« PreviousContinue »
c H A P. tuition of the States of Holland, and of de Wit, vj^^/ their pensionary, who executed his trust with hoi665. nour and fidelity: And the animosity, which the Hollanders entertained against the attack of the English, so unprovoked, as they thought it, made them thirst for revenge, and hope for better success in their next enterprise. Such vigour was exerted in the common cause, that, in order to man the fleet, all merchant ships were prohibited to sail, and even the fisheries were suspended.TM
Th E English likewise continued in the same disposition, though another more grievous calamity had joined itself to that of war. The plague had broken out in London; and that with such violence, ioth Oct. as to cut off, in a year, near 90,000 inhabitants. The king was obliged to summon the parliament at Oxford.
rio'iT"^ ^ Good agreement still subsisted between the king and parliament. They, on their part, unanimously voted him the supply demanded, twelve hundred and fifty-thousand pounds, to be levied in Five-mile- two years by monthly assessments. And he, to gratify them, passed the five-mile-act, which has given occasion to grievous and not unjust complaints. The church, under pretence of guarding monarchy against its inveterate enemies, persevered in the project of wreaking her own enmity against the nonconformists. It was enacted, that no dissenting teacher who took not the non-resistance oath above mentioned, should, except upon the road, come within five miles of any corporation, orof any place, .where he had preached after the act of oblivion. The penalty was a fine of fifty pounds, and six months imprisonment. By ejecting the non-conforming clergy from their churches, and prohibiting all separate congregations, they had been rendered incapable of gaining any livelihood by their spiritual
"Trorop's life. D'Estrades, 5th ef February 1665.
profession. And now, under colour of removingc^^p* them from places where their influence might be v^^^O dangerous, an expedient was fallen upon to de- ^65. prive them of all means of subsistence. Had not the spirit of the nation undergone a change, these violences were preludes to the most furious persecution.
However prevalent the hierarchy, this law did not pass without opposition. Besides several peers, attached to the old parliamentary party, Southampton himself, though Clarendon's great friend, expressed his disapprobation of these measures. But the church party, not discouraged with this opposition, introduced into the house of commons a bill for imposing the oath of non-resistance on the whole nation. It was rejected only by three voices. The parliament, after a short session, was31stoct prorogued.
After France had declared war, England was 1666. evidently overmatched in force. Yet she possessed this advantage by her situation, that she lay between the fleets of her enemies, and might be able, by speedy and well-concerted operations, to prevent their junction. But such was the unhappy conduct of her commanders, or such want of intelligence in her ministers, that this circumstance turned rather to her prejudice. Lewis had given orders to the duke of Beaufort, his admiral, to sail from Toulon; and the French squadron, under his command, consisting of above forty sail," was now commonly supposed to be entering the channel. The Dutch fleet, to the number of seventy-six sail, was at sea, under the command of de Ruyter and Tromp, in order to join him. The duke of Albemarle and prince Rupert commanded the EngJish fleet, which exceeded not seventy-four sail. Alfeemarle, who, from his successes under the protector,
■ D'Estredes, Ql»t of May \6C6.
C H A p. had too much learned to despise the enemy, pro-* v^^^/posed to detach prince Rupert with twenty ships, in 1666. order to oppose the duke of Beaufort. Sir George Ayscue, well acquainted with the bravery and conduct of de Ruyter, protested against the temerity of this resolution: But Albemarle's authority prevailed. The remainder of the English set sail to give battle to the Dutch; who, seeing the enemy advance quickly upon them, cut their cables, and prepared for the combat. The battle that ensued, is one of the most memorable that we read of in story, whether we consider its long duration, or the Sca-figiit desperate courage with which it was fought. Ald«y*Ur bemarle made here some atonement by his valour for the rashness of the attempt. No youth, animated by glory and ambitious hopes, could exert himself more than did this man, who was now in the decline of life, and who had reached the summit of honours. We shall not enter minutely into particulars. It will be sufficient to mention the chief events of each day's engagement. nt June. In the first day, sir William Berkeley, vice-admiral, leading the van, fell into the thickest of the enemy, was overpowered, and his ship taken. He himself was found dead in his cabin, all covered with blood. The English had the weather-gage of the enemy; but as the wind blew so hard, that they could not use their lower tier, they derived but small advantage from this circumstance. The Dutch shot, however, fell chiefly on their sails and rigging; and few ships were sunk or much damaged. Chain-shot was at that time a new invention; commonly attributed tode Wit. Sir John Harman exerted himself extremely on this day. The Dutch admiral, Evertz, was killed in engaging him. Darkness parted the combatants.
The second day, the wind was somewhat fallen, and the combat became more steady and more terrible. The English now found, that the greatest
valour valour cannot compensate the superiority of num- c H A p. bers, against an enemy who is well conducted, and Lxiv. who is not defective in courage. De Ruyter and Van Tromp, rivals in glory, and enemies from faction, exerted themselves in emulation of each other; and de Ruyter, had the advantage of disengaging and saving his antagonist, who had been surrounded by the English, and was in the most imminent danger. Sixteen fresh ships joined the Dutch fleet during the action; and the English were so shattered, that their fighting ships were reduced to twenty-eight, and they found themselves obliged to retreat towards their own coast. The Dutch followed them, and were on the point of renewing the combat, when a calm, which came a little before night, prevented the engagement.
Next morning, the English were obliged to continue their retreat; and a proper disposition was made for that purpose. The shattered ships were ordered to stretch a-head; and sixteen of the most entire followed them in good order, and kept the enemy in awe. Albemarle himself closed the rear, and presented an undaunted countenance to his victorious foes. The earl of Ossory, son of Ormond, a gallant youth, who sought honour and experience in every action throughout Europe, was then on board the admiral. Albemarle confessed to him his intention rather to blow up his ship and perish gloriously, than yield to the enemy. Ossory applauded this desperate resolution.
About two o'clock, the Dutch had come up with their enemy, and were ready to renew the fight; when a new fleet was descried from the south, crowding all their sail to reach the scene of action. The Dutch flattered themselves that Beaufort was arrived, to cut off the retreat of the vanquished: The English hoped that prince Rupert had come, to turn the scale of action. Albemarle, who had
CHAP. received intelligence of the prince's approach, bent y^^, his course towards him. Unhappily, sir George 1666. Ayscue, in a ship of a hundred guns, the largest in the fleet, struck on the Galloper sands, and could receive no assistance from his friends, who were hastening to join the reinforcement. He could not even reap the consolation of perishing with honour, and revenging his death on his enemies. They were preparing fireships to attack him, and he was obliged to strike. The English sailors, seeing the necessity, with the utmost indignation surrendered themselves prisoners.
Albemarle and prince Rupert were now determined to face the enemy; and next morning the battle began afresh, with more equal force than ever, and with equal valour. After long cannonading, the fleets came to a close combat; which was continued with great violence, till parted by a mist. The English retired first into their harbours.
Though the English, by their obstinate courage, reaped the chief honour in this engagement, it is somewhat uncertain who obtained the victory. The Hollanders took a few ships, and having some appearances of advantage, expressed their satisfaction by all the signs of triumph and rejoicing. But as the English fleet was repaired in a little time, and put to sea morcformidable than ever, together with many of those ships which the Dutch had boasted to have burned or destroyed; all Europe saw, that those two brave nations were engaged in a contest, which was not likely, on either side, to prove decisive.
It was the conjunction alone of the French, that could give a decisive superiority to the Dutch. In order to facilitate this conjunction, de Ruyter, having repaired his fleet, posted himself at the mouth of the Thames. The English, under prince Rupert