previous next
[236] to his guardianship to be displaced by the black bunting of the pirate. It is a duty, than which none lies nearer the heart of a faithful commander, to preserve his ship sacred for his country; that no flag may float from its masthead but the ensign of the Republic; that its sleeping thunder may never be awakened, except in the cause of right. . . .

The judgment of the court-martial, by which Commander Mackenzie was honorably acquitted1 of the charges and specifications against him, stands on the immovable foundations of law. But we should not convey our strong convictions of its justice, if we did not add our opinion that it cannot fail to be ratified by every unprejudiced mind. Through the confusion and obscurity which prejudice and ardent discussion have thrown over this subject, this judgment will appear, like the country's flag, revealed in the smoke of battle. Does any one in his heart believe that the commander was not justified by the circumstances in which he was placed? Who would have asked him, with the history of former mutinies in his memory, to brave the dangers of delay for yet another hour? Let such person, if such there be, picture to himself the possible fate of the commander, before the sun had gone down on the first day of his irresolution. The officers, weary with watching, are sprung upon by the crew fresh from undisturbed repose. Perhaps they are thrown into the sea, which closes over their uncoffined bodies; perhaps, in an open boat, with a few biscuit and a single jar of water, they are set adrift, and at last, through various vicissitudes,—worn with suffering, with nothing left to sustain them but hope,—arrive in their country to tell their melancholy story. Meanwhile, the swiftest ship of the navy, from its armaments and its build apt at once for attack and escape, has fallen into the hands of a pirate. Like a baleful meteor, it shoots over the troubled ocean, with unwonted fears perplexing the navigation of the world. It arrests the commerce of the country, floating on every sea. It fastens upon one of those stately ships,—those “pageants of the sea,” —laden with costly merchandise; and the gallant vessel, gay with the presence of the beautiful and cherished of the land, bearing to foreign shores wives in the fresh morning of a husband's love, and maidens the light and joy of happy household hearths; or homeward bound, with long-expected travellers, who have garnered up the rich harvest of learning, and science, and art among the ancient scenes of Europe,—becomes the pirate's prey. When these tidings reach home, where shall the commander of the ‘Somers’ hide his head? To him the country will call for the ship once intrusted to his charge, with stringer feeling than was implied even in those words of anguish wrung from the Roman emperor,— “Varus, restore my legions!” Honor, then, to the commander for the courage and promptitude he displayed, and the service he has rendered to his country! He has done more than gain a battle, and deserves more than the homage of admiration and gratitude with which we greet the victor returning from successful war. We thank him, and the country thanks him, that he did not hesitate; that, just and firm of purpose,

1 The judgment hardly went beyond a mere acquittal. See note in the North American Review for Oct. 1843; Vol. LVII. p. 512,—to the insertion of which Sumner is said to have consented.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Varus (1)
George Sumner (1)
Somers (1)
Alexander Slidell Mackenzie (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
October, 1843 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: