From June, 1809, the British squadron in the Indian Ocean commenced to blockade Ile-de-France.* (* Flinders to Banks, Historical Records 7 202.) Decaen's fear of Flinders' knowledge is revealed in the fact that he ordered him not for the future to go beyond the lands attached to Madame D'Arifat's habitation. Flinders wrote complying, and henceforth declined invitations beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the plantation. He amused himself by teaching mathematics and the principles of navigation to the two younger sons of the family, and by the study of French literature.

After October the blockade increased in strictness, under Commodore Rowley. Decaen's situation was growing desperate. Fortunately for him, the French squadron brought in three prizes in January, 1810, slipping past Rowley's blockade, much to that enterprising officer's annoyance. The situation was temporarily relieved, but the assistance thus afforded was no better than a plaster on a large wound. Here again we find Flinders accurately and fully informed: Decaen did not underrate his "dangerous" potentialities. "The ordinary sources of revenue and emolument were nearly dried up, and to have recourse to the merchants for a loan was impossible, the former bills upon the French treasury, drawn it was said for three millions of livres, remaining in great part unpaid; and to such distress was the Captain-General reduced for ways and means that he had submitted to ask a voluntary contribution in money, wheat, maize, or any kind of produce from the half-ruined colonists. It was even said to have been promised that, if pecuniary succour did not arrive in six months, the Captain-General would retire and leave the inhabitants to govern themselves."

Decaen, in fact, saw clearly that the game was up. His threat to retire in six months did not mean that he would not have given the British a fight before he lowered the tricolour. He was not the man to surrender quite tamely; but he knew that he could no longer hold out for more than a measurable period, the length of which would depend upon the enemy's initiative.

There was, therefore, no longer any purpose in prolonging the captivity of the prisoner who was feared on account of his knowledge of the situation; and Decaen availed himself of the first opportunity presented in 1810 to grant Flinders his longed-for release. In March, Mr. Hugh Hope was sent to Ile-de-France by Lord Minto (who had become Governor-General of India in 1807) to negotiate for the exchange of prisoners. This gentleman had done his best to secure Flinders' release on a former occasion, and had been refused. But now Decaen realised that the end was drawing near, and there was no sound military purpose to serve in keeping the prisoner any longer. It is quite probable that he would have been glad if information had been conveyed to the British which would expedite the inevitable fight and the consequent fall of French power in Mauritius.

On March 15th Flinders received a letter from Mr. Hope informing him that the Governor had consented to his liberation. A fortnight later came official confirmation of the news in a letter from Colonel Monistrol, who assured him of the pleasure he had in making the announcement. His joy was great. At once he visited his French friends in the neighbourhood to give them the news and bid them farewell; next day he took an affectionate leave of the kind family who had been his hosts for four years and a half; and as soon as possible he departed for Port Louis, where he stayed with his friend Pitot until he went aboard the cartel. At the end of the month a dinner was given in his honour by the president of the Societe D'Emulation, to which a large number of English men and women were invited. When Flinders arrived in Ile-de-France, more than six years before, he could speak no French and could only decipher a letter in that language with the aid of a dictionary; but now, when he found himself again in the company of his own countrymen, he experienced a difficulty in speaking English!

On June 13th, Flinders' sword was restored to him. He was required to sign a parole, wherein he pledged himself not to act in any service which might be considered as directly or indirectly hostile to France or her allies during the present war. On the same day the cartel Harriet sailed for Bengal. Flinders was free: "after a captivity of six years five months and twenty-seven days I at length had the inexpressible pleasure of being out of the reach of General Decaen."

Rowley's blockading squadron was cruising outside the port, and the Harriet communicated with the commodore. It was ascertained that the sloop Otter was running down to the Cape with despatches on the following day, and Flinders had no difficulty in securing a passage in her. After dining with Rowley he was transferred to the Otter. He was delayed for six weeks at the Cape, but in August embarked in the Olympia, and arrived in England on the 23rd of October, after an absence of nine years and three months.

