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to Cathay. "God knoweth," he said, "that
though by it I should have no great interest, yet

Merchant Seamen of Bristol 35

I have had and still have no little mind of this
businesse. So that if I had facultie to my will,
it should be the first thing that I woulde under-
stand, even to attempt, if our Seas Northward be
navigable to the pole or not. I reason that, as
some sickenesses are hereditarious and coming from
the father to the son, so this inclination or desire
of this discovery I inherited from my father."

The next year, his father being now dead,
he returned to England and finally persuaded
Henry VIII to embark upon this adventure.
Accordingly, on June 10, 1527, there set out
from Plymouth the Mary of Guildford and the
Sampson, to find the North- West Passage to
Cathay. Unhappily disaster overtook the Sampson,
which foundered in a storm on July 1, and the
Mary of Guildford soon found herself in a network
of icebergs. She turned south, therefore, and came
upon ' ' a great fresh river going up far into the
main land" — possibly the St. Lawrence — and,
having explored this, turned back to Newfoundland
and so home.

This experience seems to have contented
Henry VIII, and during the rest of his reign
there were no further expeditions to discover this
North- West Passage that loomed so large in the
imagination of the navigators of that time. Nor
does Robert Thorne seem to have pressed the
point, though his exordium to the King remained
on record ; and for the last six years of his life he
was content to continue adding to an already very

36 The Sea Traders

considerable fortune. This he disposed of with
the greatest generosity, forgiving many of the
debts of those less fortunate than himself; and,
besides rebuilding Walthamstow Church and en-
dowing a scholarship at the Merchant Taylors'
School, he left a bequest for the purchase of land
on which a Grammar School for Bristol was to be
built. He was only forty when he died, but his
life had been a full one, courageous, shrewd and
broad-visioned. With the later years of Sebastian
Cabot, who survived into and played a great part
in the brilliant age to follow, we shall deal in a
later chapter.



The North-East Passage to Cathay — Sir Hugh Willoughby
and his Death — Ricliard Chancellor in Russia — The Forma-
tion of the Russia Company — Commercial Travelling in
the Sixteenth Century — Anthony Jenkinson's Journey to
Bokhara — An Epic of Pioneering.

T ESS parsimonious than his father had been,
-■-^ Henry VIII, as we have already seen, was
incHned to regard with considerable caution the
overseas adventures of his merchant subjects — at
any rate in so far as these were directed towards
the New World. It is quite clear, however, that he
had a full appreciation both of the necessity for
building up and consolidating the foreign trade of
England and for establishing its marine power
upon firm and satisfactory lines. With regard to
the first, his reign witnessed a very solid expan-
sion of English trade in almost all directions.
Thus we have records of English merchants
from such towns as London, Bristol, Leicester,
Plymouth, Hull, Boston and Exeter journeying
to almost everj^ part of Europe and, in spite of
many hardships, pursuing and consolidating a
prosperous trade. Wool, tin, wheat, hides, leather
and cheese were amongst the many articles which
this country then exported, while the principal


38 The Sea Traders

imports were such articles of luxury as manufac-
tured silks, jewellery and wine.

With regard to shipping, Henry VIII emerges
as one of the most industrious and far-seeing of
English monarchs. It was in his reign that the
real beginnings of the Royal Navy, in the modern
sense of the word, were made; and indeed every
kind of shipbuilding prospered during this period.
Thus naval yards and store-houses at Deptford and
Woolwich were created, and such harbours as
those at Plymouth, Dartmouth, Teignmouth, Fal-
mouth and Fowey were repaired and deepened.
The Trinity House at Deptford was incorporated
and given authority to examine licences and
regulate pilots, to provide lighthouses and beacons,
to supervise the construction and formation of
harbours, and generally to hold in good keeping
the safety of English ships, marine stores, and
sailors. This was the corporation of " godly dis-
posed men who, for the actual suppression of evil
disposed persons bringing ships to destruction by
the showing forth of false beacons, do bind them-
selves together for the love of our Lord Christ, in
the name of the Masters and Fellows of the Trinity
Guild, to succour from the dangers of the sea all
who are beset upon the coasts of England, to feed
men when a-hungered, to bind up their wounds,
and to build and light proper beacons for the
guidance of mariners."

