(a) From the Delegates to the Admiralty, April i8, 1797. (Quoted in C. Gill, The Naval Mutinies of 1797, p. 362.)

To the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.

My Lords,

We, the seamen of His Majesty's Navy, take the liberty of addressing your Lordships in an humble petition, shewing the many hardships and oppressions we have laboured under for many years, and which we hope your Lordships will redress as soon as possible. We flatter ourselves that your Lordships, together with the nation in general, will acknowledge our worth and good services, both in the American War as well as the present; for which good service your Lordships' petitioners do unanimously agree in opinion, that their worth to the nation, and laborious industry in defence of their country, deserve some better encouragement than that we meet with at present, or from any we have experienced. We, your petitioners, do not boast of our good services for any other purpose than that of putting you and the nation in mind of the respect due to us, nor do we ever intend to deviate from our former character; so far from anything of that kind, or that an Englishman or men should turn their coats, we likewise agree in opinion, that we should suffer double the hardships we have hitherto experienced before we would suffer the crown of England to be in the least imposed upon by that of any other power in the world; we therefore beg leave to inform your Lordships of the grievances which we at present labour under.

We, your humble petitioners, relying that your Lordships will take into early consideration the grievances of which we complain, and do not in the least doubt but your Lordships will comply with our desires, which are every way reasonable.

The first grievance we have to complain of is that our wages are too low, and ought to be raised, that we might be the better able to support our wives and families in a manner comfortable, and whom we are in duty bound to support as far as our wages will allow, which, we trust, will be looked into by your Lordships, and the Honourable House of Commons in Parliament assembled.

We, your petitioners, beg that your Lordships will take into consideration the grievances of which we complain, and now lay before you.

First, That our provisions be raised to the weight of sixteen ounces to the pound, and of a better quality; and that our measures may be the same as those used in the commercial code of this country.

Secondly, That your petitioners request your Honours will be pleased to observe, there should be no flour served while we are in harbour in any port whatever under the command of the British flag; and also, that there might be granted a sufficient quantity of vegetables of such kind as may be the most plentiful in the ports to which we go; which we grievously complain and lay under the want of.

Thirdly, That your Lordships will be pleased seriously to look into the state of the sick on board His Majesty's ships, that they may be better attended to, and that they may have the use of such necessaries as are allowed for them in time of sickness; and that these necessaries be not on any account embezzled.

Fourthly, That your Lordships will be so kind as to look into this affair, which is nowise unreasonable; and that we may be looked upon as a number of men standing in defence of our country; and that we may in somewise have grant and opportunity to taste the sweets of liberty on shore, when in any harbour, and when we have completed the duty of our ship, after our return from sea; and that no man may encroach upon his liberty, there shall be a boundary limited, and those trespassing any further, without a written order from the commanding officer, shall be punished according to the rules of the navy; which is a natural request, and congenial to the heart of man, and certainly to us, that you make the boast of being the guardians of the land.

Fifthly, That if any man is wounded in action, his pay be continued until he is cured and discharged; and if any ship has any real grievances to complain of, we hope your Lordships will readily redress them, as far as in your power, to prevent any disturbances.

It is also unanimously agreed by the fleet that, from this day, no grievances shall be received, in order to convince the nation at large that we know when to cease to ask, as well as to begin, and that we ask nothing but what is moderate, and may be granted without detriment to the nation, or injury to the service.

Given on board the Queen Charlotte, by the delegates of the Fleet, the 18th day of April, 1797.

(Signed by 32 delegates, two from each ship.)

(b) The First Project of Reforms. (Gill, p. 368.)

Having taken into our consideration the petitions transmitted by your Lordship from the crews of several of H.M. Ships under your command, and having the strongest desire to attend to all the complaints of the seamen in H.M. Navy, and to grant them every just and reasonable redress, and having considered the difference in the prices of the necessaries of life at this time and at the period when the pay of the seamen was established; we do hereby require and direct your Lordship to take the speediest method of communicating to the fleet that

We have resolved to recommend it to His Majesty to propose to parliament to increase the wages of the seamen in His Majesty's service, in the following proportions, viz.: to add four shillings per month to the wages of petty officers and able seamen, three shillings per month to the wages of ordinary seamen, and two shillings per month to the wages of landsmen; that

We have also resolved that seamen wounded in action shall be continued in pay until their wounds are healed or until and being declared incurable they shall receive a pension, or shall be received into Greenwich Hospital; and

Having the most perfect confidence in the zeal, loyalty and courage of all the seamen in the fleet, so generally expressed in their petitions, and in their earnest desire of serving their country with that spirit which always so eminently distinguished British seamen,

We have come to this resolution the more readily, that the seamen may have as early as possible an opportunity of shewing their good disposition by returning immediately to their duty, as it may be necessary that the fleet should speedily put to sea to meet the enemies of their country. Given under our hands at Portsmouth the 18th day of April, 1797,

(Signed) Spencer, Arden, W. Young.

