English Seamen in the Sixteenth Century - Lectures Delivered at Oxford Easter Terms 1893-4
by James Anthony Froude
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Jean Paul, the German poet, said that God had given to France the empire of the land, to England the empire of the sea, and to his own country the empire of the air. The world has changed since Jean Paul's days. The wings of France have been clipped; the German Empire has become a solid thing; but England still holds her watery dominion; Britannia does still rule the waves, and in this proud position she has spread the English race over the globe; she has created the great American nation; she is peopling new Englands at the Antipodes; she has made her Queen Empress of India; and is in fact the very considerable phenomenon in the social and political world which all acknowledge her to be. And all this she has achieved in the course of three centuries, entirely in consequence of her predominance as an ocean power. Take away her merchant fleets; take away the navy that guards them: her empire will come to an end; her colonies will fall off, like leaves from a withered tree; and Britain will become once more an insignificant island in the North Sea, for the future students in Australian and New Zealand universities to discuss the fate of in their debating societies.

How the English navy came to hold so extraordinary a position is worth reflecting on. Much has been written about it, but little, as it seems to me, which touches the heart of the matter. We are shown the power of our country growing and expanding. But how it grew, why, after a sleep of so many hundred years, the genius of our Scandinavian forefathers suddenly sprang again into life—of this we are left without explanation.

The beginning was undoubtedly the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Down to that time the sea sovereignty belonged to the Spaniards, and had been fairly won by them. The conquest of Granada had stimulated and elevated the Spanish character. The subjects of Ferdinand and Isabella, of Charles V. and Philip II., were extraordinary men, and accomplished extraordinary things. They stretched the limits of the known world; they conquered Mexico and Peru; they planted their colonies over the South American continent; they took possession of the great West Indian islands, and with so firm a grasp that Cuba at least will never lose the mark of the hand which seized it. They built their cities as if for eternity. They spread to the Indian Ocean, and gave their monarch's name to the Philippines. All this they accomplished in half a century, and, as it were, they did it with a single hand; with the other they were fighting Moors and Turks and protecting the coast of the Mediterranean from the corsairs of Tunis and Constantinople.

They had risen on the crest of the wave, and with their proud Non sufficit orbis were looking for new worlds to conquer, at a time when the bark of the English water-dogs had scarcely been heard beyond their own fishing-grounds, and the largest merchant vessel sailing from the port of London was scarce bigger than a modern coasting collier. And yet within the space of a single ordinary life these insignificant islanders had struck the sceptre from the Spaniards' grasp and placed the ocean crown on the brow of their own sovereign. How did it come about? What Cadmus had sown dragons' teeth in the furrows of the sea for the race to spring from who manned the ships of Queen Elizabeth, who carried the flag of their own country round the globe, and challenged and fought the Spaniards on their own coasts and in their own harbours?

The English sea power was the legitimate child of the Reformation. It grew, as I shall show you, directly out of the new despised Protestantism. Matthew Parker and Bishop Jewel, the judicious Hooker himself, excellent men as they were, would have written and preached to small purpose without Sir Francis Drake's cannon to play an accompaniment to their teaching. And again, Drake's cannon would not have roared so loudly and so widely without seamen already trained in heart and hand to work his ships and level his artillery. It was to the superior seamanship, the superior quality of English ships and crews, that the Spaniards attributed their defeat. Where did these ships come from? Where and how did these mariners learn their trade? Historians talk enthusiastically of the national spirit of a people rising with a united heart to repel the invader, and so on. But national spirit could not extemporise a fleet or produce trained officers and sailors to match the conquerors of Lepanto. One slight observation I must make here at starting, and certainly with no invidious purpose. It has been said confidently, it has been repeated, I believe, by all modern writers, that the Spanish invasion suspended in England the quarrels of creed, and united Protestants and Roman Catholics in defence of their Queen and country. They remind us especially that Lord Howard of Effingham, who was Elizabeth's admiral, was himself a Roman Catholic. But was it so? The Earl of Arundel, the head of the House of Howard, was a Roman Catholic, and he was in the Tower praying for the success of Medina Sidonia. Lord Howard of Effingham was no more a Roman Catholic than—I hope I am not taking away their character—than the present Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop of London. He was a Catholic, but an English Catholic, as those reverend prelates are. Roman Catholic he could not possibly have been, nor anyone who on that great occasion was found on the side of Elizabeth. A Roman Catholic is one who acknowledges the Roman Bishop's authority. The Pope had excommunicated Elizabeth, had pronounced her deposed, had absolved her subjects from their allegiance, and forbidden them to fight for her. No Englishman who fought on that great occasion for English liberty was, or could have been, in communion with Rome. Loose statements of this kind, lightly made, fall in with the modern humour. They are caught up, applauded, repeated, and pass unquestioned into history. It is time to correct them a little.

I have in my possession a detailed account of the temper of parties in England, drawn up in the year 1585, three years before the Armada came. The writer was a distinguished Jesuit. The account itself was prepared for the use of the Pope and Philip, with a special view to the reception which an invading force would meet with, and it goes into great detail. The people of the towns—London, Bristol, &c.—were, he says, generally heretics. The peers, the gentry, their tenants, and peasantry, who formed the immense majority of the population, were almost universally Catholics. But this writer distinguishes properly among Catholics. There were the ardent impassioned Catholics, ready to be confessors and martyrs, ready to rebel at the first opportunity, who had renounced their allegiance, who desired to overthrow Elizabeth and put the Queen of Scots in her place. The number of these, he says, was daily increasing, owing to the exertions of the seminary priests; and plots, he boasts, were being continually formed by them to murder the Queen. There were Catholics of another sort, who were papal at heart, but went with the times to save their property; who looked forward to a change in the natural order of things, but would not stir of themselves till an invading army actually appeared. But all alike, he insists, were eager for a revolution. Let the Prince of Parma come, and they would all join him; and together these two classes of Catholics made three-fourths of the nation.

'The only party,' he says (and this is really noticeable), 'the only party that would fight to death for the Queen, the only real friends she had, were the Puritans (it is the first mention of the name which I have found), the Puritans of London, the Puritans of the sea towns.' These he admits were dangerous, desperate, determined men. The numbers of them, however, were providentially small.

The date of this document is, as I said, 1585, and I believe it generally accurate. The only mistake is that among the Anglican Catholics there were a few to whom their country was as dear as their creed—a few who were beginning to see that under the Act of Uniformity Catholic doctrine might be taught and Catholic ritual practised; who adhered to the old forms of religion, but did not believe that obedience to the Pope was a necessary part of them. One of these was Lord Howard of Effingham, whom the Queen placed in his high command to secure the wavering fidelity of the peers and country gentlemen. But the force, the fire, the enthusiasm came (as the Jesuit saw) from the Puritans, from men of the same convictions as the Calvinists of Holland and Rochelle; men who, driven from the land, took to the ocean as their natural home, and nursed the Reformation in an ocean cradle. How the seagoing population of the North of Europe took so strong a Protestant impression it is the purpose of these lectures to explain.

Henry VIII. on coming to the throne found England without a fleet, and without a conscious sense of the need of one. A few merchant hulks traded with Bordeaux and Cadiz and Lisbon; hoys and fly-boats drifted slowly backwards and forwards between Antwerp and the Thames. A fishing fleet tolerably appointed went annually to Iceland for cod. Local fishermen worked the North Sea and the Channel from Hull to Falmouth. The Chester people went to Kinsale for herrings and mackerel: but that was all—the nation had aspired to no more.

Columbus had offered the New World to Henry VII. while the discovery was still in the air. He had sent his brother to England with maps and globes, and quotations from Plato to prove its existence. Henry, like a practical Englishman, treated it as a wild dream.

The dream had come from the gate of horn. America was found, and the Spaniard, and not the English, came into first possession of it. Still, America was a large place, and John Cabot the Venetian with his son Sebastian tried Henry again. England might still be able to secure a slice. This time Henry VII. listened. Two small ships were fitted out at Bristol, crossed the Atlantic, discovered Newfoundland, coasted down to Florida looking for a passage to Cathay, but could not find one. The elder Cabot died; the younger came home. The expedition failed, and no interest had been roused.

