25lb of Tea

Little did we, in our joyful anticipation of soon once more revisiting our native land, and of once more seeing out friends and relations, expect the appearance of a storm which was to spread havoc and desolation over our fairest prospect. I speak metaphorically. I mean by a storm not a commotion of nature – but a moral tempest, or in other words an overwhelming misfortune.

I will venture to say that when we entered Falmouth Harbour it was with feelings of unmingled joy, undampened by a fancied fear of coming events which sometimes cast their shadow before. Not a suspicion existed in our minds that any thing was amiss with regard to us, and in this circumstance we had a proof, how wisely the Almighty Creator of the universe has concealed the future within an impenetrable veil, thereby enabling us, in our ignorance, to enjoy the passing good, instead of rendering the blessings of the present a curse, as would be the case, could we see into futurity.

Not long did we remain in blissful security. The very day I landed, I heard the ill-omened sounds of some impending evil. It was whispered that our Commander had been called to account for some smuggling transaction, which had taken place on our return from the Leeward Island voyage, and it was said to be likely that the Packet would be put out of commission. The lapse of a few days fully proved that the report was true – but still the result was uncertain. The first circumstance which tended to create alarm was the arrival of an order from head quarters, to prevent the Old Duke from taking her Mail, which she was to have done, to Halifax, a fortnight after she came into Harbour. This looked very suspicious. But still nothing was known for certain, and I did not like, from a feeling of delicacy, to ask our Captain about the matter. At last on the Wednesday, after the packet should have sailed, I was sent for to M.r Snell, who had been attacked with Gout in the Stomach. I made all haste but found him very ill indeed. He continued in a very precarious state, from 11 a.m. to midnight. Every means were tried to determine the Gout from the Stomach to the extremities – but for a long time without effect. At last when the feet became very sore, from the Cataplasms, the stomach was partially relieved – but we were compelled to administer almost a drachm of laudanum to preserve relief in sleep. Now M.r Snell had been under my care for the same complaint four or five times previously – and then the usual remedies were attended with speedy success. In this instance, however, they were useless – nor was it difficult to imagine the cause. In the first cases indigestion had excited the Stomachic Gout – but in this the mind was the agent, & as we could not minister to a mind diseased, our mere attempt to relief the bodily symptoms was unavailing. Fortunately by next morning, the Captain awoke free from the Gout in the Prince of Organs, and we were rather glad than otherwise, that it showed itself in a very lively form in the inferior extremities.

During my attendance upon M.r Snell I learned that immediately on his arrival he had received a letter from the Admiralty calling upon him to explain how 25 lbs of tea had been concealed in his vessel without his finding it out. To this in reply the Captain professed total ignorance of the transaction. By return of post another letter came down, saying that their Lordships were not satisfied with his explanation, & imperatively requiring some explicit explanation of him. What could M.r Snell do. He again professed his ignorance. Now I, and indeed all of us were but of one opinion viz. that M.r Snell was perfectly innocent and ignorant that there had been any smuggling at all. None one [sic] on board had ever heard the charge before our arrival this time, and we were five weeks in harbour after it had happened without any thing being said about it, and we had gone to sea on another voyage. That such a seizure had been made was true, but neither I nor the Captain knew anything more of its being made. The regular practice, when such goods are seized [was] to seize the ship also by applying the broad arrow in conspicuous places – But this had not been [done] by the Custom House officers & one therefore thought all was right. The explanation of this apparent anomaly was alas too easily given. At the time of the seizure M.r Hocking the sitter in the Boat, of course seized the tea, but considered the quantity as too trifling to justify him in seizing the vessel – and consequently told the Master to report the ship all clear to the captain, who made his report accordingly to the Admiralty. If the matter had rested alone with the Customs all would have gone on well – but unfortunately it was then the custom to hand over the excisable articles to the Excise, which was done in this case. Now at Falmouth there exists a great jealousy between these two services – and the Excise seized hold of this as a handle to annoy the Customs. They wrote to their own board stating that the Customs had not as in duty bound made capture of that packet. The Commissioners of the Board of Excise wrote for explanation from their brethren of the Board of Customs. These again wrote for information to their subordinates & the consequence was that M.r Hocking nearly lost his situation and the case was transmitted to the Admiralty, who as we [have seen] wrote to our Captain.

In answer to M.r Snell’s second letter, an order came down to put the packet out of commission for smuggling. Meantime as a justification of himself M.r Snell endeavoured to find out who were the guilty parties – and for that purpose lawyer Tresider came on board to swear the men. Four only would take the oath – one man, the Carpenter, a noble fellow came forward and declared his participation in the transaction but refused to betray the others – but twelve refused to swear on the grounds that it was against their conscience to take an oath. The Captain & all the officers at another time took the oath and signed their names to an affidavit.

An account of all this was dispatched to the Lords of the Admiralty and at the same time a petition was sent up from the Town in behalf of M.r Snell – and to render things more done, a letter was written to the M.P. for the town. All however was in vain – and on 26 May an order was received to reinstate the Packet – but nothing was said of the Commander. On the 1st June word came, that a M.r William James Lieutenant R.N. of S.t Mawes was appointed Commander in the room of M.r Snell. However, Captain King, the Superintendent of the Packets would not deliver his commission to M.r James, until the owners had settled with M.r Snell for the value of the top of the vessel. The arranging of this lasted another week – so that it was till Sunday the 8th June, that M.r James received his Commission, and commenced the full exercise of his functions as Lieut. Commander of H. M. Hired Packet Duke of York.

Unfortunately on that very day M.r Geach our old Master was seized with the severe attack of influenza, which confined him to the home. I say unfortunately because the Ship having to be coppered, & to undergo very material repairs, M.r Geach was unable to attend, it was decided that M.r Geach should be superseded. M.r Pasko an old master in the Navy was appointed in his room. This was a hard case for poor Geach but there was no help for it.

A very few days afterwards M.r Williams our Mate, instead of coming down to his duty at 6 A.M. did not make his appearance till 9 A.M. For this he was discharged & M.r Evenet our old Boatswain was raised to his place. From these changes taking place so rapidly, I was apprehensive that it was the intention of the Com.r to dispense with my services. But my fears were soon quieted on that head. Our Carpenter shipped on board the Flamer steamer [7] – Henry Sandow & Peter James shipped on board a Merchantman & James Lewis was discharged.

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