Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Graeme Mackreth and PG Distributed
A CHRONICLE OF DRAKE AND HIS COMPANIONS
BY WILLIAM WOOD
_1918, Yale University Press_
Printed in the United States of America
Citizen, colonist, pioneer! These three words carry the history of the
United States back to its earliest form in 'the Newe Worlde called
America.' But who prepared the way for the pioneers from the Old World
and what ensured their safety in the New? The title of the present
volume, _Elizabethan Sea-Dogs_, gives the only answer. It was during the
reign of Elizabeth, the last of the Tudor sovereigns of England, that
Englishmen won the command of the sea under the consummate leadership of
Sir Francis Drake, the first of modern admirals. Drake and his
companions are known to fame as Sea-Dogs. They won the English right of
way into Spain's New World. And Anglo-American history begins with that
century of maritime adventure and naval war in which English sailors
blazed and secured the long sea-trail for the men of every other kind
who found or sought their fortunes in America.
I. ENGLAND'S FIRST LOOK Page 1
II. HENRY VIII, KING OF THE ENGLISH SEA " 18
III. LIFE AFLOAT IN TUDOR TIMES " 33
IV. ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND " 48
V. HAWKINS AND THE FIGHTING TRADERS " 71
VI. DRAKE'S BEGINNING " 95
VII. DRAKE'S 'ENCOMPASSMENT OF ALL THE WORLDE' " 115
VIII. DRAKE CLIPS THE WINGS OF SPAIN " 149
IX. DRAKE AND THE SPANISH ARMADA " 172
X. 'THE ONE AND THE FIFTY-THREE' " 192
XI. RALEIGH AND THE VISION OF THE WEST " 205
XII. DRAKE'S END " 223
NOTE ON TUDOR SHIPPING " 231
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE " 241
INDEX " 247
ENGLAND'S FIRST LOOK
In the early spring of 1476 the Italian Giovanni Caboto, who, like
Christopher Columbus, was a seafaring citizen of Genoa, transferred his
allegiance to Venice.
The Roman Empire had fallen a thousand years before. Rome now held
temporal sway only over the States of the Church, which were weak in
armed force, even when compared with the small republics, dukedoms, and
principalities which lay north and south. But Papal Rome, as the head
and heart of a spiritual empire, was still a world-power; and the
disunited Italian states were first in the commercial enterprise of the
age as well as in the glories of the Renaissance. North of the Papal
domain, which cut the peninsula in two parts, stood three renowned
Italian cities: Florence, the capital of Tuscany, leading the world in
arts; Genoa, the home of Caboto and Columbus, teaching the world the
science of navigation; and Venice, mistress of the great trade route
between Europe and Asia, controlling the world's commerce.
Thus, in becoming a citizen of Venice, Giovanni Caboto the Genoese was
leaving the best home of scientific navigation for the best home of
sea-borne trade. His very name was no bad credential. Surnames often
come from nicknames; and for a Genoese to be called _Il Caboto_ was as
much as for an Arab of the Desert to be known to his people as The
Horseman. _Cabottaggio_ now means no more than coasting trade. But
before there was any real ocean commerce it referred to the regular
sea-borne trade of the time; and Giovanni Caboto must have either upheld
an exceptional family tradition or struck out an exceptional line for
himself to have been known as John the Skipper among the many other
expert skippers hailing from the port of Genoa.
There was nothing strange in his being naturalized in Venice. Patriotism
of the kind that keeps the citizen under the flag of his own country
was hardly known outside of England, France, and Spain. Though the
Italian states used to fight each other, an individual Italian,
especially when he was a sailor, always felt at liberty to seek his
fortune in any one of them, or wherever he found his chance most
tempting. So the Genoese Giovanni became the Venetian Zuan without any
patriotic wrench. Nor was even the vastly greater change to plain John
Cabot so very startling. Italian experts entered the service of a
foreign monarch as easily as did the 'pay-fighting Swiss' or Hessian
mercenaries. Columbus entered the Spanish service under Ferdinand and
Isabella just as Cabot entered the English service under Henry VII.
Giovanni--Zuan--John: it was all in a good day's work.
Cabot settled in Bristol, where the still existing guild of
Merchant-Venturers was even then two centuries old. Columbus, writing of
his visit to Iceland, says, 'the English, _especially those of Bristol_,
go there with their merchandise.' Iceland was then what Newfoundland
became, the best of distant fishing grounds. It marked one end of the
line of English sea-borne commerce. The Levant marked the other. The
Baltic formed an important branch. Thus English trade already stretched
out over all the main lines. Long before Cabot's arrival a merchant
prince of Bristol, named Canyng, who employed a hundred artificers and
eight hundred seamen, was trading to Iceland, to the Baltic, and, most
of all, to the Mediterranean. The trade with Italian ports stood in high
favor among English merchants and was encouraged by the King; for in
1485, the first year of the Tudor dynasty, an English consul took office
at Pisa and England made a treaty of reciprocity with Tuscany.
Henry VII, first of the energetic Tudors and grandfather of Queen
Elizabeth, was a thrifty and practical man. Some years before the event
about to be recorded in these pages Columbus had sent him a trusted
brother with maps, globes, and quotations from Plato to prove the
existence of lands to the west. Henry had troubles of his own in
England. So he turned a deaf ear and lost a New World. But after
Columbus had found America, and the Pope had divided all heathen
countries between the crowns of Spain and Portugal, Henry decided to see
what he could do.
* * * * *
Anglo-American history begins on the 5th of March, 1496, when the
Cabots, father and three sons, received the following patent from the
_Henrie, by the grace of God, King of England and France, and Lord of
Irelande, to all, to whom these presentes shall come, Greeting--Be it
knowen, that We have given and granted, and by these presentes do give
and grant for Us and Our Heyres, to our well beloved John Gabote,
citizen of Venice, to Lewes, Sebastian, and Santius, sonnes of the sayde
John, and to the heires of them and every of them, and their deputies,
full and free authoritie, leave, and Power, to sayle to all Partes,
Countreys, and Seas, of the East, of the West, and of the North, under
our banners and ensignes, with five shippes, of what burden or quantitie
soever they bee: and as many mariners or men as they will have with them
in the saide shippes, upon their owne proper costes and charges, to
seeke out, discover, and finde, whatsoever Iles, Countreyes, Regions, or
Provinces, of the Heathennes and Infidelles, whatsoever they bee, and in
what part of the worlde soever they bee, whiche before this time have
been unknowen to all Christians. We have granted to them also, and to
every of them, the heires of them, and every of them, and their
deputies, and have given them licence to set up Our banners and ensignes
in every village, towne, castel, yle, or maine lande, of them newly
founde. And that the aforesaide John and his sonnes, or their heires and
assignes, may subdue, occupie, and possesse, all such townes, cities,
castels, and yles, of them founde, which they can subdue, occupie, and
possesse, as our vassailes and lieutenantes, getting unto Us the rule,
title, and jurisdiction of the same villages, townes, castels, and firme
lande so founde._
The patent then goes on to provide for a royalty to His Majesty of
one-fifth of the net profits, to exempt the patentees from custom duty,
to exclude competition, and to exhort good subjects of the Crown to help
the Cabots in every possible way. This first of all English documents
connected with America ends with these words: _Witnesse our Selfe at
Westminster, the Fifth day of March, in the XI yeere of our reigne.
* * * * *
_To sayle to all Partes of the East, of the West, and of the North_. The
pointed omission of the word South made it clear that Henry had no
intention of infringing Spanish rights of discovery. Spanish claims,
however, were based on the Pope's division of all the heathen world and
were by no means bounded by any rights of discovery already acquired.
Cabot left Bristol in the spring of 1497, a year after the date of his
patent, not with the 'five shippes' the King had authorized, but in the
little _Matthew_, with a crew of only eighteen men, nearly all
Englishmen accustomed to the North Atlantic. The _Matthew_ made Cape
Breton, the easternmost point of Nova Scotia, on the 24th of June, the
anniversary of St. John the Baptist, now the racial fete-day of the
French Canadians. Not a single human inhabitant was to be seen in this
wild new land, shaggy with forests primeval, fronted with bold, scarped
shores, and beautiful with romantic deep bays leading inland, league
upon league, past rugged forelands and rocky battlements keeping guard
at the frontiers of the continent. Over these mysterious wilds Cabot
raised St. George's Cross for England and the banner of St. Mark in
souvenir of Venice. Had he now reached the fabled islands of the West or
discovered other islands off the eastern coast of Tartary? He did not
know. But he hurried back to Bristol with the news and was welcomed by
the King and people. A Venetian in London wrote home to say that 'this
fellow-citizen of ours, who went from Bristol in quest of new islands,
is Zuan Caboto, whom the English now call a great admiral. He dresses
in silk; they pay him great honour; and everyone runs after him like
mad.' The Spanish ambassador was full of suspicion, in spite of the fact
that Cabot had not gone south. Had not His Holiness divided all
Heathendom between the crowns of Spain and Portugal, to Spain the West
and to Portugal the East; and was not this landfall within what the
modern world would call the Spanish sphere of influence? The ambassador
protested to Henry VII and reported home to Ferdinand and Isabella.
Henry VII meanwhile sent a little present 'To Hym that founde the new
Isle--L10.' It was not very much. But it was about as much as nearly a
thousand dollars now; and it meant full recognition and approval. This
was a good start for a man who couldn't pay the King any royalty of
twenty per cent. because he hadn't made a penny on the way. Besides, it
was followed up by a royal annuity of twice the amount and by renewed
letters-patent for further voyages and discoveries in the west. So Cabot
took good fortune at the flood and went again.
This time there was the full authorized flotilla of five sail, of which
one turned back and four sailed on. Somewhere on the way John Cabot
disappeared from history and his second son, Sebastian, reigned in his
stead. Sebastian, like John, apparently wrote nothing whatever. But he
talked a great deal; and in after years he seems to have remembered a
good many things that never happened at all. Nevertheless he was a very
able man in several capacities and could teach a courtier or a
demagogue, as well as a geographer or exploiter of new claims, the art
of climbing over other people's backs, his father's and his brothers'
backs included. He had his troubles; for King Henry had pressed upon him
recruits from the gaols, which just then were full of rebels. But he had
enough seamen to manage the ships and plenty of cargo for trade with the
Sebastian perhaps left some of his three hundred men to explore
Newfoundland. He knew they couldn't starve because, as he often used to
tell his gaping listeners, the waters thereabouts were so thick with
codfish that he had hard work to force his vessels through. This first
of American fish stories, wildly improbable as it may seem, may yet have
been founded on fact. When acres upon acres of the countless little
capelin swim inshore to feed, and they themselves are preyed on by
leaping acres of voracious cod, whose own rear ranks are being preyed on
by hungry seals, sharks, herring-hogs, or dogfish, then indeed the
troubled surface of a narrowing bay is literally thick with the silvery
flash of capelin, the dark tumultuous backs of cod, and the swirling
rushes of the greater beasts of prey behind. Nor were certain other fish
stories, told by Sebastian and his successors about the land of cod,
without some strange truths to build on. Cod have been caught as long as
a man and weighing over a hundred pounds. A whole hare, a big guillemot
with his beak and claws, a brace of duck so fresh that they must have
been swallowed alive, a rubber wading boot, and a very learned treatise
complete in three volumes--these are a few of the curiosities actually
found in sundry stomachs of the all-devouring cod.
The new-found cod banks were a mine of wealth for western Europe at a
time when everyone ate fish on fast days. They have remained so ever
since because the enormous increase of population has kept up a
constantly increasing demand for natural supplies of food. Basques and
English, Spaniards, French, and Portuguese, were presently fishing for
cod all round the waters of northeastern North America and were even
then beginning to raise questions of national rights that have only been
settled in this twentieth century after four hundred years.
