London, Volume 5
CX.-The Admiralty and the Trinity House.
CX.-The Admiralty and the Trinity House.
The Admiralty, which forms the left flank of the detachment of Government offices drawn up in line opposite the Banqueting House at , cannot stand a very critical examination on its architectural merits. Well; it is not the only plain and homely body in which a mighty spirit has been lodged. These huge sides of a square, without even an attempt at ornament-excepting the posts, which the polite call pillars, at the grand central entry--which resemble nothing on earth so much as an overgrown farmstead, which have had that architectural screen, almost as tasteless as themselves, drawn before them like a Mokanna's veil, from a dim sense that not even stone walls could hear with patience the remarks that must necessarily be made upon them if fully exposed view--are the unlikely form in which is lodged the mind that wields the naval power of Britain.
There sit the Commissioners of the Admiralty, the Board which, except for years, separated from each other by the lapse of more than a century,[n.145.1] have been invested with the government of the navy of England since the Revolution. The Lord of the Admiralty (who is a member of the Cabinet) and his junior Lords hold their deliberations there. They prepare the navy estimates,
|and lay them before Parliament; issue orders for the payment of naval moneys; make or approve all appointments or promotions in the navy; recommend all grants of honours, pensions, or gratuities for services performed in their department; order ships to be commissioned, employed, and paid off, built, sold, or broken up. There is a ceaseless ebb and flow of business surging about that homely building. Reports, inquiries, and petitions are flowing in like a spring-tide incessantly from the remotest regions of the earth, and orders and instructions are flowing out as continuously to regulate operations that fill as wide a sphere.|
If we take up our station on the esplanade in , the eye is caught by a huge upright beam erected on the roof of the Admiralty, with straight arms extending from it laterally at different angles. At times these may be seen altering their positions, remaining a few moments at rest, and then changing again. The giant upon whom the stranger gazes with uncomprehending curiosity is whispering to his huge brother on Putney Heath, who will repeat the intelligence to his neighbour behind Richmond, and he to the next in order, so that by their unconscious agency the heads of the navy in London give and receive intelligence to and from the great naval stations hundreds of miles off as quickly as they can communicate with a storehouse at the other end of the metropolis. The semaphore is, as any man may see, but a block of wood, and, heaven knows, no beauty, yet, in the hands of man, it becomes instinct with wondrous power. Like all the other mechanical inventions of the age, it indicates at once the power of intellect and its limit. By the instrumentality of machinery man adds to the puny strength of his body, and ekes out his dwarfish stature. By the steam-engine he rows a mighty ship as if it were a Thames scull-boat, or hammers at once masses of iron too colossal for a troop of Cyclopses. And by the telegraph he renders himself as it were present in the same moment at distant places. But he cannot inspire his instruments with intelligence; only while his hand is upon them can they
or otherwise: left to themselves they relapse into the inertness of mere matter. Nor can he clothe them with the flexible grace of movement, with that ever-varying elegance of form and harmony of tint which is the contradistinguishing mark of God's creations. Wonderful though they be, these inventions of man-these his mute senseless drudges--they all of them bear legibly and indelibly stamped upon all their lineaments, the name of MAKESHIFT. Mere makeshifts they are and must remain-something inferior stuck in to supply the want of better that cannot be had-confessions of weakness-reminding us even more of human littleness and feebleness than of its power.
There is quite as little to interest the eye in the interior of the structure round which we have been loitering and musing as in its exterior. Through the great central door you pass into a spacious hall, cool, airy, and pleasant in summer, but bare of ornament. There appears to be something imposing in its mere size and proportions, but perhaps this is self-deception-attributing to the building the impression produced by the presence that lies beyond. A few attendants in plain dresses are lounging in the hall; always civil, but always cool--they answer any questions with Spartan brevity, and allow the inquirer to
|pass on. The public rooms are, like the vestibule, sufficiently spacious and well proportioned, furnished with everything necessary to facilitate the discharge of business-decorously simple. Except in the extent of the building there is nothing to distinguish it from the private establishment of some great mercantile firm. It is nothing of outward show that impresses us as we pass through these suites of rooms: it is our consciousness of a spiritual presence which has pervaded them ever since they became the residence of the central management of the British navy.|
How many an anxious, how many an elated heart, passes daily in and out of this building! Nerves that would remain unshaken, minds that would remain self-possessed, while the iron-hail-shower of a broadside was crashing through bulwark and bulkhead, or while the thunders of whole fleets beneath the smoke-canopy of their own creation were shaking the breezy atmosphere into a calm, sulphurous and portentous as that which broods over an earthquake, have here become relaxed and confused as those of a bashful girl. The midshipman as he passed up these broad stairs has felt that there was something worse on this earth than a mast-heading, and even his petulance has been subdued; nay, the equanimity of the most coolly imperious captain has been shaken. Perhaps Nelson has laid his hand upon these banisters while his far-distant spirit was marshalling the future fights of Trafalgar and the Nile, or giving orders to hang out the signal--
Poor Dalrymple, the Admiralty hydrographer, has here been convulsed with the wayward querulousness of age, attributing to malevolence and oppression the conduct rendered necessary by his own dotage. Cook passed up these stairs to report what unknown regions and tribes he had discovered, and how he had triumphed over sickness, and brought back a crew scarcely diminished by death, from a long, distant, and dangerous voyage. Here many a plan of action has been struck out which conducted to victory; many a , in defiance of the absurdity of which the skill and courage of British sailors have gained. victories. The succession of gallant spirits endowed with scientific acquirements, calmness, and fertility of resource in unexpected emergencies, honourable pride in their profession and devotion to their country, which has filled these walls for a great part of years, is unsurpassed in history.
