Category Archives: Political

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1865 – The Tribune

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard HMS Tribune.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1865 – The Tribune

CAPTAIN Lord Gillford, afterwards Lord Clanwilliam, was one of the finest seamen, and his ship was one of the smartest ships, in the Service. The Tribune was what we used to call a jackass frigate. She was pierced for 31 guns, was of [1570] tons burthen, and 300 h.p.; not that anything could ever induce the captain to use steam.

Before I joined the Tribune, she had sprung her foremast, so she went up the Fraser River to cut a new spar out of the forest. Such things were done in those days. But on the way up she grounded on the bar. Everything; guns, coal, stores; was taken out of her; anchors were got out; and every effort was made to warp her off. Still she would not move. In this desperate pass, when every man in the ship, except one, was hauling on the purchases, it is on record that when the chaplain put his weight on the rope, away she came. The power of the man of God is remembered even unto this day. Then the Tribune sailed up the river, and they cut a new spar, set it up and rigged it, and she came home with it.

Captain Lord Gillford prided himself on the speed of his ship under sail. He had fitted her with all sorts of extra gear, such as they had in the famous tea-clippers. His tacks and sheets were much thicker than was usual; strengthening pieces were fitted to the sails; there were gaffs for topgallant backstays, and extra braces. His order book was a curiosity. Day after day it bore the same entry: “The course. Carry sail” Sailing from Vancouver to Valparaiso, the Tribune beat the Sutlej, another fine sailing ship commanded by another first-class seaman, by two days.

Captain Lord Gillford’s orders were that sail should never be shortened without his permission. One night when it was blowing hard I went down to the captain’s cabin to ask him if we might take in the topmast studding-sail. The ship was then heeling over. The captain stuck one leg out of his cot and put his foot against the side of the ship. “I don’t feel any water here yet,” says he, and sent me on deck again. The next moment the sail blew away.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1865 – Vancouver

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard HMS Tribune.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1865 – Vancouver

Having landed the Queen of the Sandwich Islands at Panama, as I have said, about the middle of June, [1865], we left the Bay early in July, and proceeded to Vancouver, arriving there in the middle of August. There we remained until early in December.

I was placed in charge of a working party from the Clio, to cut a trail through the virgin forest of magnificent timber with which the island was then covered. I was pleased enough to receive an extra shilling a day check-money. Where the flourishing town of Victoria now stands, there were a few log huts, closed in by gigantic woods. When I revisited the country recently, I found a tramway running along what was once my trail, and I met several persons who remembered my having helped to cut it, nearly fifty years before.

I believe that Canada will eventually become the centre of the British Empire; for the Canadians are a splendid nation, gifted with pluck, enterprise and energy.

The free forest life was bliss to a boy of my age. To tell the truth, we were allowed to do pretty well what we liked. In the Clio, which was so easy-going a ship that she was nicknamed “the Privateer.”  We used to go out fishing for salmon with the Indians, in their canoes, using the Indian hook made of shell. To this day the Indians fish for salmon in canoes, using shell hooks. I made a trot, a night-line with a hundred hooks, and hauled up a goodly quantity of fish every morning. I remember that a party of midshipmen (of whom I was not one) from another ship were playing cricket on the island, when a bear suddenly walked out of the forest. The boys instantly ran for a gun and found one in an adjacent cabin, but there were no bullets or caps. So they filled up the weapon with stones from the beach. In the meantime the bear had climbed a tree. The midshipmen levelled the gun at him and fired it with a lucifer match.

We used to go away into the forest deer-shooting, and on one occasion we were lost for a day and a night. It was at this time that I made the acquaintance of the celebrated Mr. Dunsmuir, who became a mayor and a millionaire, simply because he slept one night in the forest; for the sake of coolness. When he awoke in the morning, he found that he had pillowed his head upon a lump of coal. He subsequently obtained an enormous concession of land from the Government and amassed a huge fortune in coal. Two of our lieutenants put money in the scheme. I wrote at the time to my father, asking him to let me have a thousand pounds to invest in the coal business. But he replied affectionately but firmly that, until I ceased to exceed my allowance, he did not think it right that I should embark in a gambling project. The two lucky lieutenants were eventually bought out by Mr. Dunsmuir for a very large sum of money.

