d’autant plus entraînante, surtout sous le charme d’une voix qui jetait toute l’intensité de la passion Anglaise dans les accens de douleur et de colère, toujours un peu vagues et flottans, de la fantaisie celtique. L’air et les paroles ne me sortaient point de l’oreille; et, comme toute impression d’ensemble se concentre toujours sur un détail unique, il y avait surtout une strophe étrange qui me hantait.’

[212] The London Post-Office Directory, eighty years ago and later, gave the names of those only who were engaged in trade. But Holden’s Triennial Directory for 1808 includes the name ‘Samuel Turner, Esq. 21, Upper Wimpole Street.’ The name disappears from the Dublin Directory about the same time.

[213] The Conduct of the Senate at Hamburg revealed, by William Corbet (Paris, 1807). The number of copies privately printed was small; the pamphlet is very scarce, and obtains no place in the Halliday Collection, R.I.A.

[214] Corbet’s Narrative. (Paris, 1807.) General Corbet did not live to see the day when the recovery of such treasure was regarded as feasible. In 1889 appeared the prospectus of the Aboukir Bay Company for recovering the treasure sunk in the ‘L’Orient,’ destroyed by Nelson at the Nile.

[215] Ibid.

[216] File in possession of the writer. The British Museum, so rich in other respects, does not embrace the Courier for 1798-9.

[217] Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 94-6.

[218] Howell’s State Trials, xxvii. 1194-1243.

[219] John Wolcot is a rare name. All have heard of John Wolcot, well known as ‘Peter Pindar,’ the merciless assailant of George the Third.

[220] The intercepted memorial from Morres to the French Government, preserved in the Castlereagh Papers (ii. 96), urges: ‘In case of future attempts on Ireland on the part of France, the province of Munster, which abounds in good havens, and whose men are the best republicans in Ireland, is the point to be looked to.’ The capture of Cork is proposed, i. 295.

[221] See Appendix, ‘James Tandy.’

[222] Cornwallis Papers, iii. 284.

[223] See memoir of Blackwell in Cox’s Irish Magazine of Neglected Biography for 1811, p. 32.

[224] Life of Napoleon.

[225] English in Ireland, iii. 488.

[226] Appeal to the Public, by James Tandy (Dublin, 1807), p. 108, 2nd ed. Halliday Pamphlets, vol. 915, R.I.A.

[227] This is probably the same Mr. Elliot (see ante, p. 77) who states that instructions had been sent to have Tandy arrested on the neutral ground of Hamburg. Elliot, who applied the term ‘insignificant’ to Tandy, must have read the informer’s letter (since published in the Castlereagh Papers, pp. 405-9), where Tandy is described, among other contemptuous epithets, as ‘insignificant’! Elliot is styled in the Castlereagh Papers, ‘Military Secretary to Lord Cornwallis, the Viceroy.’ ‘Cornwallis Elliot’ is a favourite name in the St. Germans family. Tandy addresses his assailant merely as ‘Mr. Elliot.’ The Elliots formed a powerful diplomatic coterie.

[228] Elliot, writing to Lord Castlereagh, says: ‘The Americans absolutely refuse to admit the Irish traitors into their territories’ (Castlereagh Papers, i. 405, 411, 413, 415, 421). This is the letter which refers to the contemplated arrest of Tandy at the Hague, and in it he further says: ‘I have begged Pelham to come to London immediately.’ Succeeding letters describe Elliot and Pelham closeted together at various places.

[229] The Society of United Irishmen had no treasonable design when first formed, as the following letter admitting the O’Conor Don would almost in itself convey.

Tandy writes to Charles O’Connor from Dublin, December 8, 1791:–

‘Sir,–I have to acknowledge the favour of your very polite letter, and to assure you that I had particular pleasure in seconding the motion for the admission of Mr. O’Conor into the Society of United Irishmen–and that no exertion of mine shall be wanting to compleat the emancipation of my country, give her a free and general representation, and render to every man what I conceive to be his just and undoubted rights, security for his liberty and property, and a participation in the blessings of that land where Nature has placed him.

(O’Conor Don MSS.) Parliamentary Reform and Catholic Emancipation were the two objects sought; and it was only when both demands had been spurned by the Irish Parliament that the organisation drifted into deeper plans. Some recollections of Tandy’s expedition to Ireland will be found in the Appendix.

[230] Bingham’s Correspondence of Napoleon, ii. 96. (Chapman and Hall, 1884.)

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