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  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: October 2009

20 - The government's war aims


What, then, were the government's war aims? Did Charles II and his government intend to achieve the same goals through their war with the Dutch as did his subjects? Was the government indeed fighting a war to achieve some short-term economic advantage while those who were fighting the war hoped to prevent the Dutch from achieving universal dominion?

In fact, the available evidence suggests that those running the war knew well that there was no hope of garnering any immediate economic returns, that it would be militarily counterproductive to pursue immediate economic rewards. Overseas trade, it was soon concluded, needed to be curtailed in order to man his Majesty's ships. “When the seamen find it will be a war,” reasoned William Coventry who was the Duke of York's primary advisor on naval affairs, “you must not expect many volunteers to man the ships however big they may talk before, for when a war comes the merchants' wages rise high, and then some for profit, and some for fear of broken bones all decline the service, so then you must resolve to press.” This was why he advised secretary of state Bennet “that nothing will conduce more to the manning the fleet than the observation of the embargo.” Within a fortnight the Council of War agreed upon “a general embargo through the whole kingdom” in order that “his Majesty's fleet be manned.”