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The "Rigid Neutrality" of the British Government in this war is one of the phrases which will live in history. It means, practically, omitting no opportunity to assist each party to horn the other.

In the memorable combat of Paul Jones between the American frigate Bonhomme Richard and the British frigate Serapis, there was an illustration of "rigid neutrality" not often witnessed in naval actions. The reports of that desperate fight, subsequently given by both the American and British commanders, complain bitterly of the damage each suffered from the frigate Alliance, commanded by a Frenchman, Captain Landais, who professed to be serving under the American flag. Captain Jones states in his report that, at a most critical period of the action, when both ships were on fire, his own said to be sinking, and nearly five hundred English prisoners aboard let loose, the Alliance appeared, and he now thought the battle at an end, but to his utter astonishment the Alliance discharged a broadside full into the stern of the Bonhomme Richard. Jones called to him, for Heaven's sake, to forbear firing into that frigate; yet he passed along the off side of the ship and continued blazing away. There was no possibility, says Jones, of his mistaking the enemy's ship for the Richard, there being the most essential difference in their appearance and construction; besides, it was then full moonlight, and, for greater security, Jones had showed the signal of his reconnaissance by putting out three lanterns--one at the bow, another at the quarter, and the third in the middle, in a horizontal line. Every tongue cried that he was firing at the wrong ship; but nothing availed, he passed round, firing into the Richard, head, stern and broadside, killing several of the best men, and delivering various shots under water, with the view of sinking the vessel. All Jones's officers concur with their commander in his statement of the conduct of the Alliance. If now we turn to the report of the British commander (Captain Person) of the Serapis, we find him stating that he fought Jones, with the muzzles of the guns in the two ships touching each other, from half-past 8 till half-past 10 P. M., during which time, from the great quantity and variety of combustible matter which Jones threw in upon his decks, chains, and, in short, into every part of the ship, the Serapis was on fire no less than ten or twelve times in different parts of the vessel. "At the same time, the largest of the two frigates kept sailing round us the whole action, and raking us fore and aft, by which means she killed or wounded almost every man on the quarter and gun decks." This large frigate, which distributed her favors with such handsome equality between the two combatants, was none other than the Alliance, commanded by the worthy Frenchman, Captain Landais, whose object seems to have been, by allowing the two vessels, in their close encounter, so to disable each other that, keeping the Alliance uninjured, in the event of the Richard's striking her colors, Captain Landais might make prizes of both ships, and return to France with great glory.

The "rigid neutrality" of the British Government is of a piece with the naval tactics of Captain Landais. First it assists one belligerent, then the other; pours a broadside into the Confederates, and then rakes the Federal; the object being the same: to disable both, and to build up its own fortunes on their common ruin.

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