After the defeat of the Spanish Armada, with which, as the close of the galley period, our first volume necessarily ended, England fitted out many expeditions against the possessions and commerce of Spain, which, if not always successful, served, nevertheless, to foster a spirit of maritime enterprise among her people, and to impress foreign nations with exalted ideas of the daring and resolute character of British seamen, who, even when overpowered, ten to one, disdained to strike their colors, while they had a shot in the locker, or an ounce of powder in the magazine. A notable instance of this obstinate courage occurred in 1591, when Vice-Admiral Greenville, in the Revenge—a vessel famous from having borne the flag of Drake—withstood, for sixteen hours, the attack of "a whole Spanish fleet of fifty three sail and ten thousand men." Finding it impossible to resist longer, the heroic admiral prepared to set fire to the magazine; but, being prevented from so doing by his crew, he was forced to surrender, after having received three wounds, two of which were mortal. He expired calmly, a few days after the action, his last words being, "Here die I, Richard Greenville, with a joyful and quiet mind ; for that I have ended my life as a true soldier ought to do, fighting for his country, queen, religion, and honor; my soul willingly departing from my body."
Depending more and more on sails for propulsion, the man-of-war of the sixteenth century had undergone a gradual transformation, in model, armament, mastage, and rigging, until it had become such as is made known to us by Charnock, in his description of the Great Harry. In Protestant England a change had taken place, too, in the names of vessels, and in the habits and customs of seamen; the saintly appellations, in vogue in Queen Mary's time, having given place to such names as The Dreadnaught, The Defiance, The Water-Sprite, and The Mermaid, while the coaster, no longer lowering his sails nor dipping his flag to the shrine of Our Lady of Bradestow, seemed disposed to rely rather upon himself than upon Our Lady, or even his Patron Saint, for protection, when buffeted by the waves and winds of the tempestuous British channel.
In 1603, when James the First ascended the throne, and peace was concluded with Spain, British merchants, who, until then, had been in the habit of transporting their wares to and from foreign countries in English bottoms, began to hire vessels from all nations for this service, and, notwithstanding that the Corporation of the Trinity, in 1615, in a petition to the king, showed that such had been the decline of British shipping, in consequence of this impolitic custom, that there were not then more than ten ships belonging to the port of London of over two hundred tons burthen, it was unable, through the opposition of the mercantile community, to get an act passed prohibiting it. On a certain day, however, two London merchants, "more observant than their brethren," while walking along the banks of the Thames, chanced to see two Dutch ships, "laden with coffee and cotton (the property of Hollanders resident in Great Britain"), dropping their anchors off the city. The vessels were of large size, and, being well manned and armed, presented a formidable appearance; and the idea seemed to seize the two Englishmen, at the same moment, that, while the Flemish traders, by their wise conduct, were creating a powerful merchant marine, which, besides serving as a nursery for their seamen, must prove a most valuable acquisition to the Navy of Holland, in time of war, they, by their unwise course, were actually exposing their coast, in the event of a rupture with one of the great maritime powers, to blockade, and perhaps even to invasion.
"The idea spread like wild fire:" and such was the change of opinion, among the whole body of the merchants, that "the nation, with one accord, sedulously applied itself to the creation of a civil Navy;" so that, in 1622, there were belonging to Newcastle alone one hundred large vessels. The East India Company, too, which had received its first patent from Queen Elizabeth, in 1600, had now become an exceedingly powerful and influential corporation, and, with its capital of five hundred thousand pounds sterling, maintained a fleet of fine ships, all of which were well armed and many of great size, one in particular having a capacity of eleven hundred tons.
Inclined to peace as he was by nature, James had the good sense to see that he could only secure it by being prepared for war. and that a Navy was all important to the safety of England; and, as he was possessed of an inquiring mind which led him to pursue with avidity scientific investigation, he perceived, further, that the plans for the construction of vessels of war submitted to him by Phineas Pett, "gentleman, and some time Master of Arts at Emanuel College, Cambridge," were far in advance of those of the shipwrights of his kingdom. He therefore entrusted to him the building of "the greatest and goodliest vessel," according to Stone, "that had yet been builded in England." She was called the Prince Royal, and Charnock speaks of her as "the parent of the identical class of shipping which continued in use up to his day" (1802). "Were the absurd profusion of ornament", he goes on to remark, "removed, the contour or general appearance of the ships would not so materially differ from the modern vessels of the same size, as to render it an uncommon sight, or a ship that a mariner would hesitate to put to sea in."
Besides the Royal Prince, Pett built a number of smaller vessels, by order of the king, who, during his reign, "augmented the Royal Navy one fourth part." Charles the First also added to it several fine ships, of which "the most goodly by far" was The Sovereign of the Seas, thus described by Thomas Heywood, in his tract entitled—A true Description of his Majesty's royal ship, built this year, 1637, at Woolwich, in Kent, to the Great Glory of the English nation, and not to be paralleled in the whole Christian world.
"Upon the beak head sitteth royall King Edgar on horseback, trampling upon seven Kings; now what he was, and who they were, I shall briefly relate unto you, rendering withall a full satisfactory reason to any impartiall reader why they are there, and in that manner placed.
Upon the stemine head there is a Cupid, or a child resembling him, bestriding and bridling a lyon, which importeth that sufferance may curbe insolence, and innocence restraine violence, which alludeth to the great mercy of the King, whose type is a proper embleme of that great majesty, whose mercy is above all his workes. On the bulkhead right forward stand six severall statues in sundry postures, their figures representing Consilium, that is Counsell; Cura, that is Care; Conamen, that is Industry; and unanimous endeavors in one compartement; Counsell holding in her hand a closed or folded scrole; Care a sea compasse, Conamen, or Industry, a luit stock fired. Upon the other, to correspond with the former; Vis, which implyeth Force, or Strength, handing a sword; Virtus, or virtue, a sphearicalle globe; and Victoria, or Victory, a wreath of lawrell. The moral is, that in all high enterprizes there ought to be first, Counsell to undertake, then Care to manage, and Industry to performe: and, in the next place, where there is ability and strength to oppose, and vertue to direct, Victory consequently is alwayes at hand ready to crowne the undertaking. Upon the hances of the waste are four figures, with their several properties ; Jupiter riding upon his eagle, with his trisulk, from which hee darteth thunder, in his hand; Mars, with his sword and target, a fox being his embleme; Neptune, with his sea horse, dolphin, and trident; and, lastly, Aeolus upon a chameleon, a beast that liveth only by the ayre, with the foure windes his ministers or agents; the East called Eurus, Subsolauus, and Apliotes; the North wind, Septemtrio, Aquilo, or Boreas; the West, Zephyrus, Favorinus, Lybs and Africus; the South, Auster, or Notus. I come now to the sterne, where you may perceive upon the upright of the upper counter standeth Victory, in the middle of a frontispiece, with this general motto, Validis incumbite remis. It is so plaine, that I shall not need to give it any English interpretation. Her wings are equally display'd; on one arme she weareth a crowne, on the other a laurell, which imply Riches and Honour; in her two hands she holdeth two mottoes, her right hand which pointeth to Jason, beares this inscription, Nova; which word howsoever by some, and those not the least opinionated of themselves, mistaken, was absolutely extermin'd and excommunicated from a grammatical construction, nay, jurisdiction, for they would not allow it to be verbe or adverbe, substantive nor adjective; and for this, I have not only behind my back bin challenged, but even viva voce taxed as one that had writ at randum, and that which I understood not. But to give the world a plenary satisfaction, and that it was rather their criticisme than my ignorance, I entreate the reader but to examine Rider's last edition of his dictionary, corrected and greatly augmented by Mr. Francis Holyoke, and he shall there read, navo, navas; and therefore consequently nava in the imperative mood signifies a command to imploy all one's power to act, to ayde, to helpe, to endeavor with all diligence and industry, and therefore not improperly may Victory point to Jason, being figured with his oare in his hand, as being the prime Argonaut, and say, nava, or more plainely, operam nava; for in those emblematical mottoes there is alwayes a part understood. Shee pointeth to Hercules on the sinister side, with his club in his hand, with this motto, Clava, as if she would say, O Hercules, be thou as valiant with club upon the land as Jason is industrious with his oare upon the water. Hercules againe pointing to Aeolus, the god of windes, saith, Flato, who answereth him againe, Flo. Jason pointing to Neptune, the god of the seas, riding upon a sea-horse, saith, Faveto, to whom Neptune answereth No. These words Flo and No were also much excepted at, as if there had been no such Latine words, till some examining their grammar rules, found out Flo, Flas, Flari, proper to Aeolus, and No, Nas, Nari, to Neptune, etc.
In the lower counter of the sterne, on either side of the helme, is this inscription:—
Qui mare, qui fluctus, veutos navesque gubernat,
Sospitet hauc arcam Carole magne tuam.
