James the First - from A.D. 1567 to A.D. 1625.

As James the First was totally unacquainted with nautical affairs, having possessed no fleet when King of Scotland, disputes constantly arose respecting the honour of the flag, which the English claimed, and this induced the famous Hugo Grotius to write a treatise, in which he endeavoured to prove the futility of their title to the dominion of the sea. England, however, still maintained her right to be saluted by the ships of all other nations, and the learned Selden supported the English, asserting that they had a hereditary and uninterrupted right to the sovereignty of the seas, conveyed to them by their ancestors in trust for their latest posterity. During this period numerous colonies were settled, and the commerce of England extended in all directions by her brave navigators. The navy was not neglected, twenty ships being added by the king, and 50,000 pounds voted for the maintenance of the fleet. In the year 1610 the largest ship of war yet constructed in England was built by order of the king, and called the Prince. Her keel was 114 feet, her cross-beam was 44 feet in length. She carried sixty-four pieces of great ordnance, and she was of the burden of 1400 tons. She was double built, and adorned most sumptuously within and without with all manner of curious carving, painting, and rich gilding, being in all respects the greatest and goodliest ship that ever was built in England. Raleigh’s remarks to Prince Henry on the subject are  worthy of note, though it appears his advice was not followed. He recommended that the intended vessel should be of smaller size than the Victory, in order that the timber of the old ship might serve for the new. “If she be bigger,” he remarks, “she will be of less use, go very deep to water, and be of mighty charge (our channels decaying every year), less nimble, less manageable, and seldom to be used. A well-conditioned ship should be, in the first instance, strongly built; secondly, swift in sail; thirdly, stout sided; fourthly, her ports ought to be so laid that she may carry out her guns in all weathers; fifthly, she ought to hull well; sixthly, she should stay well when boarding or turning on a wind if required.” He then continues: “It is to be noted that all ships sharp before, not having a long floor, will fall rough into the sea from the billow, and take in water over head and ears; and the same quality of all narrow-quartered ships to sink after the tail. The high charging of ships is that which brings many ill qualities upon them. It makes them extremely leeward, makes them sink deep into the seas, makes them labour in foul weather, and ofttimes overset. Safety is more to be respected than show or niceness for ease. In sea-journeys both cannot well stand together, and, therefore, the most necessary is to be chosen. Two decks and a-half is enough, and no building at all above that but a low master’s cabin. Our masters and mariners will say that the ships will bear more well enough; and true it is, if none but old mariners served in them. But men of better sort, unused to such a life, cannot so well endure the rolling and tumbling from side to side, where the seas are never so little grown, which comes by high charging. Besides, those high cabin-works aloft are very dangerous, in that they may tear men with their splinters. Above all other things, have care that the great guns are four feet clear above water when all loading is in, or else those best pieces are idle at sea; for if the ports lie lower and be open, it is dangerous; and by that default was a goodly ship and many gallant gentlemen lost in the days of Henry the Eighth, before the Isle of Wight, in a ship called the Mary Rose.”

These remarks show how attentively Raleigh had studied the subject of shipbuilding and, undoubtedly, during his time great improvements were made in the construction of ships of the Royal Navy. A large East India ship of 1200 tons was also built at Woolwich, and was the first trading ship of that size launched in the kingdom. The king called her the Trade’s Increase.

In 1622 the first established contract for victualling the Royal Navy was made, and every man’s allowance settled. It appears not to have differed greatly from that served out at the present day, except that on Friday fish, butter, and cheese were served out; showing that the Romish custom of what is called fasting on Friday had not been abolished. The king also gave annually 30,000 pounds worth of timber from the royal forests for the use of the navy.

The Dutch and other nations had, up to this time, been in the habit of fishing in English waters, but, though the pusillanimous king would not, of his own accord, have interfered for fear of giving offence, so great an outcry was raised by the people, that he was compelled to issue a proclamation prohibiting any foreigners from fishing on the British coast. Though in terms it appeared general, it was in reality levelled only at the Dutch. They yielded, and obtained by treaty permission to fish, on payment of certain dues. The nation at large gaining a voice in the management of public affairs, discovered also that vast abuses existed in the administration of the navy, as the large sums granted by Parliament were squandered, the brave commanders were unemployed, and cowardice trusted with the highest offices; and that frauds, corruption, neglect and misdemeanours were frequent and open. Numberless petitions were sent to the sovereign, and a committee of inquiry was appointed; the alleged offences were strictly examined into, some of the culprits were discharged, others fined, and way made for better officers. The Royal Navy being thus placed on a more respectable footing, the spirit of enterprise was encouraged among private persons, and trade once more flourished.

Considerable progress was made by the East India Company, and, in 1610, Sir Henry Middleton sailed with a larger fleet than had ever before been despatched to that part of the world. On landing at Mocha, Sir Henry was treacherously attacked during an entertainment to which he had been invited, when many of his people were killed, and he and the rest made prisoners. After remaining six months in prison, he and some of his people escaped and regained their ships; then, returning to the town, he threatened to reduce it to ashes unless the remainder of the English were released and a heavy ransom paid him. On this the English were set at liberty, and the sum was paid. He afterwards encountered a large fleet of Portuguese, who, attempting to impede his progress, he sank some and captured others. Several Portuguese ships were captured, and seventeen Arab vessels also fell into the hands of the English. On his voyage home, seized with a mortal illness, he died, honoured and lamented.

