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Memoirs of the Rise and Progress of the Royal Navy. By Charles Derrick, Esq. of the Navy Office. 4to. Pr. 336.
Blacks and Parry. 1806.
11. 11s. 6d.
NO subject can be more interesting to a Briton, than that Navy to which we are chiefly indebted, not only for the high rank which we hold among the nations of Europe, but even, in a great degree, for that freedom and independence which, while nearly the whole of the civilized world is merged in slavery, constitutes at once our comfort, our pride, and our boast; and which has enabled us to weather that revolutionary storm which has already desolated so many coun tries, and which still threatens to extend its destructive fury to the very confines of the habitable globe.
This work is, very appropriately, dedicated to Lord Barham, a Nobleman to whom Country is greatly indebted for the vigilance, activity, and vigour which he displayed at the head of the Admiralty, and which, though wanting no foil, are placed in a more conspicuous point of view, by the contrast exhibited in the management of his successor. With truth, therefore, does our author address his Lordship in the following terms:
"While other great statesmen, amid the storms of party, and in the shock of clashing interests and of the fiercest animosities, rose to preca rious situations in different departments of Government, it was reserved for your Lordship to be invited from your retirement-to be called, by your Sovereign, from your happy contented enjoyment of domestic tranquillity, to guide what experience has taught us to acknowledge as the true helm of the State.
"The hopes and wishes of your Country were not disappointed by the selection of your Lordship to fill that important station. The vigour and wisdom of the measures you pursued soon became apparent: and the skilful dispositions you made of our naval forces, being ably and heroically followed up by the late illustrious and lamented Lord Nelson, the unparal. leled victory over the Combined Fleets of France and Spain was gained. off Cape Trafalgar, by which the naval glory of the British Empire in. disputably reached a height superior to the loftiest pitch it had ever attained, even by the most brilliant of the previous actions of the same Noble Commander."
Mr. Derrick's Preface will best explain the nature of his work.
"The great importance of the Navy, particularly at the present crisis, whereby every circumstance relating to it becomes an object of national concern, will, it may reasonably be hoped, ensure a favourable reception by the Public, of any attempt at a distinct and brief account of its rise, and advancement to the exalted pitch it has now attained. To professional men such an account may prove instructive, and essentially useful; while the generality of readers will find in it a fund of amusement and valuable information.
"If the history of the Navy is divided into two parts, the latter Dd4
should perhaps cominence with the reign of Henry the Eighth; before whose time there was, strictly speaking, no Royal Navy. But, as a large ship was built by Henry the Seventh, this reign may, from that circumstance, be deemed entitled to be held the true era of the origin of our Navy; and these Memoirs accordingly commence from that period.
"My principal object has been to shew the state of the Navy, as to the number, tonnage, &c. of the several classes of the ships and vessels at different periods; when the naval force was promoteá, neglected, or at least, not augmented; and at what periods improvements in ship-building were introduced into it.
"Such being the design of the work, I have taken notice of but few circumstances relating to sea-affairs, in order that the main points might not be confused by a great variety of other matter *.
"Several things, however, are mentioned, relative to the dock-yards and magazines of naval stores, which may not be altogether uninteresting. "Some quotations from history are marked, b. others, from acciden tal causes, are not. Where no authority is referred to, I am of course responsible for the correctness of what is stated; with regard to which, I can safely declare, that the information is derived, in general, from the most unquestionable sources. I can, therefore, ask no indulgence for any inaccuracies that may appear in those parts of the work, which, however, I trust, are very few. Clearness, no less than correctness, has been studiously aimed at; with what success it becomes not me to judge. With respect to the language, I am sensible that I have to solicit every indulgence from my readers; at the same time I know, that the generous and candid Public, on whose equity I willingly throw myself, are ever ready to make due allowance for imperfections, or improprieties in the style of an author, whose life has been spent in the active scenes of official business, more than in literary pursuits. Under these circumstances, I now humblyubmit my work to the view of a discerning and impartial tribunal, in whose judgment, whatever it may be, I shall respectfully ac. quiesce."
