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Captain Wentworth Speaks on Matters Naval

“The Admiralty,” he continued, “entertain themselves now and then, with sending a few hundred men to sea, in a ship not fit to be employed. But they have a great many to provide for; and among the thousands that may just as well go to the bottom as not, it is impossible for them to distinguish the very set who may be least missed.” Captain Wentworth, Persuasion by Jane Austen While this comment may cause readers to wonder whether Captain Wentworth is joking or whether the seaworthiness of British Naval vessels was actually in question, at this moment in time, 200 years distant from the author’s experiences, readers may simply scratch their heads and read on. After all, who wants to stop reading and research a single obscure quote. Captain Thomas Cochrane As it happens, the disregard, which the Admiralty showed for the safety of the men under their command, was a topic of discussion in Jane Austen’s day. The deplorable situation prompted Captain Thomas Cochrane to run for Parliament. Once elected, as a reform candidate in 1807, he raised questions before Parliament about the manner in which the British Navy was being run, singling out Lord St Vincent, First Lord of the Admiralty, for allowing unchecked corruption within the British Navy. While John Jervis, fist Earl of St. Vincent, was not corrupt himself; he was a political animal, who knew better than to cross conservative forces within the government by ending age-old-privileges. St. Vincent’s most striking innovation was the

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