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merce would be complete without, at least, an
epitome of this great man's wonderful activities.

Like Drake and Hawkins and so many more
of the Elizabethan seamen, he was a man of
Devonshire, being born at the farm of Hayes,
near Budleigh Salterton, in the year 1542. The
old house still stands after the passage of centuries.
At the age of sixteen he went to Oriel College,
Oxford, in the same year that Master Anthony
Jenkinson, as we saw in a previous chapter, was
setting out from the heart of Russia upon his
wonderful journey to Bokhara. Sebastian Cabot,
then an old man, was still alive and active; John

The Elizabethan Renaissance 71

Hawkins, as a young man, was trading with the
Canary Islands, and perfecting himself in the
Spanish tongue, that was later to stand both him-
self and his country in such good stead. Francis
Drake, a couple of years Raleigh's senior, was
already at sea learning his business. They were
great days, and Raleigh's birth and circumstances
almost inevitably threw him into the gay and
boisterous heart of them. His mother had been
the widow of Otho Gilbert, and the great Sir
Humphrey Gilbert was his half-brother.

After leaving Oxford the army claimed him,
and for five crowded years he fought abroad,
both in France and the Netherlands, on the
Protestant side. On returning home in 1578,
when he was twenty-six years old, he found his
half-brother. Sir Humphrey, about to sail, after
innumerable difficulties, with the purpose of
attempting to form a colony on the coast of North

Already impoverished by previous gallant but
unsuccessful voyages, Sir Humphrey's new
expedition did not sail under propitious circum-
stances. At the last moment some of his
supporters fell away, and in the end he had to
sail with but six instead of the arranged eleven
ships. Of these, Raleigh was the captain of one,
and a nephew of John Hawkins the skipper of
another. The expedition succeeded in reaching
Newfoundland, but was unable to effect anything
in the way of colonization, and Gilbert returned

72 The Sea Traders

to England deeply despondent and poorer than

For the next few years Raleigh served in
Ireland, where the Spanish Government and Pope
Gregory VIII were aiding the Irish people in
fighting against Queen Elizabeth. But when
Gilbert sailed again, in 1583, he took with him
a vessel built by Raleigh and named after him.
He was again very unluckj^, being wrecked on the
way home.

In the year 1584, however, Raleigh was heart
and soul in the project of forming yet another
colony, to be named Virginia, in honour of Eliza-
beth, the virgin Queen. Once again fortune
failed to smile ; but in the next year he organized
a second fleet, and was successful on his way back
in capturing a valuable Spanish prize worth

Six years before this, Martin Frobisher had
made his way round Labrador into what was
afterwards to be called the Hudson Strait, leading
into Hudson Bay; and in 1585 we find Walter
Raleigh associated with a fellow-Devonian, John
Davis, in pushing still farther round the north
coast of America on the usual quest for a passage
to Cathay. This resulted in the discovery of
Greenland, and the passage between Greenland
and Baffin Land, known as Davis Strait, and the
naming of some high ground, in honour of
Raleigh, as Mount Raleigh. In the same year
Raleigh himself took another fleet to Virginia, and

The Elizabethan Renaissance 73

yet a fourth in the year 1587, a few months before
the sailing of the Armada.

By now he was a wealthy man, since Elizabeth
had granted him a monopoly in the way of wine
licences, as well as 12,000 acres of land in Ireland.
But he spent money freely, and sank great sums
in his successive Virginian enterprises. Soon
after the defeat of the Armada, in which he played
a notable part, he assigned all his rights in Virginia
to a Company of Gentlemen and merchants of
London, but, as the subsequent twenty years
showed, the difficulties of successful colonization
had been due to no incompetence on the part of
Raleigh himself.

He was now entering upon a phase of his
career far more perilous than that of overseas
colonization, for he had become a prime favourite
of the Queen, and an accomplished habitue of her
Court. In such a position, and with so strong,
impulsive, and versatile a character as Raleigh's,
enemies were inevitable, and for the rest of his life
he was more or less involved in intrigue after

In his greatest difficulties, however, he never lost
his restless love of the sea, or ceased to play with
the idea of promoting the welfare of an oversea
Empire. It was thus very typical of him that
when he was temporarily banished from Court,
owing to an unfortunate love affair with one of the
Queen's ladies of honour, he should employ his
time in constructing the scheme for founding an

74 The Sea Traders

English colony in Guiana. He sent for maps and
literature, and a certain Captain Whiddon, who
had experience of that part of the New World.
In the event, he dispatched Captain Whiddon
on a sort of preliminary voyage of inspection,
and then himself set out from Plymouth on
February 6, 1595. By March 22 he was at Trini-
dad Island, where he captured the capital town of
St. Joseph from the Spanish Government, and
made all sorts of inquiries as to the resources and
geography of the mainland.