It is impossible for any citizen of a state which is so essentially maritime as Great Britain, not to feel that this centre of our naval organization is among the most interesting localities that London contains, and to feel irresistibly tempted to linger on the spot conjuring up an outline of the stages through which our navy has passed into its present maturity of growth.
Most of our kings since the Conquest appear to have possessed some vessels of war; and an Amiral de la Mer du roi d'Angleterre appears on the records as early as . But the English
was at this time merely a great officer of state, who presided generally over maritime affairs. Often not a professional person, his duties were, not to command ships in battle, or indeed at any other time, but to superintend and direct the naval strength of the kingdom, and to administer justice in all causes arising on the seas. In the former capacity he may be considered as
his judicial functions
| have long been separated from the administrative, and are discharged by the |
which nestles beside the Ecclesiastical Courts in . Lord Stowell might have been called in old times
think of an admiral in a wig and gown! And fleets in these early days were fitted out when the King went to war, by adding to his own little squadron, merchant-vessels pressed from all parts in the kingdom; for the pressgangs of old took the ships along with the sailors.
The naval affairs of Great Britain continued much on this footing till the close of the century. It has been usual to assume that Henry VII. was the king who thought of providing a naval force which might be at all times ready for the service of the state. It does not appear that Henry did more in this way than building the
which writers on this subject have agreed among themselves to call the ship of the royal navy. But there were royal ships before his time; and as for general attention to naval affairs, there was quite as much paid by Edward IV. as by Henry VII. The fitting place for looking a little more narrowly into this question, however, will be when we come to speak of the Trinity House.
Henry VIII. is said to have
which being interpreted, means that the existence of a real royal or state navy, such as England has possessed since his time, cannot be traced back to an earlier period. He instituted the Admiralty and the Navy Office; established the Trinity House and the dockyards of Deptford, Woolwich, and Portsmouth; appointed regular salaries for the admirals, captains, and sailors, and, in short, made the sea-service a distinct profession. He also made laws for the planting and preservation of timber; caused the
to be built, which is said to have measured above tons; and left at his death a navy, the tonnage of which amounted to tons. The ships of this age, say the historians,
and Sir Walter Raleigh informs us,
This took place at Spithead in the presence of the king, and most of her officers and crew were drowned.
