Saturday 4 June 1664

Up and to St. James’s by coach, after a good deal of talk before I went forth with J. Noble, who tells me that he will secure us against Cave, that though he knows, and can prove it, yet nobody else can prove it, to be Tom’s child; that the bond was made by one Hudson, a scrivener, next to the Fountaine taverne, in the Old Bayly; that the children were born, and christened, and entered in the parish-book of St. Sepulchre’s, by the name of Anne and Elizabeth Taylor and he will give us security against Cave if we pay him the money. And then up to the Duke, and was with him giving him an account how matters go, and of the necessity there is of a power to presse seamen, without which we cannot really raise men for this fleete of twelve sayle, besides that it will assert the King’s power of pressing, which at present is somewhat doubted, and will make the Dutch believe that we are in earnest. Thence by water to the office, where we sat till almost two o’clock. This morning Captain Ferrer came to the office to tell me that my Lord hath given him a promise of Young’s place in the Wardrobe, and hearing that I pretend a promise to it he comes to ask my consent, which I denied him, and told him my Lord may do what he pleases with his promise to me, but my father’s condition is not so as that I should let it go if my Lord will stand to his word, and so I sent him going, myself being troubled a little at it. After office I with Mr. Coventry by water to St. James’s and dined with him, and had excellent discourse from him. So to the Committee for Tangier all afternoon, where still the same confused doings, and my Lord Fitz-Harding now added to the Committee; which will signify much. It grieves me to see how brokenly things are ordered. So by coach home, and at my office late, and so to supper and to bed, my body by plenty of breaking of wind being just now pretty well again, having had a constant akeing in my back these 5 or 6 days. Mr. Coventry discoursing this noon about Sir W. Batten (what a sad fellow he is!) told me how the King told him the other day how Sir W. Batten, being in the ship with him and Prince Rupert when they expected to fight with Warwick, did walk up and down sweating with a napkin under his throat to dry up his sweat; and that Prince Rupert being a most jealous man, and particularly of Batten, do walk up and down swearing bloodily to the King, that Batten had a mind to betray them to-day, and that the napkin was a signal; “but, by God,” says he, “if things go ill, the first thing I will do is to shoot him.” He discoursed largely and bravely to me concerning the different sort of valours, the active and passive valour. For the latter, he brought as an instance General Blake; who, in the defending of Taunton and Lime for the Parliament, did through his stubborn sort of valour defend it the most ‘opiniastrement’ that ever any man did any thing; and yet never was the man that ever made any attaque by land or sea, but rather avoyded it on all, even fair occasions. On the other side, Prince Rupert, the boldest attaquer in the world for personal courage; and yet, in the defending of Bristol, no man ever did anything worse, he wanting the patience and seasoned head to consult and advise for defence, and to bear with the evils of a siege. The like he says is said of my Lord Tiviott, who was the boldest adventurer of his person in the world, and from a mean man in few years was come to this greatness of command and repute only by the death of all his officers, he many times having the luck of being the only survivor of them all, by venturing upon services for the King of France that nobody else would; and yet no man upon a defence, he being all fury and no judgment in a fight. He tells me above all of the Duke of Yorke, that he is more himself and more of judgement is at hand in him in the middle of a desperate service, than at other times, as appeared in the business of Dunkirke, wherein no man ever did braver things, or was in hotter service in the close of that day, being surrounded with enemies; and then, contrary to the advice of all about him, his counsel carried himself and the rest through them safe, by advising that he might make his passage with but a dozen with him; “For,” says he, “the enemy cannot move after me so fast with a great body, and with a small one we shall be enough to deal with them;” and though he is a man naturally martiall to the highest degree, yet a man that never in his life talks one word of himself or service of his owne, but only that he saw such or such a thing, and lays it down for a maxime that a Hector can have no courage. He told me also, as a great instance of some men, that the Prince of Condo’s excellence is, that there not being a more furious man in the world, danger in fight never disturbs him more than just to make him civill, and to command in words of great obligation to his officers and men; but without any the least disturbance in his judgment or spirit.

25 Annotations

Terry F  •  Link

"when they expected to fight with Warwick"

L&M explain that this was in late July 1648, when Rupert's royalist ship met Warwick's parliamentary ship in the mouth of the Thames. Warwick's evasion and a storm precluded a battle. Batten was said to have failed to attack a small squadron on its way from Portsmouth at night, but was later cleared of any charges.

Pedro  •  Link

"And then up to the Duke, and was with him giving him an account how matters go, and of the necessity there is of a power to presse seamen, without which we cannot really raise men for this fleete of twelve sayle, besides that it will assert the King's power of pressing, which at present is somewhat doubted, and will make the Dutch believe that we are in earnest."

J Davies in his book Gentlemen and Tarpaulins has much information on pressing and manning of the Navy, but a few general points may be of interest.

