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A CORRECTION RESPECTING SIR THOMAS LEE, K.B.
On the authority of a large pedigree sheet at Hartwell House, it is mentioned at page 63, that Sir Thomas Lee, the first Baronet, was a Lord of the Admiralty in 1690. But, since that was written, I paid a visit to my friend Sir Thomas Phillipps, of Middlehill in Worcestershire, who freely permitted me to examine his important collection of historical MSS. Among other valuable accumulations, there is a series of Admiralty records and papers extending from 1635 to 1690, containing incidental matters relating to numerous public characters of those days; any of which, he obligingly said, might be copied for my use. Here I soon obtained evidence that Sir Thomas the Knight of the Bath could not have been the Lord of the Admiralty who signed official documents in June and August 1690 and in 1691, seeing that the Knight died on the 24th of February of the former year. It was clearly his son, the second Baronet, who thus officiated, and incurred the sneer of Gilbert Burnet, the celebrated Bishop of Sarum ; who in his well-known history, with acknowledged prejudice against a Tory gentleman, declares that “Sir Thomas Lee was a man that valued himself upon artifice, in which he was a great master, without being out of countenance when it was discovered.” Now, not having been able to trace the slightest ground for this assertion, after ransacking in many directions, it must be attributed to the occasional taste for “ giving a false impression of persons and things ” which the right-reverend prelate, according to the testimony of Lord Dartmouth, was wont to indulge in. Sir Thomas must therefore descend to future ages with Charles the First, “ one Prior," and other worthies shewn up in the said history :
“ One Prior! and is this, this all the fame
The poet from the historian can claim ?
In venting this honest feeling, Dodsley precursed the caustic North Briton's memorable expression, “ His name, Sir, will live, when oblivion shall have rescued yours from contempt.”
That 1690 was a busy year, and every government-servant was obliged to “up and be doing ; the King being in Ireland with the flower of the army, and the Queen acting as regent during his absence under circumstances both trying and perplexing. At this critical juncture, a French fleet consisting of seventy-eight * sail of the line, besides a number of frigates and twenty-two fire-ships, suddenly and unexpectedly pushed to sea, with the threefold design of firstly preventing our Channel squadrons—amounting to, English and Dutch together, only fifty-six line-of-battle shipsfrom forming a junction ; secondly, to encourage the looked-for Jacobite insurrections in London. This movement was so promptly executed by Mons. de Tourville, the French Admiral, that the Commander-in-Chief of our Channel fleet, the Earl of Torrington, was taken by surprise, and consequently fell into hurried measures; still, notwithstanding Bishop Burnet's shot at the “ Man of Pleasure,” he did as much under existing circumstances as could have been fairly expected. The consternation was general; and the bustle at the Admiralty, as shewn in the following letter to Sir Robert Southwell, may be interesting to those who recall the awkward conflict off Beacheyhead:
Admiralty Office, 27th of June, 1690.
Swiftsure. Essex. Mordant. Advice. Sweepstakes. Kingfisher. Nonsuch. Pembroke.
We desire you will lay before his Maty the following accot:
On Sunday, in the evening, the 22th of June, about 7 of the clock, an expresse arrived from the Co'mander of the Crowne, giving an accot of ye appearing of the French fleete off the Lizard, standing to the eastward, which was forth with com’unicated to the Earle of Nottingham, and advice thereof sent to the Earle of Torrington, with directions for him to saile with their Mats fleete, and to take along with him any
other ships (besides those belonging to the fleete) which he should meet with. Orders were likewise dispatched away to Plimouth to Capt" Sanderson, wth the ships there (which are those named in the margin), forthwith to make the best of their way to joyne the fleete; as also that an advice-boate should be sent away from some port in North Cornwall, to endeavour to meet Sr Clow. Shovell, or any other of their Mas ships comeing about from the Irish seas, and direct them to hasten to the fleete. And severall other ships, whose names are in the margin, which were upon particular stations, had orders sent them immediately to repaire to the fleete. Besides which, the severall orders following have been given :
TO THE NAVY BOARD.