He who seas, windes, and navies doth protect,
Great Charles, thy great ship in her course direct.
There are other things in this vessel worthye remarke, at least, if not admiration; namely, that one tree or oake made foure of the principall beams of this great ship, which was forty foure foote of strong and serviceable timber in length, three foote diameter at the top, and ten foote diameter at the stubbe or bottome. Another as worthy of especiall observation is, that one peece of timber, which made the kelson, was so great and weighty, that twenty-eight oxen and foure horses with much difficulty drew it from the place where it grew, and from whence it was cut, downe unto the water side.
There is one thing above all these for the world to take especiall notice of, that shee is besides tunnage just so many tuns in burden as their have beene yeares since our blessed Saviour's incarnation, namely, 1637, and not one under or over. A most happy omen, which though it was not the first projected or intended, is now by true computation found so to happen. It would bee too tedious to insist upon every ornament belonging to this incomparable vessel, yet thus much concerning her outward appearance. She hath two gallaries of a side, and all parts of the ship are carved also with trophies of artillery, and types of armour, as well belonging to land as sea, with syrnboles, emblemes, and impresses, appertaining to the art of navigation; as also, their two sacred Majesties' badges, of honour, armes, eschutcheons, etc, with severall angels holding their letters in compartements; all which workes are gilded quite over, and no other colour but gold and blacke to be seene about her; and thus much, in a succinct way, I have delivered unto you concerning her inward and outward decorements. I come now to describe her in her exact dimensions.
Her length by the keele is one hundred and twenty eight foote, or there-about, within some few inches. Her mayne breadth or widenesse from side to side forty eight foote. Her utmost length from the fore end of the sterne, a prora ad puppim, two hundred and thirty two foote. She is in height, from the bottome of her keele to the top of her lanthorne seventy-six foote. She beareth fire lanthornes, the biggest of which will hold ten persons to stand upright, and without shouldering or pressing one the other.
She hath three flush deckes and a fore-castle, an halfe deck, a quarter decke, and a round house. Her lower tyre hath thirty ports, which are to be furnished with derai-cannon and whole cannon throughout, being able to beare them. Her middle tyre hath also thirty ports for demi-culverin, and whole culverin. Her third tyre hath twentie sixe ports for other ordnance. Her forecastle hath twelve ports, and her halfe decke hath fourteene ports. She hath thirteene or fourteen ports more within board for murdering peeces, besides a great many loope holes out of the cabins for musket shot. She carrieth moreover ten peeces of chase ordnance in her right forward, and ten right aff, that is, according to land service, in the front and reare. She carrieth eleven anchors, one of them weighing foure thousand foure hundred, etc, and according to these are her cables, mastes, sayles, cordage, which, considered together, seeing Majesty is at this infinite charge, both for the honour of this nation and the security of his Kingdome, it should bee a great spur and encouragement to all his faithful and loving subjects to bee liberall and willing contributaries towards the ship money.
I come now to give you a particular denomination of the prime workemen imployed in this inimitable fabricke; as first, captayne Phineas Pett, overseer of the worke, and one of the principal officers of his Majestie's navy, whose ancestors, as father, grandfather, and great great grandfather, for the space of two hundred yeares and upwardes, have continued in the same name officers and architectures in the royall navy, of whose knowledge, experience, and judgment, I cannot render a merited character.
The maister builder is young Mr. Peter Pett, the most ingenious sonne of so much improved a father, who, before he was full five and twenty years of age, made the model, and since hath perfected the
worke which hath won not only the approbation but admiration of all men, of whom I may truly say as Horace did of Argus, that famous ship-master, who built the great Argo, in which the Grecian princesse rowed through the Hellespont, to fetch the golden fleece from Colchos:
Ad charum tritonia devolat Argum
Maliri hanc puppim imbet.
That is, Pallas herself flew into his bosome, and not only injoyn'd him to the undertaking, but inspired him in the managing of so exquisite and absolute an architecture.
Let me not here forget a prime officer, master Francis Skelton, clerke of the checke, whose industry and care in looking to the workmen imploy'd in this structure, hath beene a great furtherance to expedite the businesse.
The master carvers are John and Mathias Christmas, the sonnes of that excellent workeman, master Girard Christmas, some two yeares since deceased, who, as they succeed him in his place, so they have striv'd to exceed him in his art, the worke better commending them than my pen is any way able, and I make no question, but all true artists can, by the view of the worke, give a present nomination of the workemen.
The master painters, master joyner, master calker, master smith, &c, all of them in their severall faculties being knowne to bee the prime workemen of the kingdom, more selectedly imploy'd in this service."
Of the manner of collecting and transporting the timber necessary for the building of this " prodigious great ship," we are informed by Mr. Pett himself in his diary.
"I, This day," (May 14th, 1635), he writes, "took leave of his Majesty at Greenwich, with his command to hasten into the north to provide and prepare the frame timber, plank and treenels, for the new ship to be built at "Woolwich. I left my sons to see the moulds and other necessaries, shipped in a Newcastle ship, hired on purpose to transport our provisions and workmen to Newcastle. Attending the bishop of Durham, with my commissions and instructions, whom I found wonderfully ready to assist us, with other Knights, gentlemen, and justices of the county, who took care to order present carriage, so that in a short time there was enough of the frame ready to lade a large collier, which was landed at Woolwich, and as fast as provisions could be got ready, they were shipped off from Chapley wood, at Newcastle, and that at Barnspeth park from Sutherland. The 21st of Dec. we laid the ship's keel in the dock, most part of her frame coming safe was landed at Woolwich. The 16th of January, his Majesty, with divers lords, came to Woolwich to see part of the frame and floor laid, and that time he gave orders to myself and my son to build two small pinnaces out of the great ship's waste. The 28th, his Majesty came again to Woolwich, with the Palgrave, his brother, Duke Robert, and divers other lords, to see the pinnaces launched, which were named the Greyhound and Roebuck."
To complete the account of the British Navy, up to the time of the first Dutch war, and to show how, in the opinion of an Englishman, its vessels and its men then compared with those of other navies, the following extract, from Fuller's Worthies of England, is as pertinent as it is amusing:
The Navy Royal.
It may be justly accounted a wonder of Art. And know, the ships are properly here handled, because the most, best, and biggest of them have their birth (built at Woolwich) and winter abode (nigh Chatham in the river of Medway) in this county. Indeed, before the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the ships royal were so few, they deserved not the name of a fleet; when our kings hired vessels from Hamborough, Lubeck, yea Genoa itself. But such who, instead of their own servants, use chairfolk in their houses, shall find their work worse done, and yet pay dearer for it.
Queen Elizabeth, sensible of this mischief, erected a Navy royal (continued and increased by her successors) of the best ships Europe ever beheld. Indeed, much is in the matter, the excellency of our English oak; more in the making, the cunning of our shipwrights; most in the manning, the courage of our seamen; and yet all to God's blessing, who so often hath crowned them with success.
If that man who hath versatile ingenium be thereby much advantaged for the working of his own fortune, our ships, so active to turn and wind at pleasure, must needs be more useful than the Spanish galleons, whose unwieldiness fixeth them almost in one posture, and maketh them the steadier marks for their enemies.
As for Flemish bottoms, though they are finer built, yet as the slender barbe is not so fit to charge with, they are found not so useful in fight. The Great Sovereign, built at Woolwich, a lieger-ship for state, is the greatest ship our island ever saw. But great medals are made for some grand solemnity, whilst lesser coin are more current and passable in payment.
I am credibly informed, that that mystery of shipwrights, for some descents, hath been preserved successively in families, of whom the pets about Chatham are of singular regard. "Good success have they with their skill"; and carefully keep so precious a pearl, lest otherwise amongst many friends some foes attain unto it ! It is no monopoly which concealeth that from common enemies, the concealing whereof is for the common good. May this mystery of ship-making in England never be lost, till this floating world be arrived at its own haven, the end and dissolution thereof!
I know what will be objected by foreigners, to take off the luster navy royal, viz.; that, though the models of our great ships primitively were our own, yet we fetched the first mould and pattern of our frigates from the Dunkirks, when in the days of the Duke of Buckingham (then admiral) we took some frigates from them, two of which still survive in his majestie's navy, by the names of Providence and Expedition.
All this is confessed; and honest men may lawfully learn something from thieves for their own better defence. But, it is added, we have improved our patterns, and the transcript doth at this day exceed
the original. Witness some of the swiftest Dunkirks and Ostenders, whose wings in a fair flight have failed them, overtaken by our frigates, and they still remain the monuments thereof in our navy. Not to disgrace our neighboring nations, but vindicate ourselves, in these nine following particulars the navy royal exceeds all kingdoms and states in Europe;
1. Swift Sailing; which will appear by a comparative induction of all other nations.
First, for the Portugal, his Caroils and Caracts, whereof few now remain (the charges of maintaining them far exceeding the profit they bring in); they were the veriest drones on the sea, the rather because formerly their ceiling was dammed up with a certain kind of mortar to dead the shot, a fashion now by them disused.
