H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

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to be far more easy to attain experience for land service than on the sea."

The passage is, by the way, interesting as showing that the
use of " port " instead of " larboard " is not, as some suspect, a
modern habit, and as indicating the origin of the expression " to
luff." Monson had had to complain of the Navy being partially
officered by men who were unlit lor their duties, because they
had had no proper training. His views took root, and after his
time the non-professional naval officer became yearly rarer and
rarer, until, at the end of the seventeenth century, he disappeared
entirely, to the great advantage of the service.

The rise of the Royal Navy as a professional career was Naval
naturally accompanied by the framing for both men and officers Discipli
of regulations more precise and explicit than had previously been
in force. In some instructions and Articles which were drawn
up while Lord Howard of Effingham was Lord High Admiral,
we have in rudimentary form the Articles of War of the present
day, combined with the Queen's Regulations and the Admiralty
Instructions. In these swearing, brawling, dicing, contentions
and disorders were forbidden ; picking anil stealing were
threatened with punishment under martial law ; the preserva-
tion and husbanding of victuals were enjoined ; precautions
against fire were recommended ; waste of powder was depre-
cated ; cleanliness was insisted on ; sanitary measures were
prescribed ; distribution of prize-money was provided for, and
much more. The practices and the traditions of the service
were rapidly crystallising. Dating from this era comes to us
the earliest record of a regular naval court-martial.

This interesting court was held in the course of Drake's The First

Cadiz Expedition in 1587 for the " singeing of the King of ourti ,


Spain's beard," and the ^account of it is preserved in the GYe?ar
Papers in the British Museum. It arose out of a mutiny in the
Golden Lion, the captain of which (William Burroughs) had,
owing to misconduct, been superseded by Captain Marchaunt
-Drake taking upon himself the responsibility. Dr. Julius
Caesar styles the proceedings " an excellent forme of a Sessions
kept by Sir Francis Drake and other captains on board e of one
of the Queen Elizabeth's ships " ; but the minute of the inquiry
calls it " a general Courte h olden for the service of Her Majesty


aboarde tho Kll-.<tl>ctlu' Bonaventure." All the captains and
masters of the fleet were formally summoned, and, in their
presence, "the General!," Sir Francis Drake, " called in question
and judiciallye demanded of ('aptayne Marchaunt howe he colde
discharge himselfe and answere the departure of Her Ahiji'si ie's
Shippe the Golden, I,I/<>H \vliich he lately e gave him in charge.
Captain Marchaunt spoke in his defence, explaining that upon
the first symptom of mutiny in his ship, he had ordered her
master to keep her close to the General (the flagship); but that
immediately afterwards a quarter-master had handed to him, <>n
behalf of the crew, a letter, complaining that the people were
short of food and drink, and were not properly treated, and
declaring that they intended to at once carry the vessel home
again. The men then refused to obey orders, although Man-haunt
himself expostulated with them. Only fifteen or sixteen sided
with him. He demanded to be set on board the (Jtimi's Pin-
in ice ; and, after some discussion, this was agreed to. Captain
Clifford, of the Qurcii'x Pin>i<i<-<\ who took Marc-haunt on board,
testified that he, too, had remonstrated with the mutineers.
They called him, however, " Arrante Villaine." Drake's sentence
upon the contumacious mutineers lends to the proceedings the
character of a court-martial, although the court had really been
originally summoned rather as a court of inquirv. The great
seaman's words, divested of Dr. Caesar's erratic spelling of
them, were :

"Although I am not doubtful what to do in this ease, nor yet want any
authority but myself have from Her Majesty sufficient jurisdiction to correct
and punish with all severity as to be in discretion shall be meet, according to
the quality of the offences, all those seditious persons which shall be in the
whole fleet, yet, for tlie confidence I have in your discretions, as also to
witness our agreement in judgment in all matters, I pray you let me have your
several opinions touching this fuct which hath been declared in your hearing
this day." [Possibly after the other officers had spoken, Sir Francis con-
tinued] : " In my judgment, it was as foul and intolerable a mutiny as ever
I have known. Captain Marchaunt liath discharged his duty faithfully as a
true servitor unto her Majesty. All the rest of that ship, excepting only
those twelve or sixteen which held up their hands to witness their willingness
to return to our company, have deserved a shameful death, in that they have
forsaken her Majesty's standard and commission, and forsaken her Majesty's
ships royal, being distressed, and, as much as in them lieth, hindered 1 1n-
service in hand for the honour and safety of her Majesty's realms and
dominions. And, therefore, mv final and definite sentence is this that the


