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The administration of the English Navy, 1649-1660 Hammond, Wayne Neil


This dissertation deals with the administration of the English navy during the turbulent years of the Commonwealth and Protectorate. Through an examination of the strengths and weaknesses of this administration, it attempts to provide some explanation of the variable record of English arms at sea between 1649 and l660. In addition, such an examination seeks to explain why the fleet which espoused the parliamentary cause during the Civil Wars and energetically served the revolutionary regimes of the 1650's so readily acquiesced in the Restoration-of Charles II. To provide such answers, this study examines the various branches of naval administration, their structure, interrelationships and relationship to the political regimes of the period. It considers what sort of men served in each branch, their knowledge of naval affairs and their ability to translate such knowledge into concrete administrative achievements. On a more practical level, it investigates how the administration built, armed and repaired its ships, recruited mariners, fed them and cared for their physical and spiritual welfare, enlisted and trained a corps of competent naval officers, established and maintained dockyards and finally how it financed these operations. From such a study emerges a picture of a naval administration whose effectiveness was inextricably bound up with the political turmoil of the period. In 1649, Parliament erected an administrative structure modelled on that established during the Civil Wars which had already proved itself capable not only of meeting the functional demands of fashioning and maintaining a fighting fleet but also of satisfying and reconciling the divergent factions of a revolutionary era. During the early years of the Commonwealth, however, it was the quality of the personnel involved in naval administration that determined the success of English arms at sea. Admiralty affairs during these years were dominated by men who were not only experienced administrators but also powerful figures in the new republican regime. Effectively executing Admiralty orders were Navy Commissioners who carried both administrative and maritime experience to their office. As long as the Admiralty had access to the inner circles of power, naval needs received governmental attention. The dissolution of the Rump, however, drastically altered such a situation. As staunch republicans, the leading Admiralty Commissioners were removed from office; their successors, while knowledgable of naval affairs, were almost entirely without political influence and quickly became little more than salaried public administrators. Lacking spokesmen in governmental circles, the naval administration could only stand by helplessly as the country embarked on a disastrous war with Spain, Revenue necessary to finance such a conflict, moreover, was denied the navy through the reduction of the monthly assessment and the diversion of naval funds for other purposes. Only through the efforts of the Navy Commissioners in spinning out the limited funds at their disposal was a fleet kept at sea. It was the seamen, however, who suffered most from the navy's growing financial dilemma. Schemes implemented during the first half of the decade to promote their welfare were the first to suffer in the squeeze for funds after 1654. By 1660, the seamen found themselves on short rations, their pay and prize shares months in arrears and with no hope of redress at the hands of the existing regime. The Restoration represented their only hope for an improvement in their lot.

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