Introduction History of Royal Navy & Portsmouth Dockyard Latest News

Home

 

Biography
Captain James Cook - Voyages

CHAPTER VII.

Character of Captain Cook.--Effects of his Voyages.--Testimonies of Applause.--Commemorations of his Services--Regard paid to his Family.--Conclusion.

From the relation that has been given of Captain Cook's course of life, and of the important events in which he was engaged, my readers cannot be strangers to his general character. This, therefore, might be left to be collected from his actions, which are the best exhibitions of the great qualities of his mind. But, perhaps, were I not to endeavour to afford a summary view of him in these respects, I might be thought to fail in that duty which I owe to the public on the present occasion.

It cannot, I think, be denied, that genius belonged to Captain Cook in an eminent degree. By genius, I do not here understand imagination merely, or that power of culling the flowers of fancy which poetry, delights in; but an inventive mind; a mind full of resources; and, which, by its own native vigour, can suggest noble objects of pursuit and the most effectual methods of attaining them. This faculty was possessed by our navigator in its full energy, as is evident from the uncommon sagacity and penetration which be discovered in a vast variety of critical and difficult situations.

To genius Captain Cook added application, without which nothing very valuable or permanent can be accomplished, even by the brightest capacity. For an unremitting attention to whatever related to his profession, he was distinguished in early life. In every affair that was undertaken by him, his assiduity was without interruption, and without abatement. Whereever he came, he suffered nothing, which was fit for a seaman to know or to practise, to pass unnoticed, or to escape his diligence.

The genius and application of Captain Cook were followed by a large extent of knowledge; a knowledge which, besides a consummate acquaintance with navigation, comprehended a number of other sciences. In this respect the ardour of his mind rose above the disadvantages of a very confined education. His progress in the different branches of the mathematics, and particularly in astronomy, became so eminent, that, at length, he was able to take the lead in making the necessary observations of this kind, in the course of his voyages. He attained likewise to such a degree of proficiency in general learning, and the art of composition, as to be able to express himself with a manly clearness and propriety, and to become respectable as the narrator, as well as the performer, of great actions.

Another thing, strikingly conspicuous in Captain Cook, was the perseverance with which he pursued the noble objects to which his life was devoted. This, indeed, was a most distinguished feature in his character: in this he scarcely ever had an equal, and never a superior. Nothing could divert him from the points he aimed at; and he persisted in the prosecution of them, through difficulties and obstructions, which would have deterred minds of very considerable strength and firmness.

What enabled him to persevere in all his mighty undertakings was the invincible fortitude of his spirits. Of this, instances without number occur in the accounts of his expeditions; two of which I shall take the liberty of retailing to the attention of my readers. The first is, the undaunted magnanimity with which he prosecuted his discoveries along the whole southeast coast of New Holland. Surrounded as he was with the greatest possible dangers, arising from the perpetual succession of rocks, shoals, and breakers, and having a ship that was almost shaken to pieces by repeated perils, his vigorous mind had a regard to nothing but what he thought was required of him by his duty to the public. It will not be easy to find, in the history of navigation, a parallel example of courageous exertion. The other circumstance I would refer to, is the boldness with which, in his second voyage after he left the Cape of Good Hope, he pushed forward into unknown seas, and penetrated through innumerable mountains and islands of ice, in the search of a southern continent. It was like launching into chaos: all was obscurity, all was darkness before him; and no event can be compared with it, excepting the sailing of Magelhaens, from the straits which bear his name into the Pacific Ocean.

The fortitude of Captain Cook, being founded upon reason, and not upon instinct, was not an impetuous valour, but accompanied with complete self-possession. He was master of himself on every trying occasion, and seemed to be the more calm and collected, the greater was the exigence of the case. In the most perilous situations, when our commander had given the proper directions concerning what was to be done while he went to rest, he could sleep, during the hours he had allotted to himself, with perfect composure and soundness. Nothing could be a surer indication of an elevated mind; of a mind that was entirely satisfied with itself, and the measures it had taken.

To all these great qualities Captain Cook added the most amiable virtues. That it was impossible for any one to excel him in humanity, is apparent from his treatment of his men through all his voyages, and from his behaviour to the natives of the countries which were discovered by him. The health, the convenience, and, as far as it could be admitted, the enjoyment of the seamen, were the constant objects of his attention; and he was anxiously solicitous to ameliorate the condition of the inhabitants of the several islands and places which he visited. With regard to their thieveries, he candidly apologized for, and overlooked many offences which others would have sharply punished; and when he was laid under an indispensable necessity of proceeding to any acts of severity, he never exerted them without feeling much reluctance and concern.

In the private relations of life, Captain Cook was entitled to high commendation. He was excellent as a husband and a father, and sincere and steady in his friendships: and to this it may be added, that he possessed that general sobriety and virtue of character, which will always be found to constitute the best security and ornament of every other moral qualification.

With the greatest benevolence and humanity of disposition, Captain Cook was occasionally subject to a hastiness of temper. This, which has been exaggerated by the few (and they are indeed few) who are unfavourable to his memory, is acknowledged by his friends. It is mentioned both by Captain King and Mr. Samwell, in their delineations of his character. Mr. Hayley, in one of his poems, calls him the _mild Cook_; but, perhaps, that is not the happiest epithet which could have been applied to him. Mere mildness can scarcely be considered as the most prominent and distinctive feature in the mind of a man, whose powers of understanding and of action were so strong and elevated, who had such immense difficulties to struggle with, and who must frequently have been called to the firmest exertions of authority and command.

Lastly, Captain Cook was distinguished by a property which is almost universally the concomitant of truly great men, and that is, a simplicity of manners. In conversation he was unaffected and unassuming; rather backward in pushing discourse; but obliging and communicative in his answers to those who addressed him for the purposes of information. It was not possible that, in a mind constituted like his, such a paltry quality as vanity could find an existence.