News of his release had preceded him, and his wife had come up from Lincolnshire to meet him. He speaks in a letter to a friend of the meeting with the woman whom he had left a bride so many years before:* (* Flinders' Papers.) "I had the extreme good fortune to find Mrs. Flinders in London, which I owe to the intelligence of my liberty having preceded my arrival. I need not describe to you our meeting after an absence of nearly ten years. Suffice it to say I have been gaining flesh ever since." John Franklin, then a midshipman on the Bedford, had come up to London to welcome his old commander, and, much to his disturbance, witnessed the meeting of Flinders and his wife, as we find from a letter written by him: "Some apology would be necessary for the abrupt manner in which I left you, except in the peculiar circumstances wherein my departure was taken. I felt so sensibly the affecting scene of your meeting Mrs. Flinders that I would not have remained any longer in the room under any consideration."

The capture of Ile-de-France by the British, when ultimately an attack was made (on 3rd December, 1810), gave peculiar pleasure to naval officers and Anglo-Indians. "It is incredible," Mr. Hope wrote to Flinders, "the satisfaction which the capture of that island has diffused all over India, and everyone is now surprised that an enterprise of such importance should never have been attempted before." When the change of rulers took place, some of the French inhabitants objected to take the oath of allegiance to the British Crown, and a letter on the subject was sent to Napoleon. His comment was pithy: "I should like to see anybody refuse me the oath of allegiance in any country I conquered!"* (* Flinders' Papers.)

It will be convenient to deal at this point with the oft-repeated charge, to which reference has been made previously, that charts were taken from Flinders during his imprisonment, and were used in the preparation of the Atlas to Peron and Freycinets' Voyage de Decouvertes aux Terres Australes.

The truth is that no charts were at any time taken from the trunks wherein they were deposited in 1803, except by Flinders himself, nor was a single one of his charts ever seen by any French officer unless he himself showed it. He never made any such charge of dishonesty against his enemy, Decaen, or against the General's countrymen. He had, as will be seen, a cause of grievance against Freycinet, who was responsible for the French charts, and gave voice to it; but plagiarism was neither alleged nor suspected by him.

On each occasion when Flinders applied to Decaen to be supplied with papers from the trunks, he gave a formal receipt for them. The first occasion when papers were removed was on December 18th, 1803, when Flinders took from one of his trunks his Cumberland log-book, in order that Decaen might ascertain from it his reasons for calling at Ile-de-France. It was never restored to him. Mr. Hope made application for it in 1810, when he was set free, but Decaen did not give it up; and in 1813 Decres was still demanding it unavailingly. This book and the box of despatches were the only papers of Flinders that Decaen ever saw. When it was handed over, all other books and papers were replaced in the trunk, "and sealed as before." The second occasion was on December 27th, 1803, when the trunk containing printed books was restored to Flinders at his request in order that he might employ himself in confinement at the Port Louis tavern. The third occasion was on December 29th, when he was conducted to Government House, and was allowed to take out of the sealed trunk there his private letters and journals, two log-books, and other memoranda necessary to enable him to construct a chart of the Gulf of Carpentaria. All other papers were "locked up in the trunk and sealed as before." The fourth occasion was in July, 1804, when Flinders was allowed to take out of the same trunk a quantity of other books, papers and charts, which he required for the pursuit of his work. For these also a receipt was duly given. In that instance Flinders was especially vigilant. He had received a private warning that some of his charts had been copied, but when the seals were broken and he examined the contents he was satisfied that this was not true. He asked Colonel Monistrol, an honourable gentleman who was always of friendly disposition, whether the papers had been disturbed, and "he answered by an unqualified negative." The fifth occasion was in August, 1807, when all the remaining papers, except the log-book and the despatches, were restored to him. He then gave the following receipt:* (* Decaen Papers.)

"Received from Colonel Monistrol, chef d'etat-major general of the Isle of France, one trunk containing the remainder of the books, papers, etc., which were taken from me in Port North-West on December 16th, 1803, and December 20th of the same year, whether relating to my voyage of discovery or otherwise; which books and papers, with those received by me at two different times in 1804, make up the whole that were so taken; with the following exceptions: First, Various letters and papers, either wholly or in part destroyed by rats, of which the remains are in the trunk. Second, The third volume of my rough log-books, containing the journal of my transactions and observations on board the Investigator, the Porpoise, the Hope cutter, and the Cumberland schooner, from some time in June, 1803, to December 16th, 1803, of which I have no duplicate. Third, Two boxes of despatches; the one from his Excellency Governor King of New South Wales, addressed to His Majesty's principal Secretary of State for the Colonies; the other from Colonel Paterson, Lieutenant-Governor at Port Jackson, the address of which I do not remember. In truth of which I hereunto sign my name at Port Napoleon, Isle of France this 24th day of August, 1807.


