The American Revolution, 1763-1783

By William Edward Hartpole Lecky; James Albert Woodburn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III.1 THE PROGRESS OF THE CONFLICT (continued).

WITH thirteen colonies in revolt, with France and Spain leagued against her, with Holland already showing signs of hostility, and without a single ally in the world, the position of England seemed nearly desperate. But, although she had for a time lost the empire of the sea, and was outnumbered and overpowered even in her own Channel, yet the admirable seamanship of her sailors was still conspicuous. Great numbers of valuable French and Spanish merchantmen were in different parts of the globe captured by English cruisers, while the English traders, for the most part, escaped. Just before the combined fleets entered the Channel, a fleet of merchantmen from the West Indies, consisting of one hundred and twentyfive sail, and valued at no less than four millions, arrived in safety; and almost immediately after the hostile fleet had left the English coast, another fleet from the East Indies was equally successful.2

A far more enterprising seaman than those who guided the French and Spanish fleets was, however, at this time hovering around the British coasts. Paul Jones, the most daring and successful of the American corsairs, was by birth a Scotchman. He had been on sea since his twelfth year, had been for some time engaged in the slave trade, and had settled down in Virginia in 1773. He was the first man to raise the flag of independence on the Delaware, and in 1777 he had a roving commission in a ship called the 'Ranger.'

____________________
1
Chapter XIV. Lecky's History of England in the Eighteenth Century.
2
Stedman, ii. 163. Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, ii. 275.

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