As the result of this he arranged an expedition
consisting of one hundred men, in several little
vessels, and took them over 400 miles up the
Orinoco River, receiving the allegiance of the
Indians in the name of Queen Elizabeth. On
arriving home he did not obtain much encourage-
ment for this new addition to the Queen's
dominions, and, in the end, it was Guiana that
was to lead to his death. Twice he sent expedi-
tions, at his own expense, to help the Indians
against the tyranny of Spain, but he himself was
not destined to see Guiana again till the year 1617.
By then Elizabeth had died, James I had succeeded
her, Raleigh's enemies had come into power, and
he himself had been a prisoner in the Tower of
London for thirteen years. Finally, however,
James I released him and gave him permission to
captain another fleet ; and, on March 28, 1617, he
sailed from the Thames once more for South
America. He remained at Plymouth till July,

The Elizabethan Renaissance 75

assembling and fitting out his three vessels, and
reached the Canary Islands early in September,
arriving at Guiana, to the joy of the native inhabi-
tants, some three months later.

Here he learned of a rich mine in Spanish pos-
session, and, being himself stricken with fever, he
sent Captain Keymiss up the Orinoco to surprise
and capture it. The attempt failed. The Spaniards
had been forewarned and had every possible ad-
vantage. Raleigh's own son was killed, and Cap-
tain Keymiss returned after nine weeks to report
the catastrophe. It was the end of all things for
Raleigh, weakened as he was by fever, and certain
of the King's displeasure. Keymiss shot himself
in his cabin, and many of the crew were for remain-
ing away from England altogether. The majority,
with Raleigh himself, however, preferred to face
whatever consequence there might be, and
returned home sick at heart. It was the final
opportunity for Raleigh's detractors, and he was
executed under the original sentence, for which,
so many years before, he had been sent to the
Tower. Ironically enough, within a year after
Raleigh's death, James I granted a charter to
Roger North for the purpose of founding a British
colony in Guiana.



The Men in the EHzabethan Background — Edward Osborne
as an Apprentice — His Rise to Commercial Fame —
Overseas Enterprises — The Revival of the Levant Trade
and Formation of the Levant Company — Ralph Fitch and
his Journey to the East — Strange Adventures in Syria,
Arabia, and India — His Pioneer Work in Burma and the
Malay Peninsula.

TOOKING back over the Elizabethan epoch in
■*-^our history, that gave us, in one httle island
community of somewhere about five milhon souls,
such contemporaries, to name a few outstanding
seamen-merchants, as Hawkins, Martin Frobisher,
Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, Sir
Humphrey Gilbert, Richard Grenville, and John
Davis, it is hard to realize that there were behind
these a far greater number of solid enterprising
merchants, any of whom, in a less brilliant age,
would have had a prominent place in history.

Such a man was Sir Edward Osborne, one of
the greatest of London merchants, but one w^ho
kept himself more or less in the background,
although there were few enterprises in which his
judgment, his foresight and his wealth did not
play an important part. It was perhaps, however,
in his reviving and development of English trade
in the Near East — with Greece and Turkey,


Foundations of Our Eastern Trade 77

Palestine and Egypt — that he rendered his country
his greatest services.

Though history, as it has been hitherto written,
has decided that he was not so romantic a figure
as some of the other men whom we have already
dealt with, yet his rise to power and prosperity
was based on a very human and romantic incident.
Considerably older than Drake or Raleigh, it was
before they were born, and while he was still a
young apprentice, that there occurred the little
adventure upon which, as it was to turn out, his
future career was to depend. He was then in-
dentured to a Sir William Hewett, a cloth dealer
of Leicester, who had migrated to London, of
which, in the year 1560, he rose to be Lord Mayor.
Sir William Hewett had a house on Old London
Bridge, and one day his little daughter Anne fell
out from one of the windows. She was in im-
minent danger of being drowned in the river,
when young Osborne, without a moment's
hesitation, plunged in after her, and a boy and
girl friendship presently ripened into love. As
Anne grew up she became a beautiful girl. It
was well known that she would be a great heiress,
and she had, consequently, many suitors, of whom
one, we are told, was the Earl of Shrewsbury.
But the old merchant had never forgotten his debt
to the young apprentice. The two were married
in due course, Anne afterwards inheriting the bulk
of her father's fortune. Nor was Edward to prove
an unworthy husband, as all contemporary records

78 The Sea Traders

show. His name >vas obviously held in high
respect by travellers and traders in every sphere.
Testimony of this is to be found, for instance, in
a letter written by an Englishman, one John
Withal, who had settled in the town of Santos in
Brazil, and there married the daughter of a Portu-
guese merchant. This man, writing home to
Richard Staper, a merchant, well estabhshed both
in London and Plymouth, suggested, in the year
1578, that he and Edward Osborne should send
out to him a cargo of English goods, of which he
would be able to dispose at three times their cost,
and for which, in return, he would send back to
them a cargo of sugar. It was also interesting to
note that Manchester cottons, cloth, soap, knives,
fish-hooks and tin were the goods suggested as
being desirable in the Brazilian markets.