master of the said ship, ihe boatswain, and Mr. Burroughs and Crow, the
principal contrivers and workers of this mutiny, snail, as soon I come by
them, wheresoever I find them within my power, abide the pain of death.
If not, they shall remaiu as dead men in law. All the rest shall remain also
at her Majesty's mercy as accessories to this treacherous defection. And,
though it shall please her Majesty to look upon them with mercy, yet my
sentence is: They shall all come to the court-gate wit h halters about their
necks, for an example to all such offenders."

The whole court, it is declared, approved this sentence.
From that time the naval court-martial seems to have become a
common institution, and not long afterwards it was recognised
and regularised. If Drake had any precedents to guide him,
beyond the terms of his commission, he kept them to himself.

As the practice of the sea crystallised, so did the language. Nautical
The Elizabethan seaman's vocabulary contained a very large
proportion, indeed, of the terms which are even now in common
use in sailing ships. Among the many technical words and
expressions which, bearing their present meaning, one finds with
some surprise in maritime letters and papers of three hundred
years ago are : armings, awnings, to belay, bitts, to bowse, breech-
ings, bulkheads, cambers, caps, carlings, case-shot, clew-garnets,
coamings, davits, " dead-men's-eyes " (deadeyes), fenders, " foot-
hooks " (mttocks), gratings, grommets, " gunwalls " (gunwales),
hatchways, " hamacos " (hammocks), heaving the log, junk,
' keel-son" (kelson), lashings, marling-spikes, moorings, nettings,
peak, purchases, quarters, scuttles, seizings, to serve, shackles,
sheers, shrouds, skiffs, scuppers, spun-yarn, in stays, stern-sheets,
steerage, tarpaulin, yaw, and scores of others.

Very important in their bearing upon the development of science
the Navy were many of the scientific discoveries and improve-
ments of the Elizabethan period. In one passage, Monson
regrets the general introduction o.f the spyglass, because ir would
have the effect of rendering useless one of his numerous " strata-
gems " for the deception of an enemy namely, the mounting
of dummy guns so as to give an exaggerated idea of the ship's
force. Originally contrived in 1560, or thereabouts, by Porta,
the telescope was brought into practical use before the close of
the century by Janssen of Middelburg, and presently became
part of the equipment of every seaman. The cross-staff had
been devised before Elizabeth's time. It was during her reign


almost superseded by the back-staff, the invention of John
Davis, the navigator. The variation of the compass had been
observed by Columbus and Cabot; but it was not until the
Elizabethan age, and by English seamen and scientists, that
anything definite and useful was established concerning terres-
trial magnetism. The completion in 1509 of Mercator's famous
chart of the world was a significant event of the same period.
The art of navigation was still more particularly furthered by
the publication in English form of Martin Cortes's ' Brief
Compendium of the Sphere'' in 1561, of ( Guevara's Treatise in
157N, and of Medina's " Rules of Navigation " in 15S1. Mean-
while, Bourne had issued the first original English work on
the subject the <: Regiment of the Sea " in 157-3 ; and Thomas
Blundeville followed in 1594 with his " Exercises." William
Burrough, by his "Discourses of the Magnet and Loadstone"
(1581); Robert Norm an, by his "New Attractive"; and Dr.
Gilbert, of Colchester, who, in 1600, first propounded the theory
that the earth itself is a magnet, rendered valuable ancillary
service ; and Edward Wright, by his explanation, or rather by
his scientific discovery, of the principles of Mercator's projection,
made himself the father of modern marine cartography. But
perhaps as really useful as the labours of any of these was the
work of the aforesaid John Davis, the navigator, entitled "The
Seaman's Secrets," and first published in 1594. The hydrography
of the period was surprisingly good. Before the end of the
sixteenth century all the harbours and estuaries of England had
been fairly well surveyed, and the information obtained had
been embodied in charts which were both detailed and accurate.
Activity in this direction was, no doubt, furthered by the
influence and example of the Corporation of Trinity House a
guild which had become powerful in the time of Henry VI 1 1.,
and which, after having at first undertaken many other duties,
settled down, under an Act of Elizabeth, as the responsible
authority on certain questions of pilotage, and as the conservator
of the buoys and ben cons of the coast.

