VOYAGES IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

Meanwhile Anson was not altogether free from anxiety. It was true that his ships were repaired, but many of his men remained on land to recover their strength, and but a small number of able-bodied seamen remained on board with him. The roadstead being lined with coral, great precautions were necessary to save the cables from being cut, but in spite of them, at new moon, a sudden tempest arose and broke the ship loose. The anchors held well, but the hawsers gave way, and the Centurionwas carried out to sea. The thunder growled ceaselessly, and the rain fell with such violence, that the signals of distress which were given by the crew were not even heard. Anson, most of his officers, and a large part of the crew, numbering one hundred and thirteen persons, remained on land and found themselves deprived of the only means they possessed of leaving Tinian. Their despair was great, their consternation inexpressible. But Anson, with his energy and endless resources, soon roused his companions from their despair! One vessel, that which they had captured from the Spaniards, still remained to them, and it occurred to them to lengthen it, until it could contain them all with the necessary provisions for a voyage to China. However, after nineteen days, the Centurion returned, and the English, embarking in her upon the 21st of October, were not long in reaching Macao, putting into a friendly and civilized port for the first time since their departure from England, two years before.

"Macao," says Anson, "formerly rich, well populated, and capable of self-defence against the Chinese Government, is greatly shorn of its ancient splendour! Although still inhabited by the Portuguese and ruled by a Governor, nominated by the King of Portugal, it is at the mercy of the Chinese, who can starve the inhabitants, or take possession of it, for which reasons the Portuguese Governor is very careful not to offend them."

Anson was forced to write an imperious letter to the Chinese Governor, before he could obtain permission to buy, even at high prices, the provisions and stores he required. He then publicly announced his intention of leaving for Batavia and set sail on the 19th of April, 1743. But, instead of steering for the Dutch possession, he directed his course towards the Philippine Islands, where, for several days, he awaited the arrival of the galleon returning from Acapulco, laden with the proceeds of the sale of her rich cargo. These vessels usually carried forty-four guns, and were manned by a crew of over 500 men. Anson had only 200 sailors, of whom thirty were but lads, but this disproportion did not deter him, for he had the expectation of rich booty, and the cupidity of his men was sufficient guarantee of their courage.

"Why," asked Anson one day of his steward, "why do you no longer give us mutton for dinner? Have we eaten all the sheep we bought in China?"

"Pray excuse me, Commodore," replied the steward, "but I am reserving the only two which remain for the Captain of the galleon."

No one, not even the steward, doubted of success! Anson well understood how to secure it, and the efficiency of his men compensated for their reduced numbers. The struggle was hot, the straw mats which filled the rigging of the galleon took fire and the flames rose as high as the mizen mast. The Spaniards found the double enemies too much! After a sharp contest of two hours, during which sixty-seven of their men were killed and eighty-four wounded, they surrendered.

Fight between the Centurion and a Spanish galleon
Fight between the Centurion and a Spanish galleon.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)

It was a rich prize, 1,313,842 "pieces of eight," and 35,682 ounces of ingot silver, with other merchandise of little value in comparison with the money. This booty, added to others, amounted to nearly 400,000l, without taking into account the vessels, goods, &c., of the Spaniards which the English squadron had burnt or destroyed, and which could not be reckoned at less than 600,000.

Anson convoyed his prize to the Canton River, where he sold it much below its value, for 6000 piastres. He left on the 10th of December, and reached Spithead on the 15th of June, 1744, after an absence of three years and nine months. He made a triumphal entry into London. The half-million of money, which was the result of his numerous prizes, was conveyed through the city in thirty-two chariots, to the sound of trumpets and beating of drums and amidst the shouts of the people.

The money was divided between himself, his officers, and men; the king himself could not claim a share.

Anson was created rear-admiral shortly after his return, and received important commands.

In 1747, he captured the Marquis of La Jonquière Taffanel, after an heroic struggle. For this exploit, he was made First Lord of the Admiralty and Admiral.

In 1758, he covered the attempted descent of the English near St. Malo, and died in London a short time after his return.