With the accession of Henry VIII. a new era had opened—a new era in many senses. Printing was coming into use—Erasmus and his companions were shaking Europe with the new learning, Copernican astronomy was changing the level disk of the earth into a revolving globe, and turning dizzy the thoughts of mankind. Imagination was on the stretch. The reality of things was assuming proportions vaster than fancy had dreamt, and unfastening established belief on a thousand sides. The young Henry was welcomed by Erasmus as likely to be the glory of the age that was opening. He was young, brilliant, cultivated, and ambitious. To what might he not aspire under the new conditions! Henry VIII. was all that, but he was cautious and looked about him. Europe was full of wars in which he was likely to be entangled. His father had left the treasury well furnished. The young King, like a wise man, turned his first attention to the broad ditch, as he called the British Channel, which formed the natural defence of the realm. The opening of the Atlantic had revolutionised war and seamanship. Long voyages required larger vessels. Henry was the first prince to see the place which gunpowder was going to hold in wars. In his first years he repaired his dockyards, built new ships on improved models, and imported Italians to cast him new types of cannon. 'King Harry loved a man,' it was said, and knew a man when he saw one. He made acquaintance with sea captains at Portsmouth and Southampton. In some way or other he came to know one Mr. William Hawkins, of Plymouth, and held him in especial esteem. This Mr. Hawkins, under Henry's patronage, ventured down to the coast of Guinea and brought home gold and ivory; crossed over to Brazil; made friends with the Brazilian natives; even brought back with him the king of those countries, who was curious to see what England was like, and presented him to Henry at Whitehall.

Another Plymouth man, Robert Thorne, again with Henry's help, went out to look for the North-west passage which Cabot had failed to find. Thorne's ship was called the Dominus Vobiscum, a pious aspiration which, however, secured no success. A London man, a Master Hore, tried next. Master Hore, it is said, was given to cosmography, was a plausible talker at scientific meetings, and so on. He persuaded 'divers young lawyers' (briefless barristers, I suppose) and other gentlemen—altogether a hundred and twenty of them—to join him. They procured two vessels at Gravesend. They took the sacrament together before sailing. They apparently relied on Providence to take care of them, for they made little other preparation. They reached Newfoundland, but their stores ran out, and their ships went on shore. In the land of fish they did not know how to use line and bait. They fed on roots and bilberries, and picked fish-bones out of the ospreys' nests. At last they began to eat one another—careless of Master Hore, who told them they would go to unquenchable fire. A French vessel came in. They seized her with the food she had on board and sailed home in her, leaving the French crew to their fate. The poor French happily found means of following them. They complained of their treatment, and Henry ordered an inquiry; but finding, the report says, the great distress Master Hore's party had been in, was so moved with pity, that he did not punish them, but out of his own purse made royal recompense to the French.

Something better than gentlemen volunteers was needed if naval enterprise was to come to anything in England. The long wars between Francis I. and Charles V. brought the problem closer. On land the fighting was between the regular armies. At sea privateers were let loose out of French, Flemish, and Spanish ports. Enterprising individuals took out letters of marque and went cruising to take the chance of what they could catch. The Channel was the chief hunting-ground, as being the highway between Spain and the Low Countries. The interval was short between privateers and pirates. Vessels of all sorts passed into the business. The Scilly Isles became a pirate stronghold. The creeks and estuaries in Cork and Kerry furnished hiding-places where the rovers could lie with security and share their plunder with the Irish chiefs. The disorder grew wilder when the divorce of Catherine of Aragon made Henry into the public enemy of Papal Europe. English traders and fishing-smacks were plundered and sunk. Their crews went armed to defend themselves, and from Thames mouth to Land's End the Channel became the scene of desperate fights. The type of vessel altered to suit the new conditions. Life depended on speed of sailing. The State Papers describe squadrons of French or Spaniards flying about, dashing into Dartmouth, Plymouth, or Falmouth, cutting out English coasters, or fighting one another.

After Henry was excommunicated, and Ireland rebelled, and England itself threatened disturbance, the King had to look to his security. He made little noise about it. But the Spanish ambassador reported him as silently building ships in the Thames and at Portsmouth. As invasion seemed imminent, he began with sweeping the seas of the looser vermin. A few swift well-armed cruisers pushed suddenly out of the Solent, caught and destroyed a pirate fleet in Mount's Bay, sent to the bottom some Flemish privateers in the Downs, and captured the Flemish admiral himself. Danger at home growing more menacing, and the monks spreading the fire which grew into the Pilgrimage of Grace, Henry suppressed the abbeys, sold the lands, and with the proceeds armed the coast with fortresses. 'You threaten me,' he seemed to say to them, 'that you will use the wealth our fathers gave you to overthrow my Government and bring in the invader. I will take your wealth, and I will use it to disappoint your treachery.' You may see the remnants of Henry's work in the fortresses anywhere along the coast from Berwick to the Land's End.

Louder thundered the Vatican. In 1539 Henry's time appeared to have come. France and Spain made peace, and the Pope's sentence was now expected to be executed by Charles or Francis, or both. A crowd of vessels large and small was collected in the Scheldt, for what purpose save to transport an army into England? Scotland had joined the Catholic League. Henry fearlessly appealed to the English people. Catholic peers and priests might conspire against him, but, explain it how we will, the nation was loyal to Henry and came to his side. The London merchants armed their ships in the river. From the seaports everywhere came armed brigantines and sloops. The fishermen of the West left their boats and nets to their wives, and the fishing was none the worse, for the women handled oar and sail and line and went to the whiting-grounds, while their husbands had gone to fight for their King. Genius kindled into discovery at the call of the country. Mr. Fletcher of Rye (be his name remembered) invented a boat the like of which was never seen before, which would work to windward, with sails trimmed fore and aft, the greatest revolution yet made in shipbuilding. A hundred and fifty sail collected at Sandwich to match the armament in the Scheldt; and Marillac, the French ambassador, reported with amazement the energy of King and people.

The Catholic Powers thought better of it. This was not the England which Reginald Pole had told them was longing for their appearance. The Scheldt force dispersed. Henry read Scotland a needed lesson. The Scots had thought to take him at disadvantage, and sit on his back when the Emperor attacked him. One morning when the people at Leith woke out of their sleep, they found an English fleet in the Roads; and before they had time to look about them, Leith was on fire and Edinburgh was taken. Charles V., if he had ever seriously thought of invading Henry, returned to wiser counsels, and made an alliance with him instead. The Pope turned to France. If the Emperor forsook him, the Most Christian King would help. He promised Francis that if he could win England he might keep it for himself. Francis resolved to try what he could do.

Five years had passed since the gathering at Sandwich. It was now the summer of 1544. The records say that the French collected at Havre near 300 vessels, fighting ships, galleys, and transports. Doubtless the numbers are far exaggerated, but at any rate it was the largest force ever yet got together to invade England, capable, if well handled, of bringing Henry to his knees. The plan was to seize and occupy the Isle of Wight, destroy the English fleet, then take Portsmouth and Southampton, and so advance on London.

Henry's attention to his navy had not slackened. He had built ship on ship. The Great Harry was a thousand tons, carried 700 men, and was the wonder of the day. There were a dozen others scarcely less imposing. The King called again on the nation, and again the nation answered. In England altogether there were 150,000 men in arms in field or garrison. In the King's fleet at Portsmouth there were 12,000 seamen, and the privateers of the West crowded up eagerly as before. It is strange, with the notions which we have allowed ourselves to form of Henry, to observe the enthusiasm with which the whole country, as yet undivided by doctrinal quarrels, rallied a second time to defend him.

In this Portsmouth fleet lay undeveloped the genius of the future naval greatness of England. A small fact connected with it is worth recording. The watchword on board was, 'God save the King'; the answer was, 'Long to reign over us': the earliest germ discoverable of the English National Anthem.