Following the coast of Greenland past Cape Farewell, Sebastian Cabot
turned north to look for the nearest course to India and Cathay, the
lands of silks and spices, diamonds, rubies, pearls, and gold. John
Cabot had once been as far as Mecca or its neighborhood, where he had
seen the caravans that came across the Desert of Arabia from the fabled
East. Believing the proof that the world was round, he, like Columbus
and so many more, thought America was either the eastern limits of the
Old World or an archipelago between the extremest east and west already
known. Thus, in the early days before it was valued for itself, America
was commonly regarded as a mere obstruction to navigation--the more
solid the more exasperating. Now, in 1498, on his second voyage to
America, John Cabot must have been particularly anxious to get through
and show the King some better return for his money. But he simply
disappears; and all we know is what various writers gleaned from his son
Sebastian later on.
Sebastian said he coasted Greenland, through vast quantities of
midsummer ice, until he reached 67 deg. 30' north, where there was hardly
any night. Then he turned back and probably steered a southerly course
for Newfoundland, as he appears to have completely missed what would
have seemed to him the tempting way to Asia offered by Hudson Strait and
Bay. Passing Newfoundland, he stood on south as far as the Virginia
capes, perhaps down as far as Florida. A few natives were caught. But no
real trade was done. And when the explorers had reported progress to the
King the general opinion was that North America was nothing to boast of,
A generation later the French sent out several expeditions to sail
through North America and make discoveries by the way. Jacques Cartier's
second, made in 1535, was the greatest and most successful. He went up
the St. Lawrence as high as the site of Montreal, the head of ocean
navigation, where, a hundred and forty years later, the local wits
called La Salle's seigneury 'La Chine' in derision of his unquenchable
belief in a transcontinental connection with Cathay.
But that was under the wholly new conditions of the seventeenth century,
when both French and English expected to make something out of what are
now the United States and Canada. The point of the witling joke against
La Salle was a new version of the old adage: Go farther and fare worse.
The point of European opinion about America throughout the wonderful
sixteenth century was that those who did go farther north than Mexico
were certain to fare worse. And--whatever the cause--they generally did.
So there was yet a third reason why the fame of Columbus eclipsed the
fame of the Cabots even among those English-speaking peoples whose
New-World home the Cabots were the first to find. To begin with,
Columbus was the first of moderns to discover any spot in all America.
Secondly, while the Cabots gave no writings to the world, Columbus did.
He wrote for a mighty monarch and his fame was spread abroad by what we
should now call a monster publicity campaign. Thirdly, our present
point: the southern lands associated with Columbus and with Spain
yielded immense and most romantic profits during the most romantic
period of the sixteenth century. The northern lands connected with the
Cabots did nothing of the kind.
Priority, publicity, and romantic wealth all favored Columbus and the
south then as the memory of them does to-day. The four hundredth
anniversary of his discovery of an island in the Bahamas excited the
interest of the whole world and was celebrated with great enthusiasm in
the United States. The four hundredth anniversary of the Cabots'
discovery of North America excited no interest at all outside of Bristol
and Cape Breton and a few learned societies. Even contemporary Spain did
more for the Cabots than that. The Spanish ambassador in London
carefully collected every scrap of information and sent it home to his
king, who turned it over as material for Juan de la Cosa's famous map,
the first dated map of America known. This map, made in 1500 on a
bullock's hide, still occupies a place of honor in the Naval Museum at
Madrid; and there it stands as a contemporary geographic record to show
that St. George's Cross was the first flag ever raised over eastern
North America, at all events north of Cape Hatteras.
The Cabots did great things though they were not great men. John, as we
have seen already, sailed out of the ken of man in 1498 during his
second voyage. Sly Sebastian lived on and almost saw Elizabeth ascend
the throne in 1558. He had made many voyages and served many masters in
the meantime. In 1512 he entered the service of King Ferdinand of Spain
as a 'Captain of the Sea' with a handsome salary attached. Six years
later the Emperor Charles V made him 'Chief Pilot and Examiner of
Pilots.' Another six years and he is sitting as a nautical assessor to
find out the longitude of the Moluccas in order that the Pope may know
whether they fall within the Portuguese or Spanish hemisphere of
exploitation. Presently he goes on a four years' journey to South
America, is hindered by a mutiny, explores the River Plate (La Plata),
and returns in 1530, about the time of the voyage to Brazil of 'Master
William Haukins,' of which we shall hear later on.
In 1544 Sebastian made an excellent and celebrated map of the world
which gives a wonderfully good idea of the coasts of North America from
Labrador to Florida. This map, long given up for lost, and only
discovered three centuries after it had been finished, is now in the
National Library in Paris.
[1: An excellent facsimile reproduction of it, together with a copy of
the marginal text, is in the collections of the American Geographical
Society of New York.]
Sebastian had passed his threescore years and ten before this famous
map appeared. But he was as active as ever twelve years later again. He
had left Spain for England in 1548, to the rage of Charles V, who
claimed him as a deserter, which he probably was. But the English
boy-king, Edward VI, gave him a pension, which was renewed by Queen
Mary; and his last ten years were spent in England, where he died in the
odor of sanctity as Governor of the Muscovy Company and citizen of
London. Whatever his faults, he was a hearty-good-fellow with his boon
companions; and the following 'personal mention' about his octogenarian
revels at Gravesend is well worth quoting exactly as the admiring
diarist wrote it down on the 27th of April, 1556, when the pinnace
_Serchthrift_ was on the point of sailing to Muscovy and the Directors
were giving it a great send-off.
After Master Cabota and divers gentlemen and gentlewomen had viewed
our pinnace, and tasted of such cheer as we could make them aboard,
they went on shore, giving to our mariners right liberal rewards;
and the good old Gentleman, Master Cabota, gave to the poor most
liberal alms, wishing them to pray for the good fortune and
prosperous success of the _Serchthrift_, our pinnace. And then, at
the sign of the Christopher, he and his friends banqueted, and
made me and them that were in the company great cheer; and for very
joy that he had to see the towardness of our intended discovery he
entered into the dance himself, amongst the rest of the young and
lusty company--which being ended, he and his friends departed, most
gently commending us to the governance of Almighty God.
HENRY VIII, KING OF THE ENGLISH SEA
The leading pioneers in the Age of Discovery were sons of Italy, Spain,
and Portugal. Cabot, as we have seen, was an Italian, though he
sailed for the English Crown and had an English crew. Columbus, too, was
an Italian, though in the service of the Spanish Crown. It was the
Portuguese Vasco da Gama who in the very year of John Cabot's second
voyage (1498) found the great sea route to India by way of the Cape of
Good Hope. Two years later the Cortereals, also Portuguese, began
exploring the coasts of America as far northwest as Labrador. Twenty
years later again the Portuguese Magellan, sailing for the King of
Spain, discovered the strait still known by his name, passed through it
into the Pacific, and reached the Philippines. There he was killed. But
one of his ships went on to make the first circumnavigation of the
globe, a feat which redounded to the glory of both Spain and Portugal.
Meanwhile, in 1513, the Spaniard Balboa had crossed the Isthmus of
Panama and waded into the Pacific, sword in hand, to claim it for his
king. Then came the Spanish explorers--Ponce de Leon, De Soto, Coronado,
and many more--and later on the conquerors and founders of New
Spain--Cortes, Pizarro, and their successors.
[2: Basque fishermen and whalers apparently forestalled Jacques
Cartier's discovery of the St. Lawrence in 1535; perhaps they knew the
mainland of America before John Cabot in 1497. But they left no written
records; and neither founded an oversea dominion nor gave rights of
discovery to their own or any other race.]
During all this time neither France nor England made any lodgment in
America, though both sent out a number of expeditions, both fished on
the cod banks of Newfoundland, and each had already marked out her own
'sphere of influence.' The Portuguese were in Brazil; the Spaniards, in
South and Central America. England, by right of the Bristol voyages,
claimed the eastern coasts of the United States and Canada; France, in
virtue of Cartier's discovery, the region of the St. Lawrence. But,
while New Spain and New Portugal flourished in the sixteenth century,
New France and New England were yet to rise.
In the sixteenth century both France and England were occupied with
momentous things at home. France was torn with religious wars. Tudor
England had much work to do before any effective English colonies could
be planted. Oversea dominions are nothing without sufficient sea power,
naval and mercantile, to win, to hold, and foster them. But Tudor
England was gradually forming those naval and merchant services without
which there could have been neither British Empire nor United States.
Henry VIII had faults which have been trumpeted about the world from his
own day to ours. But of all English sovereigns he stands foremost as the
monarch of the sea. Young, handsome, learned, exceedingly accomplished,
gloriously strong in body and in mind, Henry mounted the throne in 1509
with the hearty good will of nearly all his subjects. Before England
could become the mother country of an empire overseas, she had to shake
off her medieval weaknesses, become a strongly unified modern state, and
arm herself against any probable combination of hostile foreign states.
Happily for herself and for her future colonists, Henry was richly
endowed with strength and skill for his task. With one hand he welded
England into political unity, crushing disruptive forces by the way.
With the other he gradually built up a fleet the like of which the world
had never seen. He had the advantage of being more independent of
parliamentary supplies than any other sovereign. From his thrifty father
he had inherited what was then an almost fabulous sum--nine million
dollars in cash. From what his friends call the conversion, and his
enemies the spoliation, of Church property in England he obtained many
millions more. Moreover, the people as a whole always rallied to his
call whenever he wanted other national resources for the national
Henry's unique distinction is that he effected the momentous change from
an ancient to a modern fleet. This supreme achievement constitutes his
real title to the lasting gratitude of English-speaking peoples. His
first care when he came to the throne in 1509 was for the safety of the
'Broade Ditch,' as he called the English Channel. His last great act was
to establish in 1546 'The Office of the Admiralty and Marine Affairs.'
During the thirty-seven years between his accession and the creation of
this Navy Board the pregnant change was made.
'King Henry loved a man.' He had an unerring eye for choosing the right
leaders. He delighted in everything to do with ships and shipping. He
mixed freely with naval men and merchant skippers, visited the
dockyards, promoted several improved types of vessels, and always
befriended Fletcher of Rye, the shipwright who discovered the art of
tacking and thereby revolutionized navigation. Nor was the King only a
patron. He invented a new type of vessel himself and thoroughly mastered
scientific gunnery. He was the first of national leaders to grasp the
full significance of what could be done by broadsides fired from sailing
ships against the mediaeval type of vessel that still depended more on
oars than on sails.
Henry's maritime rivals were the two greatest monarchs of continental
Europe, Francis I of France and Charles V of Spain. Henry, Francis, and
Charles were all young, all ambitious, and all exceedingly capable men.
Henry had the fewest subjects, Charles by far the most. Francis had a
compact kingdom well situated for a great European land power. Henry had
one equally well situated for a great European sea power. Charles ruled
vast dominions scattered over both the New World and the Old. The
destinies of mankind turned mostly on the rivalry between these three
protagonists and their successors.
Charles V was heir to several crowns. He ruled Spain, the Netherlands,
the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and important principalities in
northern Italy. He was elected Emperor of Germany. He owned enormous
oversea dominions in Africa; and the two Americas soon became New Spain.
He governed each part of his European dominions by a different title and
under a different constitution. He had no fixed imperial capital, but
moved about from place to place, a legitimate sovereign everywhere and,
for the most part, a popular one as well. It was his son Philip II who,
failing of election as Emperor, lived only in Spain, concentrated the
machinery of government in Madrid, and became so unpopular elsewhere.
Charles had been brought up in Flanders; he was genial in the Flemish
way; and he understood his various states in the Netherlands, which
furnished him with one of his main sources of revenue. Another and much
larger source of revenue poured in its wealth to him later on, in
rapidly increasing volume, from North and South America.
Charles had inherited a long and bitter feud with France about the
Burgundian dominions on the French side of the Rhine and about domains
in Italy; besides which there were many points of violent rivalry
between things French and Spanish. England also had hereditary feuds
with France, which had come down from the Hundred Years' War, and which
had ended in her almost final expulsion from France less than a century
before. Scotland, nursing old feuds against England and always afraid of
absorption, naturally sided with France. Portugal, small and open to
Spanish invasion by land, was more or less bound to please Spain.
During the many campaigns between Francis and Charles the English
Channel swarmed with men-of-war, privateers, and downright pirates.
Sometimes England took a hand officially against France. But, even when
England was not officially at war, many Englishmen were privateers and
not a few were pirates. Never was there a better training school of
fighting seamanship than in and around the Narrow Seas. It was a
continual struggle for an existence in which only the fittest survived.
Quickness was essential. Consequently vessels that could not increase
their speed were soon cleared off the sea.
Spain suffered a good deal by this continuous raiding. So did the
Netherlands. But such was the power of Charles that, although his navies
were much weaker than his armies, he yet was able to fight by sea on two
enormous fronts, first, in the Mediterranean against the Turks and other
Moslems, secondly, in the Channel and along the coast, all the way from
Antwerp to Cadiz. Nor did the left arm of his power stop there; for his
fleets, his transports, and his merchantmen ranged the coasts of both
Americas from one side of the present United States right round to the
Such, in brief, was the position of maritime Europe when Henry found
himself menaced by the three Roman Catholic powers of Scotland, France,
and Spain. In 1533 he had divorced his first wife, Catherine of Aragon,
thereby defying the Pope and giving offence to Spain. He had again
defied the Pope by suppressing the monasteries and severing the Church
of England from the Roman discipline. The Pope had struck back with a
bull of excommunication designed to make Henry the common enemy of
Henry had been steadily building ships for years. Now he redoubled his
activity. He blooded the fathers of his daughter's sea-dogs by smashing
up a pirate fleet and sinking a flotilla of Flemish privateers. The
mouth of the Scheldt, in 1539, was full of vessels ready to take a
hostile army into England. But such a fighting fleet prepared to meet
them that Henry's enemies forbore to strike.
In 1539, too, came the discovery of the art of tacking, by Fletcher of
Rye, Henry's shipwright friend, a discovery forever memorable in the
annals of seamanship. Never before had any kind of craft been sailed a
single foot against the wind. The primitive dugout on which the
prehistoric savage hoisted the first semblance of a sail, the ships of
Tarshish, the Roman transport in which St. Paul was wrecked, and the
Spanish caravels with which Columbus sailed to worlds unknown, were, in
principle of navigation, all the same. But now Fletcher ran out his
epoch-making vessel, with sails trimmed fore and aft, and dumbfounded
all the shipping in the Channel by beating his way to windward against a
good stiff breeze. This achievement marked the dawn of the modern
And so it happened that in 1545 Henry, with a new-born modern fleet, was
able to turn defiantly on Francis. The English people rallied
magnificently to his call. What was at that time an enormous army
covered the lines of advance on London. But the fleet, though employing
fewer men, was relatively a much more important force than the army; and
with the fleet went Henry's own headquarters. His lifelong interest in
his navy now bore the first-fruits of really scientific sea power on an
oceanic scale. There was no great naval battle to fix general attention
on one dramatic moment. Henry's strategy and tactics, however, were new
and full of promise. He repeated his strategy of the previous war by
sending out a strong squadron to attack the base at which the enemy's
ships were then assembling; and he definitely committed the English
navy, alone among all the navies in the world, to sailing-ship tactics,
instead of continuing those founded on the rowing galley of immemorial
fame. The change from a sort of floating army to a really naval fleet,
from galleys moved by oars and depending on boarders who were soldiers,
to ships moved by sails and depending on their broadside guns--this
change was quite as important as the change in the nineteenth century
from sails and smooth-bores to steam and rifled ordnance. It was,
indeed, from at least one commanding point of view, much more important;
for it meant that England was easily first in developing the only kind
of navy which would count in any struggle for oversea dominion after the
discovery of America had made sea power no longer a question of coasts
and landlocked waters but of all the outer oceans of the world.
The year that saw the birth of modern sea power is a date to be
remembered in this history; for 1545 was also the year in which the
mines of Potosi first aroused the Old World to the riches of the New; it
was the year, too, in which Sir Francis Drake was born. Moreover, there
was another significant birth in this same year. The parole aboard the
Portsmouth fleet was _God save the King_! The answering countersign was
_Long to reign over us_! These words formed the nucleus of the national
anthem now sung round all the Seven Seas. The anthems of other countries
were born on land. _God save the King_! sprang from the navy and the
* * * * *
The Reformation quickened seafaring life in many ways. After Henry's
excommunication every Roman Catholic crew had full Papal sanction for
attacking every English crew that would not submit to Rome, no matter
how Catholic its faith might be. Thus, in addition to danger from
pirates, privateers, and men-of-war, an English merchantman had to risk
attack by any one who was either passionately Roman or determined to use
religion as a cloak. Raids and reprisals grew apace. The English were by
no means always lambs in piteous contrast to the Papal wolves. Rather,
it might be said, they took a motto from this true Russian proverb:
'Make yourself a sheep and you'll find no lack of wolves.' But, rightly
or wrongly, the general English view was that the Papal attitude was one
of attack while their own was one of defence. Papal Europe of course
thought quite the reverse.
Henry died in 1547, and the Lord Protector Somerset at once tried to
make England as Protestant as possible during the minority of Edward VI,
who was not yet ten years old. This brought every English seaman under
suspicion in every Spanish port, where the Holy Office of the
Inquisition was a great deal more vigilant and businesslike than the
Custom House or Harbor Master. Inquisitors had seized Englishmen in
Henry's time. But Charles had stayed their hand. Now that the ruler of
England was an open heretic, who appeared to reject the accepted forms
of Catholic belief as well as the Papal forms of Roman discipline, the
hour had come to strike. War would have followed in ordinary times. But
the Reformation had produced a cross-division among the subjects of all
the Great Powers. If Charles went to war with a Protestant Lord
Protector of England then some of his own subjects in the Netherlands
would probably revolt. France had her Huguenots; England her
ultra-Papists; Scotland some of both kinds. Every country had an unknown
number of enemies at home and friends abroad. All feared war.
Somerset neglected the navy. But the seafaring men among the
Protestants, as among those Catholics who were anti-Roman, took to
privateering more than ever. Nor was exploration forgotten. A group of
merchant-adventurers sent Sir Hugh Willoughby to find the Northeast
Passage to Cathay. Willoughby's three ships were towed down the Thames
by oarsmen dressed in sky-blue jackets. As they passed the palace at
Greenwich they dipped their colors in salute. But the poor young king
was too weak to come to the window. Willoughby met his death in Lapland.
But Chancellor, his second-in-command, got through to the White Sea,
pushed on overland to Moscow, and returned safe in 1554, when Queen Mary
was on the throne. Next year, strange to say, the charter of the new
Muscovy Company was granted by Philip of Armada fame, now joint
sovereign of England with his newly married wife, soon to be known as
'Bloody Mary.' One of the directors of the company was Lord Howard of
Effingham, father of Drake's Lord Admiral, while the governor was our
old friend Sebastian Cabot, now in his eightieth year. Philip was Crown
Prince of the Spanish Empire, and his father, Charles V, was very
anxious that he should please the stubborn English; for if he could only
become both King of England and Emperor of Germany he would rule the
world by sea as well as land. Philip did his ineffective best: drank
English beer in public as if he liked it and made his stately Spanish
courtiers drink it too and smile. He spent Spanish gold, brought over
from America, and he got the convenient kind of Englishmen to take it as
spy-money for many years to come. But with it he likewise sowed some
dragon's teeth. The English sea-dogs never forgot the iron chests of
Spanish New-World gold, and presently began to wonder whether there was
no sure way in far America by which to get it for themselves.
In the same year, 1555, the Marian attack on English heretics began and
the sea became safer than the land for those who held strong anti-Papal
views. The Royal Navy was neglected even more than it had been lately by
the Lord Protector. But fighting traders, privateers, and pirates
multiplied. The seaports were hotbeds of hatred against Mary, Philip,
Papal Rome, and Spanish Inquisition. In 1556 Sebastian Cabot reappears,
genial and prosperous as ever, and dances out of history at the sailing
of the _Serchthrift_, bound northeast for Muscovy. In 1557 Philip came
back to England for the last time and manoeuvred her into a war which
cost her Calais, the last English foothold on the soil of France. During
this war an English squadron joined Philip's vessels in a victory over
the French off Gravelines, where Drake was to fight the Armada thirty
This first of the two battles fought at Gravelines brings us down to
1558, the year in which Mary died, Elizabeth succeeded her, and a very
different English age began.
LIFE AFLOAT IN TUDOR TIMES
Two stories from Hakluyt's _Voyages_ will illustrate what sort of work
the English were attempting in America about 1530, near the middle of
King Henry's reign. The success of 'Master Haukins' and the failure of
'Master Hore' are quite typical of several other adventures in the New
'Olde M. William Haukins of Plimmouth, a man for his wisdome, valure,
experience, and skill in sea causes much esteemed and beloved of King
Henry the eight, and being one of the principall Sea Captaines in the
West partes of England in his time, not contented with the short voyages
commonly then made onely to the knowen coastes of Europe, armed out a
tall and goodlie ship of his owne, of the burthen of 250 tunnes, called
the Pole of Plimmouth, wherewith he made three long and famous voyages
vnto the coast of Brasill, a thing in those days very rare, especially
to our Nation.' Hawkins first went down the Guinea Coast of Africa,
'where he trafiqued with the Negroes, and tooke of them Oliphants'
teeth, and other commodities which that place yeeldeth; and so arriving
on the coast of Brasil, used there such discretion, and behaved himselfe
so wisely with those savage people, that he grew into great familiaritie
and friendship with them. Insomuch that in his 2 voyage one of the
savage kings of the Countrey of Brasil was contented to take ship with
him, and to be transported hither into England. This kinge was presented
unto King Henry 8. The King and all the Nobilitie did not a little
marvel; for in his cheeks were holes, and therein small bones planted,
which in his Countrey was reputed for a great braverie.' The poor
Brazilian monarch died on his voyage back, which made Hawkins fear for
the life of Martin Cockeram, whom he had left in Brazil as a hostage.
However, the Brazilians took Hawkins's word for it and released
Cockeram, who lived another forty years in Plymouth. 'Olde M. William
Haukins' was the father of Sir John Hawkins, Drake's companion in arms,
whom we shall meet later. He was also the grandfather of Sir Richard
Hawkins, another naval hero, and of the second William Hawkins, one of
the founders of the greatest of all chartered companies, the Honourable
East India Company.
Hawkins knew what he was about. 'Master Hore' did not. Hore was a
well-meaning, plausible fellow, good at taking up new-fangled ideas, bad
at carrying them out, and the very cut of a wildcat company-promoter,
except for his honesty. He persuaded 'divers young lawyers of the Innes
of Court and Chancerie' to go to Newfoundland. A hundred and twenty men
set off in this modern ship of fools, which ran into Newfoundland at
night and was wrecked. There were no provisions; and none of the 'divers
lawyers' seems to have known how to catch a fish. After trying to live
on wild fruit they took to eating each other, in spite of Master Hore,
who stood up boldly and warned them of the 'Fire to Come.' Just then a
French fishing smack came in; whereupon the lawyers seized her, put her
wretched crew ashore, and sailed away with all the food she had. The
outraged Frenchmen found another vessel, chased the lawyers back to
England, and laid their case before the King, who 'out of his Royall
Bountie' reimbursed the Frenchmen and let the 'divers lawyers' go scot
Hawkins and Hore, and others like them, were the heroes of travellers'
tales. But what was the ordinary life of the sailor who went down to the
sea in the ships of the Tudor age? There are very few quite authentic
descriptions of life afloat before the end of the sixteenth century; and
even then we rarely see the ship and crew about their ordinary work.
