March 11, 1803.
My dear Lord, I am honoured by your Lordship’s letter of this date and am truly obliged by your notice of my success. It is true, however little I have merited that success, that nothing committed to my charge has ever failed in my hands, and it was from that good fortune, perhaps, that I hoped for a continuation of the favours I had heretofore experienced. In point of acquisition to the state, I hope my services have been important; to my private emolument, much less than has been supposed; but the Public has nothing to do with the concerns of an Individual. Love of my country, the kindness of His Majesty, and the consideration of His Government were motives sufficiently strong for my coming forward on the first appearance of a war; and I am sure that those are the sentiments your Lordship inculcated in my mind in my early days and have so often repeated, and I did not fail to communicate them to your Lordship after the King’s message. I cannot help being hurt at a Junior Officer [Nelson] being sent to a command I so lately held, and I hope with credit, and where I am well acquainted with the slightest communication. But I must beg to be explicit, that one hour after war is begun it will be impossible for me to remain at Plymouth as a Port Admiral, because it would be tacitly acknowledging my incapacity to serve, and consequently becoming a burthen on the state; but I must beg leave to assure your Lordship that until that period shall actually arrive, no man shall more cheerfully or with more zeal carry into effect the orders of the Admiralty. In my humble opinion Ireland may be a situation of more immediate danger and importance than the North Sea; but the same motives which prevented me from ever mentioning the Channel Fleet produced the like effect relative to that command, I mean the preferable pretension of Lord Gardner. But all the above considerations are submitted to your Lordship with the greatest deference. I have &c.
LLoyd, C . (eds.) (1955) The Keith Papers, vol III, 1803-1815. Navy Records Society, pp. 13-14
Web Page: Rickard, J (24 July 2006), Keith to St. Vincent