What little we know of the navy of Bluff King Harry's time is almost entirely confined to the existence of such lubberly craft as the
and certain government offices. Coming down to the days of Queen Bess we scrape acquaintance with the gallant fellows who manned her somewhat improved vessels. Elizabeth was economical. Though she increased the navy--at her death it consisted of ships, measuring tons-and though she raised the wages of seamen to a-month (under her father they appear to have been only about per month), yet she encouraged the merchants to build large ships, which on occasion were converted into ships of war and rated at to tons more than they measured. Of the ships, manned by men, which met the Spanish Armada, a considerable number were not
Raleigh's criticism on the faulty build of the
will lead the reader to the inference that in his time naval architecture had made some progress. This
|improvement, however, was most marked under Elizabeth's successor, who had the good sense to encourage Phineas Pett. Pett, who has been called our earliest able and scientific ship-builder, made many improvements in the construction of vessels, and in particular relieved ships of much of their top-hamper. This the more deserves notice as it seems to be the only respect in which naval matters advanced under James. Signals, as a means of communication between ships, had been introduced under Elizabeth.|
But we have intimated above that in the age of Elizabeth and James we scrape acquaintance with the sailors as men. The great national effort by which--with the assistance of the bad choice the intruding invaders made of a season of the year for their expedition--the Spanish Armada was discomfited, may be regarded as in part the natural consequence of the growth of the spirit of maritime enterprise in England, in part the cause of a great and sudden development which it received at that time. The exaggerated estimate made of the gain of the Spaniards by their American conquests had stirred the emulation of England. Merchants of Bristol and merchants of London were fitting out voyages of discovery and soliciting the royal countenance to their efforts. Oxford was seized by the prevailing epidemic: her mathematicians and her historical students were full of the thoughts of new Indies, busily devising how their own scientific acquirements could most promote discovery. Dr. John Dee was making maps as well as casting nativities, and Hackluyt was lecturing on geography at Oxford. The high nobility became associated with adventures to unknown lands, as we have seen their descendants with all kinds of joint-stock companies and other bubble speculations. An Earl of Warwick was at the expense of having published at Florence the
a treatise on navigation. Earls of Bedford, Lords Chamberlain, and other nobles who in that half-feudal age still ruffled with troops of retainers, cherished their gallant naval dependants more than any others. The Frobishers, Drakes, and the rest of these patriarchs of our fleet almost all started in life as followers of some nobleman. The young gentry of Devonshire and Cornwall, the Raleighs and the Gilberts, partly from natural inclination, partly because they saw
sought to swing themselves into notoriety by entering the sea-service. The theory as well as the practice of navigation was studied-the discovery and colonisation of new lands and the seamanship of the whole nation went hand in hand. It was court fashion, but it was quite as much country fashion. The queen had the good sense to encourage this spontaneous burst of national energy, and to feel that countenance was almost all she needed to give. In those days might be seen the bold speculator Michael Lok, who gambled in adventures of discovery, seated between the mystical scholar Dee and the stout practical mariner Frobisher, devising how, by skirting the polar ice, they might discover the direct road to Cathay. Next might be seen each of these stirring up their respective patrons to furnish forth the enterprise; Master Lok negotiating with the Muscovy Company and other great city merchants, Captain Frobisher with the Earl of Bedford and other patrons of
and Dr. Dee with the subtle and accomplished courtiers who, like Leicester, either encouraged learning from taste or from policy; and when all was prepared, and
| the ships ready to drop down the river, then to give the finishing grace to all this stir and bustle did the virgin queen repair in person to Greenwich, and sit in open air as the fore-topsail was loosened and the boatswain's shrill call was heard, and sail after sail rose and swelled to the wind like white clouds on the horizon; and waved her somewhat skinny but jewelled hand, as amid a rattle of patereros and other artillery the ships bent over from the breeze as if doing homage to their sovereign, and glided off on their far and perilous errand. Our ships were of small size then, but they carried big spirits and most picturesque personages. The reader will but half appreciate the artistical value of Frobisher's voyage if when he reads of that gallant seaman risking himself at the extremities of the booms, amid a squall in the North Seas that laid his ship on her beam-ends, he forgets the trunk-hose with which he was encumbered; or if he fail to note that Best, the historian of the voyage, when he narrates the broils between the crew and Esquimaux, dwells with emphasis on the |
that was held to the wild man's throat. And Elizabeth, the great prototype of Black-eyed Susan-
had knighthoods for her captains when they returned, as well as smiles when they departed. It was then that Englishmen became a nation of mariners the
a great tender moored in the Atlantic. The infectious enthusiasm caught all ranks and ages; and the poet mirrored it in his lines, or even attempted to produce its bodily presence on the stage. It must have been a right willing audience that was good-humoured enough to eke out to this end the makeshift machinery of that time with its imagination; but, seated in our closets, the shipwreck scenes of Shakspere, and the naval battles of Beaumont and Fletcher, become living and breathing realities.