In this imperfect delineation of Captain Cook's character, I have spoken of him in a manner which is fully justified by the whole course of his life and actions, and which is perfectly agreeable to the sentiments of those who were the most nearly connected with him in the habits of intimacy and friendship. The pictures which some of them have drawn of him, though they have already been presented to the public, cannot here with propriety be omitted. Captain King has expressed himself concerning him in the following terms: 'The constitution of his body was robust, inured to labour, and capable of undergoing the severest hardships. His stomach bore, without difficulty, the coarsest and most ungrateful food:--Great was the indifference with which he submitted to every kind of self-denial. The qualities of his mind were of the same hardy vigorous kind with those of his body. His understanding was strong and perspicacious. His judgment, in whatever related to the services he was engaged in, quick and sure. His designs were bold and manly; and both in the conception, and in the mode of execution, bore evident marks of a great original genius. His courage was cool and determined, and accompanied with an admirable presence of mind in the moment of danger. His temper might perhaps have been justly blamed, as subject to hastiness and passion, had not these been disarmed by a disposition the most benevolent and humane.

'Such were the outlines of Captain Cook's character; but its most distinguishing feature was that unremitting perseverance in the pursuit of his object, which was not only superior to the opposition of dangers, and the pressure of hardships, but even exempt from the want of ordinary relaxation. During the long and tedious voyages in which he was engaged, his eagerness and activity were never in the least abated. No incidental temptation could detain him for a moment: even those intervals of recreation, which sometimes unavoidably occurred, and were looked for by us with a longing, that persons who have experienced the fatigues of service will readily excuse, were submitted to by him with a certain impatience, whenever they could not be employed in making a farther provision for the more effectual prosecution of his designs.'

'The character of Captain Cook,' says Mr. Samwell, 'will be best exemplified by the services he has performed, which are universally known, and have ranked his name above that of any navigator of ancient or of modern times. Nature had endowed him with a mind vigorous and comprehensive, which in his riper years he had cultivated with care and industry. His general knowledge was extensive and various: in that of his own profession he was unequalled. With a clear judgment, strong masculine sense, and the most determined resolution; with a genius peculiarly turned for enterprise, he pursued his object with unshaken perseverance:--vigilant and active in an eminent degree:--cool and intrepid among dangers; patient and firm under difficulties and distress; fertile in expedients; great and original in all his designs; active and resolved in carrying them into execution. These qualities rendered him the animating spirit of the expedition: in every situation he stood unrivalled and alone; on him all eyes were turned; he was our leading star, which, at its setting, left us involved in darkness and despair.

'His constitution was strong, his mode of living temperate.--He was a modest man, and rather bashful; of an agreeable lively conversation, sensible and intelligent. In his temper he was somewhat hasty, but of a disposition the most friendly, benevolent, and humane. His person was about six feet high, and, though a good looking man, he was plain both in address and appearance. His head was small; his hair, which was a dark brown, he wore tied behind. His face was full of expression; his nose exceedingly well shaped; his eyes, which were small and of a brown cast, were quick and piercing; his eyebrows prominent, which gave his countenance altogether an air of austerity.

'He was beloved by his people, who looked up to him as to a father, and obeyed his commands with alacrity. The confidence we placed in him was unremitting; our admiration of his great talents, unbounded; our esteem for his good qualities, affectionate and sincere.----

'He was remarkably distinguished for the activity of his mind: it was that which enabled him to pay an unwearied attention to every object of the service. The strict economy he observed in the expenditure of the ship's stores, and the unremitting care he employed for the preservation of the health of his people, were the causes that enabled him to prosecute discoveries in remote parts of the globe, for such a length of time, as had been deemed impracticable by former navigators. The method he discovered for preserving the health of seamen in long voyages will transmit his name to posterity as the friend and benefactor of mankind: the success which attended it afforded this truly great man more satisfaction than the distinguished fame that attended his discoveries.

'England has been unanimous in her tribute of applause to his virtues, and all Europe has borne testimony to his merit. There is hardly a corner of the earth, however remote and savage, that will not long remember his benevolence and humanity. The grateful Indian, in time to come, pointing to the herds grazing his fertile plains, will relate to his children how the first stock of them was introduced into the country; and the name of Cook will be remembered among those benign spirits, whom they worship as the source of every good, and the fountain of every blessing.'

At the conclusion of the Introduction to the Voyage to the Pacific Ocean is an eulogium on Captain Cook, drawn up by one of his own profession, of whom it is said, that he is not more distinguished by the elevation of rank, than by the dignity of private virtues. Though this excellent eulogium must be known to many, and perhaps to most of my readers, they will not be displeased at having the greater part of it brought to their recollection.

'Captain James Cook possessed,' says the writer, 'in an eminent degree, all the qualifications requisite for his profession and great undertakings; together with the amiable and worthy qualities of the best men.

'Cool and deliberate in judging: sagacious in determining: active in executing: steady and persevering in enterprising, from vigilance and unremitting caution: unsubdued by labour, difficulties, and disappointments: fertile in expedients: never wanting presence of mind; always possessing himself, and the full use of a sound understanding.

'Mild, just, but exact in discipline: he was a father to his people, who were attached to him from affection, and obedient from confidence.

'His knowledge, his experience, his sagacity, rendered him so entirely master of his subject, that the greatest obstacles were surmounted, and the most dangerous navigations became easy, and almost safe, under his direction.

'By his benevolent and unabating attention to the welfare of his ship's company, he discovered and introduced a system for the preservation of the health of seamen in long voyages, which has proved wonderfully efficacious.

