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1604 to 1714 - Under the Stuarts

James the First continued the same politic views, and appointed Mr. Phineas Pett, a graduate of the university of Cambridge, to the situation of naval constructor. This able man built the Prince Royal, Sovereign of the Seas, and other ships, upon scientific principles, and carried naval architecture, during this and the next reign, to a great height. The ships during the Commonwealth were not increased in size, but greatly in number, for in nine years the navy was doubled. In 1649 the first frigate which England possessed was built; she was constructed by Mr. Peter Pett, and called the Constant Warwick; she carried 42 guns, but was only 85 feet long, and 26 feet broad.

The navy was much neglected by Charles the Second ; in his reign, however, the first ship to carry 74 guns (the Royal Oak) was built; this ship was 157 feet 6 inches long, and 41 feet 4 inches broad. The dock-yard at Sheerness was commenced at this period.

James the Second paid much attention to the navy; and, with the assistance of Mr. Pepys, carried many wholesome Regulations into'effect. At the abdication of James, the fleet was in a good state. William and Mary increased it in numbers; and in order to provide for its future resources, established a dock-yard at Plymouth. At this period the doubling or girdling of ships was first introduced. Queen Anne gave her whole attention to' the efficiency of the army, the navy was consequently neglected, which caused great murmurs among the people.

James I was not inattentive to his navy. He warmly patronized Phineas Pett, to whom England undoubtedly owe the first essential improvements in the form and construction of ships. The nimbrous top-works were first got rid of under his superintendence. "In my owne time," says Raleigh, "the shape of our English ships hath been greatly bettered ; in extremity we carry our ordnance better than we were wont ; we have added crosse pillars in our royu.ll shippes, to strengthen them ; we have given longer floors to our shippes than in older times," fcc. In 1610 Pett laid down a ship named the "Prince Royal" ; her burden was 1400 tons, her keel 114 feet, and she was armed with sixty-four pieces of great ordnance, "beingin all respects," says Stowe, "the greatest and goodliest ship that was ever built in England."

The state of the navy at the king's death is variously given by different writers; but on this subject the memoranda left by Pepys are most likely to be correct. In 1618 certain commissioners were appointed to examine into the state of the navy, and by their report it appears there were then only 39 ships and vessels, whose tonnage amounted to 14,700 tons; while in 1624, on the same authority, the number had decreased to 32 or 33, but the tonnage increased to about 19,400 tons. The commissioners had, in fact, recommended many of the small craft to be broken up or sold, and more ships of the higher rates to be kept up.

Charles I had to raise money as best he could. He was afraid to raise regular taxes parliament had not sanctioned, but he tried by all sorts of shrewd tricksin ways which did not seem to be against the law. He found out that in earlier days kings had raised a tax for building ships of war, without a grant by parliament. This tax was called ship-money. Charles now called upon all his subjects to pay him ship-money. A Buckinghamshire gentleman named John Hampden refused to pay this tax. He said that no tax was lawful unless it had been specially agreed upon by parliament. The judges, however, decided against Hampden, and declared that the king might raise ship- money if he wished. Though the king got some money by this means, he made himself much disliked, and everybody praised Hampden for his bravery in resisting the king's will.

Charles I added upwards of 20 sail to the navy, generally of the smaller kind ; but one of them, built by Pett, was of a description, both as to form and dimensions, far superior to any that had yet been launched. This ship was the celebrated "Sovereign of the Seas," launched at Woolwich in 1637. The length of her keel was 128 feet, the main breadth 48 feet, and the length from stem to stern 232 feet. In the description of this ship by Thomas Heywood it is said that she "bore five lanthorns, the biggest of which would hold ten persons upright ; had three flush-decks, a forecastle, half-deck, quarter-deck, and round-house. Her lower tier had thirty ports for cannon and demi-cannon; middle tier, thirty for culverins and demi-culverins ; third tier, twenty-six for other ordnance ; forecastle, twelve ; and two half-decks, thirteen or fourteen ports more within board, for murthering pieces ; besides ten pieces of chace ordnance forward, and ten right aft, and many loopholes in the cabins for musquet shot She had eleven anchors, one of 4400 B> wtlght. She was of the burden of 1637 tons." It appears, however, that she was found, on trial, to be too high for a good serviceable ship in all weathers, and was therefore cut down to a deck less. After this she became an excellent ship, and was in almost all the great actions with the Dutch ; she was rebuilt in 1684, when the name was changed to that of "Royal Sovereign," and was about to be rebuilt a second time at Chatham in 1696 when she was totally destroyed by fire. In this reign the ships of the navy were first classed, or divided into six rates, the first being from 100 to 60 guns, the second from 64 to 36.

