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million. How this ship happened to be so rich, we are not informed; but as it was a cruiser, it is probable the rich lading was the accumulated plunder of many prizes. Then following the unfortunate Rupert, whose fleet by storms and battles was now reduced to five ships, into Carthagena, he demanded leave of the Spanish governor to attack him in the harbour, but received the same answer which had been returned before by the Portuguese: “That they had a right to protect all ships that came into their dominions; that if the admiral were forced in thither, he should find the same security; and that he required him not to violate the peace of a neutral port.” Blake withdrew upon this answer into the Mediterranean; and Rupert then leaving Carthagena entered the port of Malaga, where he burnt and sunk several English merchant ships. Blake, judging this to be an infringement of the neutrality professed by the Spaniards, now made no scruple to fall upon Rupert's fleet in the harbour of Malaga, and having destroyed three of his ships, obliged him to quit the sea, and take sanctuary at the Spanish court.
In February 1650-1, Blake, still continuing to cruise in the Mediterranean, met a French ship of considerable force, and commanded the captain to come on board, there being no war declared between the two nations. The captain when he came, was asked by him, whether “he was willing to lay down his sword, and yield?” which he gallantly refused, though in his enemy's power. Blake, scorning to take advantage of an artifice, and detesting the appearance of treachery, told him, “that he was at liberty to go back to his ship, and defend it as long as he could.” The captain willingly accepted his offer, and after a fight of two hours, confessed himself conquered, kissed his sword, and surrendered it. In 1652 broke out the memorable war between the two commonwealths of England and Holland; a war, in which the greatest admirals, that perhaps any age has produced, were engaged on each side, in which nothing less was contested than the dominion of the sea, and which was carried on with vigour, animosity, and resolution, proportioned to the importance of the dispute. The chief commanders of the Dutch fleets were Van Trump, De Ruyter, and De Witt, the most celebrated names of their own nation, and who had been perhaps more renowned, had they been opposed by any other enemies. The States of Holland, having carried on their trade without opposition, and almost without competition, not only during the inactive reign of James I. but during the commotions of England, had arrived to that height of naval power, and that affluence of wealth, that, with the arrogance which a long continued prosperity naturally produces, they began to invent new claims, and to treat other nations with insolence, which nothing can defend but superiority of force. They had for some time made uncommon preparations at a vast expence, and had equipped a large fleet, without any apparent danger threatening them, or any avowed design of attacking their neighbours. This unusual armament was not beheld by the English without some jealousy, and care was taken to fit out such a fleet as might secure the
trade from interruption, and the coasts from insults; of this Blake was constituted admiral for nine months. In this situation the two nations remained, keeping a watchful eye upon each other, without acting hostilities on either side, till the 18th of May 1652, when Van Trump appeared in the Downs with a fleet of forty-five men of war. Blake, who had then but twenty ships, upon the approach of the Dutch admiral saluted him with three single shots, to require that he should, by striking his flag, shew that respect to the English, which is due to every nation in their own dominions; to which the Dutchman answered with a broadside; and Blake, perceiving that he intended to dispute the point of honour, advanced with his own ship before the rest of his fleet, that, if it were possible, a general battle might be prevented. But the Dutch, instead of admitting him to treat, fired upon him from their whole fleet, without any regard to the customs of war, or the law of nations. Blake for some time stood alone against their whole force, till the rest of his squadron coming up, the fight was continued from between four and five in the afternoon till nine at night, when the Dutch retired with the loss of two ships, having not destroyed a single vessel, nor more than fifteen men, most of which were on board the Admiral, who, as he wrote to the parliament, was himself engaged for four hours with the main body of the Dutch fleet, being the mark at which they aimed; and, as Whitlock relates, received above a thousand shot. Blake, in his letter, acknowledges the particular blessing and preservation of God, and ascribes his success to the justice of the cause, the Dutch having first attacked him upon the English coast. It is indeed little less, than miraculous that a thousand great shot should not do more execution; and those who will not admit the interposition of Providence, may draw at least this inference from it, that the bravest man is not always in the greatest danger. In July he met the Dutch fishery fleet with a convoy of twelve men of war, all which he took, with 100 of their herring-busses. And in September, being stationed in the Downs with about sixty sail, he discovered the Dutch admirals De Witt and De Ruyter with near the same number, and advanced towards them ; but the Dutch being obliged, by the nature of their coast, and shallowness of their rivers, to build their ships in such a manner that they require less depth of water than the English vessels, took advantage of the form of their shipping, and sheltered themselves behind a flat, called Kentish Knock ; so that the English, finding some of their ships aground, were obliged to alter their course; but perceiving early the next morning that the Hollanders had forsaken their station, they pursued them with all the speed that the wind, which was weak and uncertain, allowed, but found themselves unable to reach them with the bulk of their fleet, and therefore detached some of the lightest frigates to chace them. These .came so near as to fire upon them about three in the afternoon; but the Dutch, instead of tacking about, hoisted their sails, steered toward their own coast, and finding themselves the next day followed by the whole Fnglish fleet, retired into Goree. The sailors were eager to attack them in their own harbours ; but a council of war being convened, it was judged impru
dent to hazard the fleet upon the shoals, or to engage in any important enterprize without a fresh supply of provisions. That in this engagement the victory belonged to the English is beyond dispute, since, without the loss of one ship, and with no more than forty men killed, they drove the enemy into their own ports, took the rear admiral and another vessel, and so discouraged the Dutch admirals, who had not agreed in their measures, that De Ruyter, who had declared against hazarding a battle, desired to resign his commission, and De Witt, who had insisted upon fighting, fell sick, as it was supposed, with vexation. But how great the loss of the Dutch was, is not certainly known; that two ships were taken they are too wise to deny, but affirm that those two were all that were destroyed. The English, on the other side, affirm that three of their vessels were disabled at the first encounter, that their numbers on the second day were visibly diminished, and that on the last day they saw three or four ships sink in their flight. De Witt being now discharged by the Hollanders as unfortunate, and the chief command restored to Van Trump, great preparations were made for retrieving their reputation, and repairing their losses. Their endeavours were assisted by the English themselves, now made factious by success ; the men who were intrusted with the civil administration being jealous of those whose military commands had procured so much honour, lest they who raised them should be eclipsed by them. Such is the general revolution of affairs in every state; danger and distress produce WOL. IX. E