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shamefully to flight, and destroyed and captured nearly seventy sail*, to the ruin of many merchants and shipowners. 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.
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 century. But even in the darkest ages there were some who believed that the ocean was every where navigable§;
* Oude Chronijcke, 499. The Dutch chronicler confesses the shamefulness 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, ahout the year 890, by Remigius Autissiodorensis to Dado, bishop of Verdun Coll. Ampliss. i. 233, 234.
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 may be questioned whether any other would, in that age, have manifested the same redeeming virtues. Henry was so sharpened" by Columbus's success, 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 West, 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
DISCOVERY OF AMERICA.
ner in every village, town, castle, isle, or mainland by them newly found; and, as his lieutenants, take possession of all such places as they could subdue and occupy." The question of right was as little regarded by the king of England as by Charles V. and pope Alexander. The expedition was to be at Cabot's own cost; and the king, after all charges were defrayed, was to have" in wares or money," the fifth part of the profit. There is no account of this voyage: but in a second, on A.D. which he was licensed to sail with six ships, not exceed1497. ing the burthen of 200 tons, Sebastian Cabot discovered Newfoundland and the coast of Florida. One of the ships was sent forth at the king's cost; some London merchants ventured small stocks in her: the others were belonging to Bristol merchants, of whom Robert Thorne and Hugh Eliot were the chief: and they were fraught with slight and gross merchandises, in coarse cloth, caps, nd laces, points, and other trifles.”*
The use of fire-arms, without which the conquests of the Spaniards in the New World must have been impossible, changed the character of naval war sooner than it did the system of military tactics, though they were employed earlier by land than by sea. It has not been ascertained when cannon † were first employed at sea: though less cumbrous and unwieldy than the old engines, they necessitated very material alterations in the structure of war ships. The first port-holes, it is believed, were contrived by a ship-builder at Brest, named Descharges, and their introduction took place in 1499. They were "circular holes, cut through the sides of the vessel, and so small as scarcely to admit of the guns being traversed in the smallest degree, or fired otherwise than straight forward." The first use made of this contrivance was the addition of another tier: and the consequent enlargement in the ship's dimensions led to a change in the composition of the navy. For
*Hakluyt, iii. p. 4-10. Capt. Southey, Chron. Hist. of the West Indies, i. 4951.
According to Charnock it was by the Venetians against the Genoese, before 1380. vol. ii. p. 6.
CHANGE IN THE NAVY.
hitherto there had been no distinction between those few vessels that had been specially built for the king's service and such as were used for commerce; but thenceforth the king's ships began to form a distinct class, appropriated solely to the use for which they were constructed. It was, however, still necessary, when any emergency occurred, to reinforce the navy by hiring some of the largest ships that could be obtained, and not from English merchants alone, but from the Genoese, the Venetians, and the Hanse Towns.*
As merchant ships were thus hired for the navy in time of war, so, during peace, it appears that the king's ships were employed in trade, or freighted to the merchants. Henry was very desirous of maintaining the relations of peace and amity with other countries. In the commission to one of his ambassadors, he says: "The earth being the common mother of all mankind, what can be more pleasant and more humane than to communicate a portion of all her productions to all her children by commerce?" He renewed old commercial treaties, made new ones, obtained privileges for our fishers on the coasts of Iceland and Norway, and tried the experiment of lowering the customs on certain articles, with the hope of increasing their exportation. The treaty which he concluded with the archduke Philip, —after, in consequence of a dispute with him, a total stop had been put to the trade with the Low Countries, -was called the great commercial treaty (intercursus magnus). It was framed with the greatest care to render the intercourse between the two countries permanent, and profitable to both; and when the English returned to Antwerp (whither they had removed their factory from Bruges some few years previous, and where there was not the same frequent danger of popular commotions),
* Charnock's Hist. of Marine Architecture, vol. ii. p. 26. 28, 29.
Henry, vi. c. 565. The fact is deduced from the statute concerning wine and woad, which has before been noticed, 1 Hen. 7. c. 8. but, probably, the royal trader did not go beyond the importation of wine for his own household.
they were conducted into the city with all public demonstrations of joy.*
Henry VIII., who in other respects so little resembled his father, endeavoured, like him, by every means to promote the commerce of the kingdom, and increase its maritime strength. With this view, the act concerning the importation of wine and woad was twice renewed during his reign †; and old for clearing the navigable rivers from weirs and other obstructions were enforced, and new ones enacted to prevent the stream works of the tin mines from choking the harbours in Devonshire and Cornwall. The squadron, which carried 1600 English archers under the lord Darcy 1511. to assist Ferdinand in his war against the Moors of Granada, consisted of four "ships royal." A truce had been made before they arrived, so that they had no opportunity of displaying any thing more than their good-will for fighting, and their extreme licentiousness and insubordination.
The first incident in the naval history of this reign grew out of a circumstance which had occurred many years before, and was itself followed by consequences of the greatest moment. A Portugueze squadron had, in the year 1476, seized a Scottish ship, laden with rich merchandise, and commanded by John Barton. Letters of reprisal were granted him, which, it seems, he had either not been able to use, or had adventured with them unsuccessfully; for, after an interval of no less than thirty years, they were renewed to his three sons, Andrew, Robert, and John, authorising them and their assignees to seize upon Portugueze ships, till they should have thus repaid themselves in the sum of 12,000 ducats of Portugal. Up to this time no application for redress had been made to the Portugueze government; and, when now made by the Rothsay herald, who was especially delegated to conciliate this dispute, and restore the ancient amity between the two crowns, there is reason to
*Henry, vi. 562. Ib. v. 8. Rymer, xii. 281. 374-381. 578.