Here, we hear some voices ask, what right we have to make known to the government, men who are, perhaps, guilty, but whom their places, and their rank, entitle to more respect. They are ready to make it a crime in us, that we have dared to say, that officers of the marine had abandoned us. But what interest, we ask, in our turn, should cause a fatal indulgence to be claimed for those, who have failed in their duties; while the destruction of a hundred and fifty wretches, left to the most cruel fate, scarcely excited a murmur of disapprobation? Are we still in those times, when men and things were sacrificed to the caprices of favour? Are the resources and the dignities of the State, still the exclusive patrimony of a privileged class? and are there other titles to places and honours, besides merit and talents?
Let us venture to advance another truth, a truth useful to the Minister himself. There exists among the officers of the Marine, an intractable esprit de corps, a pretended point of honour, equally false and arrogant, which leads them to consider as an insult to the whole navy, the discovery of one guilty individual. This inadmissible principle, which is useful only to insignificance, to intrigue, to people the least worthy to call on the name of honour, has the most ruinous consequences for the State, and the public service. By this, incapacity and baseness are always covered with a guilty veil, which they dare to attempt to render sacred; by this, the favours of government are bestowed at random, upon persons, who impose upon it the strange obligation of being perpetually in the dark respecting them. Under the protection of this obligation of officious silence, hitherto seconded by the slavery of the press, men without talents survive every revolution, exhibit in every antichamber their privileged incapacity, and braving public opinion, even that of their comrades, who are the first victims of a foolish and arrogant prejudice, which deceives them, shew themselves more eager to monopolise favours and honours, in proportion as they are less able to render themselves worthy of them.
We shall believe that we have deserved well of our government, if our faithful narrative can make it sensible how much its confidence is abused. Just, besides, and not animated by passion, it is with real pleasure that we shall make those known, who, by their conduct in our shipwreck, have acquired a right to general esteem. Others will doubtless complain of the severity of our accusing language; but honest men will grant us their approbation. If we hear it said, that our frankness may have been useful to our country, this success will be, at once, our justification and our recompence.
We have questioned, concerning the nautical details, several gentlemen of the navy who were on board; we confess, however, that on comparing their accounts, we have observed that they did not always entirely agree; but we have taken those facts which had the most witnesses in their favour. We shall be sometimes obliged to record cruel truths; they will, however, be directed only to those, whose unskilfulness, or pusillanimity have caused these dreadful events. We venture to affirm, that the numerous observations, which we have collected, will give to our work all the accuracy rigorously required in so interesting a narrative.