About the same time Captain Hudson, who had already performed three voyages to the north, again sailed in search of a north-west passage; but his mate, Ibbott, fearing the dangers they would have to encounter, formed a conspiracy. Hudson, and those who adhered to him, were set on shore, and perished miserably.

In 1611 the East India Company sent out another fleet under Captain Hippin, and the following year a second under Captain Saris, who reached Japan. By judicious conduct, and the due administration of bribes to many persons nearest the emperor, he succeeded in establishing a trade for the English with Japan, returning home with a very profitable cargo.

In the year 1611 the Muscovy Company despatched two vessels to commence the whale fishery. On board these vessels went three Biscayans who were accustomed to the business. Having set sail late, they had only time to catch one whale, but from it were made seven tons of oil. The rest of the crew having observed the manner in which the Biscayans performed the work, became thorough masters of the operation. Though this commencement was but small, it led to great results, and from henceforward there was no want of people ready to enter into the undertaking.

In consequence of the account given by those who were wrecked in the Sea Venture on the Bermudas, a colony was sent out, and the hitherto desolate islands were peopled by English settlers.

One of the most gallant exploits of this period was performed by Captain Best, who sailed in command of a fleet sent out by the East India Company. After remaining for some time at Surat, he caught sight of a vast fleet of Portuguese, numbering no less than 240 vessels. Having beaten off a number of them that attacked him, he continued his course. They, however, having repaired damages, the whole fleet came in search of him. As they bore down under a cloud of sail, threatening his destruction, he was advised by one of the Sultan’s principal officers to fly. Best replied that he would advise that to the Portuguese, and, weighing anchor, stood out to meet the enemy. The shore was crowded with natives eager to witness the engagement. It ended, after four hours, as the other had done. The Portuguese, after receiving immense damage, sailed away as fast as they could, and Captain Best returned and anchored in the harbour, amid the shouts of the people. The account of the engagement was everywhere told among the natives, and the courage of the English magnified to the highest. After touching at Achin, and renewing his friendship with the people, in the succeeding year, he arrived in England, rich in his lading, more in honour.

In the year 1613 the Muscovy Company sent out seven stout ships to catch whales. They were followed by several Dutch, Flemish, and French ships, and half-a-dozen English interlopers. The Company’s ships gathering into a body, ordered the others, in the name of the King of England, to depart from the coast, the fishery of which he had appropriated to his own subjects. The Dutch sending a taunting answer, the English replied with their cannon, compelling their rivals to take their departure, and the English private ships to fish for them. With this help, they made a good return.

In 1614 the celebrated pirate Sir Andrew Barton, with two ships, laid the coasts of England and Scotland under contribution. Two ships of war, under the command of Sir William Monson and Sir Francis Howard, were sent out to effect their capture. One of them was taken off Sinclair Castle, the seat of the Earl of Caithness. Sir Andrew for long managed to keep at a distance from his pursuers, having friends in various places, especially in Ireland, who gave him assistance. Among others was a certain Mr Cormat, who treacherously betrayed the Scotch pirate into the hands of Sir William Monson. His ship was captured, and he, with two or three of his officers, executed.

Considerable progress at this period was made in the science of navigation. In the year 1624 Mr Gunter, professor of astronomy at Gresham College, Cambridge, published his scale of logarithms, sines, etcetera, and invented the scale which has since gone by his name.

No darker stain rests on the memory of James than that of his judicial murder of Sir Walter Raleigh. Influenced by his evil councillors, the pusillanimous king offered up the gallant seaman as a sacrifice to the revengeful Spaniards, or rather to their ambassador, Gondomar. Cheerful to the last, the noble Raleigh bade farewell to all around him; then, taking the axe, he felt along upon the edge, and smiling, said to the sheriff, “This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases.” On being asked which way he would lay himself, he placed his head on the block, observing, “So that the heart be right, it is no matter which way the head lieth.”

Some lines written on Sir Walter’s death thus finish:—

        “I saw in every stander-by
Pale death; life only in thine eye.
The legacy thou gavest us then
We’ll sue for when thou diest again.
Farewell! truth shall this story say,
We died, thou only livedst that day.”

Such was the end of the great Sir Walter Raleigh, once so highly in favour with Queen Elizabeth, and, next to Drake, the great scourge and terror of the Spaniards.

The Algerines were then, as they were for many years afterwards, the pests of the ocean. Their chief cruising ground was in the Straits of Gibraltar. Numerous English merchantmen fell into their clutches. The same determined spirit, however, which has since been exhibited by British seamen, existed in those days, and induced, on several occasions, the captives to make gallant efforts to effect their escape. Among these instances two are especially worthy of note.

