The conduct of the people on shore was most inhuman; not the slightest assistance was offered; not a single boat from Brixham or Torquay having put out to their assistance during the whole of this dreadful night. To add to this disgraceful conduct, the cowardly wretches were observed, when daylight broke, plundering everything of value as it floated ashore.
The following is the tribute of praise which Captain Hunter so justly pays to Captain Martin and the officers and crew of the Impetueux:—
“To Captain Martin, of the Impetueux, whose feelings as a man, as well as his zeal as an officer, were on this distressing occasion so conspicuous.—It is the desire of the officers and crew of the Venerable in this place to express the high sense they have of the obligations they are under to his personal exertions, as well as those of the officers and boats’ crews whom he employed in this difficult and dangerous service,—for it is to their exertions they owe the life they now enjoy.”
Captain Hunter also speaks of the conduct of his own ship’s company in the highest terms. Their steadiness throughout was most remarkable, and to this, in a great measure, may be attributed the preservation of their own lives.
One solitary instance of neglect of duty occurred; and when we consider the circumstances in which the men were placed, and the temptations which never fail to present themselves on such occasions, the highest praise is not only due to the crew, but also to the captain and officers, who, by their previous conduct, had gained the respect and confidence of those under them. It is in such moments of severe trial that the character of a ship’s company is put to the test; and the good behaviour of the men who remained with their officers proves that, in order to maintain a proper degree of discipline, no undue severity need be practised.
To a comparatively recent period, the captain of a man-of-war had the power of inflicting corporal punishment to an unlimited extent. This practice has of late years much diminished; owing, in a great measure, to the increased good feeling of naval officers, as also to the Admiralty discountenancing such strong measures, unless in most urgent cases. A captain of a man-of-war has, notwithstanding, and very properly so, an almost absolute power, and corporal punishment rests with him alone; but the humane officer, like Captain Hunter, punishes one man to save many others, and shares with the delinquent the pain which, for the sake of example, he is obliged to inflict. The discipline of a ship of course depends almost entirely upon the conduct of the captain; to him the officers look for guidance and example; and whilst they see that the men do their duty properly, they also learn from him to treat them with due consideration, having their happiness and comfort in view. As in the case of the Venerable, when the hour of danger arrives, each cheerfully performs the duties allotted to him, relying with confidence on those who, from their clemency, combined with firmness, they have been accustomed to look up to with respect.