George the First and Second - from A.D. 1714 to A.D. 1760.

Happily, England being at peace with France when George the First came to the throne, and the Dutch being our firm allies, the history of that period is barren of naval engagements. We possessed, however, numerous skilful commanders, and the navy was in as efficient a state as at any previous period. Sir George Byng, afterwards Viscount Torrington, commanded the fleets of England during the greater part of this reign. The principal officers who served under him were Sir John Leake, Sir John Jennings, Sir James Wishart, Admiral Baker, the Marquis of Carmarthen, Sir William Jumper, and Admiral Aylmer.

On the meeting of Parliament in 1715, 10,000 seamen, at 4 pounds a man per month, were voted for the navy. It also granted 35,574 pounds for the half-pay of sea-officers; and the piratical States of Barbary again becoming troublesome, Admiral Baker cruised against them, and destroyed most of their vessels.

In 1716 Captain Delgarno, an active officer in command of the Hind, 20 guns, came up with one of their best men-of-war, mounting 24 guns; when, after a most obstinate and bloody battle, he compelled her to strike, and soon after she sank, all her crew, with the exception of thirty-eight, perishing.

The West Indies being at this time overrun with a desperate set of pirates, a proclamation was issued offering a pardon to all who would surrender themselves within a twelvemonth. After the expiration of that time a reward was offered to any of his majesty’s officers, by sea or land, who should take a pirate, after he had been legally convicted: for a captain, 100 pounds; for any other officer down to a gunner, 40 pounds; an inferior officer, 30 pounds. Any private man delivering up a captain or commodore was entitled to 200 pounds.

In 1718 the Spaniards sent a fleet and army to attack the possessions of the King of Naples, on the island of Sicily. This giving offence to the English, Sir George Byng was appointed to the command in the Mediterranean, with directions to protect the Neapolitans. Soon after Sir George arrived off Messina he discovered a Spanish fleet amounting to twenty-seven sail, besides fire-ships, bomb-vessels, and galleys. On seeing the English, the Spaniards stood away, and the admiral chased them, and finally, after a running fight, captured the Spanish admiral, Chacon, with five ships of the line, one frigate of 44 guns, and one of 36. Captain Walton in the Canterbury, with five more ships, had been sent in pursuit of another part of the Spanish fleet. On the 22nd August Sir George received the following pithy despatch from him:—

“We have taken and destroyed all the Spanish ships and vessels which were upon the coast, the number as per margin.—I am, yours, etcetera, G. Walton.”

In 1722, the navy being on a peace establishment, 7000 seamen alone were voted at the usual rate of 4 pounds a man per month.

Notwithstanding the proclamation which had been issued for the apprehension of pirates, those daring sea-robbers continued their depredations, and became especially formidable on the coast of Africa, as well as in the West Indies. The most notorious of them was one Roberts, an able seaman, of undaunted courage, and capable of command. His force consisted of three stout ships; his own carried 40 guns and 152 men; another 32 guns and 132 men, and a third 24 guns and 90 men. In April, 1722, Captain Ogle, commanding the Swallow, being on a cruise off Cape Lopez, received intelligence that Roberts was lying with his three ships in an adjoining bay. Upon this, he disguised his ship to look like a merchant-vessel, and stood in, when one of the pirates slipped her cable and gave chase. Captain Ogle decoyed him off the land till he had reached such a distance as to prevent his associates hearing the report of the guns. He then shortened sailed, tacked, and brought the pirate to action, which continued an hour and a-half, when, her commander being killed, she struck. Captain Ogle then steered in for the bay, with the pirate’s colours hoisted over the king’s. This stratagem succeeded, for the pirates, seeing the black flag uppermost, concluded that the king’s ship had been taken, and stood out to sea to meet and congratulate their consort on his victory. Their joy was of short duration, for no sooner did they come alongside the Swallow than Captain Ogle, throwing off the deception, opened his broadsides upon them. The action lasted two hours, when, Captain Roberts being killed, with a large number of his men, both ships struck. Captain Ogle carried his prizes into Cape Coast Castle, where the prisoners, to the amount of 160, were brought to trial; 74 of them were capitally convicted, 52 of whom were executed and hung in chains along the coast.

In 1725 the South Sea Company commenced a whale-fishery, in which they employed twelve ships, and were sometimes very successful.

In 1726 an expedition was sent to the Spanish West Indies, under Rear-Admiral Hosier, for the purpose of blocking up the galleons or seizing them should they venture out. On the first arrival of the squadron its appearance struck terror along the whole coast, and several Spanish ships were captured. Conceiving that it was his duty to blockade Porto Bello, the brave Hosier remained before it, suffering no ships to go in or come out without strict examination; but, after remaining for six months, fever made such havoc among his seamen, while the ships were so eaten with worms, that he was compelled to return to Jamaica. In two months, however, he was again at sea, and standing over to Carthagena, continued to cruise in those seas. It is said that he lost his crews twice over. Thus the gallant Hosier, mourning for his men, and suffering himself from the deadly effects of the climate, still kept at his post in performance of his duty till, on the 23rd of August, 1727, he breathed his last.

In 1727 a fleet was despatched, under Sir John Norris, into the Baltic, where he was joined by a Danish squadron, to keep a watch on the proceedings of the Empress Catherine, but her death put a stop to the war.

The last naval expedition in this year was one for the purpose of relieving Gibraltar. Sir Charles Wager and Rear-Admiral Hopson on arriving there soon compelled the Spaniards to raise the siege.

George the First ended his reign on the 11th of June, 1727.