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The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume Two]

8. Sandwich's Draft Reply to Banks

8. Sandwich's Draft Reply to Banks


As a letter has lately appeared in print addressed from you to the first Commissioner of the Admiralty, giving your reasons for having declined pursuing your original intention of embarking in the proposed Expedition to the South Seas and as it is very possible that his Lordship may not have leisure or inclination to enter into a paper war upon this occasion; having had opportunities of knowing allmost every circumstance that passed relative to the equipment of the Resolution Sloop of War, on board of which you was to have been recieved as a passenger together with several other gentlemen of learning and ingenuity by whose discoveries as you very properly say the world might reap as much benefit as possible, I cannot refrain from taking the pen in hand, in order to inform the publick of the several facts, which probably occasioned your desisting from an undertaking which you had so much at heart, and from which if it had been executed by you I am perswaded the world would have recieved considerable advantage.

I must begin by desiring you to remember that in your former Voyage in the Endeavour bark you were recieved together with Dr Solander as a passenger on board her, the great Cabbin was in common between the Captain of the ship and yourselves, and all of you in your respective capacities employed your time during the voyage to the illustration of many material points of Navigation, Discovery, and Natural knowledge no complaint whatever was made of want of room or other accommodation, and allmost in your first interview with the noble person at the head of the Admiralty it was agreed that two ships should be prepared instead of one, to compleat the discovery whither there was or was not such a thing as a southern continent, which I must remind you was allways considered as the principal object of the voyage. It was intended that you should embark on board of one of these Ships as before, and there was no idea of enlarging the ship to the quantity of your attendants, but adapting their number to the size of the ship. It was then agreed on all hands, that the opinion of the very great and able Sea officer who lately presided at the Admiralty1 was well founded; namely that the only ship that was fit for a voyage of this nature was a vessel built for the coal trade, those ships being very roomy in their hold and capable of stowing a very large quantity of provisions, being of a construction that will admit of their going on shore with less danger than ships of war, and because they would work with fewer hands, which in an expedition of this nature is no inconsiderable advantage. in this arrangement you readily acquiesced professing yourself not a competent

1 Sir Edward (later Lord) Hawke was First Lord 1766–71.

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judge what ship was the fittest for the service, tho’ you intimated an opinion of your own that a West Indiaman would be more proper, as being built something sharper and more likely to claw off of a lee shore; but no mention was then made of a Man of War, or the least idea suggested from any one that such a ship was calculated for such a voyage. In consequence of this determination Captain Cooke, of whose knowledge and experience in shipping you yourself had the highest opinion, was directed to go all over the Pool and find out two of the fittest ships for this service, he accordingly executed his orders and the two Vessels that were afterwards named the Resolution and Adventure were purchased in consequence of his testimony in their favour. Hitherto everything went on to the general satisfaction of all parties, but no sooner was the Resolution brought to Deptford to be fitted, than you expressed your discontent: upon your first coming on board her you declared she was not fit for a gentleman to embark in, and that if her cabbin was not heightened and considerable alteration made by building on her to make additional conveniences for yourself and your company, you would not proceed upon the voyage. in consequence of this declaration the great Cabbin was heightened, to 6 feet 6 inches and lengthened to 22 feet, which is the same height with the principal cabbin of many of our ships of 74 guns and six foot longer However that you might not be crouded by the Captain in this small Cabbin, he was to have one erected for him above; and that every one of your suite might have ample accommodation a new deck was to be laid over the main deck that they might have seperate cabbins under it. all these alterations were accordingly made, against the express opinion of the principal officers of the Navy; but as Captain Cooke (who had so high an idea of the ship that he thought she could bear all this superstructure) gave it as his opinion that it would not be too much, the weight you had with the noble Lord to whom your letter is addressed occasioned their being over ruled, and the ship was altered and fitted according to your proposal.

We will leave the Resolution at present under the hands of the ship wrights at Deptford who were working upon a plan totally contrary to their opinion, and remind you that during that period several other demands were made by you in which the constant burthen of your song was, that their being complied with or not, should be the decision whither you should or should not proceed on the voyage.

The first demand you made was in a written paper delivered to the first Lord of the Admiralty: it consisted of several articles, the principal tendency of which was, that Captain Cooke should be ordered to follow your directions as to the time of sailing from the several places you should touch at in the course of the Voyage; which was in other words giving you the absolute command of the expedition, and a power of controuling two commanders in his Majesties service; a thing that was never done and I believe never attempted before; but this demand was allso to be a condition of your proceeding or not proceeding on the expedition.

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However in this point you at last acquiesced on its being suggested to you that it would be fatal to the undertaking that the command should be in the hands of persons not under Military Law, and of course not amenable to the Admiralty, but even then the matter was in a manner compromised not very judiciously in my opinion by his Lordship, who agreed that the Captain should be ordered to consult you about the time of sailing from the different places, but not implicitly to follow your directions, if he thought your ideas were inconsistent with the safety of the ship, and the success of the expedition.