All have heard of John Hampden and his ship-money: that controversy between a king and his subject marks an era, not only in constitutional history, but in the formation of our navy. The necessity of increasing the strength, and improving the organisation of the navy, was equally felt by royalist and republican statesmen. The opposition to Charles arose not so much out of any objection to the creation of a navy, as out of distrust of the policy which sought to raise the money for that purpose without the aid of parliament. It was under Charles I. that the navy was divided into rates and classes; but the civil troubles during the latter part of his reign diverted attention from maritime affairs. When Cromwell seized the reins of government, he found the navy much reduced, but his energy restored it, and he left sail, of which - were -deckers, measuring nearly tons. Cromwell was the who laid before parliament estimates for the support of the navy, a practice which has been continued ever since: he obtained per annum for that purpose. The navigation laws, an important feature in the naval policy of England, were also originated by Cromwell, or some of his councillors. The government of the Restoration, with all its faults, had the good sense to appreciate Cromwell's naval policy. The extravagance of the king, and the jobbing propensities of some of his ministers, starved the navy for intervals; but it was a passion with the Duke of York, afterwards
|James II., and the labouring oar was taken by the indefatigable Pepys, and between them the naval service had on the whole fair-play down to tie time of the Revolution. The duke introduced improved signals, and Pepys kept the accounts in order. When James II. mounted the throne, he found vessels, measuring tons. He took immediate measures for improving the navy. He suspended the Navy Board, and appointed a new Commission, with which he joined Sir Anthony Deane, the best naval architect of the time, who materially improved the ships of the line by copying from a French model. per annum was the sum set apart for naval purposes; and so diligent were the Commissioners, that at the Revolution the fleet was in excellent condition, with sea-stores complete for months for each ship. The force was vessels, of which were -rates, carrying guns, and men.|
Scientific navigation continued to be patronised during the whole of this period: during the latter half of it under the auspices of the Royal Society. The sailing and fighting men of the navy had not, however, become so thoroughly fused into class as they are in our day. Blake never was at sea till he had passed , and it may be questioned whether he was ever much of a navigator. He asked his pilot, or master, to lay him alongside of the enemy, and his self-possession, fearlessness, and pertinacity did the rest. The Montagues and Albemarles, who commanded under the Restoration, were not much of seamen: they trusted the navigation of their vessels to the mariners--their business was to fight. They were followed on board, when they hoisted their flags, by volunteers from the court. They were high
The peculiarities of British men-of-war were not fully developed so long as this system continued. It is fashionable to speak of the fleet as republican during this period: this is of the meaningless generalisations of historians. The sailors were all for their profession, and for the land that owned their ships. They troubled their heads as little about politics then as now. Some of Blake's and Deane's old roundhead captains retired from the service in disgust after the Restoration, as did many of the old roundhead captains from the army; and, as the power of conceiving a devoted attachment to such abstractions as forms of religious and civil policy is generally indicative of a higher grade of intellect, doubtless some of the best men were thus lost to both services; but these were exceptional cases. The habit of sending land generals to fight naval battles, kept the real seaman's spirit under. It is not to the literature of this age that we are to look for illustrations of the seaman's character. In the days of Chaucer they furnished good subjects to the artist; in the days of Shakspere, and since the Revolution, ample use has been made of them. But Congreve's moon-calf Ben is almost the only type of the sailor that was smuggled into the regions of art during the period now under review.
It was not long after the Revolution that the Admiralty took up its abode here in the official residence where we are spinning this yarn. It was in that the management was permanently put in Commission. The office of Lord High Admiral was held by an individual till . In that year it was intrusted to a Commission, of which all the great officers of State were members. During the Commonwealth the affairs of the navy were managed by a
|committee of parliament, till Cromwell took the direction of them upon himself. The Duke of York was Lord High Admiral during the greater part of the reign of Charles II.; when he ascended the throne he took the charge into his own hands. Since the Revolution the office has always been in Commission, with brief exceptions already noticed. The Revolution government, looking about in search of a residence for its naval Commissioners, placed them for a time in a house associated with rather a disagreeable reputation. The son of the infamous Jefferies soon wasted his father's ill-got gains by his dissolute and extravagant conduct. He was obliged to sell, with other property, the house which James II. had allowed the judge to build in , with a gate and steps into the park. The house was bought by government, and converted to the use of the Commissioners of the Admiralty. From this they soon removed to Wallingford House, opposite Scotland Yard--the building from the roof of which Archbishop Usher had witnessed the execution of Charles I., and fainted at the sight. In the reign of George II., the present structure was erected on the site of Wallingford House, by Ripley; and, in the reign of George III., the architectural screen, now in front of it, was drawn by the decent hand of Adam, to veil its homeliness. Here has been the head-quarters of the Admiralty ever since it left the mansion of Jefferies.|
