"it is the Wish of My heart to have my Conduct upon all Occasions Sifted to the Bottom" Horatio Nelson
Lot 16
"it is the Wish of My heart to have my Conduct upon all Occasions Sifted to the Bottom"
Horatio Nelson
Sold for £ 12,600 (US$ 16,744) inc. premium

Lot Details
"it is the Wish of My heart to have my Conduct upon all Occasions Sifted to the Bottom"
Horatio Nelson
Autograph letter signed ("Horatio Nelson"), with his right hand, to William Senhouse, Surveyor General, Barbados, writing to him as one who has "feeling for an Officer who has been cruelly persecuted for doing his duty" to inform him that the two American vessels seized by his ship the Boreas have been condemned by the Admiralty Court [on 26 June]; among the matters that Nelson discusses, at considerable length and in considerable detail, are the conduct of the court and Alexander Mallet ("...I hope they will appeal it is the Wish of My heart to have my Conduct upon all Occasions Sifted to the Bottom..."), the claims made by Governor Parry to one third of the prizes, Nelson's own powers as a ship's commander ("...these Vessels I seized by Virtue of the Navigation Act...None had that Right but the Commander of His Majesty's Ships...Much doubt has been stated in these Colonies what powers are invested in Capt of a Man of War. The Crown Lawyer of the Leeward Islands are Clearly of Opinion that His Majesty's Proclamation for Regulating the Trade with the States of America is a full & Legal Authority for All Capts of His Majesty's Ships to Search and Seize all goods which are prohibited by that proclamation..."), the matter of the brigantine Greyhound, the seizure of American papers ("...Since My Arrival here I am happy to find that all American built Vessels which had been Registered either at this Island or St Christophers through Misconstruction of the Law or Registered after condemnation in the Court Admiralty - have had all their registers taken from them..."), the conduct of the Comptroller John Menzies ("...as far as I have seen he is the Most diligent Attentive Officer I have met with..."), the advisability of withdrawing registers ("...I think that or something like it was intended by the Attorney General's Opinion in England that advice not to prosecute them to Condemnation (if no fraud has been practiced -- ) whatever falls short of Condemnation is humane and all the parties can have a right to expect..."), and Senhouse's own co-operation ("...I have taken up very much of your time but I know your readiness to Assist and afford me every Support in the execution of my duty, which is more than I can say for any other Individual in the Islands where I have been Stationed..."), in a postscript sending his future father-in-law Mr Herbert's "Particular Compliments", 5 pages, 4to, integral autograph address leaf, wafer seal, recipient's endorsement, in fine fresh condition, Boreas, Nevis, 29 June 1786


  • Captain Nelson confronts the newly-independent United States of America. Nelson was at this time second in command at the West Indies station. The problem he faced (and one Admiral Hughes, his superior, chose to ignore) was the fact that merchant ships from the newly-independent United States continued to trade in the West Indies as they had done when a British colony, even though the Navigation Acts dictated that all trade with British colonies was to be carried out by British ships, manned largely by British seamen; something the inhabitants of the West Indies were all too happy to go along with. By taking his stand, and going over the head of his immediate superior and even the Admiralty, writing directly to the Secretary of State in London, Nelson made himself very unpopular, or, as he complains in this letter, "cruelly persecuted for doing his duty". The two ships under discussion in the present instant were the brig Jane and Elizabeth, seized on 15 March, which in the words of Nelson's court statement "was an American Vessel, although covered by British Papers" and belonged "to Portsmouth in New England, and was owned by James and William Sheafe, merchants of that place", and the Schooner Brilliant, seized on 17 March, which carried false papers but in fact "belonged to Boston, owned by Paul Sarjent" (Nicolas,Dispatches and Letters, I, 180-81). Nelson's correspondent, William Senhouse (1741-1800), was a prosperous planter who was Surveyor General of Customs of Barbados and the Windward and Leeward Islands from 1770 until 1787, when the post was abolished. The 'Recollections of William Senhouse', a valuable record of the islands before, during and after the American Revolution, is among the Senhouse Papers held by the Carlyle Record Office, a microfilm of which was published under the auspices of the British Association for American Studies. One other letter by Nelson to Senhouse, a brief note, survives and is now in the Clive Richards collection, published by White, New Letters, p.148. This important newly-discovered letter appears to be unpublished, and is not printed either by Nicolas or White; nor included by Geoffrey Rawson in Nelson's Letters from the Leeward Islands (1953). The current owner of the letter is a descendant of the recipient.
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