consented to wait indefinitely for the co-operation of Spain
After being swept into war for the independence of America
, they subjected the conduct of that war to the power in Europe
which was the most inveterate enemy to that independence.
Their favorable chances at the beginning of the war were thrown away; their channel fleet lay idle in the harbor of Brest
; British ships, laden with rich cargoes from all parts of the world, returned home unmolested; and the dilatory British admiralty gained unexpected time for preparation.
All this while British armed vessels preyed upon the commerce of France
To ascertain the strength of the fleet at Brest
, a British fleet of twenty ships of the line put to sea under Admiral Keppel
, so well known to posterity by the pencil of Reynolds
and the prose of Burke
On the seventeenth of June,
meeting two French frigates near the island of Ouessant, Keppel
gave orders that they should bring to. They refused.
One of them, being fired into, discharged its broadside and then lowered its flag; the other, the ‘Belle Poule
,’ repelled the pursuit of the ‘Arethusa
,’ and escaped.
The French government, no longer able to remain inactive, authorized the capture of British merchantmen; and early in July its great fleet sailed out of Brest
After returning to Portsmouth
put to sea once more.
On the twenty-seventh, the two
admirals, each having thirty men-of-war in three divisions, and each professing the determination to fight a decisive battle, met off Ouessant.
D'Orvilliers was better fitted for a monastery than the quarterdeck; and the British
admiral wanted ability for so