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I EDINBURGH REVIEW ON JAMES's NAVAL OCCURRENCES, AND
COOPER'S NAVAL HISTORY
ALEXANDER H. EVERETT
THE M.LEOD Question.
the State of New York, in the Case of Alexander M.Leod.
1. Literary Intelligence. 2. American Literary Announcements.
3. English Literary Announcements.
EDINBURGH REVIEW ON JAMES'S NAVAL OCCURREN.
CES, AND COOPER'S NAVAL HISTORY.
The appearance of the last of the two works named in the heading of this article has, in a degree, revived the controversy concerning the nautical claims of the respective belligerents, during the wars between England and America. Agreeably to a species of tactics a good deal practised among our transatlantic relatives, whenever a case affecting national interests or national reputation arises, different portions of the duty of defence have been assigned to different parties—each according to his habits and qualifications. In this particular instance, the scurrilous has been assumed by one of the professional magazines; while the Edinburgh has undertaken the artful and more dignified office of mystifying. As we claim a right to preserve our own self-respect, we shall say nothing to, or of, the former of these assailants of the American book, while we deem the matter sufficiently of national importance to lay a brief reply to the latter before our readers, in an examination of its facts and reasoning. The renown of the navy is a noble portion of the property of the republic; and, as we conceive that this singularly disingenuous and illogical article of the Scottish periodical may have a tendency to cast a doubt over .merit that we hold to be incontrovertible, when fairly considered, we shall depart from the usual practice of the craft, and review a reviewer.
The war of 1812 gave birth to many ephemeral works on the subject of its naval combats. Among others was a book written by a Mr. James, a person who had come to this country just before the commencement of hostilities, to seek his fortune as a veterinary surgeon; a profession which, of itself, offered no very probable qualifications to form a keen nautical critic. Mr. James remained in Philadelphia for some months after the 18th June,
but finally took refuge at Halifax. His peculiar situation had a tendency to sour his feelings, and he gave vent to his disappointments and antipathies in a pamphlet, in which he affected to expose the frauds and deceptions connected with the successes of the American marine. As this was a grateful subject to his countrymen, the success of the pamphlet gave birth to a thick octavo volume, which, in its turn, has been subsequently incorporated with a general and much larger work on the English Naval History. The peculiar felicity discovered by Mr. James in the art of extenuating want of success, and in calumniating America and her naval men, has largely contributed towards rendering him popular at home; and it is no unusual thing for even officers of experience in that country to refer to his pages as furnishing evidence and reasoning that are deemed conclusive; with how much justice, it will presently be our office to expose. The Edinburgh, it is true, admits his want of tone; but it insists on his accuracy, and throughout the whole of its article on the recent work of Mr. Cooper, falls back on the figures, statements, and asseverations of James, for its own authority. As some pretence for this course, the reviewer affects to bring both works under examination, though, after magnanimously admitting that Mr. James is scarcely decent in his treatment of the American officers and American nation, it quietly assumes all his facts, and glorifies all his logic. Whenever he is at variance with Mr. Cooper, he refers to the pages of Mr. James in justification of his own position, coolly assuming that all the figures, measurements, and allegations of the latter are true—for a reason no better, as we can see, than the simple circumstance that his author has been pleased to advance them. In this manner it is easy to maintain any theory, when one has had the precaution to settle his authorities to his own satisfaction. In answer to this, we now propose to show that Mr. James is a writer of so loose a character, as to deserve no respect whatever; and that in all which depends on his own assertions--no small portion of his book, by the way-he is rather to be distrusted than confided in, and that his reasoning is as hollow as his statements are inaccurate. In doing this, our limits compel us to be brief, but we shall look for such cases as, in demonstrating his inaccuracies, will, at the same time, enable us to vindicate some American from his calumnies. Having thus disposed of its great authority, we shall take a rapid review of the merits of the Scottish critic in his individual capacity. This double tribute will compel us to extend our notice to two numbers of the Democratic Review, though we trust the interest of the subject itself will prevent that of the reader from languishing.
On the present occasion, then, our remarks will be confined exclusively to the “Naval Occurrences."
The Edinburgh, probably perceiving the objections that might naturally be urged against the nautical knowledge of the veterinary surgeon, quotes an eulogium of Capt. Chamier on this same person's nautical dexterity, in which the latter defies Capt. Brenton to point out a single instance, “only one nautical error in the whole of James's history; and this is perhaps the most wonderful part of the work,” continues Capt. Chamier; “every word is right, is strictly correct.” It is not in our power to give Capt. Brenton's answer to this defiance, but we intend to give our own. Throughout this article we shall quote from the edition of the Naval Occurrences that was printed at London in 1817.
In speaking of the action between the Wasp and Frolic, Mr. James says, p. 141, “But at that instant, the Frolic's gaff-head braces being shot away, and having no sail upon her main-mast, she became unmanageable," &c. &c. We suppose Capt. Chamier will admit there is no such thing in a ship as "a gaff-head brace.” Mr. James might as well have talked of the carotid artery of a horse's hoof, as to talk of a “gaff-head brace.” Nevertheless, he does speak of it, and attaches important consequences to its loss! The idea of a vessel's reeving a brace to the end of a gaff, and this, too, in heavy weather, is just as absurd to the seaman, as it would be to the naturalist to speak of a squirrel's bearing the burden of the camel. The solution of this blunder is very simple, and it goes at once to prove the truth of Capt. Brenton's remark, and the difficulty of a landsman's writing intelligently of things that are strictly nautical. Capt. Whinyates of the Frolic has a statement similar to this of Mr. James's, in his published official letter, but it is evidently a misprint; it having been his intention to say, “ The gaff and head braces being shot away, the brig became unmanageable," as well she might, having no main-yard. If Capt. Chamier is not satisfied with this proof of absurd igno. rance on the part of his author-of the difference between repeating like a parrot, and of understanding a subject-we can furnish him with a plenty of other instances. But, having thus acci. dentally commenced with the combat between the Wasp and the Frolic, we will inquire further into James's accuracy concerning the incidents of this short and bloody conflict.
The account of the engagement between the Wasp and Frolic commences at p. 139 of the “Naval Occurrences.” It contains the usual jeremiad about invalid seamen and other disabilities on the part of the English ship, with some very pretty exaggerations concerning the equipment of her adversary. “Never was a finer crew seen,” he adds, “than was on board the Wasp. She