'The death of this eminent and valuable man was a loss to mankind in general; and particularly to be deplored by every nation that respects useful accomplishments, that honours science, and loves the benevolent and amiable affections of the heart. It is still more to be deplored by this country, which may justly boast of having produced a man hitherto unequalled for nautical talents; and that sorrow is farther aggravated by the reflection, that his country was deprived of this ornament by the enmity of a people, from whom, indeed, it might have been dreaded, but from whom it was not deserved. For, actuated always by the most attentive care and tender compassion for the savages in general, this excellent man was ever assiduously endeavouring, by kind treatment, to dissipate their fears, and court their friendship; overlooking their thefts and treacheries, and frequently interposing, at the hazard of his life, to protect them from the sudden resentment of his own injured people.----

'Traveller! contemplate, admire, revere, and emulate this great master in his profession; whose skill and labours have enlarged natural philosophy; have extended nautical science; and have disclosed the long concealed and admirable arrangements of the Almighty to the formation of this globe, and, at the same time, the arrogance of mortals, in presuming to account, by their speculations, for the laws by which he was pleased to create it. It is now discovered, beyond all doubt, that the same great Being who created the universe by his _fiat_, by the same ordained our earth to keep a just poise, without a corresponding southern continent, and it does so. _He stretches out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing,_ Job XXVI. 7.

'If the arduous but exact researches of this extraordinary man have not discovered a new world, they have discovered seas unnavigated and unknown before. They have made us acquainted with islands, people, and productions of which we had, no conception. And if he has not been so fortunate as Americus, to give his name to a continent, his pretensions to such a distinction remain unrivalled; and he will be revered while there remains a page of his own modest account of his voyages, and as long as mariners and geographers shall be instructed, by his new map of the southern hemisphere, to trace the various courses and discoveries he has made.

'If public services merit public acknowledgments, if the man, who adorned and raised the fame of his country, is deserving of honours, then Captain Cook deserves to have a monument raised to his memory by a generous and grateful nation.

"Virtutis uberrimum alimentum est honos."
Val. Maximus, lib. ii. cap. 6.'

The last character I shall here insert of Captain Cook comes from a learned writer, who, in consequence of some disagreements which are understood to have subsisted between him and our great navigator, cannot be suspected of intending to celebrate him in the language of flattery. Dr. Reinhold Forster, having given a short account of the captain's death, adds as follows: 'Thus fell this truly glorious and justly admired navigator. If we consider his extreme abilities both natural and acquired, the firmness and constancy of his mind, his truly paternal care for the crew intrusted to him, the amiable manner with which he knew how to gain the friendship of all the savage and uncultivated nations, and even his conduct towards his friends and acquaintance, we must acknowledge him to have been one of the greatest men of his age, and that reason justifies the tear which friendship pays to his memory.' After such an encomium on Captain Cook, less regard may justly be paid to the deductions from it, which are added by Dr. Forster. What he hath said concerning the captain's temper seems to have received a tincture of exaggeration, from prejudice and personal animosity; and the Doctor's insinuation, that our navigator obstructed Lieutenant Pickersgill's promotion, is, I have good reason to believe, wholly groundless. There is another error which must not pass unnoticed. Dr. Forster puts in his caveat against giving the name of Cook's Straits to the Straits between Asia and America, discovered by Beering. But if the Doctor had read the Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, published by authority, he would have seen, that there was no design of robbing Beering of the honour to which he was entitled.

From a survey of Captain Cook's character, it is natural to extend our reflections to the effects of the several expeditions in which he was engaged. These, indeed, must have largely appeared in the general history of his Life; and they have finely been displayed by Dr. Douglas, in his admirable Introduction to the Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. Under the conduct of so able a guide, I shall subjoin a short view of the subject.

It must, however, be observed, that, with regard to the three principal consequences of our great navigator's transactions, I have nothing further to offer. These are, his having dispelled the illusion of a _Terra Australis Incognita_; his demonstration of the impracticability of a northern passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean; and his having established a sure method of preserving the health of seamen in the longest voyages, and through every variety of latitude and climate. Concerning each of these capital objects, I have already so fully spoken, that it is not in my power to add to the impression of their importance, and of Captain Cook's merits in relation to them, which, I trust, is firmly fixed on the mind of every reader.

It is justly remarked, by Dr. Douglas, that one great advantage accruing to the world from our late surveys of the globe, is, that they have confuted fanciful theories, too likely to give birth to impracticable undertakings. The ingenious reveries of speculative philosophers, which have so long amused the learned, and raised the most sanguine expectations, are now obliged to submit, perhaps with reluctance, to the sober dictates of truth and experience. Nor will it be only by discouraging future unprofitable searches, that the late voyages will be of service to mankind, but also by lessening the dangers and distresses formerly experienced in those seas which are within the actual line of commerce and navigation. From the British discoveries many commercial improvements may be expected to arise in our own times: but, in future ages, such improvements may be extended to a degree, of which, at present, we have no conception. In the long chain of causes and effects, no one can tell how widely and beneficially the mutual intercourse of the various inhabitants of the earth may hereafter be carried on, in consequence of the means of facilitating it, which have been explored and pointed out by Captain Cook.

The interests of science, as well as of commerce, stand highly indebted to this illustrious navigator. That a knowledge of the globe on which we live is a very desirable object, no one can call in question. This is an object which, while it is ardently pursued by the most enlightened philosophers, is sought for with avidity, even by those whose studies do not carry them beyond the lowest rudiments of learning. It need not be said what gratification Captain Cook hath provided for the world in this respect. Before the voyages of the present reign took place, nearly half the surface of the earth was hidden in obscurity and confusion. From the discoveries of our navigator, geography has assumed a new face, and become, in a great measure, a new science; having attained to such a completion, as to leave only some less important parts of the globe to be explored by future voyagers.[17]

[Footnote 17: Lieutenant Roberts's admirable chart will set this
matter in the strongest light.]

Happily for the advancement of knowledge, acquisitions cannot be obtained in any one branch, without leading to acquisitions in other branches, of equal, and perhaps of superior consequence. New oceans cannot be traversed, or new countries visited, without presenting fresh objects of speculation and inquiry, and carrying the practice, as well as the theory, of philosophy to a higher degree of perfection. _Nautical astronomy_, in particular, was in its infancy, when the late voyages were first undertaken; but, during the prosecution of them, and especially in Captain Cook's last expedition, even many of the petty officers could observe the distance of the moon from the sun, or a star, the most delicate of all observations, with sufficient accuracy. As for the officers of superior rank, they would have felt themselves ashamed to have it thought that they did not know how to observe for, and compute the time at sea; though such a thing had, a little before, scarcely been heard of among seamen. Nay, first-rate philosophers had doubted the possibility of doing it with the exactness that could be wished. It must, however, be remembered, that a large share of praise is due to the Board of Longitude, for the proficiency of the gentlemen of the navy in taking observations at sea. In consequence of the attention of that board to this important object, liberal rewards have been given to mathematicians for perfecting the lunar tables, and facilitating calculations; and artists have been amply encouraged in the construction of instruments and watches, much more accurately and completely adapted to the purposes of navigation than formerly existed.

