CHAPTER I. Account of Captain Cook, previous to his first Voyage round the World.

Captain James Cook had no claim to distinction on account of the lustre of his birth, or the dignity of his ancestors. His father, James Cook, who from his dialect is supposed to have been a Northumbrian, was in the humble station of a servant in husbandry, and married a woman of the same rank with himself, whose Christian name was Grace. Both of them were noted in their neighbourhood for their honesty, sobriety, and diligence. They first lived at a village called Morton, and then removed to Marton, another village in the North-riding of Yorkshire, situated in the high road from Gisborough, in Cleveland, to Stockton upon Tees, in the county of Durham, at the distance of six miles from each of these towns. At Morton, Captain Cook was born, on the 27th of October, 1728;[1] and, agreeably to the custom of the vicar of the parish, whose practice it was to baptize infants soon after their birth, he was baptized on the 3rd of November following. He was one of nine children, all of whom are now dead, excepting a daughter, who married a fisherman at Redcar. The first rudiments of young Cook's education were received by him at Marton, where he was taught to read by dame Walker, the schoolmistress of the village. When he was eight years of age, his father, in consequence of the character he had obtained for industry, frugality, and skill in husbandry, had a little promotion bestowed upon him, which was that of being appointed head-servant, or hind,[2] to a farm belonging to the late Thomas Skottow, Esq. called Airy Holme, near Great Ayton. To this place, therefore, he removed with his family;[3] and his son James, at Mr. Skottow's expense, was put to a day-school in Ayton, where he was instructed in writing, and in a few of the first rules of arithmetic.

  [Footnote 1: The mud house in which Captain Cook drew his first 
  breath is pulled down, and no vestiges of it are now remaining.]

  [Footnote 2: This is the name which, in that part of the country, 
  is given to the head-servant, or bailiff, of a farm.]

  [Footnote 3: Mr. Cook, senior, spent the close of his life with 
  his daughter, at Redcar, and is supposed to have been about 
  eighty-five years of age when he died.]

Before he was thirteen years of age, he was bound an apprentice to Mr. William Sanderson, a haberdasher, or shopkeeper, at Straiths, a considerable fishing town, about ten miles north of Whitby. This employment, however, was very unsuitable to young Cook's disposition. The sea was the object of his inclination; and his passion for it could not avoid being strengthened by the situation of the town in which he was placed, and the manner of life of the persons with whom he must frequently converse. Some disagreement having happened between him and his master, he obtained his discharge, and soon after bound himself for seven years to Messrs. John and Henry Walker, of Whitby, Quakers by religious profession, and principal owners of the ship Freelove, and of another vessel, both of which were constantly employed in the coal trade. The greatest part of his apprenticeship was spent on board the Freelove. After he was out of his time, he continued to serve in the coal and other branches of trade (though chiefly in the former) in the capacity of a common sailor; till, at length, he was raised to be mate of one of Mr. John Walker's ships. During this period it is not recollected that he exhibited anything very peculiar, either in his abilities or his conduct; though there can be no doubt but that he had gained a considerable degree of knowledge in the practical part of navigation, and that his attentive and sagacious mind was laying up a store of observations, which would be useful to him in future life.

In the spring of the year 1755, when hostilities broke out between England and France, and there was a hot press for seamen, Mr. Cook happened to be in the river Thames with the ship to which he belonged. At first he concealed himself, to avoid being pressed; but reflecting, that it might be difficult, notwithstanding all his vigilance, to elude discovery or escape pursuit, he determined, upon farther consideration, to enter voluntarily into his majesty's service, and to take his future fortune in the royal navy. Perhaps he had some presage in his own mind, that by his activity and exertions he might rise considerably above his present situation. Accordingly, he went to a rendezvous at Wapping, and entered with an officer of the Eagle man of war, a ship of sixty guns, at that time commanded by Captain Hamer. To this ship Captain (afterward Sir Hugh) Palliser was appointed, in the month of October, 1755; and when he took the command, found in her James Cook, whom he soon distinguished to be an able, active, and diligent seaman. All the officers spoke highly in his favour, and the Captain was so well pleased with his behaviour, that he gave him every encouragement which lay in his power.