"Late commander of H.M. Sloop the Investigator, employed on discoveries to the South Seas, with a French passport."

The papers which the rats had destroyed were not described; but there is a letter of Flinders to the Admiralty, written after his return to England (November 8th, 1810), which informs us what they were.* (* Flinders' Papers.) In this letter he explained that, when the trunk containing the papers was restored, "I found the rats had gotten into the trunk and made nests of some of them. I transmitted the whole from the Isle of France in the state they then were, and now find that some of the papers necessary to the passing of my accounts as commander and purser of His Majesty's sloop Investigator are wanting. I have therefore to request you will lay my case before their Lordships and issue an order to dispense with the papers which from the above circumstances it is impossible for me to produce." It is apparent, therefore, that none of the navigation papers or charts were destroyed. Had any been abstracted Flinders, who was a punctiliously exact man, would have missed them. His intense feeling of resentment against Decaen would have caused him to call attention to the fact if any papers whatever had been disturbed.

The Quarterly Review pointed out the circumstance that the French charts were "VERY LIKE" those of Flinders, giving sinister emphasis to the words in italics. They were very like in so far as they were good. It is evident that if two navigators sail along the same piece of coast, and each constructs a chart of it, those charts will be "very like" each other to exactly the degree in which they accurately represent the coast charted. Freycinet, who did much of the hydrographical work on Baudin's expedition, was an eminently competent officer. Wherever we find him in charge of a section, the work is well done. His Atlas contained some extremely beautiful work. There is no reason whatever for suggesting that it was not his own work. He certainly saw no chart of Flinders, except the one shown to him at Port Jackson, until the Atlas to the Voyage to Terra Australis was published.

Moreover, the reports and material prepared by Baudin's cartographers, upon which Freycinet worked, are in existence. The reports* to the commander give detailed descriptions of sections of the Australian coast traversed and charted, and show conclusively that some parts were examined with thoroughness. (* I have read the whole of these reports from copies of the originals in the Depot de la Marine, Service Hydrographique, Paris, but have not thought it necessary to make further use of them in this book.) For regions in which Baudin's expeditions sailed, Freycinet had no need to resort to Flinders' material. He had enough of his own. The papers of Flinders which Freycinet might have wished to see were those relating to the Gulf of Carpentaria, Torres Strait, and the Queensland coast, which Baudin's vessels did not explore. But the French maps contain no new features in respect to these parts. They present no evidence that Freycinet was acquainted with the discoveries made there by Flinders.

The accusation of plagiarism arose partly from the intense animosity felt against Frenchmen by English writers in a period of fierce national hatred; partly from natural resentment of the treatment accorded to Flinders; partly from the circumstance that, while he was held in captivity, French maps were published which appeared to claim credit for discoveries made by him; and partly from a misunderstanding of a charge very boldly launched by an eminent French geographer. Malte-Brun, in his Annales des Voyages for 1814 (Volume 23 page 268) made an attack upon the French Atlas. He detested the Napoleonic regime, and published his observations while Napoleon was in exile at Elba. He pointed out the wrong done to Flinders in labelling the southern coast of Australia "Terre Napoleon," and in giving French names to geographical features of which Flinders, not Baudin, was the discoverer. He continued: "the motive for that species of national plagiarism* is evident. (* "Le motif de cette espece de plagiat national.") The Government wished to create for itself a title for the occupation of that part of New Holland." Malte-Brun should have known Napoleon better than that. When he wanted territory, and was strong enough to take it, he did not "create titles." He took: his title was the sword.