Everybody was all agog for marvellous discoveries. Nobody, least of all
a seaman, bothered his head about describing the daily routine on board.
We know, however, that it was a lot of almost incredible hardship. Only
the fittest could survive. Elizabethan landsmen may have been quite as
prone to mistake comfort for civilization as most of the world is said
to be now. Elizabethan sailors, when afloat, most certainly were not;
and for the simple reason that there was no such thing as real comfort
in a ship.
Here are a few verses from the oldest genuine English sea-song known.
They were written down in the fifteenth century, before the discovery
of America, and were probably touched up a little by the scribe. The
original manuscript is now in Trinity College, Cambridge. It is a true
nautical composition--a very rare thing indeed; for genuine sea-songs
didn't often get into print and weren't enjoyed by landsmen when they
did. The setting is that of a merchantman carrying passengers whose
discomforts rather amuse the 'schippemenne.'
Anon the master commandeth fast
To his ship-men in all the hast[e],
To dresse them [line up] soon about the mast
Their takeling to make.
With _Howe! Hissa!_ then they cry,
'What howe! mate thou standest too nigh,
Thy fellow may not haul thee by:'
Thus they begin to crake [shout].
A boy or twain anon up-steyn [go aloft]
And overthwart the sayle-yerde leyn [lie]
_Y-how! taylia!_ the remnant cryen [cry]
And pull with all their might.
Bestow the boat, boat-swain, anon,
That our pylgrymms may play thereon;
For some are like to cough and groan
Ere it be full midnight.
Haul the bowline! Now veer the sheet;
Cook, make ready anon our meat!
Our pylgrymms have no lust to eat:
I pray God give them rest.
Go to the helm! What ho! no neare[r]!
Steward, fellow! a pot of beer!
Ye shall have, Sir, with good cheer,
Anon all of the best.
_Y-howe! Trussa!_ Haul in the brailes!
Thou haulest not! By God, thou failes[t]
O see how well our good ship sails!
And thus they say among.
* * * * *
Thys meane'whyle the pylgrymms lie,
And have their bowls all fast them by,
And cry after hot malvesy--
'Their health for to restore.'
* * * * *
Some lay their bookys on their knee,
And read so long they cannot see.
'Alas! mine head will split in three!'
Thus sayeth one poor wight.
* * * * *
A sack of straw were there right good;
For some must lay them in their hood:
I had as lief be in the wood,
Without or meat or drink!
For when that we shall go to bed,
The pump is nigh our beddes head:
A man he were as good be dead
As smell thereof the stynke!
_Howe--hissa!_ is still used aboard deepwater-men as _Ho--hissa!_
instead of _Ho--hoist away!_ _What ho, mate!_ is also known afloat,
though dying out. _Y-howe! taylia!_ is _Yo--ho! tally!_ or _Tally and
belay!_ which means hauling aft and making fast the sheet of a mainsail
or foresail. _What ho! no nearer!_ is _What ho! no higher_ now. But old
salts remember _no nearer!_ and it may be still extant. Seasickness
seems to have been the same as ever--so was the desperate effort to
pretend one was not really feeling it:
And cry after hot malvesy--
'Their health for to restore.'
Here is another sea-song, one sung by the sea-dogs themselves. The doubt
is whether the _Martial-men_ are Navy men, as distinguished from
merchant-service men aboard a king's ship, or whether they are soldiers
who want to take all sailors down a peg or two. This seems the more
probable explanation. Soldiers 'ranked' sailors afloat in the sixteenth
century; and Drake's was the first fleet in the world in which
seamen-admirals were allowed to fight a purely naval action.
We be three poor Mariners, newly come from the Seas,
We spend our lives in jeopardy while others live at ease.
We care not for those Martial-men that do our states disdain,
But we care for those Merchant-men that do our states maintain.
A third old sea-song gives voice to the universal complaint that
landsmen cheat sailors who come home flush of gold.
For Sailors they be honest men,
And they do take great pains,
But Land-men and ruffling lads
Do rob them of their gains.
Here, too, is some _Cordial Advice_ against the wiles of the sea,
addressed _To all rash young Men, who think to Advance their
decaying Fortunes by Navigation_, as most of the sea-dogs (and
gentlemen-adventurers like Gilbert, Raleigh, and Cavendish) tried to do.
You merchant men of Billingsgate,
I wonder how you thrive.
You bargain with men for six months
And pay them but for five.
This was an abuse that took a long time to die out. Even well on in the
nineteenth century, and sometimes even on board of steamers, victualling
was only by the lunar month though service went by the calendar.
A cursed cat with thrice three tails
Doth much increase our woe
is a poetical way of putting another seaman's grievance.
People who regret that there is such a discrepancy between genuine
sea-songs and shore-going imitations will be glad to know that the
_Mermaid_ is genuine, though the usual air to which it was sung afloat
was harsh and decidedly inferior to the one used ashore. This example of
the old 'fore-bitters' (so-called because sung from the fore-bitts, a
convenient mass of stout timbers near the foremast) did not luxuriate in
the repetitions of its shore-going rival: _With a comb and a glass in
her hand, her hand, her hand_, etc.
_Solo_. On Friday morn as we set sail
It was not far from land,
Oh, there I spied a fair pretty maid
With a comb and a glass in her hand.
_Chorus_. The stormy winds did blow,
And the raging seas did roar,
While we poor Sailors went to the tops
And the land lubbers laid below.
The anonymous author of a curious composition entitled _The Complaynt of
Scotland_, written in 1548, seems to be the only man who took more
interest in the means than in the ends of seamanship. He was undoubtedly
a landsman. But he loved the things of the sea; and his work is well
worth reading as a vocabulary of the lingo that was used on board a
Tudor ship. When the seamen sang it sounded like 'an echo in a cave.'
Many of the outlandish words were Mediterranean terms which the
scientific Italian navigators had brought north. Others were of Oriental
origin, which was very natural in view of the long connection between
East and West at sea. Admiral, for instance, comes from the Arabic for a
commander-in-chief. _Amir-al-bahr_ means commander of the sea. Most of
the nautical technicalities would strike a seaman of the present day as
being quite modern. The sixteenth-century skipper would be readily
understood by a twentieth-century helmsman in the case of such orders as
these: _Keep full and by! Luff! Con her! Steady! Keep close!_ Our modern
sailor in the navy, however, would be hopelessly lost in trying to
follow directions like the following: _Make ready your cannons, middle
culverins, bastard culverins, falcons, sakers, slings, headsticks,
murderers, passevolants, bazzils, dogges, crook arquebusses, calivers,
and hail shot!_
Another look at life afloat in the sixteenth century brings us once more
into touch with America; for the old sea-dog DIRECTIONS FOR THE TAKYNG
OF A PRIZE were admirably summed up in _The Seaman's Grammar_, which was
compiled by 'Captaine John Smith, sometime Governour of Virginia and
Admiral of New England'--'Pocahontas Smith,' in fact.
'How bears she? To-windward or lee-ward? Set him by the compass!'
'Hee stands right a-head' (_or_ On the weather-bow, _or_ lee-bow).
'Let fly your colours!' (if you have a consort--else not). 'Out with all
your sails! A steadie man at the helm! Give him chace!'
'Hee holds his owne--No, wee gather on him, Captaine!'
_Out goes his flag and pendants, also his waist-cloths and top-armings,
which is a long red cloth ... that goeth round about the shippe on the
out-sides of all her upper works and fore and main-tops, as well for the
countenance and grace of the shippe as to cover the men from being seen.
He furls and slings his main-yard. In goes his sprit-sail. Thus they
strip themselves into their fighting sails, which is, only the foresail,
the main and fore topsails, because the rest should not be fired nor
spoiled; besides, they would be troublesome to handle, hinder our sights
and the using of our arms._
'He makes ready his close-fights, fore and aft.' [Bulkheads set up to
cover men under fire] ...
'Every man to his charge! Dowse your topsail to salute him for the sea!
Hail him with a noise of trumpets!'
'Whence is your ship?'
'Of Spain--whence is yours?'
'Are you merchants or men of war?'
'We are of the Sea!'
_He waves us to leeward with his drawn sword,_ _calls out 'Amain' for
the King of Spain, and springs his luff_[brings his vessel close by the
'Give him a chase-piece with your broadside, and run a good berth a-head
'We have the wind of him, and now he tacks about!'
'Tack about also and keep your luff! Be yare at the helm! Edge in with
him! Give him a volley of small shot, also your prow and broadside as
before, and keep your luff!'
'He pays us shot for shot!'
'Well, we shall requite him!' ...
'Edge in with him again! Begin with your bow pieces, proceed with your
broadside, and let her fall off with the wind to give him also your full
chase, your weather-broad-side, and bring her round so that the stern
may also discharge, and your tacks close aboard again!' ...
'The wind veers, the sea goes too high to board her, and we are shot
through and through, and between wind and water.'
'Try the pump! Bear up the helm! Sling a man overboard to stop the
leaks, _that is_, truss him up around the middle in a piece of canvas
and a rope, with his arms at liberty, with a mallet and plugs lapped in
oakum and well tarred, and a tar-pauling clout, which he will quickly
beat into the holes the bullets made.'
'What cheer, Mates, is all Well?'
'Then make ready to bear up with him again!'
'With all your great and small shot charge him, board him thwart the
hawse, on the bow, midships, or, rather than fail, on his quarter; or
make fast your grapplings to his close-fights and sheer off' [which
would tear his cover down].
'Captain, we are foul of each other and the ship is on fire!'
'Cut anything to get clear and smother the fire with wet cloths!'
_In such a case they will bee presentlie such friends as to help one the
other all they can to get clear, lest they should both burn together and
so sink: and, if they be generous, and the fire be quenched, they will
drink kindly one to the other, heave their canns over-board, and begin
again as before...._
'Chirurgeon, look to the wounded, and wind up the slain, and give them
three guns for their funerals! Swabber, make clean the ship! Purser,
record their names! Watch, be vigilant to keep your berth to windward,
that we lose him not, in the night! Gunners, spunge your ordnance!
Souldiers, scour your pieces! Carpenters, about your leaks! Boatswain
and the rest, repair sails and shrouds! Cook, see you observe your
directions against the morning watch!' ...
'Boy, hallo! is the kettle boiled?'
'Ay, ay, Sir!'
'Boatswain, call up the men to prayer and breakfast!' ...
_Always have as much care to their wounded as to your own; and if there
be either young women or aged men, use them nobly ..._
'Sound drums and trumpets: SAINT GEORGE FOR MERRIE ENGLAND!'
Elizabethan England is the motherland, the true historic home, of all
the different peoples who speak the sea-borne English tongue. In the
reign of Elizabeth there was only one English-speaking nation. This
nation consisted of a bare five million people, fewer than there are
to-day in London or New York. But hardly had the Great Queen died before
Englishmen began that colonizing movement which has carried their
language the whole world round and established their civilization in
every quarter of the globe. Within three centuries after Elizabeth's day
the use of English as a native speech had grown quite thirtyfold. Within
the same three centuries the number of those living under laws and
institutions derived from England had grown a hundredfold.
The England of Elizabeth was an England of great deeds, but of greater
dreams. Elizabethan literature, take it for all in all, has never been
surpassed; myriad-minded Shakespeare remains unequalled still.
Elizabethan England was indeed 'a nest of singing birds.' Prose was
often far too pedestrian for the exultant life of such a mighty
generation. As new worlds came into their expectant ken, the glowing
Elizabethans wished to fly there on the soaring wings of verse. To them
the tide of fortune was no ordinary stream but the 'white-maned, proud,
neck-arching tide' that bore adventurers to sea 'with pomp of waters
The goodly heritage that England gave her offspring overseas included
Shakespeare and the English Bible. The Authorized Version entered into
the very substance of early American life. There was a marked difference
between Episcopalian Virginia and Puritan New England. But both took
their stand on this version of the English Bible, in which the springs
of Holy Writ rejoiced to run through channels of Elizabethan prose. It
is true that Elizabeth slept with her fathers before this book of books
was printed, and that the first of the Stuarts reigned in her stead.