It is needless to mention what a quantity of additional information has been gained with respect to the rise and times of the flowing of the tides; the direction and force of currents at sea; and the cause and nature of the polarity of the needle, and the theory of its variations. Natural knowledge has been increased by experiments on the effects of gravity in different and very distant places; and from Captain Cook's having penetrated so far into the Southern Ocean, it is now ascertained, that the phenomenon, usually called the _Aurora Borealis_, is not peculiar to high northern latitudes, but belongs equally to all cold climates, whether they be north or south.

Amidst the different branches of science that have been promoted by the late expeditions, there is none, perhaps, that stands so highly indebted to them as the science of botany. At least twelve hundred new plants have been added to the known system; and large accessions of intelligence have accrued with regard to every other part of natural history. This point has already been evinced by the writings of Dr. Sparrman, of the two Forsters, father and son, and of Mr. Pennant; and this point will illustriously be manifested, when the great work of Sir Joseph Banks shall be accomplished, and given to the world.

It is not to the enlargement of natural knowledge only, that the effects arising from Captain Cook's voyages are to be confined. Another important object of study has been opened by them; and that is, the study of human nature, in situations various, interesting, and uncommon. The islands visited in the centre of the south Pacific Ocean, and the principal scenes of the operations of our discoverers, were untrodden ground. As the inhabitants, so far as could be observed, had continued, from their original settlement unmixed with any different tribe; as they had been left entirely to their own powers for every art of life, and to their own remote traditions for every political or religious custom or institution; as they were uninformed by science, and unimproved by education, they could not but afford many subjects of speculation to an inquisitive and philosophical mind. Hence may be collected a variety of important facts with respect to the state of man; with respect to his attainments and deficiences, his virtue and vices, his employments and diversions, his feelings, manners, and customs, in a certain period of society. Even the curiosities which have been brought from the discovered islands, and which enrich the British Museum, and the late Sir Ashton Lever's repository, may be considered as a valuable acquisition to this country; as supplying no small fund of information and entertainment.

Few inquiries are more interesting than those which relate to the migrations of the various families or tribes that have peopled the earth. It was known in general, that the Asiatic nation, called Malayans, possessed, in former times, much the greatest trade in the Indies; and that they frequented, with their merchant ships, not only all the coasts of Asia, but ventured over even to the coasts of Africa, and particularly to the great island of Madagascar. But that, from Madagascar to the Marquesas and Easter Island, that is, nearly from the east side of Africa, till we approach towards the west side of America, a space including above half the circumference of the globe, the same nation of the oriental world should have made their settlements, and founded colonies throughout almost every intermediate stage of this immense tract, in islands at amazing distances from the mother continent, and the natives of which were ignorant of each other's existence--is an historical fact, that, before Captain Cook's voyages, could be but very imperfectly known. He it is who hath discovered a vast number of new spots of land lurking in the bosom of the South Pacific Ocean, all the inhabitants of which display striking evidences of their having derived their descent from one common Asiatic original. Nor is this apparent solely from a similarity of customs and institutions, but is established by a proof which conveys irresistible conviction to the mind, and that is, the affinity of language. The collections that have been made of the words which are used in the widely diffused islands and countries that have lately been visited cannot fail, in the hands of such men as a Bryant and a Marsden, to throw much light on the origin of nations, and the peopling of the globe.--From Mr. Marsden, in particular, who has devoted his attention, time, and study to this curious subject, the literary world may hereafter expect to be highly instructed and entertained.

There is another family of the earth, concerning which new information has been derived from the voyages of our British navigators. That the Esquimaux, who had hitherto only been found seated on the coasts of Labradore and Hudson's Bay, agreed with the Greenlanders in every circumstance of customs, manners, and language, which could demonstrate an original identity of nation, had already been ascertained. But that the same tribe now actually inhabit the islands and coasts on the west side of North America, opposite Kamtschatka, was a discovery, the completion of which was reserved for Captain Cook. From his account it appears that these people have extended their migrations to Norton Sound, Oonalashka, and Prince William's Sound; that is, to nearly the distance of fifteen hundred leagues from their stations in Greenland, and the coast of Labradore. Nor does this curious fact rest merely on the evidence arising from similitude of manners: for it stands confirmed by a table of words, exhibiting such an affinity of language as will remove every doubt from the mind of the most scrupulous inquirer.

Other questions there are, of a very important nature, the solution of which will now be rendered more easy than hath heretofore been apprehended. From the full confirmation of the vicinity of the two continents of Asia and America, it can no longer be represented as ridiculous to believe, that the former furnished inhabitants to the latter. By the facts recently discovered, a credibility is added to the Mosaic account of the peopling of the earth. That account will, I doubt not, stand the test of the most learned and rigorous investigation. Indeed, I have long been convinced, after the closest meditation of which I am capable, that sound philosophy and genuine revelation never militate against each other. The rational friends of religion are so far from dreading the spirit of inquiry, that they wish for nothing more than a candid, calm, and impartial examination of the subject according to all the lights which the improved reason and the enlarged science of man can afford.