Pay and The pay of the officers and men of the Navy was still small.

In 1575 the Lord High Admiral himself received but 200
a year: the Vice-Admiral 100; a captain 30: a gunner fmm
4d. to Is. a day; a carpenter Sd. a day; the Pilot to the Navy
20 a year ; the Surveyor of Naval Ordnance 40 a year ; the

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Treasurer of the Navy G(j 13s. 4<1. a year ; the Victualler of the
Navy 5S a year ; the Clerk of the Navy 33 6s. Sd. : the Clerk
of the Storehouse at ])c[)tfonl 32 16s. 4d. ; and the blaster of
Naval Ordnance 00 13s. 4d. (100 marks). Nor was there for
officers any scheme of half-pay or regular pensions. As for the
seamen, they fared little better in the matter of wages than
they had fared in earlier periods, and they did not always
punctually receive' even what was due to them. Their ultimate
interests were, however, in some sort provided for by the estab-
lishment in 1590 of the benevolent organisation which was
known as the Chest at Chatham. Charles Howard, Earl of
Nottingham, then Lord High Admiral, was the prime mover
(with Hawkins and Drake) in this reform, which was dictated by
the consideration " that by frequent employment by sea for the
defence of this kingdom" . . . divers and sundry "masters,
mariners, shipwrights, and seafaring men, by reason of hurts
and maims received in the service, are driven into great poverty,
extremity and want, to their great discouragement." It was
therefore determined that perpetual relief should be provided
for such cases ; and, in order to provide it, it was voluntarily
arranged that every man and boy in the Navy should regularly
forfeit to the fund a small proportion of his monthly wages, such
contributions to be from time to time placed " in a strong chest
with five locks to that purpose especially provided." The
constitution of the Chest was subsequently amended and altered,
chiefly in consequence of the manner in which the funds were
at one time abused ; and, down to a quite recent period, the
benefit society, thus set on foot by the seamen who had com-
manded against the Armada, did its good work in England.
The original chest itself remains to this day, carefully preserved
in the Museum of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich.
The It is scarcely to be supposed that under a princess ot

ofthe r Elizabeth's temperament airy of the pretensions, either of the
Flag. country or of the Crown, were voluntarily surrendered ; and,

naturally enough, the proud claim to the honour of the flag was,
by her officers, insisted upon with greater determination than
ever before. Sir Richard Hawkins tells us how his father, tin-
great Sir John, once enforced this claim. A Spanish fleet was
on its way to fetch Anne of Austria, wife of Philip II , irom
Flanders. Sir John Hawkins, with a small English squadron,



lay in Catwater ; and the Spanish Admiral, perceiving him
there, nevertheless endeavoured to pass into Plymouth Sound
without paying the usual salute. Sir John at once ordered the
gunner of his own ship to tire at the Spaniard's rigging, and
then, no notice being taken, to fire at the Spaniard's hull .
whereupon the strangers took in their flags, lowered their top-
sails, and anchored. The Admiral presently sent an officer of
rank to carry his compliments and his remonstrances to Sir
John, who, at the gangway, refused either to hear or to admit


(By permission of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.)

the messenger, and bade him tell his chief that, having neglected
the respect due to the Queen of England in her seas and port,
and having so large a fleet at his command, he must not expect
to lie there, but must weigh and be gone in twelve hours ; other-
wise he would be regarded as an enemy, and so treated, his
conduct being already suspicious. Receiving the message, the
Spanish Admiral in person went alongside Sir John's flagship,
the Jesus of Luheck. Sir John, after some demur, consented to
speak to him ; and, when he had listened to a long expostu-