Nevertheless the Authorized Version is pure Elizabethan. All its
translators were Elizabethans, as their dedication to King James, still
printed with every copy, gratefully acknowledges in its reference to
'the setting of that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth of most
These words of the reverend scholars contain no empty compliment.
Elizabeth was a great sovereign and in some essential particulars, a
very great national leader. This daughter of Henry VIII and his second
wife, Anne Boleyn the debonair, was born a heretic in 1533. Her father
was then defying both Spain and the Pope. Within three years after her
birth her mother was beheaded; and by Act of Parliament Elizabeth
herself was declared illegitimate. She was fourteen when her father
died, leaving the kingdom to his three children in succession, Elizabeth
being the third. Then followed the Protestant reign of the boy-king
Edward VI, during which Elizabeth enjoyed security; then the Catholic
reign of her Spanish half-sister, 'Bloody Mary,' during which her life
hung by the merest thread.
At first, however, Mary concealed her hostility to Elizabeth because she
thought the two daughters of Henry VIII ought to appear together in her
triumphal entry into London. From one point of view--and a feminine one
at that--this was a fatal mistake on Mary's part: for never did
Elizabeth show to more advantage. She was just under twenty, while Mary
was nearly twice her age. Mary had, indeed, provided herself with one
good foil in the person of Anne of Cleves, the 'Flemish mare' whose flat
coarse face and lumbering body had disgusted King Henry thirteen years
before, when Cromwell had foisted her upon him as his fourth wife. But
with poor, fat, straw-colored Anne on one side, and black-and-sallow,
foreign-looking, man-voiced Mary on the other, the thoroughly English
Princess Elizabeth took London by storm on the spot. Tall and majestic,
she was a magnificent example of the finest Anglo-Norman type. Always
'the glass of fashion' and then the very 'mould of form' her splendid
figure looked equally well on horseback or on foot. A little full in the
eye, and with a slightly aquiline nose, she appeared, as she really was,
keenly observant and commanding. Though these two features just
prevented her from being a beauty, the bright blue eyes and the finely
chiselled nose were themselves quite beautiful enough. Nor was she less
taking to the ear than to the eye; for, in marked contrast to gruff
foreign Mary and wheezy foreign Anne, she had a rich, clear, though
rather too loud, English voice. When the Court reined up and dismounted,
Elizabeth became even more the centre of attraction. Mary marched
stiffly on. Anne plodded after. But as for Elizabeth--perfect in
dancing, riding, archery, and all the sports of chivalry--'she trod the
ling like a buck in spring, and she looked like a lance in rest.'
When Elizabeth succeeded Mary in the autumn of 1558 she had dire need of
all she had learnt in her twenty-five years of adventurous life.
Fortunately for herself and, on the whole, most fortunately for both
England and America, she had a remarkable power of inspiring devotion to
the service of their queen and country in men of both the cool and
ardent types; and this long after her personal charms had gone.
Government, religion, finance, defence, and foreign affairs were in a
perilous state of flux, besides which they have never been more
distractingly mixed up with one another. Henry VII had saved money for
twenty-five years. His three successors had spent it lavishly for
fifty. Henry VIII had kept the Church Catholic in ritual while making it
purely national in government. The Lord Protector Somerset had made it
as Protestant as possible under Edward VI. Mary had done her best to
bring it back to the Pope. Home affairs were full of doubts and dangers,
though the great mass of the people were ready to give their handsome
young queen a fair chance and not a little favor. Foreign affairs were
worse. France was still the hereditary enemy; and the loss of Calais
under Mary had exasperated the whole English nation. Scotland was a
constant menace in the north. Spain was gradually changing from friend
to foe. The Pope was disinclined to recognize Elizabeth at all.
To understand how difficult her position was we must remember what sort
of constitution England had when the germ of the United States was
forming. The Roman Empire was one constituent whole from the emperor
down. The English-speaking peoples of to-day form constituent wholes
from the electorate up. In both cases all parts were and are in constant
relation to the whole. The case of Elizabethan England, however, was
very different. There was neither despotic unity from above nor
democratic unity from below, but a mixed and fluctuating kind of
government in which Crown, nobles, parliament, and people formed certain
parts which had to be put together for each occasion. The accepted
general idea was that the sovereign, supreme as an individual, looked
after the welfare of the country in peace and war so far as the Crown
estates permitted; but that whenever the Crown resources would not
suffice then the sovereign could call on nobles and people for whatever
the common weal required. _Noblesse oblige_. In return for the estates
or monopolies which they had acquired the nobles and favored commoners
were expected to come forward with all their resources at every national
crisis precisely as the Crown was expected to work for the common weal
at all times. When the resources of the Crown and favored courtiers
sufficed, no parliament was called; but whenever they had to be
supplemented then parliament met and voted whatever it approved.
Finally, every English freeman was required to do his own share towards
defending the country in time of need, and he was further required to
know the proper use of arms.
The great object of every European court during early modern times was
to get both the old feudal nobility and the newly promoted commoners to
revolve round the throne as round the centre of their solar system. By
sheer force of character--for the Tudors, had no overwhelming army like
the Roman emperors'--Henry VIII had succeeded wonderfully well.
Elizabeth now had to piece together what had been broken under Edward VI
and Mary. She, too, succeeded--and with the hearty goodwill of nearly
all her subjects.
Mary had left the royal treasury deeply in debt. Yet Elizabeth succeeded
in paying off all arrears and meeting new expenditure for defence and
for the court. The royal income rose. England became immensely richer
and more prosperous than ever before. Foreign trade increased by leaps
and bounds. Home industries flourished and were stimulated by new
arrivals from abroad, because England was a safe asylum for the
craftsmen whom Philip was driving from the Netherlands, to his own great
loss and his rival's gain.
English commercial life had been slowly emerging from medieval ways
throughout the fifteenth century. With the beginning of the sixteenth
the rate of emergence had greatly quickened. The soil-bound peasant who
produced enough food for his family from his thirty acres was being
gradually replaced by the well-to-do yeoman who tilled a hundred acres
and upwards. Such holdings produced a substantial surplus for the
market. This increased the national wealth, which, in its turn,
increased both home and foreign trade. The peasant merely raised a
little wheat and barley, kept a cow, and perhaps some sheep. The yeoman
or tenant farmer had sheep enough for the wool trade besides some
butter, cheese, and meat for the nearest growing town. He began to
'garnish his cupboards with pewter and his joined beds with tapestry and
silk hangings, and his tables with carpets and fine napery.' He could
even feast his neighbors and servants after shearing day with
new-fangled foreign luxuries like dates, mace, raisins, currants, and
But Elizabethan society presented striking contrasts. In parts of
England, the practice of engrossing and enclosing holdings was
increasing, as sheep-raising became more profitable than farming. The
tenants thus dispossessed either swelled the ranks of the vagabonds who
infested the highways or sought their livelihood at sea or in London,
which provided the two best openings for adventurous young men. The
smaller provincial towns afforded them little opportunity, for there the
trades were largely in the hands of close corporations descended from
the medieval craft guilds. These were eventually to be swept away by the
general trend of business. Their dissolution had indeed already begun;
for smart village craftsmen were even then forming the new industrial
settlements from which most of the great manufacturing towns of England
have sprung. Camden the historian found Birmingham full of ringing
anvils, Sheffield 'a town of great name for the smiths therein,' Leeds
renowned for cloth, and Manchester already a sort of cottonopolis,
though the 'cottons' of those days were still made of wool.
There was a wages question then as now. There were demands for a minimum
living wage. The influx of gold and silver from America had sent all
prices soaring. Meat became almost prohibitive for the 'submerged
tenth'--there was a rapidly submerging tenth. Beef rose from one cent a
pound in the forties to four in 1588, the year of the Armada. How would
the lowest paid of craftsmen fare on twelve cents a day, with butter at
ten cents a pound? Efforts were made, again and again, to readjust the
ratio between prices and wages. But, as a rule, prices increased much
faster than wages.
All these things--the increase of surplus hands, the high cost of
living, grievances about wages and interest--tended to make the farms
and workshops of England recruiting-grounds for the sea; and the young
men would strike out for themselves as freighters, traders, privateers,
or downright pirates, lured by the dazzling chance of great and sudden
'The gamble of it' was as potent then as now, probably more potent
still. It was an age of wild speculation accompanied by all the usual
evils that follow frenzied ways. It was also an age of monopoly. Both
monopoly and speculation sent recruits into the sea-dog ranks. Elizabeth
would grant, say, to Sir Walter Raleigh, the monopoly of sweet wines.
Raleigh would naturally want as much sweet wine imported as England
could be induced to swallow. So, too, would Elizabeth, who got the duty.
Crews would be wanted for the monopolistic ships. They would also be
wanted for 'free-trading' vessels, that is, for the ships of the
smugglers who underbid, undersold, and tried to overreach the
monopolist, who represented law, though not quite justice. But
speculation ran to greater extremes than either monopoly or smuggling.
Shakespeare's 'Putter-out of five for one' was a typical Elizabethan
speculator exploiting the riskiest form of sea-dog trade for all--and
sometimes for more than all--that it was worth. A merchant-adventurer
would pay a capitalist, say, a thousand pounds as a premium to be
forfeited if his ship should be lost, but to be repaid by the capitalist
fivefold to the merchant if it returned. Incredible as it may seem to
us, there were shrewd money-lenders always ready for this sort of deal
in life--or life-and-death--insurance: an eloquent testimony to the
risks encountered in sailing unknown seas in the midst of well-known
Marine insurance of the regular kind was, of course, a very different
thing. It was already of immemorial age, going back certainly to
medieval and probably to very ancient times. All forms of insurance on
land are mere mushrooms by comparison. Lloyd's had not been heard of.
But there were plenty of smart Elizabethan underwriters already
practising the general principles which were to be formally adopted two
hundred years later, in 1779, at Lloyd's Coffee House. A policy taken
out on the _Tiger_ immortalized by Shakespeare would serve as a model
still. And what makes it all the more interesting is that the
Elizabethan underwriters calculated the _Tiger's_ chances at the very
spot where the association known as Lloyd's transacts its business
to-day, the Royal Exchange in London. This, in turn, brings Elizabeth
herself upon the scene; for when she visited the Exchange, which Sir
Thomas Gresham had built to let the merchants do their street work under
cover, she immediately grasped its full significance and 'caused it by
an Herald and a Trumpet to be proclaimed The Royal Exchange,' the name
it bears to-day. An Elizabethan might well be astonished by what he
would see at any modern Lloyd's. Yet he would find the same essentials;
for the British Lloyd's, like most of its foreign imitators, is not a
gigantic insurance company at all, but an association of cautiously
elected members who carry on their completely independent private
business in daily touch with each other--precisely as Elizabethans did.
Lloyd's method differs wholly from ordinary insurance. Instead of
insuring vessel and cargo with a single company or man the owner puts
his case before Lloyd's, and any member can then write his name
underneath for any reasonable part of the risk. The modern
'underwriter,' all the world over, is the direct descendant of the
Elizabethan who wrote his name under the conditions of a given risk at
Joint-stock companies were in one sense old when Elizabethan men of
business were young. But the Elizabethans developed them enormously.
'Going shares' was doubtless prehistoric. It certainly was ancient,
medieval, and Elizabethan. But those who formerly went shares generally
knew each other and something of the business too. The favorite number
of total shares was just sixteen. There were sixteen land-shares in a
Celtic household, sixteen shares in Scottish vessels not individually
owned, sixteen shares in the theatre by which Shakespeare 'made his
pile.' But sixteenths, and even hundredths, were put out of date when
speculation on the grander scale began and the area of investment grew.
