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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.
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Anglo-American history begins on the 5th of March, 1496, when the Cabots, father and three sons, received the following patent from the King:
_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. HENRY R._
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_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 undiscovered natives.
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, after all.
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 defence.
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 other.
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 Catholic Europe.
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 sailing age.
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 sea.
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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 years later.
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 World.
‘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 free.
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 wind].
‘Give him a chase-piece with your broadside, and run a good berth a-head of him!’
‘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 unwithstood.’
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 happy memory.’
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 sugar.
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 wealth.
‘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 dangers.
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 sea.
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 holds good.
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 increasingly abroad.
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 benevolent plan.
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 outspoken.
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 battles followed.
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 Devil-in-the-head.’
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 leash.
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 COMPANY.’
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 suitable conduits.
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 the _Judith_.
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 carefully avoided.
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 behind.
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 Great Armada.
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 have.
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