lut ion, informed the Spaniard that he had only himself to
blame, and indeed spoke so firmly and convincingly that the
foreigner at last not only admitted his fault, but submitted to a
penalty which Sir John imposed upon him. The flag of the
period was still the simple red cross of St. George upon a white
ground the flag which, hoisted on board ship at the main, is
now used only as an ensign of rank by a British admiral ; but
Elizabethan ships-of-war, although they always carried the St.
George's flag, and generally carried it as well at the fore-
topgallant-mast as at the mizzen-top-mast- truck, usually wore
other flags also. A contemporary print of the Ark Royal, flag-
ship in 1558 of Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham, shows her
with four masts ; the fore-mast and after-mast having the Si.
George's flag at their trucks, the mainmast having the Royal
Standard (as flag of the Lord High Admiral), and the third
mast having a flag bearing a Tudor Rose. In addition, from one
end of the fore-topgallant-yard flies a pennant shaped streamer
bearing a lion rampant (perhaps for Eitzalaii) ; from the foivtop
flies a similarly-shaped streamer bearing an anchor; from the
maintop flies a third pennant of a striped pattern; and from
the spritsail-yard flies another striped pennant, surcharged with
a St. George's Cross. At the waist appears a large banner,
having on it the Lord High Admiral's private arms.
The Mis It is impossible to read the despatches and official corre-

men^of spondence of the critical Armada year without being strongly
the Navy. i, u p re ssed by the fact that the miscarriage of the Spanish
attempt was due much more to the devotion of the English
officers and seamen afloat than to the forethought of the
authorities on shore. The Xavy certainly did its duty gloriously :
but the administration disgraced itself. And when one speaks
of the administration of ]5<SS, one means the ( v )ueen. Her
personal penuriousness kept the seamen unpaid, the ships ill-
victualled, and the magazines inadequately supplied. On the
last day of July Hawkins wrote, from the Victory at sea, to
Walsingham, pointing out the absolute necessity of constant
and copious supplies of ammunition, and continuing: "The
men have been long unpaid and need relief. I pray your
Lordship that the money which should have gone to Plymouth
may now be sent to Dover. August is now coming in, and this
coast will spend ground tackle, cordage, canvas, and provisions,

(Greenwich Hospitcd : By jiermission of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.)


all of which should be sent to Dover in good plenty." On the
day after Easter Day, Howard wrote to Jiurgliley: "I thought
good to remind your Lordship how necessary it is to have a
better provision of victuals than for one month. ... 1 think
since ever there were ships in this realm it was never heard of
that but a month's victuals was prepared for to victual withal."
On May 18th, the Admiral wrote again from Plymouth : ' We
have here now but eighteen days' victuals, and there is none to
be gotten in all this country ; and what that is, to go without to
sea, your Lordship may judge." " But," he continued, " though
we starve, we will push forward to meet the enemy." On June
19th, he wrote a touching appeal to Walsingham. " For the
love of God," he said, " do not let her Majesty care for charges " ;
and, a few days later, he besought the Queen personally, " for
the love of Jesus Christ," to rouse herself to the miserable case
of the gallant men who were guarding her honour and her
throne. When provisions and ammunition did reach the fleet
they appeared only in grudging quantities. 1 Indeed, the recol-
lection of Elizabeth's treatment of her splendid defenders at
that time is enough to make a cool man's blood boil. In that
very year she had been considering a proposal whereby she could
further diminish the cost to herself of her unpaid and underfed
seamen, by giving them fish, oil, and peas instead of meat. She
could, she found, in that way cut down the victualling expenses
by one half. In that very year, too, she had taunted Sir
Francis Drake with having used too much powder and shot in
" mere practice." If her devoted officers had waited for her to
succour them, and if they had not purchased out of their
private resources supplies for their ships, the fleet could not, as
a-wfrdle at" least, have proceeded to sea at all. The destitution
occasioned by the miserly remissness of her Majesty must have

1 Prof. Laughton (Introduction to Vol. I. of the State Papers relating to the
defeat of the Armada, p. Ivii., Navy Records Society, 1894) says : ; 'The Queen
had nothing to do with the victualling- of the fleet. Xo doubt she insisted on
rigid ecoribmy in everything : no doubt Burghley and Walsingham kne\v that
their accounts would be subjected to a strict, probably an unsympathetic
scrutiny," etc. But this does not altogether clear Elizabeth. The charge against
her is not that she was careful in legitimate matters, but that, knowing of the
misery of her seamen, she did not interfere to correct it. A personal sovereign
of Elizabeth's type cannot like a modern constitutional monarch, find shelter
behind her Ministers. Moreover, she must have known that her previous
economies risked the physical efficiency of the men.