The Jacob, of Bristol, was entering the straits when she was pounced upon by an Algerine and captured. The pirates took all the crew out of her with the exception of four, and sent thirteen of their own people on board to bring her to Algiers. Four of the captives, knowing the terrible slavery to which they would be subjected should they reach Algiers, resolved to attempt the recapture of their vessel. Happily for them, on the fifth night after they had been taken, a heavy gale sprang up. While the Algerine captain was assisting his followers to shorten sail, two of the English, who had been liberated that they might lend a hand, coming suddenly upon him hove him overboard. Having got hold of a rope which was towing astern, he had almost regained the deck, when one of the Englishmen drove him back with the pump-handle, the act being, fortunately, unobserved during the darkness and confusion by the rest of the pirates. This done, they made their way into the master’s cabin, where they found two cutlasses, with which suddenly attacking the pirates, they drove them from one part of the ship to the other, killed two, and made a third leap overboard. The other nine they drove between decks, when they forced the hatches down upon them. Making use of two or three of the Algerines at a time, as they required them for making or shortening sail, they carried the ship triumphantly into Saint Luca, in Spain, where the Algerines were sold for slaves. At the same time the Nicholas, of Plymouth, of 40 tons burden, commanded by John Rawlins, and the Bonaventureof 70 tons, were bound out together up the straits. On the 18th of November they came in sight of Gibraltar, when they discovered five ships, which they soon perceived to be pirates, making all sail towards them. In vain they attempted to reach Gibraltar; the Algerines coming up with the Bonaventure, she was captured by their admiral, while the vice-admiral soon afterwards compelled Rawlins to strike. The same day the admiral put on shore twelve of the Bonaventure’s crew, with some other English captives before taken, but the vice-admiral ordered Rawlins and five of his men to be brought on board his vessel, leaving three men and a boy, with thirteen Algerines, on board the prize. The following night, during a storm, the Nicholas was lost sight of. On the 22nd the vice-admiral, with Rawlins on board, arrived at Algiers. A few days afterwards theNicholas arrived, when the prisoners were carried to the pacha, who, having chosen one of them for himself, the rest were afterwards sent to the market to be sold. Rawlins was bought by the captain, who took him at a low price because he had a lame hand, but perceiving that this rendered him unfit for work, sold him again, with two more of his men, to an English renegado, John Goodhall, who, with his partners, had bought theExchange, of Bristol, a ship formerly taken by the pirates, which at that time lay unrigged inside the mole, and for which they wanted some skilful seamen. On the 7th of January, 1622, the ship, being fitted, was hauled out of the mole. She carried twelve cast guns, with a crew of sixty-three Algerines, nine Englishmen, one Frenchmen, and four Hollanders, all freemen; and for gunners, she had two soldiers, one an English and the other a Dutch renegado. Rawlins, from the first going on board, resolved to attempt regaining his liberty. For this purpose he furnished himself with ropes and pieces of iron, and iron crowbars to secure the scuttles, gratings, and cabins, and when, having gained over the other Europeans, he hoped, by being masters of the gun-room, ordnance, and powder, either to blow up their captors or to kill them as they came out of their cabins. He first made known his design to the English, and by degrees won over the four Hollanders, who offered to join them and gain the assistance of the Dutch renegadoes, while the English undertook to obtain the assistance of the renegado of their own nation. During this time Rawlins, who was acting as sailing-master, persuaded the Algerine captain to steer to the northward, though he knew very well that they had already passed the straits. On the 16th of February they took an English barque from Torbay, laden with salt. With the exception of the mate and two men, the crew were removed from the prize, and ten Algerines, with the Dutch and one English renegado, who were all in the plot, were sent on board instead. Before they left the Exchange, Rawlins assured them that he would make his attempt that night or the next, and give them a signal by which they might know when he was about it, advising them to acquaint the English in the barque with their design, and to steer towards the English coast. Next morning the Algerine captain got very much out of humour in consequence of not seeing the prize; and Rawlins, fearing that he might return to Algiers, thought it high time to put his plan into execution. He had already made the master and crew of the Torbay vessel acquainted with it; he now told the Algerine captain that there was a great deal of water below, and that it did not come to the pumps because the ship was too far by the head. For the purpose of remedying this an order was issued to bring four guns astern; two of them were accordingly placed with their mouths directly before the binnacle. Rawlins had already provided himself with sufficient powder, which he obtained from the gunner, to prime the pieces. He now assured the captain that in order to right the ship all hands must work at the pumps. While this was doing, two matches were brought, one between two spoons, and the other in a can, and immediately one of the guns being discharged, the binnacle was shattered to pieces. On this signal, all the English collected together, and having seized such arms as they could lay hold of quickly cleared the hold, while another party made themselves masters of the magazine and arms. The pirates, who were on the poop, now attacked the English, who, being by this time all armed, compelled them to cry for quarter. They were ordered to come down one by one. So enraged were the English that several of the pirates were killed, while others leaped into the sea. Thus of forty-five Algerines who were on board, the captain and five more alone were saved. With these the gallant Rawlins and his men arrived at Plymouth on the 15th of February, 1622. The Torbay barque reached Penzance, in Cornwall, having all along persuaded the Algerines that they were going to Algiers, till they came in sight of England. When the pirates were below trimming the salt, they nailed the hatches down upon them. Having come to an anchor, they carried their captives to Exeter.