To the Rt. Hon. Lord Bridport, K.B., Admiral of the White,

Commander in Chief of a Squadron of His Majesty's ships employed in the Channel Soundings, etc.

By Command of their Lordships,

(Signed) W. Marsden.

Admiral Lord Bridport delivered to R. Admiral Pole at Portsmouth, 18th April at past 4 p.m.

(c) The 'Total and Final Answer' of the Seamen (April 22). (Gill, The Naval Mutinies of 1797, p. 373.)

To the Right honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.

We, the seamen and marines in and belonging to His Majesty's fleet now lying at Spithead, having received with the utmost satisfaction, and with hearts full of gratitude, the bountiful augmentation of pay and provisions which your Lordships have been pleased to signify shall take place in future in His Majesty's royal navy, by your order which has been read to us this morning by the command of Admiral Lord Bridport;

Your Lordships having thus generously taken the prayer of our several petitions into your serious consideration, you have given satisfaction to every loyal and well disposed seaman and marine belonging to His Majesty's fleets: and, from the assurance which your Lordships have given us respecting such other grievances as we thought right to lay before you, we are thoroughly convinced, should any real grievance or other cause of complaint arise in future, and the same be laid before your Lordships in a regular manner, we are perfectly satisfied that your Lordships will pay every attention to a number of brave men who ever have, and ever will be, true and faithful to their King and Country.

But we beg leave to remind your Lordships, that it is a firm resolution that, until the flour in port be removed, the vegetables and pensions augmented, the grievances of private ships redressed, an act passed, and His Majesty's gracious pardon for the fleet now lying at Spithead be granted, that the fleet will not lift an anchor: and this is the total and final answer.

Earl Spencer to Nepeanl1 (Gill, The Naval Mutinies of 1797, p. 379.)

29th May.
Dear Nepean,

I am sorry I cannot yet give you such a report as I could wish of the state of things here; indeed it is such at present that I have but very slender hopes of its taking a good turn. We lost no time in distributing the King's declaration, with the proper instructions to the several officers to explain very clearly the determination with which we came here, and the object of our coming. The immediate effect of it was pretty good, as about seven ships of those at the Nore hoisted Admiral Buckner's colours, but being frigates and small ships they could not continue to keep them up for fear of the large ships, particularly the Sandwich and Inflexible, the latter of these two being the most violent and desperate, with her guns loaded up to the muzzle, ready and apparently very desirous of making use of them. The Clyde and San Fiorenzo were to have slipped and gone to Harwich in the night, but by some mistake about the captains meeting to concert the plan, and the want of pilots, those here being intimidated and refusing to act, this did not take place. And it is perhaps fortunate that it did not, as today the Director's people have communicated with them a promise to support them. Should they keep their word, we shall have to reckon among our friends the Director, the Clyde, the San Fiorenzo, Iris, Ganges, Serapis, Brilliant, and Pylades, besides the crews of the Espion and Niger in the harbour, who are disposed (especially the latter) to do anything either afloat or ashore that may be wished of them - a lucky circumstance, as they will, in case of hostilities, be of great use in the dockyard and garrison.

1 Secretary of the Admiralty.

In the evening of yesterday the delegates came on shore headed by Parker, and desired to have a conference with the Lords of the Admiralty, having first enquired whether we were the same Lords who had been at Portsmouth. We sent for answer by the Commissioner that we could only communicate through the Admiral; and accordingly the Admiral went out to them at the door and asked what they had to say. Their first point was that we should go on board the Sandwich. This the Admiral said he knew would not be complied with, and after some little time spent in arguing the point with them, they gave it up. They then (Parker always the spokesman) insisted on seeing us, and on our inquiring through the Admiral and Commissioner what they had to say to us, they said they desired the Board would ratify the same terms to them as had been granted at Portsmouth and would promise to take into consideration the other articles which they had since brought forward. We sent them word that we positively refused to concede any other points than those which had already been granted to them in common with the rest of the fleet, and could only see them for the purpose of hearing from them that they had returned to their duty, and had accepted of His Majesty's pardon as offered in his royal declaration. On this they instantly went away, without saying a word more, and soon afterwards took to their boats and went on board. Their behaviour was quiet and orderly: every man's hat was decorated with red or pink ribbon, but there was no huzzaing or music or any other sort of parade or noise. Late last night we sent a message off by Captain Mosse of the Sandwich, who went to sleep on board his ship, saying that we expected to hear of the ships having returned to the regular discharge of their duty by twelve o'clock today.

Sir C. Grey is still here to wait the event, and is prepared to take the most vigorous means of defence that this situation will afford. He is quite confident of the troops. General Fox seems not so much so.

Yours very sincerely,

^ back to top ^