I was very happy in the Clio; but, for reasons, it was considered expedient that I should be transferred to the Tribune. Accordingly, I turned over to the Tribune early in December, by the orders of my constant friend, Admiral Charles Eden. He said it would do me good to serve under Captain Lord Gillford. He was right. It did.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

The London Stock Exchange – Principal Stock

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We had a ‘dig’ around in our library on the history of the London Stock Exchange and discovered this interesting article which we will publish in several parts over the next few days – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Stock Exchange

Read other posts in the London series

The London Stock Exchange – Principal Stock

In the Stock Exchange great pains are taken to exclude improper persons, and no one is allowed to transact business there unless admitted a member by ballot. Four days a week the commissioners for the redemption of the national debt attend to purchase stock.

The principal stock is the three per cent, consols, which amount to upwards of 365 millions. The  price of this stock has fluctuated in a singular manner during the last ninety years. In the month of July 1736, it was at 113; in February 1746, at 75; in 1752, at 106; and it continued at various prices, from 70 to 100, until the year 1778. The greatest and most sudden depression that the stocks ever experienced was in the early period of the French revolutionary war. In the month of March [1792] the three per cents, were at 96, and in 1797 they were as low as 48, which is the minimum. Although they had gradually declined every year from the commencement of the war, yet this great depression was owing to the Bank suspending its cash-payments.

As the funds are necessarily much affected by political events, individuals who possess prior or exclusive intelligence will at any time be enabled to speculate with great success. A broker, who, by means of an intelligent Frenchman, with whom he became casually acquainted, obtained the first information of the failure of Lord Macartney’s negotiation with the French Directory, made £16,000 while breakfasting at Batson’s coffee-house, and had he not been timid might have gained half a million; so great was the fluctuation owing to the intelligence being quite unexpected. As real events affect the funds, many efforts have been made to produce the same result by false rumours, and that with great success. The most memorable instance of this was on the 21st of Feb 1815, when a Mr. Random de Berenger, in concert with some stock-jobbing gentlemen, played a singular hoax on the Stock Exchange. Mr. De Berenger had gone to Dover, and personated a French officer just landed with despatches, announcing that in a late action Bonaparte had been killed. After writing to Admiral Foley at Deal, who would have telegraphed the Admiralty had not the foggy weather prevented it, De Berenger set off in a post-chaise to town, drove rapidly past the Royal Exchange spreading the news, which had such an effect that Omnium rose nearly five per cent. The trick was afterwards discovered, and Lord Cochrane, Mr. Butt, and De Berenger were indicted for a conspiracy. They were found guilty; when Lord Cochrane and Mr. Butt were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, and to pay a fine of £1000 each. De Berenger and some others were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, and the Hon. Cochrane Johnstone, who was also indicted, quitted the country. This severe example has not been without benefit, as it is the last great attempt at fabricating false news that has been made, though minor rumours are circulated daily.

A singular custom, worthy only of the cupidity and intolerance of a barbarous age, is connected with the Stock Exchange. The number of Jew brokers admitted is limited to twelve, and these only on condition of purchasing the privilege by a liberal gratuity to the lord mayor for the time being. During the mayoralty of Wilkes, one of the Jew brokers was taken seriously ill, and his lordship is said to have calculated pretty openly on the advantage he would derive from filling up the expected vacancy. The son of the broker meeting the lord mayor, reproached him with wishing his father’s death. “My dear fellow” said Wilkes, with that sarcastic humour which was peculiar to him, “you are completely in error, for I would rather all the Jew-brokers were dead? than your father.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The London Stock Exchange on Wikipedia

The London Stock Exchange Website

The London Stock Exchange – 1801

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We had a ‘dig’ around in our library on the history of the London Stock Exchange and discovered this interesting article which we will publish in several parts over the next few days – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Stock Exchange