The French (how dextrous soever in land battles) are left-handed in sea fights, whose best ships are of Dutch building.
The Dutch build their ships so floaty and buoyant, they have little hold in the water, in comparison of ours, which keep the better wind, and so outsail them.
The Spanish pride hath infected their ships "with loftiness, which makes them but the fairer marks to our shot. Besides, the wind hath so much power of them in bad weather, so that it drives them two leagues for one of ours to the leeward, which is very dangerous upon a lee shore.
Indeed, the Turkish frigates, especially some thirty-six of Algiers, formed and built much near the English mode, and manned by renegadoes, many of them English, being already too nimble-heeled for the Dutch, may hereafter prove mischievous to us, if not seasonably prevented.
I confine this only to the timber whereof they are made, our English oak being the best in the world. True it is (to our shame and sorrow be it written and read) the Dutch of late have built them some ships of English oak, which (through the negligence or covetousness of some great ones) was bought here and transported hence. But the best is, that, as Bishop Latimer once said to one who had preached his sermon, that he had gotten his fiddlestick but not his rosin, so the Hollanders with our timber did not buy also our art of ship-building.
Now the ships of other countries are generally made of fir and other such slight wood; whereby it cometh to pass, that, as in the battle in the forest of Ephraim (wherein Absalom was slain), '"the wood devoured more people that day than the sword ;"the splinters of so brittle timber kill more than the shot in a sea-fight.
Our frigates are built so neat and snug, made long and low; so that (as the make of some women's bodies handsomely concealeth their pregnancy or great belly) their contrivance hideth their bigness without suspicion, the enemy not expecting thirty, when (to his cost) he hath found sixty pieces of ordnance in them. Our masts stand generally very upright; whereas those of the Spaniards hang over their poop as if they were ready to drop by the board; their decks are unequal, having many risings and fallings, whereas ours are even; their ports, some higher in a tier than others, ours drawn upon an equal line. Their cables are bad (besides subject to rot in these countries), because bought at the second hand; whereas we make our best markets, fetching our cordage from the fountain thereof.
Besides the strength inherent in the structure (whereof before), this is accessary, consisting in the weight and number of their guns. The Royal Sovereign, being one of the first rates, when she is fitted
for the seas, carrieth one hundred and four pieces of ordnance mounted.
Courageous and Skilful,—for the first, we remember the proverb of Solomon: "Let another praise thee, not thy own mouth, a stranger, not thy own lips." The Spaniards with sad shrug, and Dutch with a sorrowful shaking of their heads, give a tacit assent, hereunto. Skilful.—Indeed navigation is much improved, especially since Saint Paul's time; insomuch that, when a man goes bunglingly about any
work in a ship, I have heard our Englishmen say, "Such a man is one of St. Paul's mariners." For though, no doubt, they were as ingenious as any in that age to decline a tempest, yet modern experience affords fairer fences against foul weather.
6. Advantageous Weapons.
Besides guns of all sorts and sizes, from the pistol to whole cannon, they have round-double-head-bur-spike-crow-bar-case-chain-shot. I join them together, because (though different instruments of death) they all concur in doing execution. If they be wind-ward of a ship, they have arrows made to shoot out of a bow, with fire works at the end, which if striking into the enemy's sails, will stick there, and fire them and the ship. If they lie board and board, they throw hand grenades with stink-pots into the ship; which make so noisome a smell that the enemy is forced to thrust their heads out of the ports for air.
1. Wholesome; our English beef and pork, keeping sweet and sound longer than any flesh of other countries, even twenty-six months, to the East and West Indies.
2. More plentiful than any prince or State in all Europe alloweth; the seamen having two beef, two pork, and three fish days. Besides, every seaman is always well stored with hooks to catch fish, with which our seas do abound; insomuch that many times six will diet on four men's allowance, and so save the rest therewith to buy fresh meat, when landing where it may be procured. I speak not this that hereafter their allowance from the king should be less, but that their loyalty to him, and thankfulness to God, may be the more.
Every one of his majesty's ships and frigate officers have a distinct cabin for themselves; for which the Dutch, French and Portuguese do envy them, who for the most part lie sub dio under decks.
Few offences comparatively to other fleets are therein committed, and fewer escape punishment. The offender, if the fault be small, is tried by a Court-martial, consisting of the officers of the ship; if great, by a council of war, wherein only commanders and the judge advocate. If any sleep in their watches, it is pain of death. After eight o'clock none, save the captain, lieutenant, and master, may presume to burn a candle. No smoking of tobacco (save for the privilege aforesaid) at any time, but in one particular place of the ship, and that over a tub of water. Preaching they have lately had twice a week; praying twice a day; but my intelligencer could never hear that the Lord's Supper for some years was administered aboard of any ship, an omission which I hope hereafter will be amended. But never did this navy appear more triumphant, than when in May last it brought over our gracious sovereign, being almost becalmed (such the fear of the winds to offend with over roughness); the prognostic of his majesty's peaceable reign.
Being to take our leave of these our wooden walls; first, I wish that they may conquer with their mast and sails, without their guns; that their very appearance may fright their foes into submission.
But if, in point of honour or safety, they be necessitated to engage, may they always keep the wind of the enemy, that their shot may fly with the greater force, and that the smoke of their powder, pursuing the foe, may drive him to fire at hazard! May their gunner be in all places of the ship, to see where he can make a shot with the best advantage; their carpenter and his crew be always in the hold, presently to drive in a wooden plug (whereas a shot comes betwixt wind and water), and to clap a board with tar and camel's hair upon it till the dispute be over ; their chirurgeon and his assistants be in the same place (out of danger of shot) to dress the wounded; their captain be in the uppermost, the lieutenant in every part of the ship, to encourage the seamen; the chaplain at his devotions, to importune heaven for success, and encouraging all by his good council, if time will permit!
The reader having now been made acquainted with the English navy, it becomes necessary, in order that he may have a proper understanding of the battles which it fought with the navy of the united Provinces, to trace the rise and progress of the latter, up to the moment of actual conflict, and to touch briefly upon the history of that remarkable people, whose self-reliant, fearless, independent, and energetic character enabled their country to carry on, to a successful issue, an eighty years' war with Spain, and to compete, for so long a period, with its great maritime rival, for supremacy at sea.
Holland or Ollant, as the earliest Dutch writers styled the land they inhabited, is said to mean marshy ground, "which," remarks Bosworth, "exactly suits the fenny and boggy soil it designates. Look for the word in the Teuthouista of Van der Schueren, and you will find 'Beven daveren als eyn ollant, scaiere'—tremble under the feet as a marshy ground." Pliny mentions it as "a county over which the ocean pours in its flood twice every day, and produces a perpetual uncertainty, among its inhabitants, whether they are living upon the laud or at sea," while English seamen were wont to speak of it, contemptuously, as "a bit of mud carried over from the Channel on the leads of British pilots."
Its first inhabitants, so far as we know, were the Batavians, whom Tacitus characterizes as the bravest and most warlike of the Germans, and it is from this tribe that Grotius, Erasmus, and others of the most learned Dutch authors claim the Dutch of the 17th century to be descended; but as the historian Wagenaar asserts positively that the Batavians had become so exhausted in Rome's wars that in the 5th century their very name became obliterated from history, how, it may be pertinently asked, could there be any of their blood remaining among the inhabitants of their country, twelve hundred years later? Batavia, overrun by horde after horde of fierce barbarians, fell finally into the hands of the Friezlanders, a people resembling its primitive inhabitants in every respect. Among their virtues not the least was the tenacity with which they clung to ancient friendships, preferring old friends to new even for companionship in the world to come. Wilfran, Archbishop of Sens under Charles Mastel, after much persuasion, believed he had prevailed upon king Radbod of Friezlaud to be baptized. The king, indeed, had gone so far as to place one foot upon the font when he asked—" Are my ancestors among the blessed in heaven?" "Assuredly not," replied the good bishop, "they are damned"—"I will not, then," exclaimed Radbod starting back, "forsake my many friends in hell, to dwell with a few Christians in Heaven."
In the 10th century, a part of ancient Batavia, under the distinctive name of Holland, organized a separate government for itself, of which Diedrick was made the head, with the title of Count of Holland, (A.D. 903); Philip the 2nd of Spain being the last who was raised to this dignity in 1581. Philip, being a bigoted Catholic and infringing the rights of Holland and the neighboring States, Holland united with four of them in 1579, and with two others in 1581, to resist Spanish tyranny. This confederation formed the seven united Provinces of Holland. Friezland, Utrecht, Gueldres, Zutphen, Overyssell and Groningen, whose inhabitants, accustomed to struggle with the very ocean itself for the soil they inhabited, were not disposed to submit tamely to encroachments from other quarters. With admirable independence, considering the age in which they lived, they declared, in their manifesto, that "the prince is made for the people, not the people for the prince," and that "the prince who treats his subjects as slaves is a tyrant whom his subjects have a right to dethrone."