One great effect of the voyages made under the conduct of Captain Cook is their having excited a zeal for similar undertakings. Other princes and other nations are engaged in expeditions of navigation and discovery. By order of the French government, Mess. de la Perouse and de Langle sailed from Brest, in August, 1785, in the frigates Boussole and Astroloobe, on an enterprise, the express purpose of which was the improvement of geography, astronomy, natural history, and philosophy, and to collect accounts of customs and manners. For the more effectual prosecution of the design, several gentlemen were appointed to go out upon the voyage, who were known to excel in different departments of science and literature. Mr. Dagelet went as astronomer; M. de la Martinière, P. Recevour, and M. de la Fresne, as naturalists; and the Chevalier de Lamanon and M. Monges, junior, as natural philosophers. The officers of the Boussole were men of the best information, and the firmest resolution: and the crew contained a number of artificers in various kinds of mechanic employments. Marine watches, and other instruments, were provided; and M. Dagelet was particularly directed to make observations with M. Condamine's invariable pendulum, to determine the differences in gravity, and to ascertain the true proportion of the equatorial to the polar diameter of the earth. From some accounts which have already been received of these voyages, it appears, that they have explored the coast of California; have adjusted the situation of more than fifty places, almost wholly unknown; and have visited Owhyhee, and the rest of the Sandwich Islands. When the expedition shall be completed, the whole result of it will doubtless be laid before the public.[18]

[Footnote 18: An account of this voyage during the years 1785,
1786, 1787, and 1788, has been published in France, from papers
transmitted at different times by La Perouse; but nothing since
the year 1788 has been received relative to the progress of the
voyage, or the fate of the voyagers, who are all supposed to have
perished by shipwreck.]

Although Captain Cook has made such vast discoveries in the Northern Ocean, on and between the east of Asia and the west coast of America, Mr. Coxe has well shewn that there is still room for a farther investigation of that part of the world. Accordingly, the object has been taken up by the Empress of Russia, who has committed the conduct of the enterprise to Captain Billings, an Englishman in her majesty's service. As Captain Billings was with Captain Cook in his last voyage, he may reasonably be supposed to be properly qualified for the business he has undertaken. The design, with the execution of which he is entrusted, appears to be very extensive and important; and, if it should be crowned with success, cannot fail of making considerable additions to the knowledge of geography and navigation.

There is one event at home, which has evidently resulted from Captain Cook's discoveries, and which, therefore, must not be omitted. What I refer to is the settlement at Botany Bay. With the general policy of this measure the present narrative has not any concern. The plan, I doubt not, has been adopted with the best intentions, after the maturest deliberation, and perhaps with consummate wisdom. One evident advantage arising from it is, that it will effectually prevent a number of unhappy wretches from returning to their former scenes of temptations and guilt, and may open to them the means of industrious subsistence and moral reformation. If it be wisely and prudently begun and conducted, who can tell what beneficial consequences may spring from it, in future ages? Immortal Rome is said to have risen from the refuse of mankind.

While we are considering the advantages the _discoverers_ have derived from the late navigations, a question naturally occurs, which is, What benefits have hence accrued to the _discovered_? It would be a source of the highest pleasure to be able to answer the question to complete satisfaction. But it must be acknowledged, that the subject is not wholly free from doubts and difficulties; and these doubts and difficulties might be enlarged upon, and exaggerated, by an imagination which is rather disposed to contemplate and represent the dark than the luminous aspect of human affairs. In one respect, Mr. Samwell has endeavoured to shew, that the natives of the lately explored parts of the world, and especially so far as relates to the Sandwich Islands, were not injured by our people; and it was the constant solicitude and care of Captain Cook, that evil might not be communicated in any one place to which he came. If he was universally successful, the good which, in various cases, he was instrumental in producing, will be reflected upon with the more peculiar satisfaction.

There is an essential difference between the voyages that have lately been undertaken, and many which have been carried on in former times. None of my readers can be ignorant of the horrid cruelties that were exercised by the conquerors of Mexico and Peru; cruelties which can never be remembered, without blushing for religion and human nature. But to undertake expeditions with a design of civilizing the world, and meliorating its condition, is a noble object. The recesses of the globe were investigated by Captain Cook, not to enlarge private dominion, but to promote general knowledge; the new tribes of the earth were visited as friends; and an acquaintance with their existence was sought for, in order to bring them within the pale of the offices of humanity, and to relieve the wants of their imperfect state of society. Such were the benevolent views which our navigator was commissioned by his majesty to carry into execution; and there is reason to hope that they will not be wholly unsuccessful. From the long continued intercourse with the natives of the Friendly, Society, and Sandwich Islands, some rays of light must have darted on their infant minds. The uncommon objects which have been presented to their observation, and excited their surprise, will naturally tend to enlarge their stock of ideas, and to furnish new materials for the exercise of their reasonable faculties. It is no small addition to their comforts of life, and their immediate enjoyments, that will be derived from the introduction of our useful animals and vegetables; and if the only benefit they should ever receive from the visits of the English should be the having obtained fresh means of subsistence, that must be considered as a great acquisition.

But may not our hopes be extended to still nobler objects? The connexion which has been opened with these remote inhabitants of the world is the first step toward their improvement; and consequences may flow from it, which are far beyond our present conceptions. Perhaps, our late voyages may be the means appointed by Providence, of spreading, in due time, the blessings of civilization among the numerous tribes of the South Pacific Ocean, and preparing them for holding an honourable rank among the nations of the earth. There cannot be a more laudable attempt, than that of endeavouring to rescue millions of our fellow-creatures from that state of humiliation in which they now exist. Nothing can more essentially contribute to the attainment of this great end, than a wise and rational introduction of the Christian religion; an introduction of it in its genuine simplicity; as holding out the worship of one God, inculcating the purest morality, and promising eternal life as the reward of obedience. These are views of things which are adapted to general comprehension, and calculated to produce the noblest effects.

Considering the eminent abilities displayed by Captain Cook, and the mighty actions performed by him, it is not surprising that his memory should be held in the highest estimation, both at home and abroad. Perhaps, indeed, greater honour is paid to his name abroad than at home. Foreigners, I am informed, look up to him with an admiration which is not equalled in this country. A remarkable proof of it occurs, in the eulogy of our navigator, by Michael Angelo Gianetti, which was read at the royal Florentine academy, on the 9th of June, 1785, and published at Florence, in the same year. Not having seen it, I am deprived of the power of doing justice to its merit. If I am not mistaken in my recollection, one of the French literary academies has proposed a prize for the best eulogium on Captain Cook; and there can be no doubt but that several candidates will appear upon the occasion, and exert the whole force of their eloquence on so interesting a subject.