Read other posts in the London series

The London Stock Exchange – 1801

Of all the means of making a great fortune, there is none so rapid as by speculating in the public funds. Much has often been gained by bonefide purchases and sales of stock, but the speculation is not thus limited. Individuals who never had a shilling in the funds, or the means of purchasing £100 in the three per cents, will speculate in thousands. The risk is, however, small, and the danger still less, for as they are gambling transactions they are not recoverable in law. A jobber purchases or sells a certain quantity of stock to be received or delivered on such a day. When the time comes, he is not called on for any transfer; all that is required is that he shall pay or receive the difference in the price of that particular stock on the day fixed from that on which the bargain was made; if he has lost, and cannot or will not pay the deficiency, he becomes a defaulter, or, to use the jargon of the Stock Brokers, “is a lame duck,” and is not allowed to enter the Stock Exchange again.

By means of speculating in the funds, we have seen persons who began the world in a humble walk of life, amassing fortunes of nearly a million of money in a few years; and there is the instance of Mr. Rothschild, who a few years ago was a dealer in cloth at Manchester, and now deals in millions contracting for and supplying loans to all the powers of Europe. To the honour of this gentleman it must, however, be said, that although a member of that persecuted people, the Jews, he possesses a heart which does honour to human nature, and that to him every increase of wealth is but an additional means of doing good.

The amount of the national debt, which, during the long war with France, rendered new loans continually necessary, increased the business of the funds so much that the house in Change Alley, where it was transacted, became too limited, and in [1801] it was determined to build a more commodious house for the purpose. Capel-court, once the residence of Sir William Capel, lord mayor in 1504, was fixed upon as a convenient situation for the purpose.

The Stock Exchange, the first stone of which was laid on the 18th of May, [1801], was raised by subscription: the plate which has been placed in the first stone bears an inscription, which after ages may consider as a questionable proof of national prosperity, although evidently intended to record it. Of national good faith it is certainly an indisputable memorial. It states that the public funded debt was then upwards of five hundred millions. There is nothing in the building itself to excite particular attention, although it is conveniently and handsomely fitted up; but there is no place in the world where money transactions are carried on to such an extent, an assertion which will scarcely be doubted by those who consider the fluctuations which must occur in a funded property, which, on the 5th of January [1823], amounted to £796,530,144 15s 4d.

Although the number of persons, among whom this sum is subdivided, is varying almost every day, so as to render any calculation uncertain, yet, in a recent investigation, it was found that there were 283,958 persons who had shares of various amounts in the public funds; and that it requires upwards of twentysix millions yearly to pay the dividends. Of the various fundholders more than 90,000 receive a dividend not exceeding £10 a year; nearly 100,000 more a sum not exceeding £100 per annum; and there are 215 persons who receive an annual income of £4000 and upwards from the funds. This statement is exclusive of those persons who have deposited money in the savings’ banks, the number of which is immense.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The London Stock Exchange on Wikipedia

The London Stock Exchange Website

The Bank of England – Part III

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Part III of our series on the origins of the Bank of England – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

Read other posts in the London series

The Bank of England – Part III

A more imminent danger threatened the bank, which had been steadily increasing in prosperity and consequently in capital, during the fanatical riots of [1780]. Fortunately, this great establishment was not the object of attack at the commencement of those daring outrages; for, unprepared as it then was, it is almost certain that it would have been entirely despoiled.  Dr. Johnson, in his Letters to Mrs. Thrale, when giving what he calls a journal of “a week’s defiance of government,” unhesitatingly states that if the mob had attacked the bank “at the height of the panic,” on Tuesday instead of the Wednesday night, “when no resistance had been prepared, they might have carried irrecoverably away whatever they had found.”  Wilkes headed the party who drove the rioters away, and this was the first effectual resistance they encountered. Since this period, a guard of soldiers has been regularly sent every evening from the Horse Guards, or from the Tower, and lodged in the bank for its protection.

