emanated from these three; but, as some foreign, particularly French, frigate-classes may occasionally come before us, it may render the subject more intelligible, if we here introduce a few general remarks on the system of classification adopted in the principal foreign navies.
It is difficult to say, whether the English or the French were the first to divide their navy into rates. We can only state, that in the year 1670, the French navy appears to have consisted of five rangs, or rates, each composed of several ordres, or classes ; and that their first-class first-rates mounted 120 guns, and measured 1500 tons French; which, allowing for the difference both of weight and of casting the tonnage in the two countries, may be about equal to 1800 tons English. As a substitute for their sixth-rate, they had a class which they called frégates légères, or little frigates. Probably the name, without an adjunct, was applied to some ships of the fifth-rate, whose exterior form and manner of carrying their guns may have justified the appellation. Next to frégates légères were fireships ; then barcalongas, and pinks. Of the composition of the Spanish navy, in these early times, we can say nothing: we can only remark upon their ships, as they appeared at sea, or in English ports.
The Dutch seem to have divided their navy into six (some accounts say, seven) rates. Their heaviest ships, of which there were but a few, are represented to have mounted 92 or 94 guns, of which a portion were probably swivels. The shallowness of their waters cramped the Hollanders in the dimensions of their ships, and compelled them to adopt, in their larger vessels especially, a flatter floor and bluffer contour than characterized the vessels of other nations, of their southern neighbours in particular.
The great fault attributed to British men-of-war, at the latter part of the seventeenth, and early part of the eighteenth century, was their insufficient size, in reference to the guns they were forced to carry. Hence, their lower batteries could seldom be used in blowing weather; and they sailed and worked heavily. But even this had its advantages; for the British generally recaptured their ships; whenever they formed part of an enemy's chased fleet: and it is remarkable that, of the Comte de Forbin's fleet, which, in 1708, attempted a descent on Scotland, the only ships, which perished in the gale that happened, were such as had been taken from the English.
The foreign builders appear to have allowed a greater width to the portholes, and to the spaces between them. This, in a given number of portholes and spaces, necessarily added to the length of the vessel; and as that increased length required a proportionate breadth, a general increase of bulk, and thence of tonnage, became the consequence. The ship was thus rendered more buoyant, and her lower battery stood higher from the water; advantages which were sensibly felt by the British, in
^ back to top ^