The Federal Government was composed of a States General to which all the States sent their representatives, a Stadtholder who was Captain General and Admiral and had the appointment of all military and naval commissions, a Treasurer, a Conservator of the Peace, and a Grand Pensionary; but, as the three last named officers were entirely independent of the first, while all held their offices at the will of the States General, which could neither make war nor peace if a single province objected thereto, it is clear that the people of the united Provinces were themselves the source and end of all power.
In 1650, the office of Stadtholder was discontinued; but revived in 1654, by decree of the States General, and conferred on the Prince of Orange as an hereditary rank.
As might have been expected from their position, the Netherlander applied themselves, at a very early period, to marine pursuits, and especially to fishing, which in the end became a source of such immense national wealth to their country that the discovery of an improved method of drying and barrelling herrings, in 1414, gained for its author, Jacob Benkelson, the everlasting gratitude of his countrymen; the great Charles the 5th, on one of his many journeys, stopping to visit the monument erected to his memory, because he regarded him "as one of the greatest benefactors of mankind."
By degrees, their voyages were extended, from the fishing banks on their own and the English coast, to the countries bordering on the Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, and finally, to the remotest corners of the habitable globe; their ships increasing in size as the ports which they were required to visit became more distant. Their vessels differed from those of other nations in their having more beam in proportion to their length and in their flatter floors, the sands which environ their coast obliging them to make them of as light draught as possible; and "this principle acting forcibly on the minds of an economical people, that the greater the breadth which is given to a vessel the less will be the expense in constructing it, proportioned to the commodities that it will be able to contain."
So advanced were the ideas of the Dutch, as regards commercial enterprise, that they held it as good policy for a nation to supply even its enemies with munitions of war, since if not so supplied, they would obtain them from another source, "while an enemy's gold" they argued, "passed as readily as a friend's."
In 1638, a merchant of Amsterdam, named Beyland, upon being dragged before the magistrates of that city on a charge of having violated the neutrality of his country by carrying powder and muskets to Antwerp, then besieged by the Spaniards, boldly admitted the accusation, declaring that the people of Amsterdam had a right to trade where they pleased, and that "for his part he would risk burning his sails on a voyage to hell, if anything could be made by bringing brimstone there from."
The magistrates with one accord approved of his course and ordered that he should be discharged from custody. Such, in brief, were the condition and temper of the merchants and the merchant marine.
In 1589, the navy of The United Provinces, which previously to this period had been, like that of England before the time of Henry the Seventh, a mere assemblage of armed merchantmen, was placed upon a regular footing. A Board of Admiralty was created, consisting of seven members, of which the Admiral-in-chief was the head, who remained in office for three years. Their duties were to build and fit ships, to supply them with cannon and other munitions of war, and to see that their crews were provided with good clothing and provisions and regularly paid. Their navy, under this system, gradually increased until it consisted of about one hundred large vessels, for coast defense, and some sixty or seventy yachts and pinnaces of eighty or less tons each, to protect their rivers and inland seas.
In 1602, the Dutch East India Company was formed, which, with its large capital and fine ships, well manned and armed, added greatly to the naval resources of the country.
But the great strength of the Navy consisted in this, that it was founded upon the affections of the people, and kept alive by their traditions, there being scarcely a family in the whole United Provinces without one or more representatives in it; so that its services and its heroism became the themes of every fireside, the old men telling of the storms they or their comrades had weathered and the battles they had taken part in, and the young men listening with attentive ears to the recital, anxious to emulate the deeds of their sires.
Thus on some evenings the story would be told of Piet Hein's doings at San Salvador, and of his capture of the Silver Fleet—on others of the patriotism of rear-admiral Klaaszoon, who, being surrounded by a Spanish fleet, defended his vessel until his masts were gone, his ammunition exhausted, and every man of his crew either killed or desperately wounded, when he proposed to the survivors to blow up the vessel that none might fall alive into the enemy's hands; and we may imagine the effect upon young and old as the narrators would go on to describe the scene that followed. The rear-admiral, kneeling down in the midst of his officers and men, and with hands clasped and eyes uplifted to Heaven asking pardon for his and their sins, and invoking a blessing upon his country; and then coolly setting fire to the train leading to the magazine, and yielding up his life here for immortality hereafter.
But the story which was oftenest told and most eagerly looked for was that of the destruction of a Spanish fleet at Gibraltar by the gallant Heemskerk; for it was a tale of valor unsurpassed in naval annals, and of peculiar interest to the Dutch people as the first great triumph of their navy over that arrogant foe, under whose ruthless tyranny their land had, for almost a hundred years, groaned. The facts are these:
In the latter part of the 16th century, the loss to Dutch shipping by the depredations of Spanish cruisers was so great as seriously to alarm the merchants of the United Provinces, lest it should be actually swept from the ocean. In this emergency, the States General resolved to fit out a fleet expressly to cruise against Spanish commerce, and "to assail the Spaniards at sea and on land."
For this purpose, in 1607, a force of twenty-six of their largest and best vessels was collected, armed with cannon of the heaviest calibre, and provided with every thing necessary for its efficiency that gold could procure. Its officers and crews were picked men and, by unanimous consent, the command-in-chief was conferred upon Jacob Van Heemskerk, a man of exalted courage and singular modesty, who had made two voyages to the Arctic Ocean, and commanded the fleet of the East India Company, in a successful engagement with the Spaniards, in 1604.
On the 25th of March, the armament set sail, and on the 24th of April, while running along the Spanish coast, the admiral was informed by a Frenchman that he had seen twenty-one Spanish men-of-war in the straits of Gibraltar standing in for the town. This was just the opportunity Heemskerk wanted; so he assembled his captains on board his flag-ship, the Aeolus, and explained to them his plan of battle, and, after they had returned to their commands, made all sail with a leading wind for the straits, which he reached early on the following morning.
As he approached Gibraltar, the Spanish fleet was observed to be anchored in a semi-circle off the quay, which was of stone, and bristling with cannon, while the wings of the fleet were protected by
castles strongly garrisoned, whose guns frowned defiance toward the sea.
The admiral had been standing on deck for several long hours, anxiously waiting to catch a glimpse of the foe. He was dressed in full uniform and wore a helmet on his head. "There they are", said he, pointing out the Spaniards to his flag-captain, the gallant Verheoff—"nine galleons and twelve smaller vessels. Their crews already outnumber ours two to one, and yet soldiers are being carried off to them by boatloads; but we will give them a sound drubbing, nevertheless." His commanders now came on board to receive his last orders, and, having drunk a glass of wine together, vowed to stand by each other and their admiral to the death. "Comrades," said the admiral in reply, "you have now an opportunity of winning the gratitude of your country and the admiration of mankind. Do your whole duty then and follow me; I shall be foremost in the fight." He then shook hands with them
all round, and they left the ships.
The Aeolus now took the lead, with the wind a little forward of the port beam, followed by the other vessels in close order, all with every rag of canvas set, and steered for the Spanish Admiral's ship, which was a little apart from and to seaward of the leemost vessel of the enemy's line.
As the Dutch came toward him in this dashing style, the Spanish admiral, Don Juan Alvarez d'Avila, who was standing on the quarter deck of his magnificent flag-ship, the St. Augustine, carrying seven hundred officers and men, sent for the master of a Rotterdam vessel who was a prisoner on board, and asked him what he presumed to be Heemskerk's intention. "He intends to attack you, I think," replied the skipper curtly.
Alvarez was a brave man who had done his duty gallantly at Lepanto, and, as he glanced at the bronzed faces of his seamen and felt the strength of his position, he laughed a scornful laugh—"Why a single squadron of my fleet, covered as we are by the shore batteries, would be more than a match for your countrymen", said he, "even if they were led by the Cid. Surely their admiral cannot be mad enough to engage us."
"We shall soon know," admiral, was the quiet response; "but see they are at prayers, as is the custom in our Navy before joining battle."
The ships were so near now that Alvarez could see what was passing on their decks, where he noted with astonishment that all hands were kneeling. In a few minutes, however, the Dutchmen rose to their feet, and after taking a "farewell draught" from an immense bowl which one of their number passed around, went to their quarters and commenced shooting their guns. Then D' Avila comprehended that they were really in earnest, and, not wishing to be surrounded, he cut his cable and made sail toward the town, coming to anchor again just inside of his vice-admiral.
"Shall we engage the vice-admiral, sir?" asked the captain of the Eolus of his superior.