The punctuality with which the interest on the bank stock, and the dividends on government securities were paid, and the facility with which the principal is obtained, soon pointed out the funds as the most convenient, and often the most advantageous modes of investing capital, and to such an extent was this done, that in the year [1791], when government called for a return of the unclaimed dividends which had accumulated in the bank, they were found to amount to £660,000 of which half a million was advanced to government without interest.

When the French revolution, that pivot on which so much of European history turns, was extending its principles to neighbouring states, and strong symptoms of attachment to them had been, manifested in England, the stability of the government, and consequently of the bank, began to be questioned, and several persons withdrew their confidence and their money from the public funds; this had been done to such an extent, that in the year 1797, the bank felt some difficulty in obtaining the requisite quantity of specie, which had been drained out of the country by loans and subsidies, to meet the demand, The bank had also been so liberal in its advances to government, that it had felt some inconveniences on this account; but the minister still sued for aid, and the directors, though protesting against further advances, could not refuse them. At length, when the wants of the government and the demands of the public threatened to drain the bank of its last guinea, the directors sent a deputation to Mr. Pitt, then Premier, on the 24th of February, 1797, to represent the state in which they had been placed, and to ask him “how far he thought the bank might go on paying cash, and when he would think it necessary to interfere before their cash was so reduced as might be detrimental to the immediate service, of the state.” Mr. Pitt was not the minister to hesitate on such an occasion; a meeting of the Privy Council was held two days afterwards, who passed an order, declaring it necessary for the public service, that “the Directors of the Bank of England should forbear issuing any cash in payment until the sense of Parliament could he taken on the subject.”

This order was extensively circulated, accompanied by a notice from the Secretary of the bank, stating, “that the general concerns of the bank were in the most affluent and prosperous situation.” The merchants and bankers of London, with that generous confidence which has always marked their conduct, again assembled, as in the year 1745, to declare their confidence in the Bank of England, and their determination to receive bank notes on all occasions. Upwards of four thousand of the most eminent mercantile men in London signed this declaration, but the panic had spread to the country, and a great shock was given to public credit. A parliamentary committee was soon afterwards appointed to examine into the affairs of the bank, when it was ascertained that the company had a surplus of £3,826,890 beyond all their debts, exclusive of a sum of £11,686,800. due to them from government, forming a total net capital of £15,513,690.  

This assurance was deemed satisfactory, though it was some time before the funds recovered the shock they had received. In consequence of cash payments being abolished, it became necessary to substitute a paper currency in notes of smaller sums than had been hitherto issued. Until the year [1759] no bank notes of less than £20. had been circulated, but in that year, others of £10 and £15 were used; in [1790], bank notes for £5 were put in circulation, and in 1797, when it was no longer obligatory on the bank to pay in cash, notes of £1 and £2 were issued, and continued in circulation until the year [1822], when they were wholly withdrawn, and cash payments resumed, an event which sadly disconcerted political economists, who declared that a return to cash payments was totally impossible. Although in 1797, a paper succeeded a metallic currency, yet the actual amount of bank notes in circulation in the month of December in that year did not exceed those issued in February by more than two millions, and the sum was altogether less, by about three millions, than in [1795].

The run on the Bank, as the call for cash in 1797 is generally called, reduced the issues of bank notes very considerably; and at the moment that the Bank was relieved from the necessity of cash payments, the amount in circulation was only £8,601,964. From this period, however, the issues were continually augmented, and they appear to have reached their maximum in the month of August, [1817], when the Bank had actually in circulation, bank-notes and bank post bills, to the amount of £30,099,908.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives

A Diary of Two Parliaments – 14 May 1874

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Over the coming weeks and months we are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880.

Catch-up with other posts in this series here, or search our library here.

The Disraeli Parliament 1874-1880

 Thursday 14 May 1874

GERMS OF OBSTRUCTION
How Acts of Parliament are Drafted

Gladstone, on his way to the Royal banquet at Windsor, looked in and remained for an hour on the front Opposition bench, the centre of a continually changing group of old colleagues and friends.

