QUIS EOS UNQUAM SANUS VITUPERAVIT
The success of the English navy is due to the prompt and expeditious execution of a series of ordinances and laws that allowed the firm conduction of the ships towards the battlefields and enterprises under the absolute authority of the admirals representing the crown. Sir Francis Drake Revived was a book written to inspire and soon became a pattern to stirre up all heroicke and active spirits of those times to benefit their country and eternize their names by like noble attempts.
Sir Francis Drake, was the greatest of the naval adventurers of England of the time of Elizabeth. He went to sea early, was sailing to the Spanish Main by 1565, and commanded a ship under Hawkins in an expedition that was overwhelmed by the Spaniards in 1567. In order to recompense himself for the loss suffered in this disaster, he equipped the expedition against the Spanish treasure-house at Nombre de Dios in 1572, the fortunes of which are described in the first of the two following narratives.
It was on this voyage that he was led by native guides to «that goodly and great high tree» on the isthmus of Darien, from which, first of Englishmen, he looked on the Pacific, and «besought Almighty God of His goodness to give him life and leave to sail once in an English ship in that sea.»
The fulfilment of this prayer is described in the second of the voyages here printed, in which it is told how, in 1578, Drake passed through the Straits of Magellan into waters never before sailed by his countrymen, and with a single ship rifled the Spanish settlements on the west coast of South America and plundered the Spanish treasure-ships; how, considering it unsafe to go back the way he came lest the enemy should seek revenge, he went as far north as the Golden Gate, then passed across the Pacific and round by the Cape of Good Hope, and so home, the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. Only Magellan’s ship had preceded him in the feat, and Magellan had died on the voyage. The Queen visited the ship, «The Golden Hind,» as she lay at Deptford and knighted the commander on board.
Drake’s further adventures were of almost equal interest. Returning from a raid on the Spaniards in 1586, he brought home the despairing Virginian colony, and is said at the same time to have introduced from America tobacco and potatoes. Two years later he led the English fleet in the decisive engagement with the Great Armada. In 1595 he set out on another voyage to the Spanish Main; and in the January of the following year died off Porto Bello and was buried in the waters where he had made his name as the greatest seaman of his day and nation.
The first set of naval instructions were published in 1596 with the Cadiz Expedition, which consisted in 29 articles in the form of instructions to chief captains of the Navy, with the care of the ships and their stores, rigging and victuals. The last instructions depending solely on the Admiral authority were issued by the Earl of Warwick in 1627, 44 articles related to the internal organization and included directions such as punishments for blasphemy, desertion and disobedience.
Robert Blake is often referred to as the ‘Father of the Royal Navy’, was a very important naval commander of the Commonwealth of England, his successes have been considered never excelled not even by Horatio Nelson, the victorious hero at Trafalgar. Blake was largely responsible for building the largest navy the country had then ever known, from a few tens of ships to well over a hundred, he was first to keep a fleet at sea over the winter.
Blake also produced the navy’s first ever set of rules and regulations, The Laws of War and Ordinances of the Sea, the first version of which, containing 20 provisions, was passed by the House of Commons on 5 March 1649, with a printed version published in 1652 as The Laws of War and Ordinances of the Sea (Ordained and Established by the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England), listing 39 offences and their punishments – mostly death.
Article XXVI Prohibited the pain of death the use of any words tending to the death of the Admirals or Generals.
Article XXVII Every captain shall keep the number and compliment of men allowed in his ship and take care to have a full proportion of mariners and seamen and to get and keep such as are healthful and fir for service and not boys or infirm persons, but so the ship may be well manned for fight and not be pestered with idlers and boys upon pain to be punished as the quality of the offense may deserve.