Sir Francis Drake
Drake and Sir John Hawkins
FOR the first half of the sixteenth century Spain practically ruled the seas. Her ships came and went across the Atlantic, and her trade was the greatest of any European nation's.
About the middle of this same century Elizabeth became queen of England; and during her reign, England, too, grew to be a great maritime power. Spain soon came to look upon England as a rival, and these two nations kept close watch of each other's every move.
In 1562 three English vessels sailed down the western
coast of Africa. They were headed for Guinea, to carry
out what seemed to be a fine scheme on the part of
Hawkins's plan was to go to Guinea, load his ship with
negroes, carry them to the
At that time it was not considered wrong to deal in
slaves, and John Hawkins's successful trip brought him
great honor in England. But
Nothing daunted, however, John Hawkins soon repeated his voyage; and this time his profits were even greater than on the first trip. If the authorities of any port refused to trade with him, he merely landed one hundred men in armor and frightened the Spaniards into doing as he wished. His fame was greater than ever in England, and on his return Queen Elizabeth knighted him.
Now Sir John Hawkins had a young cousin in England
It was very natural, however, that, hearing of John
Hawkins's wonderful success, young Drake should not be
content with a mere channel coaster. So he sold his
vessel; and when his famous cousin started on a third
First of all they went to Africa where they loaded
their ships with negroes, and then the expedition
sailed as before for the
Finally the time to think of starting for home arrived.
But at least two of the ships had stood the voyage so
badly that they had to be repaired before they could be
trusted on the open sea. For this purpose the little
fleet boldly entered the Spanish port of San Juan
Here, riding peacefully at anchor, they were surprised by the approach of a Spanish fleet. The English ships certainly had the advantage, as they lay snugly in the port, and the Spanish vessels could not enter without the risk of being sunk by the English guns.
The commanders of the two fleets held a conference, and Hawkins agreed to let the Spanish ships enter the port on condition that the English should be allowed to repair their vessels before putting out to sea. All this was readily agreed to, and the Spaniards sailed into the port.
You would think that by this time Hawkins would have known the crafty Spanish nature too well to take such a risk. Before many days had passed, the Spaniards had turned on the English, and a fierce fight had taken place. When it was over only two ships of Hawkins's fleet were left. And these two—one under the command of Hawkins, and the other in charge of young Francis Drake—had a weary time getting back to England.
Drake the Voyager and Fighter—Magellan
FRANCIS DRAKE'S experience at San Juan
But far from being disheartened, Drake was soon ready to sail again for the Spanish ports in America. He had two objects in mind when he started from England: on his own account, he meant to seize treasures enough from the Spaniards to repay himself for his losses at their hands; and he hoped to aid his Queen at home by crippling her rival's American colonies.
Judging by the results, Drake must have felt well satisfied. He made three such voyages on which he raided Spanish ships, took Spanish prisoners, and made himself a veritable terror to the Spanish settlements in the West Indies and along the Gulf of Mexico.
On his third voyage, Drake and his men landed on the Isthmus of Panama. Afoot they started inland to waylay a cargo of treasures which they knew was being brought across the Isthmus. In some way the Spaniards were warned and eluded Drake. Yet great results were to come from his effort to meet them.
Working their way through the dark, dense forests where no sunlight ever came, Drake and his men finally reached a mountain peak. And climbing a great tree Drake looked out over the forests and saw, stretching north, south, and west, the shining blue waves of the Pacific Ocean. He seems to have been as deeply stirred by the sight as Balboa was sixty years before.
From his seat high up in the tree, Drake thanked God that he had been permitted to be the first Englishman to see this mighty ocean, and prayed that he might "sail once in an English ship on that sea."
This was on February 11, 1573. On the 9th of August, Drake and his men reached the shores of Plymouth, England.
Then for a while Drake stayed at home. But he could not forget his wish to take an English ship into the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, he wanted some of the wealth of Peru and Mexico; and he did not believe it wrong to take from the Spaniards what they had seized from the natives.
Years before, in fact during the very time Cortez was busy conquering Mexico, an adventurous navigator, a Portugese sailing under the Spanish flag, had made a wonderful voyage. This bold sailor was Ferdinand Magellan. Down the eastern coast of South America he had slowly made his way until he had reached the straits which now bear his name. Then, passing through the straits, he had entered the Pacific, had crossed that great ocean, and had discovered the Philippine Islands. Here Magellan was killed by the natives; but his sailors, going on, had reached Spain in 1522, having sailed entirely around the globe.
Francis Drake now planned to reach Peru by following
Magellan's course and sailing around South America. In
November, 1577, he embarked from Plymouth with five
ships and one hundred and
To attack the Spanish ports of Peru with one ship
certainly seemed foolhardy. But Drake perhaps realized
that these ports had no real defense. You see the
Spaniards themselves carried their cargoes across the
Isthmus of Panama, because a southern route was
considered very dangerous and very long. And without
doubt it never entered a Spanish mind that any foe
would come that way, or that defense was needed. So,
sailing bravely up the
coast of Chili,
It seemed almost as if the Spanish gold, silver, and
jewels must have been just waiting to be seized. Into
port after port the
At last, with plunder valued at millions of dollars, Drake was satisfied. Now he turned his attention to searching for some new passage by water from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Carefully examining the shores, he sailed north along the coast of California as far as the bay of San Francisco.
Here he gave up his search and resolved to go home by
way of the Pacific. According to custom, however,
before starting he took possession for Queen Elizabeth
of the land he had been exploring, and called it
After crossing the Pacific Ocean Drake rounded the Cape of Good Hope and sailed once more into the Plymouth port, in September, 1580.
Queen Elizabeth hesitated at first about recognizing
this bold subject who had plundered so many Spanish
settlements. She was afraid of angering still further
the Spanish king. But she decided in Drake's favor, and
consented to pay him a visit on the
Elizabeth also gave orders that the
Drake had already risked and accomplished more than most men do in a lifetime, but his services were still to be demanded in other ways. At one time he was appointed Mayor of Plymouth, and later he served on a royal commission to inquire into the state of the Navy. Associated with him on this commission was Sir Walter Raleigh, of whom you shall hear more. And to the friendship of this knight Drake came to owe much.
In 1585 war was declared between England and Spain. Once more Drake crossed the Atlantic and wrought dreadful havoc among the Spanish colonies in America; and, when he got back to England, a still more dangerous undertaking was asked of him.
Philip II of Spain was collecting a great battle fleet, or armada, for the invasion of England. Queen Elizabeth sent Drake with thirty ships to destroy the enemy's storehouses and powder magazines. He entered the harbor of Cadiz early one morning and before many hours had burned upward of ten thousand tons of shipping, a feat which he afterwards called "singeing the beard of the King of Spain." It took Philip a whole year to repair the damages that Drake had done, and this gave England time to prepare for war.
When the Spanish Armada came in 1588 to invade England, Drake was appointed vice admiral under Lord Howard and served under him in the fighting that resulted in the destruction of the Armada.
Several years later, Sir Francis Drake and Sir John
Hawkins were again trying to crush the power of Spain
in America. But the old success was not with them. They
were repulsed by the Spaniards, sickness broke out, and
Sir John Hawkins died off the coast of
This death, the sickness of his men, and the apparent failure of his voyage were all keenly felt by Drake. For some time he struggled to succeed in spite of the great odds against him. But at last he, too, fell ill and in a few days died. His men buried him at sea, and thus ended the life of one of England's bravest and boldest navigators.