Palermo, March 30th, 1800.
MY DEAR SIR WILLIAM,
As, from the orders I have given, to all the ships under my command, to arrest and bring into port all the vessels and troops returning by convention with the Porte to France—and as the Russian ships have similar orders—I must request that your Excellency will endeavour to arrange with the government of this country, how in the first instance they are to be treated and received in the ports of the Two Sicilies: for, it is obvious, I can do nothing more than bring them into port; and, if they are kept on board ship, the fever will make such ravages as to be little short of the plague.
It is a very serious consideration for this country, either to receive them, or let them pass; when they would invade, probably, these kingdoms. In my present situation in the King’s fleet, I have only to obey; had I been, as before, in the command, I should have gone one short and direct road to avert this great evil: viz. to have sent a letter to the French, and the Grand Vizir, in Egypt, that I would not, on any consideration, permit a single Frenchman to leave Egypt—and I would do it at the risk of even creating a coldness, for the moment, with the Turks.
Of two evils, choose the least; and nothing can be so horrid, as permitting that horde of thieves to return to Europe.
If all the wise heads had left them to God Almighty, after the bridge was broke, all would have ended well! For I differ entirely with my Commander in Chief, in wishing they were permitted to return to France; and, likewise, with Lord Elgin, in the great importance of removing them from Egypt. No; there they should perish! has ever been the firm determination of your Excellency’s most obedient and faithful servant,
BRONTE NELSON OF
Palermo, April 10th, 1800.
MY DEAR SIR WILLIAM,
Reports are brought to me, that the Spanish ships of war in this port are preparing to put to sea; a circumstance which must be productive of very unpleasant consequences, to both England and this country.
It is fully known, with what exactness I have adhered to the neutrality of this port; for, upon our arrival here, from Naples, in December 1798, from the conduct of his Catholic Majesty’s minister, I should have been fully justified in seizing those ships.
We know, that one object of the Spanish fleet, combined with the French, was to wrest entirely from the hands of his Sicilian Majesty his kingdoms of the Two Sicilies.
The Spaniards are, by bad councils, the tools of the French; and, of course, the bitter enemy of his Sicilian Majesty and family.
The conduct I have pursued towards these ships, circumstanced as they are, has been moderate, and truly considerate towards his Sicilian Majesty.