8 January 1670
8 January 1670
Your Majesty’s having been pleased with one hand to receive what has been offered you in charge against the Officers of your Navy, I cannot without offence to your justice doubt your vouchsafing me the other, for what in most humble manner I come to tender your Majesty in their and my own behalf, being a duplicate of what hath lately gone from me in answer to the observations of the Commissioners of Accounts.
In which, as I have aimed at the doing all (fair) right to my fellow Officers, so has it not been without regard also to the honour of your Majesty’s service, which seems not a little interested in the removal of what at this day meets (as I apprehend) with too easy an admission, namely that the different issues of the former and later war with the Dutch are chiefly chargeable on the different degrees of method and good hus-bandry exercised then and now by the managers of this Office.
Not but those acting in the former have [not] left us many things worthy imitation, and which I have not only borne witness to in my particular practice, but may one day have opportunity of doing it by a more solemn representation of them, as such, both to your Majesty and the public.
But because better success did attend them than it has pleased God to allow us, that therefore this success must (to the depreciat-ing all that comes after them) be necessarily referred to some transcendency in their methods, while the whole style of the transactions of that time demonstrate a principle, as in other things so in those of the Navy, wholly incompatible with that of forms; as having neither directed themselves by the ancient Instructions of the Lord High Admiral (now urged to our prejudice) nor bound themselves up by any other of their own. Nay, when neither in the balancing storekeepers’ accounts, fre-quency of their surveys, tenderness in granting or regularity in clearing imprests, use of tickets or infallibility in their examin-ations, uninterestedness of their contacts or lowness of their prices, or any other of those circumstances wherein your Majesty’s present Officers are deemed most peccant, they will be found to outdo or in many of them even to come up to what hath been arrived at under your Majesty’s government. This (I say) seems a concession so injurious to the honour thereof as in faithfulness thereto I durst not in my following discourse permit to pass unreflected on.
Especially when I consider not only the issue of what’s past, wherein (as it will ever be in actions like this, while managed but by men and subject to disappointments from plague, fire, etc., neither to be foreseen nor obviated) so many real failures must inevitably be looked for as shall not need to be aggravated by the suggestion of others, which indeed are not; but [are] the fatal effects of any miscalculations of the means designed for securing your Majesty’s better success to come.
To which mistake I cannot see what can contribute more than an assignment of our present miscarriages to the want of what our predecessors under all their successes were no greater masters of than we; but so much the contrary, that whoever shall have opportunity of taking the same leisurely view of the management of that time which my employment under your Majesty has led me to will easily concur that there appears not anything in the whole conduct of that age to which (under God) their success can be more duly attributed than a steady pursuit of all means conducing thereto, both in preference and exclusion to all impedi-ments arising from considerations either of thrift or method.
Of which, and what else my best observations upon the man-agements and events of these two great actions, together with the collections which by your Majesty’s command I have at my late being abroad made on the same subject relating to our neigh-bours, may have furnished me with, improvable to your Majesty’s future service, neither my common duty as a subject nor especial obligations as the eldest (though otherwise the least worthy) of your Majesty’s servants enjoying at this day the honour of that name in this Office will suffer me to want, much less to let slip, a more fit occasion of exposing to that gracious censure with which your Majesty hath ever been pleased to encourage the humble offers of, Royal Sir,
Your Majesty’s most loyal, most obedient and faithful
subject and servant
The Committee fizzled out after February 1670. As Pepys said, there was no “end to be foreseen of it; while answers being given to satisfaction to this day’s objection, that satisfaction shall never be owned but in lieu a new race of objections shall be started … So this matter and the whole business of these Observations ended”.