The King had come himself to Portsmouth to witness the expected attack. The fleet was commanded by Lord Lisle, afterwards Duke of Northumberland. It was the middle of July. The French crossed from Havre unfought with, and anchored in St. Helens Roads off Brading Harbour. The English, being greatly inferior in numbers, lay waiting for them inside the Spit. The morning after the French came in was still and sultry. The English could not move for want of wind. The galleys crossed over and engaged them for two or three hours with some advantage. The breeze rose at noon; a few fast sloops got under way and easily drove them back. But the same breeze which enabled the English to move brought a serious calamity with it. The Mary Rose, one of Lisle's finest vessels, had been under the fire of the galleys. Her ports had been left open, and when the wind sprang up, she heeled over, filled, and went down, carrying two hundred men along with her. The French saw her sink, and thought their own guns had done it. They hoped to follow up their success. At night they sent over boats to take soundings, and discover the way into the harbour. The boats reported that the sandbanks made the approach impossible. The French had no clear plan of action. They tried a landing in the island, but the force was too small, and failed. They weighed anchor and brought up again behind Selsea Bill, where Lisle proposed to run them down in the dark, taking advantage of the tide. But they had an enemy to deal with worse than Lisle, on board their own ships, which explained their distracted movements. Hot weather, putrid meat, and putrid water had prostrated whole ships' companies with dysentery. After a three weeks' ineffectual cruise they had to hasten back to Havre, break up, and disperse. The first great armament which was to have recovered England to the Papacy had effected nothing. Henry had once more shown his strength, and was left undisputed master of the narrow seas.

So matters stood for what remained of Henry's reign. As far as he had gone, he had quarrelled with the Pope, and had brought the Church under the law. So far the country generally had gone with him, and there had been no violent changes in the administration of religion. When Henry died the Protector abolished the old creed, and created a new and perilous cleavage between Protestant and Catholic, and, while England needed the protection of a navy more than ever, allowed the fine fleet which Henry had left to fall into decay. The spirit of enterprise grew with the Reformation. Merchant companies opened trade with Russia and the Levant; adventurous sea captains went to Guinea for gold. Sir Hugh Willoughby followed the phantom of the North-west Passage, turning eastward round the North Cape to look for it, and perished in the ice. English commerce was beginning to grow in spite of the Protector's experiments; but a new and infinitely dangerous element had been introduced by the change of religion into the relations of English sailors with the Catholic Powers, and especially with Spain. In their zeal to keep out heresy, the Spanish Government placed their harbours under the control of the Holy Office. Any vessel in which an heretical book was found was confiscated, and her crew carried to the Inquisition prisons. It had begun in Henry's time. The Inquisitors attempted to treat schism as heresy and arrest Englishmen in their ports. But Henry spoke up stoutly to Charles V., and the Holy Office had been made to hold its hand. All was altered now. It was not necessary that a poor sailor should have been found teaching heresy. It was enough if he had an English Bible and Prayer Book with him in his kit; and stories would come into Dartmouth or Plymouth how some lad that everybody knew—Bill or Jack or Tom, who had wife or father or mother among them, perhaps—had been seized hold of for no other crime, been flung into a dungeon, tortured, starved, set to work in the galleys, or burned in a fool's coat, as they called it, at an auto da fe at Seville.

The object of the Inquisition was partly political: it was meant to embarrass trade and make the people impatient of changes which produced so much inconvenience. The effect was exactly the opposite. Such accounts when brought home created fury. There grew up in the seagoing population an enthusiasm of hatred for that holy institution, and a passionate desire for revenge.

The natural remedy would have been war; but the division of nations was crossed by the division of creeds; and each nation had allies in the heart of every other. If England went to war with Spain, Spain could encourage insurrection among the Catholics. If Spain or France declared war against England, England could help the Huguenots or the Holland Calvinists. All Governments were afraid alike of a general war of religion which might shake Europe in pieces. Thus individuals were left to their natural impulses. The Holy Office burnt English or French Protestants wherever it could catch them. The Protestants revenged their injuries at their own risk and in their own way, and thus from Edward VI.'s time to the end of the century privateering came to be the special occupation of adventurous honourable gentlemen, who could serve God, their country, and themselves in fighting Catholics. Fleets of these dangerous vessels swept the Channel, lying in wait at Scilly, or even at the Azores—disowned in public by their own Governments while secretly countenanced, making war on their own account on what they called the enemies of God. In such a business, of course, there were many mere pirates engaged who cared neither for God nor man. But it was the Protestants who were specially impelled into it by the cruelties of the Inquisition. The Holy Office began the work with the autos da fe. The privateers robbed, burnt, and scuttled Catholic ships in retaliation. One fierce deed produced another, till right and wrong were obscured in the passion of religious hatred. Vivid pictures of these wild doings survive in the English and Spanish State Papers. Ireland was the rovers' favourite haunt. In the universal anarchy there, a little more or a little less did not signify. Notorious pirate captains were to be met in Cork or Kinsale, collecting stores, casting cannon, or selling their prizes—men of all sorts, from fanatical saints to undisguised ruffians. Here is one incident out of many to show the heights to which temper had risen.

'Long peace,' says someone, addressing the Privy Council early in Elizabeth's time, 'becomes by force of the Spanish Inquisition more hurtful than open war. It is the secret, determined policy of Spain to destroy the English fleet, pilots, masters and sailors, by means of the Inquisition. The Spanish King pretends he dares not offend the Holy House, while we in England say we may not proclaim war against Spain in revenge of a few. Not long since the Spanish Inquisition executed sixty persons of St. Malo, notwithstanding entreaty to the King of Spain to spare them. Whereupon the Frenchmen armed their pinnaces, lay for the Spaniards, took a hundred and beheaded them, sending the Spanish ships to the shore with their heads, leaving in each ship but one man to render the cause of the revenge. Since which time Spanish Inquisitors have never meddled with those of St. Malo.'

A colony of Huguenot refugees had settled on the coast of Florida. The Spaniards heard of it, came from St. Domingo, burnt the town, and hanged every man, woman, and child, leaving an inscription explaining that the poor creatures had been killed, not as Frenchmen, but as heretics. Domenique de Gourges, of Rochelle, heard of this fine exploit of fanaticism, equipped a ship, and sailed across. He caught the Spanish garrison which had been left in occupation and swung them on the same trees—with a second scroll saying that they were dangling there, not as Spaniards, but as murderers.

The genius of adventure tempted men of highest birth into the rovers' ranks. Sir Thomas Seymour, the Protector's brother and the King's uncle, was Lord High Admiral. In his time of office, complaints were made by foreign merchants of ships and property seized at the Thames mouth. No redress could be had; no restitution made; no pirate was even punished, and Seymour's personal followers were seen suspiciously decorated with Spanish ornaments. It appeared at last that Seymour had himself bought the Scilly Isles, and if he could not have his way at Court, it was said that he meant to set up there as a pirate chief.

The persecution under Mary brought in more respectable recruits than Seymour. The younger generation of the western families had grown with the times. If they were not theologically Protestant, they detested tyranny. They detested the marriage with Philip, which threatened the independence of England. At home they were powerless, but the sons of honourable houses—Strangways, Tremaynes, Staffords, Horseys, Carews, Killegrews, and Cobhams—dashed out upon the water to revenge the Smithfield massacres. They found help where it could least have been looked for. Henry II. of France hated heresy, but he hated Spain worse. Sooner than see England absorbed in the Spanish monarchy, he forgot his bigotry in his politics. He furnished these young mutineers with ships and money and letters of marque. The Huguenots were their natural friends. With Rochelle for an arsenal, they held the mouth of the Channel, and harassed the communications between Cadiz and Antwerp. It was a wild business: enterprise and buccaneering sanctified by religion and hatred of cruelty; but it was a school like no other for seamanship, and a school for the building of vessels which could out-sail all others on the sea; a school, too, for the training up of hardy men, in whose blood ran detestation of the Inquisition and the Inquisition's master. Every other trade was swallowed up or coloured by privateering; the merchantmen went armed, ready for any work that offered; the Iceland fleet went no more in search of cod; the Channel boatmen forsook nets and lines and took to livelier occupations; Mary was too busy burning heretics to look to the police of the seas; her father's fine ships rotted in harbour; her father's coast-forts were deserted or dismantled; she lost Calais; she lost the hearts of her people in forcing them into orthodoxy; she left the seas to the privateers; and no trade flourished, save what the Catholic Powers called piracy.