"No" replied Heemskerk sternly, "nor waste a shot on him as you pass; reserve your whole fire until we get alongside of the admiral and our anchor is gone. Two hundred gilders for the man who brings down his flag." So onward he went, leaving the vice-admiral on his left and bearing up a little to get on the St. Augustine's starboard side, while Captain Lambert Hendrickson of Rotterdam, in the Black Bear, ranged upon her port quarter, the other vessels keeping their course, and doubling on the enemy, as they reached his column, so that every Spanish ship engaged found herself at close quarters with two antagonists.
But, as the Eolus was rounding the stern of the San Augustine and taking in her canvass, the Spaniard opened upon her with his stern chasers, keeping up a brisk fire with his starboard guns as they were brought to bear, and, at the same time, manning his port battery, in readiness to discharge a broadside at the Black Bear.
Yet Verheoff, in strict obedience to his orders, made no reply until he had got his berth and his anchor was let go, when, in a loud voice, heard from one end of the ship to the other, he cried, "Now, boys, let them have it—Fire."
The vessel was still quivering from the recoil of her guns, when a ball from the San Augustine came crashing through her after bulwarks, throwing splinters in all directions, one of which, striking Heemskerk's left leg, so crushed it, that the broken bones protruded from the skin in several places, and he fell, bathed in blood, to the deck. Verheoff ran to him, and, stooping over him, endeavored to raise him in his arms. But the dying man, amid all his agony, was true to himself and his country—"Let me remain where I am", he whispered; "give all your thoughts to your ship—victory is certain—keep my flag flying until the battle is won." Then, seizing his faithful friend's hand, he pressed it to his heart, and expired.
The Dutch ships by this time had all reached their position, and the battle was raging everywhere from the centre of the Spanish fleet to its extreme rear, while the vessels of the Spanish van, having cut their cables, were hastening to their friends' relief, some being already before the wind, and others still wearing under their jibs. As they sailed down inshore of the combatants, they poured broadside after broadside into the Starboard Dutch column, whose twelve vessels suffered fearfully from the cannonade: but when, upon gaining their berths, they anchored, and, swinging round, some with their bows and some with their sterns toward the foe, exposed themselves to a raking fire, the Dutch opened upon them with such effect that two of their number, with their masts over their sides and their cables absolutely cut in twain, drifted ashore, while one of them, a huge galleon, blew up, and several were set on fire.
The Dutch meanwhile had not escaped unscathed; but were riddled with shot from stem to stern, and many of them took fire from the burning Spanish ships with which they or their consorts had been engaged, finding it impossible to avoid them as they drifted alongside.
The Groningen, after whipping two Spanish ships, had laid herself alongside of a third, when her foremast went by the board, and her captain fell dead upon the deck.
Finding themselves thus deprived of their commander, the crew gave up all as lost and flinched from their guns. At this critical instant, the cabin door flew open and a flaxen haired boy of about ten years of age rushed upon deck, and, throwing his arms around the neck of the corpse, covered its pale face with kisses. Then, springing to his feet, he ran to the crew and with flashing eyes, although his cheeks were still wet with tears, called upon them to avenge his father's death.
The cheer that arose in response to this appeal was heard above the din of battle throughout the fleet, and the next instant the Groningen's men, headed by their remaining officers, were on the deck of the Spaniard, and driving their enemies before them, some below and some over the high bulwarks into the sea.
So the fight continued until near sunset, ceasing only with the utter destruction of the Spaniards, while not one single Dutch ship was destroyed or fell into the enemies’ hands.
The gallant D'Avila was killed, and of his officers and men so many were slain that "their bodies floated about the bay in countless numbers until the following day."
As the Dutch ships, after their work of death, stood slowly out of Gibraltar bay, their men manned the rigging and filled the air with their cheers, for as yet, outside of Verheoff's vessel, none knew that their great admiral was killed; but when his flag and the ensign of the Eolus, lowered to half-mast, gave notice of the fact, a feeling of gloom overspread the whole fleet; for each man felt that he had lost a friend, while all regarded his death as a national calamity. His body was carried to Amsterdam and buried in the Oude Kerk, where the marble monument erected to his memory is still pointed out by his countrymen. An inscription on it, by the poet Hooft, records his virtues and his heroism.
With such teachings, it is not surprising that every adventurous boy in the Provinces took to the sea as naturally as a sea-gull, nor that the Dutch navy soon acquired an enviable reputation throughout the world. Although the Spaniards had done their utmost to cripple it, it seemed to grow stronger under their blows, until in 1639, Philip the Fourth, of Spain, undeterred by the fate of the Invincible Armada, sent against it the whole sea force of his kingdom, in a last grand effort to destroy it, and to regain (so rumor had it) the sovereignty of the lands lost through his grandfather's bigotry.
This armament, which consisted of sixty-seven large vessels, carrying, in the aggregate, two thousand guns and twenty-five thousand men was commanded by Don Antonio de Oquendo, an officer of great repute in the Spanish service, and a relative of the famous Miguel de Oquendo, "the Philip Sydney of Spain," who, upon being asked by the Duke of Medina Sidonia for his advice, when the Invincible Armada seemed to be drifting upon the dangerous shoals off the coast of Holland, replied with spirit: "Seek counsel of Diego Florez, your excellency. All I ask is to be kept well supplied with powder and ball".
Leaving Corunna in the latter part of August and steering for the British channel, this formidable armament reached Cape Grisney on the 15th of September, where it found, awaiting its arrival, a Dutch Squadron of observation, dispatched by the Prince of Orange, on information from the Court of France, of Philip's designs—a force weak in the number of its vessels (only thirteen all told), but strong in the character of its seamen, and especially so in its commander-in-chief, the fair-haired-boy, now grown to middle age, whose heroic conduct on board the Groningen had saved that vessel, as we have seen, from falling into the enemy's hands. This was the famous Marten Harperts Tromp.
When Tromp sighted the Spaniards, he sent orders to Admirals DeWitte and Bankert, who were cruising between Dunkirk and Dover, to join him with their commands without delay, and then bore away, with flowing sheets, up the channel, firing guns every half hour, to apprise all Dutch craft that might chance to be within hearing, of the approach of the foe.
Early on the morning of the 16th, DeWitte, who had heard the signal guns, hove in view, with five large ships, and, in obedience to instructions, he was soon on board the admiral's ship, the Brederode, where the captains of the fleet, summoned by signal, were also fast assembling.
When all were met, Tromp invited each one to give his views as to what was best to be done, beginning with the junior captain; and, as usual in Councils of war, the opinions were conflicting, until it came to the turn of DeWitte to speak, who so vehemently urged an immediate attack that he carried with him the whole Council—all but the Admiral, who shook his head disapprovingly as he looked toward the Spaniards, and, pointing out to his officers the disparity in size and in armament of the fleets, reminded them that, if they should be defeated, there would be nothing between Oquendo and their Fatherland but Bankert's small force of twelve vessels!
DeWitte however—a man of dull perceptions, but of great animal courage, who could see no duty before him, when the enemy was in sight, but to engage—still adhered to his opinion that it would be best to attack at once; and at last Tromp consented, when all took a glass of wine together, and the Council broke up.
All this time the two fleets were running along the coast of France, with the wind off the land, on their starboard beam, the Dutch being some five miles in advance; but, upon a signal from their flag-ship, the latter wore in succession and stood for the enemy, Tromp beginning the action by pouring a broadside into the Spanish admiral, while DeWitte, sailing recklessly into the midst of the Armada, became engaged with four of its largest galleons.
For some hours the battle was very hot, and, when it ended (at about 4 P.M.), DeWitte's ship had been fearfully cut up in masts, rigging, and hull, and one of the largest of the Dutch vessels, the Saint
Christopher, blown up; but the Spaniards had suffered even more, and they bore up for the English coast, with the Dutch hanging on their heels.
On the night of the 18th, Tromp succeeded in concentrating his whole force on the rear Spanish division, subjecting it to a terrific cannonade, and, at the dawn of day-on the 19th, Bankert was descried approaching with twelve fresh ships, whereupon Oquendo made all sail for neutral waters, coming to anchor in the Downs, under cover of Deal castles.
The Spanish admiral could scarcely have committed a greater blunder, since the anchorage he had chosen did not afford room for the deployment of half his large force, while, of its two entrances, the Southern entrance was but two miles wide and the Northern one so extremely narrow as not to admit of the passage through it, of more than one vessel at a time.
