« EelmineJätka »
Spaniards--Attacks and Captures Fernambuco-Freights Fif-
The numerous naval expeditions, some for military purposes, and others for the advancement of discovery and the extension of commerce, that took place throughout the reign of Queen Elizabeth, are the more to be admired when it is considered how scanty were the means she had within her power to employ, especially in military operations, either as regarded ships suitable for such undertakings, or officers to command them, experienced in gunnery or practised in naval tactics : but she had a few choice spirits, able and willing to learn, as they very soon did learn, and so effectually as to drive her most powerful and inveterate enemy from the ocean, and to destroy his fleets in his own harbours.
But something besides expert officers and able seamen was wanting; namely, the proper establishments and ready means for supplying provisions, stores, and ammunition, none of which were in existence; nor was money always forthcoming for the payment of wages, and the casual expenses of the service. Every letter almost, whether written
by the Lord High Admiral, by Drake, Lord Henry Seymour, or any other officers in command, commenced and ended with a pitiable cry for “ Vittels, vittels, vittels !” The agent-victualler, when there happened to be one, could not procure provisions, for the Treasurer would not send him money to pay for them : he had no establishment for stores, and, without money to go to market, he was unable to afford the necessary supplies when demanded. Burleigh, careful enough of his own money, was equally sparing in that of the Queen.
The expeditionary ships, when once at sea, contrived to feed themselves from the merchant-ships they might fall in with, whether friends or enemies. But the whole system, as regarded the civil part
of the navy, was as defective as was the military part.
The fleet, to which Elizabeth succeeded, was composed of the remains of the very worst portion of the ships, that were left by Henry VIII. to Edward VI., and by him to Queen Mary; the latter having but scantily, if at all, contributed to the naval force of the kingdom. Even Henry, we are told by historians of the time, had not at any one period, with all his sea-fights, more than four ships that, from their size, deserved the name of ships-of-war. These were the Regent, the Great Harry (by some named Henry Grace de Dieu), the Sovereign, and the Mary Rose; and they constituted nearly the whole of his navy-most of the smaller ones being either purchased or hired from merchants or private builders, or contributed by individuals for the occasion. Thus it is said that he sent five-and-forty ships to the coast of Bretagne, which fell in with a French fleet coming out of Brest; that an action ensued, which ended in the destruction of the two largest ships, one in each of the hostile fleets—the English Regent and the French Cordilier, being nearly of the same size (say, about a thousand tons): they grappled together, took fire, were blown up, and all on board, seven or eight hundred in each ship, perished. This was in the year 1512. The Regent and the Sovereign are said to have been procured by Henry VII. from some private builders in the northern parts of England. The Sovereign of the Seas, built in the reign of Charles I., was the first three-decked ship in the British fleet. Historians, however, refer to certain large ships built in the time of Henry VI. The curious old poem in Hakluyt, called English Policie, exhorting all England to keep the Sea,' &c., speaks of Henry V.'s “Great Dromons,” built at Hampton-such as the Trinité, the Grace de Dieu, and the Holy Ghost. But what they were, no record appears to be left.
The Commissioners of Naval Revision say, that Henry VIII. laid the foundation of the navy of England—that he instituted an Admiralty and a Navy Board : if so, how happened it that there was no vestige of either of them when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne? Henry, no doubt, founded a Trinity House at Deptford, and set apart ground for dock-yards at Deptford, Woolwich, and Portsmouth; but we hear nothing of docks for the repairing of ships. The few large ships he left were mostly worn out or destroyed in the two succeeding reigns. The number of all kinds, mostly small, that fell to the share of Elizabeth, cannot be estimated at more than 24. In fact, had Mary lived a few years longer, the navy of England would have ceased to exist. “At the death of Mary,” says Burnet, “the naval power of England was so much diminished that 14,0001. only was allowed for its repairs and victuals for one year; and but 10,0001. a-year would afterwards support all its charges.”