The merit of diligence and accuracy is certainly due to our author, who has exhibited in a clear and connected point of view the state of the British Navy, from its birth to its present maturity. Its origin (that is, the origin of what he terms the Royal Navy), he dates at the reign of our Seventh Henry, who built the first large ship, called the Great Harry. During the reign of Henry VIII. the number of ships was increased to 71, the burden of which amounted to be
"Captain Schomberg, and Dr. Beatson, have perhaps omitted little, if any thing, with regard to sea operations; but all the naval historians are frequently very incorrect in their accounts of the total of the ships and vessels in the Navy at different periods; and their statements of that sort are also too few in number to answer in any degree the object of these Memoirs. But had Mr. Ledge presecuted his design of publishing a Naval History, agreeably to his printed proposals in August, 1794 (and it is much to be regretted that he did not), this of mine would probably never have seen the light,"
tween ten and twelve thousand tons. Very little variation in the number of ships, or in the amount of tonnage, took place under Edward VI.; but, at the death of his successor, Mary, the former was reduced to 26, and the latter to 7110! The spirit of Elizabeth, however, was exerted with success in increasing this bulwark of the nation; for, at her death, in 1603, the Navy consisted of 42 ships; and the whole amount of tonnage was 17,055. The annual expence of her Navy was 30,000l.. Though James the First was of a peaceable disposition, and engaged in no wars, he, nevertheless, at the beginning of his reign, devoted 50,000l. per annum to the support of his Navy; and, in 1616, he issued a Proclamation," forbidding any English subje&s to export or import goods in any but English bo toms. The good effects of this measure were soon experienced, as it occasioned much larger ships to be built for the merchants' service, and also a great increase of trade." This may be considered as the beginning. of that wise system of policy which gave rise to our Navigation Laws, the recent violations of which this Country will soon find cause to lament. At the death of James, however, the number of ships in the Navy had decreased, from 42 to 33, though the tonnage had increased from 17,055 to 19,400. Eight years after the accession of Charles I. (in 1633) the number of ships was 50, and the tonnage 23,595; but there is no account of the state of the Navy at the period of s murder, owing to the disorders of the times. During the Usurpation, the Navy experienced a very great augmentation; at the death of the Usurper, in 1658, it consisted of 157 ships, carrying 4390 guns, and 21,910 men, for the support of which he obtained an an nual grant of 400,000l.
Under Charles the Second the Navy was suffered to fall into decay, and the Parliament shewed a great reluctance to grant the necessary sums for its restoration and support. At length, however, some grants were obtained, and in 1676, we find 148 ships, of 69,004 tons burden, bearing 5350 guns, and manned with 30,260 men; and nine years after, at the death of this Monarch, they were increased to 179 ships, of 103,558 tons. During the short reign of the second James, the Navy remained much in the same state as to the number of ships, and the amount of their tonnage, though means were taken for preyenting its decay, most politic in themselves, and most beneficial in their consequences.
In King William's reign the greatest attention was paid to the Navy; at his accession, in 1688, it consisted of 173 ships, of 101,892 tons; and at his death, in 1702, it amounted to 272 ships, and 159,020 tons, being an increase of no less than 99 ships, and 57,128 tons. At the decease of Queen Anne, in 1714, the number of ships was 247, and the tonnage 167,219. George the First died. in 1727, and left 233 ships, of 170,862 tons, so that, in his reign, there was a decrease of 14 ships, but an increase of 3643 tons; of course the ships were of a larger size.
On the accession of his present Majesty, the Navy was found in a
most flourishing state. The number of ships was 412; their tony nage 321,104. When the Peace of Paris was concluded in 1783, the Navy was increased to 617 ships; the tonnage of which was 500,781. Of these ships 174 were of the line. Having brought his interesting statement up to that period, our author observes
"It will now be proper to take notice of two regulations that were adopted, or greatly improved, by the Navy Board, atter the war, which cannot fail of being eminently useful at all times.
"Ist-Respecting furniture and stores, appropriated and laid apart for ships in ordinary.
The former directions on this subject having been found too general, and the provisions of stores and furniture too limited, to answer effectu. ally the intended purpose, the Board now laid down the most particular rules about the articles that were froin time to time to be set apart for the respective classes and descriptions of ships, in order that each individual ship, by the time she should be built, or put into good condition, might in future have a large proportion of the material parts of her furniture and stores in readiness, and distinctly laid apart for her; so that the re. mainder might not require more time to provide, than the necessary time for her equipment would very well admit of, however short that time might be. Dispatch in issuing the furniture and stores, and also correctness, must of necessity have resulted from this improved plan, in addition to the other great advantages.