To the applauses of our navigator, which have already been inserted, I cannot avoid adding some poetical testimonies concerning him. The first I shall produce is from a foreign poet, M. l'Abbé Lisle. This gentleman has concluded his 'Les Jardins' with an encomium on Captain Cook, of which the following lines are a translation:

"Give, give me flowers: with garlands of renown
Those glorious exiles' brows my hands shall crown,
Who nobly sought on distant coasts to find,
Or thither bore those arts that bless mankind:
Thee chief, brave Cook, o'er whom, to nature dear,
With Britain, Gallia drops the pitying tear.
To foreign climes and rude, where nought before
Announced our vessels but their cannons' roar,
Far other gifts thy better mind decreed,
The sheep, the heifer, and the stately steed;
The plough, and all thy country's arts; the crimes
Atoning thus of earlier savage times.
With peace each land thy bark was wont to hail,
And tears and blessings fill'd thy parting sail.
Receive a stranger's praise; nor, Britain, thou
Forbid these wreaths to grace thy Hero's brow,
Nor scorn the tribute of a foreign song,
For Virtue's sons to every land belong:
And shall the Gallic Muse disdain to pay
The meed of worth, when Louis leads the way?
But what avail'd, that twice thou daredst to try
The frost-bound sea, and twice the burning sky,
That by winds, waves, and every realm revered,
Safe, only safe, thy sacred vessel steer'd;
That war for thee forgot its dire commands
The world's great friend, ah! bleeds by savage hands."

There have not been wanting elegant writers of our own country, who have embraced with pleasure the opportunities that have offered of paying a tribute of praise to Captain Cook. The ingenious and amiable Miss Hannah More has lately seized an occasion of celebrating the humane intentions of the captain's discoveries.

"Had those advent'rous spirits, who explore
Through ocean's trackless wastes, the far-sought shore
Whether of wealth insatiate, or of power,
Conquerors who waste, or ruffians who devour:
Had these possess'd, O Cook! thy gentle mind,
Thy love of arts, thy love of humankind;
Had these pursu'd thy mild and lib'ral plan,
_Discoverers_ had not been a curse to man!
Then, bless'd Philanthropy! thy social hands
Had link'd dissever'd worlds in brothers' bands;
Careless, if colour, or if clime divide;
Then lov'd and loving, man had liv'd, and died."

Soon after the account arrived in England of Captain Cook's decease, two poems were published in celebration of his memory; one of which was an Ode, by a Mr. Fitzgerald, of Gray's Inn. But the first, both in order of time and of merit, was an Elegy, by Miss Seward, whose poetical talents have been displayed in many beautiful instances to the public. This lady, in the beginning of her poem, has admirably represented the principal of humanity by which the captain was actuated in his undertakings.

"Ye, who ere while for Cook's illustrious brow
Pluck'd the green laurel and the oaken bough,
Hung the gay garlands on the trophied oars,
And pour'd his fame along a thousand shores.
Strike the slow death-bell!--weave the sacred verse,
And strew the cypress o'er his honour'd hearse;
In sad procession wander round the shrine,
And weep him mortal, whom ye sung divine!

"Say first, what Pow'r inspir'd his dauntless breast
With scorn of danger, and inglorious rest,
To quit imperial London's gorgeous plains,
Where, rob'd in thousand tints, bright Pleasure reigns!
What Pow'r inspir'd his dauntless breast to brave
The scorch'd Equator, and th' Antarctic wave?
Climes, where fierce suns in cloudless ardours shine,
And pour the dazzling deluge round the Line;
The realms of frost, where icy mountains rise,
'Mid the pale summer of the polar skies?--
_It was Humanity!_--on coasts unknown,
The shiv'ring natives of the frozen zone,
And the swart Indian, as he faintly strays
'Where Cancer reddens in the solar blaze,'
She bade him seek;--on each inclement shore
Plant the rich seeds of her exhaustless store;
Unite the savage hearts, and hostile hands,
In the firm compact of her gentle bands;
Strew her soft comforts o'er the barren plain,
Sing her sweet lays, and consecrate her fane.

"_It was Humanity!_--O Nymph divine!
I see thy light step print the burning Line!
There thy bright eye the dubious pilot guides,
The faint oar struggling with the scalding tides--
On as thou lead'st the bold, the glorious prow,
Mild, and more mild, the sloping sunbeams glow;
Now weak and pale the lessen'd lustres play,
As round th' horizon rolls the timid day;
Barb'd with the sleeted snow, the driving hail,
Rush the fierce arrows of the polar gale;
And through the dim, unvaried, ling'ring hours,
Wide o'er the waves incumbent horror lours."

Captain Cook's endeavours to serve the inhabitants of New Zealand, by the vegetables and animals he left among them, are thus described:

"To these the hero leads his living store,
And pours new wonders on th' uncultur'd shore;
The silky fleece, fair fruit, and golden grain;
And future herds and harvests bless the plain,
O'er the green soil his kids exulting play,
And sounds his clarion loud the bird of day;
The downy goose her ruffled bosom laves,
Trims her white wing, and wantons in the waves;
Stern moves the bull along th' affrighted shores,
And countless nations tremble as he roars."