So soon as he found himself in this trap, Oquendo should have availed himself of the first fair wind to force the Southern channel, but he did nothing of the kind; and Tromp, quick to take advantage of an enemy's errors, lost no time in communicating to The States General the condition of affairs, and urging upon its members, collectively and individually, not only in written communications, but orally, through the lips of his intimate personal friends, the wisdom of sending to him without delay every available ship and man in The Seven United Provinces, that "he might at one blow make a complete finish of the Spaniards." And nobly did the States respond to his earnest solicitations; for, day by day, and hour by hour, during the space of almost a month, fresh ships reported to him; the British channel, the while, from the Goodwin Sands to the coast of Holland, being alive with transports bringing men, provisions, and arms. On a stormy night, towards the end of September, twelve Dunkirk ships, carrying four thousand men, and piloted by British fishermen, got away "through the Swash channel, round by the North Sand Head"; but Tromp quickly closed that avenue of escape, and gradually, as his force increased, drew nearer to the Spaniards, until, by the 17th of October, he had them completely hemmed in, his fleet (then consisting of one hundred and ten vessels) coming to anchor in the Downs, outside of them, confident of an easy victory if the enemy could but be brought to an engagement; to do which without having to fight the English fleet as well became now his great aim, since "Sir John Pennington, his majesty's admiral, who lay in the Downs with thirty four-men of war, had informed him that he had received orders to act in defense of either of the parties which should be first attacked."
In pursuance of his object, Tromp got into his barge, on the morning of the 19th of October, and deliberately sailed through the Spanish fleet, as if making a reconnaissance of its numbers, strength and position; a proceeding which (as he must have foreseen) so stirred up the irascible Spaniards, that one of their vessels fired at him, sending a ball just over his head, and through the boat's sail. The next day he repeated the experiment with better success; his boat being again fired upon, and one of her crew killed outright.
The opportunity he had been longing for had come at last, and the man of action was resolved to take instant advantage of it—a resolve which he was confirmed in by advices received from The States General, directing him to engage the enemy at all hazards, even though he should be obliged to fight England to boot. He now called a council of war, and arranged his plan of battle, and at the same time sent the bloody corpse- of the slain bargeman alongside the English flag-ship, "that Pennington might see for himself that Oquendo had been the first to violate the rights of asylum granted by the King of Great Britain to all nations seeking shelter on his coasts." The body was accompanied by a letter, wherein Tromp informed the British Admiral that he fully expected him to call the Spaniards to account for violating England's neutrality, and that if he failed to do so, he (Tromp) would take the matter into his own hands.
On the morrow, at dawn of day, the Brederode fired a gun as a signal to the Dutch fleet (which was riding at single anchor) to commence heaving in. A second gun followed about sunrise, when the topsails were let fall from their yards, which had been previously mast headed, and the head sails hoisted.
The Dutch fleet then stood for the Spaniards in five divisions, leaving a sixth division, under De Witte, to watch the English, in readiness to engage them should they venture to take sides with the enemy. DeWitte's force consisted, according to LeClerc, of twenty-eight, frigates and four fire-ships.
No sooner were the Dutch underway than the Spaniards cut their cables, and endeavored to get to sea, by the passage between the Goodwins and the South Foreland; and, as if to favor them in their design, a thick mist, which completely concealed them from the enemy's view, came driving from the land. It was but of brief duration, however, and when it lifted, twenty-two of the Spanish vessels, which had ventured too near the coast, were observed to be hard and fast aground, "one of which was a great galleon (the vice-admiral of Galicia) commanded by Don Antonia de Castro and mounted with fifty-two brass guns." Upon these vessels the fire of the whole Dutch fleet was concentrated, until their officers and men were forced to abandon them—some leaving in boats and others jumping overboard and swimming for the shore—when a number of fire-ships were sent against them, and seventeen of their number destroyed.
The other vessels of the Spanish fleet succeeded in reaching the open sea; but were soon overtaken by the Dutch, and forced into a fight which ended in their almost utter annihilation. The accounts
are conflicting; but the Count D'Estrades characterizes the victory of the Dutch as the most complete ever seen (la plus complete, qui se soit jamais vue) while the Spanish historian, La Fuente, deplores, in pathetic terms, the total defeat sustained by his countrymen. "The greater part of our fleet," he writes, "was either captured, burnt or sunk, including the ship of the line, the Santa Teresa, of eighty guns, commanded by the famous Don Lope de Hoces, in which was embarked the most select regiment of musketeers to be found in all Spain. Of this regiment not one man was saved. But why enter into details? The truth is we lost, in that action, the best of our navy in seamen—of whom eight thousand perished—as well as in ships, and that our maritime power suffered this crushing blow more, to add to the naval disasters of the two previous reigns."
Only seven Spanish vessels, of which one bore the flag of the admiral-in-chief, succeeded in making their escape into the friendly harbor of Dunkirk. Sixteen fell into the hands of the Dutch, together with four thousand five hundred men, including officers, soldiers, and seamen. The Dutch loss in ships was ten, of which there was not one but went down or burned up with its colors flying. Their killed, wounded, and missing numbered less than one thousand.
Such was the fate of the second Armada dispatched by Spain to the British channel, which, like the first, was governed entirely from Madrid; for Oquendo had strict orders from the Spanish Cabinet, not to fight the Dutch, but to take refuge in English waters, and thence to send, as best he could, the twelve thousand infantry embarked on his vessels, to some port in Flanders. This explains fully the otherwise unaccountable behavior of one who was esteemed by his countrymen the very best seaman of his day; and his dire defeat adds another to the long list of battles lost through the interference of meddlesome politicians with the management, tactics, and strategy of commanders-in-chief. Yet, although Don Antonia de Oquendo was doubtless a good officer, the world will not be willing to accept him as a great one; for a great man in supreme command, whether by sea or by land, will never regard instructions, no matter whence they emanate, which, if rigidly carried out, must lead to the destruction of his fleet or army, the humiliation of his nation's flag, or the loss of his own or his country's honor.
The Spaniards complained bitterly that the English had behaved, on this occasion, more like enemies than neutrals, (mas como enemigos que como neutrales) and that they had set fire to many of their ships; and Campbell admits that "the people of England were not sorry for this misfortune which befell the Spaniards, and the reason of this was that some surmised this to be a new Spanish Armada, fitted out nominally against the Dutch, but in reality intended to act against heretics in general." (5) He asserts positively, however, that the Court took "all the care imaginable" to preserve England's neutrality, and he is corroborated in this by Le Clerc, who says the castles at Deal "fired upon some of the Dutch vessels which approached too near the shore."
The truth is the Dutch were fully determined to attack the Spaniards, come what might, and the English were not in sufficient force to prevent their doing so.
A century and a half before this time, the expulsion of the Moors from Granada and the discovery of America had placed Spain in advance of all other military and naval powers on the globe. The thoughts of her people, which for seven hundred years had been bent upon schemes for the recovery of every inch of their beloved soil from Moorish dominion, were, now that this task was accomplished and a new field of adventure opened to them, turned into an entirely new channel. At first the idea which fired the Spanish heart was the conversion of the heathen, and the addition of vast territories to the mother land; and each Spanish vessel that ploughed the main, bound to the New World, carried among her crew a host of doughty cavaliers whose names were already inscribed on the roll of fame, headed by some pious friar who was destined, on countless battle fields, to carry his crucifix side by side with the banner of Castile: but as carrack, pinnace, and caravel returned to Spain, bringing marvelous accounts of the El Dorados of the West, the cupidity of the Spaniard became aroused, and avarice usurped in his breast the place of the nobler passions; so that the waters encompassing the earth were everywhere white with the sails of Spanish ships in quest of gold, until it might almost be said that, braving all dangers and committing all crimes, in the unhallowed pursuit, Spain itself had gone to sea. Spain's fame as a naval power now (6) reached the four quarters of the globe, and, increasing with each decade, culminated in 1571 with the battle of Lepanto. From that epoch the prestige of the Spanish navy declined; yet, terribly lowered as it was by the failure of the Invincible Armada, it was not entirely lost—for men attributed the disastrous issue of that expedition to divine, not human agency—until, at the hands of the Dutch, on the 21st of October, 1639, it received its finishing blow. The prayers of the oppressed of two continents had reached the throne of the Almighty at last; and it might well be believed that an avenging God had decreed that in "the battle of the Downs the sin of the Spaniard should weigh heavily on his head, and the prophecy of Charles de la Croye meet with its complete fulfillment. "Mark you," whispered he to the Duke of Alva, whom he found at Antwerp gazing upon a brazen figure of himself, trampling upon the effigy of a man with two heads, (symbols of the noble and the plebeian of Holland,) "Mark you, these heads, grinning so horribly, will some day rise again, to take signal vengeance upon those who are now spurning them with their feet."