"2dly-The second regulation above alluded to, was that of an establishment of stores, of a great variety of species, for the general maga. zines, at each of the dock-yards, and also at the several other naval sta. tions, both at home and abroad.
"This was truly an original and great plan (it originated entirely with Sir C. Middleton, now Lord Barham), no idea of the kind hav. ing probably been ever entertained at any former period. It was suggested, no doubt, in some measure, by the difficulties the Board had ex. perienced in procuring certain articles, and the high prices paid for others, during the war; but the same must have been the case, in a greater or Jess degree, in most of the preceding wars. These evils it was therefore highly necessary to guard against, as far as might be practicable, and consistent with sound economy, before another war should take place.— In conformity to which plan, the said establishments consist of specific quantities of all the principal, and many inferior articles of naval stores, at the several dock-yards, and also at the other naval stations, so far as the nature of the service at those stations requires. The quantities of those species of stores which are not of a perishable nature, and of those which cannot be readily obtained in a time of emergency, are calculated to last for a considerable period, even in time of war; and they are kept up by means of the annual, or occasional contracts. The almost necessary result of this plan, has been the preventing of unnecessary, or improper accumulations of any stores in the magazines, for so long a time as to occasion their receiving injury by lying too long in them, which is a matter of great consequence, in such extensive concerns. Many other lasting good effects have also been produced by the measure in question, which it is not necessary here to notice; neither could some of them be exlained, so as to be generally comprehended."
Some other important regulations were afterwards adopted, having the same object, to accelerate the equipment of fleets at the beginning of a war. In consequence of these wise precautions, at the end of December, 1792, when we were compelled to go to war with France, there were naval stores in hand, at the different dock-yards, to the amount of 1,812,9821.; and, so rapid was the equipment of ships, "that, at the end of nine months, there were 60 sail of the line in commission, as ships of war: and 74 of 50 guns and under, exclpsive of sloops and small vessels, more than at the beginning of that period; a degree of dispatch almost astonishing, as nothing to be When compared with it had ever been done in any former war." the Peace of Amiens was signed, on the 1st of October, 1801, the state of the Navy was as follows:
"Of the Line, and down to 54-gun ships inclusive, 144; 50 and 44gun ships and frigates, 242; and sloops, armed vessels, &c. 317
"From the foregoing abstract it appears, that the number of ships and vessels at the conclusion of the war in October, 1801, exceeded the number at the close of the war, in 1783, by-Ships of the line 6; ships under the line, sloops and other vessels, 241.-More on the whole, 247.”
During the last war we took and destroyed, of the enemy's ships, 86 of the line; 3 fifties; 206 frigates, and 275 sloops and small vessels; making a total of 570! The value of the different stores in the dock-yards, on the 1st of January, 1802, was 2,610,9081. On the 1st of January, 1805, the Royal Navy consisted of 175 ships of the line; 24 from fifty to fifty-six guns each; and 750 frigates, sloops, and other armed vessels-Total 949. A force, in possession of which, with proper management, we may bid defiance to the world in arms.
A fact is mentioned by Mr. Derrick, which we had heard before, but the truth of which had been doubted, namely, that in the action with Lord Howe, at the beginning of last war, and in that off Tra falgar, the French used red hot balls. We do not profess to be very conversant with the laws and customs of warfare; but, we should think, that a determination to sink every ship that fired red hot shot, would be not only wise, but humane.
The author has taken no notice of the reforms introduced by Lord St. Vincent, while he presided at the head of the Admiralty, though they certainly came within the immediate purpose of his work. But prudential motives, probably, and a knowledge of his Lordship's disposition, occasioned the omission; and, to say the truth, he must be a rash man, who, after what we have lately witnessed, ventures to meddle with this naval noli me tangere. These reforms, however, were so important in their effects, that they deterred that excellent Nobleman, Earl Spencer, who had governed the naval department with so much honour to himself, and with so much advantage to his Country, from resuming his seat at the Admiralty.