For putting out to sea, with all possible speed, two second-rates and one third-rate at Chatham, and one second and three third-rates at Portsmouth, and also four or five fire-ships at Portsmouth, to supply the places of any disabled ships.
To provide all needful stores in a readiness at Portsmouth, for the re-fitting of any ships that should come in disabled; and Sr Richard Haddock is sent away thither to take care for the dispatch of all services at that port.
TO THE MA' OF THE ORDNANCE. To cause a quantity of powder, shott, and all sorts of gunner's stores to be gott ready, and shipp'd on board fitting vessels in this river and at Portsmouth, to be sent off to the fleete as there shall be occasion.
* Charnock ( Biographia Navalis ) asserts, from authority which he submits, that the French fleet consisted of eighty-four sail of the line, besides the smaller vessels ; and he gives their names.
TO THE COMM' FOR SICK AND WOUNDED.
To send away some of their number and also chirurgeons to the western ports, to take care of stich wounded men as shall be sent on shoare from the fleete.
The strength of their Mats fleete with the Earle of Torrington is (of English) 30 first, second, and third-rates, 5 fourth-rates, 1 fifth, and 16 fire-ships; and we have good reason to believe that there are with them twenty-two Dutch men-of-warr and four or five fire-ships, there being advice come of four Dutch ships joined him since Sunday last.
We send you inclosed a copy of a letter which was recd this day from Mr. Dummer, in the Isle of Wight, and of a draught of the postures of the two feets which came therewith, which we also desire you will lay before his Ma'y.
We are further to desire you will acquaint his Maty that the Ruby having, before his Maty going from England, been ordered to Plimouth, we have sent orders to the Jersey, which was sent convoy to a vessell with soldiers from Scilly to Belfast, to continue in the Irish Seas in the roome of the Ruby. So we remaine,
Yor humble Servants,
Sr Robert Southwell.
Sir Thomas Lee is supposed to have been deeply interested in the Association for recovering treasure out of wrecks, which was certainly assisted by the Board of Admiralty, of which he was a member; but there is no trace of an improper implication therein among the MSS. in the Bibliotheca Phillippica. The points of the case may be thus stated : in the year 1686, a grant under the great seal was procured by the Duke of Albemarle, for himself and others, of a wreck recently discovered upon the northern coast of Hispaniola, and of all the plate and other goods which were or should be taken up from the same, by the Duke or his substitutes, before July 1689; reserving to the King one-tenth part thereof, under a bond of 100,0001.
In the year 1687, the parties having fished up treasure to a great amount from the wrecked hull, the same was brought into England by the ship James and Mary, and one-tenth part thereof answered to the King. This drew great attention ; and the patentees intending another voyage to the said wreck, a second grant under the great seal was obtained by the Duke of Albemarle, whereby there was granted unto them the use of his Majesty's frigate the Foresight,* with all her
* This frigate had been commanded by Captain Laurence Wright in 1687; but, the Duke of Albemarle being appointed Governor of Jamaica, the Captain was removed into the Assistance of 50 guns, the ship destined to carry his Grace to the West Indies. The Duke did not long survive his arrival; and Captain Wright, who had carried him when living to his government, had also the melancholy honour of conveying his dead body back to England, where it arrived on the 22nd of May 1689.
furniture and apparel, for one year ending in July 1688; the charge of seamen's wages and victuals being to be defrayed by the grantees. In this new instrument, as before, all the plate and other goods taken up from the wreck during the said voyage was granted to the speculators; but the share reserved for the King was increased to one-fifth of the recovered property, should it not exceed 150,0001., and to one-third part, if it should exceed that value. Whereupon the ships of the
. grantees, together with the Foresight frigate, having taken up valuables to the amount of upwards of 60,0001. from the above wreck, the same was brought to England in the year 1688, and the onefifth part answered to the King, according to the reservation of the specified second grant.