The New River Company, for supplying London with water, had only a few
shares then, as it continued to have down to our own day, when they
stood at over a thousand times par. The Ulster 'Plantation' in Ireland
was more remote and appealed to more investors and on wider
grounds--sentimental grounds, both good and bad, included. The Virginia
'Plantation' was still more remote and risky and appealed to an
ever-increasing number of the speculating public. Many an investor put
money on America in much the same way as a factory hand to-day puts
money on a horse he has never seen or has never heard of otherwise than
as something out of which a lot of easy money can be made provided luck
The modern prospectus was also in full career under Elizabeth, who
probably had a hand in concocting some of the most important specimens.
Lord Bacon wrote one describing the advantages of the Newfoundland
fisheries in terms which no promoter of the present day could better.
Every type of prospectus was tried on the investing public, some
genuine, many doubtful, others as outrageous in their impositions on
human credulity as anything produced in our own times. The
company-promoter was abroad, in London, on 'Change, and at court. What
with royal favor, social prestige, general prosperity, the new national
eagerness to find vent for surplus commodities, and, above all, the
spirit of speculation fanned into flame by the real and fabled wonders
of America, what with all this the investing public could take its
choice of 'going the limit' in a hundred different and most alluring
ways. England was surprised at her own investing wealth. The East India
Company raised eight million dollars with ease from a thousand
shareholders and paid a first dividend of 87-1/2 per cent. Spices,
pearls, and silks came pouring into London; and English goods found vent
Vastly expanding business opportunities of course produced the spirit of
the trust--and of very much the same sort of trust that Americans think
so ultra-modern now. Monopolies granted by the Crown and the volcanic
forces of widespread speculation prevented some of the abuses of the
trust. But there were Elizabethan trusts, for all that, though many a
promising scheme fell through. The Feltmakers' Hat Trust is a case in
point. They proposed buying up all the hats in the market so as to
oblige all dealers to depend upon one central warehouse. Of course they
issued a prospectus showing how everyone concerned would benefit by this
Ben Jonson and other playwrights were quick to seize the salient
absurdities of such an advertisement. In _The Staple of News_ Jonson
proposed a News Trust to collect all the news of the world, corner it,
classify it into authentic, apocryphal, barber's gossip, and so forth,
and then sell it, for the sole benefit of the consumer, in lengths to
suit all purchasers. In _The Devil is an Ass_ he is a little more
We'll take in citizens, commoners, and aldermen To bear the charge,
and blow them off again like so many dead flies....
This was exactly what was at that very moment being done in the case of
the Alum Trust. All the leading characters of much more modern times
were there already; Fitzdottrell, ready to sell his estates in order to
become His Grace the Duke of Drown'dland, Gilthead, the London
moneylender who 'lives by finding fools,' and My Lady Tailbush, who
pulls the social wires at court. And so the game went on, usually with
the result explained by Shakespeare's fisherman in _Pericles_:
'I marvel how the fishes live in the sea'---'Why, as men do a-land:
the great ones eat up the little ones.'
The Newcastle coal trade grew into something very like a modern American
trust with the additional advantage of an authorized government monopoly
so long as the agreed-upon duty was paid. Then there was the Starch
Monopoly, a very profitable one because starch was a new delight which
soon enabled Elizabethan fops to wear ruffed collars big enough to make
their heads--as one irreverent satirist exclaimed--'look like John
Baptist's on a platter.'
But America? Could not America defeat the machinations of all monopolies
and other trusts? Wasn't America the land of actual gold and silver
where there was plenty of room for everyone? There soon grew up a wild
belief that you could tap America for precious metals almost as its
Indians tapped maple trees for sugar. The 'Mountains of Bright Stones'
were surely there. Peru and Mexico were nothing to these. Only find
them, and 'get-rich-quick' would be the order of the day for every true
adventurer. These mountains moved about in men's imaginations and on
prospectors' maps, always ahead of the latest pioneer, somewhere behind
the Back of Beyond. They and their glamour died hard. Even that staid
geographer of a later day, Thos. Jeffreys, added to his standard atlas
of America, in 1760, this item of information on the Far Northwest:
_Hereabouts are supposed to be the Mountains of Bright Stones mentioned
in the Map of ye Indian Ochagach._
Speculation of the wildcat kind was bad. But it was the seamy side of a
praiseworthy spirit of enterprise. Monopoly seems worse than
speculation. And so, in many ways, it was. But we must judge it by the
custom of its age. It was often unjust and generally obstructive. But it
did what neither the national government nor joint-stock companies had
yet learnt to do. Monopoly went by court favor, and its rights were
often scandalously let and sometimes sublet as well. But, on the whole,
the Queen, the court, and the country really meant business, and
monopolists had either to deliver the goods or get out. Monopolists sold
dispensations from unworkable laws, which was sometimes a good thing and
sometimes a bad. They sold licenses for indulgence in forbidden
pleasures, not often harmless. They thought out and collected all kinds
of indirect taxation and had to face all the troubles that confront the
framers of a tariff policy to-day. Most of all, however, in a
rough-and-ready way they set a sort of Civil Service going. They served
as Boards of Trade, Departments of the Interior, Customs, Inland
Revenue, and so forth. What Crown and Parliament either could not or
would not do was farmed out to monopolists. Like speculation the system
worked both ways, and frequently for evil. But, like the British
constitution, though on a lower plane, it worked.
A monopoly at home--like those which we have been considering--was
endurable because it was a working compromise that suited existing
circumstances more or less, and that could be either mended or ended as
time went on. But a general foreign monopoly--like Spain's monopoly of
America--was quite unendurable. Could Spain not only hold what she had
discovered and was exploiting but also extend her sphere of influence
over what she had not discovered? Spain said Yes. England said No. The
Spaniards looked for tribute. The English looked for trade. In
government, in religion, in business, in everything, the two great
rivals were irreconcilably opposed. Thus the lists were set; and sea-dog
Elizabeth was an exceedingly able woman of business and was practically
president of all the great joint-stock companies engaged in oversea
trade. Wherever a cargo could be bought or sold there went an English
ship to buy or sell it. Whenever the authorities in foreign parts tried
discrimination against English men or English goods, the English
sea-dogs growled and showed their teeth. And if the foreigners
persisted, the sea-dogs bit them.
Elizabeth was extravagant at court; but not without state motives for at
least a part of her extravagance. A brilliant court attracted the upper
classes into the orbit of the Crown while it impressed the whole country
with the sovereign's power. Courtiers favored with monopolies had to
spend their earnings when the state was threatened. And might not the
Queen's vast profusion of jewelry be turned to account at a pinch?
Elizabeth could not afford to be generous when she was young. She grew
to be stingy when she was old. But she saved the state by sound finance
as well as by arms in spite of all her pomps and vanities. She had three
thousand dresses, and gorgeous ones at that, during the course of her
reign. Her bathroom was wainscoted with Venetian mirrors so that she
could see 'nine-and-ninety' reflections of her very comely person as
she dipped and splashed or dried her royal skin. She set a hot pace for
all the votaries of dress to follow. All kinds of fashions came in from
abroad with the rush of new-found wealth; and so, instead of being
sanely beautiful, they soon became insanely bizarre. 'An Englishman,'
says Harrison, 'endeavouring to write of our attire, gave over his
travail, and only drew the picture of a naked man, since he could find
no kind of garment that could please him any whiles together.
I am an English man and naked I stand here,
Musing in my mind what raiment I shall were;
For now I will were this, and now I will were that;
And now I will were I cannot tell what.
Except you see a dog in a doublet you shall not see any so disguised as
are my countrymen of England. Women also do far exceed the lightness of
our men. What shall I say of their galligascons to bear out their attire
and make it fit plum round?' But the wives of 'citizens and burgesses,'
like all _nouveaux riches_, were still more bizarre than the courtiers.
'They cannot tell when or how to make an end, being women in whom all
kind of curiosity is to be seen in far greater measure than in women of
higher calling. I might name hues devised for the nonce, ver d'oye
'twixt green and yallow, peas-porridge tawny, popinjay blue, and the
Yet all this crude absurdity, 'from the courtier to the carter,' was the
glass reflecting the constantly increasing sea-borne trade, ever pushing
farther afield under the stimulus and protection of the sea-dogs. And
the Queen took precious good care that it all paid toll to her treasury
through the customs, so that she could have more money to build more
ships. And if her courtiers did stuff their breeches out with sawdust,
she took equally good care that each fighting man among them donned his
uniform and raised his troops or fitted out his ships when the time was
ripe for action.
HAWKINS AND THE FIGHTING TRADERS
Said Francis I of France to Charles V, King of Spain: 'Your Majesty and
the King of Portugal have divided the world between you, offering no
part of it to me. Show me, I pray you, the will of our father Adam, so
that I may see if he has really made you his only universal heirs!' Then
Francis sent out the Italian navigator Verrazano, who first explored the
coast from Florida to Newfoundland. Afterwards Jacques Cartier
discovered the St. Lawrence; Frenchmen took Havana twice, plundered the
Spanish treasure-ships, and tried to found colonies--Catholic in
Canada, Protestant in Florida and Brazil.
Thus, at the time when Elizabeth ascended the throne of England in 1558,
there was a long-established New Spain extending over Mexico, the West
Indies, and most of South America; a small New Portugal confined to part
of Brazil; and a shadowy New France running vaguely inland from the Gulf
of St. Lawrence, nowhere effectively occupied, and mostly overlapping
prior English claims based on the discoveries of the Cabots.
England and France had often been enemies. England and Spain had just
been allied in a war against France as well as by the marriage of Philip
and Mary. William Hawkins had traded with Portuguese Brazil under Henry
VIII, as the Southampton merchants were to do later on. English
merchants lived in Lisbon and Cadiz; a few were even settled in New
Spain; and a friendly Spaniard had been so delighted by the prospective
union of the English with the Spanish crown that he had given the name
of Londres (London) to a new settlement in the Argentine Andes.
Presently, however, Elizabethan England began to part company with
Spain, to become more anti-Papal, to sympathize with Huguenots and other
heretics, and, like Francis I, to wonder why an immense new world should
be nothing but New Spain. Besides, Englishmen knew what the rest of
Europe knew, that the discovery of Potosi had put out of business nearly
all the Old-World silver mines, and that the Burgundian Ass (as Spanish
treasure-mules were called, from Charles's love of Burgundy) had enabled
Spain to make conquests, impose her will on her neighbors, and keep paid
spies in every foreign court, the English court included. Londoners had
seen Spanish gold and silver paraded through the streets when Philip
married Mary--'27 chests of bullion, 99 horseloads + 2 cartloads of gold
and silver coin, and 97 boxes full of silver bars!' Moreover, the Holy
Inquisition was making Spanish seaports pretty hot for heretics. In
1562, twenty-six English subjects were burnt alive in Spain itself. Ten
times as many were in prison. No wonder sea-dogs were straining at the
Neither Philip nor Elizabeth wanted war just then, though each enjoyed a
thrust at the other by any kind of fighting short of that, and though
each winked at all kinds of armed trade, such as privateering and even
downright piracy. The English and Spanish merchants had commercial
connections going back for centuries; and business men on both sides
were always ready to do a good stroke for themselves.
This was the state of affairs in 1562 when young John Hawkins, son of
'Olde Master William,' went into the slave trade with New Spain. Except
for the fact that both Portugal and Spain allowed no trade with their
oversea possessions in any ships but their own, the circumstances
appeared to favor his enterprise. The American Indians were withering
away before the atrocious cruelties of the Portuguese and Spaniards,
being either killed in battle, used up in merciless slavery, or driven
off to alien wilds. Already the Portuguese had commenced to import
negroes from their West African possessions, both for themselves and for
trade with the Spaniards, who had none. Brazil prospered beyond
expectation and absorbed all the blacks that Portuguese shipping could
supply. The Spaniards had no spare tonnage at the time.