It was in this reign, therefore, that those
reserves of maritime energy, which were to exercise

Pioneers of Foreign Trade 39

so tremendous and world-wide an influence in the
greater days of Queen Elizabeth, were being pre-
pared and cherished ; and in the enterprises, such
as we have recorded, of the Cabots and the Thornes
we may trace the earlier heralds of the great
impulse towards world discovery that was to follow.
These men and their colleagues must be regarded
as the single spies, as it were, before the lusty
troops of English seamen who were to ring the
world and penetrate every sea during the ensuing
fifty years; and, before Thorne had died, one of
his contemporaries, Captain William Hawkins, of
Plymouth, had already made the first three voyages
to Brazil to be achieved by an Englishman.

He was the son of one Master John Hawkins
of Tavistock in Devonshire, himself in his day a
famous merchant shipowner, and, as we shall pre-
sently see, he was to be followed by a son destined
to be far greater than either. Meanwhile let us
turn for a moment for a last glance at the closing
activities of the indefatigable Sebastian Cabot.
As a "good olde gentleman," still ready to join
in a dance, we find him, in the reign of Edward
VI, as the Governor of yet another " Companie of
Marchant Adventurers to Regions, Dominions,
Islands and places unknowen," and sufficiently
prosperous to be able to give largesse to the crews
of his new ships.

As we have seen, in discussing Robert Thorne
of Bristol, it was still the far-famed Cathay that
held the imagination of the earlier Tudor mer-

40 The Sea Traders

chants and seamen, in spite of the proven riches
of the Americas, and, when Robert Thome's ex-
pedition to find the North- West Passage failed, the
thoughts of the English mariners turned towards
the possibility of a North-East Passage to the
same destination. The first great effort, therefore,
of Sebastian Cabot's new company was to fit out
an expedition to round the eoast of Norway for
this purpose ; and, after much consideration, the
command was entrusted to Sir Hugh Willoughby,
with Richard Chancellor as his second. In its main
object this enterprise failed, but in its total results
it was of profound importance, and its record is
scarcely to be surpassed by any in our maritime

Three ships were fitted out, the Bona Esperanza
of 120 tons, under the command of Sir Hugh
Willoughby himself, the Edward Bonaventure of
IGO tons, under the command of Richard Chan-
cellor, and the Bona Confidentia of 90 tons, under
the command of Cornelius Durfoorth ; and, on
May 11, 15.53, in the presence of King Edward VI,
they passed Greenwich on their way down the
river, with the harbours of Cathay shining before

Owing to contrary winds it was not until the
end of the month that they came abreast of Yar-
mouth, three leagues out, and by the first of June
they were back again in the Orwell, where they
had to remain off and on for another three weeks.
On June 27 they really got away from England,

Pioneers of Foreign Trade 41

but they did not reach Ilehgoland until July 14,
making the Lofoden Islands about the end oL' the
same month.

In the event of the three little cockle-shells,
for that is what they amounted to, being separated
by a storm, it had been arranged by Sir Hugh
Willoughby that they should make for Ward-
house, then a well-known port on the northern
coast of Europe at the mouth of what is now the
Varanger Fiord in Lapland. Soon after leaving
the Lofoden Islands rough weather was en-
countered, and the Bona Esperanza and the Bona
Confidentia tried to make this port, having lost
sight of the Edward Bonaventure with Richard
Chancellor on board her. For many days they
struggled up and down the coast, until indeed the
end of September, and were finally frozen in off
the coast of Lapland, where Sir Hugh Willoughby
and all the members of the crews of both vessels
ultimately perished from cold and hunger.

Meanwhile Richard Chancellor, in the Bona-
venture, had been more successful than his com-
rades, and had succeeded in making Wardhouse,
where he waited for his leader and the other two
vessels. After remaining there a week he resolved
to proceed alone, in spite of the earnest warnings
of some Scotsmen whom he met, and from Hak-
luyt's chronicle of his voyage we can learn some-
thing of the spirit both of Chancellor himself and
his crew.