In 1642 the management of the navy was taken out of the king's hands, and in 1648 Prince Rupert carried away twenty-five ships, none of which ever returned ; and such, indeed, was the reduced state of the establishment that at the beginning of Cromwell's government he had only fourteen ships of war of two decks, and some of these carried only 40 guns ; but, under the careful management of very able men in different commissions which he appointed, such vigorous measures were punned that, in i vu years, though engaged within that time iu war with the greatest naval power in Europe, the fleet was increased to 150 sail (of which more than a third part had two decks, and many had been captured from the Dutch), while upwards of 20,000 seamen were employed in the navy. The military marine was, indeed, raised by Cromwell to a height which it had never before reached.

As a rule, the Navy received good treatment under the Commonwealth, in spite of much bickering with the soldiers who had the upper hand on shore. Officers and men were paid regularly, there was constant employment for almost, if not all, the seafarers in the country by the working of the Navigation Laws, and good service received prompt recognition. Nevertheless, the jealousy aroused between the land and sea services- caused by the attempts of the former to subordinate the latter-had a direct effect upon affairs throughout the stormy period which followed upon the death of Cromwell and the return of Charles II.

Though Cromwell found the navy divided into six rates or classes, it was under his government that these ratings were defined and established in the manner nearly in which they were till the middle of the 19th century; and it may also be remarked, that under his government were constructed a large number of frigates, or vessels designed specially for speed and having a peculiar sharpness of form. The first built in England was tha "Constant Warwick." "She was built," says Pepys, "in 1640, by Mr Peter Pett (son of Phineas), for a privateer for the earl of Warwick, and was sold by him to the state. Mr Pett took his model of this ship from a French frigate which he had seen in the Thames."

Comparatively little is known about ships' armaments up to this period. It appears, however, that they were furnished about the year 1837 with espringalds, haubergeoiis, bacinete, bows, arrows, jacks, doublets, target«, pavisea (or large shields placed at the side, and serving the double purpose of protection against the sea and the enemy), lances, and " firing barrels. " It also appears that ?? early as 1338 cannon formed part of the armament of snips, and that about 1372 guns and gunpowder were commonly used. Among the stores belonging to the "Christopher of the Tower" in Jose 1338 were three iron cannon with five chambers, a hand Ruh, and three old stone bags, probably for shot The "Mary of the Tower " had an Iron cannon with two chambers, and one of bra» with one chamber. The precise character and description of the earlier guns are difficult to be found, but among the "crakys of war "-mentioned as most used on board ship are "eannou-paviora," or stone-shot throwers, and "murtherers," which were smaller and threw any kind of shot.

There were also in the first period of naval history basilisks, port pieces, stock-fowlers, sakers, and bombarda. The last-named were large Instruments of hammered iron, made of bars welded and bound together with iron bands. They threw stone shot of 140 ft, and even of 185 ft weight A battery of these erected on a slip of land at the naval battle of Chioggia (1380), between the Venetians and the Genoese, did great damage. They were loaded over night and fired in the morning-one discharge per diem being considered enough for the gun, if not for the enemy. Froissait mentions a bombard at the siege of Oudenarde by Philip van Artevelde, that " might be heard five leaguea off ? the daytime, and ten at night The report of it was so loud that it seemed as if all the devils in hell had broken loose. " According to Lord Herbert, brass ordnance were first cast In England in the year 1535. They had various names, such as cannon, demi-cannon, cnlverins, demi-culverins, sakers, mynions, falconet, &c. What the calibre of each of these was is not accurately known, but the cannon are supposed to have been about 8?-ponndera, the demi-cannon 82, culverina 18, falcons 2, mynions 4, saker 5, fto. Many of these pieces of diflerent calibres were mounted on the same deck, which must have occasioned great confusion in action In finding for each its proper shot

