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till want of provisions and despair of relief excited the prince to make a daring effort for his escape, by forcing through the parliament's fleet: this design he executed with his usual intrepidity, and succeeded in it, though with the loss of three ships. He was pursued by Blake to the coast of Portugal, where he was received into the Tagus, and treated with great distinction by the Portuguese.
Blake, coming to the mouth of that river, sent to the king a messenger, to inform him, that the fleet in his port belonging to the publick enemies of the commonwealth of England, he demanded leave to fall upon it. This being refused, though the refusal was in very soft terms, and accom- , panied with declarations of esteem, and a present of provisions, so exasperated the admiral, that, without any hesitation, he fell
the Portugueze fleet, then returning from Brasil, of which he took seventeen ships, and burnt three. It was to no purpose that the king of Portugal, alarmed at so unexpected a destruction, ordered Prince Rupert to attack him, and retake the Brasil ships. Blake carried home his prizes without molestation, the prince not having force enough to pursue him, and well pleased with the opportunity of quitting a port where he could no longer be protected.
Blake soon supplied his fleet with provision, and received orders to make reprisals upon the French, who had suffered their privateers to molest the English trade; an injury which, in those days, was always immediately resented, and if not repaired, certainly punished. Sailing with this commission, he took in his way a French man of war valued at a million. How this ship happened
to be so rich, we are not informed; but as it was a cruiser, it is probable the rich lading was the accumulated plunder of many prizes. Then following the unfortunate Rupert, whose fleet by storms and battles was now reduced to five ships, into Carthagena, he demanded leave of the Spanish governor to attack him in the harbour, but received the same answer which had been returned before by the Portugueze : “That they had a right to protect all ships that came into their dominions; that if the admiral were forced in thither, he should find the same security; and that he required him not to violate the
peace of a neutral port.” Blake withdrew upon this answer into the Mediterranean; and Rupert then leaving Carthagena, entered the port of Malaga, where he burnt and sunk several English merchant ships. Blake, judging this to be an infringement of the neutrality professed by the Spaniards, now made no scruple to fall upon Rupert's fleet in the barbour of Malaga, and having destroyed three of his ships, obliged him to quit the sea, and take sanctuary at the Spanish court.
In February, 1650-1, Blake, still continuing to cruise in the Mediterranean, met a French ship of considerable force, and commanded the captain to come on board, there being no war declared between the two nations. The captain, when he came, was asked by him, whether “ he was willing to lay down his sword, and yield;" which he gallantly refused, though in his enemy's power. Blake, scorning to take advantage of an artifice, and detesting the appearance of treachery, told him, “ that he was at liberty to go back to his ship, and defend it as long as he could.” The captain
willingly accepted his offer, and after a fight of two hours confessed himself conquered, kissed his sword, and surrendered it.
In 1652 broke out the memorable war between the two commonwealths of England and Holland; a war, in which the greatest admirals that perhaps any age has produced were engaged on each side, in which nothing less was contested than the dominion of the sea, and which was carried on with vigour, animosity, and resolution, proportioned to the importance of the dispute. The chief commanders of the Dutch fleets were Van Trump, De Ruyter, and De Witt, the most celebrated names of their own nation, and who had been perhaps more renowned, had they been opposed by any other enemies. The States of Holland, having carried on their trade without opposition, and almost without competition, not only during the unactive reign of James I. but during the commotions of England, had arrived to that height of naval power, and that affluence of wealth, that, with the arrogance which a long continued prosperity naturally produces, they began to invent new claims, and to treat other nations with insolence, which nothing can defend but superiority of force. They had for some time made uncommon preparations at a vast expense, and had equipped a large fleet, without any apparent danger threatening them, or any avowed design of attacking their neighbours. This unusual armament was not beheld by the English without some jealousy, and care was taken to fit out such a fleet as might secure the trade from interruption, and the coasts from insults; of this Blake was constituted admiral for nine months. In this situation the two nations remained, keeping a watchful eye upon each other, without acting hostilities on either side, till the 18th of May, 1652, when Van Trump appeared in the Downs with a fleet of forty-five men of war. Blake, who had then but twenty ships, upon the approach of the Dutch admiral saluted him with three single shots, to require that he should, by striking his flag, show that respect to the English, which is due to every nation in their own dominions; to which the Dutchman answered with a broadside; and Blake, perceiving that he intended to dispute the point of honour, advanced with his own ships before the rest of his fleet, that, if it were possible, a general battle might be prevented. But the Dutch, instead of admitting him to treat, fired upon him from their whole fleet, without any regard to the customs of war, or the law of nations. Blake for some time stood alone against their whole force, till the rest of his squadron coming up, the fight was continued from between four and five in the afternoon till nine at night, when the Dutch retired with the loss of two ships, having not destroyed a single vessel, nor more than fifteen men, most of which were on board the admiral, who, as he wrote to the parliament, was himself engaged for four hours with the main body of the Dutch fleet, being the mark at which they aimed ; and, as Whitlock relates, received above a thousand shot. Blake in his letter acknowledges the particular blessing and preservation of God, and ascribes his success to the justice of the cause, the Dutch having first attacked him upon the English coast. It is indeed little less than miraculous that a thou. sand great shot should not do more execution ; and those who will not admit the interposition of Providence, may draw at least this inference from it, that the bravest man is not always in the greatest danger.
In July he met the Dutch fishery fleet with a convoy of twelve men of war, all which he took, with 100 of their herring-busses. And in September, being stationed in the Downs with about sixty sail, he discovered the Dutch admirals De Witt and De Ruyter with near the same number, and advanced towards them; but the Dutch being obliged, by the nature of their coast, and shallowness of their rivers, to build their ships in such a manner that they require less depth of water than the English vessels, took advantage of the form of their shipping, and sheltered themselves behind a flat, called Kentish Knock; so that the English, finding some of their ships aground, were obliged to alter their course; but perceiving early the next morning that the Hollanders had forsaken their station, they pursued them with all the speed that the wind, which was weak and uncertain, allowed, but found themselves unable to reach them with the bulk of their fleet, and therefore detached some of the lightest frigates to chace them. These came so near as to fire upon them about three in the afternoon; but the Dutch, instead of tacking about, hoisted their sails, steered toward their own coast, and finding themselves the next day followed by the whole English fleet, retired into Goree. The sailors were eager to attack them in their own harbours; but a council of war being convened, it was judged imprudent to hazard the fleet upon the shoals, or to engage in any important enterprise without a fresh supply of provisions.
That in this engagement the victory belonged to