When Elizabeth came to the throne, the whole merchant navy of England engaged in lawful commerce amounted to no more than 50,000 tons. You may see more now passing every day through the Gull Stream. In the service of the Crown there were but seven revenue cruisers in commission, the largest 120 tons, with eight merchant brigs altered for fighting. In harbour there were still a score of large ships, but they were dismantled and rotting; of artillery fit for sea work there was none. The men were not to be had, and, as Sir William Cecil said, to fit out ships without men was to set armour on stakes on the seashore. The mariners of England were otherwise engaged, and in a way which did not please Cecil. He was the ablest minister that Elizabeth had. He saw at once that on the navy the prosperity and even the liberty of England must eventually depend. If England were to remain Protestant, it was not by articles of religion or acts of uniformity that she could be saved without a fleet at the back of them. But he was old-fashioned. He believed in law and order, and he has left a curious paper of reflections on the situation. The ships' companies in Henry VIII.'s days were recruited from the fishing-smacks, but the Reformation itself had destroyed the fishing trade. In old times, Cecil said, no flesh was eaten on fish days. The King himself could not have license. Now to eat beef or mutton on fish days was the test of a true believer. The English Iceland fishery used to supply Normandy and Brittany as well as England. Now it had passed to the French. The Chester men used to fish the Irish seas. Now they had left them to the Scots. The fishermen had taken to privateering because the fasts of the Church were neglected. He saw it was so. He recorded his own opinion that piracy, as he called it, was detestable, and could not last. He was to find that it could last, that it was to form the special discipline of the generation whose business would be to fight the Spaniards. But he struggled hard against the unwelcome conclusion. He tried to revive lawful trade by a Navigation Act. He tried to restore the fisheries by Act of Parliament. He introduced a Bill recommending godly abstinence as a means to virtue, making the eating of meat on Fridays and Saturdays a misdemeanour, and adding Wednesday as a half fish-day. The House of Commons laughed at him as bringing back Popish mummeries. To please the Protestants he inserted a clause, that the statute was politicly meant for the increase of fishermen and mariners, not for any superstition in the choice of meats; but it was no use. The Act was called in mockery 'Cecil's Fast,' and the recovery of the fisheries had to wait till the natural inclination of human stomachs for fresh whiting and salt cod should revive of itself.

Events had to take their course. Seamen were duly provided in other ways, and such as the time required. Privateering suited Elizabeth's convenience, and suited her disposition. She liked daring and adventure. She liked men who would do her work without being paid for it, men whom she could disown when expedient; who would understand her, and would not resent it. She knew her turn was to come when Philip had leisure to deal with her, if she could not secure herself meanwhile. Time was wanted to restore the navy. The privateers were a resource in the interval. They might be called pirates while there was formal peace. The name did not signify. They were really the armed force of the country. After the war broke out in the Netherlands, they had commissions from the Prince of Orange. Such commissions would not save them if taken by Spain, but it enabled them to sell their prizes, and for the rest they trusted to their speed and their guns. When Elizabeth was at war with France about Havre, she took the most noted of them into the service of the Crown. Ned Horsey became Sir Edward and Governor of the Isle of Wight; Strangways, a Red Rover in his way, who had been the terror of the Spaniards, was killed before Rouen; Tremayne fell at Havre, mourned over by Elizabeth; and Champernowne, one of the most gallant of the whole of them, was killed afterwards at Coligny's side at Moncontour.

But others took their places: the wild hawks as thick as seagulls flashing over the waves, fair wind or foul, laughing at pursuit, brave, reckless, devoted, the crews the strangest medley: English from the Devonshire and Cornish creeks, Huguenots from Rochelle; Irish kernes with long skenes, 'desperate, unruly persons with no kind of mercy.'

The Holy Office meanwhile went on in cold, savage resolution: the Holy Office which had begun the business and was the cause of it.

A note in Cecil's hand says that in the one year 1562 twenty-six English subjects had been burnt at the stake in different parts of Spain. Ten times as many were starving in Spanish dungeons, from which occasionally, by happy accident, a cry could be heard like this which follows. In 1561 an English merchant writes from the Canaries:

'I was taken by those of the Inquisition twenty months past, put into a little dark house two paces long, loaded with irons, without sight of sun or moon all that time. When I was arraigned I was charged that I should say our mass was as good as theirs; that I said I would rather give money to the poor than buy Bulls of Rome with it. I was charged with being a subject to the Queen's grace, who, they said, was enemy to the Faith, Antichrist, with other opprobrious names; and I stood to the defence of the Queen's Majesty, proving the infamies most untrue. Then I was put into Little Ease again, protesting very innocent blood to be demanded against the judge before Christ.'

The innocent blood of these poor victims had not to wait to be avenged at the Judgment Day. The account was presented shortly and promptly at the cannon's mouth.



I begin this lecture with a petition addressed to Queen Elizabeth. Thomas Seely, a merchant of Bristol, hearing a Spaniard in a Spanish port utter foul and slanderous charges against the Queen's character, knocked him down. To knock a man down for telling lies about Elizabeth might be a breach of the peace, but it had not yet been declared heresy. The Holy Office, however, seized Seely, threw him into a dungeon, and kept him starving there for three years, at the end of which he contrived to make his condition known in England. The Queen wrote herself to Philip to protest. Philip would not interfere. Seely remained in prison and in irons, and the result was a petition from his wife, in which the temper which was rising can be read as in letters of fire. Dorothy Seely demands that 'the friends of her Majesty's subjects so imprisoned and tormented in Spain may make out ships at their proper charges, take such Inquisitors or other Papistical subjects of the King of Spain as they can by sea or land, and retain them in prison with such torments and diet as her Majesty's subjects be kept with in Spain, and on complaint made by the King to give such answer as is now made when her Majesty sues for subjects imprisoned by the Inquisition. Or that a Commission be granted to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other bishops word for word for foreign Papists as the Inquisitors have in Spain for the Protestants. So that all may know that her Majesty cannot and will not longer endure the spoils and torments of her subjects, and the Spaniards shall not think this noble realm dares not seek revenge of such importable wrongs.'

Elizabeth issued no such Commission as Dorothy Seely asked for, but she did leave her subjects to seek their revenge in their own way, and they sought it sometimes too rashly.

In the summer of 1563 eight English merchantmen anchored in the roads of Gibraltar. England and France were then at war. A French brig came in after them, and brought up near. At sea, if they could take her, she would have been a lawful prize. Spaniards under similar circumstances had not respected the neutrality of English harbours. The Englishmen were perhaps in doubt what to do, when the officers of the Holy Office came off to the French ship. The sight of the black familiars drove the English wild. Three of them made a dash at the French ship, intending to sink her. The Inquisitors sprang into their boat, and rowed for their lives. The castle guns opened, and the harbour police put out to interfere. The French ship, however, would have been taken, when unluckily Alvarez de Bacan, with a Spanish squadron, came round into the Straits. Resistance was impossible. The eight English ships were captured and carried off to Cadiz. The English flag was trailed under De Bacan's stern. The crews, two hundred and forty men in all, were promptly condemned to the galleys. In defence they could but say that the Frenchman was an enemy, and a moderate punishment would have sufficed for a violation of the harbour rules which the Spaniards themselves so little regarded. But the Inquisition was inexorable, and the men were treated with such peculiar brutality that after nine months ninety only of the two hundred and forty were alive.

Ferocity was answered by ferocity. Listen to this! The Cobhams of Cowling Castle were Protestants by descent. Lord Cobham was famous in the Lollard martyrology. Thomas Cobham, one of the family, had taken to the sea like many of his friends. While cruising in the Channel he caught sight of a Spaniard on the way from Antwerp to Cadiz with forty prisoners on board, consigned, it might be supposed, to the Inquisition. They were, of course, Inquisition prisoners; for other offenders would have been dealt with on the spot. Cobham chased her down into the Bay of Biscay, took her, scuttled her, and rescued the captives. But that was not enough. The captain and crew he sewed up in their own mainsail and flung them overboard. They were washed ashore dead, wrapped in their extraordinary winding-sheet. Cobham was called to account for this exploit, but he does not seem to have been actually punished. In a very short time he was out and away again at the old work. There were plenty with him. After the business at Gibraltar, Philip's subjects were not safe in English harbours. Jacques le Clerc, a noted privateer, called Pie de Palo from his wooden leg, chased a Spaniard into Falmouth, and was allowed to take her under the guns of Pendennis. The Governor of the castle said that he could not interfere, because Le Clerc had a commission from the Prince of Conde. It was proved that in the summer of 1563 there were 400 English and Huguenot rovers in and about the Channel, and that they had taken 700 prizes between them. The Queen's own ships followed suit. Captain Cotton in the Phoenix captured an Antwerp merchantman in Flushing. The harbour-master protested. Cotton laughed, and sailed away with his prize. The Regent Margaret wrote in indignation to Elizabeth. Such insolence, she said, was not to be endured. She would have Captain Cotton chastised as an example to all others. Elizabeth measured the situation more correctly than the Regent; she preferred to show Philip that she was not afraid of him. She preferred to let her subjects discover for themselves that the terrible Spaniard before whom the world trembled was but a colossus stuffed with clouts. Until Philip consented to tie the hands of the Holy Office she did not mean to prevent them from taking the law into their own hands.

