Some letters by Giovanni Acton

Below are transcriptions of some letters from Giovanni Acton [Sir John Acton] to Sir William Hamilton. These were written in December 1798 as Nelson was preparing to evacuate the Neapolitan royal family from Naples to Palermo. Naples was dissolving into chaos, the French under Championnet were about to invade, and Maria Carolina and Ferdinand IV were fearful of falling into republican hands. Acton had to liaise with Hamilton on the details of how to embark the royal family, and load onboard the royal treasure, taking care that the departure of the royal family was kept secret from the population:

19th Xber 1798
My dear Sir,
I am sorry that I had not the pleasure to see you to night [sic], as I was all the day and evening at Court on these dolefull [sic]

Giovanni Acton portrait

Acton, Giovanni

circumstances. It seems after many debates that the Royal family with a small retinue (not less however than 13 or 15 persons) will embark to morrow [sic] night, with the greatest secrecy. It will however be fixed to morrow [sic] morning better, and then I am to send you for Lord Nelson the notes. If it is posponed [sic], it shall not go later than the day after to morrow [sic] 21. This is what I have been told; as all the answers which Lord Nelson has been so good as to give to Prince Belmontehave been extremely approved of. After the Royal family named in the first note which I shall send to morrow [sic], when the King gives it to me, there is a second note of persons for service, part of whom may be placed on board of the Portuguese where mesdames may embark, and part for Their Majesties service on board of the Vanguard. With these some trunks in a small number however for the Royal persons should be transported. And a third note shall be for persons to embark, some hours after, on board of the Neapolitain [sic] ships of war. But I shall be better able to acquaint you, my dear Sir, with these necessary notions, in order that the important service which Lord Nelson does to Their Sicilian Majesties should have its proper success.

We are endeavouring to night [sic] to send the money from the castle on board of the Alcmena, but I have the misfortune to hear no answer from the officers under Pignatelli who have the care of this essential business. I am for ever, my dear Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant, J. Acton

Naples the 20th Dec.r 1798
My dear Sir,
I receive just now the enclosed letter from the King, with three notes of his own hand for the embarkation, as His Majesty approves intirely [sic] what Lord Nelson has proposed in his writen [sic] answers to Belmonte’s questions.

The embarcation [sic] ought to succeed in this very night, but as the money could not be put on board of the Alcmene in the night, for many reasons depending on the the bulk, bad chests, etc., etc., it is likely that it shall be postponed for to morrow [sic] night. Count Thurn shall open the little rooms at the Molesillo, and there receive Lord Nelson, or what officers his lordship pleases to send, with the word All goes right and well. In case of the contrary, All is wrong, you may go back, as Lord Nelson has expressed himself to Belmonte.

You have here enclosed my copies of the King’s notes, but I would send you [also] the originals, and beg to be so good as to return them to me. I send you, my dear Sir, likewise for your and Lord Nelson’s perusal the two last letters of General Mack 9 and 10. You will see the reasons for adopting this dolefull [sic] resolution. I shall be obliged to you for the return of these two letters.

I shall advise you, as soon as I can, of His Majesty’s resolution, even for to night [sic], or to morrow [sic]. You will conceive easily our present situation.

A courier just now arrived from London.

I am for ever, my dear Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant.

J. Acton

Naples 20th 1798
My dear Sir,
The embarcation is put out for to morrow [sic] night, as the money ready for going on board is not yet secured on board of the ships. Every delay certainly is dangerous, but we are in hopes that these few hours will not exasperate more than at present our position. My opinion had been different. We have good news however from Isoletta, where six thousand of our men under Bourkard are
arrived in a good state. I shall advise you further to morrow [sic] of what we shall be
doing. I am for ever, my dear Sir, your most humble and most obed. servant.
J. Acton

Naples 21st Xber 1798
My dear Sir,
I have received your favour when my letter to you had been sent safely to your hands. You shall see by the content His Majestye’s desire. But counsels’ hearings from every side, and constant remarks [and] observations, [and] contradictions from every corner avoid the proper determinations in time. The people certainly appeared loyal in their bloody operations. But whence it is begun, such a fury cannot be stopt [sic]. They may call and murder for vengeance every one, and call him a Jacobin. The poor man murdered this morning was not certainly a bad man. Some others stopt [sic] by the low people in the Health Office may be good likewise. A band is published with death militarily for any man who attacks any other under any [false] pretence or assemble tumultuously.

I hope the poor man under english [sic] protection will be safe on board.

I am for ever, my dear Sir, your most obediant [sic] and most humble servant
J. Acton

Naples, Dec.r 21th 1798
 My dear Sir,
We are come to the instant when any further delay would bring the worts [sic] consequences.

Every counsel, any party who opposed the Royal family’s embarcation seem to agree that no time is to be lost further. The divine Providence granted that the truth in this moment had been known before! We should not have seen blood spread under the general pretence of defending the King and good cause. The mob, once congregated and conscious of its strength [sic] is ever bloody and ready to any mischief. You will excuse these reflections which are excruciating my own feelings, and that expecially [sic] which concerns the Royal family’s safety. I come at last to the most important point, and to present Lord Nelson and you, my dear Sir, with His Majesty’s requests.

The King and all the Royal family intend to embark this very night (21st), if the wind does not blow too hard to avoid the boats approaching either the Molesiglio or the ships with such a company in the night. Lord Nelson is begged to decide that point a few hours after twelve or in the beginning of the evening. The wind will probably fall, as it is already some more moderate since the morning. His Lordship’s decision shall be that of their Majestyes [sic]. Count Thurn, as a person of confidence, shall attend the admiral, and acquaint their Majestyes [sic] with the instant of their coming down to the boats. In case however that the weather should not permit this embarcation to night [sic] (God forbids that new misfortune and contradiction!) then it should be for to morrow [sic] night.

Lord Nelson will decide the number of boats in case of a fresh wind, for a first embarkation [sic] (that of the Royal family). The second which is to follow shall require perhaps equal help. As to lumber or bagage, [sic] besides that of the Royal family, wither it arrives with a few servants or not on board, it is not an essential matter. The Imperial Ambassador, the Russian Minister should be advised likewise. On the answer of Lord Nelson of which ship he thinks to fix for receiving those two Ministers, they shall be acquainted in the King’s name, with what a secrecy is compatible with every one of these individuals, in such a hurry as the present. On Lord Nelson’s opinion and decision a courier shall be sent late to call the Princesses of France at Caserta. The place of embarkation is certainly of some difficulty, for the circumstance and for the fresh wind, and the [clothes?77] of the ladyes [sic]. But the saving of the Royal Family is the main article. I shall wait for your answer, my dear Sir, and will proceed to the further preparations which depend on [sic] the cares and safety of the Royal Persons. Secrecy was ever, and now more that ever, the first and main object for answering that purpose.

I am for ever, my dear Sir, your most humble and most obedient servant
J. Acton

Naples 21 Dec.ber 1798
My dear Sir,
I answered by the enclosed to the article which Lord Nelson has been so kind to express. I wish that the weather will answer all our expectations. Otherwise we must waite [sic] [sic] notwistanding every and even most disagreable [sic] inconveniences.

Young Princes used to be asleep at 7 o’ clock, a sucking child make a most dreadfull[sic] spectacle to the eyes of the servant women and in [sic] the rest of the family. By seven o’ clock we are in time, I hope, to dispatch for the two old mèsdames, and then take our resolution. I am for ever, my dear Sir, your most obedient and humble servant
J. Acton