John Hawkins, aged thirty, had made several trips to the Canaries. He
now formed a joint-stock company to trade with the Spaniards farther
off. Two Lord Mayors of London and the Treasurer of the Royal Navy were
among the subscribers. Three small vessels, with only two hundred and
sixty tons between them, formed the flotilla. The crews numbered just a
hundred men. 'At Teneriffe he received friendly treatment. From thence
he passed to Sierra Leona, where he stayed a good time, and got into his
possession, partly by the sword and partly by other means, to the number
of 300 Negroes at the least, besides other merchandises.... With this
prey he sailed over the ocean sea unto the island of Hispaniola [Hayti]
... and here he had reasonable utterance [sale] of his English
commodities, as also of some part of his Negroes, trusting the Spaniards
no further than that by his own strength he was able still to master
them.' At 'Monte Christi, another port on the north side of Hispaniola
... he made vent of [sold] the whole number of his Negroes, for which he
received by way of exchange such a quantity of merchandise that he did
not only lade his own three ships with hides, ginger, sugars, and some
quantity of pearls, but he freighted also two other hulks with hides and
other like commodities, which he sent into Spain,' where both hulks and
hides were confiscated as being contraband.
Nothing daunted, he was off again in 1564 with four ships and a hundred
and seventy men. This time Elizabeth herself took shares and lent the
_Jesus of Lubeck_, a vessel of seven hundred tons which Henry VIII had
bought for the navy. Nobody questioned slavery in those days. The great
Spanish missionary Las Casas denounced the Spanish atrocities against
the Indians. But he thought negroes, who could be domesticated, would do
as substitutes for Indians, who could not be domesticated. The Indians
withered at the white man's touch. The negroes, if properly treated,
throve, and were safer than among their enemies at home. Such was the
argument for slavery; and it was true so far as it went. The argument
against, on the score of ill treatment, was only gradually heard. On the
score of general human rights it was never heard at all.
'At departing, in cutting the foresail lashings a marvellous misfortune
happened to one of the officers in the ship, who by the pulley of the
sheet was slain out of hand.' Hawkins 'appointed all the masters of his
ships an Order for the keeping of good company in this manner:--The
small ships to be always ahead and aweather of the _Jesus_, and to speak
twice a-day with the _Jesus_ at least.... If the weather be extreme,
that the small ships cannot keep company with the _Jesus_, then all to
keep company with the _Solomon_.... If any happen to any misfortune,
then to show two lights, and to shoot off a piece of ordnance. If any
lose company and come in sight again, to make three yaws [zigzags in
their course] and strike the mizzen three times. SERVE GOD DAILY. LOVE
ONE ANOTHER. PRESERVE YOUR VICTUALS. BEWARE OF FIRE, AND KEEP GOOD
John Sparke, the chronicler of this second voyage, was full of curiosity
over every strange sight he met with. He was also blessed with the pen
of a ready writer. So we get a story that is more vivacious than
Hakluyt's retelling of the first voyage or Hawkins's own account of the
third. Sparke saw for the first time in his life negroes, Caribs,
Indians, alligators, flying-fish, flamingoes, pelicans, and many other
strange sights. Having been told that Florida was full of unicorns he at
once concluded that it must also be full of lions; for how could the one
kind exist without the other kind to balance it? Sparke was a soldier
who never found his sea legs. But his diary, besides its other merits,
is particularly interesting as being the first account of America ever
written by an English eyewitness.
Hawkins made for Teneriffe in the Canaries, off the west of Africa.
There, to everybody's great 'amaze,' the Spaniards 'appeared levelling
of bases [small portable cannon] and arquebuses, with divers others, to
the number of fourscore, with halberds, pikes, swords, and targets.' But
when it was found that Hawkins had been taken for a privateer, and when
it is remembered that four hundred privateering vessels--English and
Huguenot--had captured seven hundred Spanish prizes during the previous
summer of 1563, there was and is less cause for 'amaze.' Once
explanations had been made, 'Peter de Ponte gave Master Hawkins as
gentle entertainment as if he had been his own brother.' Peter was a
trader with a great eye for the main chance.
Sparke was lost in wonder over the famous Arbol Santo tree of Ferro, 'by
the dropping whereof the inhabitants and cattle are satisfied with
water, for other water they have none on the island.' This is not quite
the traveller's tale it appears to be. There are three springs on the
island of Teneriffe. But water is scarce, and the Arbol Santo, a sort of
gigantic laurel standing alone on a rocky ledge, did actually supply two
cisterns, one for men and the other for cattle. The morning mist
condensing on the innumerable smooth leaves ran off and was caught in
In Africa Hawkins took many 'Sapies which do inhabit about Rio Grande
[now the Jeba River] which do jag their flesh, both legs, arms, and
bodies as workmanlike as a jerkin-maker with us pinketh a jerkin.' It is
a nice question whether these Sapies gained or lost by becoming slaves
to white men; for they were already slaves to black conquerors who used
them as meat with the vegetables they forced them to raise. The Sapies
were sleek pacifists who found too late that the warlike Samboses, who
inhabited the neighboring desert, were not to be denied.
'In the island of Sambula we found almadies or canoas, which are made of
one piece of wood, digged out like a trough, but of a good proportion,
being about eight yards long and one in breadth, having a beak-head and
a stern very proportionably made, and on the outside artificially
carved, and painted red and blue.' Neither _almadie_ nor canoa is, of
course, an African word. One is Arabic for a cradle (_el-mahd_); the
other, from which we get _canoe_, is what the natives told Columbus they
called their dugouts; and dugout canoes are very like primitive cradles.
Thus Sparke was the first man to record in English, from actual
experience, the aboriginal craft whose name, both East and West, was
suggested to primeval man by the idea of his being literally 'rocked in
the cradle of the deep.'
Hawkins did not have it all his own way with the negroes, by whom he
once lost seven of his own men killed and twenty-seven wounded. 'But the
captain in a singular wise manner carried himself with countenance very
cheerful outwardly, although inwardly his heart was broken in pieces for
it; done to this end, that the Portugais, being with him, should not
presume to resist against him.' After losing five more men, who were
eaten by sharks, Hawkins shaped his course westward with a good cargo of
negroes and 'other merchandises.' 'Contrary winds and some tornados
happened to us very ill. But the Almighty God, who never suffereth His
elect to perish, sent us the ordinary Breeze, which never left us till
we came to an island of the Cannibals' (Caribs of Dominica), who, by the
by, had just eaten a shipload of Spaniards.
Hawkins found the Spanish officials determined to make a show of
resisting unauthorized trade. But when 'he prepared 100 men well armed
with bows, arrows, arquebuses, and pikes, with which he marched
townwards,' the officials let the sale of blacks go on. Hawkins was
particularly anxious to get rid of his 'lean negroes,' who might die in
his hands and become a dead loss; so he used the 'gunboat argument' to
good effect. Sparke kept his eyes open for side-shows and was delighted
with the alligators, which he called crocodiles, perhaps for the sake of
the crocodile tears. 'His nature is to cry and sob like a Christian to
provoke his prey to come to him; and thereupon came this proverb, that
is applied unto women when they weep, _lachrymoe crocodili_.'
From the West Indies Hawkins made for Florida, which was then an object
of exceptional desire among adventurous Englishmen. De Soto, one of
Pizarro's lieutenants, had annexed it to Spain and, in 1539, had started
off inland to discover the supposed Peru of North America. Three years
later he had died while descending the valley of the Mississippi. Six
years later again, the first Spanish missionary in Florida 'taking upon
him to persuade the people to subjection, was by them taken, and his
skin cruelly pulled over his ears, and his flesh eaten.' Hawkins's men
had fair warning on the way; for 'they, being ashore, found a dead man,
dried in a manner whole, with other heads and bodies of men,'
apparently smoked like hams. 'But to return to our purpose,' adds the
indefatigable Sparke, 'the captain in the ship's pinnace sailed along
the shore and went into every creek, speaking with divers of the
_Floridians_, because he would understand where the Frenchmen
inhabited.' Finally he found them 'in the river of _May_ [now St. John's
River] and standing in 30 degrees and better.' There was 'great store of
maize and mill, and grapes of great bigness. Also deer great plenty,
which came upon the sands before them.'
So here were the three rivals overlapping again--the annexing Spaniards,
the would-be colonizing French, and the persistently trading English.
There were, however, no Spaniards about at that time. This was the
second Huguenot colony in Florida. Rene de Laudonniere had founded it in
1564. The first one, founded two years earlier by Jean Ribaut, had
failed and Ribaut's men had deserted the place. They had started for
home in 1563, had suffered terrible hardships, had been picked up by an
English vessel, and taken, some to France and some to England, where the
court was all agog about the wealth of Florida. People said there were
mines so bright with jewels that they had to be approached at night
lest the flashing light should strike men blind. Florida became
proverbial; and Elizabethan wits made endless fun of it. _Stolida_, or
the land of fools, and _Sordida_, or the land of muck-worms, were some
of their _jeux d'esprit_. Everyone was 'bound for Florida,' whether he
meant to go there or not, despite Spanish spheres of influence, the
native cannibals, and pirates by the way.
Hawkins, on the contrary, did not profess to be bound for Florida.
Nevertheless he arrived there, and probably had intended to do so from
the first, for he took with him a Frenchman who had been in Ribaut's
colony two years before, and Sparke significantly says that 'the land is
more than any [one] king Christian is able to inhabit.' However this may
be, Hawkins found the second French colony as well as 'a French ship of
fourscore ton, and two pinnaces of fifteen ton apiece by her ... and a
fort, in which their captain Monsieur Laudonniere was, with certain
soldiers therein.' The colony had not been a success. Nor is this to be
wondered at when we remember that most of the 'certain soldiers' were
ex-pirates, who wanted gold, and 'who would not take the pains so much
as to fish in the river before their doors, but would have all things
put in their mouths.' Eighty of the original two hundred 'went a-roving'
to the West Indies, 'where they spoiled the Spaniards ... and were of
such haughty stomachs that they thought their force to be such that no
man durst meddle with them.... But God ... did indurate their hearts in
such sort that they lingered so long that a [Spanish] ship and galliasse
being made out of St. Domingo ... took twenty of them, whereof the most
part were hanged ... and twenty-five escaped ... to Florida, where ...
they were put into prison [by Laudonniere, against whom they had
mutinied] and ... four of the chiefest being condemned, at the request
of the soldiers did pass the arquebusers, and then were hanged upon a
gibbet.' Sparke got the delightful expression 'at the request of the
soldiers did pass the arquebusers' from a 'very polite' Frenchman. Could
any one tell you more politely, in mistranslated language, how to stand
up and be shot?
Sparke was greatly taken with the unknown art of smoking. 'The
Floridians ... have an herb dried, who, with a cane and an earthen cup
in the end, with fire and the dried herbs put together, do suck through
the cane the smoke thereof, which smoke satisfieth their hunger, and
therewith they live four or five days without meat or drink. And this
all the Frenchmen used for this purpose; yet do they hold opinion withal
that it causeth water and steam to void from their stomachs.' The other
'commodities of the land' were 'more than are yet known to any man.' But
Hawkins was bent on trade, not colonizing. He sold the _Tiger_, a barque
of fifty tons, to Laudonniere for seven hundred crowns and sailed north
on the first voyage ever made along the coast of the United States by an
all-English crew. Turning east off Newfoundland 'with a good large wind,
the 20 September  we came to Padstow, in Cornwall, God be thanked!
in safety, with the loss of twenty persons in all the voyage, and with
great profit to the venturers, as also to the whole realm, in bringing
home both gold, silver, pearls, and other jewels great store. His name,
therefore, be praised for evermore. Amen.'
