CHAPTER V. Account of Captain Cook during the Period between his Second Voyage and his Voyage to the Pacific Ocean.
The able manner in which Captain Cook had conducted the preceding voyage, the discoveries he had made, and his complete determination of the grand point he had been sent to ascertain, justly and powerfully recommended him to the protection and encouragement of all those who had patronized the undertaking. No alterations had occurred, during his absence, in the presidency of the admiralty department. The noble lord, whose extensive views had taken such a lead in the plans of navigation and discovery, still continued at the head of that board; and it could not be otherwise than a high satisfaction to him, that so extraordinary a degree of success had attended his designs for the enlargement of science. His lordship lust no time in representing Captain Cook's merits to the king; nor did his majesty stand in need of solicitations to shew favour to a man, who had so eminently fulfilled his royal and munificent intentions. Accordingly our navigator, on the 9th of August, was raised to the rank of a post captain. Three days afterwards, he received a more distinguished and substantial mark of the approbation of government: for he was then appointed a captain in Greenwich Hospital; a situation which was intended to afford him a pleasing and honourable reward for his illustrious labours and services.
It will easily be supposed, that the lovers of science would, in general, be peculiarly attentive to the effects resulting from Captain Cook's discoveries. The additions he had made to the knowledge of geography, navigation, and astronomy, and the new views he had opened of the diversified state of human life and manners, could not avoid commanding their esteem, and exciting their admiration. With many persons of philosophic literature he was in the habits of intimacy and friendship; he was particularly acquainted with Sir John Pringle, at that time president of the Royal Society. It was natural, therefore, that his scientific friends should wish him to become a member of this learned body; the consequence of which was, that, in the latter end of the year 1775, he was proposed as a candidate for election. On the 29th of February, 1776, he was unanimously chosen; and he was admitted on the 7th of March. That same evening, a paper was read, which he had addressed to Sir John Pringle, containing an account of the method he had taken to preserve the health of the crew of his majesty's ship the Resolution, during her voyage round the world. Another paper, at the request of the president, was communicated by him on the 18th of April. relative to the tides in the South Seas. The tides particularly considered were those in the Endeavour River, on the east coast of New Holland.
A still greater honour was in reserve for Captain Cook, than the election of him to be a common member of the Royal Society. It was resolved by Sir John Pringle and the council of the society, to bestow upon him the estimable prize of the gold medal, for the best experimental paper, of the year; and no determination could be founded to greater wisdom and justice. If Captain Cook had made no important discoveries, if he had not determined the question concerning a southern continent, his name would have been entitled to immortality, on account of his humane attention to, and his unparalleled success in preserving the lives and health of his seamen.
He had good reason, upon this head, to assume the pleasurable, but modest language, with which he has concluded his narrative of his second navigation round the globe: 'Whatever,' says he, 'may be the public judgment about other matters, it is with real satisfaction, and without claiming any merit but that of attention to my duty, that I can, conclude this account with an observation, which facts enable us to make, that our having discovered the possibility of preserving health among a numerous ship's company, for such a length of time, in such varieties of climate, and amidst such continued hardships and fatigues, will make this voyage remarkable, in the opinion of every benevolent person, when the disputes about the southern continent shall have ceased to engage the attention, and to divide the judgment of philosophers.'