The needs of the fleet in wartime exceeded the number of volunteers available, and the naval administration was forced to resort to compulsion. An embargo on shipping could be imposed in an attempt to force merchant seamen into the navy, but this of course usually met with little success and raised storms of protest from trading interests. The chartered companies of waterman and fishermen were supposed to provide quotas of men for naval service, but throughout the reigns of Charles and James administrators and sea officers complained about the prevarication of the companies, the inadequacy of the men they provided, and the success with which the genuine watermen and fishermen bribed unqualified substitutes to take their places...

The right to press men was claimed by the Crown as part of its prerogative, and, although there were frequent attacks on its arbitrariness, its legality (or at least the necessity for it) was generally accepted, and it was even suggested that many seamen looked on it indifferently, as an occupational hazard.

Pressing was carried out in several ways. Homeward bound merchantmen were a prime target for warships' boats or specially hired tenders operating in the Medway, the Downs or Spithead: seamen pressed in this way naturally resented being kept from their families and their pay, but the government considered it more acceptable to impose hardships on them than to disrupt the outward-bound trade, and examples were made of sea officers who pressed from ships leaving England.

Experienced seamen could also be obtained from the herring fisheries of the east coast, the Newfoundland and Icelandic fisheries, and the colliers of the east coast...

However, in practice few warships could supply the whole of their needs from merchantmen and fishing boats, and sea officers or, specially appointed press officers (often retired seamen) were sent ashore in charge of press gangs to gather more seamen from the able-bodied men aged 18 to 60 in the maritime counties...

Another method of forced recruitment was the raising of fixed quotas of seamen by the vice-admirals of the maritime counties... In 1664, for example, the mayor of Bristol was asked to raise 500 men, with his counterparts in Dartmouth and Yarmouth were asked to provide I50 apiece, and the lord- lieutenants were also expected to assist...the process of pressing at local level often developed on the parish constable...

The Crown claimed right to search foreign strips for English mariners (a claim witch was naturally and bitterly resented by other states) and also permitted its captains to exchange men with English merchant ships overseas...

Pressing began, initially on a small scale in June I664... (SPOILER) but by the autumn the offer to press and to attract volunteers was running into serious difficulties...

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

There is the Prince of Condo, and then there is the Developer Formerly Known as Prince.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Suppose we start with you, Pepys?"

"Your Grace?"

"A fine example to the young men of England who may doubt the King's right..."

"Uh...Well, in a manner of speaking, one may well say...In the service which I tender your Grace and his Majesty at my office...I already am pressed." Sam make dutiful bow and smile.

"Yes. Well why don't we make it official? The Charles can always use an extra swabbie. Indeed his Majesty, myself, and Coventry will find it hard to keep the office's wheels turning properly in wartime without but burdens must be born at all leves. Rest assured, Pepys your gallant sacrifice will be remembered by the King. Hewer? You might send word to that fellow Creed there will be a temporary opening at the Naval Office for the duration. Should you fail to return, Pepys...I shall charge Creed to do his best to fill your shoes and always remember you with esteem personally."

Terry F  •  Link

Meanwhile, in France.... (In Dirk's absence: )

De Prata ["nanny" to Sandwich's teenaged sons] to Sandwich
Written from: Saumur

Date: 4...June 1664

Shelfmark: MS. Carte 223, fol(s). 90

Document type: Holograph

Narrates some incidents of the travels, along the Loire, of the Earl's sons, who have seen many remarkable places, and are in good health.

At Saumur, they intend to make some considerable stay.

Patricia  •  Link

One of my SILs is descended from a man who was pressed, who jumped ship in Newfoundland and hid until the ship had departed, with the help of a local girl, who he later married. So I guess pressing is indirectly responsible for the existence of two of my grandchildren, among many others.
And speaking of children, I find it appalling that Sam & Co. are so anxious not to have to own the little child who is Tom's daughter. Would it have been so scandalous if they had taken her and raised her as their own? Didn't anybody adopt children back then (without being paid to do so, I mean)?

Douglas Robertson  •  Link


French: "stubbornly" (L&M Select Glossary).

In present-day French it is spelled "opinâtrement."

Pedro  •  Link

Also on the 4th June...

Sir Thomas Modyford (Governor of Jamaica) arrives at Port Royal with the ships Westergate, Marmaduke and Swallow, all three ships carrying a large number of settlers.

(I wonder how our old friend Wayneman is getting on in the West Indies?)

Bradford  •  Link

Now, which of these men cited as examples of different sorts of Valour would you chance your arm with? On this testimony, give me General Blake.

Pedro  •  Link

Also in the absence of Dirk from the Carte Papers...

A News-Letter, addressed to Sir George Lane

Written from: [Whitehall] Date: 4 June 1664
Shelfmark: MS. Carte 222, fol(s). 70-71

A Proclamation has been issued recalling [May 30] all British seamen from foreign service.

Mention is made of the warlike preparations in Holland; and of the weekly Bills of Mortality, issued in Amsterdam.