" And for them," he says, " which were jvith

42 The Sea Traders

Master Chanceler in his shippe, although they had
great cause of discomfort by the losse of their com-
panie, and were not a httle troubled with cogita-
tions and perturbations of minde, in respect of
their doubtful! course; yet notwithstanding they
were of such consent and agreement of minde with
Master Chanceler, that they were resolute and
prepared under his direction and government, to
make proof e and triall of all adventures, without
all feare or mistrust of future dangers. Which
constancie of minde in all the companie did ex-
ceedingly increase their Captaine's carefulness ; for
hee being swallowed up with right good will and
love towards them feared lest through any errour
of his the safetie of the companie should bee

In such conditions, then. Chancellor set sail,
discovering himself in the region of the midnight
sun, and finally opened up the White Sea, and
came to anchor, the first Englishman in history,
near what is now known as the port of Archangel.
Here, so the same old chronicler tells us, "the
fishermen being amazed with the strange great-
nesse of his shippe (for in those partes before that
time they had never scene the like) beganne pre-
sently to avoyde and to flee, but hee (accord-
ing to his great and singular courtesie) looked
pleasantly upon them, comforting them by signes
and gestures, refusing those dueties and reverences
of theirs and taking them up in all loving sort
from the ground. And it is strange to consider

Pioneers of Foreign Trade 43

howe much favour afterwards in that place, this
humanitie of his did purchase to himselfe. For
they being dismissed spread by and by a report
abroad of the arrivall of a strange nation of a
singular gentlenesse and courtesie."

By his tact and good will he thus very quickly
made friends with the inhabitants, learning many
things about the country. He decided at last to
make the overland journey of 1,500 miles to visit
the Emperor of Moscow. Leaving some of his
men behind to guard his vessel and her wares, he
started off on sleds with some chosen comrades,
successfully reached Moscow, and was most gra-
ciously received by the Emperor, John Vasilivich.
Moscow was then a town, so Chancellor has told
us, greater than London and its suburbs, but
" very rude and standing without all order." It
was a great commercial centre, however. "You
shall meete in a morning," wrote Chancellor,
" seven or eight hundred sleds coming or going
thither that carrie corne and some carrie fish. You
shall have some that carrie corne to the Mosco and
some that fetch corne from thence, that at the
least dwell a thousand miles off; and all their
carriage is on sleds. Those which come so farre
dwell in the North partes of the Dukes dominions,
where the cold will suffer no corne to grow, it is
so extreme. They bring thither fishes, furres, and
beastes skinnes. In those partes they have but
small store of cattell."

He stayed in Moscow for some months, and

44 The Sea Traders

then travelled north again to rejoin his men and
embark in the little Edward Bonaventure, in which
he safely reached England again in the year 1554.
The very important result of this journey was the
founding of the earliest of the great English
chartered companies, the Russia Company, with
old Sebastian Cabot as its governor, and the
coming to England of the first Russian Ambassador
some eighteen months later.

Sebastian Cabot was now drawing near to the
end of his great, if chequered, career. Associated
with him in this new enterprise were many of
the most prominent of London's merchants,
not the least of whom was Sir John Gresham,
whose family name is still commemorated in the
street nmning parallel to Cheapside. Stalwart as
these merchants were, however, and demanding,
as they did, a high standard both from each other
and their assistants, they may well have been proud
of the courage and wisdom of their various pioneer
agents and captains. Thus one of these, Steven
Burrough, master of the pinnesse Searchthrift,
reached Nova Zembla in 1556 and spent many
wrecks among the Samoyedes of the Tundra. But
perhaps the most remarkable journey of this period
— and indeed one of the most remarkable journeys
performed by any Englishman in any period — was
that of another commercial agent of the Russia
Company, Master Anthony Jenkinson, who, in
the year 1558, set off from Moscow to travel to
Bokhara in Turkestan.

Pioneers of Foreign Trade 45

Leaving the Russian capital on April 23, with
letters from the Emi)eror to such rulers as he
might encounter, the journey of this quite ordinary
English merchant on his Company's business was
destined to become an epic. TraveUing by boat,
he and his two companions, Richard and Robert
Johnson, with a Tartar Tolmach, arrived without
adventure and with their " divers parcels " at Nijni
Novgorod on May 11. Here, having noted that
between Rezan and Nijni Novgorod was raised
"the greatest store of waxe and honey in all the
land of Russia," they stayed a week in order to
join the party of a Russian officer.

This man, who had been appointed Governor
of Astrachan, had with him 500 boats, and the
whole fleet now dropped down the river Volga on
its long voyage to the Caspian Sea. In ten days'
time they came to Kazan, captured from the
Tartars nine years before, and in this " faire
town," as Jenkinson described it, they remained
till June.

