Reported On This Day 280 Years Ago (June 30 1739): Press gang set fire to boat to trick sailors into jumping ship

The Belfast News Letter of June 19 1739 (June 30 in the modern calendar)
The Belfast News Letter of June 19 1739 (June 30 in the modern calendar)
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From the Belfast News Letter of June 19 1739 (June 30 in the modern calendar):

LONDON, June 9.

Last Thursday morning a press-gang came along-side of two Scotch ships lying at the Hermitage, and setting fire to some straw in a boat that lay along-side, and at the same time crying out fire, the ship’s crews jump’d into the man of war’s boat in order to save themselves, but happened to leap out of the frying-pan into the fire, being all carried down to the Nore, to be put on board the king’s ships.

[War with Spain was getting close. Press Gangs took men into the navy by force and without notice in the 1600s and 1700s and were dreaded by young men. The Nore marks the point where the River Thames meets the North Sea.]

On Tuesday night orders were dispatch’d to Bristol, and all the western ports to impress all the men on board any ships in those place; so that ‘tis judged some thousand seamen, by this time, are ready to mann the ships, as soon as they are commission’d.

Yesterday morning an extraordinary courier was dispatch’d by his excellency the Spanish ambassador to this court, with the result of the several conferences which he has lately held with the right hon. Sir Robert Walpole and the secretaries of state. [Walpole was the first ever prime minister]

They are killing at the victualling-office great numbers of oxen and hogs for admiral Haddock’s squadron, and the fleets designed for the Baltick and Mediterranean.

After so many insults and injuries received, and such preparations, sure something at last will be done for poor OLD ENGLAND, and her enemies not be suffered to treat her with dishonour and contempt.

[As often in 1739 papers, it is not clear who is author of the above comment]

All private as well as pubick [sic] letters from Paris, are full of accounts of the great rejoicings made in that city, for the publication of the peace; the French now being of the opinion, that, let the affairs of Europe take what turn they will, they shall be able to improve their trade, &c.

[While war between Britain and Spain was on the verge of breaking out, another war between two major powers, the War of Polish Succession, which had pitted France against the Holy Roman Empire, had just wnow formally been ended].