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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

During this interval, however, various efforts were made by our kings to foster the growth of the mercantile marine, on the aid of which, as we have explained in our account of the Royal Navy*, they were almost solely dependent in time of war. For the promotion of this object, in 1449, Henry the Sixth granted several privileges to one John Traverner of Hull, who had built, according to the old record, the largest ship yet seen in England, which the king was pleased to call, the Grace Dieu Carrack. A licence was granted to this individual to export therein, "wool, tin, skins, leather, and other merchandise, from the ports of London, Southampton, Hull, and Sandwich, belonging either to English or foreign merchants; and freely to carry the said merchandise through the Straits of Marocco into Italy, he paying aliens' duty on the same, and upon firm expectation that he would, in return, bring some such merchandise of other nations as were most wanted in England, as bow-staves, wax, &c., whereby a great increase of the duties and customs to the crown would ensue, and much gain to the subject." Previously to this, according to Hakluyt, from a valuation of some Spanish prizes, we find that the highest value of commercial shipping, was then 30s. sterling per ton, including their "furniture." In this reign, a company of London merchants sent several ships laden with wool, cloth, and other merchandise, valued at 24,000l. (then a very large sum), to trade to the western parts of Marocco, but they were intercepted and taken by the Genoese, who were jealous of our interference with their commerce. The owners were authorized to make reprisals upon the aggressors whenever they had an opportunity, but no steps were taken by the English government in the matter.

British merchant-vessels seem then very rarely to have exceeded the burden of 200 tons. We read, however, in 1455, of a Swedish ship of 1000 tons, with a crew of 120 men, having a licence to trade to English ports; but the computation of tonnage must have been extremely vague.

* See Saturday Magazine, Vol. IV., p.73.

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