But, now that the Dutch had become a maritime power, their neighbors across the channel, who claimed "to rule the waves", became exceedingly jealous of them, while they, on the other hand, elated with their recent successes, chafed under England's assumption of superiority, and especially under her demand that "every Dutch ship should lower her flag and topsails to the ships of the kings of England in the British seas." The unreasonableness of this demand was very ably set forth, in 1608, by the learned Grotius, in his mare liberum—a tract to which, it may be remarked, Selden's mare clausum was but a feeble rejoinder—yet the English Government steadily adhered to it, and, as if to add to its offensiveness, accompanied it with a declaration that "the British waters extended from the Naze of Norway to Cape Finisterre at the north-western extremity of Portugal." This occasioned frequent collisions between the Dutch and English on their own coasts, while in the East Indies their vessels seldom met without coming to an engagement. Nor were their contentions confined to the sea alone. On land many a bloody scene was enacted; but the tragedy at Ambayna,—which from the ill feeling it stirred up in English breasts, was undoubtedly one of the exciting causes (7) of the wars between England and the United Provinces,—alone can claim a place in this history; and, in order that the reader may form an unbiased judgment of it, I shall give both versions of the story. The English account is that, in 1619, a treaty was made between Great Britain and the United Provinces, wherein it was stipulated that, to avoid further disputes, the Dutch should enjoy two thirds of the trade of Ambayna and the English one third. In pursuance of this the English erected a factory in the island while the Dutch built a strong fort there.
In 1623, however, the Dutch, desiring to monopolize the spice trade, pretended that the English had formed a conspiracy with certain Japanese to capture the fort, and thereupon seized upon them all, and "without having other witnesses than themselves present," put them to horrible tortures, for the purpose of forcing them to avow that which they were determined they should avow. These tortures were as fearful as those of the Inquisition: the breasts of some of the accused "being filled with air until they were almost strangled, and their eyes ready to pop out of their heads, and the sides of others pierced with bars of red-hot iron which penetrated even to their entrails; others again had the soles of their feet burned with lighted candles." Having in this way extorted a confession from the sufferers, which they forced them to sign, they cut off the heads of ten of them (who with their latest breath asserted their innocence) and, "under a specious show of clemency," discharged the rest.
The absurdity of the charge made against their countrymen, say the English, is shown by the fact that, while they and the Japanese combined did not constitute a force of over fifty men, the Dutch had two hundred soldiers in their fort, and eight stout ships riding in the harbor; and that, even if they had had the foolhardiness to attempt such an act, they would have been deterred from it, from their certain knowledge that its consummation must bring upon them "eternal infamy and the loss of all their goods, since their sovereign, who hated to the last degree a violation of faith, had consented that the Dutch should hold the island and build a fort on it." Furthermore they declare that the subsequent conduct of the Dutch, in seizing not only upon the factory at Ambayna, but of every other English factory in the spice islands, too clearly demonstrates that their intent, from the beginning, was to get the whole spice trade into their hands; and that avarice alone led to the accusation against the English, and all the enormities that followed it.
On the other hand the Dutch allege that their countrymen of Ambayna had for some time observed that the Indians of the neighboring islands were carrying on a secret correspondence with each other, contrary to the promise they had given, and without informing a single officer of the Dutch East India Company of their action. That, finally, they had become so bold as to threaten to attack the Dutch and pillage their factories, and that many of them had been heard to declare that the fort at Ambayna would not be much longer in Dutch hands. This induced the Governor of Ambayna to proceed to Loehoe, with a number of armed shallops, for the purpose of overawing the nations and bringing them into subjection; but when he arrived there he found them with a fleet of boats, more powerful than his own, drawn up in battle array; and, far from giving him satisfaction for the insults offered to his people, they endeavored to provoke him to attack them, and, finally, forced him to retreat to Ambayna without effecting anything.
This boldness of theirs caused the Dutch to suspect that a plot was forming for their overthrow in the East, and that some European nation was at the bottom of it. Close observation convinced them that the Indians of Loehoe, Cambello, and other places, were entirely under the influence of the English: and, continuing their investigations with great secrecy, they learned, in February, 1623, from a Japanese who was concerned in the intrigue, that a conspiracy had been formed against the fort of Ambayna and against the whole Dutch establishment on that island. He named Captain Towerson, the head of the English factory, and Abel Prys, an English surgeon, as the prime movers in the affair, in which all the English were concerned, and declared that the fort was to be carried through the treachery of thirty Japanese soldiers, who were in the service of the Dutch East India Company and formed part of its garrison. The Japanese were now disarmed, and they, as well as the English, seized and imprisoned. They all acknowledged the conspiracy and signed their acknowledgement, "which one can see at length in their declaration, where, among other things, it is admitted that they intended to kill the Dutch governor.''
When Towerson was asked what had induced him to engage in such a wicked design, he answered—"Honor and Profit." Being asked from whom he expected to receive honor and profit and why he wished to seize the fort, he replied "I expected to be honored and rewarded by my country, as it was for her advancement that I was willing to peril my life in the enterprise." After his examination was concluded the governor said to him—"Is this, then, your recompense to me for all the friendship I have shown you?" "If the thing were to be done over again" he replied with a sigh, "I would not do it," which (if the relation be true) was certainly, as the Dutch say, "an admission of his crime."
At this distance of time it is impossible to form a correct judgment of the matter. The argument of the English that it would have been impossible for the conspirators to take the fort is certainly not sound, since, with thirty of their number already within its walls, nothing would have been easier.
It seems probable, then, that a conspiracy did exist, of which the Dutch were only too happy to take advantage as a pretext for seizing the English factories everywhere. Le Clerc indeed asserts that, according to the English historian Wilson, the Court of England attached more faith (pius de foi) to the Dutch than to the English narration; but in this he is not borne out by the text; Wilson's exact words being,—"This cruelty had made an incurable wound betwixt the two Nations (the Noise of it giving Animosity enough) but that it was new skin'd over, the bloody Garment taken off by Dutch Apologies, and presented at Court with a Face of justice; For nothing must come thither but in such Attire, as the Great Ones about the King will please to put upon it; who might be wrought to any temper by that Forge that could frame such flagitious Actions; For they that had Barbarism enough to perpetrate the one, had Baseness enough to practice the other."
While such was the state of feeling between the two countries the Parliament in England passed the celebrated navigation act (Oct. 9th, 1651) whereby all nations were prohibited from importing in their vessels any commodity "not the growth and manufacture of their own country." This act, although general in its terms, was leveled entirely at the Dutch, who, producing little, were the common carriers of the world; and yet the Parliament went further and granted letters of reprisal to Robert and William Pawlet (who declared they had sustained a loss of twenty thousand nine hundred and seventy pounds sterling from the cruisers of Holland) authorizing them to collect that amount, by the seizure of Dutch merchantmen and their cargoes, whenever they might chance to fall in with them in "the narrow seas." This high handed measure produced such an outcry in the United Provinces that the States General found it necessary to dispatch a special embassy to England to remonstrate against it.
The ambassadors, who were granted an audience by Parliament, on Dec. 29th, were at once convinced that Cromwell, who had shortly before "longed for a coalition between the two republics which should make their interests inseparable," now as earnestly longed for war; still they had interview after interview with the Parliament, and did not wholly despair of peace until news reached them on the 19th of May that a collision had actually taken place between Van Tromp and the English admiral Blake, when, from the intense excitement of the populace, which made it necessary for the Council of state to provide them with a guard of cavalry for their protection, it was easy to perceive that hostilities could not much longer be avoided.
Van Tromp, it seems, when about to sail from Holland, with a fleet of forty vessels, for the protection of his country's commerce, was instructed by The States General, to use his discretion about lowering his sails and colors to any English men of war he might chance to fall in with, "provided he did nothing derogatory to the honor of The Seven United Provinces"; but he was expressly directed to prevent, at all hazards, Dutch merchantmen from being visited and searched by the cruisers of any foreign power whatever. Being driven by stress of weather upon the coast of Kent, he anchored in the Downs, and finding a British squadron there dispatched two of his captains to its commander-in-chief, Major Bourne, to inform him that the storm had forced him to seek that anchorage and that as soon at it moderated he would put to sea again—Major Bourne sent a polite message to the admiral in return, say the Dutch, and invited the captains to take a glass of wine with him; but, according to Campbell, Allen, and other British authors, he had the rudeness to reply "that the truth of his story would best appear from the shortness of his stay." However this may be, Tromp left the Downs on the 18th of May, and steered to the eastward, intending, after a few days cruise in the North sea, to return to Holland for the purpose of providing himself with anchors and cables, of which many of his vessels were greatly in need; but he had not gone far when he met "two Amsterdam vessels, whose captains informed him that they had just parted company with seven merchant-men off Dover, which they feared would fall a prey to the English, as they had observed twelve of the Parliament's war ships bearing down to communicate with them." Upon this, Tromp, in strict obedience to his instructions relative to the protection of Dutch shipping, stood for Dover Roads, where he observed an English fleet of thirteen vessels at anchor, the largest of which, the James, carrying the flag of rear admiral Robert Blake, afterward so famous in English history, got underway and stood toward him. The situation was critical, and one of grave responsibility—for in the excited state of men's minds both in England and in Holland a single false step might lead to war—yet Tromp acted with singular judgment, prudence and calmness, signaling to his fleet to furl all light sails and reef top-sails (that his vessels might be readily handled in case he should be forced to an engagement), and at the same time stationing men by his own ensign and flag in readiness to lower them when he should get within the proper distance of Blake. He was, indeed, he says in his letter to the States General, "about to give the order to 'lower away' when a ball from the James whistled above his head." To this he made no reply; but, upon being fired at a second time, he sent a ball across the James's fore foot, which was answered by a whole broadside, when the two flagships, the James and the Brederode became instantly engaged, (9) and the English fleet got underway. The action now became general, and the English were roughly handled until reinforced by Major Bourne with twelve vessels, when the combatants fought on more equal terms. (10) The battle was very hot, lasting from four to nine p.m., darkness at last putting an end to it. The English were terribly shattered in hull, masts, rigging and sails, and their loss in killed and wounded was quite as great as that of the Dutch, yet they properly claimed the victory as they took two Dutch vessels, while not one of theirs fell into the enemy's hands. One of their prizes, however, was retaken by Tromp, the morning after the fight; the prize-crew which had been thrown aboard of her, having abandoned her, through fear of her foundering.