|The improvements made in the naval department of government, since the Revolution, have consisted chiefly in those details of management which escape the notice of the public. Its more prominent features have remained, on the whole, unaltered. The instrument wielded by the Admiralty has grown with the nation's growth in stature and in perfection of its organisation. Theoretical|
| improvements have made their way slowly, but not the less surely. The example of the revolutionary government of France was required to spur on the Admiralty to establish a telegraph. It was not till that the important officer, the hydrographer, was permanently annexed to the Board. Within these few years the steam-ships of the royal navy have been regularly increasing. And during the time that Sir James Graham had a seat at the Navy Board, important improvements were made in the system of general management, that have rendered the Admiralty the best organised department of the Imperial government. In the British navy consisted of vessels of all kinds, of which were in commission, in ordinary, and building: were steam-vessels, of which only were in ordinary; of these, however, no more than appear to have been adapted for purposes of war. There were, besides, steamers employed in the packet-service of Great Britain. The vessels composing the navy are divided into classes--the of which consists of what are called rated ships; the of sloops and bomb-vessels, or vessels commanded by a commander; the of such smaller vessels as are commanded by a lieutenant, or inferior officer. The class comprises ships of rates :--the -rate, all -decked ships; the , all -decked ships, whose war complements consist of men and upwards; the , all ships whose complements are from to ; the , ships whose complements are from to ; the , ships whose complements are from to ; the , ships under . Vessels of the , , and -rates are called line-of-battle-ships. A -gun ship carries -inch guns on its lower, and on its main-deck, each weighing cwt.; and -pounders on its lower deck, and on its main-deck, each weighing cwt., besides , each weighing cwt., on its upper-deck. This weight of metal, stored up in floating fortress, may help to convey, even to those who have never seen that majestic object a -rate man-of-war, some idea of its terrible power for destruction; and the true might and beauty of the ship may be faintly imagined when its buoyancy, the apparent ease with which this huge heavy mass turns and cuts its swift way through the water is conceived. The dark threatening hull alow, the swelling white sails and tapering masts aloft, as, like |
the -rate lies mirroring itself on the glassy ocean-or tearing through the surge beneath a gale in which small craft could not keep the sea, its bright copper sheathing flashing like the brazen scales of Spenser's dragon, as it leaps from mountain wave to another, is tempted to believe that it was an excess of diffidence in the Promethean power of man, that made us deny him at the outset of these remarks the power of clothing in beauty the ministering servants created by his genius. Less imposing, but scarcely less terrible to an enemy, is the multitude of smaller vessels, less formidably armed, which, on the breaking out of a war, this nation can let loose to swarm in every gulf and bay, very wasps and hornets, stinging the foe in the most vital parts.
To man this navy there were voted in -, rather more than seamen of all ranks, and marines. That is a peace establishment. It has already been remarked that the peculiar character generally attributed to the British tar may be said to have been formed since the Revolution. It partook
| at of that homeliness and even carelessness which characterised more or less the whole English nation when the Hanoverian family ascended the throne. When we wonder at the Hawser Trunnions of Smollett, we must keep in mind the manners of the real Walpole--the licence taken in matters of language by Lady Mary Wortley Montague-above all, the minute details of common decency and cleanliness which Chesterfield expressed with such solemnity. We undervalue that great reformer, because every child knows and practises what he preached, but it is because he preached it. And amid all that undeniable rudeness which made the sailor of those days the stock subject of caricaturists and burlesque writers, there existed that stock of unostentatious decision in action and shrewdness of practical judgment in the sphere with which he was familiar, which is the groundwork of the British seaman's character. There was a quiet grandeur about the higher order of spirits in the navy at that time. In homely majesty of character no man perhaps ever surpassed Lord Anson. Favoured in the outset of life by his good connections, he rose in the service in a manner that showed he must be a good steady officer, but necessarily implied nothing more. years of his life he was contented to let his ship |
entering into the pursuits of a planter with as much gusto as his elder brother into those of a country gentleman; a universal favourite in the colony, but alleged by the ladies to be fonder of listening to music than of dancing to it, and most happy over a quiet bottle with a professional friend. But he rose with the occasion, and though involved in many perilous emergencies, never failed to prove great enough for the most trying. In the hour of impending shipwreck, or on the quarter-deck on the eve of battle, he was imperturbable, apparently apathetic till the moment for action came, and then his impetuosity revealed the tremendous power of the iron will which must have held such energies in check. His conduct towards his prisoners, especially the females, during his cruise in the Pacific, was marked by equal courtesy and high moral self-control to what has immortalized classical hero. As a promoter of the sciences which bear upon his profession, and as a civil administrator, he proved that his intellect was worthy to be mated with his chivalrous heroism and morality. And all this under the cloak of a homely, retiring, and even awkward manner. The disregard of show which characterised men like Anson became fashionable in the navy: our seamen prided themselves on being men who could do much and say little. It was their boast that rollicking tarry jackets could fight better than the gilded or pipe-clayed martinets of the land-service. Even in excess this is an honourable ambition, and it is to be hoped that the anxiety to prove themselves