In the course of some time, Captain Palliser received a letter from Mr. Osbaldeston, then member of Parliament for Scarborough, acquainting him that several neighbours of his had solicited him to write in favour of one Cook, on board the captain's ship. They had heard that Captain Palliser had taken notice of him, and they requested, if he thought Cook deserving of it, that he would point out in what manner Mr. Osbaldeston might best contribute his assistance towards forwarding the young man's promotion. The captain, in his reply, did justice to Cook's merit; but, as he had been only a short time in the navy, informed Mr. Osbaldeston that he could not be promoted as a commission officer. A master's warrant, Captain Palliser added, might perhaps be procured for Mr. Cook, by which he would be raised to a station that he was well qualified to discharge with ability and credit.

Such a warrant he obtained on the 10th of May, 1759, for the Grampus sloop; but the proper master having unexpectedly returned to her, the appointment did not take place. Four days after he was made master of the Garland; when, upon inquiry, it was found, that he could not join her, as the ship had already sailed. On the next day, the 15th of May, he was appointed to the Mercury. These quick and successive appointments shew that his interest was strong, and that the intention to serve him was real and effectual.

The destination of the Mercury was to North America, where she joined the fleet under the command of Sir Charles Saunders, which, in conjunction with the land forces under General Wolfe, was engaged in the famous siege of Quebec. During that siege, a difficult and dangerous service was necessary to be performed. This was to take the soundings in the channel of the river St. Lawrence, between the island of Orleans and the north shore, directly in the front of the French fortified camp at Montmorency and Beauport, in order to enable the admiral to place ships against the enemy's batteries, and to cover our army on a general attack, which the heroic Wolfe intended to make on the camp. Captain Palliser, in consequence of his acquaintance with Mr. Cook's sagacity and resolution, recommended him to the service; and he performed it in the most complete manner. In this business he was employed during the night-time, for several nights together. At length he was discovered by the enemy, who collected a great number of Indians and canoes, in a wood near the waterside, which were launched in the night, for the purpose of surrounding him, and cutting him off. On this occasion, he had a very narrow escape. He was obliged to run for it, and pushed on shore on the island of Orleans, near the guard of the English hospital. Some of the Indians entered at the stern of the boat, as Mr. Cook leaped out at the bow; and the boat, which was a barge belonging to one of the ships of war, was carried away in triumph. However, he furnished the admiral with as correct and complete a draught of the channel and soundings as could have been made after our countrymen were in possession of Quebec. Sir Hugh Palliser had good reason to believe, that before this time Mr. Cook had scarcely ever used a pencil, and that he knew nothing of drawing. But such was his capacity, that he speedily made himself master of every object to which he applied his attention.

Another important service was performed by Mr. Cook while the fleet continued in the river of St. Lawrence. The navigation of that river is exceedingly difficult and hazardous. It was particularly so to the English, who were then in a great measure strangers to this part of North America, and who had no chart, on the correctness of which they could depend. It was therefore ordered by the admiral, that Mr. Cook should be employed to survey those parts of the river, below Quebec, which navigators had experienced to be attended with peculiar difficulty and danger; and he executed the business with the same diligence and skill of which he had already afforded so happy a specimen. When he had finished the undertaking, his chart of the river St. Lawrence was published, with soundings, and directions for sailing in that river. Of the accuracy and utility of this chart, it is sufficient to say, that it hath never since been found necessary to publish any other. One, which has appeared in France, is only a copy of our author's, on a reduced scale.

After the expedition at Quebec, Mr. Cook, by warrant from Lord Colvill, was appointed, on the 22d of September, 1759, master of the Northumberland man of war, the ship in which his lordship staid, in the following winter, as commodore, with the command of a squadron at Halifax. In this station, Mr. Cook's behaviour did not fail to gain him the esteem and friendship of his commander. During the leisure, which the season of winter afforded him, he employed his time in the acquisition of such knowledge as eminently qualified him for future service. It was at Halifax that he first read Euclid, and applied himself to the study of astronomy and other branches of science. The books of which he had the assistance were few in number: but his industry enabled him to supply many defects, and to make a progress far superior to what could be expected from the advantages he enjoyed.

