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Extra resources for A Sea of Words, Third Edition: A Lexicon and Companion to the Complete Seafaring Tales of Patrick O'Brian
Beer, rationed out at the rate of a gallon a day, was far more popular than grog but usually available only in home waters or up to a month out at sea. In the Mediterranean, the seamen often received a pint of wine as their alcohol ration. While the crew ate at tables below deck on weekly rations of ship’s biscuit, salt beef, pork with pea soup, and cheese, the officers had better fare. In the wardroom, they ate together sitting on chairs at a well-set table, each often attended by a servant. Instead of sharing the rations the Admiralty provided the crew, the officers appointed one of their own as the mess caterer, and he purchased their food ashore, using their mess subscriptions.
When any of these were joined by public outcry over a defeat in battle or disappointment in foreign policies, Cabinet ministers were clearly in political danger. Because of its representative nature and its exclusive ability to initiate financial measures, the House of Commons was the stronger of the two Houses of Parliament, but the House of Lords, usually siding with the King, retained enormous power. Its assent was essential to the passage of any law. In the 18th century, when most Cabinet ministers, including the head of the Navy, were Lords, it was normal for the Cabinet’s views to be more in harmony with those of the House of Lords.
The Admiralty Office’s oak-paneled boardroom was the site of the Admiralty Commissioners’ daily meetings. Saved from the earlier building, a working wind-direction indicator mounted on the wall over the fireplace served as a constant reminder of the fleets at sea, while charts covering the walls kept the Commissioners abreast of the various theaters of action. Together, the Commissioners deliberated at a long table, preparing the fleet for war, selecting its commanders, and making officer assignments.