An exhortation to the Magistrates and Gentlemen of England.
THese discourses which I haue handled & set down, with many reasons aled∣ged, as also with very notable exāples & opinions of great captaines, & testi∣mony of most approued histories, con∣cerning the excellencie of Archers and diuerse other weapons in their due times and places, with many Page 48 errours and abuses militarie by our such men of war practised, and in publike places perswaded and taught, I haue not taken in hand and performed with anie intention or hope to reduce them from their er∣roneous opinions martiall, or to perswade them to giue credit to any thing by me alleadged and proued, because they are growen to such a selfe-wil & liking of their owne opinions or rather fancies militarie, that their ouerweening, wilfulnes & presumption do extend so far, that diuers of the chiefe of thē will giue no credit to anie historie alledged, nor anie experiēce nor example that they heare by their elders reported, nor yet any thing by diuers reasons proued; but onlie vnto their owne fancies & such few things as they thēselues haue seen: which doth most euidētly argue in them a wonderfull arrogancie, and obstinat barba∣rousnes, & that they neither haue, nor euer will haue any vnderstāding in the science militarie. For it hath bin alwais a principle in the opinion of al great Cap∣taines, as also in all reason & experience, that no man can attaine to any sufficiencie and excellencie in the arte and discipline militarie, but by three principall meanes, that is, by seeing actions of armes & of war performed, by conference with others to vnderstand the reasons of things in action or already done, & by the discourses of men of experience, and histories of things in times past performed & done: as for exam∣ple; What doth it auaile any Nobleman or Gentle∣man how excellent a wit & courage soeuer he hath, incase he had seene all the chiefe and best fortificati∣ons that are in Europe, as also many encampings of ar∣mies in campes formed, dislodgings, marchings in diuers formes, with many battailes, skirmishes and Page [unnumbered] great encounters: If hee neglecting to learne and vn∣derstand the causes of those things which hee hath seene, hath giuen himselfe to dicing, carding, making of loue and drunkennes? Or if his pride, arrogancie & ouerweening, haue so possessed him, that he hath disdained to harken or confer with others, that haue bene able by experience to instruct and giue him the reasons of things by him seene;* which in trueth are the verie causes that there are so many Captaines, & Gentlemen of diuers Nations that haue beene in ma∣ny campes, and haue seene diuers armies and actions, and yet do vnderstand very little of the Art and Dis∣cipline militarie.
Now therfore, those our men of warre being such as I haue before declared, and that notwithstanding there haue been such wonderfull opinions concei∣ued here at home of their sufficiencie, that they haue been not only compared with the greatest Captaines of this age, but also thought to bee the onlie men of warre of Christendome: certeinlie, it is greatly to be meruailed at how any such opinion should bee con∣ceiued of them, considering that they neuer serued in any imperiall or royall warres of Emperors, Kings, nor formed Common wealths within the continent of Europe, Affricke, nor Asia, where they might at∣taine to any such knowledge in the Art Militarie, but onlie in the disordered and tumultuarie warres of the Lowe Countries vnder the States (where the soue∣raigne gouernment and commaundement hath con∣sisted of a broken and vncertaine authoritie, all things tending (with great disorder and confusion) more to the spoyle, than to any discipline or Martiall seruice) Page 49 or peraduenture some verie little or nothing in the licencious and ciuil warres of France; in both which warres for the lacke of certaine and assured pay for the men of warre, as also rewards for particular and extraordinarie deserts and worthines, it hath been impossible to establish and continue any formed mi∣licia & discipline Militarie,* wherby either Captaines or soldiers should grow to any skill and sufficiencie, but rather to errors and ignorances, as it may verie well appeare by the politique and Militarie discour∣ses of that notable and braue soldier Monsieur de la Noüe, where the imperfections and insufficiencies of such as haue attained to their chiefe skill in those warres, are verie manifestlie set downe. To the parti∣cularities whereof (because his booke is not onelie extant in French, but also translated into English) I re∣mit those that are disposed to see and consider. Be∣sides all which, the wonderfull disorders, and lack of vnderstanding of our such men of warre, in all their proceedings and actions Militarie haue been such, so many, and so great, almost in al matters that they haue taken in hand in the Lowe Countrie warres, that not onlie in the iudgement of all the great