king pleased to appoint; but they were then entitled to receive pay for their services. The sums granted to them by the crown were by no means a remuneration for the expenses attendant on the large naval force they wore obliged to keep up at all times for the service of the kingdom, and often did not cover a third part of the necessary expenditure. The ships of the Cinque Ports, therefore, were the navy of the realm, and in almost every reign the pages of history show with how great honour and reputation the Ports discharged the sacred trust reposed in their valour, skill and bravery, by their confiding country. We sometimes find them fitting out double the number of ships specified in their charters; and when larger ones were thought necessary, they have equipped a smaller number, at an expense equivalent to that which their service by tenure demanded. In the reign of Elizabeth they had five ships, of one hundred and sixty tons each, at sea for five months, entirely at their own charge; and in the reign of Charles the First, they fitted out two large ships, which served for two months, and cost them more than eighteen hundred pounds.
The honours and privileges granted to the Cinque Ports, in consideration of these services, were great and numerous. They were each to send two barons to represent them in parliament; they were, by their deputies, to hear the canopy over the king's head at his coronation, and to dine at the uppermost table, on his right hand, in the great hall; they were exempted from subsidies and other aids; their heirs were free from personal wardship, notwithstanding any tenure; they were to be impleaded in their own towns, and nowhere else; they were to hold pleas and actions real and personal; to have conusance of fines; and the power of enfranchising villeins; they were exempt from tolls, and had full liberty of buying and selling, with many other privileges of less importance.
To direct the energies, to enforce the due performance of the important services, and to protect the extraordinary privileges of the Ports, an officer was created, and styled Lord Warden, Chancellor, and Admiral of the Cinque Ports, an officer of such high dignity and honour, that it has been sometimes executed by the heirs-apparent to the crown, often by princes of the blood royal, and always by persons of the first rank in the kingdom.
History affords abundant proof of the early grandeur and importance of the Cinque Ports, situated in a district which, from the earliest periods of authentic record, has been allowed to be the most fertile, and the best cultivated in the kingdom, as well as the principal seat of foreign commerce. Here the Roman power in Britain shone in its greatest splendour; many good ports were constructed and fortified, large remains of which exist to the present time, melancholy indications of the instability of all mundane things. The prosperity and importance of this district, the chief, or indeed the only, seat of maritime power, at that period, cannot be better illustrated than by the fact of Carausius and Allectus holding the title of emperors for ten years from the power afforded them by the naval force of Britain. But the grandeur of the Romans has faded into dimness, and of their magnificence nothing remains but mouldering ruins. Their celebrated haven, situated between Kent and the Isle of Thanet, which for position, extent, and safety, exceeded any which we have remaining, is now lost; and of their other ports, some are completely annihilated, others have become very inconsiderable, and all very greatly impaired.
Under our Saxon ancestors, by whom the Cinque Ports were first chartered, all the havens were open and in good condition, in which state they were found by the Normans, who confirmed to the Ports their ancient privileges. Through several centuries their prosperity continued to increase; the towns were well built, fully inhabited, and in possession of a lucrative and extensive commerce; they had many fine ships constantly employed, and abounded with hardy and intrepid seamen; opulence was visible in their streets, and happiness in their dwellings. But times have sadly changed with them. Let us inquire into the causes which led to their decay. The first cause is the failing of their several havens, some by the desertion of the sea, and others from being choked up by the impetuosity of that boisterous and uncertain element. The second is the change that has taken place in the method of raising and supporting a national marine, now no longer entrusted to the Cinque Ports; and the third was from the invasion of their privileges with respect to trade.
It is evident from their history that the Cinque Ports were once safe and commodious harbours, the decay of which is attributable chiefly to the practice of inning or gaining land from the sea; the first attempts at which were made upon the estuary into which the river Rother discharges itself, between Lydd and Romney. As there were marshes here in the time of the Saxons, and as almost all the property in the neighbourhood belonged to the church, it is most probable that this mischievous practice was first introduced by their clergy. By various operations the river was forced into a new channel, and a very strong fence, called a ree, was built to ensure its perpetual exclusion. The success which attended this operation roused the cupidity of the Archbishops of Canterbury, who considering it as an excellent method for increasing their property, continued to make large and successful inroads on the sea, till the tract of land so gained may be computed at between fifty and sixty thousand acres, now become rich and fertile pastures, producing good rents, and extremely valuable.
Before these encroachments were effected upon the sea, no contention existed between that turbulent element and the shore; but as soon as cupidity made inroads upon its ancient boundary, and declared war against the order of nature, the effects of its impetuous resentment were speedily felt. Whoever supposes he can control old Ocean, or make war upon his ancient border with impunity, will find himself mistaken, and soon discover that he knew little of the perseverance, the genius, or the power of his opponent. It retired from some towns and places where they intended it should remain, and overflowed or washed away others grown rich by its bounty; here it fretted and undermined the shore till it fell, and there it cast up beach and sand, covering a good soil with that which is both disagreeable and useless; and instead of being the source of industry and wealth, it became the engine of destruction and terror. Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Rye, and Winchelsea, with their dependencies, are now totally gone as ports, and greatly diminished in wealth and consequence. Winchelsea was once so large and handsome, that Elizabeth, during one of her progresses, bestowed upon it the appellation of Little London. Hythe formerly contained seven parish churches, now reduced to one. Rye and Romney look as if the plague had been raging through their dull and gloomy streets, and had carried off nearly all the population. Hastings, though still flourishing as a town, owes its prosperity to its having become a fashionable sea-bathing-place; for as to a port or haven, there is not a vestige of one remaining. Thus it will be seen that private individuals, for their own benefit, have been suffered to gain from the sea fifty thousand acres of pasture land, at a cost to the nation of five safe and commodious harbours, and the ruin of their several towns; thus reversing the political maxim, that private interest ought to give way to public benefit.
Similar in state to the five towns just named, is the once-celebrated and commodious port and town of Sandwich, now distant a mile and a half from the sea. This circumstance, also, is not attributable to any natural decline or desertion of the water, but to the long-continued exertions of individuals, for