State recalls of seamen in foreign service; opportunities to return IN THEE STAITS SERVIS 127 ommendation of Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine, Charles II's notorious mistress. In his plea for release, Gilbert had emphasised that he had been 'forced' into naval service from a Dutch merchantman bound for Spain.44 The size of the Dutch merchant marine should have provided ample crews in short time - neare 3,000' ships lay idle off Amsterdam in spring 1672.45 Dutch seamen, however, would try to hold out as long as possible before volunteering in the low-paid navy, creating manpower shortages that were alleviated by the admi ralties raising their wages (see below). Dutch and those British emigrant seamen resident in the Republic might avoid enlisting for some time with support from their communities but British-based seamen must have been particularly vul nerable in this respect, even more so as their ships were usually seized in port dur ing the periods of diplomatic and military escalation that preceded any official outbreak of hostilities. Around the time of the Second Dutch War some 100 Scots and countless' English ships passed through Rotterdam every year.46 Their crews were exposed to even longer periods without pay and consequently a greater temp tation to sign on in the Dutch navy. In March 1672, British ships were seized pre war in reprisal for British seizures and attacks on Dutch ships: at Rotterdam 'about 30' English and Scots ships were seized. Some hundreds of British seamen would have lost their jobs at this time alone; the embargo was laid soon after.47 One Dutch contact noted the 'small appearance' of men generally, and the English and Scots proportion in the Rotterdam ships as high as one third of the crews. At Flushing 60 English and Scots vessels were seized. He also reported that the Zeeland admiralty 'will not permitt any of the men to come away, but keep them there designing to necesitate them into theire service'.48 The embargo might also catch unwary migrant workers by surprise: in March 1672, 70 Scots left their ship at Delfshaven looking for work in the well-paid Greenland whale fishery. Finding this option embargoed they took the ship's hoy to Rotterdam and joined the navy en masse.49 Naval powers reacted to the foreign service of large proportions of their native sea men by issuing official recalls of seamen abroad in times of war or imminent cri sis. Dutch seamen serving abroad were threatened with the forfeiture of their lives and property unless they returned and also reminded that their destitute families would be at the mercy of the State.50 British monarchs issued prohibitions of and recalls from foreign service, starting well before the period of study here.51 The Interregnum regimes did likewise. The Scottish Privy Council issued additional recalls of its own aimed specifically at Scots seamen.52 Generally, these measures had little effect: J. Ehrman pointed out that the internationalisation of maritime labour was 'too widespread and deep-rooted a custom to be prevented by an occa sional proclamation'.53 Individuals' responses to these measures must have been as varied as their circumstances and attitudes. In early 1665 a skipper outbound from Bordeaux found 23 English seamen aboard a French frigate; he asked them

Tijdschriftenbank Zeeland

Archief | 2004 | | pagina 129