Now and then, if occasion required, Elizabeth herself would do a little privateering on her own account. In the next story that I have to tell she appears as a principal, and her great minister, Cecil, as an accomplice. The Duke of Alva had succeeded Margaret as Regent of the Netherlands, and was drowning heresy in its own blood. The Prince of Orange was making a noble fight; but all went ill with him. His troops were defeated, his brother Louis was killed. He was still struggling, helped by Elizabeth's money. But the odds were terrible, and the only hope lay in the discontent of Alva's soldiers, who had not been paid their wages, and would not fight without them. Philip's finances were not flourishing, but he had borrowed half a million ducats from a house at Genoa for Alva's use. The money was to be delivered in bullion at Antwerp. The Channel privateers heard that it was coming and were on the look-out for it. The vessel in which it was sent took refuge in Plymouth, but found she had run into the enemy's nest. Nineteen or twenty Huguenot and English cruisers lay round her with commissions from Conde to take every Catholic ship they met with. Elizabeth's special friends thought and said freely that so rich a prize ought to fall to no one but her Majesty. Elizabeth thought the same, but for a more honourable reason. It was of the highest consequence that the money should not reach the Duke of Alva at that moment. Even Cecil said so, and sent the Prince of Orange word that it would be stopped in some way.

But how could it decently be done? Bishop Jewel relieved the Queen's mind (if it was ever disturbed) on the moral side of the question. The bishop held that it would be meritorious in a high degree to intercept a treasure which was to be used in the murder of Protestant Christians. But the how was the problem. To let the privateers take it openly in Plymouth harbour would, it was felt, be a scandal. Sir Arthur Champernowne, the Vice-admiral of the West, saw the difficulty and offered his services. He had three vessels of his own in Conde's privateer fleet, under his son Henry. As vice-admiral he was first in command at Plymouth. He placed a guard on board the treasure ship, telling the captain it would be a discredit to the Queen's Government if harm befell her in English waters. He then wrote to Cecil.

'If,' he said, 'it shall seem good to your honour that I with others shall give the attempt for her Majesty's use which cannot be without blood, I will not only take it in hand, but also receive the blame thereof unto myself, to the end so great a commodity should redound to her Grace, hoping that, after bitter storms of her displeasure, showed at the first to colour the fact, I shall find the calm of her favour in such sort as I am most willing to hazard myself to serve her Majesty. Great pity it were such a rich booty should escape her Grace. But surely I am of that mind that anything taken from that wicked nation is both necessary and profitable to our commonwealth.'

Very shocking on Sir Arthur's part to write such a letter: so many good people will think. I hope they will consider it equally shocking that King Philip should have burned English sailors at the stake because they were loyal to the laws of their own country; that he was stirring war all over Europe to please the Pope, and thrusting the doctrines of the Council of Trent down the throats of mankind at the sword's point. Spain and England might be at peace; Romanism and Protestantism were at deadly war, and war suspends the obligations of ordinary life. Crimes the most horrible were held to be virtues in defence of the Catholic faith. The Catholics could not have the advantage of such indulgences without the inconveniences. The Protestant cause throughout Europe was one, and assailed as the Protestants were with such envenomed ferocity, they could not afford to be nicely scrupulous in the means they used to defend themselves.

Sir Arthur Champernowne was not called on to sacrifice himself in such peculiar fashion, and a better expedient was found to secure Alva's money. The bullion was landed and was brought to London by road on the plea that the seas were unsafe. It was carried to the Tower, and when it was once inside the walls it was found to remain the property of the Genoese until it was delivered at Antwerp. The Genoese agent in London was as willing to lend it to Elizabeth as to Philip, and indeed preferred the security. Elizabeth calmly said that she had herself occasion for money, and would accept their offer. Half of it was sent to the Prince of Orange; half was spent on the Queen's navy.

Alva was of course violently angry. He arrested every English ship in the Low Countries. He arrested every Englishman that he could catch, and sequestered all English property. Elizabeth retaliated in kind. The Spanish and Flemish property taken in England proved to be worth double what had been secured by Alva. Philip could not declare war. The Netherlands insurrection was straining his resources, and with Elizabeth for an open enemy the whole weight of England would have been thrown on the side of the Prince of Orange. Elizabeth herself should have declared war, people say, instead of condescending to such tricks. Perhaps so; but also perhaps not. These insults, steadily maintained and unresented, shook the faith of mankind, and especially of her own sailors, in the invincibility of the Spanish colossus.

I am now to turn to another side of the subject. The stories which I have told you show the temper of the time, and the atmosphere which men were breathing, but it will be instructive to look more closely at individual persons, and I will take first John Hawkins (afterwards Sir John), a peculiarly characteristic figure.

The Hawkinses of Plymouth were a solid middle-class Devonshire family, who for two generations had taken a leading part in the business of the town. They still survive in the county—Achins we used to call them before school pronunciation came in, and so Philip wrote the name when the famous John began to trouble his dreams. I have already spoken of old William Hawkins, John's father, whom Henry VIII. was so fond of, and who brought over the Brazilian King. Old William had now retired and had left his place and his work to his son. John Hawkins may have been about thirty at Elizabeth's accession. He had witnessed the wild times of Edward VI. and Mary, but, though many of his friends had taken to the privateering business, Hawkins appears to have kept clear of it, and continued steadily at trade. One of these friends, and his contemporary, and in fact his near relation, was Thomas Stukely, afterwards so notorious—and a word may be said of Stukely's career as a contrast to that of Hawkins. He was a younger son of a leading county family, went to London to seek his fortune, and became a hanger-on of Sir Thomas Seymour. Doubtless he was connected with Seymour's pirating scheme at Scilly, and took to pirating as an occupation like other Western gentlemen. When Elizabeth became Queen, he introduced himself at Court and amused her with his conceit. He meant to be a king, nothing less than a king. He would go to Florida, found an empire there, and write to the Queen as his dearest sister. She gave him leave to try. He bought a vessel of 400 tons, got 100 tall soldiers to join him besides the crew, and sailed from Plymouth in 1563. Once out of harbour, he announced that the sea was to be his Florida. He went back to the pirate business, robbed freely, haunted Irish creeks, and set up an intimacy with the Ulster hero, Shan O'Neil. Shan and Stukely became bosom friends. Shan wrote to Elizabeth to recommend that she should make over Ireland to Stukely and himself to manage, and promised, if she agreed, to make it such an Ireland as had never been seen, which they probably would. Elizabeth not consenting, Stukely turned Papist, transferred his services to the Pope and Philip, and was preparing a campaign in Ireland under the Pope's direction, when he was tempted to join Sebastian of Portugal in the African expedition, and there got himself killed.

Stukely was a specimen of the foolish sort of the young Devonshire men; Hawkins was exactly his opposite. He stuck to business, avoided politics, traded with Spanish ports without offending the Holy Office, and formed intimacies and connections with the Canary Islands especially, where it was said 'he grew much in love and favour with the people.'

At the Canaries he naturally heard much about the West Indies. He was adventurous. His Canaries friends told him that negroes were great merchandise in the Spanish settlements in Espanola, and he himself was intimately acquainted with the Guinea coast, and knew how easily such a cargo could be obtained.

We know to what the slave trade grew. We have all learnt to repent of the share which England had in it, and to abhor everyone whose hands were stained by contact with so accursed a business. All that may be taken for granted; but we must look at the matter as it would have been represented at the Canaries to Hawkins himself.

The Carib races whom the Spaniards found in Cuba and St. Domingo had withered before them as if struck by a blight. Many died under the lash of the Spanish overseers; many, perhaps the most, from the mysterious causes which have made the presence of civilisation so fatal to the Red Indian, the Australian, and the Maori. It is with men as it is with animals. The races which consent to be domesticated prosper and multiply. Those which cannot live without freedom pine like caged eagles or disappear like the buffaloes of the prairies.

