Letter from Lord Collingwood

In the Royal Armouries archives is a letter from Admiral Collingwood, written in 1807 to Sir Hew Dalrymple who was the Governor of Gibraltar.

While Collingwood was the Commander of the Mediterranean Fleet he wrote this letter from onboard his flagship HMS Ocean.

He begins by discussing the abolition of regulations that had been introduced in Gibraltar, and were affecting English trade with Spain. He also discusses the problems of local merchants not accepting paper money. They distrusted it as they would rather have coins, whose value they could plainly see.

Next he discusses the reorganisation of the shipyard to make more efficient use of the Navy’s land and property. He mentions the Navy Board who were responsible for supply and administration of the Navy and the Victualling Office which was responsible for purchasing and distributing food and uniforms to the fleet. The Ordnance Office he writes about would be responsible for supplying them with guns and gun powder.

Finally, Collingwood reports on the latest naval intelligence about the enemy fleet. It would have been his greatest ambition to lead his ships to victory and he is anxious for more news.

Transcript of letter to Hew Dalrymple from Lord Collingwood

Lieut. Genl. Sir Hew Dalrymple.

Ocean Febry. 13th 1807

My Dear Sir,

I have no doubt you’ve found at Gibraltar many practises which needed correction:- Indulgencies and temporary expedients which perhaps were proper at the time – stood this ground, and were continued, when the majority of them no longer existed – and people in the office no doubt found an interest in continuing, but the regulations you have made for restoring the trade to what was the original intention of the ministers – I hope will be found advantageous to the English merchants though the foreign ones will not have all the facility they have had – I do not know much about this trade but should doubt the minister opening Gibraltar for the importation of foreign tobacco – the Ports of Spain are open for the legal trade, and it is not probable they will allow the Garrison to be a depot for this contraband- which must annihilate all the lawful trade we have in that article. The fees I consider as calculated to defray any extra expenses which may be incurred in preparing the passports, and the attendance of persons who issue them and of course will be paid at the offices where they are delivered – but I have heard they have been so exorbitant that they might be considered as laying the trade as under contribution.

In one of your letters you were apprehensive that a sudden stop to a practise that had been long in use might prevent the specie [coinage] coming to the Garrison which was necessary to the purposes of Government. The reverse I understand has been the case and that Gibraltar now abounds so much in Dollars, that bills cannot be obtained for remitting money, this I conclude must arise from a large quantity going to Portugal and America.

I have not the least knowledge of the premises belonging to [the] Ordnance and Navy Boards which is proposed to be exchanged, but I consider the land a possession of one department which could be turned to more public utility by another department: should certainly be given, nor do I think the estimate of its value, as if it was the property of an individual, should be taken into consideration, so that as far as I had anything to do with it, I should certainly not give any opposition to it, but it is a subject I am entirely ignorant in, nor do I think I have anything to do with, beyond making the representation to the Board of the advantages that would arise form such exchange whenever they are explained to me. The Commissioner has not mentioned the circumstance to me, but I suppose any place in the vicinity of the year is likely to be more useful to the navy than a house in the town. It is not a part of the Victualling office. [Office responsible for issuing food and clothing to the fleet]

The Squadron of enemy ships in Cadiz have made preparation as if they mean to sail, and we hear from neutrals who come out, that the French admiral receives frequent dispatches from Paris which are supposed to urge his sailing, they have moved to the outer part of the harbour, the Spaniards are also getting ready, but whether this is show, or they really mean to push a reinforcement to their Colonies I can get no information:- from the privateers having disappeared in the Gut [The Straits of Gibraltar] lately I rather think their crews are taken to these ships.

It is particularly unfortunate that General Crawford has proceeded before my letters could reach them, and that only a few days.

I am my dear Sir Hew, with great esteem

Your obedient

And most honourable servant

Collingwood

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