About the beginning of December 1689, and while Sir Thomas Lee was a stirring member of the Admiralty Board, another rich wreck was discovered upon the shoals of the Serenillas, about forty leagues to the southward of the west end of Jamaica : the hull was described as being very large, and overgrown with coral rocks, so as to obstruct the divers; who had nevertheless contrived to take up twenty-three dough-boys of silver, some plate, and many gold beads, without having disturbed the hold. This intelligence excited the speculators, and they having induced the Lords of the Council to solicit the Admiralty for aid, this answer was returned :
BY THE COM. FOR EXECUTEING ye OFFICE OF Lord High ADMIRALL OF ENGLANDE.
Pursuant to an Order of the Lords of the Council, dated the 21° instant, requiring our opinion whither one of the fourth-rate friggatts in the West Indies may be spared to countenance and protect their Ma's subjects at a wreck discover'd upon the Serranillas, about forty leagues to ye southward of the west end of Jamaica, Their Lordps may please to bee inform'd that wee are not able to judge whither or noe such a friggott can bee spared, not knowing in what posture of defence the severall islands, &c. in the West Indies are, nor in what condition the squadron attending on them is, haveing not had any account from them since their leaving England.
Admity Office, 26° Aug`, `90.
Thole Ad owther. Hesumen
Now here there is certainly nothing involving Sir Thomas Lee in the speculation, the indenture of which liberally granted what apparently the authorities had little real power to grant, all and every property from such wrecks, jetsam, flotsam, lagan goods, derelict riches, bullion, plate, gold, silver, coins, bars or pigs of silver, ingots of gold, merchandize, and every other goods and chattels whatsoever.
As in duty bound, the lion's share was carefully reserved ; but Grotius declares that lawyers act most unjustly in giving the King a right to wrecks, which he stigmatizes as seizing the property of others. So Euripides makes Helen plead :
Wreck'd and a stranger came I in;
THE LETTERS REFERRED TO ON PAGE 196.
It will be seen by Baron de Zach's notes upon my letters, that he considered, from Walsh's book, that Captain Dundas and Lieut. Desade were the sole unravellers of the inscription on Pompey's Pillar, in 1801: but Colonel Squire, together with my friends Colonel Leake and W. R. Hamilton, were fellow-labourers in the successful struggle to unravel it. To accomplish this, they visited it on several successive days at the most favourable time, when the rays of the sun first struck obliquely on the plane of the letters. Nor was tuis, as has been assumed by many, the first discovery of the inscription: it may have been immemorially seen, but we know that it was copied by Dr. Pococke in 1737, or at least “what letters he could make any conjecture of.” A few years afterwards, it was attempted by Mr. Hughes, whose bizarre characters differ from those of Pococke, and both of their copies are at variance with the original. The first of these will be found in the Doctor's well-known Travels in Egypt, published in 1743,-and the second is in the ninth volume of the Society of Antiquaries' Minutes ; from whence I copied the following extract from the proceedings of the Meeting holden on Thursday, the 24th of March, 1763, Lord Willoughby de Parham in the chair:
The President was pleased to communicate the following inscription, taken from Pompey's Pillar, and transmitted to Lord Charlemont, an honle Member of this Society, by one Robert Hughes, who, being at Alexandria in the year 1749, attended his Lordship and some other gent. who went to take the height and dimensions of the said pillar; and his Lordship, being obliged to set out for Athens the day after, left it in charge to Hughes, who first made the discovery, to copy the inscription and send it to Leghorn, where his Lordship would meet with it. Hughes accordingly, with much difficulty, and damage to his eyes, made out the following lines; and declares himself ready to attest upon oath the fidelity with which they are copied. As he appears, from the account which he gives of this affair, to be a plain, illiterate man, and that imagination could have had but little share in the framing or conceiving the true ducts of the characters, 'tis possible that, by a steady and close attention, and imitation of the original, he may have effected what, he tells us, many others (more learned we may presume) have in vain attempted. He makes mention particularly of sevl. Frenchmen, to whom he absolutely refused to give any copy of what he had made out; and they could do nothing in it themselves.