This point being finished another difficulty was started namely the time when it was adviseable the ships should sail from the Cape of Good Hope in order to make Cape Circumsision, the two captains probably two of the best navigators in Europe were clear in the same sentiment that they ought to leave the Cape the latter end of October, but still you adhered so strongly to your own opinion,1 that it was thought necessary to have a meeting with these two gentlemen, and another Sea officer whose knowledge in his profession as a seamen [sic] is as indisputable as in that of an officer, which he has had the good fortune to prove most effectually more than once in the face of the Enemy; yet tho’ his opinion was the same you did not alter yours, and you you [sic] parted from the company leaving it still undecided whither you should or should not undertake the voyage, if this point was not given up.

The next request that was pressed upon the first Lord of the Admiralty in the strongest manner was that the officers in the two ships should recieve promotion thro’ your means, and this you urged by suggesting that if they were not to look up to you for preferment you should be considered as nobody, and that it was very hard that you should not be allowed the influence over these gentlemen which such a power would give you. what were the noble Lords reasons for not complying with this request he best can tell, but if a stander by may be allowed to make a conjecture, I should think it very probable that he thought whatever proper influence was to be held over the officers might as well remain in the board of Admiralty as in your hands, and this was another attempt on your part to get possession of the command.

It is now proper to return to the ship at Deptford, where she had been fitted with more conveniences than any ship that ever went to sea, not excepting the Royal Yatchts; I mean conveniencies for passengers; for except the Captain Master and first Lieutenant (and there are three Lieutenants belonging to her) none of the sea officers were allowed a place on the upper deck, but were all crouded between decks into that very place, which you now represent in your letter as unwholesome, and as likely to endanger the lives of the common seamen who may be so unfortunate as to undertake the voyage. In this state the Resolution sailed from Deptford, but alas, Captain Cooke was disappointed whither Mr Banks

1 What Banks's opinion was on this matter does not emerge from the papers.

page 352 was or not he best knows, the ship appeared crank or in other words top heavy, and it was agreed on all hands that she could not safely proceed on the voyage till her upper works were taken off, and till she was reduced to the state she was in when she was a merchantman. Here, Sir, was the period in which you exerted yourself to the utmost to obtain another ship in the room of the Resolution. Your letter shews the sort of ship you had pitched upon, and the reasoning which induced you to wish for the change; but as that reasoning appears to me ill funded I must beg leave in a very few words to controvert the point, and to express a distant idea, that you well knew the alteration could not be agreed to, and that you would then be free from the voyage, which it is not a matter of wonder you should begin to be tired of. You mention as an instance of the impropriety of this ship that she was to go thro seas and climates where Lord Anson narrowly escaped, but does that give any reason to conclude that if she had been with Ld Anson she would not have escaped as well as him; it is a strong presumption that she would, that the Anna Pink a Victualler belonging to that squadron a ship of the same construction as the Resolution did escape those same difficulties, tho’ she had only her own complement of men as a Merchantman, the difficulties Ld Anson had to struggle with in getting round Cape Horn were indisputably owing to his being there at an improper season, but tho’ the Pearl and Severn Men of War were obliged to put back, and the Wager Man of War cast away; tho Admiral Pizarro with a squadron of Spanish Ships of the Line failed in the attempt the Anna Pink a collier like the Resolution, did get round and made her way thro these stormy seas, which were so difficult to resist.

As to your attention to the health of the crew, it shews your humanity, but not your experience with regard to the accommodations, that can be given to Seamen in ships of small dimensions; for you may be assured that the men are full as well lodged as in any of our sixth rates, and as well as in many of our fifth rates, especially those taken from the French or built from their dimensions which are most of them as low between decks as the Resolution, tho’ their compliment amounts in time of war to 220 men. I perceive that your attention extends only to the common men for when conveniences were made for all your suite the officers were stowed as close as herrings in a barrel, and yet you never took their distress into your humane consideration.

After reciting the many circumstances which make this an improper ship for your purpose you seem to close with that which you think the principal one, namely, that the great Cabbin is too small, and yet that great Cabbin after the necessary reduction has been made is higher and as long, tho perhaps not quite so broad as many of our 74 gun ships which have answered the purpose of the Admirals they were allotted to when they commanded considerable fleets, as to your suggestion that a man of war is as likely to take the ground without recieving damage as a collier, I at once throw down my guantlet in that contest, and will give up all pretensions to the least degree of knowledge on the subject page 353 in question, if you can produce one intelligent sea officer, be his connections or party principles what they may,1 who will join you in that opinion, as to your instancing the case of the Emeraid, I own I cannot understand the conclusion you mean to draw from thence, for no one ever said that a man of war never got off a shoal; but every body will say that a man of war that does run upon a shoal has infinitely a worse chance of getting off than a collier which is particularly constructed for taking the ground, but this is a point so universally known that there is no occasion to dwell upon it any longer: I shall therefore only just say that the examples you have cited of the Emerald and Stag are no way applicable to your purpose take them which ever way you please; the former was on shore in a smooth water channel at home not in a distant, strange, desolate or savage coast at the Antipodes; six ships immediately anchored by her, hauled along side, took out her guns, provisions, and stores, and immediate assistance was sent from one of the King's Dock Yards which happened luckily to be at hand; as to the Stag if she was hove up or down at Trincomalé it was in a Port where there were conveniences for fitting ships of burthen, and where undoubtedly they could have as much assistance as in the river Thames. Had either of these ships been in the Endeavour's place on the coast of New Holland they would never have been heard of again: even if they had got off the Rocks they could not have been hauled up to repair their damages as was done by the Endeavour. But before I entirely leave this subject I will beg to reason in your own way, and to cite an example (tho’ I own I do not think it a very conclusive one) which must be allowed to be decisive if your case of the Emerald is so, since the reduction of the Resolution to her original state, I have been told that you wished for an old Indiaman, and that such a one had been offered by the India Company. The Wager man of War belonging to Lord Ansons Squadron run ashore and never got off, she was an old Indiaman, Ergo an old Indiaman is an unfit ship for this Voyage.