Disraeli was not present during the evening, and the House generally was unusually empty, there being but little attraction in a list of orders of the day. The House gave up the greater portion of the night to consideration of the Juries Bill. In the course of the debate a curious instance occurred of the lax manner in which Acts of Parliament are drafted. Clause 5 of the Bill provides for the total exemption from service on juries of (amongst other persons) “all peers, members of Parliament, and judges, all serjeants, barristers-at-law’ etc.”

In the scrutiny which the Bill had undergone at the hands of private members, the closeness of which was testified to by eight pages of amendments, it apparently had not occurred to any one that the term “all serjeants” included certain policemen, soldiers, marines, and others, whom it certainly was not the intention of the Legislature to exempt from service on juries. At the last moment, just as the clause was after long discussion being put to the vote, Thompson pointed out the error, and, amid some laughter, the phrase was amended by the addition of the words “at law.”

 

Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885

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Further Reading and External Links

The Author – Henry W Lucy on Wikipedia

Benjamin Disraeli on Wikipedia

A Diary of Two Parliaments – 13 May 1874

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Over the coming weeks and months we are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880.

Catch-up with other posts in this series here, or search our library here.

The Disraeli Parliament 1874-1880

 Wednesday 13 May 1874

GERMS OF OBSTRUCTION
The County Franchise Bill

The second reading of the Household Franchise (Counties) Bill moved by Trevelyan in a clever speech, a considerable portion of which was addressed personally to Disraeli, who, unfortunately, was not present to hear it. Salt moved the rejection of the Bill, not so much on the ground of actual hostility to its principle, as because he believed the time was not opportune for the suggested reform. Burt supported the motion in an able maiden speech, brief, but weighty in argument, delivered with a considerable degree of natural grace, and losing nothing by the curiously broad dialect in which it was spoken. Newdegate was unusually moved by the proposal further to amend the representative system, and declared in sad, slow tones, that Trevelyan was one of those who think “The Constitution was intended For nothing else but to be mended.”

Forster congratulated Trevelyan upon the fact that the extension of the franchise in counties was now reduced to a mere question of time. For his own part, he believed it had become a pressing question, and it was high time it was settled. In an eloquent and warmly spoken passage, he declared that the reason why England had advanced by means of reform instead of revolution was because new social powers as they rose were taken within the precincts of the Constitution, and made a portion of it. Such a new power was the agricultural labourer, who had been deaf and dumb, but who, thanks to a cheap press, and to extended means of education, could now hear and speak. Murmurs from the Ministerial benches had formed a running commentary upon this declaration; but when Forster referred to Arch as “that eminent man,” and expressed a desire, in the interests of the Legislature and the country, that he were sitting in the House of Commons, Conservative indignation burst forth in derisive laughter and emphatic shouts of “No, no!”

Disraeli, who had entered the House whilst Salt was speaking, rose at four o’clock, the House being densely crowded, and was received with loud cheers. He spoke in his quietest manner, till he came to refer in sarcastic terms to the “passionate fervour” with which Forster had addressed the House, and to the “look of severe scrutiny” with which he had regarded him (the Premier) when he touched on the question of land tenure. Roused by the cheers and laughter these personal thrusts elicited from Conservatives, Disraeli proceeded with increased animation to “look at the question in a more business-like way.” His “great objection,” disclosed in the course of his remarks, was that it was not possible, or at least not desirable, to en franchise large bodies of the people without at the same time revising the distribution of political power. A deep silence fell over the Conservative benches when the Premier declared that in all such revisions the country had been approaching the system of electoral districts, and that in all future changes of a similar character further approaches must be made in the same direction. But the cheering recommenced when the right hon. gentleman, whilst acknowledging the inevitableness of the consequence, declared, though in comparatively mild terms, his personal objection to be an agent in hastening its approach, and cited figures to show that it would, when it came, strike a fatal blow at the system of borough representation.

After some words from Trevelyan the House divided, and the Bill was rejected by 287 votes against 173, the announcement of the majority being hailed by loud cheering from the Conservative side.

Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885

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Further Reading and External Links

The Author – Henry W Lucy on Wikipedia

Benjamin Disraeli on Wikipedia

A Diary of Two Parliaments – Sunday Closing – 1874

Over the coming weeks and months we are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880.

Catch-up with other posts in this series here, or search our library here.

Catch-up with posts in Lord Charles Beresford series here or search our library here.

The Disraeli Parliament 1874-1880

 Friday 8 May 1874

GERMS OF OBSTRUCTION

Major O’Gorman on Sunday Closing

Mr. Richard Smyth, endeavouring to obtain the prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors in Ireland on the Sunday, led to the disclosure of a wide difference of opinion on the subject amongst the Irish members.

Lord Charles Beresford was specially emphatic in his opposition to the proposal. Hicks Beach declined to adopt the motion on the part of the Government, and an attempt further to carry the discussion was met by cries of “Divide.” On Major O’Gorman presenting himself, however, he was received with loud cheers, and was listened to with profound attention, as beginning by addressing the Speaker as “Mr. Chairman,” and occasionally lapsing into use of the word “gentlemen!” he warmly opposed the motion.

“For ever let the Heavens fall,” said the Major, with hand solemnly uplifted, but “never let it be said that you introduced into Ireland an Act which prevented a poor man going out for a walk on a Sunday  – perhaps a hot Sunday, may be a wet Sunday – with his family, and that he could not get a drop of beer, or porter, or whisky. It is creating one law for the rich and another for the poor, and that” he added, sinking back into his seat, “is a thing I never will stand.”

When the cheers and laughter which this oration evoked had subsided, the House divided, and the motion was rejected by 201 votes against 110.

Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885

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Further Reading and External Links

The Author – Henry W Lucy on Wikipedia

Benjamin Disraeli on Wikipedia

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Ninepin Jack

 

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard HMS Marlborough (The Ship of Happiest Memory) as a naval cadet from the age of 14.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Ninepin Jack

“When our admiral” (Sir William Martin) “was captain of the Prince Regent, which was considered the smartest ship in the Navy, he brought all her times of all her drills to the grand old Marlborough along with him; and you know, my lord, that he allowed us six months to get our good old ship in trim before we drilled along with the Fleet; but we started to drill along with the Fleet after three months, and were able to beat them all.”

“Now, my lord,” continues Mr. Lewis, “I come to one of the smartest bits of our drill. When we were sailing in the Bay of Naples under all possible sail, our captain wanted to let the world see what a smart ship he had and what a smart lot of men was under him. From the order ‘Shift topsails and courses make all possible sail again’ ” – which really means that the masts were stripped of sails and again all sails were hoisted –  “Admiral’s time 13 minutes, our time 9 minutes 30 seconds. All went without a hitch, within 400 yards of our anchorage.”

Mr. Lewis proceeds to recount a very daring act of his own. “We were sending down upper yards and topgallant mast one evening, and it was my duty to make fast the lizard. But I could only make fast one hitch, so I slid down the mast rope and it turned me right over, but I managed to catch the lizard and hold on to it, and so saved the mast from falling on the hundred men that were in the gangway. No doubt if it had fallen on them it would have killed a good many …”

What happened was that Lewis, in the tearing speed of the evolution, not having time properly to secure the head of the mast as it was coming down, held the fastening in place while clinging to the mast rope and so came hurtling down with the mast. He adds that he “felt very proud” – and well he might – when the captain “told the admiral on Sunday that I was the smartest man aloft that he had ever seen during his time in the Service.” He had an even narrower escape. “I was at the yard-arm when we had just crossed” (hoisted into place). “I was pulling down the royal sheet and someone had let it go on deck, and I fell backwards off the yard head-foremost. I had my arm through the strop of the jewel block, and it held me, and dropped me in the topmast rigging, and some of my topmates caught me.” Mr. Lewis himself was one of the smartest and quickest men aloft I have ever seen during the whole of my career. The men of other ships used to watch him going aloft. “My best time,” he writes; and I can confirm his statement; “from ‘way aloft’ to the topgallant yard-arm was 13 seconds, which was never beaten.” It was equalled, however, by Ninepin Jones on the foretopgallant yard.