Hawkins was now a rich man, a favorite at court, and quite the rage in
London. The Queen was very gracious and granted him the well-known coat
of arms with the crest of 'a demi-Moor, bound and captive' in honor of
the great new English slave trade. The Spanish ambassador met him at
court and asked him to dinner, where, over the wine, Hawkins assured him
that he was going out again next year. Meanwhile, however, the famous
Captain-General of the Indian trade, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the
best naval officer that Spain perhaps has ever had, swooped down on the
French in Florida, killed them all, and built the fort of St. Augustine
to guard the 'Mountains of Bright Stones' somewhere in the hinterland.
News of this slaughter soon arrived at Madrid, whence orders presently
went out to have an eye on Hawkins, whom Spanish officials thenceforth
regarded as the leading interloper in New Spain.
Nevertheless Hawkins set out on his third and very 'troublesome' voyage
in 1567, backed by all his old and many new supporters, and with a
flotilla of six vessels, the _Jesus_, the _Minion_ (which then meant
darling), the _William and John_, the _Judith_, the _Angel_, and the
_Swallow_. This was the voyage that began those twenty years of sea-dog
fighting which rose to their zenith in the battle against the Armada;
and with this voyage Drake himself steps on to the stage as captain of
There had been a hitch in 1566, for the Spanish ambassador had reported
Hawkins's after-dinner speech to his king. Philip had protested to
Elizabeth, and Elizabeth had consulted with Cecil, afterwards 'the great
Lord Burleigh,' ancestor of the Marquis of Salisbury, British Prime
Minister during the Spanish-American War of 1898. The result was that
orders went down to Plymouth stopping Hawkins and binding him over, in a
bond of five hundred pounds, to keep the peace with Her Majesty's right
good friend King Philip of Spain. But in 1567 times had changed again,
and Hawkins sailed with colors flying, for Elizabeth was now as ready to
hurt Philip as he was to hurt her, provided always that open war was
But this time things went wrong from the first. A tremendous autumnal
storm scattered the ships. Then the first negroes that Hawkins tried to
'snare' proved to be like that other kind of prey of which the sarcastic
Frenchman wrote: 'This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it
defends itself.' The 'envenomed arrows' of the negroes worked the
mischief. 'There hardly escaped any that had blood drawn of them, but
died in strange sort, with their mouths shut some ten days before they
died.' Hawkins himself was wounded, but, 'thanks be to God,' escaped
the lockjaw. After this the English took sides in a native war and
captured '250 persons, men, women, and children,' while their friend the
King captured '600 prisoners, whereof we hoped to have had our choice.
But the negro, in which nation is seldom or never found truth, that
night removed his camp and prisoners, so that we were fain to content
ourselves with those few we had gotten ourselves.'
However, with 'between 400 and 500 negroes,' Hawkins crossed over from
Africa to the West Indies and 'coasted from place to place, making our
traffic with the Spaniards as we might, somewhat hardly, because the
King had straitly commanded all his governors by no means to suffer any
trade to be made with us. Notwithstanding, we had reasonable trade, and
courteous entertainment' for a good part of the way. In Rio de la Hacha
the Spaniards received the English with a volley that killed a couple of
men, whereupon the English smashed in the gates, while the Spaniards
retired. But, after this little bit of punctilio, trade went on under
cover of night so briskly that two hundred negroes were sold at good
prices. From there to Cartagena 'the inhabitants were glad of us and
traded willingly,' supply being short and demand extra high.
Then came a real rebuff from the governor of Cartagena, followed by a
terrific storm 'which so beat the _Jesus_ that we cut down all her
higher buildings' (deck superstructures). Then the course was shaped for
Florida. But a new storm drove the battered flotilla back to 'the port
which serveth the city of Mexico, called St. John de Ulua,' the modern
Vera Cruz. The historic Vera Cruz was fifteen miles north of this
harbor. Here 'thinking us to be the fleet of Spain, the chief officers
of the country came aboard us. Which, being deceived of their
expectation, were greatly dismayed; but ... when they saw our demand was
nothing but victuals, were recomforted. I [for it is Hawkins's own
story] found in the same port 12 ships which had in them by report
L200,000 in gold and silver, all which, being in my possession [i.e., at
my mercy] with the King's Island ... I set at liberty.'
What was to be done? Hawkins had a hundred negroes still to sell. But it
was four hundred miles to Mexico City and back again; and a new Spanish
viceroy was aboard the big Spanish fleet that was daily expected to
arrive in this very port. If a permit to sell came back from the capital
in time, well and good. If no more than time to replenish stores was
allowed, good enough, despite the loss of sales. But what if the Spanish
fleet arrived? The 'King's Island' was a low little reef right in the
mouth of the harbor, which it all but barred. Moreover, no vessel could
live through a northerly gale inside the harbor--the only one on that
coast--unless securely moored to the island itself. Consequently whoever
held the island commanded the situation altogether.
There was not much time for consultation; for the very next morning 'we
saw open of the haven 13 great ships, the fleet of Spain.' It was a
terrible predicament. '_Now_, said I, _I am in two dangers, and forced
to receive the one of them_.... Either I must have kept out the fleet,
which, with God's help, I was very well able to do, or else suffer them
to enter with their accustomed treason.... If I had kept them out, then
there had been present shipwreck of all that fleet, which amounted in
value to six millions, which was in value of our money L1,800,000, which
I considered I was not able to answer, fearing the Queen's Majesty's
indignation.... Thus with myself revolving the doubts, I thought better
to abide the jut of the uncertainty than of the certainty.' So, after
conditions had been agreed upon and hostages exchanged, the thirteen
Spanish ships sailed in. The little island remained in English hands;
and the Spaniards were profuse in promises.
But, having secretly made their preparations, the Spaniards, who were in
overwhelming numbers, suddenly set upon the English by land and sea.
Every Englishman ashore was killed, except a few who got off in a boat
to the _Jesus_. The _Jesus_ and the _Minion_ cut their headfasts, hauled
clear by their sternfasts, drove back the boarding parties, and engaged
the Spanish fleet at about a hundred yards. Within an hour the Spanish
flagship and another were sunk, a third vessel was burning furiously,
fore and aft, while every English deck was clear of enemies. But the
Spaniards had swarmed on to the island from all sides and were firing
into the English hulls at only a few feet from the cannon's mouth.
Hawkins was cool as ever. Calling for a tankard of beer he drank to the
health of the gunners, who accounted for most of the five hundred and
forty men killed on the Spanish side. 'Stand by your ordnance lustily,'
he cried, as he put the tankard down and a round shot sent it flying.
'God hath delivered me,' he added, 'and so will He deliver you from
these traitors and villains.'
The masts of the _Jesus_ went by the board and her old, strained timbers
splintered, loosened up, and were stove in under the storm of cannon
balls. Hawkins then gave the order to abandon ship after taking out what
stores they could and changing her berth so that she would shield the
little _Minion_. But while this desperate manoeuvre was being executed
down came two fire-ships. Some of the _Minion's_ crew then lost their
heads and made sail so quickly that Hawkins himself was nearly left
The only two English vessels that escaped were the _Minion_ and the
_Judith_. When nothing else was left to do, Hawkins shouted to Drake to
lay the _Judith_ aboard the _Minion_, take in all the men and stores he
could, and put to sea. Drake, then only twenty-three, did this with
consummate skill. Hawkins followed some time after and anchored just out
of range. But Drake had already gained an offing that caused the two
little vessels to part company in the night, during which a whole gale
from the north sprang up, threatening to put the _Judith_ on a lee
shore. Drake therefore fought his way to windward; and, seeing no one
when the gale abated, and having barely enough stores to make a friendly
land, sailed straight home. Hawkins reported the _Judith_, without
mentioning Drake's name, as 'forsaking' the _Minion_. But no other
witness thought Drake to blame.
Hawkins himself rode out the gale under the lee of a little island, then
beat about for two weeks of increasing misery, when 'hides were thought
very good meat, and rats, cats, mice, and dogs, parrots and monkeys that
were got at great price, none escaped.' The _Minion_ was of three
hundred tons; and so was insufferably overcrowded with three hundred
men, two hundred English and one hundred negroes. Drake's little
_Judith_, of only fifty tons, could have given no relief, as she was
herself overfull. Hawkins asked all the men who preferred to take their
chance on land to get round the foremast and all those who wanted to
remain afloat to get round the mizzen. About a hundred chose one course
and a hundred the other. The landing took place about a hundred and
fifty miles south of the Rio Grande. The shore party nearly all died.
But three lived to write of their adventures. David Ingram, following
Indian trails all round the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic seaboard,
came out where St. John, New Brunswick, stands now, was picked up by a
passing Frenchman, and so got safely home. Job Hortop and Miles Philips
were caught by the Spaniards and sent back to Mexico. Philips escaped to
England fourteen years later. But Hortop was sent to Spain, where he
served twelve years as a galley-slave and ten as a servant before he
contrived to get aboard an English vessel.
The ten Spanish hostages were found safe and sound aboard the _Jesus_;
though, by all the rules of war, Hawkins would have been amply justified
in killing them. The English hostages were kept fast prisoners. 'If all
the miseries of this sorrowful voyage,' says Hawkins's report, 'should
be perfectly written, there should need a painful man with his pen, and
as great a time as he had that wrote the lives and deaths of martyrs.'
Thus, in complete disaster, ended that third voyage to New Spain on
which so many hopes were set. And with this disastrous end began those
twenty years of sea-dog rage which found their satisfaction against the
We must now turn back for a moment to 1545, the year in which the Old
World, after the discovery of the mines of Potosi, first awoke to the
illimitable riches of the New; the year in which King Henry assembled
his epoch-making fleet; the year, too, in which the British National
Anthem was, so to say, born at sea, when the parole throughout the
waiting fleet was _God save the King!_ and the answering countersign was
_Long to reign over us!_
In the same year, at Crowndale by Tavistock in Devon, was born Francis
Drake, greatest of sea-dogs and first of modern admirals. His father,
Edmund Drake, was a skipper in modest circumstances. But from time
immemorial there had been Drakes all round the countryside of Tavistock
and the family name stood high. Francis was called after his godfather,
Francis Russell, son and heir of Henry's right-hand reforming peer, Lord
Russell, progenitor of the Dukes of Bedford down to the present day.
Though fortune thus seemed to smile upon Drake's cradle, his boyhood
proved to be a very stormy one indeed. He was not yet five when the
Protestant zeal of the Lord Protector Somerset stirred the Roman
Catholics of the West Country into an insurrection that swept the
anti-Papal minority before it like flotsam before a flood. Drake's
father was a zealous Protestant, a 'hot gospeller,' much given to
preaching; and when he was cast up by the storm on what is now Drake's
Island, just off Plymouth, he was glad to take passage for Kent. His
friends at court then made him a sort of naval chaplain to the men who
took care of His Majesty's ships laid up in Gillingham Reach on the
River Medway, just below where Chatham Dockyard stands to-day. Here, in
a vessel too old for service, most of Drake's eleven brothers were born
to a life as nearly amphibious as the life of any boy could be. The tide
runs in with a rush from the sea at Sheerness, only ten miles away; and
so, among the creeks and marshes, points and bends, through tortuous
channels and hurrying waters lashed by the keen east wind of England,
Drake reveled in the kind of playground that a sea-dog's son should
During the reign of Mary (1553-58) 'hot gospellers' like Drake's father
were of course turned out of the Service. And so young Francis had to be
apprenticed to 'the master of a bark, which he used to coast along the
shore, and sometimes to carry merchandise into Zeeland and France.' It
was hard work and a rough life for the little lad of ten. But Drake
stuck to it, and 'so pleased the old man by his industry that, being a
bachelor, at his death he bequeathed his bark unto him by will and
testament.' Moreover, after Elizabeth's accession, Drake's father came
into his own. He took orders in the Church of England, and in 1561, when
Francis was sixteen, became vicar of Upchurch on the Medway, the same