|Admiral John Byng|
What exactly did Voltaire make of the English?
He thought their form of government (Constitutional Monarchy) preferable to the Absolute monarchy of his native France. He wrote in his letters, "How I love the English boldness! How I love people who say what they think! People who only half think are only half alive." He clearly appreciated the desirability of freedom of speech that Englishmen hold dear.
According to Candide, the English are "disposed to be very gloomy."
Candide arrives in Portsmouth...
|Pour Encourager les autres!|
Here Voltaire is telling us about the true and "gloomy" story of Admiral John Byng who was in command of British naval forces when they were defeated by the French off the coast of Minorca in 1756. He was courtmartialed for insufficiently engaging with the enemy and was executed by firing squad on March 14, 1757 on his own quarter deck in Portsmouth harbour.
I wrote earlier (Horatio Nelson -- Champion of Liberty, January 15th, 2012) that the Royal Navy got its incentives right. All ranks of naval personnel from powder boy to admiral were, if their ship captured an enemy ship in battle, eligible to win prize money. The other side of the coin is illustrated by the unfortunate case of admiral Byng. Even an admiral in the Royal navy could expect no mercy if he was found to have shirked his duty.
|HMS Victory Portsmouth (Photo: Jeff Dody)|
Here is the link for the HMS Victory in Portsmouth...