PEACE WITH ENGLAND 27
neutral waters of a weak Power like Portugal; so he slipped his cable and, followed by his prizes, set sail for America. The British squadron gave chase and quickly overhauled the Americans. Fighting was out of the question, for the * Constitution' was undermanned, her crew being distributed in the prizes. Stewart's only plan, therefore, wras to escape the enemy. Signalling the ' Cyane' and the ' Levant' to vary their courses so as to distract and scatter the pursuers, he succeeded in getting all three vessels out of range of the squadron's fire. The ' Constitution' and the 'Cyane J reached New York in safety, but the ' Levant/ pressed by two of the British ships, re-entered Porto Prayo and anchored under the shelter of the forts. The British squadron, ignoring neutral rights, sailed in and recaptured her, and thus the affair ended.
On reaching New York Stewart was welcomed with honours. Congress voted him thanks, a sword, and a gold medal, the State of Pennsylvania thanks and a sword, New York the freedom of the city, while the .masses of the people greeted him with the appropriate sobriquet of ' Old Ironsides.'1
In September 1814 peace was made with England, and Stewart spent the rest of his life in tranquillity, although he remained still for nearly fifty years in the public service. From 1816 to 1820 he commanded the American squadron in the Mediterranean, from 1820 to 1825 he guarded American interests in the Pacific with characteristic tact, skill, and patriotism.
Afterwards he continued to fill important posts afloat or ashore until 1862, when he was placed on the retired list as rear-admiral. The remainder of his
1 This was a name first given to the ' Constitution' ; it was now transferred to her captain.