will remain unaltered now that the changed tone of general society and the extension of scientific education are smoothing off the rough angles of the seaman's deportment. Science has never been neglected by him. Halley's observations were in due time followed up by the experimental trials of Meyer's lunar tables. Anson was not alone in that extensive study he made of Spanish discoveries before he sailed on his great voyage, or in his care to eke out what he had learned by necessary observation and inquiry while it lasted. Phipps preceded Cook; and the paternal discipline of that great navigator, and the conversation
|of the men of science shipped on his voyages, trained a new and more intellectual class of officers--the Vancouvers, Kings, Blighs, Burnets, and Broughtons. Education has done its part. The Naval College trains commissioned officers, and the Lower School at Greenwich trains warrant officers and private seamen. has long sent an annual tribute to the navy. And the Hydrographer's Office finds encouragement and employment for all who choose to cultivate the science of their profession. The efficiency of our navy is increased; our naval men occupy a front rank in the national literature and science; and in the senate the sailor feels his full value recognised, and conforms to the prevailing tone of society.|
It is neither an unpleasant nor an unprofitable task to note how the British naval officer has been polished without being made effeminate. The sailors of Marryat and poor Tom Cringle (to give him the name by which he is best known) contrast widely with those of Smollett and his contemporaries, but in refinement of manners alone;--the same wild and reckless glee, when for a time cast loose from service--the same coolness and relish for mischief or danger, indifferent which stimulant offers itself, provided of them does offer-the same carrying of the single-heartedness of the boy into the matured intellect of the man. Tom Cringle and Peter Simple are genuine descendants of Tom Pipes and Lieutenant Hatchway; and Master Keene-Marryat's bold attempt to-lend an interest to a sharp self-seeking calculator of how closely a man may tread upon dishonesty-would, in ruder times, have grown up into of Smollett's tyrannical captains. And yet it is a curious speculation-what would the old rough sea-dogs have thought of their successors? Tom Pipes thought it was all natural enough in Peregrine Pickle to write the letter which honest Tom wore to rags in the sole of his shoe, and possibly did not despise the schoolmaster who composed a substitute for him; but what would he have said of officers in the navy publishing novels, like Marryat; and books of travels for young masters, like whom we have lost by a more melancholy stroke than death-the amiable and accomplished Basil Hall?
Enough of the gallant men of whose eyes the Admiralty is the cynosure : we return to the house itself. It will at once be seen that here is not room for the whole of the managers of the huge instrument of national power just sketched in outline. It spreads over the whole of London. Here are the council-rooms and the residences of the senior Lords; and if you pass the broad easy flight of steps by which access is attained to the public apartments, and ascend the narrow dark stairs beyond it, you will find yourself in the labyrinth of narrow passages, conducting to small rooms crowded with boxes and drawers full of charts, in which the busy hydrographical department is constantly at work. On the west side of the great square of are the Victualling, Navy-Pay, and Transport branches of the Navy Office. The west terrace of the same structure contains the official houses of the Treasurer and the Comptroller of the Navy, of Commissioners of the Navy Board, and the principal officers of the Victualling Department. Other branches of the management of the navy must be sought at Sheerness, Portsmouth, Plymouth, and even in the colonial dockyards. Greenwich, with its Upper and Lower Schools, and its Hospital, is a
| part of the great system, the training-place of the sailor-boy, and the refuge of the worn-out veteran. And, wide though the space be which this administration of the navy fills, a communication of inconceivable rapidity and regularity is kept up by the cabs and busses of the metropolis, the telegraphs of the Admiralty, the railroads on shore, and the steamers at sea. Where is the |
a native of the trim governments of the continent, where all departments of state are organised after the newest drill fashion, asks when he comes to England. It is everywhere in the British dominions. This is the characteristic of British government, that a few heads, by enlisting, when occasion calls, the energies of private individuals and associations, make the nation govern itself. The Steam Navigation Company, or even the Metropolitan Parcels Delivery Company, act occasionally as Admiralty messengers, and do their duty as effectively as if they were liveried retainers constantly in waiting, and devoid of other occupation. By such simple means is it that in the control of a fleet which girdles the globe with a navy of stations, the obstacles of time and space are well nigh set at nought.
But the mechanism of our navy and the great secret of its power will be imperfectly comprehended unless we turn our attention to the inmates of a not inelegant structure in the handsome on .
The Trinity House has already been more than once mentioned in the course of these remarks. The architectural pretensions of the building are far superior to those of the Admiralty; and the corporation which transacts its business there is the right arm of the British minister of marine.
