NELSON, Horatio, Viscount (1758-1805). Autograph letter signed (‘Nelson’, as Baron Nelson of the Nile) to Sir Sidney Smith and Spencer Smith, ‘His Majesty’s Joint Ministers to the Ottoman Porte’, Palermo, 12 March 1799, 3 pages, 4to (225 x 183mm), on a bifolium, docket, tipped onto an album leaf, with two engraved portraits laid down on a separate leaf. Provenance: from the autograph collection of the diplomat Sir Francis Clare Ford (1828-1899).
Nelson informs the Smith brothers of the arrival at Palermo of Sir Charles Stuart with ‘a respectable force about 2000 men’, as well as a Russian detachment whom he will recommend to go to Naples to ‘tak[e] possession of that Capital an Operation of no difficulty if 12,000 men are the number of Troops, all the Lower orders would immediately Join and all those traitors who could hope for pardon would now be glad to get rid of French fraternization, for they have as usual begun by stripping their friends, upon principles that our good friends must have pleasure in giving, from our Enemies we will take, in short I can say with truth the French and Neapolitans are heartily sick of each other’; Nelson reviews the situation in the remainder of Italy, expressing a hope that the Austrian emperor will march, and concluding ‘[I] am most exceedingly anxious to hear of Bonaparte’s destruction in the East’.
Only three days after this letter Sir Sidney Smith was to reach Acre, simultaneously with Napoleon’s advancing army: his extraordinary contribution to the defence of the city over the next two months was to bring him fame, the thanks of both houses of parliament, and, like Nelson, a chelingk (plume of triumph) from the sultan. Meanwhile, Nelson, engaged in the blockade of French-supported Parthenopean Republic in Naples, was approaching the low-point of his own career, when in July he cancelled an armistice under which leading members of the Republic had surrendered, and handed them over for execution.