The purport of recent advices from the West-India Islands, and from Tangier, is added.

alanB  •  Link

re Patricia. I see that Mr Sam Pricklouse appears to have two nieces.I bet Elizabeth would be pleased to help- perhaps she too is in the dark. Somewhere the genes continue.

cape henry  •  Link

"It grieves me to see how brokenly things are ordered."

Pure Pepys.

Australian Susan  •  Link


This went on for centuries. We have a family letter written by a mother (Mrs Garbutt) in the 1790s from the port town of Sunderland to her son working in London. She relates the story of a school friend of her son's having been pressed and taken aboard a RN ship. The parents found out which ship (by bribery) and paid a waterman to row them out to it. They then bought their son back for 300 guineas. Mrs Garbutt then comments that she did not think the young man worth that amount of money and that a few years in the Navy would have done him the world of good. Incidently, the family were no friends of the Navy as they had their merchantmen taken for service in the Napoleonic wars and every one was lost - compensation paid only very slowly.

Cumsalisgrano  •  Link

[Able] Bodies be needed to drag the sails and guns about.
Public houses be not the place to be when a quota has to be filled.
Unfortunately when the country and King call for thy service, thee have to comply unless thee be consumtive.

A good read be two years before the mast in order to get a feel for 'wot' it be like to be a man on the street.
Most men of letters never end up at the end of lash or cat of nine tails, so there be very few genuine tails of lashes, and walking the plank.

. His term of service lasted a trifle over two years -- from August, 1834, to September, 1836.


Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana - Project Gutenberg Download the free eBook:

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

With such fond war memories...Defeat, betrayal, constant fear of defeat and betrayal...Fear of one's crazed Hotspur of a cousin assaulting one's turncoat captain on a ship at sea presumably manned mainly by the said captain's own men...One has to wonder at York's gung-ho war attitude. While Charlie will be more or less contentedly safe home on the throne in London, finding new ways to divert war funds, I would imagine Lord High Admiral Jamie will be required to take the field with his fleet.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Interesting that Coventry, whom one would presume shrewd and silent as the grave, seems to have such a love of gossip. Dropping some negative bits about Batten might be policy but to hint at the incompetency of Prince Rupert? Of course coupled to a long story on the Duke's raw courage and steely nerve one could suspect a little attempt to undermine the Boss' potential rival...But to say such to Sam, Sandwich's man in the office? Does he count on the tale spreading to York's credit?

GrahamT  •  Link

Re: "Pressing. This went on for centuries."
Isn't it called conscription / the draft, nowadays?
Now, instead of being "pressed" into service, one is euphemistically "drawn" in, though still without the option of declining.
Just as Patricia's SiL's ancestor hid in Newfoundland to escape the press, so many Vietnam era draftees went there and to other parts of Canada to escape the draft. Plus ça change...

Pedro  •  Link

Public houses be not the place to be when a quota has to be filled.

Hence the debatable origin of the glass-bottomed tankard to avoid taking the King's Shilling?

Press-officers gained per capita for the men they pressed and in turn the men themselves received a shilling and a certificate with instructions to proceed to the dockyard.

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

Pressing vs. Conscription
To me, there are a few crucial differences between the two. Mainly impressment seems to be much more arbitrary. It is one thing to be receive a letter telling you to report for induction (with, in the modern era, the opportunity to appeal the decision). It is quite another to be essentially kidnapped from a waterfront tavern by a gang or taken off a home-bound ship, after years away, to serve yet more years in the King's service.

Not only was pressing brutal, but it was arbitrary as to who was taken and who was not.

cape henry  •  Link

JTK, I think, is essentially correct. The draft is [was]certainly arbitrary in many respects, but semi-voluntary in that the able-bodied were screened and registered and various avenues of avoidance were open. Under impressment, it was not the law that hauled one off, but the club and the chain.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Also a nice way to remove a troublesome young figure from your existence for a while if not permanently.

"But...Sir, I...I'm a dancing master, not a sailor." a terrified Pembleton looking out at the fast-disappearing coast.

"And Fred over there was a playwright to equal Shakespeare before he had one too many in the wrong tavern. Get below, swabbie! Oh...And an old friend in the Naval Office says hello."

Cumsalisgrano  •  Link

"...various avenues of avoidance ..."modern or ancient , get educated, so that thee can read the fine print and get an extension to get thy PHD, the Service, senior or middling, doth NOT want thinkers or tinkers just followers of orders with lash or without.

Australian Susan  •  Link

RG - a lovely fantasy!!
With the family story I related in mind, I wonder if that practice was common in the 17th century too - basically kidnapping a wealthy looking young man iwth the likelihood that the family will pay bribes to get him back? 300gns was a very large sum in the 18th century - wonder where it ended up? Not in the King's Service I think......

pepf  •  Link

“opinastrement” etc.

opin*i*astrement (v.s.)


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