I shall only add the pathetic and animated conclusion of this fine poem:

"But ah!--aloft on Albion's rocky steep,
That frowns incumbent o'er the boiling deep,
Solicitous, and sad, a softer form
Eyes the lone flood, and deprecates the storm.--
Ill fated matron!--for, alas! in vain
Thy eager glances wander o'er the main!
Tis the vex'd billows, that insurgent rave,
Their white foam silvers yonder distant wave,
Tis not his sails! thy husband comes no more!
His bones now whiten an accursed shore!--
Retire,--for hark! the seagull shrieking soars,
The lurid atmosphere portentous lours;
Night's sullen spirit groans in every gale,
And o'er the waters draws the darkling veil,
Sighs in thy hair, and chills thy throbbing breast--
Go wretched mourner!--weep thy griefs to rest!
"Yet, though through life is lost each fond delight,
Though set thy earthly sun in dreary night,
Oh! raise thy thoughts to yonder starry plain,
And own thy sorrow selfish, weak, and vain:
Since, while Britannia, to his virtues just,
Twines the bright wreath, and rears th' immortal bust;
While on each wind of heaven his fame shall rise,
In endless incense to the smiling skies;
_The attendant Power_, that bade his sails expand,
And waft her blessings to each barren land,
Now raptur'd bears him to th' immortal plains,
Where Mercy hails him with congenial strains;
Where soars, on Joy's white plume, his spirit free,
And angels choir him, while he waits for _Thee_."

Captain Cook's discoveries, among other effects, have opened new scenes for a poetical fancy to range in, and presented new images to the selection of genius and taste. The morals, in particular, of the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands, afford a fine subject for the exercise of a plaintive Muse. Such a Muse hath seized upon the subject; and, at the same time, has added another wreath to the memory of our navigator. I refer to a lady, who hath already, in many passages of her 'Peru,' in her 'Ode on the Peace.' and, above all, in her 'Irregular Fragment,' amply proved to the world, that she possesses not only the talent of elegant and harmonious versification, but the spirit of true poetry. The poem, which I have now the pleasure of giving for the first time to the public, and which was written at my request, will be found in the Appendix. It is some what remarkable, that female poets have hitherto been the chief celebrators of Captain Cook in this country. Perhaps a subject which would furnish materials for as rich a production as Camoen's Lusiad, and which would adorn the pen of a Hayley or a Cowper, may hereafter call forth the genius of some poet of the stronger sex.

The Royal Society of London could not lose such a member of their body as Captain Cook, without being anxious to honour his name and memory by a particular mark of respect. Accordingly, it was resolved to do this by a medal; and a voluntary subscription was opened for the purpose. To such of the fellows of the society as subscribed twenty guineas, a gold medal was appropriated: silver medals were assigned to those who contributed a smaller sum; and to each of the other members one in bronze was given. The subscribers of twenty guineas were, Sir Joseph Banks, president; the Prince of Anspach, the Duke of Montague, Lord Mulgrave and Mr. Cavendish, Mr. Peachy, Mr. Perrin, Mr. Poli, and Mr. Shuttleworth. Many designs, as might be expected, were proposed on the occasion. The medal which was actually struck contains, on one side, the head of Captain Cook in profile, and round it, JAC. COOK OCEANI INVESTIGATOR ACERRIMUS; and on the exergue, REG. SOC. LOND. SOCIO SUO. On the reverse is a representation of Britannia holding a globe. Round her is inscribed NIL INTENTATUM NOSTRI LIQUERE: and on the exergue, AUSPICIIS GEORGII III.

Of the gold medals which were struck on this occasion, one was presented to His Majesty, another to the Queen, and a third to the Prince of Wales. Two were sent abroad: the first to the French king on account of the protection he had granted to the ships under the command of Captain Cook; and a second to the Empress of Russia, in whose dominions the same ships had been received and treated with every degree of friendship and kindness. Both these presents were highly acceptable to the great personages to whom they were transmitted. The French king expressed his satisfaction in a very handsome letter to the Royal Society, signed by himself, and undersigned by the Marquis de Vergennes; and the Empress of Russia commissioned Count Osterman to signify to Mr. Fitzherbert the sense she entertained of the value of the present, and that she had caused it to be forthwith deposited in the Museum of the Imperial Academy of Sciences. As a farther testimony of the pleasure she derived from it, the Empress presented to the Royal Society a large and beautiful gold medal, containing on one side the effigies of herself, and on the reverse a representation of the statue of Peter the Great.

After the general assignment of the medals (which took place in the spring of the year 1784), there being a surplus of money still remaining, the president and council resolved, that an additional number should be struck off in gold, to be disposed of as presents to Mrs. Cook, the Earl of Sandwich, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Cooke, provost of King's College, Cambridge, and Mr. Planta. About the same time it was agreed, that Mr. Aubert should be allowed to have a gold medal of Captain Cook, on his paying for the gold, and the expense of striking it: in consideration of his intention to present it to the King of Poland.

During the two visits of the Resolution and Discovery at Kamtschatka, it was from Colonel Behm, the commandant of that province, that the ships, and the officers and men belonging to them, had received every kind of assistance which it was in his power to bestow. His liberal and hospitable behaviour to the English navigators is related at large in Captain King's Voyage. Such was the sense entertained of it by the Lords of the Admiralty, that they determined to make a present to the colonel, of a magnificent piece of plate, with an inscription expressive of his humane and generous disposition and conduct. The elegant pen of Dr. Cooke was employed in drawing up the inscription, which, after it had been subjected to the opinion and correction of some gentlemen of the first eminence in classical taste, was as follows:

'VIRO EGREGIO MANGO DE BEHM; qui Imperatricis Augustissimae Catherinæ auspiciis, summaque animi benignitate, saeva, quibus praeerat, Kamtschatkae littora, navibus nautisque Britannicis, hospita praebuit; eosque, in terminis, si qui essent Imperio Russico frustra, explorandis, mala multa perpessos, iterata, vice excepit, refecit, recreavit, et commeatu omni cumulate auctos dimisit; REI NAVALIS BRITANNICAE SEPTEMVIRI in aliquam benevolentiae tam insignis memoriam, amicissimo, gratissimoque animo, suo, patriaeque nomine, D. D. D. M. DCC. LXXXI.'