Anyway, the natives perished out of the islands of the Caribbean Sea with a rapidity which startled the conquerors. The famous Bishop Las Casas pitied and tried to save the remnant that were left. The Spanish settlers required labourers for the plantations. On the continent of Africa were another race, savage in their natural state, which would domesticate like sheep and oxen, and learnt and improved in the white man's company. The negro never rose of himself out of barbarism; as his fathers were, so he remained from age to age; when left free, as in Liberia and in Hayti, he reverts to his original barbarism; while in subjection to the white man he showed then, and he has shown since, high capacities of intellect and character. Such is, such was the fact. It struck Las Casas that if negroes could be introduced into the West Indian islands, the Indians might be left alone; the negroes themselves would have a chance to rise out of their wretchedness, could be made into Christians, and could be saved at worst from the horrid fate which awaited many of them in their own country.

The black races varied like other animals: some were gentle and timid, some were ferocious as wolves. The strong tyrannised over the weak, made slaves of their prisoners, occasionally ate them, and those they did not eat they sacrificed at what they called their customs—offered them up and cut their throats at the altars of their idols. These customs were the most sacred traditions of the negro race. They were suspended while the slave trade gave the prisoners a value. They revived when the slave trade was abolished. When Lord Wolseley a few years back entered Ashantee, the altars were coated thick with the blood of hundreds of miserable beings who had been freshly slaughtered there. Still later similar horrid scenes were reported from Dahomey. Sir Richard Burton, who was an old acquaintance of mine, spent two months with the King of Dahomey, and dilated to me on the benevolence and enlightenment of that excellent monarch. I asked why, if the King was so benevolent, he did not alter the customs. Burton looked at me with consternation. 'Alter the customs!' he said. 'Would you have the Archbishop of Canterbury alter the Liturgy?' Las Casas and those who thought as he did are not to be charged with infamous inhumanity if they proposed to buy these poor creatures from their captors, save them from Mumbo Jumbo, and carry them to countries where they would be valuable property, and be at least as well cared for as the mules and horses.

The experiment was tried and seemed to succeed. The negroes who were rescued from the customs and were carried to the Spanish islands proved docile and useful. Portuguese and Spanish factories were established on the coast of Guinea. The black chiefs were glad to make money out of their wretched victims, and readily sold them. The transport over the Atlantic became a regular branch of business. Strict laws were made for the good treatment of the slaves on the plantations. The trade was carried on under license from the Government, and an import duty of thirty ducats per head was charged on every negro that was landed. I call it an experiment. The full consequences could not be foreseen; and I cannot see that as an experiment it merits the censures which in its later developments it eventually came to deserve. Las Casas, who approved of it, was one of the most excellent of men. Our own Bishop Butler could give no decided opinion against negro slavery as it existed in his time. It is absurd to say that ordinary merchants and ship captains ought to have seen the infamy of a practice which Las Casas advised and Butler could not condemn. The Spanish and Portuguese Governments claimed, as I said, the control of the traffic. The Spanish settlers in the West Indies objected to a restriction which raised the price and shortened the supply. They considered that having established themselves in a new country they had a right to a voice in the conditions of their occupancy. It was thus that the Spaniards in the Canaries represented the matter to John Hawkins. They told him that if he liked to make the venture with a contraband cargo from Guinea, their countrymen would give him an enthusiastic welcome. It is evident from the story that neither he nor they expected that serious offence would be taken at Madrid. Hawkins at this time was entirely friendly with the Spaniards. It was enough if he could be assured that the colonists would be glad to deal with him.

I am not crediting him with the benevolent purposes of Las Casas. I do not suppose Hawkins thought much of saving black men's souls. He saw only an opportunity of extending his business among a people with whom he was already largely connected. The traffic was established. It had the sanction of the Church, and no objection had been raised to it anywhere on the score of morality. The only question which could have presented itself to Hawkins was of the right of the Spanish Government to prevent foreigners from getting a share of a lucrative trade against the wishes of its subjects. And his friends at the Canaries certainly did not lead him to expect any real opposition. One regrets that a famous Englishman should have been connected with the slave trade; but we have no right to heap violent censures upon him because he was no more enlightened than the wisest of his contemporaries.

Thus, encouraged from Santa Cruz, Hawkins on his return to England formed an African company out of the leading citizens of London. Three vessels were fitted out, Hawkins being commander and part owner. The size of them is remarkable: the Solomon, as the largest was called, 120 tons; the Swallow, 100 tons; the Jonas not above 40 tons. This represents them as inconceivably small. They carried between them a hundred men, and ample room had to be provided besides for the blacks. There may have been a difference in the measurement of tonnage. We ourselves have five standards: builder's measurement, yacht measurement, displacement, sail area, and register measurement. Registered tonnage is far under the others: a yacht registered 120 tons would be called 200 in a shipping list. However that be, the brigantines and sloops used by the Elizabethans on all adventurous expeditions were mere boats compared with what we should use now on such occasions. The reason was obvious. Success depended on speed and sailing power. The art of building big square-rigged ships which would work to windward had not been yet discovered, even by Mr. Fletcher of Rye. The fore-and-aft rig alone would enable a vessel to tack, as it is called, and this could only be used with craft of moderate tonnage.

The expedition sailed in October 1562. They called at the Canaries, where they were warmly entertained. They went on to Sierra Leone, where they collected 300 negroes. They avoided the Government factories, and picked them up as they could, some by force, some by negotiation with local chiefs, who were as ready to sell their subjects as Sancho Panza intended to be when he got his island. They crossed without misadventure to St. Domingo, where Hawkins represented that he was on a voyage of discovery; that he had been driven out of his course and wanted food and money. He said he had certain slaves with him, which he asked permission to sell. What he had heard at the Canaries turned out to be exactly true. So far as the Governor of St. Domingo knew, Spain and England were at peace. Privateers had not troubled the peace of the Caribbean Sea, or dangerous heretics menaced the Catholic faith there. Inquisitors might have been suspicious, but the Inquisition had not yet been established beyond the Atlantic. The Queen of England was his sovereign's sister-in-law, and the Governor saw no reason why he should construe his general instructions too literally. The planters were eager to buy, and he did not wish to be unpopular. He allowed Hawkins to sell two out of his three hundred negroes, leaving the remaining hundred as a deposit should question be raised about the duty. Evidently the only doubt in the Governor's mind was whether the Madrid authorities would charge foreign importers on a higher scale. The question was new. No stranger had as yet attempted to trade there.

Everyone was satisfied, except the negroes, who were not asked their opinion. The profits were enormous. A ship in the harbour was about to sail for Cadiz. Hawkins invested most of what he had made in a cargo of hides, for which, as he understood, there was a demand in Spain, and he sent them over in her in charge of one of his partners. The Governor gave him a testimonial for good conduct during his stay in the port, and with this and with his three vessels he returned leisurely to England, having, as he imagined, been splendidly successful.

He was to be unpleasantly undeceived. A few days after he had arrived at Plymouth, he met the man whom he had sent to Cadiz with the hides forlorn and empty-handed. The Inquisition, he said, had seized the cargo and confiscated it. An order had been sent to St. Domingo to forfeit the reserved slaves. He himself had escaped for his life, as the familiars had been after him.

Nothing shows more clearly how little thought there had been in Hawkins that his voyage would have given offence in Spain than the astonishment with which he heard the news. He protested. He wrote to Philip. Finding entreaties useless, he swore vengeance; but threats were equally ineffectual. Not a hide, not a farthing could he recover. The Spanish Government, terrified at the intrusion of English adventurers into their western paradise to endanger the gold fleets, or worse to endanger the purity of the faith, issued orders more peremptory than ever to close the ports there against all foreigners. Philip personally warned Sir Thomas Chaloner, the English ambassador, that if such visits were repeated, mischief would come of it. And Cecil, who disliked all such semi-piratical enterprises, and Chaloner, who was half a Spaniard and an old companion in arms of Charles V., entreated their mistress to forbid them.

Elizabeth, however, had her own views in such matters. She liked money. She liked encouraging the adventurous disposition of her subjects, who were fighting the State's battles at their own risk and cost. She saw in Philip's anger a confession that the West Indies was his vulnerable point; and that if she wished to frighten him into letting her alone, and to keep the Inquisition from burning her sailors, there was the place where Philip would be more sensitive. Probably, too, she thought that Hawkins had done nothing for which he could be justly blamed. He had traded at St. Domingo with the Governor's consent, and confiscation was sharp practice.