Henry VIII., it is said, established the Trinity House about the same time that he constituted the Admiralty and the Navy Office. It is not easy to say how the truth stands, for the records of the Trinity House were destroyed by fire early in the eighteenth century. But some expressions in the earliest charters of the corporation that have been preserved, and the general analogy of the history of English corporations, lead us to believe that Henry merely gave a new charter, and intrusted the discharge of important duties to a guild or incorporation of seamen which had existed long before. When there was no permanent royal navy, and even after had been created, so long as vessels continued to be pressed in war time as well as men, the king of England had to repose much more confidence in the wealthier masters of the merchant-service than now. They were at sea what his feudal chiefs were on shore. Their guild or brotherhood of the Holy Trinity of Deptford Strand were probably tolerated at in the assumption of a power to regulate the entry and training of apprentices, the licensing of journeymen, and the promotion to the rank of master in their craft, in the same way as learned and mechanical corporations did on shore. To a body which counted among its members the best mariners of Britain came not unnaturally to be intrusted the ballastage and pilotage of the river. By degrees its jurisdiction came to be extended to such other English ports as had not, like the Cinque Ports, privileges and charters of their own: and in course of time the jurisdiction of the Trinity House became permanent in these matters, with the exception of the harbours we have named, over the whole coast of England, from a little way north of Yarmouth on the east to the frontiers of
|Scotland on the west. Elizabeth, always ready to avail herself of the costless services of her citizens, confided to this corporation the charge of English seamarks. When lighthouses were introduced, the judges pronounced them comprehended in the terms of Elizabeth's charter, although a right of chartering private lighthouses was reserved to the Crown. When the navigation laws were introduced by Cromwell and re-enacted by the government of the Restoration, the Trinity House presented itself as an already organised machinery for enforcing the regulations respecting the number of aliens admissible as mariners on board a British vessel. James II., when he ascended the throne, was well aware of the use that could be made of the Trinity House, and he gave it a new charter, and the constitution it still retains, nominating as the master of the reconstructed corporation his invaluable Pepys.|
The Corporation of the Trinity House consists of Younger and Elder Brethren. The number of Younger Brethren is unlimited: they are commanders in the merchant-service who have never served under a foreign flag; they are admitted on the nomination of the Elder Brethren, after taking the oaths prescribed by the charter. The Elder Brethren are in number: are considered noble, or in the honorary line of the brotherhood; and are taken from the merchant sea-service. Vacancies at the board of Elder Brethren are filled up by their electing (by ballot) a successor; if to an honorary member from any admirals of the navy, ministers of state, and other persons of distinction; if to of the merchant-line from among the Younger Brethren. The business of the board is in reality managed by the members from the merchant-service, the honoraries rarely, if ever, interfering. The board consists of a master, wardens, assistants, and eighteen Elder Brethren, simply so called. The business of the board is transacted by committees, in number; the and principal is called the Committee of Wardens: it consists of the Depute Master and the wardens; it exercises a general control and takes charge more especially of the treasury and accounts. The committee, consisting also of members, is for the examination of masters in the navy and pilots. To ensure the competency of these examinations, the Elder Brethren are never appointed upon this committee until they have been in the corporation some time, in order that the experience they gain by being employed on surveys of the coast may qualify them for the task. The committee, consisting of members, is for the supervision of ballastage in the river Thames; the is the committee of lighthouses; the for the collection of dues; and the for attending to the pensioners and inmates of the noble almshouses belonging to the corporation.
This brief recapitulation of the constitution and functions of the corporation will suffice to show that it is an institution by means of which the energies of the independent seamen which proved so available in the reign of Elizabeth have been retained in the service of the state down to the present moment. The lighting, beaconing, and buoying of the coasts, the examination and licensing of pilots, and we trust ere long to add the examination and licensing of masters and mates of merchant-vessels, are branches of maritime police, functions of the general government. By devolving them upon the incorporated
|merchant-service it is not merely a trifling economy that is attained; it keeps alive in the merchant-service a consciousness of its own importance that is favourable to the general character. If the navy captain look forward to be an admiral, the merchant captain can look forward to become an Elder Brother of the Trinity House, intrusted with the supervision and control of the lightage and pilotage of a great part of the kingdom, rendering himself of importance to the public by his care for the safety of navigation and navigators. At no time has the merchant-service shown itself unsusceptible of the due sense of its responsibility. Officers who have risen high in the royal service have begun their career before the mast, not only in merchantmen of the long voyage, but in coasters. Cook was apprentice in a collier. At the time of the mutiny at the Nore, the presence of mind of an Elder Brother who proposed and executed the removing of the buoys, which marked the seaward channel, paralyzed the motions of the mutineers. When invasion from France was apprehended, the task of preparing defences, at the mouth of the river, was intrusted to the Board of the Trinity House, and skilfully executed. The merchant-service has kept pace with the awakening spirit of the age, as well as the navy. The Lower School at Greenwich supplies the merchant-service, as well as the Royal navy, with able, educated seamen. The East India trade has formed a valuable branch of the merchant-service. Many extensive ship-owners manifest a most laudable anxiety to promote the education, both professional and moral, of their apprentices, and to advance the.young men from rank to rank as they prove themselves worthy. Many have done well in this respect, but none have evinced more persevering interest in their , more judicious and paternal care for them, than the Gladstones of Liverpool. To show the high character attained by our mercantile marine under these auspices, it is only necessary to name the Scoresbys, the Enderbys, the Warhams, the Becrofts, and Lairds, who have competed for the palm with the Royal navy in urging onward the progress of discovery.|
To a superficial observer the maritime administration of England appears a chaos--much that is of vital consequence seems to be neglected. But observations, such as have now been provoked by our visit to the Admiralty and Trinity House, show that this is a misconception. The secret of the efficiency of our marine is that it governs itself, and that all classes belonging to it can, in some way or other, attain to a voice in its management. The bureaux of the Admiralty contain many practical and experienced seamen; and it is well known that in a government like ours, in which party leaders chase each other in and out of office, the permanent secretaries in the offices are, in cases out of , the real ministers. The active members of the Trinity Board are recruited from the ranks of the merchant service. The Trinity House consults the Admiralty in cases of difficulty; the Admiralty intrusts to the Trinity Board important practical duties. The Hydrographer's Office--the statistical department of the Admiralty--forms a connecting link between the Boards. These practically trained officials are watched and checked by unofficial pupils of the same school --members of the Royal navy, or wealthy ship-owners-whose ambition has carried them into parliament. The maritime administration and legislation of Great Britain, like all other parts of the British constitution, has rather grown than
|been made what it is, and it has sprung up stately and athletic. As the nation grows, so must it be extended; as the nation improves, so must the details of its organisation be amended. But the grand outline must be adhered to, for it is the form that nature has given to us, and to tamper with, or mutilate it, is death.|
Here we close our retrospect; but standing in the new Trinity House when we break off, as we stood in the Admiralty when we began, our eyes resting on the old banners, and plans of almost forgotten fights, evolutions, and the gilded names of benefactors of the corporation, our mind wanders back to the habitations of the naval rulers of England in ancient days. They have vanished: the Navy Office, in , will be sought in vain. The scene of the memorable siege of poor, precise, garrulous Mr. Pepys by a bum-bailiff is no more. It was a memorable siege that; far transcending in interest even that which my uncle Toby, with the aid of the jackboots cut up into cannons by Trim, carried on in his garden. Valiantly were the outworks defended by the servitors of the Admiralty; ruthlessly persevering was the blockade into which the bum converted his repulsed assault; and then, when Pepys is stolen out at the back windows, feels as if would have felt if in the tale of Troy divine Aeneas had carried off Helen and the Palladium before the death of Hector, and the Greeks, learning that what they sought was no longer there, had quietly beaten a retreat.
The Old Trinity House, in , is not even that in which Pepys laboured: it was rebuilt in , after a fire which destroyed many important records. Yet is there something in the old Trinity House of the engraving which forms our tail-piece that might almost persuade us it was the veritable scene of Pepys' daily in-goings and out-comings. Between his time and the reign of the George the architecture of London had undergone little change. And standing here in the clean, narrow, paved court, with tall brick tenements ornamented by protruding architraves of stone over door and window, and the little scroll-shaped tablets containing the narrative of the destruction of the building by fire, and its re-edification, we feel that the hero of the rent camlet cloak, which,
would not be here out of place. It is strange how this intellectual and moral pigmy has so indissolubly associated himself in our imagination with the mighty navy of Great Britain. It is as if, in inventing a naval mythology for our country, we were to shape the presiding genius after the model of some Nipcheese the purser. Yet the little man, though garrulous and vain, was of real service to the navy. He had a turn for accurate book-keeping, a love of justice, a power of estimating that greatness in others he so entirely wanted in himself, and it became with him a passion to see that justice was done to the navy. In good times and in bad times he adhered to his purpose-when it was fashionable at court to be honest (that was at very brief intervals), and when it was unfashionable. He was a good old woman, ever watchful for the interests of this brawny son of his adoption, and succeeding in being useful to him. It is the old story of the dwarf befriending the giant--of the mouse setting free the lion--of Wamba, the son of Witless, bringing rescue to Coeur-de-Lion. If this had been a Popish country, it would
|have been the duty of the mariners of the royal navy to burn wax tapers before the effigies of St. Pepys.|
In this want of antiquity the residences of the managers of our mercantile and our military navy resemble everything around them. London was a city in the time of Tacitus; yet the edifices of London are, with few exceptions, essentially modern. This is typical of our civil and social organisation, in which everything is the creation of the day, and yet retains the impress of an old antiquity. We are an ancient people, but we are the flesh and blood sons of our ancestors, not animated mummies, presenting caricatures of their lineaments.
[n.145.1] Prince George of Denmark was Lord High Admiral in 1707-8; the late King, when Duke of Clarence, in 1827-8; with these exceptions the office has been in commission since 1688.