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From Extracts, Describing the Ancient Manner of Placing the Kingdom in Military Array; The Various Modes of Defence Adopted for its Safety in Periods of Danger; and The Evidence of Foreigners as to the National Character and Personal Bravery of the English. Taken from Original State Papers of the Sixteenth Century Collected on the Continent, and hitherto Inedited. Anonymous [Rev. William Gunn], London: W. Bulmer and Co., 1803: pp. 15-16; 36-37.



=== VI ===

Ex Codice manuscripto chartaceo Biblioth.
44 No. 1241. p. 203.

AN Account of some Particulars relative to the British Nation.

Incipit “Britannia insula 800 mill. passuum in longitudine.”

THE whole island throughout, contains a vast multitude of men, warlike, resolute, and not only despising but even courting danger. They are particularly accustomed to the use of bows, and in these they possess such consummate skill, that either they shoot their arrows into the mark itself, or scarcely deviate from it four fingers’ breadth; and many will undertake to transfix even a double breast-plate. They have a great number of horses, which, however, are not strong; for, from mildness of climate, and abundance of food, they continually live like neat cattle in the open air, and are therefore small and ill-shaped: those of a large size, adapted to military service, being imported. To obviate this defect, and to procure a useful breed, it was ordered in the late reign, that a sufficient number of mares should be introduced from foreign countries; and to secure the defence of the kingdom, and guard against every case of emergency, the principal men of the nation, whom the laws oblige to bring up horses, were commanded to provide those of a proper size and form, lest, from a deficiency in this respect, the country should sustain any injury. The English have few fortified places, nature having sufficiently protected them against foreign enemies; for all the island is surrounded by a stormy and dangerous sea, so that ships cannot ride safe out of harbour. The ports are defended by [16] cannon,45 of which a large quantity is manufactured by the English; the brass, however, they import, but white46 lead is produced in the internal parts of the country. They have numerous stations for guards, who, on the approach of any hostile vessel, instantly give a signal, in day by smoke, and in the night by fire; immediately, armed men flock from every part of the adjacent country, it being provided by the laws, that all who delay giving assistance shall suffer death. These men, according to established custom, bring with them four days’ provision, and find little difficulty in driving away, or retarding the enemy, till other armed forces come to their assistance. If any civil commotion arises, that party is generally victorious, whose principal force remains in the open country; the others seek safety by flight, not to secret, but to fortified places. The island is, therefore, under no apprehension from any sudden attack.

The ships belonging to the king of England are numerous, and are in general differently constructed from those of other countries. They are more flat-sided, and better adapted than ours to the ebbing and flowing of the tides, having very high sterns, calculated to resist the violence of the waves and tempestuous weather. In short, their ships are built of stronger materials than ours, the better to overcome the force of the winds, to secure them a more safe riding after the recess of the tide, and to protect them against rocks and cliffs; many of them also, as far as they rise above the water, are formed with double planks, the space between which is filled with flocks of wool to deaden the force of balls fired against them.



44  This paper, from the library of the Barberini Palace, is without date. It was, however, written after the elevation of Sixtus the Fifth to the pontifical throne, and previously to the invasion of the Spanish armada, or between April 1581, and May 1588.

45  Brass cannon and culverins were first cast in England, in year 1535. (Herbert’s Life of Henry the Eighth, apud Kennet, Vol. II. p. 188.)

46  “Ære enim utuntur importato ; plumbum album in eorum mediterraneis regionibus nascitur.” It is, however, probable, that the mixed metal commonly called brass, was compounded in England above twenty years before this period. — The term itself is nevertheless undecided, and is sometimes used to denote copper, sometimes a fabrication of iron, copper, and calamine; and though it has been remarked of Queen Elizabeth, that she left more brass ordnance at her death, than she found iron at her accession; and though we at this day frequently speak of brass cannon; brass does not enter into the composition for casting cannon. Want of better information may account for the acquiescence of the author in the same popular error. Ufano’s Artillery, 1614, furnishes a detail of different metallic mixtures anciently used for casting cannon, by the principal gun-founders of Europe. (Watson’s Chemical Essays Vol. IV. p. 70, and 124.)

The meaning plumbum album is not more clear. Is there such a [37] native metal as white lead? — or was lead ever used in casting cannon? Tin is indeed essential to it, and the white hue of that metal, together with the little discrimination formerly used, in treating of metallic substances, may have occasioned this mistake.


Extract VII.

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