This was clearly Hawkins's own view of the matter. He had injured no one. He had offended no pious ears by parading his Protestantism. He was not Philip's subject, and was not to be expected to know the instructions given by the Spanish Government in the remote corners of their dominions. If anyone was to be punished, it was not he but the Governor. He held that he had been robbed, and had a right to indemnify himself at the King's expense. He would go out again. He was certain of a cordial reception from the planters. Between him and them there was the friendliest understanding. His quarrel was with Philip, and Philip only. He meant to sell a fresh cargo of negroes, and the Madrid Government should go without their 30 per cent. duty.

Elizabeth approved. Hawkins had opened the road to the West Indies. He had shown how easy slave smuggling was, and how profitable it was: how it was also possible for the English to establish friendly relations with the Spanish settlers in the West Indies, whether Philip liked it or not. Another company was formed for a second trial. Elizabeth took shares, Lord Pembroke took shares, and other members of the Council. The Queen lent the Jesus, a large ship of her own, of 700 tons. Formal instructions were given that no wrong was to be done to the King of Spain, but what wrong might mean was left to the discretion of the commander. Where the planters were all eager to purchase, means of traffic would be discovered without collision with the authorities. This time the expedition was to be on a larger scale, and a hundred soldiers were put on board to provide for contingencies. Thus furnished, Hawkins started on his second voyage in October 1564. The autumn was chosen, to avoid the extreme tropical heats. He touched as before to see his friends at the Canaries. He went on to the Rio Grande, met with adventures bad and good, found a chief at war with a neighbouring tribe, helped to capture a town and take prisoners, made purchases at a Portuguese factory. In this way he now secured 400 human cattle, perhaps for a better fate than they would have met with at home, and with these he sailed off in the old direction. Near the equator he fell in with calms; he was short of water, and feared to lose some of them; but, as the record of the voyage puts it, 'Almighty God would not suffer His elect to perish,' and sent a breeze which carried him safe to Dominica. In that wettest of islands he found water in plenty, and had then to consider what next he would do. St. Domingo, he thought, would be no longer safe for him; so he struck across to the Spanish Main to a place called Burboroata, where he might hope that nothing would be known about him. In this he was mistaken. Philip's orders had arrived: no Englishman of any creed or kind was to be allowed to trade in his West India dominions. The settlers, however, intended to trade. They required only a display of force that they might pretend that they were yielding to compulsion. Hawkins told his old story. He said that he was out on the service of the Queen of England. He had been driven off his course by bad weather. He was short of supplies and had many men on board, who might do the town some mischief if they were not allowed to land peaceably and buy and sell what they wanted. The Governor affecting to hesitate, he threw 120 men on shore, and brought his guns to bear on the castle. The Governor gave way under protest. Hawkins was to be permitted to sell half his negroes. He said that as he had been treated so inhospitably he would not pay the 30 per cent. The King of Spain should have 7 1/2, and no more. The settlers had no objection. The price would be the less, and with this deduction his business was easily finished off. He bought no more hides, and was paid in solid silver.

From Burboroata he went on to Rio de la Hacha, where the same scene was repeated. The whole 400 were disposed of, this time with ease and complete success. He had been rapid; and had the season still before him. Having finished his business, he surveyed a large part of the Caribbean Sea, taking soundings, noting the currents, and making charts of the coasts and islands. This done, he turned homewards, following the east shore of North America as far as Newfoundland. There he gave his crew a change of diet, with fresh cod from the Banks, and after eleven months' absence he sailed into Padstow, having lost but twenty men in the whole adventure, and bringing back 60 per cent. to the Queen and the other shareholders.

Nothing succeeds like success. Hawkins's praises were in everyone's mouth, and in London he was the hero of the hour. Elizabeth received him at the palace. The Spanish ambassador, De Silva, met him there at dinner. He talked freely of where he had been and of what he had done, only keeping back the gentle violence which he had used. He regarded this as a mere farce, since there had been no one hurt on either side. He boasted of having given the greatest satisfaction to the Spaniards who had dealt with him. De Silva could but bow, report to his master, and ask instructions how he was to proceed.

Philip was frightfully disturbed. He saw in prospect his western subjects allying themselves with the English—heresy creeping in among them; his gold fleets in danger, all the possibilities with which Elizabeth had wished to alarm him. He read and re-read De Silva's letters, and opposite the name of Achines he wrote startled interjections on the margin: 'Ojo! Ojo!'

The political horizon was just then favourable to Elizabeth. The Queen of Scots was a prisoner in Loch Leven; the Netherlands were in revolt; the Huguenots were looking up in France; and when Hawkins proposed a third expedition, she thought that she could safely allow it. She gave him the use of the Jesus again, with another smaller ship of hers, the Minion. He had two of his own still fit for work; and a fifth, the Judith, was brought in by his young cousin, Francis Drake, who was now to make his first appearance on the stage. I shall tell you by-and-by who and what Drake was. Enough to say now that he was a relation of Hawkins, the owner of a small smart sloop or brigantine, and ambitious of a share in a stirring business.

The Plymouth seamen were falling into dangerous contempt of Philip. While the expedition was fitting out, a ship of the King's came into Catwater with more prisoners from Flanders. She was flying the Castilian flag, contrary to rule, it was said, in English harbours. The treatment of the English ensign at Gibraltar had not been forgiven, and Hawkins ordered the Spanish captain to strike his colours. The captain refused, and Hawkins instantly fired into him. In the confusion the prisoners escaped on board the Jesus and were let go. The captain sent a complaint to London, and Cecil—who disapproved of Hawkins and all his proceedings—sent down an officer to inquire into what had happened. Hawkins, confident in Elizabeth's protection, quietly answered that the Spaniard had broken the laws of the port, and that it was necessary to assert the Queen's authority.

'Your mariners,' said De Silva to her, 'rob our subjects on the sea, trade where they are forbidden to go, and fire upon our ships in your harbours. Your preachers insult my master from their pulpits, and when we remonstrate we are answered with menaces. We have borne so far with their injuries, attributing them rather to temper and bad manners than to deliberate purpose. But, seeing that no redress can be had, and that the same treatment of us continues, I must consult my Sovereign's pleasure. For the last time, I require your Majesty to punish this outrage at Plymouth and preserve the peace between the two realms.'

No remonstrance could seem more just till the other side was heard. The other side was that the Pope and the Catholic Powers were undertaking to force the Protestants of France and Flanders back under the Papacy with fire and sword. It was no secret that England's turn was to follow as soon as Philip's hands were free. Meanwhile he had been intriguing with the Queen of Scots; he had been encouraging Ireland in rebellion; he had been persecuting English merchants and seamen, starving them to death in the Inquisition dungeons, or burning them at the stake. The Smithfield infamies were fresh in Protestant memories, and who could tell how soon the horrid work would begin again at home, if the Catholic Powers could have their way?

If the King of Spain and his Holiness at Rome would have allowed other nations to think and make laws for themselves, pirates and privateers would have disappeared off the ocean. The West Indies would have been left undisturbed, and Spanish, English, French, and Flemings would have lived peacefully side by side as they do now. But spiritual tyranny had not yet learned its lesson, and the 'Beggars of the Sea' were to be Philip's schoolmasters in irregular but effective fashion.

Elizabeth listened politely to what De Silva said, promised to examine into his complaints, and allowed Hawkins to sail.

What befell him you will hear in the next lecture.



My last lecture left Hawkins preparing to start on his third and, as it proved, most eventful voyage. I mentioned that he was joined by a young relation, of whom I must say a few preliminary words. Francis Drake was a Devonshire man, like Hawkins himself and Raleigh and Davis and Gilbert, and many other famous men of those days. He was born at Tavistock somewhere about 1540. He told Camden that he was of mean extraction. He meant merely that he was proud of his parents and made no idle pretensions to noble birth. His father was a tenant of the Earl of Bedford, and must have stood well with him, for Francis Russell, the heir of the earldom, was the boy's godfather. From him Drake took his Christian name. The Drakes were early converts to Protestantism. Trouble rising at Tavistock on the Six Articles Bill, they removed to Kent, where the father, probably through Lord Bedford's influence, was appointed a lay chaplain in Henry VIII.'s fleet at Chatham. In the next reign, when the Protestants were uppermost, he was ordained and became vicar of Upnor on the Medway. Young Francis took early to the water, and made acquaintance with a ship-master trading to the Channel ports, who took him on board his ship and bred him as a sailor. The boy distinguished himself, and his patron when he died left Drake his vessel in his will. For several years Drake stuck steadily to his coasting work, made money, and made a solid reputation. His ambition grew with his success. The seagoing English were all full of Hawkins and his West Indian exploits. The Hawkinses and the Drakes were near relations. Hearing that there was to be another expedition, and having obtained his cousin's consent, Francis Drake sold his brig, bought the Judith, a handier and faster vessel, and with a few stout sailors from the river went down to Plymouth and joined.