Captaines Ita∣lians, Spaniards, Burgonnions, and other Nations, that either haue knowne their seruices, or serued against them, but also in the opinions of some of the wiser sort of the States themselues, they haue been iudged to bee men of no vnderstanding, nor sufficiencie in matters of warre, although it hath bin giuen out and reported farre otherwise to their aduantage here at home amongst vs, altogether to their merueilous and incredible commendations and praises: wherevpon Page [unnumbered] there hath been such credite giuen to their fond spea∣ches and ignorant perswasions, by the better sort of our Nation, that they haue not onelie since our Na∣tion began first to go ouer to serue as mercenarie sol∣diers in the Low Countries vnder the States, brought in great numbers of disorders and abuses Militarie, farre different, or rather cleane contrarie to the aun∣cient and moderne experience, vse, and proceedings of all warlike Nations, but also in a great part defa∣ced, and decaied the accompt, vse, and exercise of our most excellent weapon the Long-bowe; which in short time to come (if it be not verie speedilie proui∣ded for by the execution of such penall statute lawes, as haue been in times past ordained and established for the exercise and maintenance of the same) will growe to bee forgotten, and in a manner vtterlie ex∣tinguished; which, if through the negligence of the better sort of our Nation, imitating and following the simple and ignorant opinions of our such vnskil∣full men of warre, it should come to passe, it doth in mine opinion argue nothing more, than that God hath withdrawne his hand, and all right iudgment in matters Militarie from vs, and that in time to come, vpon any great warre either offenciue or defenciue, we shall, when it is too late, repent the same, greatlie to the hazard and perill of our Prince, Countrie and Nation. The consideration whereof, for the great loue that I haue alwaies borne, and doo still, accor∣ding to my duetie,* beare to the Crowne and Realme of England and English Nation, was the first and prin∣cipall cause that mooued me to take these discourses in hand, to the intent to aduise & perswade (as much Page 50 as in my power and small abilitie is) the Nobilitie, Magistrates, and better sort of our Nation, with all care and diligence to reuiue, and put in execution the auncient statutes prouided and established, for the en∣crease and exercise of the youth of England in Arche∣rie, that as God of his great goodnes hath blessed our Nation with a wonderfull aptnes and dexteritie in that weapon,* more than any other Nation that I haue seene, heard, or read of throughout the vniuersall world: so that wee may not through the friuolous and vaine perswasions of a fewe vnskilfull and igno∣rant men in these our daies, as vnthankfull, neglect that great and especiall goodnes of almightie God, and singular gift that he hath endued vs withall: but that wee doo with all care and diligence beleeue, and imitate the great experience of our most worthie Auncestors, that in diuers ages, with the aduauntage of that most excellent weapon, haue atchieued such and so many wonderfull and miraculous victories a∣gainst diuers Nations, both Christians and Pagans. As also that we doo giue credite to the greatest Cap∣taines of our Nation, and diuers other Nations that haue liued in our time, some of the which being yet aliue, and of principall sort and calling, haue seene the mightie works and wonderfull effects of our English Archers, and therefore with all right iudgement, re∣iecting all newe fancies and toyes, that we doo em∣brace and esteeme that singular weapon, to bee the chiefe and principall of all others for battailes, victo∣ries and conquests.
And now to make an end, I doo againe (as I did in the beginning of my discourse) notifie that mine in∣tention Page [unnumbered] hath no waies extended by any thing in my discourses contained,* to touch the reputation or ho∣nor of any Noblemen, nor Gentlemen of noble or worshipfull houses, nor yet any others of worthie minds that haue entred into those Low Countrie ser∣uices, rather to win reputation, knowledge and ho∣nor, than for any hope or desire of spoyle, or greedie gaine, but onelie such of our men of warre, as neglec∣ting and contemning all true honor & discipline Mi∣litarie, haue brought in amongst vs a most shamefull and detestable arte and discipline of carowsing and drunkennes, turning all matters Militarie to their own profite and gaine, neglecting to loue and to win the loue of their soldiers vnder their gouernments & charges, making in a manner no accompt of them, nor of their liues; in such sort, as by their euill con∣duction, staruing and consuming great numbers and many thousands of our most braue English people, as also by their infinite other disorders, they haue made a farre greater warre vpon the Crowne and Realme of England and English Nation, than any waies vpon the enemies of our Countrie.