But the point of importance is that Malte-Brun did not allege "plagiarism" against the authors of the French maps. His charge was made against the Government. It was not that Freycinet had plagiarised Flinders' charts, but that the Government had plagiarised his discoveries by, as Malte-Brun thought, ordering French names to be strewn along the Terre Napoleon coasts. In a later issue of the Annales des Voyages* Malte-Brun testified to having seen Freycinet working at the material upon which his charts were founded. (* Volume 24 273.) But his former use of the word "plagiat" had created a general impression that Flinders' charts had been dishonestly taken from him in Mauritius, and used by those responsible for the French maps; a charge which Malte-Brun never meant to make, and which, though still very commonly stated and believed, is wholly untrue.

The really deplorable feature of the affair is that Peron and Freycinet, in their published book and atlas, gave no credit to Flinders for discoveries which they knew perfectly that he had made. They knew where he was while they were working up their material. It does not appear that either of them ever moved in the slightest degree to try to secure his liberation. Peron died in December, 1810. Malte-Brun, who saw him frequently after the return of Baudin's expedition, says that in conversation on the discoveries of Flinders, Peron "always appeared to me to be agitated by a secret sorrow, and has given me to understand that he regretted not being at liberty to say in that regard all that he knew." Flinders also believed Peron to be a worthy man who acted as he did "from overruling authority." Those who have read the evidence printed in this book, exhibiting the detestable conduct of both Peron and Freycinet in repaying indulgence and hospitality by base espionage, will hardly be precipitate in crediting either of them with immaculate motives. There is no evidence that authority was exercised to induce them to name the southern coasts Terre Napoleon, or to give the name Golfe Bonaparte to the Spencer's Gulf of Flinders, that of Golfe Josephine to his St. Vincent's Gulf, that of Ile Decres to his Kangaroo Island, that of Detroit de Lacepede to his Investigator Strait, and so forth. They knew that Flinders had made these discoveries before their own ships appeared in the same waters; they knew that only the fact of his imprisonment prevented his charts from being published before theirs. The names with which they adorned their maps were a piece of courtiership and a means of currying favour with the great and powerful, just as their espionage, and their supply of illicitly-obtained and flavoured information to Decaen in Mauritius, were essays to advance their own interests by unworthy services.

Freycinet's anxiety to get his maps out before Flinders had time to publish is curiously exhibited in a letter from him to the Minister of Marine (August 29th, 1811). Flinders was then back in England, hard at work upon his charts. A volume of text, and one thin book of plates, containing only two maps, had been published at Paris in 1807. Then delay occurred, and in 1811 the engravers, not having been paid for their work, refused to continue. Freycinet appealed to the Minister in these terms:* (* Manuscripts, Archives Nationales, Marine BB4 996.) "Very powerful reasons, Monsieur, appear to demand that the atlas should be published with very little delay, and even before the text which is to accompany it. Independently of the advantages to me personally as author, of which I shall not speak, the reputation of the expedition ordered by His Majesty appears to me to be strongly involved. I have the honour to remind your Excellency that Captain Flinders was sent on discovery to Terra Australis a short while after the French Government had despatched an expedition having the same object. The rival expeditions carried out their work in the same field, but the French had the good fortune to be the first to return to Europe. Now that Flinders is again in England, and is occupied with the publication of the numerous results of his voyage, the English Government, jealous on account of the rivalry between the two expeditions, will do all it can for its own. The conjectures I have formed acquire a new force by the recent announcement made by the newspapers, that Captain Flinders' voyages in the South Seas are to be published by command of the Lords of the Admiralty. If the English publish before the French the records of discoveries made in New Holland, they will, by the fact of that priority of publication, take from us the glory which we have a right to claim. The reputation of our expedition depends wholly upon the success of our geographical work, and the more nearly our operations and those of the English approach perfection, and the more nearly our charts resemble each other, the more likelihood there is of our being accused of plagiarism, or at all events of giving rise to the thought that the English charts were necessary to aid us in constructing ours; because there will be no other apparent motive for the delay of our publication."

Here, it will be seen, Freycinet anticipated the charge of plagiarism, but thought it would spring from the prior publication of Flinders' charts. He had no suspicion at this time that the accusation would be made that he used charts improperly taken from Flinders when he was under the thumb of Decaen; and when this unjust impeachment was launched a few years later he repudiated it with strong indignation. In that he was justified; and our sympathy with him would be keener if his own record in other respects had been brighter.