They were now passing through a wild country,
inhabited by Gentiles and Mohammedans, as Jen-
kinson put it in his report, and only arrived at
Astrachan after another month of travel. They
found the country ravaged both by plague and
famine, and Jenkinson, had he so desired, could,
he remarked, have bought as many goodly Tartar
children as he wanted at the price of a sixpenny
loaf apiece.

Here they remained until August 6, although

46 The Sea Traders

the Astrachan trade was then very small, eventu-
ally setting out across the Caspian Sea on August
10. So far the journey had been without any
great peril, but, a few days later, Jenkinson had
a narrow escape. His little ship was lying against
the shore of the Caspian Sea and off the territory
of a Tartar prince, supposed to be friendly ; all his
men were on land, and he being, as he tells us,
"sore sicke," was alone on board with five
Tartars. Fortunately one of these was a holy
man, having made the pilgrimage to Mecca, for
presently a boat approached containing some
thirty Tartar warriors, and these began to go
aboard demanding of the Tartars if there were any
Russians or Greeks in the vessel. The holy man
then made a prayer and declared with great oaths
that there were none, and succeeded in so impress-
ing the would-be brigands with his honesty and
worth that he succeeded in saving the lives of
Jenkinson and all his companions as well as their

That was on August 19, and on the 27th they
nearly perished in a storm, finally landing, not at
the port from whence they had intended starting
their long overland journey, but at a place of
" brute field people, where never barke nor boate
had before arrived." Here, however, Jenkinson
sent messages to the local Governor by whom he
was courteously entertained, and from whom, after
considerable bargaining, he succeeded in obtaining
the necessary camels for his further progress. He

Pioneers of Foreign Trade 47

was now striking east towards Bokhara, and five
days later the party was held up by a band of
Tartars, who opened their wares in the name of
their Prince, and took such things as they thought
best. This so annoyed the courageous spirit of
Master Anthony Jenkinson that he himself saddled
a horse and rode off to see the Prince, to request
that he might be given a protecting passport while
travelling through his country. This he obtained,
and the Prince, impressed by the attitude of the
sturdy English merchant-seaman, entertained him
very hospitably with ''flesh and mares milke,"
although, as Jenkinson afterwards learned, his
original orders had been that the Englishman was
to be robbed and destroyed.

After this further escape, came twenty days in
the wilderness, during which Jenkinson and his
companions found no fresh water, and it was not
until October 4 that Jenkinson arrived at Sellizure
and succeeded in ingratiating himself with its ruler,
Azim Khan. From him he obtained letters of safe
conduct and set out again on October 14, arriving
two days later at the city of Urgence, where he
stayed for a month. Safe conducts, however,
would have been of but little use had not
Jenkinson himself been the man that he was ; and
on December 15, between Urgence and Bokhara,
he found himself again surrounded and assailed by
an armed band of robbers.

" They willed us," says Jenkinson, "to yielde
ourselves, or els to be slaine, but wee defied them.

4S The Sea Traders

wherewith they shotte at us all at once ; and wee at
them very hotly." Had it not been, indeed, for
" four hand-gunnes," Jenkinson and his comrades
would have fared very badly. Such was commer-
cial travelling in the year 1558 as this stout-hearted
agent found it. However, he reached Bokhara at
last in safety on December 23, just eight months
after he had left Moscow.

Here he was received by the Emperor and
treated, on the whole, very well, though the
monarch presently departed for the wars, owing
Master Jenkinson some money, for which, in the
end, he had to be satisfied wdth goods. Commer-
cially this expedition was not very successful, but
Jenkinson obtained much valuable information as
to the character of the trade carried on at Bokhara
and its possibilities as an English market. He
stayed at Bokhara until the month of March, 1599,
and only left, as it happened, just in time, since,
ten days later, the armies of Samarcand w^ere
laying siege to the town. His return journey was,
happily for him, a comparatively uneventful one,
and he arrived in Moscow in September, where he
presented the Tsar with a " white coues taile of
Cathay and a drumme of Tartaria which he well

So ended a journey of which every man of
Anthony Jenkinson's blood maj^ well be proud,
and the prouder because it was but typical of many
such performed by his contemporaries. Facing
the unknown in the pursuit of their various

Pioneers of Foreign Trade 49

mercantile callings, forsaking the modest comforts
of their homes above or behind their city shops, it
was upon the courage, shrewdness and commercial
ability of these almost anonymous and forgotten
tradesmen and seamen that the England of to-day,
and indeed the whole Anglo-Saxon comity of
nations, was securely founded.