De Silva had sent word to Philip that Hawkins was again going out, and preparations had been made to receive him. Suspecting nothing, Hawkins with his four consorts sailed, as before, in October 1567. The start was ominous. He was caught and badly knocked about by an equinoctial in the Bay of Biscay. He lost his boats. The Jesus strained her timbers and leaked, and he so little liked the look of things that he even thought of turning back and giving up the expedition for the season. However, the weather mended. They put themselves to rights at the Canaries, picked up their spirits, and proceeded. The slave-catching was managed successfully, though with some increased difficulty. The cargo with equal success was disposed of at the Spanish settlements. At one place the planters came off in their boats at night to buy. At Rio de la Hacha, where the most imperative orders had been sent to forbid his admittance, Hawkins landed a force as before and took possession of the town, of course with the connivance of the settlers. At Carthagena he was similarly ordered off, and as Carthagena was strongly fortified he did not venture to meddle with it. But elsewhere he found ample markets for his wares. He sold all his blacks. By this and by other dealings he had collected what is described as a vast treasure of gold, silver, and jewels. The hurricane season was approaching, and he made the best of his way homewards with his spoils, in the fear of being overtaken by it. Unluckily for him, he had lingered too long. He had passed the west point of Cuba and was working up the back of the island when a hurricane came down on him. The gale lasted four days. The ships' bottoms were foul and they could make no way. Spars were lost and rigging carried away. The Jesus, which had not been seaworthy all along, leaked worse than ever and lost her rudder. Hawkins looked for some port in Florida, but found the coast shallow and dangerous, and was at last obliged to run for San Juan de Ulloa, at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

San Juan de Ulloa is a few miles only from Vera Cruz. It was at that time the chief port of Mexico, through which all the traffic passed between the colony and the mother-country, and was thus a place of some consequence. It stands on a small bay facing towards the north. Across the mouth of this bay lies a narrow ridge of sand and shingle, half a mile long, which acts as a natural breakwater and forms the harbour. This ridge, or island as it was called, was uninhabited, but it had been faced on the inner front by a wall. The water was deep alongside, and vessels could thus lie in perfect security, secured by their cables to rings let into the masonry.

The prevailing wind was from the north, bringing in a heavy surf on the back of the island. There was an opening at both ends, but only one available for vessels of large draught. In this the channel was narrow, and a battery at the end of the breakwater would completely command it. The town stood on the opposite side of the bay.

Into a Spanish port thus constructed Hawkins entered with his battered squadron on September 16, 1568. He could not have felt entirely easy. But he probably thought that he had no ill-will to fear from the inhabitants generally, and that the Spanish authorities would not be strong enough to meddle with him. His ill star had brought him there at a time when Alvarez de Bacan, the same officer who had destroyed the English ships at Gibraltar, was daily expected from Spain—sent by Philip, as it proved, specially to look for him. Hawkins, when he appeared outside, had been mistaken for the Spanish admiral, and it was under this impression that he had been allowed to enter. The error was quickly discovered on both sides.

Though still ignorant that he was himself De Bacan's particular object, yet De Bacan was the last officer whom in his crippled condition he would have cared to encounter. Several Spanish merchantmen were in the port richly loaded: with these of course he did not meddle, though, if reinforced, they might perhaps meddle with him. As his best resource he despatched a courier on the instant to Mexico to inform the Viceroy of his arrival, to say that he had an English squadron with him; that he had been driven in by stress of weather and need of repairs; that the Queen was an ally of the King of Spain; and that, as he understood a Spanish fleet was likely soon to arrive, he begged the Viceroy to make arrangements to prevent disputes.

As yet, as I said in the last lecture, there was no Inquisition in Mexico. It was established there three years later, for the special benefit of the English. But so far there was no ill-will towards the English—rather the contrary. Hawkins had hurt no one, and the negro trading had been eminently popular. The Viceroy might perhaps have connived at Hawkins's escape, but again by ill-fortune he was himself under orders of recall, and his successor was coming out in this particular fleet with De Bacan.

Had he been well disposed and free to act it would still have been too late, for the very next morning, September 17, De Bacan was off the harbour mouth with thirteen heavily-armed galleons and frigates. The smallest of them carried probably 200 men, and the odds were now tremendous. Hawkins's vessels lay ranged along the inner bank or wall of the island. He instantly occupied the island itself and mounted guns at the point covering the way in. He then sent a boat off to De Bacan to say that he was an Englishman, that he was in possession of the port, and must forbid the entrance of the Spanish fleet till he was assured that there was to be no violence. It was a strong measure to shut a Spanish admiral out of a Spanish port in a time of profound peace. Still, the way in was difficult, and could not be easily forced if resolutely defended. The northerly wind was rising; if it blew into a gale the Spaniards would be on a lee shore. Under desperate circumstances, desperate things will be done. Hawkins in his subsequent report thus explains his dilemma:—

'I was in two difficulties. Either I must keep them out of the port, which with God's grace I could easily have done, in which case with a northerly wind rising they would have been wrecked, and I should have been answerable; or I must risk their playing false, which on the whole I preferred to do.'

The northerly gale it appears did not rise, or the English commander might have preferred the first alternative. Three days passed in negotiation. De Bacan and Don Enriquez, the new Viceroy, were naturally anxious to get into shelter out of a dangerous position, and were equally desirous not to promise any more than was absolutely necessary. The final agreement was that De Bacan and the fleet should enter without opposition. Hawkins might stay till he had repaired his damages, and buy and sell what he wanted; and further, as long as they remained the English were to keep possession of the island. This article, Hawkins says, was long resisted, but was consented to at last. It was absolutely necessary, for with the island in their hands, the Spaniards had only to cut the English cables, and they would have driven ashore across the harbour.

The treaty so drawn was formally signed. Hostages were given on both sides, and De Bacan came in. The two fleets were moored as far apart from each other as the size of the port would allow. Courtesies were exchanged, and for two days all went well. It is likely that the Viceroy and the admiral did not at first know that it was the very man whom they had been sent out to sink or capture who was lying so close to them. When they did know it they may have looked on him as a pirate, with whom, as with heretics, there was no need to keep faith. Anyway, the rat was in the trap, and De Bacan did not mean to let him out. The Jesus lay furthest in; the Minion lay beyond her towards the entrance, moored apparently to a ring on the quay, but free to move; and the Judith, further out again, moored in the same way. Nothing is said of the two small vessels remaining.

De Bacan made his preparations silently, covered by the town. He had men in abundance ready to act where he should direct. On the third day, the 20th of September, at noon, the Minion's crew had gone to dinner, when they saw a large hulk of 900 tons slowly towing up alongside of them. Not liking such a neighbour, they had their cable ready to slip and began to set their canvas. On a sudden shots and cries were heard from the town. Parties of English who were on land were set upon; many were killed; the rest were seen flinging themselves into the water and swimming off to the ships. At the same instant the guns of the galleons and of the shore batteries opened fire on the Jesus and her consorts, and in the smoke and confusion 300 Spaniards swarmed out of the hulk and sprang on the Minion's decks. The Minion's men instantly cut them down or drove them overboard, hoisted sail, and forced their way out of the harbour, followed by the Judith. The Jesus was left alone, unable to stir. She defended herself desperately. In the many actions which were fought afterwards between the English and the Spaniards, there was never any more gallant or more severe. De Bacan's own ship was sunk and the vice-admiral's was set on fire. The Spanish, having an enormous advantage in numbers, were able to land a force on the island, seize the English battery there, cut down the gunners, and turn the guns close at hand on the devoted Jesus. Still she fought on, defeating every attempt to board, till at length De Bacan sent down fire-ships on her, and then the end came. All that Hawkins had made by his voyage, money, bullion, the ship herself, had to be left to their fate. Hawkins himself with the survivors of the crew took to their boats, dashed through the enemy, who vainly tried to take them, and struggled out after the Minion and the Judith. It speaks ill for De Bacan that with so large a force at his command, and in such a position, a single Englishman escaped to tell the story.

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