Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

were given to proceed against and punish them; and Robert Willoughby de Broke was appointed marshal of the fleet, with full powers for this purpose.* Where there are facilities for entering upon such a course of life, piracy will always be a tempting and a frequent crime t, because it may be committed with so little danger of detection : it was punished, therefore, severely at this time, when the maritime states were sensible how much they were dependent upon commerce for their strength. A large ship’s crew of Easterling pirates was A. D. circumvented and taken in the Meuse; they were all 1471. beheaded, and their bodies exposed upon wheels, upon the highest ridges of the sand-hills along the coast. I Two freebooters, Pining and Pothorst by name, who had been banished from some of the Baltic states, collected a body of outlaws, and took possession of a high and rocky island, which is called Huitsark, and described as half-way between Iceland and Greenland; from thence, like the Vitalians, they infested the northern seas, till their depredations became so serious that all the states which suffered by them united for their 1494. destruction, and effected it. In the next generation, the Hamburghers captured a galleon of great strength, commanded by a pirate named Knipoff; and he and seventy of his men were put to death, and exposed upon the wheel.

The Scottish historians affirm, that the superiority of

1525.

[ocr errors]

* Rymer, xii. 485, 486. Quidam miseri et vagabundi," they are called, “maligno spiriti seducti;” and the crimes which they were daily committing were said not only to be in contempt of the king, but “in armatæ nostræ scandalum et infamiam."

A doubt occurs to me, while here writing from my notes, whether armata may not in this place be used, as it sometimes was by the French, to signify an army. Fleet is its more usual signification, and in that sense I understood it when the book was before me. At present I have no means of reconsulting it, and endeavouring to ascertain whether or not I was mistaken.

+ The state of Greece, and still more of Spanish America, has rendered piracy more frequent at this time than it has ever been since the days of the Buccaneers : such are the consequences of exchanging even a bad government for anarchy. In a volume of sermons recently printed at Boston (in New England), the preacher warns his hearers against being enticed to commit robbery, either on the land or sea.

Oude Chronijcke van Holland, 494.
Olaus Magnus, p. 55.

|| Id. 56 VOL. II.

M

their seamen over the English was signally manifested in Henry VII.'s reign. They say that five chosen ships of the royal navy infested the Firth of Forth, soon after the accession of James IV., and occasioned loud complaints by the frequent captures which they made at sea, and the ravages which they committed in their descents on the coast. At length, sir Andrew Wood, of Largo, whose loyalty to the late murdered king made him at this time a malecontent, was persuaded for the honour of his country to forego his just indignation, and act against these enemies. He was urged to attack them with a greater, or, at least, with an equal force; but he said that his own two ships were sufficient; and, indeed, when the Scottish nobles, after they had mur. dered their king, called upon the Leith captains and sailors to reduce this officer, they were told, in reply, “that no ten ships of Scotland would dare to assault Wood's two vessels; such was his strength in men and artillery, and such his maritime and military skill.” The Flower and the Yellow Carvel were the names of his vessels : with these he attacked the five English ships, which were lying off Dunbar, captured them all, brought them to Leith, and presented their commander to the king and council. f It is further added by Scottish historians, that Henry VII., mortified by this shameful defeat, and hoping to retrieve the honour of the English navy, assembled a council of his naval officers, and offered to put any means at the disposal of him who would undertake this service, promising great rewards if Wood were brought to him either alive or dead. All hesitated, because they feared to engage with such an antagonist; till at length sir Stephen Bullt, a man of distinguished prowess, offered himself. Three ships, chosen from the royal navy, were placed under his com. mand: with these he sailed to the Forth, and anchored behind the Isle of May, waiting Wood's return from

[ocr errors]

* Pinkcrton's Hist. of Scotland, ii. p. 3.

Ib. 14. Buchanan, xiii. s 2, 3. # This name occurs among the captains of the fleet under sir Edward Howard in 1512.

[blocks in formation]

Flanders, whither he had escorted some merchant vessels. Soine fishermen were captured and detained, that by their look-out sir Andrew might be known : few days had passed before his vessels were seen coming by St. Ebb’s Head, and the fishermen were set at liberty as soon as they had recognised them for sir Andrew's ships. It was early in the morning when the action began; the Scots, by their skilful manæuvring, obtained the weather-gage, and the battle continued, in sight of innumerable spectators, who thronged the coast, till darkness suspended it. It was renewed at daybreak: the ships grappled; and both parties were so intent upon

the struggle, that the tide carried them into the mouth of the Tay, into such shoal water, that the English seeing no means of extricating themselves surrendered. Sir Andrew brought his prizes to Dundee: the wounded were carefully tended there ; and James, with royal magnanimity, is said to have sent both prisoners and ships to Henry, praising the courage which they had displayed, and saying that the contest was for honour, not for booty.*

The French paid little attention to their navy at this time, but they did not wholly neglect it, as the English had done during the civil wars and the dissolute reign A.D. of Edward IV. Louis XI. had a ship which was said 1475. to be the largest man-of-war that had ever been seen : it was of such force that it put a whole fleet of Holl

