Capitanus Maritimarum

The practice and jurisdiction of the Court of Admiralty: in three parts …
By John Elihu Hall, Francis Clerke

ADMIRAL, a great officer, or magistrate, who has the government of a navy, and the hearing of all maritime causes. • i

Authors are divided with regard to the origin and denomination of this important officer, whom we find established in most kingdoms that border on the sea. Some borrow it from the Greeks, the captain of the seas,under the emperors of Constantinople, being called aunp*A/t, salt water, and «fx.®j, princess; m regard his jurisdiction lay on the sea, which the Latins call falum: but it is to be observed, that this officer had not the supreme administration of naval affairs; that immediately1 belonged to the dux magnus, or grand general, to whom the admirals were subordinate, in quality of Protocome?, first count or associate. Others are of opinion, that this word is derived from the Arabic, Emir ol, i. e. great or high lord, and the Greek * w i^, marine; and accordingly we frequently find Emir, in Zonaris, Cedrenus, Nicetas, and other Greeks of that time, used in the sense of a commander.

But Sir Henry Spelman, with more reason, thinks it past doubt that both the name and dignity were derived from the Saracens, and, by reason of the holy wars, brought amongst us; for admiral, in the Arabian language, signifies a prince, or chief ruler, and was the ordinary title of the governors of cities, provinces, &c. and that therefore they called the commander of the navy by that name, as a name of dignity and honour. And, indeed, there are no instances of admirals in this part of Europe before the year 1284, when Philip of France, who had attended St. Lewis in the wars against the Saracens, created an admiral.

Du Cange assures us, that the Sicilians were the first, and the Genoese the next, who gave the denomination of admiral to the commanders of their naval armaments, and that they took it from the Saracen or Arabic Emir, a general name for every commanding officer. As for the exact time when the word was introduced among us, it ii uncertain; some think it was in the reign of Edward I. Sir Henry Spelman is of opinion that it was first used in. the reign of Henry III. because neither the laws of Oleron, made in 1266, nor Bracton, who wrote about that time, make any mention of it; and that the term admiral was not used in a charter in the eighth of Henry HI. wherein he granted this office to Richard de Lacey, by these words Maritimam Anglitt; but in the fifty-sixth year of the fame reign, not only the historians, but the charters themselves, very frequently use the word admiral.

Anciently there were generally three or four admirals appointed in the English seas, all of them holding the office durante bene placito; and eat h of them having particular limits under thtir charge and government;

as admirals of the fleet of (hips, from the mouth of the Thimes northward, southward, or westward.

Besides these, there were admirals of the Cinque ports, as in the reign of Edward III. when one Willum Larimer was stiled admiralis quinque poriuum; and we sometimes find that one person has been admiral of the fleets to the southward, northward, and westward: but the title of aJmiralis jtngliee was not frequent till the reign of Henry IV. when the Icing’s brother had that title given him, which in all commislions afterwards was granted to the succeeding admirals. It may be observed, that there was a title above that of admiral of England, which was, locum tenens regis super mare, the king’s lieutenant general of the sea; this title we find mentioned in the reign of Richard II.

Before the use of the word admiral was known, the title of cujlodes maris was made use of.

Lord bigh-ADMitt-AL of England, in some ancient records called capitanus maritimarum, an officer of great antiquity and trust, as appears by the laws of Oleron, so denominated from the place they were made at by Richard I. The first title of admiral of England, expressly conferred upon a subject, was given by patent of Richard II. to Richard Fitz-allen, jun. earl of Arundel and Surry: for those who before enjoyed this office were simply termed admirals, though their jurisdiction seems as large, especially in the reign of Edward III. when the court of admiralty was first erected.

This great officer has the management of all maritime affairs, and the government of the royal navy, with power of decision in all maritime cafes, both civil and criminal: he judges of all things done upon or beyond the sea, in any part of the world; upon the sea-coasts, in all ports and havens, and upon all rivers below the first bridge from the sea. By him, vice-admirals, rear-admirals, and all sea-captains are commiffioned; all deputies for particular coasts, and coroners to view dead bodies found on the sea-coasts, or at sea: he also appoints the judges for his court of admiralty, and may imprison, release, &c. All ports and havens are infra corpus comitatus, and the admiral hath no jurisdiction os any thing done in them. Between high and low water-mark, the common law and the high admiral have jurisdiction by turns, one upon the water, and the other upon the land. The admiral hath power to arrest (hips in great streams, and during the fame voyages, every commanding officer and soldier of (hips of war, shall observe the commands of the admiral, c*c. on pain of death, or other punishment.

The lord-admiral has power, not only over the seamen serving in his ships of war, but over all other seamen, to arrest them for the service of the slate; and, if any of them run away, without leave of the admiral, he hath power to make a record thereof, and certify the same to the sheriffs, mayors, bailiffs, &c. who (hall cause them to be apprehended and imprisoned.

‘■■ To the lord high-admiral belong all penalties and amercements of all transgressions at sea, on the sea-fhore, in ports and havens, and all rivers below the first bridge from the sea; the goods of pirates and felons condemned or enslaved, sea-wrecks, goods floating on the sea, or cast on the shore, (not granted to lords of manors adjoining to the sea), and a share of lawful prizes; also all great fishes, commonly called royal fislies, except whales and sturgeons: to which add a salary of 7000 I. a year.

It appears that anciently the admirals of England had jurisdiction of all causes of merchants and mariners, happening not only upon the main lea, but in all foreign parts, within the king’s dominions, and without them; and were to judge them in a summary way, according to the laws of Oleron, and other sea laws. In the time of Edward L and king John, all causes of merchants and mariners, and things arising upon the main sea, were tried before the lord admiral ; by all which, and divers other.laws, not only the power of the admiral is declared, but the original from whence it is derived, namely, from the legislative power of the parliament, and not from the single person of the king, or any other council whatever.

In short, this is so great an office, in point of trust, honour, and profit, that it has usually been given to princes of the blood, or the molt eminent persons among 5

the nobility. We have had no high-admiral for some1 years, the office being put in commission, or under the administration of the lords commissioners of the admiralty; r who by statute have the fame power and authority as the lord high-admiral: ■

Admiral also implies the commander in chief of any single fleet, or squadron, or, in general, any flag officer whatever. The commandet of a fleet carries his flag at the main-top-maft head}’- Mu ..-j–//oft r:j ,r


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