« PreviousContinue »
Trifling and insignificant as every thing connected with the politics of so small and so miserable a country as Iceland must necessarily appear, when contrasted with the events that are agitating the great powers of Europe, nevertheless, as the government of this island underwent a total change during the short time of my residence in it, I feel, not only that my journal would be incomplete were I to pass over such things in silence, but also that it may reasonably be required of me to give an account of transactions, which fell under my own observation, and of which, as a mere by-stander, I may be expected to speak with more impartiality than those who were actively engaged in them. I shall therefore endeavor to do it as plainly and succinctly as possible, trusting that, unimportant as are the events to be detailed in my narrative, they may not on that account be wholly devoid of interest, but may find some shelter under the old adage, that a inest sua gratia parvis." From one error, at least, that is but too common to writers of all descriptions, whatever be their subject, I flatter myself I shall be allowed to have steered clear, that of magnifying occurrences, so as to exemplify the fable of the mountain in labor; for the very reverse is my case, and I ought, perhaps, rather to dread the having fallen into the opposite extreme; as my inclinations, as well as my feelings, would have led me to have confined myself principally to the leading objects of myvoyage, the natural historyof the island and the manners and customs of the inhabitants, could I but have persuaded myself that I could have done so with propriety. Having, as just observed, taken no part whatever in politics, and having frequently been engaged in excursions at a distance from Reikevig, I am of course ignorant of much that passed there, and it must be remembered that the portion of my narrative that rests upon my own authority is far from great; but the remainder I have been enabled to fill up in a manner at least equally authentic, having been furnished with various documents through the kindness of Captain Jones, as well as with a complete statement * of the whole by Count Tramp, drawn up with the view of being laid before the British government, and with a similar, but more
* This statement was originally accompanied by a considerable number of letters, protests, &c, to which it refers in almost every page, but which I have never seen, and I may, probably, from this cause, have been led to do less justice to the count than would have been the case, had I had an opportunity of consulting them. It is necessary at the same time to remark, that, of the events which took place after the imprisonment of the count, he only speaks from these documents, or from information which he received verbally from the inhabitants of Reikerig, a few days previous to his leaving Iceland, and this may account for some passages which appear to me to be exaggerated, and which, had the circumstances been related from the count's own knowledge, would not have crept into his narrative.
extended, statement by Mr. Jorgensen *, detailing at full length, not only the things that occurred, but the causes that preceded and gave birth to them. Thus, then, pro* This gentleman I have already had occasion to mentioned more than once in my journal; but, as he has, in what follows, to appear as the principal actor, it is right to give some farther account of him; that the transaction may be shewn in its proper light, and that it may not be thought that Mr. Phelps, a subject of Great Britain, has, by taking a part in a matter unauthorised by his country, transgressed her laws.— Mr. Jorgensen, though born of respectable parents at Copenhagen, at an early age entered into the British service as an apprentice on board a collier; after which, he employed himself in such other vessels of various descriptions as he thought most likely to promote the object he had in view, that of attaining the highest perfection in seamanship. He then entered our navy, in which, after much hard service and many long and difficult voyages, he made himself complete master of navigation, as well as of the naval laws of Great Britain; and imbibed, according to his own words, together with his knowledge of nautical affairs, the maxims, the principles, and the prejudices of Englishmen. At the age of twenty-five, having been absent from his native country ten or twelve years, the whole of which he had spent in the British service, he returned to Copenhagen in the year 1806. In that city he was at so little pains to conceal his political sentiments respecting England, that he vided, I proceed without farther preface to the sketch of a revolution, which so far differs from all others of our times, that, in accomplishing it, only twelve men were emcreated himself a number of enemies by declaring his partiality towards a country, under whose flag he had so lately and so long served, and by reprobating in the most open manner the tyranny and usurpation of the French; a nation, whose opinions and principles he found were approved of by the greater part of his countrymen. 'Shortly after the late expedition, sent by Great Britain against Copenhagen, the Crown Prince entered into an alliance, offensive and defensive, with France; which was followed by a decree, calling upon persons of all ranks and descriptions, from the age of eighteen to fifty, to serve, in some capacity or other, in support of their country; in consequence of which, Mr. Jorgensen took the command of the Admiral Juul, a privateer of twenty-eight guns, in which, proceeding towards Flamborough Head, he fell in with two British ships of war, the Sappho and the Clio. The former he immediately engaged; but, after an action of forty-one minutes, was obliged to strike his colors, and was landed as a prisoner at Yarmouth; whence he was taken to London, where he signed his parole, and remained, till the circumstances, of which the following narrative is intended to convey an account, induced him twice to leave the kingdom, without permission from the British government, and consequently to break his parole;