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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

The progress of the Portuguese along the coast of Africa, their discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in 1487, and their accomplishment of the first regular voyage to India by that route twelve years after, with the still more important discoveries of Columbus, opened a new and boundless field for the extension of navigation, commerce, and manufactures. The subsequent discoveries of our own countrymen, in their pursuit after a North-west passage to India1, of the whole coast of North America, had, however, then the most powerful effect on British commerce, and led to the formation of the whale-fisheries of Spitzbergen and Greenland; yet it has been stated, on the authority of Sir William Cecil, a London merchant, that, previously to this, there were not above four merchant-vessels exceeding the burden of 120 tons belonging to the Thames early in the reign of Henry VIII., and that "there was not a city in Europe, having the occupying that London had, that was so slenderly provided with ships." It appears from a record in the Exchequer, that, in 1534, the exports of all England did not exceed 900,000l., and that the imports only amounted to 700,000l2. An act was passed in this reign, to encourage merchants to build ships for their service fit for the purposes of war; such ships being exempted from certain duties, their owners receiving from the government twelve shillings per ton per month for their use when occasion needed. This must have caused a considerable increase in the burden of merchant-vessels.

1 See Saturday Magazine, Vol. III., p.209.
2 Ibid Vol. II., p.185.

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