1803 - Renewal of War, British and French Fleets, State of British navy


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1803 War of 1803 174

SCARCELY had the embers of the bonfires, lit up in celebration of the peace of Amiens, grown cold on the ground, ere the two principal parties to the treaty became again involved in war. Although the formal declaration, the act of England herself in this instance, did not issue until toward the middle of the year, each nation, with well-grounded forebodings of what was to happen, began her preparations at its commencement. So much of those preparations, as relate to naval concerns, fall properly within the scope of this work ; and, as usual, we shall begin with the abstract, or tabular statement, of the British navy for the current year.*

Between that abstract and the preceding one a difference occurs, as well in one or more of the principal heads, as in the arrangement of the lower part of the table. A desire to improve the remaining abstracts of the series has suggested the alteration and the necessary explanations on the subject will be found in the notes which accompany the present year's abstract.

A state of peace having filled the period between this abstract and the last, no captured column appears ; and the built, purchased, and wrecked columns exhibit an unusual paucity of numbers. The decrease observable in many of the totals arises, partly from the alterations above alluded to, but, in a much greater degree, from the multiplicity of vessels sold or taken to pieces since the termination of the war. One fact is remarkable: the total of line-of-battle ships employable for sea-service falls short by two, of the corresponding total in the abstract for 1793. So that, during a period of 10 years, eight of them in war, the British navy had slightly decreased in ships of the line. If statesmen and historians have asserted otherwise, it has been because they drew their comparisons between the wrong totals. An increase of 11 certainly appears among the permanent harbour-service ships, but it is the sea-service cruisers which constitute the effective strength of a navy.

* See Appendix, Annual Abstract, No. 11.

See Appendix, No. 19.

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