CHAPTER VIII. SEVEN YEARS' WAR, 1756-1763 - ENGLAND's OVERWHELMING POWER AND CONQUESTS ON THE SEAS, IN NORTH AMERICA, EUROPE, AND EAST AND WEST INDIES. SEA BATTLES: BYNG OFF MINORCA; HAWKE AND CONFLANS; POCOCK AND D'ACHE' IN EAST INDIES.
The close blockade of the enemy's fleet in Brest, which was first, systematically carried out during this war, may be considered rather a defensive than an offensive operation; for though the intention certainly was to fight if opportunity offered, the chief object was to neutralize an offensive weapon in the enemy's hands; the destruction of the weapon was secondary. The truth of this remark is shown by the outburst of fear and anger which swept over England when an unavoidable absence of the blockading fleet in 1759 allowed the French to escape. The effect of the blockade in this and after wars was to keep the French in a state of constant inferiority in the practical handling of their ships, however fair-showing their outward appearance or equal their numerical force. The position of the port of Brest was such that a blockaded fleet could not get out during the heavy westerly gales that endangered the blockaders; the latter, therefore, had the habit of running away from them to Torbay or Plymouth, sure, with care, of getting back to their station with an east wind before a large and ill-handled fleet could get much start of them.
In the latter part of 1758, France, depressed by the sense of failure upon the continent, mortified and harassed by English descents upon her coasts, which had been particularly annoying that year, and seeing that it was not possible to carry on both the continental and sea wars with her money resources, determined to strike directly at England. Her commerce was annihilated while the enemy's throve. It was the boast of London merchants that under Pitt commerce was united with and made to flourish by war; (1) and this thriving commerce was the soul also of the land struggle, by the money it lavished on the enemy of France.
- - 1. Mahon: History of England. - -
At this time a new and active-minded minister, Choiseul, was called into power by Louis XV. From the beginning of 1759, preparations were made in the ocean and Channel ports. Flat-boats to transport troops were built at Havre, Dunkirk, Brest, and Rochefort. It was intended to embark as many as fifty thousand men for the invasion of England, while twelve thousand were to be directed upon Scotland. Two squadrons were fitted out, each of respectable strength, one at Toulon, the other at Brest. The junction of these two squadrons at Brest was the first step in the great enterprise.