Yet it was again as an artist that the lad was taken for a run to Rio, and apparently for a second outing in a ten-gun brig. These, and a cruise of six weeks to windward of the island undertaken by the CONQUEROR herself in quest of health, were the only breaks in three years of murderous inaction; and at the end of that period Jenkin was invalided home, having 'lost his health entirely.'

As he left the deck of the guard-ship the historic part of his career came to an end. For forty-two years he continued to serve his country obscurely on the seas, sometimes thanked for inconspicuous and honourable services, but denied any opportunity of serious distinction. He was first two years in the LARNE, Captain Tait, hunting pirates and keeping a watch on the Turkish and Greek squadrons in the Archipelago. Captain Tait was a favourite with Sir Thomas Maitland, High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands - King Tom as he was called - who frequently took passage in the LARNE. King Tom knew every inch of the Mediterranean, and was a terror to the officers of the watch. He would come on deck at night; and with his broad Scotch accent, 'Well, sir,' he would say, 'what depth of water have ye? Well now, sound; and ye'll just find so or so many fathoms,' as the case might be; and the obnoxious passenger was generally right. On one occasion, as the ship was going into Corfu, Sir Thomas came up the hatchway and cast his eyes towards the gallows. 'Bangham' - Charles Jenkin heard him say to his aide-de-camp, Lord Bangham - 'where the devil is that other chap? I left four fellows hanging there; now I can only see three. Mind there is another there to-morrow.' And sure enough there was another Greek dangling the next day. 'Captain Hamilton, of the CAMBRIAN, kept the Greeks in order afloat,' writes my author, 'and King Tom ashore.'

From 1823 onward, the chief scene of Charles Jenkin's activities was in the West Indies, where he was engaged off and on till 1844, now as a subaltern, now in a vessel of his own, hunting out pirates, 'then very notorious' in the Leeward Islands, cruising after slavers, or carrying dollars and provisions for the Government. While yet a midshipman, he accompanied Mr. Cockburn to Caraccas and had a sight of Bolivar. In the brigantine GRIFFON, which he commanded in his last years in the West Indies, he carried aid to Guadeloupe after the earthquake, and twice earned the thanks of Government: once for an expedition to Nicaragua to extort, under threat of a blockade, proper apologies and a sum of money due to certain British merchants; and once during an insurrection in San Domingo, for the rescue of certain others from a perilous imprisonment and the recovery of a 'chest of money' of which they had been robbed. Once, on the other hand, he earned his share of public censure. This was in 1837, when he commanded the ROMNEY lying in the inner harbour of Havannah. The ROMNEY was in no proper sense a man-of-war; she was a slave-hulk, the bonded warehouse of the Mixed Slave Commission; where negroes, captured out of slavers under Spanish colours, were detained provisionally, till the Commission should decide upon their case and either set them free or bind them to apprenticeship. To this ship, already an eye-sore to the authorities, a Cuban slave made his escape. The position was invidious; on one side were the tradition of the British flag and the state of public sentiment at home; on the other, the certainty that if the slave were kept, the ROMNEY would be ordered at once out of the harbour, and the object of the Mixed Commission compromised. Without consultation with any other officer, Captain Jenkin (then lieutenant) returned the man to shore and took the Captain-General's receipt. Lord Palmerston approved his course; but the zealots of the anti-slave trade movement (never to be named without respect) were much dissatisfied; and thirty- nine years later, the matter was again canvassed in Parliament, and Lord Palmerston and Captain Jenkin defended by Admiral Erskine in a letter to the TIMES (March 13, 1876).

Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin Page 07

Robert Louis Stevenson

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