Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/374

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TO observe what might be called shipwreck on a grand scale, it is necessary to hark back to the days of fleets and convoys under sail, when a hundred or two hundred merchant vessels and men-of-war made a long voyage together. If such an argosy chanced to be caught in a hurricane, the tragedy was apt to be tremendous, surpassing anything of the kind in the hazards of modern seafaring. In April, 1782, Admiral George Rodney, in a great sea-battle whose issue was vital to the British Empire, whipped the French fleet of De Grasse off the island of Dominica, in the West Indies. It was a victory which enabled Rodney to write, "Within two little years, I have taken two Spanish, one French, and one Dutch admirals." The French ships which struck their flags to him included the huge Ville de Paris of 110 guns, which had flown De Grasse's pennant; the Glorieux and Hector of seventy-four guns each; the Ardent, Caton, and Jason of sixty-four guns each.