The topgallant and royal yard men started from the maintop, inside of the topmast rigging, at the order “‘way aloft.” The height to be run from the top, inside of the topmast rigging, to the topgallant yard-arm was 64 feet. From the deck to the maintop was 67 feet. At one time, the upper-yard men used to start from the deck at the word “away aloft”; but the strain of going aloft so high and at so great a speed injured their hearts and lungs, so that they ascended first to the top, and there awaited the order “away aloft”.

The orders were therefore altered. They were: first, “midshipmen aloft,” when the midshipmen went aloft to the tops; second, “upper-yard men aloft,” when the upperyard men went aloft to the tops, and one midshipman went from the top to the masthead.

At the evening or morning evolution of sending down or up topgallant masts and topgallant and royal yards, only the upper-yard men received the order, “upper-yard men in the tops.” The next order was “away aloft,” the upperyard men going to the masthead.

At general drill, requiring lower- and topsail-yard men aloft, as well as upper-yard men, the orders were: first, “midshipmen aloft”; then “upper-yard men in the tops”; then, “away aloft,” when the lower- and topsail-yard men went aloft to the topsail and lower yards, and the upper-yard men went aloft to the masthead.

These arrangements applied of course only to drill. In the event of a squall or an emergency, the men went straight from deck to the topgallant and royal yards.

Mr. Lewis’s performance was a marvel. Writing to me fifty years afterwards, he says:; “I think, my lord, it would take me a little longer than 13 seconds now to get to the maintopgallant yard-arm and run in again without holding on to anything, which I have done many hundreds of times.”

The men would constantly run thus along the yards – upon which the jackstay is secured, to which again the sail is bent, so that the footing is uneven – while the ship was rolling. Sometimes they would fall, catching the yard, and so save themselves.

The- foretopgallant-yard man, Jones, was as smart as Lewis, though he never beat Lewis’s record time. These two men were always six to ten ratlines ahead of the other yard men, smart men as these were. One day Jones lost a toe aloft. It was cut clean off by the fid of the foretopgallant mast. But Jones continued his work as though nothing had happened, until the drill was ended, when he hopped down to the sick bay. He was as quick as ever after the accident; and the sailors called him Ninepin Jack. 

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Sail-Drill

 

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard HMS Marlborough (The Ship of Happiest Memory) as a naval cadet from the age of 14.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Sail-Drill

Sail Drill In those days, the master was responsible for the navigation of the ship. He was an old, wily, experienced seaman, who had entered the Service as master’s mate. (When I was midshipman in the Defence, the master’s assistant was Richard W. Middleton, afterwards Captain Middleton, chief organiser of the Conservative Central Office.) The master laid the course and kept the reckoning. As steam replaced sails, the office of master was transferred to the navigating officer, a lieutenant who specialised in navigation. The transformation was effected by the Order in Council of 26th June, [1867].

The sail-drill in the Marlborough was a miracle of smartness and speed. The spirit of emulation in the Fleet was furious.  The fact that a certain number of men used to be killed, seemed to quicken the rivalry. Poor Inman, a midshipman in the Marlborough, a great friend of mine, his foot slipping as he was running down from aloft, lost his life. His death was a great shock to me. The men would run aloft so quickly that their bare feet were nearly indistinguishable. Topmasts and lower yard were sent down and sent up at a pace which to-day is inconceivable. I once saw the captain of the maintop hurl himself bodily down from the cap upon a hand in the top who was slow in obeying orders. That reckless topman was Martin Schultz, a magnificent seaman, who was entered by the captain direct from the Norwegian merchant service, in which he had been a mate.

Mr. George Lewis, an old topmate of mine, who was one of the smartest seamen on board H.M.S. Marlborough, has kindly sent to me the following interesting details with regard to the times of sail-drill and the risks incidental to the evolutions.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project