Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum

Re: How to deal with mutiny

Don Seltzer

Nelson was extremely enthusiastic in his support for the quick executions.  At the time he wrote:

Theseus, July 9,1797.

 My dear Sir, In the first place, I congratulate you on the finish,
as it ought, of the St. George's business," and I (if I may be permitted to say so) very much approve of its being so speedily carried into execution, even although it is Sunday. The particular situation of the service requires extraordinary measures. I hope this will end all the disorders in our Fleet: had there been the same determined spirit at home, I do not believe it would have been half so bad, not but that I think Lord Howe's sending back the first petition was wrong.

Yours most affectionately and gratefully,


On the same day, he also wrote to Jervis' captain, Sir Robert Calder:

My dear Sir,
 I am sorry that you should have to differ with [Vice- Admiral
Thompson] but had it been Christmas Day instead of Sunday, I would have executed them. We know not what might have been hatched by a Sunday's grog: now your discipline is safe. I talked to our people, and, I hope, with good effect: indeed, they seem a very quiet set.

Ever your most faithful,


On Wed Jan 18, Chrístõ wrote
>... When two men were convicted of mutiny one Saturday, he had them hung (sic) the next morning, despite one admiral protesting that he was profaning the Sabbath; St Vincent had him recalled. When the men of HMS Marlborough refused to hang a mutineer, St Vincent sent armed boats to surround the ship and prepare to fire; the Marl­borough's men hauled their shipmate up to meet his maker at the end of the yard arm.

>The ferocity of Jervis's discipline was carefully calculated to meet the demands of the moment: Britain was facing an ideological as well as a military threat, and those who spread sub­version and indiscipline were a fundamental threat to the state. Even Nelson, who took a far more modern view of his men, backed the admiral on this occasion . . ‘

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