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Some account of the

and of the rise and progress of the
commercial Navy of Great Britain. 1834

SOURCE: The Saturday Magazine, No. 117. Supplement, April, 1834

It is generally believed, that duties were first levied on ships and merchandise by Ethelred the Second, who, in 979, ordered that all vessels "coming up to Bilynggesgate," then the heart of the port, should, "if a small ship, give one halfpenny, if a greater one, one penny, for toll." A duty of fourpence was also imposed on ships "lying there."

The attention of the descendants of the Norman conquerors of England was, for a long period, but little directed to the cultivation of the arts of peace; and the commerce of London does not seem to have made any important progress until the dawn of the Reformation. Commerce, however, in the mean while, was making vast strides in other parts of Europe, especially in Italy, which in the eleventh century, from the concurrence of different causes, became the chief scene of its revival. In the twelfth century, the rise of commerce in the north led to the celebrated "Hanseatic league," for its protection and advancement—a treaty to which seventy-two cities are said to have been parties, but which, properly speaking, has ceased to exist for more than two centuries, and is now confined to the cities of Lubec, Hamburg, and Bremen.

The discovery of the Mariner's Compass*, which is generally attributed to Flavio Gioia, a citizen of the once celebrated maritime republic of Amalfi, about the year 1302, gave, as it has been truly said, to man the dominion of the sea, and marked the commencement of a new era in the history of commerce and navigation. The use of the compass rapidly spread, but notwithstanding the advantages which it afforded, navigation, during the remainder of the fourteenth century, continued at a low ebb. "A voyage from the Mediterranean to the Baltic," we are told, was in those days "so formidable an undertaking, that seafaring men accounted it too long to be performed out and home in one season, and gladly embraced the opportunity afforded by the warehouses of Bruges, in the Netherlands, (which owed its increase to its adoption as an intermediate port for vessels from the north and south of Europe,) for landing their cargo from the south, and taking on board another from the north, without the delay of a passage through the Sound. This plan of dividing the voyages to the north, ceased, in a great measure, in the fifteenth century, because the improvement in seamanship made it easy for vessels to proceed direct to Hamburg, Copenhagen, and other northern ports."

* See Saturday Magazine, Vol. III., p.115.

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