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Protector afterward summoned a new congress, consisting of four hundred members, in which Admiral Blake represented his native town of Bridgewater. On the sixth of December, he was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Admiralty.
In November, 1654, being despatched by Cromwell with a strong fleet into the Mediterranean, to support the honour of the English flag, and to procure satisfaction for any national injuries which might have been offered to our merchants; in the road of Cadiz, on his way, he was treated with the utmost respect : a Dutch Admiral declined to hoist his flag during his stay, and his health was drank with a salute of five guns by one of the French commanders. The Algerines stood in so much awe of his character, that in search
ing the Sallee-rovers, if they found any English prisoners on board, they sent them to him, with the hope of obtaining his favour. This, however, did not prevent him from forcing the Dey to sue for peace, and to grant satisfaction for his various piracies. From Algiers, he proceeded to Tunis on the same errand. The Tunisian Chief returned him a haughty answer: “ Here (said he) are our castles of Galetta and Porto Ferino; do your worst : do you think we fear your fleet?” Upon which Blake, accepting the invitation, bore with his great ships into the bay of the latter fortress, and in two hours rendered it defenceless. Finding nine vessels in the road, he ordered his seamen in their boats to assault the pirates and burn them, which service they acomplished with. very inconsiderable loss.
This daring action spread the terror of his name, which had long been formidable in Europe, through Africa and Asia; and with his name was associated that of his country. Most of the Italian States now thought fit to pay their compliments to the Protector; particularly the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the Republic of Venice, who sent magnificent embassies for that purpose. War in the mean time having been declared against Spain, Blake used his utmost efforts to ruin their maritime force in Europe, as Penn had already done in the West Indies. But finding himself in a declining state of health, and fearing the ill consequences which might ensue to the fleet if he should die without a collegue, he desired some proper person to be named in commission with him; upon which, General Montagu * was sent Joint Admiral with a strong squadron. His subsequent achievements, with respect to the Spanish plate-ships off Cadiz, and more particularly in the road of Santa Cruz, Teneriffe (where his exploit in burning the fleet is allowed to have been one of the most extraordinary that ever happened at sea) were conducted with his accustomed resolution and bravery. In the latter
* This officer, who perished in the Royal James, May 28, 1672, in an engagement with the Dutch fleet, Bishop Parker pronounces, a gentleman adorned with all the virtues of Al cibiades, and untainted by any of his vices; of high birth; capable of any
business ; full of wisdom; a great commander at sea and land; and also learned and eloquent, affable, liberal, and magnificent.” He was created Earl of Sandwich at the Restoration, and honoured with the Order of the Garter. He was always against regarding any qualification but merit, in the preferments of the navy; protesting invariably against showing favour to the relations of Peers or other persons of distinction, to the prejudice of those who had served longer or better:' and this rendered him the idol of the feet.
rash action, by a providential veering about of the wind to the south-west (a circumstance, which had not previously occurred for many years) he was fortunately enabled to leave the bay, in which he must otherwise have been detained, without the loss of a single ship. Perceiving that his ships, however, were become foul, and being seized with a dangerous disorder, he resolved to sail for England. His distemper was a complication of dropsy and sourvy, brought upon him by continuing three years together at sea, without any of the conveniences requisite for the cure of his disease. In his passage home, it increased rapidly upon him; and he became so sensible of his approaching end, that he frequently inquired for land: but he, unfortunately, did not live to reach it; dying as he entered Plymouth Sound, August 17, 1657, at the age of about fifty nine. His body was the next day embalmed and wrapped in lead, his bowels taken out and buried in the great church at Plymouth, and his corpse by order of the Protector brought by water to Greenwich House; thence to be transferred with the utmost pomp to Westminster Abbey.
On the fourth of September, after it had lain several days in state, it was conveyed from Greenwich in a magnificent barge covered with velvet; accompanied by his kindred, by the Privy Council, the Commissioners of the Admiralty and the Navy, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London ; numerous Field Officers of the Army, and many other persons of quality in mourning wherries, marshalled by the Heralds at Arms who attended the solemnity. On landing at Westminster Bridge, they proceeded in the same manner, through a guard of several regiments of foot, to the Abbey. His dear friend General Lambert, though then in disgrace with the Protector, attended on horseback. The body was interred in a vault built for the purpose in the Chapel of Henry VII.
“ Such honours Cromwell to his hero paid :” but after the Restoration, his remains were brutally torn from the sanctuary of the tomb, and with those of others buried in a pit in St. Margaret's church-yard; “ in which place,” says Wood, “ it now remaineth, enjoying no other monument but what is reared by his valour, which time itself can hardly efface.”
Blake (observes Lord Clarendon) was the first man that declined the old track, and made it manifest that the science might be attained in less time than was imagined; and despised those rules which had been long in practice, to keep his ship and men out of danger, which had been held in former times a point of great ability and circumspection ; as if the principal art requisite in the Captain of a ship had been, to be sure to come home safe again. He was the first man who brought ships to contemn castles on shore, which had been thought ever very formidable, and were discovered by him to make a noise only, and to fright those who could be rarely hurt by them. He was the first that infused that proportion of courage into the seamen, by making them see by experience. what mighty things they could do, if they were resolved, and taught them to fight in fire, as well as upon water; and though he has been very well imitated and followed, he was the first that gave the example of that kind of naval courage, and bold and resolute achievements.
“ He was a man,” says Mr. Chalmers,” of a low
stature; but of a quick, lively eye, and of a good soldier-like countenance. He was in his person brave beyond example, yet cool in action, and showed a great deal of military conduct in the disposition of those desperate attacks, which men of a colder composition have judged rather fortunate than expedient. He certainly loved his country with extraordinary ardor; and as he never meddled with any intrigues of state, so whatever government he served, he was solicitous to do his duty. He was upright to a supreme degree; for, notwithstanding the vast sums which passed through his hands, he scarcely left five hundred pounds behind him of his own acquiring. In fine, he was altogether disinterested and unambitious, exposing himself on all occasions for the benefit of the public and the glory of the nation, and not with any view to his own private profit or fame.
In respect to his personal character, he was pious without affectation, strictly just, and liberal to the utmost extent of his fortune. His officers he treated with the familiarity of friends, and to his sailors he was truly a parent. The state buried him, as it was fit, at the public expense : a grave was given him, but no tomb; and, though he still wants an epitaph, writers of all parties have shown an eagerness to do his memory justice. In a life of him, written by Dr. Johnson, occur some remarks concerning his conduct in the battle which he fought with the Dutch, November 29, 1652, which appear worthy of attention.
66. There are sometimes (he states) observations and inquiries, which all historians seem to decline by agreement, of which this action may afford us an example. Nothing appears at first view more to demand our curi osity, or afford matter for examination, than this VOL. III.