As to what you say about the Launceston, I shall not scruple to answer that if the board of Admiralty agrees to that proposal they will shew their ignorance, and exceed the limits of their duty: the Launceston is a forty four gun ship which with a proper repair may be rendered very usefull according to her rate in the Navy in time of war, she would take at least half a year and cost L8000 in repairing and after all would be totally unfit for the service; she could not go to sea with less than 180 men, and could not carry provisions for them for half the time they

1 ’Connections or party principles’: party politics were the curse of the navy in this age, with captains and admirals serving also in parliament, refusing to serve at sea under a ministry not of their own party, or recalled (like Rodney) from a victorious fleet because the ministry had changed. Palliser (a member of the House of Commons and ‘King's Friend’) owed his downfall in 1779 to his foolishness in carrying into the political sphere his differences with Keppel, his commander at the battle of Ushant in the preceding year. Keppel, who belonged to the opposition, refused further service till North's ministry went out in 1782, when he succeeded Sandwich as First Lord.

page 354 might chance to be out: if she had her proper masts anchors and cables that crew would not be sufficient to work her, if the masts &c were diminished she would sail no better than a collier, and be unable to ride out a gale of wind: if she went ashore she would be in great danger of being cast away; besides which if she was fit for the service, it should seem to me very injudicious in the Admiralty to throw away all the expence that has been allready incurred, to bring a new and unnecessary charge upon the publick, and to deprive the Navy of an usefull ship which is in course of repair, and may be employed very effectually hereafter, in the protection of the trade of his Majesties Subjects, and in the annoyance of his Enemies. I cannot conclude without sincerely expressing my concern that you have changed your intention with regard to this expedition, your publick spirit in undertaking so dangerous a voyage, your inattention to any expence which might contribute to the success of the purpose in which you was engaged, and your extensive knowledge as a naturalist, make it to be lamented that you are no longer one of the crew of the Resolution, but it may not be improper to set you right in one particular which you possibly may have misunderstood, and that is that you suppose the ships to have been wholly fitted out for your use, which I own I by no means apprehend to be the case.

The voyage was undertaken under the direction of the Admiralty, who employed an officer in his Majestys service of known experience, to pursue to the utmost a plan of investigating the Southern Hemisphere, in order to ascertain whither there was such a thing as a Southern Continent and it was supposed that this voyage, in addition to the late discoveries made under his direction, would bring this much controverted point to a final decision. You siezed this opportunity of adding a farther object to this usefull undertaking, and were willing to embark in the expedition in order to make improvements in natural knowledge, you was recieved with open arms by the Admiralty, and it is not their fault that you are not now embarked.

The Royal Society and the board of Longitude were allso desirous to make use of this opportunity for the improvement of Astronomy and to make observations that might possibly lead to a discovery of the Longitude and they have fitted out payed, and instructed an able astronomer for each ship, who they think fully capable to answer these desired ends.1

Parlaiment has given their sanction to the expedition by voting a large sum of mony to encourage a person of general knowledge to go with the rest; the person originally intended for this purpose, and who undoubtedly was thoroughly qualified for it, has declined the voyage, but another person has been found who is as well qualified, and more so in one particular, as he carry's his son with him who is a very able

1 This refers to the use’ of the voyage in testing exhaustively the chronometers of John Harrison and John Arnold, as a means of ascertaining longitude. The astronomers were William Wales and William Bayly. See Cook II, pp. xxxviii-xli.

page 355 designer, and will of course be extremely usefull in that part of the business. Upon the whole I hope that for the advantage of the curious part of Mankind, your zeal for distant voyages will not yet cease, I heartily wish you success in all your undertakings, but I would advise you in order to insure that success to fit out a ship yourself; that and only that can give you the absolute command of the whole Expedition; and as I have a sincere regard for your wellfare and consequently for your preservation, I earnestly entreat that that ship may not be an old Man of War or an old Indiaman but a New Collier.
I am &c
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