Naval Songs & Ballads - online book

3 Centuries Of Naval History In Shanties & Sea Songs With Lyrics & Notes

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INTRODUCTION            Jxxxv
opposing the execution of press warrants in the City (Catalogue of Satirical Prints in the British, Museum, iv. 641). Next came Gillray's Liberty of the Subject, published October 15, 1779. Our ballads supplement this evidence by stories such as those related in The Lighterman's Prentice and in the narrative of the eighteen Greenland men (pp. 201, 226, 234-36, 249). Another ballad called a Dia­logue betzveen Will and Jack, too long to insert, describes the general terror which prevailed about 1778 or 1779. The people seem all run mad, 'for fear of the press they won't lie in their beds'; farmers and millers send boys and girls and old men to the markets for them ; carriers and carters, ' like goats in the mountains, they lie in the fields ' ; and so with all other trades. The French are at sea to invade us, and now our bold sailors must fight for all. The King wants men and will find them out.
The King found it difficult to get men, not merely because his service was unpopular, but also because there was a more profitable alternative.
One characteristic of the wars of the middle of the eighteenth century was the great development of privateering. ' The privateers,' writes Sir J. K. Laughton, ' were, in their day, a most important item in the naval strength of the country, with this additional and especial merit, that they were most numerous and strongest when the royal navy was weakest or most severely taxed. ... In looking for valuable services of privateers we find them not in the periods of our national glory, not during the wars of the French Revolution, when Howe and Hood and Nelson crushed the French navy; not during the later years of the Seven Years' War, when Hawke and Boscawen and Saunders grandly maintained England's supremacy; but during the