* Pinkerton, 15, 16. Buchanan, s. 6. There is no mention of either of these actions in any of the English historians; and Pinkerton who says that this silence will excite little doubt “in those who know the tame and meagre information presented by the original historians of England at this period,” admits that Lindsay, whose narration he follows, “ appears to have amplified these incidents” by his partiality.; There can be no doubt of this. The “ royal navy," was in 'no state at that time to have employed five chosen ships upon such a service; and the chroniclers were neither likely to have overlooked actions in themselves so remarkable, nor to have dissembled thein, because the event had not been honourable to the English arms. They were too honest for this, and the nation was too brave to require any such concealment; and, undoubtedly, these circumstances would have been referred to, as enhancing the triumph when sir Andrew Barton was defeated. The story of the naval council I take to be mere fiction; and suppose that the five vessels captured in the first ction belonged to private adventurers, and their loss of so little import to any but the parties concerned, that Hall, if he ever heard of it, did not think it worth recording.

owners.

shamefully to flight, and destroyed and captured nearly seventy sail *, to the ruin of many merchants and ship

Much wild-fire was used by the French ship in this action. Yet this vessel, which was then so formidable to a people not less remarkable for courage

than for seamanship, was afterwards engaged and taken by a Genoese carrack ; which carrack was in its turn captured by some Hollanders.* There was a spirit of enterprise in the French ports, which the English could

not partake while their country was perpetually disA.D. turbed by factions or by intestine war. A fleet of 1479. Norman privateers captured fourscore. Flemish vessels,

which were bound to the Baltic, for the herring fishery, and for grain; and this was said to be the greatest loss that the Flemings had sustained by sea for more than a hundred years. 1

But though fewer naval incidents occurred under Henry VII. than in the reign of any of our earlier kings, that reign belongs to the most important age of maritime history.

The conquest of Carthage had put an end to the progress of navigation, at a time when, but for the overthrow of that great maritime power, West and South Africa, and the Eastern world, would soon have been opened to its enterprising merchants. The spirit of maritime discovery being thus extinguished, the art of navigation became stationary; and received no new impulse till the revival of that spirit in the beginning of the fifteenth cena tury. But even in the darkest ages there were some who believed that the ocean was every where navigable ş;

* Oude Chronijcke, 499. The Dutch chronicler confesses the shame. fulness of the defeat, and is not likely to have exaggerated the loss. The Colonne, he says, was the name of that great ship. + Ib. 513.

| Continuation of Monstrelet, xi. 317. This belief was founded upon a notion that the Romans had navigated the seas in all parts. “ Certè nulla est in mundo regio Mediterranea, nulla media via, nullæ mediæ insulæ, quas potestas Romana non adierit. Qui proferendi nominis curiossissimâ indagatione ultimam omnium insularum Filetam probant, quod insulam sub ipsâ perustâ plagâ positam, ipsosque hyperboreas ultra polum nostrum feliciter viventes investigare labore, maximo etiam cum vitæ periculo, studuerunt. Quorum industria probatum est oceanum ex omni parte mundi esse navigabilem."

This remarkable passage occurs in an epistle which Martene and Durand believe to have been written, about the year 890, by Remigius Autissiodai rensis to Dado, bishop of Verdun - Coll. Ampliss. i. 233, 234.

DISCOVERY OF AMERICA.

165

and that islands were to be found there, as well as in the navigated seas, was so received an opinion, that stories of discovering such were common both in the fictions of hagiology and romance. The progress of discovery, after its commencement, was slow, but it was continuous; and it was accelerated as the Portuguese were emboldened by experience and success. Something more than eighty years elapsed after the first expedition which was sent out by the infante don Henrique before Vasco da Gama reached the coast of Malabar; and the second fleet which sailed from Lisbon to India was driven to the coast of Brazil. America would thus have been discovered, though Columbus should never have been born. The time for that discovery was come.

Portugal refused the proposals of Columbus, because that government knew that its ships were pursuing the certain course to India, and would not be persuaded to try an uncertain one. Henry VII. assented to them ; and if Bartholomew Columbus had not been captured in his way to England by pirates, and long detained by them as a slave at the oar, the ships which discovered the New World would have sailed under the English flag. Other nations have no reason to repent that the glory of that discovery, the influx of wealth which was its immediate consequence, and the immeasurable amount of national guilt incurred in the conquest, should have fallen to the lot of the Spaniards. Any other people would too surely have committed crimes as great : but it may be questioned whether any other would, in that age, have manifested the same redeeming virtues. Henry was so sharpened” by Columbus's

that he assented to the proposal of John Cabot (who, though 1495. a citizen of Venice, resided then at Bristol), and by his letters patent authorised him and his three sons to sail with five ships, under the English flag, to all parts, countries, and seas of the East, of the W’est, and of the North ; there to “ seek out and find whatsoever isles, countries, regions, or provinces of the heathen and infidels whatsoever they might be ; and to set up his ban.

[ocr errors]

s success,

A. D.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »