Tum demum periculo, atque negotiis compertum est, in bello plurimum ingenium posse.
Printed for W. Johnston, in Ludgate-street,
N.B. The benevolent Author of the following Sheets transmitted them to a Friend in London, and has appropriated the Profits that may arise from the Sale to the Magdalene, and British Lying-in-Hospital.
HAD I reckoned myself able to do justice to your merit, your name would have appeared at full length before this Essay. Indeed I had not the vanity to think that your reputation stood in any need of such an herald as I am. The only design of this dedication, if it may be called so, is to make an apology to you for having so often mentioned you in my performance, should you, from some particular circumstances, find out that you are the person intended for the pattern of my two young officers. Both of them were brought up under you. The last, in particular, you discovered to have merit, when he acted in a very low character; and you trained him up to do as a petty officer more essential, service to his country, than, in this late extensive war, has fallen to the share of any one lieutenant therefore your relation to them, as well as your abilities, pointed you out to me as an example fit to be set before them. And in truth, if there is any proper advice given to them, it was learned from your conversation, or copied from your behaviour. Should this Essay be read, and your, person really discovered, my wish is, that the world would hear your abilities and virtues mentioned with candour only equal to the modesty with which you carry them. Yet, indeed, for the good of our country, and the indulgence of your modesty, I would rather desire, that every good thing which I have thought myself obliged to say of you, were equally applicable to thousands. May you live long an ornament to the service, and a blessing to your family and friends.
THE following Essay was originally intended for the benefit of two young officers to whom the author wished well; and they both had copies of it: the first copy was given in the year 1760, the other in 1762. Had he, in the mean time, seen any thing upon the subject in print, be would not have ventured to publish this. As the subject is important, and has been hitherto overlooked, be hopes he has only led the way in it. Perhaps it may be supposed, that some things mentioned are too trifling to be presented to an officer of the rank of a lieutenant; but those who are well acquainted with the navy, will know, that the meanest article of advice in it is not beneath the attention of many in that important station. To suppose, that all, or the greater part, needed to be so dealt with, would be doing great injustice to even many accomplished young men of the author's acquaintance. It was first written in form of a letter; and tho' it is now considerably enlarged, yet the author was of opinion that form would still be proper for advice of such a familiar sort, and has therefore continued it.
The latter part was addressed to a young man, who, after being long a common sea-man, was distinguished so much by the commanding officer on the station, that he gave him the separate command of an armed vessel, and told him that he had appointed him one his own lieutenants; a reward, which every body thought less than his merit; so many brave things, and such important service had he done. When the war was finished, there was no more occasion for one of his active turn, and no commission was made out for him. But as there are force things in it that may be useful to force more lucky young man of merit, who, like him; hath not had an education, I have offered it with the rest to the public.
I have one more excuse to offer, namely, for the remarks I have made upon the defects of the service. I thought it would be of useful for officers to know them; because, though they cannot entirely obviate them, yet in such an unlimited command as a captain has in his ship, sagacity can always find out little expedients to make the service suffer less by them.
Lieut. on board his Majesty's Ship —, on the Antigua Station.
I WAS insensibly drawn into the conversation which gave rise to the promise that I am now attempting to execute, by several openings which you yourself gave me. A fixed esteem for the person who was the subject of our discourse, and a desire to see Mr. D. imitate his example, and rise by his steps, made me, perhaps, pursue it farther than I should have ventured. with one of less good nature and sense than yourself. You can indulge the fond impertinence of a friend, when you know it proceeds from a concern for your reputation and happiness. You then observed how fortunate it was for you to be with capt. ---- in a station where you could remark his actions, and form yourself as an officer upon his plan. A particular pleasure which I had always taken in observing the method and consistency of capt. -----'s conduct, and a desire to inform myself of the nature and extent of the service, which, since I have been in the navy, I have ever indulged, made me, at that time, bold to mention some particular things which I judged worthy of your attention, as an officer, who, following so excellent an example, and had the ambition to hope, one day, to rise to an extensive command in the service of your country.
Far be it from me to assume the appearance of a knowledge superior to you, in a profession in which both by honour and duty you are bound to be well skilled. I beg Mr. D. may do me the justice to believe, that whatever air of an adviser I might unwillingly put on, I rather expressed the anxiety of a friend, uneasy, lest any thing to render you compleat should be neglected by you. In respect of the duty of an officer, I am, only in my station, an unconcerned spectator; as such, it perhaps lies more in my way to observe some little failures and defects in persons, in that active station, than they can be supposed to do themselves, while employed about matters of greater importance. It was of such that I endeavoured to remind you; and in the warmth of that friendship which you very kindly accepted, I promised to write my sentiments of them. To pretend farther would be beyond my province, and might well be deemed an affront. Accept of my endeavours with candour, and I shall think myself obliged.
It is, I believe, too general a mistake in the sea service, to suppose very few qualifications necessary towards making a compleat officer. If he is able to direct the boatswain in strapping of a block, or stowing of an anchor; if he can bustle about, and make work appear to go on briskly in the ship; if, in battle, he shews a sort of insensibility amidst fire and smoke, he is pronounced a brave and an experienced officer. But if we consider a commander in the navy (and all lieutenants ought to know as much as they) in the view of a person to whole care his country has committed a considerable number of his fellow subjects, to distribute impartial justice among them, to protect them from injuries, to find out the particular qualifications of each man under him, to put him in that station where he can do the public best service. If we consider hire farther, as a person who has the honour and safety of his country in his hands, which may suffer either through his indiscretion in transacting affairs with foreigners, or through his want of courage and conduct in fight; if we consider him by his rank, by the respect which he owes himself, and that which is paid him by the public, as a person obliged to shew himself the gentleman in strictness of manners, politeness, useful learning, and nice honour, our notions of a compleat officer will be vastly enlarged, and many endowments added to that necessary one of being a practical seaman.
Indeed, even in this part, which the meer tar so boldly assumes to himself, he is very much wanting. He can wear and stay a ship, he can manage her in the most violent gale, and you are safe in almost any circumstance, when he is upon deck; but he knows nothing of the principles of his business. He does every thing by rote; and so wedded is he to his own particular manner, and so far from being able to discover anything useful in practice, or to make an advantage of the discoveries of others, that every improvement must be literally beat into his head before be can be brought to use it. To be convinced of the truth of this, recollect only the reception which Hoadly's quadrant at first met with amongst seamen, and the contempt with which they treat every endeavour towards ascertaining. the longitude. Every thing that he knows, or will allow of, is confined within his own narrow experience. He would laugh at your ignorance, should you call his ship a machine, or assert that all her motions may be explained from the properties of a single lever. How much more satisfactory to such a man would it have been, how much farther would it have carried his experience, had he laid a proper foundation in mathematics, had he known the principles of mechanics and geometry.
Believe me, dear sir, there is nothing can enter into the character of a good, a brave, a polite, a learned, or a public-spirited man, that would not shine with incredible lustre in the person of a sea officer, while rendering happy his fellow subjects committed to his care, and conducting to the noblest purpose, even the safety and glory of his country, one of the proper bulwarks of the state. Follow the example of your excellent commander; copy his assiduity and application to his profession, his attention to every part of knowledge that can better the man, and add skill to the officer. Strive to imitate that humanity and goodness of heart that never left a generous or a friendly action undone for the man of merit, or the misfortunate that was either under his care or known to him. Transcribe into your own practice that sincere regard for virtue and religion, which in him doubles the value of every other qualification. Then will you have formed yourself a proper pattern for future young officers: then will you have done something considerable towards wiping off the reproach which is too generally thrown on the whole body.
In every piece of duty which you carry on, consider if capt. ----- were a spectator, whether your manner would be likely to please him; how, as you judge, he will like it when finished. In the greatest part of sea duty, the preparation for the thing takes up more than double the time that that is necessary for the execution, and gives twice the trouble. It is in foreseeing, and preparing what is necessary, and so rendering the execution easy, that he shews a peculiar address and skill. Remember in what a small portion of the time, even in one fourth part of that, which some other frigates usually take in the same unhealthy place, the — was careened, and, amidst several obstacles, got ready for sea: by which means, he saved the health of his people, and was in the way of enriching himself, by annoying the enemy. But recollect what preparation was made for it; how little, that could be compleated beforehand, was left undone; in what excellent method and order every thing was carried on under his own eye. Endeavour to learn his method. Before you execute any thing, run over every part in your mind, weigh them well, and observe in what order they will naturally run. But to do this you must be a compleat matter of what you design to perform.
I have observed several lieutenants, who are brisk and alert in carrying on that part of the duty, which they take under their own inspection; but if an inferior officer, a carpenter, or a gunner, comes to ask a few men to assist him in doing something fully as necessary, he is usually sent off with this answer, not delivered in the most gracious manner, "I can't spare them from the duty of the ship;" as if their province was not indeed the duty of the ship equally with that which is carrying on under his own eye, and which generally is in the boatswain or master's department for such lieutenants take a great pleasure in usurping the office of there two last; and their talents were very much mistaken when they were advanced to a station which gives them the command of them. This you will allow is a very confined notion of his duty; and, in truth, it occasions many clogs to the service. --- A lieutenant ought to look upon himself as the protector and encourager of every officer beneath him, and ought to promote each one's duty equally. He should consider that from his rank and command in the ship, he can do the same duty with fewer hands than an inferior officer; and ought therefore never to starve their part, to get his own finished quickly. It looks something like the low ambition of a schoolboy, in getting first done with his task. Instead of fixing himself in the boatswain's place, on the gangway, to lee the cask hoisted in, a lieutenant should be in every place, to keep the people at work on their guard, and to encourage them by his presence: for every particular piece of duty in the ship has a particular warrant officer assigned to it, whose province it is to see it done, and who must answer for it; a lieutenant, properly speaking, has no particular duty, but is; under the captain, entrusted with the controul and direction of the whole.
Custom has thrown a great part of the harbour duty of the ship upon the first lieutenant; so that the other lieutenants have little else to do, but to go and idle their time away on shore, in the sea-port towns; there they often form very low connections that check their ambition, and forever prevent their rise. But the chief reason, why I here mention this absurdity in the service is, that they, by being so frequently from their duty, become so ignorant of what is doing in the ship that, if at any time they meddle with the work, they generally confuse rather than promote it. And if the first lieutenant, on any occasion, leaves the ship to them, the work is often at a stand till he returns. This thing you ought carefully to avoid, lest you acquire a habit of sauntering; and, which is a very possible case, lest you forget your duty.
Though, as second lieutenant, you have seldom the direction of the work, or of employing the people, yet you ought to make the carrying on of the duty your chief employment and pleasure. Inform yourself of every thing that is doing, and what is to be done; observe how any thing in hand might have been better done, and foresee every thing before it is necessary to execute it. If you take this care, you will never be at a loss, when the direction and command devolves on you: the work will go equally on; and, in a manner that cannot give offence, you will have an opportunity of correcting any little mistake that may have escaped the first officer.
You will irrecoverably lose yourself, if you ever allow yourself to slobber over the most trifling part of your duty. Do every thing with the same briskness and exactness as if the lord high admiral was present, and with the same care, as if the safety of the ship depended upon it: for indolence, if indulged, will grow upon you, and an habit of indifference and sloth, which you can never shake off. You will soon come to look with the same unconcern on the most material parts of your duty, as on the most trifling. Your commander will place no confidence in you; and you will become a meer incumbrance to the service. Let me instance in one particular, what is often the effect of a lazy indifference. When
When a ship is in her usual trim, and the wind moderately brisk, and the men properly stationed; if the officer upon deck pays a due attention to the ship, orders the helm down in a proper time, i.e. when the sails are properly filled, minds the critical moment when the wind is right a-head to hawl the mainsail, sees that the head-sails are in the mean time duly tended, the tacks bawled briskly down, and the yards braced up, the ship will scarcely miss stays, or lose much of her head-way in staying. But if the ship is on her station, and the officer thinks it of no consequence whether she stay or waer, perhaps, without being at much pains to station the people, he orders the helm down when the sails are shivering, and the ship has already lost her way, perhaps, the head sails are neglected, or he bawls the main-sail too soon, or he lets the ship pay too much off; by these means, he is either disappointed in his first intention of staying the ship and so loses both ground and time; or she drives far to leeward, before she can be brought to the wind. By often doing this with an air of indifference, he becomes unable to do it briskly, when it is necessary in chace. And you are very sensible, that on the West-India station in particular, the French are so very expert in managing their sloop privateers, that many a capture of them has been missed by no greater distance than the space lost by being obliged to waer, after being baulked in your attempt to stay the ship. ---- Besides, this spirit of indolence spreads wide amongst the people, they never obey with briskness a sleepy officer. And if you once teach them this lifeless manner of doing things, it will cost you many a blow, many a punishment, to restore them to their former vigour and alacrity.
Never use yourself to that inhuman and inconsiderate custom of calling all hands, on every trifling accident. Avoid it especially by night. If you expect the people to behave briskly, allow them their hours of rest and meals; and never without the greatest necessity break in upon them.
I would here mention the necessity of keeping the ship clean and sweet, the people clean, neat, and well cloathed, if you wish a healthy brisk ship's company; but with your present commander you will see that so properly attended to, that you will naturally ever after take care of it. Let me only remark, that to keep the ship healthy, or to make her so when sickly, is much more in the captain and officers power, than in the surgeons. To guard effectually against nastiness in the ship, the times of cleaning should come in rotation, at least twice a week: and every officer, both commission and petty, should be accountable for the cleanliness and cloathing of some one part of the ship's company: for I see no reason why seamen should not be made accountable for slops equally with soldiers. And if it were once made customary in the ship to take account of them every month, it would occasion very little trouble; and in return, it would prevent many a dangerous disorder which arises from colds caught through want of cloaths, and from the use of those fiery spirits for which they sell them.
And here I cannot forbear taking notice of that improper method which is common in the navy, of berthing the people by larboard and starboard watch; by which it happens, that in a large ship there are perhaps three hundred men on one side of the ship lying asleep as close together in a confined place as if stowed all in one bed. It is impossible for the greater part of these to bet one mouthful of fresh air in this situation. They are surrounded with, and breathe an atmosphere of perspired matter, highly volatilized, which, without doubt, is no small cause of the scurvy, and assists in producing those infectious fevers which we so frequently find on board ships. Besides the injury to the seamen's health, which ariseth from causing them to sleep so close together, there is also great hurt done to the ship's going on a wind whenever the watch happens to turn in on the lee side: for then there is the weight of half the ship's company pressing her to leeward, and impeding her way. I have known seamen observe, in this case, that the slip went worse; but they would not allow that it was because the people were in their hammocks on the lee side. Now if instead of this method, they were berthed one of the larboard and one of the starboard. watch alternately, every single man would have the room of two men to breathe and sleep in, and the ship's way on both tacks would be more equal. This method was practised on board the Swiftsure in the beginning of the war, and she was remarkably healthy, when compared with other ships on the same service. The only objection made to this method is, that it would be found difficult to turn out the watch in time; but if it was made a rule, that the man who turns in should see the hammock on each side of him clear, on pain of being turned upon deck for that watch, there would be very little trouble left to the officer.
It is derogating from the character of an officer, to be peeping and prying into the little actions of the people, in order to cavil and find fault; but he very seldom ought to overlook a fault committed in his sight, or complained of to him. He should never punish till he has made the criminal, or at least the bye-standers sensible of the fault. The stopping of grog in the West Indies is a very common punishment, and very often abused. It is part of the men's provisions, and essential to their health; and therefore should seldom be taken from them, unless to punish drunkenness or nastiness, and that not more than one day or two at one time.
It is unbecoming an officer to beat the people himself. In little faults that require immediate redress, the boatswain's mate should be ordered to beat him. They reckon it worse to fall into his, hands, and in the punishment you shew less of passion, than which nothing more hurts an officer's authority among the people.
In their mutual complaints never trudge the trouble of finding out the person in fault, and punish only him. If they both are equally in fault, send them not away without correction, lest each think himself right, and repeat the crime. Punish both, they will be peaceable, and will take care not to offend.
I have long thought, that constituting a court of equity on board ship would be attended with very good effects. It might be made to consist of all commission and warrant officers; the captain should summon them, preside, and have a negative. Their power to punish should be enlarged beyond what is at present in the captain's power; but ought not to extend to life, limb, or beyond an hundred lashes. It should have no power over any commission or warrant-officer. Every sentence should be recorded. It should be regulated by an act of parliament, and liberty given to plead the general issue. By this court the punishment would become more aweful, and strike a greater terror into the minds of the people: for by the present oeconomy of the navy, the captain cannot punish effectually many crimes that are not proper or convenient to be brought before a court-martial. Or, if he exceeds his power a little to punish properly, he is in danger to be called to, not always, a fair account. On the other hand, such a court would be a check upon officers of a tyrannical disposition, without injuring their just authority.
Inferior officers of a long standing in the navy, brook ill the command of young officers; and building on their own experience, are sure to raise objections against their orders. You ought, therefore, to be careful to weigh every objection which you think can be brought against the orders that you intend to give, and deliver your commands in such a clear manner and method, that no reasonable difficulty may be found. in them. If they begin to raise obstacles, you may easily perceive if it is done with a design to puzzle, and. in that case, without giving a reason, insist upon the performance: nay, rather than make your command cheap, allow some little irregularities to pass uncorrected, even after you are sensible of them, till your authority is once firmly established among them; for you must not think that you always deal with reasonable men, who can suppose that a man may be skilful, though he may be guilty of an oversight. But on the other hand, do not, through positiveness and obstinacy, either hurt the service or bring yourself into difficulties; to get clear of which, you must have recourse to the advice of those whose counsel you had before despised. When it proceeds neither from irresolution, nor easiness of temper, there is a greatness of mind in condescending to the advice of others. Next to the wisdom, which is able to give advice, is that which enables us to know what advice it is expedient to take. And as a duty which you owe to your humanity, as well out of respect to their, service, be careful to shew such experienced men every regard and indulgence in other cases, that circumstances will admit of.
I would farther recommend to you to preserve a respect even to every one who acts in any office beneath you in the ship. Consider if you would have them carry any command among the people, it is necessary that you regard them yourself; because, in paying obedience to petty officers, seamen are sure to be directed by the esteem that they find such are in among the officers. Particularly regard midshipmen, you was lately one yourself. They will one day be officers; and therefore ought never to be accustomed to a slavish submission. Too frequently those who have been treated haughtily become tyrants in their turn. Generous treatment inspires generosity. I am mistaken, if one could not trace several great men in the navy by the manners of their pupils. The faults of midshipmen ought not to be overlooked; but they are not to be punished as common seamen. To beat a midshipman, if he takes it patiently, renders him for ever unworthy of being an officer.
It is often a matter of complaint in the navy, that officers value themselves and their concerns too much; and despise those under them and their concerns, more than humanity allows of. I cannot help saying, that I myself have seen too much of this unfeeling behaviour among many. Their most trifling affairs are generally preferred to the most important interests of people below them. Such officers assume every indulgence to themselves, and will not permit others to enjoy even those which the service allows of. For instance, a poor fellow, lately pressed, comes to inform them, that he has observed a ship which owes him six months wages, just getting under way from the road. He is answered that there is no boat to spare, and is, perhaps, damned into the bargain for his impertinence in troubling them. In a few minutes after this, the steward is sent ashore to buy a few greens for the officer's dinner, and the boat is ordered to attend and bring him off. — Let not Mr. D. ever give the world occasion to say this of him. When a person, especially one under your command, asks you to do him a good office, be sure to suppose yourself in his place, and as suck consider the consequence of the thing entreated, and how ill you could bear a refusal. I need not make the inference. To have it in one's power to oblige, and to embrace the opportunity is truly. God-like be not then, like some men, glad of an opportunity to refuse a common civility, which can be performed at no expence or trouble. If Mr. D. values himself, let it be in being above a mean, or a selfish action; in being able to make all around him happy, not that from his station, he has occasions of shewing a disregard and insensibility of what becomes of the interest of his men, his fellow-creatures, committed to his care. Indeed, if you make a conscience of your duty, you are, in no respect, at liberty to use them otherwise than well; they have a right to your good of, offices, and to every indulgence compatible with the good of the service.
There is a spirit of detraction prevails very much among equals in the navy. When a person has rendered himself justly famous for has courage, or his conduct, in performing some material service to his country, they are ready to find some extraordinary good luck in the affair, as if such was not a sign of Heaven's regard for him; or he took the glory out of the hands of another, who deserved it better; or --- any thing, but his merit. Let not Mr. D. in forming a judgment of characters, be guided either by envy or prejudice. Allow merit wherever it is found: let it excite emulation in you to excel it, not malice to pull it down to your own level.
It has been frequently matter of admiration to me, how officers, who are are principally esteemed according to their martial qualifications, and whose characters depend upon the effort which their ships are able to make in fight, can excuse themselves for paying so little attention to the discipline of their men, as one may generally observe in the navy. Our countrymen, indeed, possess a large share of natural courage; and we outnumber our present enemy greatly in ships. But should the time ever come, that they did but nearly equal us, they pay so much attention to arms, that we may well dread the consequence, unless the teaching of our people the use of great guns and small arms, become also more general. Would you think it possible, that ever a king's ship, in time of war, should be nine months in commission, before an ounce of powder had been expended in exercising? I know myself more than one such, where the people too raw and inexperienced; but the officers force of the oldest in the navy, — I know from your captain's practice when he commanded us, that the orders for exercising will be very strict in your ship: and it is your particular province, as lieutenant at arms, to see them carried into execution. As accidents will happen, that may turn small-arm men to great guns, and. those at great guns to small arms, you ought, as fast as possible, to make the whole ship's company expert, at both. But particularly you should teach the use of the firelock to those quartered in the tops, who should be the smartest and most active little fellows in the ship, to those on the forecastle, to the boats crews, who will be frequently called to such duty, and to those armed with a musquet, or pistol, at the great guns. It is also absolutely necessary to have a proper number of the stoutest bravest men in the ship, chosen for boarding, who ought to have the arms fit for boarding ready at their other quarters, should an occasion offer. A neglect of this deprived a commander, on this station, who has long enjoyed a considerable share of the public esteem, of one of the noblest opportunities of doing his country and the service honour that has happened this war.
Seamen are generally apt to throw away their fire promiscuously, without paying any regard to order; and it is too often excused, with saying, that it is impossible to prevent it. But, why should not the same strict attention to orders be paid in the sea as in the land-service. I am sure, that, at sea, it is by far more necessary. And, as seamen are more under the eye of their officers than soldiers, it might be expected that they would be more under command. Be distinct and methodical in your orders; and in doing every thing enforce silence. Whooping and hollowing ought to be punished as severely as the passing an earing wrong. — I have often remarked with pleasure the exact order, the strict silence, and deep attention, that reigned throughout the ship, when at any time capt. ---- gave command on going into English harbour. If you and his other officers assist him, I am sure the same will be practised in an engagement. If so, what is it such a ship's company as he has now formed, may not perform?
To ensure success in fight, it is not only necessary that your men be properly trained and quartered, but also that the ship be brought into the engagement in such a manner as to annoy the enemy most, with the least hazard to your own ship and men. For though you may acquire the character of intrepid by running down to engage at a disadvantages and if you succeed may add to your glory, by the shattered condition of your ship, and the number of your men killed and wounded; yet, in reality, whenever you run into any unnecessary hazard, you are unjust to your country, and cruel to your men, by omitting to take an advantage which offered to secure an easy victory. It is said to have been a punctilio of this sort that occasioned the Marlborough to be shattered in the manner she was in Matthews's engagement; and in this war the Thunderer when she took the Achilles.
In bringing the ship into action, I believe you will find that the best general rule is to take the lead from the enemy, and to make the attack where it is least expected. For example, the Eagle bore down upon the Duc d'Aquitain, and made a feint of engaging her on the weather-side; but while the enemy was busy in getting ready to receive her there, she suddenly bore under her stern, and gave her whole fire, before a shot could be returned from the lee-side. How to act in particular situations will be best learned by conversing with experienced officers, that have been in service; and by observing in your reading, through what address such a particular action was successful, through what omission such another failed. Indeed, to the honour of the service, I think there have not been above two or three unsuccessful single actions this war; wherein the enemy excelled us in seaman-ship.
There are some commanders, who, afraid of appearing too careful of their own persons, in avoiding danger, or of hurting the ship's going by binding her up; or by making what they call a back sail, despise a fixed defence on the quarters. I have no objection to the common doctrine of predestination, in particular persons, who have no other principle of courage; though I really think, considered fully in its consequences, it is otherwise but a poor incitement to brave actions. But a commander should consider, that a whole ship's company is committed to his care, and that the defence which secures him contributes also to the safety of men, whose preservation he is obliged to consult. That a common fixed barricadoe, by binding up a ship, hinders her going, is a thing which has never yet been clearly proved, and is an opinion which I believe obtains chiefly among mere seamen. Indeed, could a ship be made flush on the quarter-deck, was there no occasion for quarter cloths, rails, timber-heads, mizen-mast, binnacles, wheels, hencoops, arm-chests, after-part of the poop, &c. &c. her sailing certainly would be improved. But as these things are absolutely necessary on the quarter-deck, and will on trial be found to resist almost the whole wind that would strike on the barricadoe, and that in a much worse direction when the ship is close bawled, there cannot well be supposed any material disadvantage in having a fixed breast work there. On the contrary, a ship barricadoed, particularly a frigate, which every day may meet with her match, is always ready to bear down on the chace, especially in the night-time: the people have no disagreeable notions of wounds and broken limbs, when they are entering upon action, which they must entertain, if, instead of preparing, arms and engines to annoy their enemy, they see every one buffed in securing themselves. On board the Hussar, in the year 1757, this was carried so far, that the ship was kept constantly clear for action, and the captain slept between decks, that the main deck might be free of every thing that could hinder the working of the guns. It was, perhaps, owing to this readiness, that she, in company with the Dolphin, was able in the night-time to send to the bottom a French two deck ship, after a very short engagement. To make a defence with the people's bedding in long chaces and rainy weather, often proves injurious to their health, occasioning many a dangerous cold, and becoming no small cause of the scurvy. For these reasons I would recommend to Mr. D. both in his present, station, and when he rises to a command, to take every prudent measure that belongs to his place; to secure himself and the people under his care; that he may have as little as can be to prepare, when he is entering into battle, and, if possible, only his weapons of offence. Then the people will think of victory, not of maims; the enemy will be intimidated at the quickness and violence of the attack, and be taken unprepared.
There is another very material article of an officer's duty, which is by too many of them greatly neglected; this is the knowledge of the language of signals. The fate of whole squadrons and fleets, nay of your country itself, may at one time or other depend upon your right apprehension of them. Let me, therefore, intreat you to pay a particular attention to this branch of your duty. Without being familiarly acquainted with signals, you can never look upon yourself as a good officer. Most commanders are made out of admiral's ships; but how would it look if you were on board a flag for preferment, and could not direct the making of a signal? A young officer needs not think it any thing childish to have all the different signal flags and pendants painted on slips of paper, and to amuse himself with making and answering signals between two small models of ships properly rigged.
Indeed, this part of the service is very imperfect, though no part so capable of being brought to perfection. The colours are often badly chosen, and indistinct; and every commanding officer of a squadron has his peculiar language in signals, which he prefers to all others, and especially to those published by authority: and every private captain makes a collection of all the signals of all those under whom he has served; and when he becomes commodore of one or two private ships, retails them out again, not always properly mixed. Thus every officer has a new language to learn from every admiral or commodore under whose command he is put; and, unless in a few of the most common signals, must on every occasion be running to consult his signal book; and even then it is not in every case that he can clearly apprehend what is meant. This too often occasions confusion and loss of time. But all, except private signals for knowing friends, should be fixed by one standard enforced by authority. And this might be easily done in the following manner: Let all the actions to be commanded or communicated by signals be clearly enumerated. Let particular distinct flags of the most different colours be assigned to each: and the circumstances of each particular action might be accurately marked out, by joining pendants, shifting the place of the original flags, and firing of guns.
To explain this farther. The principal actions to be signified are anchoring, chacing, sighting, intelligence: making of sail may be comprehended under that of chasing. Four original flags, of the sorts most distinct from one another, might be made to signify these actions separately; and when any of them were to extend to the whole fleet in their highest sense, that flag by itself in the most conspicuous place should signify it. Thus the whole fleet to moor, which is the highest act of anchoring, might be expressed by the anchoring flag at the main-top-mast-head; a general chase or a general engagement by its peculiar flag in the same place; and so of the rest. The particular circumstances of each might he easily ascertained by shifting the flag to particular places, adding the private signal of the ship to be ordered to act, &c. Thus in anchoring, besides mooring, there must be distinguished tingle anchor, unmooring, heaving short, slipping, cutting, getting under way. Indeed, when the fleet is moored, the same signal appointed for coming to a single anchor, will serve clearly to unmoor: and the like oeconomy might be used in many other parts of the service, which would make the signals fewer in number, and therefore more distinct. In chacing we must distinguish the ships to chace, the quarter towards which the chace lies, the distance from the fleet to which they are to chace before they return. In fighting, there must be distinguished, whether all are to come to an engagement, as they can come up, or in a line a-head, or a-breast; at what distance they are to bring up, I mean from each other, not from the enemy; what ships are to leave the line; what ships are to chace such of the enemy as fly, &c. But in every particular case it must be remembered,that the original flag be not omitted.
But this very necessary branch of naval skill can never be properly brought to perfection, till it becomes a more general rule for our admirals in an engagement to station themselves in a frigate in the rear to give the necessary orders: for how can he manage his fleet when involved in a cloud of smoke, which hinders him from seeing or being seen? or, even if this be not the case, yet how can he throw out signals, when perhaps his masts are carried away? which must often happen from the enemy aiming. principally at him. It is a pity that, among so many brave officers, we should ever have an admiral whose courage is doubtful: and if he has signalized his courage as a private captain, there is surely no occasion to put his personal bravery to the test, when he might be doing his country far better service by his skill and conduct. But this is one of the evils that flows from a regard to seniority in the service; though an indifferent person might be apt to think, where so many acknowledged brave men fail of such a rank, that the rank of post-captain in the navy might be reckoned very sufficient to satisfy the ambition of such as, having no opportunity of shewing their merit, leave it doubtful, how far they deserve to have the honour and interest of their country entrusted to them in the command of a squadron.
A third thing absolutely necessary to make a complete officer, and yet undervalued and despised by most, is a skill in piloting. What do you think of a king's ship not daring to stand with the wind off the land, within three miles of her port, to receive a pilot, though the captain and lieutenant had formerly spent some considerable time in that port; and before we came in sight of it, used to express the boldness of the coast by saying, that the ship might run her boltsprit on the rocks; and tho' one of her convoy had courage enough to run in, without having a person on board, that had ever seen the place before; or having any other directions but from a small draught in a monthly magazine, which was a help they likewise had in the man of war.
Capt. — is as well acquainted among these islands as any professed pilot in them. — He knows through what channels he can push; how near the coast he may keep in pursuit of interest, or honour. He is never uneasy from the want of a pilot. His orders for working in with a port, in the night-time, are safe, full, and distinct. He is never biassed by the damping fears of such assuming ignorant fellows as many of our pilots are.
Officers, in common, remit this piece of duty to the master and pilot, as if it was none of their business. But that commander who, of himself, is acquainted with the ground, will push more boldly thro', than when his activity depends on the will of an old driveller, whose only business and wishes are to bring the ship safe again into port.
Besides, every young man who receives a commission, ought to have so much ambition as to hope to be, one day, at the head of a squadron. If he attain that rank, how necessary is it for him to know the proper head-lands for stationing his cruisers; the channels through which the enemy carry on their trade; the nature, the defence, the exposure, the depth of water, and capacity of their ports. You might have observed how apparent it was, that an ignorance in this necessary branch exposed an officer, in a very extensive command on this station, to innumerable unpardonable blunders, and a load of censure.
Let Mr. D. then set himself to observe the bearings:and marks for going into every road or: bay he has an opportunity of seeing. Let him write down every thing worthy of notice. His observations he can compare with the several charts that are published. --- On this account, especially, you ought to learn to draw, that you may be able to make sketches of every place you touch at. This will fix it firmly in your memory.
And here let me observe, what great benefit would accrue to the service, did the admiralty-board get printed at their own charge, a general collection of the best sea-charts, corrected by the observations which have been made this war by our officers: for our operations by sea have been so general in the course of this war, and we have made so free with our. enemies coast and ports, that the improvements, which might be made by these means are very great. But unless these observations are collected. by the public, and preserved, this advantage will soon be lost, the observers dying off, and the sketches they have taken wearing out. The collection might be easily made, because copies of the principal draughts that have been taken have been generally presented to the commanding officer on the station. A complete set of them put up carefully in a convenient chest, should be put on board every ship, and committed to the care of the captain. Every officer should be allowed the liberty of consulting them at pleasure; and at the return from any station, the captain should give an account in writing, how far the observations of himself and officers agreed with the charts. At present all the care that is taken to provide the ship in sea-charts, is an injunction laid on the master to furnish himself; but no body is appointed as a judge of his having done or not done it properly; at lean, I never heard of such a power having been exercised: and often through poverty, often through ignorance, he is very badly provided.
The admiralty, I think, have been at the charge of printing a set of draughts of the French coast, originally found on board a French man of war, and published by authority. These have been distributed to some of our channel cruisers; at least, I was informed by a captain, who had a copy of them, that he had them from the admiralty. I speak thus doubtfully of them, because it was in the beginning of the war that I saw this copy, and I have never met with any since.
When speaking of signals, I omitted mentioning another great want in the navy, namely, good telescopes; a want which never will be properly supplied, till they are furnished by the public. It would be necessary to have one for the captain's private use, one for the officer of the watch, one proper for the mast-head, and a night-glass. Till they are given by the public, it would be necessary for the captain to supply himself with them; because through want of them his character often may be affected.
And now, while we are mentioning what things the admiralty-board should pay an attention to, it will not be amiss to mention hove proper, it would be for them to call in that heap of contradictory standing instructions, which are at present in the navy, to abrogate, such as are obsolete, to add instructions where they are wanting; and to range them in a new and clear order, that officers might know how and what to obey. This would be an improvement of such importance to the service, that it would be a lasting monument of honour to that board of admiralty who had brought it to perfection: and as the present rules of the navy have been gradually heaped together by necessity, and some of them, it must be acknowledged, from very slight and partial considerations; it would be proper to encourage every officer to send in to these appointed to revise these instructions, the objections which he may have to, any of the present rules, and the emendations or improvements in the constitution of the service which his experience has enabled him to make. From the whole it might be reasonable to hope, that a very perfect system of laws, for the government of the navy, might be made out.
There is one thing more wanted to bring the navy to perfection, which dare say the admiralty-board, by its influence, might accomplish, were the usefulness and necessity of it once apparent: this is to establish the art of ship-building upon more mathematical principles than those that direct our present ship-builders.
We have, perhaps, the best ship-wrights for following directions that are in any kingdom; and we can copy models, if we please. But so confined is the education of those who generally rise to be our head builders and surveyors of our navy, that, I believe, I need make no apology for saying, that we scarcely have had one who understood all the principles of his art. Ship-building depends upon the most abstruse parts of mathematics; and no man is capable of constructing properly such a machine as a ship, is, for burden and motion, without a thorough knowledge of geometry, conic sections, algebra, logarithms, fluxions, and mechanics. Yet, I believe, were we to enquire into the origin of the greatest part of those who have had the construction of our navy in their hands, we shall find that they role insensibly from the lowest rank in the dock-yard, either merely by an address in their business superior to their fellow-workmen, or by means less honourable than that; and that very few, if any, ever applied to the art of ship-building with even a distant prospect of rising to that important station of surveyor of the navy; and of consequence never begun with an education proper for it.
Farther, we have had many excellent going ships in the navy, that may be considered as lucky hits: yet though, as I am informed, there are models of them all kept in our dockyards, though the stepping and distance of their masts are known, tho' their best sailing draught of water may be known, and the staying of their masts (which last may be considered as the best index to their trim by the head and stern, and vice versa) yet there good sailing ships have never been made general models; but we have kept on in the same rule-of-thumb-road as before.
We, indeed, in this present war have had so much good sense as to copy the French bottoms in building some of our capital ships: and, in general, we have imitated them in our frigates; with this absurd difference, that their extreme breadth is made, where it should be made, in the water line, when the ship, is properly victualled and fitted for a three months cruise; and our extreme breadth is, generally, made near as high up as the main deck, the consequence of which is, that our frigates are in their best trim when fully stored, though perhaps not in the best possible, and that they go very badly when light.
The French have applied theory to ship-building: their best mathematicians the Jesuits have been employed in directing their carpenters; whilst those who direct the building of our navy are just good handy mechanics, fit to execute, but not to plan. Yet it is said, that the bottoms which they form were copied from us about a century ago; if so, we have not only lost our property, but the knowledge of it: for we have nothing published in our language on ship-building, but what has been copied from the French; even Martin's late performance is, properly speaking, a translation from it. Yet it might be hoped, as we exceed them so much in workmanship, that, had we joined theory to our practice, we might have far excelled them in the art of shipbuilding.
The present remedy, which I would offer for this defect, is to propose rewards to ingenious men at the universities, to examine the models of our best going ships; to compare them with such models as theory would suggest; to compare the models of our best sailing frigates with those of our best capital ships, in order to observe whether there be any essential difference besides that of the scale; to compare models of the best failing of those ships who are trimmed most by the head, with models of the best sailing of those ships who go trimmed most by the stern, that they may, determine which of these two is preferable to the other. From all these compared together, they would be able to determine, in general, where should be placed the extreme breadth, from the stem, aft, and from the keel to the gunwale, and the steps for the masts; the breadth of the rudder; the largeness of the cutwater, or gripe; the form of the bows, and of the run aft: and they could draw out models by which each rate might be built.
In time, to join theory and practice together, it would be proper to chuse out, at Christ's Hospital, or wherever they offer, such boys as appear to have the greatest ingenuity and turn to mechanics, to give them a liberal education at the university, particularly directing their studies to those branches of mathematics that will will be chiefly useful in ship-building. When they are properly instructed, they might be entered in the dockyard; and should be raised according to their merit. Or, perhaps it might be found better to add masters properly qualified to the academy at Portsmouth, and enter the boys into the yard young to learn both the theory and practice together. If any ingenious young man is found among the common ship-wrights, be should be allowed to attend these masters. By some such scheme properly carried on, in a short time we should be able to reduce the art of ship-building to a science. The most perfect plans, thus found out, should be communicated to the several dockyards, and some honorary reward proposed to those who executed them best. When experiments are to be made with these ships at sea, they should be put under the command of ingenious captains, savourers of improvements, not given to mere tars, who have neither knowledge to make experiments, nor candour to acknowledge the benefit of a new invention.
Now, besides the public benefit arising from a well-built navy, the advantages which would accrue to our officers from ships built according to theory, which is a reason for mentioning it here, are considerable. The builder, from a knowledge of her bottom, could tell immediately whether she is to be trimmed by the head or stern; and all the trouble an officer could have, would only be altering her a few inches more or less to find the just medium, which would be difficult to determine exactly from her model: whereas now, in the present method, every commander is at a loss to know how to trim his ship, till perhaps he has spent one year or two in making various trials by which means it often happens, that noble opportunities are lost of doing himself and country honour. Often her best trim is never found; or if found, she is so badly constructed, that even then, she continues what the sailors call a mere tub. Or, if one commander happens to light upon her sailing trim, it is generally lost whenever he is removed to another ship: because his trials, not being directed by a method, are not trusted by his successor, who hopes to do much better by doing quite the opposite. Some instances of this I have known myself; and I dare say there are few acquainted with the navy, who cannot recollect particular in stances of it. I indeed knew one commander, who having first sailed in a ship to make some observations, upon seeing her bottom in dock, or on, a careen, could immediately determine whether she would go best by the head or by the stern, and whether she wanted more or less ballast. By this knowledge he made several very bad sailing ships indifferently good sailing ships; but sometimes his successors, though good practical seamen, not comprehending the principles upon which he went, undid all his work.
I have now gone through the idea of the duty of a sea-officer, which appears to me to arise from the nature of his office, however different it may be from common opinion and common practice. I believe there is not any thing has so much given officers this present narrow and confined notion of their duty, as that absurd examination which they pass under at the navy-board, before they are commissioned. They are, forsooth, examined as to their capacity to knot and splice, they are, perhaps, made to run over by rote a few canons (as they call them) of which they know not the meaning, in astronomy and navigation; and they are required to get the ship under way from, or bring her properly to anchor in the Downs, or at Spithead: and if they are very strictly examined indeed, they must work her according to art in a storm: and — that is all. — Not a word is mentioned of the discipline of the navy; or an enquiry made, how capable such an one is of managing and directing six or seven hundred men in the service of his country; no enquiry what service he has seen; or what observations he has made upon it. I hope our officers will ever continue practical seamen; but, in truth, there are a great many more things equally useful to fit them for their station.
I have drawn you on, insensibly, thus far, before I dared to mention one particular, not generally regarded, indeed; but respecting you as a man, an accountable creature, and an officer, more essential than all the rest; this is religion, revealed religion, not the religion of deists, which they form according to their various passions. The general laugh would be on your side, did you laugh out at my mentioning religion as a necessary qualification in a sea-officer. But I hope you have learned none of that subtile modern wisdom, which teaches you to despise things sacred, and to look upon heaven and hell as only the bugbear of the vulgar. Believe the experience of the most sensible part of mankind, that nothing but an humble dependence on the God of heaven, can give a true relish to prosperity; can support you under misfortunes; can invigorate you with true courage in the day of battle; or give you real comfort on a death-bed. A man, that has the approbation of his oven conscience, and is confident that he has heaven on his side, can do thins beyond the power of mere human strength to perform. In every thing you do, consider that God is present with you; that he sees, and approves or disapproves your smallest actions, nay even your most secret thoughts. If you desire to know the will of God, consult the bible. It is book, which I would recommend to you; it will afford you pleasure in the perusal, it will improve your mind, even in things not immediately religious, and it will influence your life and conversation. I am sorry that the custom of the greater part of the fashionable world will excuse me for supposing you so ignorant of this book, as to reckon necessary to give its character, without running the hazard of giving an affront.
If you once try, it you will find the usefulness of keeping up the appearances of religion, even among those who are reckoned the most profligate of mankind, seamen. They will be more obedient, more sober, more diligent, and, of consequence, more healthy, serviceable, and more to be depended on.--The old Romans were the most devout people at that time in the world; and they were the most victorious, flourishing, and prosperous; and their prosperity continued till they became so wise as to despise their religion.
I would fain see an exact, brisk, active young officer, who did not hector and swear like a common bully. Could not Mr. D. be the person? I am sure the custom, as it universally prevails, is so ungenteel, so mean and vulgar, that it might well be reckoned matter of surprize, how any person who thinks himself better than the very refuse among men, should be guilty of it.
When fashions are prophaned by vulgar use, people of taste immediately lay them aside. I wish gentlemen could so far see what they owe to their rank, as to leave this unprofitable, odious, and contemptible custom to the scum of the people, who have taken it up; and who, from their thorough want of shame, will allow the politer part to hold only the second place in it as a fashion.----But if we consider ourselves as accountable creatures capable of rewards and punishments in a future state, it is the most flagrant impiety, the most daring act of insolence, which we can commit against heaven. It is related to the honour of the great Mr. Boyle, that he never mentioned the name of God with out making a sensible pause in his discourse, as if performing an act of adoration to him; and surely we all owe the same respect to our bountiful Creator and Preserver. — I know the common plea in the navy is, "that it is impossible to get duty done without swearing." If this were really the case, the service would be very pitiful, and very inconsistent with the character of a conscientious man. But there have been, and there are now several officers in the service, who get duty done without swearing. And in this likewise you may observe your own commander; and see that his method requires no swearing. He takes care to secure obedience to his commands, by giving them in a distinct, fixed, determined method and manner, without depending on such a low vulgar custom. Believe me, and I tell it you from observation and experience, that to have duty briskly done without swearing, it is only necessary for you to shew your people that you are steady, resolute, in earnest, and determined in every thing that you order to be done. A few well dispensed punishments, with a brisk carriage in yourself, will do more service, and have a more sensible effect, than a thousand curses and imprecations. I could remind you of persons of your acquaintance, who are laughed at, and their orders held in derision, merely for the promiscuous use of certain odd imprecations.
And, here, let me mention as of kin to this excuse, a complaint very frequent in the mouths of officers, but which I hope never ro [sic] hear Mr. D. make, namely, that they have a bad ship's company, and that they can get them to do nothing. When seamen will not obey, it is a strong presumption, that of officers have not done their duty in training or accustoming them to proper command. All bodies of men have like passions, like affections, and are generally pretty equally mixed as to good and bad: and what any one mixed number can be rendered capable of performing, all other such may equally be made capable of performing. Where there are good officers there is always a good ship's company where they want application, the crew is mutinous or lazy. Indeed, it is more in the lieutenant's power to form a ship's company than in the captain's. The first is always among the people, and sees their behaviour: The captain, to preserve his authority for emergencies, must intermeddle but seldom. He can only give orders to his officers; and if they are not actuated by the same spirit, he must repeat every order as often as he would have it complied with; even then there will be neglect, and carelessness. But to return to our subject of the general qualifications of officers, at the head of which we have placed a religious disposition.
Many young men, when they have been lucky enough to get a commission, think they have no occasion to learn any thing afterwards. They in an instant commence gentlemen, and fancy nothing besides an uniform is necessary to equip them for that title. Good sense, and a knowledge of mankind, must be silent before such a sword and cockade. But let Mr. D. assure himself that a commission sets a clown or a blockhead in a more conspicuous, and, consequently, only in a more ridiculous light. It makes a man's folly and ignorance more apparent to the world; and affords him more frequent opportunities of publishing his emptiness. To grace a commission a person must have his mind well adorned with the knowledge of mere and manners. He ought to know what is due to every person round him; what he owes to his station, what to the dignity of human nature; and he ought to have some general acquaintance with arts and sciences: but these things can only be learned by diligent observation, by unwearied study and reading. --Persons intended for the sea-service generally leave school too soon to bring any taste for such things into the navy with them: and all that they can afterwards learn in them is from such books as treat of them in the most agreeable plain manner. Among these books that contribute to a humane polite way of thinking, I would especially recommend a frequent reading of, and a familiar acquaintance with the Tatlers, Spectators, and Guardians. They were written by persons who were acquainted with human nature, who were themselves benevolent and polite. If you like romances, some of them abound with the most entertaining, improving stories. They will give you a taste for history, and every useful qualification. They are full of excellent maxims, and directions for every circumstance and state in life. They teach, in the most agreeable manner, the respect which we owe to ourselves, and the duty which we owe to the world. But above all, they set religion in such an amiable light, that no man that gives them an impartial perusal, can help being in love with it.
History, particularly that of your own country, claims your attention. And you ought to be extremely well read in the accounts of our naval affairs. You will there see by what contrivance, by what efforts the most desperate attempts have succeeded by what blunders or mistakes the best laid schemes have been disappointed, and the most powerful armaments brought to nothing. In fine, to your own knowledge of sea matters, you may join the cool resolution of Blake, the intrepidity of Bembo, and the skill of Herbert. You may learn the advantage of perseverance from Anson. You may learn from Barnet, a humane care and concern for every one under your command; and, from a consideration of what he effected, may know what great ends may be accomplished with a small force properly directed. You may learn from him what great advantage a commanding officer reaps from an intimate knowledge of his station, and the happy effects of a prudent foresight. His method will inform you how to support your authority, and yet preserve a deference and respect for your officers. Be ashamed of your delight in romances, when you ought to be studying those things, that not only please in the reading, but form your mind to future fame.
When you have once acquired a familiarity with our own affairs and great men, bet acquainted with those notions with which our situation either invites us to an alliance, or renders us obnoxious to a war. Read the history of Holland, of Prance, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, &c. And as the conversation often turns upon ancient history, and the affairs of remote nations, by degrees, extend your knowledge to them: for a gentleman, which every sea-officer is or ought to be, should have some knowledge of every thing, that can properly be introduced into the conversation of polite company.--- And here let me caution you of a fault, which. mere seamen are apt to fall into, namely, of talking of themselves, and their own exploits in company. It is considered as a sign of emptiness; and it puts people upon prying into the truth of the stories related and there is no man has ever acted so prudently in life, but ill-nature, scandal, or a love of raillery, will find upon search, something in him to reprehend, or something to laugh at.
In reading it would be a great advantage, if you had a friend, of whose knowledge and parts you had a good opinion, with whom to talk over your observations; one who could direct your judgment what chiefly to remark in every book, and help you to form characters of men and times.
You must not consider what I propose to you in reading, as a task, but as a mine of pleasure and advantage in your possession, which you have not yet opened. Believe me, the pleasures which have hitherto most allured you, are not half so poignant, so full of lasting delight. But I mean not, that you should abstract yourself from the world for books. --- No---what you read you are to practise in the world. When you retire to your study, it is only to make yourself better, and more agreeable company.
There is one particular branch of learning, which I would recommend, to you for the improvement of your mind, and strengthening of your judgment, even were it not otherwise absolutely necessary for you as a sea-officer: this is the study of mathematics. A peace must shortly be concluded on; and then it is reasonable to expect, that you will be put out of employment. When this happens, let me advise you to apply to some professor of mathematics; and with him make yourself master of the first six books of Euclid, as a necessary foundation. Then learn trigonometry, plain and spherical, practical geometry, the principles of of astronomy, geography, mechanics, navigation, gunnery: and if you have time, algebra, and the construction of logarithms. The two last, indeed, would come in most properly after Euclid. This study, perhaps, will be a little dry at first; but the advantage which will arise from it; the pleasure which you will feel in the pursuit of mathematical truths, after you have made a little advance in it; and the daily enlargement of your mind, will by much over-balance this first disagreeableness. Nor need you he afraid of the long time which these studies will take from you. I know a person who got some knowledge in all these branches of mathematics, and in most other branches of them, who did not spend much above six months in the acquisition.
When you have made this progress, you will then have the satisfaction of understanding the principles of your profession, and the manner in which these things operate, which you now only know by experience, or by their effects. In any emergency you will be more ready at finding out expedients: and you can, with ease and assurance, give your opinion in any case that is referred to you.
These hints on the duty and qualifications of an officer are such as my service in the navy has enabled me to make; and which; dear Sir, my concern for your character, both as an officer, and a pupil of captain M--, has made me bold to lay before you, as things, which I could wish you to follow. You are now in the most dangerous stage of life. According as you take a turn to thoughtlessness and dissipation, or to a manly rational conduct, so will it fare with you in every future step. You are at present with a person, whom, without reserve, I can recommend to your imitation. Copy after him, and be a second captain M---. He is always learning, and tho' already among the completest in his profession, adds every day to his knowledge, either from books, conversation, or his own observations and experience.
I once thought that I should have some occasion to make an apology for the freedom of my remarks. But as I had one of the most complete, and also one of the worst formed officers in the, navy to draw my observations from, when I mention their names, modest good officers will readily yield the superiority to the those who are blame-worthy will easily prefer themselves to the second, so that I hope to pass uncensured by both.
THE substance of the foregoing was presented to a young gentleman, of whose disposition and parts I had formed a good opinion, and whose improvement and success I earnestly wished. I offer it to you, Mr. L. with the same good intention, and with equal earnestness not so much by way of advice, as to set you a thinking and reflecting on what should be your conduct and employment as an officer; of which rank you have so near a prospect, and so just an expectation. It was your activity, your exact performance of orders, that made Capt. M--- first take notice of you. Your application, your steady, cool resolution and courage, confirmed you in his favour, made his friends your's, and gained you the general good-will of all that knew or heard of you: and your modest carriage, and equal bearing of your good fortune, have in a great measure blunted the edge of envy itself. But you must not think, that when you have attained your wishes, and got confirmed in this rank, that these things are to be cast aside as of no more use; and that good qualifications, and the good opinion of your friends are only to be used as a stalking horse to preferment. To fill the station at which you aim with honour to yourself, you must continue to exert every faculty, and exercise every good qualification. You must continue to lie open to the advice of those who are really your friends. You must double your application and diligence. You must continue to shew the same intrepidity in action, the same obedience to the orders of your superiors. If ever you cast off your modesty of carriage, or become conceited, and have an overweening opinion of yourself, you are lost for ever. Modesty, forceth esteem; conceit, pride, and haughtiness, disappoint their whole aim of procuring respect. I need not caution you, on the other hand, against a mean flattery and adulation of people; from that, I am sure, your own natural sense of honour will secure you. Nor have I mentioned this fault of thinking too highly of yourself, and growing upon your good fortune, from any thing I have observed in your carriage. I assure you it gave me great pleasure to find in you the opposite behaviour. But it is so difficult for a man to bear, good fortune as he ought, that I chose rather to leave the interpretation of the sincerity of my intentions to your good sense, than at this time, when your character for life must be determined, that you should go unwarned in such an important point.
I am only afraid that the things which I have proposed as necessary to complete an officer, appear too hard and difficult in the attainment, especially as it is so late in life, now, that you should turn your thoughts to them. There are, indeed, several things mentioned, which you cannot think of acquiring soon, if ever; but the difficulty, in general, must be only a spur to your industry. I would have you consider, that many of the things required of you, may be learned by way of amusement; and that valuing them only as such, you cannot spend your leisure-time more delightfully. However, you must attend to the most necessary parts first, writing, accompts, and navigation. Accustom yourself to read every day something in some useful book: though you may not apprehend it clearly at first, yet a second or third perusal will bring you to the meaning of it. When you find a passage in a book that pleaseth you, transcribe it, not to keep by you, but to improve your writing, and teach you to spell properly. It will also, by degrees, make writing of letters easy to you. I especially recommend arithmetic and accompts to you, because I have long entertained a very odd notion, that nine out of ten of the spendthrifts among us are occasioned by their not knowing that there are no more than one hundred units in the number one hundred. For if you will not allow a prodigal, who, with an income of one hundred pounds, spends at the rate of four hundred pounds, to be ignorant how many single pounds go to make up his income, you must conclude him to be a vile cheat, and a deceiver; yet there are many, especially in the navy, extravagant young men, who seem to be too thoughtless to lay any deep schemes to defraud the friend who trusts them with his money.
When you was last with me, I mentioned to you the benefit of learning French. As an officer, it is an indispensible qualification; therefore you should find somebody in the ship that can teach you. But as soon as you are out of employment I would have you learn it by grammar from a master. This will in some measure make up your want of education at school, before you came to sea. It will teach you your own language, and make you more correct in speaking and writing good sense.
I, at present, think only of one more necessary caution. The malice, and the low confined turn of many of those with whom you expect now to be on a footing of equality, will, no doubt, lay you open to disputes. They will think it hard to rank with you, because the ambition, or the Borough interest, or perhaps the vices of their parents, enabled them, without any pretensions to merit in the service, to set out with the hopes of becoming officers; while you had no other claim but your services, and never thought of the rank, till your actions, in the opinion of every person, had shewn you more than deserving of it. I am not afraid of your exerting a proper spirit when occasion calls for it: but avoid disputes as much as possible. Make your superior knowledge of service as easy to every body about you as you can. But if a dispute is unavoidable, remember in altercation with your adversary, what you owe to your own character, and defile not your lips with such language as appears even scandalous at Billingsgate. Your adversary, I will allow, may deserve bad language; but you in this owe a respect to yourself, and to the rank of a gentleman, whose glory it is to be ignorant of such vulgar endowments. I heartily with you all manner of success; and with the most friendly regard, I am, &c.
* The reader will recollect that this Essay was written in 1760.
[Knowles, Charles]: An Essay on the Duty and Qualifications of a Sea-Officer. Written originally for the Use of Two Young Officers.
W. Johnston, London, 1765. 8vo, viii, 88 pp.
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius.
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