The people residing along the sea-board of Kent were so alarmed when they witnessed the engagement, which, judging of the strength of the fleet from numbers alone, they supposed must inevitably result in the defeat of their countrymen, and a descent of the Dutch upon the coast, that they deserted their homes and fled into the interior; nor would they return to them until Cromwell himself appeared among them, with a large body of troops which he distributed throughout the county, placing strong detachments in Greenwich, Gravesend, Sandwich and Dover. The voice of the nation, however, was for war, and the Dutch ambassadors, after many fruitless interviews with Parliament, (11) being convinced that it was inevitable, demanded their passports, and war was formally declared between the two nations on the 8th of July, 1652.
1 "Piet Hein," one of the most daring of the early Dutch Admirals, was the son of a poor fisherman of Delftshaven. He accompanied his father on several short cruises, in a herring boat, while quite a child, and, at a very early age ran away from home and shipped in an East-India-man.
The exploit which gained him the greatest fame among his countrymen was the "cutting out" of a Spanish fleet at Matanzas, Cuba, laden with jewels and silver, valued at some two millions of pounds sterling.
He was killed in 1629, at the age of fifty-one, in an engagement with the pirates of Dunkerque; and Cerisier relates in his Tableau des Provinces Unies (Tome VI. p. 40) that the States sent a message of condolence to his mother on the sad event. "Ay, I thought he would come to no good end " was the honest woman's reply. "I did my best to reform him, but he would be a vagabond. I warrant you he has got no more than he deserved."
2 Lettre De Monseigneur le Cardinal de Richelieu a Monsieur le Compte d'Estrades. De Ruel le 15 d'Aout, 1639.
Monsieur :—Je vons depeche ce Courier sur des avis certains que j'ai, que le Roi d'Espagne assemble sa Flote a la Coroque, qui sera forte de cinquante grands Vaisseaux, commandez par Dom Antonis Dognendo, le plus habile homme de Mer qui soit en espagne il doit amener douze mille hominess d'infanterie sur des Vaisseaux pour debarquer en Flandres; l'escadre de Dunkerque so doit joindre alui. Vous direz a Monsieur le Prince d'Orange de la part du Roi et de la mieune, quel ne pent jamais trouver une occasion plus favorable pour la cause commune, qui celle de mettre promptement une pnissante Flote en Mer, pour aller au devant de celle d'Espagne et la conibattre, ni faire rien de plus glorieux pour sa reputation.
Comme ce Prince est lent de son naturel pressez-le de la part du Roi de donner ses ordres a tout les Amirantez d'equiper tons les vaisseaux qui seront en e'tat de servir. Vous l'assurerez en meme tems, que le Roi a depeche des Couriers a Calais, Boulogne, Doeppe, le Havre de-Grace, et Brest, avec des ordres aux gouverneurs, d'assister de munitiones de guerre, d'Hommes & de Vaisseaux, la Flote de Messieurs les Etats, pour les demander que celui qui commande la dite Flote leur en pourra faire.
3 Lettre de Monsieur le Compte d1 Estrades a Monseigneur le Cardinal de Richelieu—Du 26 Aout, 1639.
J'ai rendu compte d Monsieur le Prince d'Orange du Grand Armement de Mer qui se fait en Espagne, dont il n' avoit encore en aucuns avis; ruais le lendemain il recut un expres de Bruxelles, depeche par le premier Comniis de la Secretaire du Gouvernante General, lequel il a gagne par des presens considerables et qui lui mande tout le detail des desseins des Espagnols.
Tout ce que Votre Eminence m’ecrit y est contenu, excepte que Dom Antonio Doguendo ait ordre de rester avec la Flote aux Dunes, pour ne hazarder pas le combat et i'aire seulement passer l'Infanterie en Flanders par l'escadre de Dunkerque, assistee des Vaisseaux meme du Roi 'd Angleterre.
4 Comme Tromp ne vouloit rien faire, que conformement a des orders Expres, dans une occasion assez delicate, il en demanda, touchant la conduit qu'il garderoit en vers les Espagnols, s' ils demeuroient davantage sur les cotes d' Angleterre. Le 16 du mois, les Etats Generaux lui donnerent plein pouvoir d'attaquer la Flotte Espagnole, et de la chasser des cotes d'Angleterre quoi qu' il en put arriver.—".Le Clerc."
5 Campbell himself seems to have rather inclined to this belief, for no better reason than because "a popish book was produced in the next parliament, in which, among the superstitious things, were prayers for the holy martyrs who perished in the fleet sent against the heretics in England." It is evident, however, that these prayers were for the souls of the deceased heroes solely of the "Invincible Armada.''
6 When Drake took possession of Santo Domingo, there were to be seen in the Town Hall, among other things, the king of Spain's arms, and under them a Globe of the World, out of which issued a horse with his fore feet springing forward, with this inscription, "Non sufficit Orbis."—"Cambderi's Life and Reign of Queen Elizabeth."
7 In 1623, happened the bloody affair of Ambayna, of which I shall give a short and fair account ; because it gave birth to our national hatred of the Dutch, which subsisted so long and had such fatal effects.—Campbell.
8 While Cromwell and his adherents, on their part, were extravagant in their clamors for vengeance and satisfaction, in respect to the injuries and insults inflicted by the Dutch; the latter were no less vociferous in demanding restitution and reparation for those depredations which the ships of the former had almost piratically committed against the commerce and property of the latter, under the customary pretence of retaliation and reprisal. Neither party appeared to acquiesce in the propriety of the demands made by the other; and the mutual dissatisfaction which prevailed grew too violent to be appeased by any other means than an appeal, as is customary in all national disputes, to heaven for the justice of each individual cause, and leave the decision to that most tremendous of all umpires— the sword.—Gharnock.
9 The official reports of the English and Dutch Admirals concerning this affair differ widely, yet I think the reader, who carefully collates the evidence on both sides, will arrive at the conclusion that the English were the aggressors.
Blake was under the impression, it would seem, that the Dutch were bearing down upon him with the intention to engage, and he was not one who was likely to receive an attack passively. Besides his blood was heated with wine (for he had been drinking with his officers in the cabin) and so, he was in no humor to suffer the Dutch to approach within gun-shot of him with their colors flying. "Which of the two was to blame" says Davies, in his history of the Netherlands, "it is impossible to decide. It may be doubted whether Tromp, a zealous Orange royalist was in any hurry to strike to an inferior number of the Parliament's vessels, or whether Blake exhibited much patience in waiting for him to do so."
10 Notwithstanding the numerical superiority of Tromp's fleet, it appears that, in the number and calibre of his guns, Blake was quite on an equality with his antagonist, while the English vessels were so much larger and more heavily built than the Dutch, that they could bear twice the pounding, and suffered less from splinters.
11 Il etoit visible par-la que les Fanatiques Anglois, malgre toutes les apparences de Religion, qu'ils affectoient avoient cherche cette guerre; quoi qu'ils 'ne parlassent qui de faire une Alliance avec les Etats, plus etroiete que toutes les precedentes. La durete et la hauteur; avec la quelle ils traitoient la Republique des P. P. U. U. etoient tout a fait insupportables; D' autant plus qu'elle ne manquoit pas de flotes, ni d 'Amiraux, pour oppose a l'Angleterre. On peut-meme dire que si les E. E. avoient voulu d'abord equipper des Vaisseaux egaux en grosseur et en equipages a ceux des Anglais, comme ils le pouvoient; les Flottes de la nouvelle Republique n'auvoient pas pu tenir devant le leurs, comme on le verra dans la suite. Le Clerc.