Sir Hugh Palliser, who through life manifested an invariable regard and friendship for Captain Cook, has displayed a signal instance, since the Captain's decease, of the affection and esteem in which he holds his memory. At his estate in Buckinghamshire Sir Hugh hath constructed a small building, on which he has erected a pillar, containing the fine character of our great navigator that is given at the end of the Introduction to the last Voyage, and the principal part of which has been inserted in the present work. This character was drawn up by a most respectable gentleman, who has long been at the head of the naval profession, the honourable Admiral Forbes, admiral of the fleet, and general of marines; to whom Captain Cook was only known by his eminent merit and his extraordinary actions.

Amidst the numerous testimonies of regard that have been paid to Captain Cook's merits and memory, the important object of providing for his family hath not been forgotten. Soon after the intelligence arrived of his unfortunate decease, this matter was taken up by the lords of the Admiralty, with a zeal and an effect, which the following authentic document will fully display:

'At the Court at St. James's, the 2nd of February, 1780;

'(L. S.) 'Present,

'The KING's Most Excellent Majesty in Council.

'Whereas there was this day read, at the Board, a memorial from the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, dated the 27th of last month, in the words following: viz.

'Having received an authentic account of the death of that great Navigator, Captain James Cook, who has had the honour of being
employed by Your Majesty, in three different voyages, for the
discovery of unknown countries in the most distant parts of the globe;
we think it our duty humbly to represent to Your Majesty, that this
meritorious officer, after having received from Your Majesty's
gracious benevolence, as a reward for his public services in two
successful circumnavigations, a comfortable and honourable retreat,
where he might have lived many years to benefit his family, he
voluntarily relinquished that ease and emolument to undertake another
of these voyages of discovery, in which the life of a commander, who
does his duty, must always be particularly exposed, and in which, in
the execution of that duty, he fell, leaving his family, whom his
public spirit had led him to abandon, as a legacy to his country. We
do therefore humbly propose, that Your Majesty will be graciously
pleased to order a pension of two hundred pounds a year to be settled
on the widow, and twenty-five pounds a year upon each of the three
sons of the said Captain James Cook, and that the same be placed on
the ordinary estimate of the navy.

'His Majesty, taking the said memorial into his Royal consideration, was pleased, with the advice of His Privy Council, to order, as it is hereby ordered, that a pension of two hundred pounds a year be settled on the widow, and twenty-five pounds a year upon each of the three sons of the said Captain James Cook, and that the same be placed on the ordinary estimate of His Majesty's navy; and the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty are to give the necessary directions herein accordingly.

W. FAWKENER.'

The preceding memorial to the king was signed by the Earl of Sandwich. Mr. Buller, the Earl of Lisburne, Mr. Penton, Lord Mulgrave, and Mr. Mann; and the several officers of the Board of Admiralty seconded the ardour of their superiors, by the speed and generosity with which his majesty's royal grant to Captain Cook's widow and children passed through the usual forms.

Another occasion was afterwards seized of conferring a substantial benefit on the captain's family. The charts and plates belonging to the Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, were provided at the expense of government; the consequence of which was, that a large profit accrued from the sale of the publication. Of this profit, half was consigned, in trust, to Sir Hugh Palliser and Mr. Stephens, to be applied to the use of Mrs. Cook, during her natural life, and afterwards to be divided between her children.

Honour as well as emolument, hath graciously been conferred by his majesty upon the descendants of Captain Cook. On the 3rd of September, 1785, a coat of arms was granted to the family, of which a description will be given below.[19]

[Footnote 19: Azure, between the two polar stars Or, a sphere on
the plane of the meridian, north pole elevated, circles of
latitude for every ten degrees, and of longitude for every
fifteen, shewing the Pacific Ocean between sixty and two hundred
and forty west, bounded on one side by America, on the other by
Asia and New Holland, in memory of the discoveries made by him in
that ocean, so very far beyond all former navigators. His track
thereon is marked with red lines. And for crest, on a wreath of
the colours, is an arm imbowed, vested in the uniform of a captain
of the royal navy. In the hand is the union jack, on a staff
Proper. The arm is encircled by a wreath of palm and laurel.]

Our navigator had six children; James, Nathaniel, Elizabeth, Joseph, George, and Hugh. Of these, Joseph and George died soon after their birth, and Elizabeth in the fifth year of her age. James, the eldest son, who was born at St. Paul's, Shadwell, on the 13th of October, 1763. is now a lieutenant in his majesty's navy. In a letter, written by Admiral Sir Richard Hughes, in 1785, from Grenada, to Mrs. Cook, he is spoken of in terms of high approbation. Nathaniel, who was born on the 14th of December, 1764, at Mile-End Old Town, was brought up likewise in the naval service, and was unfortunately lost on board his majesty's ship Thunderer, Commodore Walsingham, in the hurricane which happened at Jamaica, on the 3rd of October, 1730. He is said to have been a most promising youth. Hugh, the youngest, was born on the 22nd of May, 1776; and was so called after the name of his father's great friend, Sir Hugh Palliser.

It hath often been mentioned, in terms of no small regret, that a monument hath not yet been erected to the memory of Captain Cook, in Westminster Abbey.

RELATED LINKS

BIOGRAPHY OF CAPTAIN JAMES COOK

PREFACE

CHAP. I. Account of Captain Cook previous to his first Voyage round the World

CHAP. II. Narrative of Captain Cook's first Voyage round the World in the years 1768, 1769, 1770, and 1771

CHAP. III. Account of Captain Cook during the Period between his first and second Voyage

CHAP. IV. Narrative of Captain Cook's second Voyage round the World in the years 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775

CHAP. V. Account of Captain Cook during the Period between his second and third Voyage

CHAP. VI. Narrative of Captain Cook's third Voyage in the years 1776, 1777, 1778, and 1779, to the Period of his Death

CHAP. VII. Character of Captain Cook.--Effects of his Voyages.--Testimonies of Applause.--Commemorations of his Services.--Regard paid to his Family.--Conclusion

APPENDIX









©2003 OnlineSimon, All Rights Reserved. Any trademarks belong to their respective owners.
Please view our
disclaimer , contact details and privacy policy for further details.

Powered by OnlineSimon