Queen Elizabeth's Accession and Iier Influence — The Early
Adventures of John Hawkins — The African Slave Trade
to the New World— His Proscription by the Spanish
Government — The Fight at St. Juan de Ulloa — John
Hawkins as a Diplomatist — His Commercial Enterprises
and Work for the Navy — The Last Tragic Voyage.

"Y\ rHILE Master Anthony Jenkinson was on his
* ^ way to Bokhara on behalf of the Russia Com-
pany in the year 1558, the troubled reign of Queen
Mary came to an end and Elizabeth ascended the
English throne. A few months earlier Calais had
been lost — the last fragment of English territory on
the continent of Europe — and though at the time
that had seemed a bitter blow, it was to prove in
the end a blessing. Henceforward the people of
England, released from European entanglements
and the hypnotic dreams of a European empire
that had for so long dazzled the minds of their
leaders, found themselves free and with a new and
far greater world opening before them beyond
the Atlantic. From this time onward, therefore,
their eyes turned westward, and the old sea spirit,
never, as we have seen, entirely dormant, burst
into a flame that devoured the English imagination.
Restored by the careful management of Henry

The Opening of the Golden Age 51

VII, fostered by the conservative enterprise of
Henry VIII, the Httle island set in the silver
sea was destined under Elizabeth to attain the
status of a world power. Finding in Shakespeare
and his brilliant fellow-artists a new and triumphant
literary expression, it was also to receive a fresh
expansion at the hands of its seamen — the sons
and grandsons and spiritual inheritors of those
older merchant adventurers with whom we have
already travelled.

Among the first of these was John Hawkins,
the grandson, as we have seen, of John Hawkins
of Tavistock, and the son of Master William
Hawkins, who, in the year 1530, had made his first
voyage to Brazil. The boy John was then about
ten years old, but it was not long before he was
himself at sea and, as a careful and ambitious young
merchant, was soon making voyages on his own
account. Most of these appear to have been to
the Canary Islands, where, "by his good and
upright dealing with the people," he won honour
for himself and success for his trade, besides
acquiring much valuable knowledge. From these
islanders and the sailors that put in at their ports
he learnt not only that there was a great demand
for negroes in the sugar plantations in America,
but that negroes were to be obtained on the East
Coast of Africa. Here then was an opportunity
for commerce and one that, in those days, had no
immoral significance. To Hawkins and his con-
temporaries a negro was but little removed from

52 The Sea Traders

a useful domestic animal. Nor was this to be
wondered at when, so long as two hundred years
later, we find the captain of a Liverpool slave ship
insisting on, and himself personally conducting,
public worship twice every Sunday, and seeing no
incongruity between this and the traffic in which
he was engaged !

In the autumn of 1562, therefore, John
Hawkins, with three small vessels, sailed from
England for Sierra Leone, where he loaded up with
negroes, whom he then carried to Hispaniola, as
the Spaniards had called their new territory across
the Atlantic. So successful was he that he was
obliged while over there to charter two additional
vessels in which to bring back with him all the
pearls, hides and sugar that he obtained in ex-
change. He was away a year, and in the follow-
ing autumn again set sail to repeat the process,
this time with five vessels, including the Jesus
of Lubeck, of 700 tons, one of the largest vessels
then afloat. The number of the men under his
command was about two hundred. In view of
the nature of their mission it is a little piquant to
recall that among the rules drawn up by John
Hawkins for the guidance of his crews were the
following: "Serve God daily; love one another;
preserve your victuals ; beware of fire ; and seek
good company."

From England he sailed to Cape Verde, where,
we are told, he found the natives very "gentle
and loving." An attempt, however, to seize them

The Opening of the Golden Age 53

for purposes of slavery failed, and John Hawkins
accordingly sailed southward, visiting various ports
on the East Coast of Africa until he had obtained
as many slaves as his vessels could carry. He
then proceeded across the Atlantic to the West

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