On the restoration of Charles II the duke of York was immediately appointed lord high admiral, and by his advice a committee was named to consider a plan, proposed by himself, for the future regulation of the affairs of the navy, at which the duke presided. By the advice and able assistance of Pepys as a principal officer of the navy, great progress was speedily made in the reparation and increase of the fleet. The duke remained lord high admiral till 1673, when, in consequence of the test required by parliament, to which he could not submit, he resigned, and that office was in part put in ??mmission, and the rest retained by the king. Prince Rupert was put at the head of this commission, and Pepys appointed secretary of the Admiralty. By his able and judicious management there were in sea-pay, in the year 1679, and in excellent condition, 76 ships of the line, all furnished with stores for six months, 8 fire-shipa besides a numerous train of ketches, snacks, yachts, &c., with more than 12,000 seamen ; and also 30 new ships building, and a good supply of stores ? the dockyards.

But this flourishing condition of the navy did not last long. In consequence of the dissipation of the king, and his pecuniary difficulties, he neglected the navy on account of the expenses ; the duke was sent abroad, and Pepys to the Tower. À new set of commissioners was appointed, without experience, ability, or industry ; and the consequence was, as stated by the commissioners of revision, that "all the wise regulations formed daring the administration of the duke of York were neglected ; and such supineness and waste appear to have prevailed that, at the end of not more than five years, when he was recalled to the office of lord high admiral, only 22 ships, none larger than a fourth rate, with two fire-ships, were at sea ; those in harbour were quite unfit for service ; even the 30 new ships which he had left building had been suffered to fall into a state of great decay, and hardly any stores were found to remain in the dockyards."

The first act on the duke's return was the reappointment of Pepys as secretary of the Admiralty. In 1686, ñnding the principal officers unequal to the duties required of them, he appointed a special commission to restore the navy to its former strength and condition. Sir Anthony Deane, the most experienced of the shipbuilders then in England, was joined with the commissioners. He is said to have introduced important improvements in ships of the line, his model being the " Superbe," a French ship of 74 guns, from which he built the "Harwich" in 1664. Others, however, are of opinion that no advance was made on the model of the " Sovereign of the Seas * after she was cut down. The commissioners undertook, in three years, to complete the repair of the fleet, and furnish the dockyards with a proper supply of stores, on an estimate of £400,000 a year, to be issued in weekly payments ; and in two years and a half they finished their task to the satisfaction of the king and the whole nation, 108 sail of the line being repaired and under repair, besides smaller vessels. At the time of the king's abdication, the list of the navy amounted to 173 sail, of 101,892 tons, carrying 6930 guns and 42,000 seamen.

The naval regulations were wisely left unaltered at the Revolution, and the business of the Admiralty continued to be carried on for a short time, under the immediate direction of King William, by Pepys, till the arrival of Admiral Herbert and Captain Russell from the fleet, into whose hands, he says, " he silently let it fall" Upon the general principles of that system, thus established with his aid by the duke of York, the civil government of the British navy has been carried on ever since. Up to this time merchantmen, hired and armed, but commanded by officers of the navy, formed more or less a part of every fleet sent ont. Now, however, the navy became Independent for fighting purposes, while the development of commerce and colonial trade made the establishment of a system, of convoy» and cruisers an absolute necessity.

In the second year of William III. (1690), no less than 27 ships were ordered to be built, of 60 and 80 guns each; and in 1697 the king, in his speech to parliament, stated that the naval force of the kingdom was increased to nearly double what he found it at his accession. It was now partly composed of various classes of French ships which had been captured in the course of tho war, amounting in number to more than 60, and in guns to 2300,-the losses by storms and captures being about half the tonnage and half the guns acquired. At the commencement of William's reign, the navy, as already stated, consisted of 173 ships, measuring 101,892 tons ; at his death it had been extended to 272 ships, measuring 159,020 tons, being an increase of more than one-half both in number and in tonnage. The ships of the line numbered then 130, and this continued to be the average number till the middle of the 18th century.

The accession of Queen Anne was immediately followed by a war with France and Spain, and in the second year of her reign she had the misfortune to lose no less than 13 of her ships by one of the most tremendous storms that was ever known ; but every energy was used to repair this national calamity. In the course of this war there were taken or destroyed about 50 ships of war, mounting 3000 cannon ; and about half that number were lost. At the death of the queen, in 1714, the list of the navy was reduced in number to 247 ships, measuring 167,219 tons, being an increase in tonnage of 8199 tons.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:08:38 ZULU