increased, if indeed it did not originate, the pestilence which
raged in the squacj.r.cy.i ; andflo the shame of Elizabeth, it must
be recorded that neither the sick nor the wounded the sufferers
in her cause ever received any proper care or treatment at her
charges. Elizabeth's theatrical appearance at Tilbury is a picture
that has always tilled a large space in the popular eye. The
spectacle of the great Queen endeavouring, at a moment of
national crisis, to hoard up a few pounds at the sacrifice of the
health of 20,000 seamen is a less inspiring one. Yet it should
not be forgotten so long as the other is remembered. Greater
than even her father, she was meaner than even her grandfather-
Yet, although Elizabeth was, on this and other occasions, England's
parsimonious to the verge of peril, she possessed a large fund of
statesmanlike forethought, and she enjoyed the advantage of
being served throughout her long reign by men of unrivalled
enterprise and ability. To her forethought the country owes the
establishment of Chatham Dockyard, which she planted on the
site of the present Gun wharf, and the fortifications of the
Medway. To her servants the country owes a most remarkable
extension, especially in the AVestern world, of English maritime
influence. Much of that influence was secured by what, judged
by modern canons, must be regarded as illegitimate and piratical
methods, and was won at the expense of Spain a power with
which, until the eve of the sailing of the Armada, England was
nominally at peace. But the informal wars which, almost con-
tinuously, were waged by English adventurers against the
Spanish settlements in the new hemisphere, were waged with
equal pertinacity by the Spaniards, who thus had little to
complain of. The results were all to the disadvantage of Spain,
and all to the advantage of England. Apart from the solid
gains which we won, and from the prestige acquired, we profited
in various minor ways by every one of these expeditions.
England had always had a considerable section of the population
inclined to a life of adventure and peril. Before Elizabeth's
day the tendencies of that section had, in peace time, generally
found scope in the business of smuggling or piracy in home
waters ; and, in consequence, the narrow seas had been unsafe,
and the revenues had suffered greatly. The opening, in South
and Central America and in the Pacific, of new fields for restless
energy, not only drew away from home numbers of turbulent


spirits, but also, in course of time, returned them, infused with
discipline, hardened by peril, tempered by experience; and trans-
formed into splendid seamen. Moreover, those of them who
came back after having done well for themselves and they
were many reverted no more to their old irregular courses.
They may have been, and sometimes certainly were, unscru-
pulous fellows enough while at sea in the presence of a Spaniard
On their own Devonshire slopes they were honest and public-
spirited citizens. And, if the lust for adventure still inspired
them, it was open to them, during the latter part of the reign,
to enter the Queen's service, and to fight Spaniards to their
heart's content under the sanction of regularly recognised

The The piracies of the Elizabethan sea heroes must, almost from

Pirates' the commencement of the reign, have been excessively galling
Hawkins, to Spain, and it is astonishing that so proud and warlike a
country should have delayed until 1588 before undertaking
official reprisals of any serious kind. During his second voyage,
begun in 1564, John Hawkins (p. (>75) more than once, at the
sword's point, obliged the Spaniards of what is now Venezuela
to trade with him upon his own terms, his usual method being
to march a hundred of his ruffians, fully armed, into any town
that sought to levy duties of which he did not approve. During
his third voyage, begun in 1567, he pursued the same violent
policy. At Eio de la Hacha, where trade was prohibited, he
landed 200 men, took the town by storm, and had his own way.
At San Juan de Ulloa, where he actually took credit to himself
for not falling upon and seizing a Spanish treasure fleet, he
occupied and fortified an island in Spanish territory, and behaved
in so arbitrary a fashion as to induce the Spaniards to attack
him. It is possible that the Spaniards behaved badlv, and it is
certain that they were guilty of many cruelties, but the provo-
cation given was most flagrant. A little later, when Queen
Elizabeth, on the pretence that it was contraband of Avar, had
seized a large sum of money destined for the Duke of Alva, and
when it was generally believed that, in revenge, Alva and the
King of Spain were endeavouring to stir up rebellion in England,
English cruisers put to sea in such numbers to prey upon Spanish

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 54 of 68)