While Mr. Cook was master of the Northumberland under Lord Colvill, that ship came to Newfoundland in September, 1762, to assist in the recapture of the island from the French, by the forces under the command of Lieutenant-colonel Amherst. When the island was recovered, the English fleet staid some days at Placentia, in order to put it in a more complete state of defence. During this time Mr. Cook manifested a diligence in surveying the harbour and heights of the place, which arrested the notice of Captain (now Admiral) Graves, commander of the Antelope, and governor of Newfoundland. The governor was hence induced to ask Cook a variety of questions, from the answers to which he was led to entertain a very favourable opinion of his abilities. This opinion was increased, the more he saw of Mr. Cook's conduct; who, wherever they went, continued to display the most unremitting attention to every object that related to the knowledge of the coast, and was calculated to facilitate the practice of navigation. The esteem which Captain Graves had conceived for him was confirmed by the testimonies to his character, that were given by all the officers under whom he served.

In the latter end of 1762, Mr. Cook returned to England; and, on the 21st of December, in the same year married, at Barking in Essex, Miss Elizabeth Batts, an amiable and deserving woman, who was justly entitled to and enjoyed his tenderest regard and affection. But his station in life, and the high duties to which he was called, did not permit him to partake of matrimonial felicity, without many and very long interruptions.

Early in the year 1763, after the peace with France and Spain was concluded, it was determined that Captain Graves should go out again, as governor of Newfoundland As the country was very valuable in a commercial view, and had been an object of great contention between the English and the French, the captain obtained an establishment for the survey of its coasts; which, however, he procured with some difficulty, because the matter was not sufficiently understood by government at home. In considering the execution of the plan, Mr. Cook appeared to Captain Graves to be a proper person for the purpose; and proposals were made to him, to which, notwithstanding his recent marriage, he readily and prudently acceded. Accordingly, he went out with the Captain as surveyor; and was first employed to survey Miquelon and St. Pierre, which had been ceded by the treaty to the French, who, by order of administration, were to take possession of them at a certain period, even though the English commander should not happen to be arrived in the country. When Captain Graves had reached that part of the world, he found there the governor who had been sent from France (Mons. D'Anjac), with all the settlers and his own family, on board a frigate and some transports. It was contrived, however, to keep them in that disagreeable situation for a whole month, which was the time taken by Mr. Cook to complete his survey. When the business was finished, the French were put into possession of the two islands, and left in the quiet enjoyment of them, with every profession of civility.

At the end of the season, Mr. Cook returned to England, but did not long continue at home. In the beginning of the year 1764, his old and constant friend and patron, Sir Hugh Palliser, was appointed governor and commodore of Newfoundland and Labradore; upon which occasion he was glad to take Mr. Cook with him, in the same capacity that he had sustained under Captain Graves. Indeed, no man could have been found who was better qualified for finishing the design which had been begun in the preceding year. The charts of the coasts, in that part of North America were very erroneous; and it was highly necessary to the trade and navigation of his majesty's subjects, that new ones should be formed, which would be more correct and useful. Accordingly, under the orders of Commodore Palliser, Mr. Cook was appointed on the 18th of April, 1764, marine surveyor of Newfoundland and Labradore; and he had a vessel, the Grenville schooner, to attend him for that purpose. How well he executed his commission is known to every man acquainted with navigation. The charts which he afterward published of the different surveys he had made, reflected great credit on his abilities and character, and the utility of them is universally acknowledged. It is understood, that, so far as Newfoundland is concerned they were of considerable service to the king's ministers, in settling the terms of the last peace. Mr. Cook explored the inland parts of this island in a much completer manner than had ever been done before. By penetrating further into the middle of the country than any man had hitherto attempted, he discovered several large lakes, which are indicated upon the general chart. In these services Mr. Cook appears to have been employed, with the intervals of occasionally returning to England for the winter season, till the year 1767, which was the last time that he went out upon his station of marine surveyor of Newfoundland. It must not be omitted, that, while he occupied this post, he had an opportunity of exhibiting to the Royal Society a proof of his progress in the study of astronomy. A short paper was written by him, and inserted in the fifty-seventh volume of the Philosophical Transactions, entitled, 'An Observation of an Eclipse of the Sun at the Island of Newfoundland, August 5, 1766, with the Longitude of the place of Observation deduced from it.' The observation was made at one of the Burgeo islands, near Cape Ray, in latitude 47 36' 19", on the south-west extremity of Newfoundland. Mr. Cook's paper having been communicated by Dr. Bevis to Mr. Witchell, the latter gentleman compared it with an observation at Oxford, by the Rev. Mr. Hornsby, on the same eclipse, and thence computed the difference of longitude respecting the places of observation, making due allowance for the effect of parallax, and the prolate spheroidal figure of the earth. It appears from the Transactions that our navigator had already obtained the character of being an able mathematician.