But it was in the Levant, and in the formation
of the Levant and Turkey Chartered Company,
similar to the one already established for Russia,
that Osborne played his greatest part. This trade,
formerly a very valuable one, had been allowed,
for some reason, to lapse. Something of its nature
and extent can be gathered from a little note upon
it, written by Richard Hakluyt. From 1511 to
1534, he tells us, " divers tall ships of London with
certaine other ships of Southampton and Bristol
had an ordinairie and usuall trade to Sicilia, Candie,
Chio and some whiles to Cyprus, as also to Tripolis
and Baruth and Syria. The commodities which
they carried thither were fine kersies of divers

Foundations of Our Eastern Trade 79

colours, coarse kersies, white westerne dozens,
cottons, certaine cloths called statutes, and others
called Cardinal Whites, and calve-skins, which
W'ere sold in Sicilie, etc. The commodities which
they returned back were silks, chamlets, rubarbe,
malmesies, muskadels, and other wines, sweete
oyles, cotton wooU, Turkic carpets, galles, pepper,
cinamom and some other spices, etc."

It was this trade that Sir Edward Osborne
determined to re-establish, and for this reason,
in the year 1575, in conjunction with Richard
Staper, already referred to, he sent a couple of
envoys, at his ovm expense, by way of Poland to
Constantinople, in order to obtain from the Sultan
a safe-conduct for his chief factor. This was one
William Harborne, who sailed three days later,
arriving at Constantinople within six weeks, where
he was so successful that in a few months he ob-
tained large concessions for his employers. These
were embodied in a letter to Queen Elizabeth
wrftten in March, 1579, in which the Sultan
assured her that he had given orders throughout
his dominions that, whether they came by land or
sea, none should hinder or molest English mer-
chants. This was followed by a courteous reply
from the English Queen, and the drawing up in
June, 1580, of a Charter of Privileges granted to
Enghsh merchants. For the next ten years,
therefore, Edward Osborne's chief activities were
bent towards the developing of these privileges,
although he did not neglect, during that time, his

8o The Sea Traders

civic duties in the City of London. Thus, in the
year 1583 he was Lord Mayor, and, although he
seems to have wisely kept aloof from the troubled
world of politics, he showed himself, on more than
one occasion, a stout upholder of municipal rights.
A few years afterwards, and just before his death,
the Levant Company received its Charter of In-
corporation, Edward Osborne being the first
governor, as a well-deserved tribute to his " great
adventure and Industrie," the wealth that he had
risked in building up the trade, and the wisdom and
tact of his foreign deahngs. With him were asso-
ciated many great names, including that of old
Sir John Hawkins, as well as that of one Ralph
Fitch, with whose adventures we shall deal imme-
diately. Like Sir John Hawkins, however. Sir
Edward Osborne was now an old man, and this
success was the crown of his career. From the
humblest of beginnings as a young apprentice, he
had raised himself into the great position in which
he died, becoming the founder of the later duke-
dom of Leeds.

Like the Russia Company, founded, as we have
seen, a generation earlier, the Levant Company,
with Sir Edward Osborne as its chief promoter,
was extremely well served by its various agents,
who faced peril after peril as an ordinary and daily
routine. Their records alone would fill a sub-
stantial and exciting volume, but possibly the out-
standing figure is that of Ralph Fitch, a London
merchant, who, being " chiefly set foorth," as he

Foundations of Our Eastern Trade 8i

puts it, "by the right worshipfull Sir Edward
Osborne," sailed out of the Thames in the Tyger
of London on Shrove Monday, 1583. With him
were three particular companions, John Newberie,
a fellow-trader, who had once before been as far
as Ormuz in the Persian Gulf, William Leedes, a
jeweller, and James Storey, a painter. But there
were also on board three or four other merchants
bound for various Eastern destinations, among
whom was a man of parts, one Master John

Their first objective was the port of TripoU on
the Syrian coast, not far from Bey rout, Tripoli
being at that time a prosperous seaport town about
the size of Bristol in England. Here they all
arrived without mishap, and were lodged in the
British Consulate, a square citadel-like stone build-
ing, with separate apartments provided for visiting
merchants. From here, in company w4th John
Eldred, Ralph Fitch and his three companions
joined the caravan for Aleppo, where they arrived
on May 21, staying there for ten days.

They then journeyed to Birra, a little town on
the river Euphrates, and from thence by boat they
and their English merchandise floated down the
river as far as Basra, visiting the ruins of ancient
Babylon en route. This town of Basra, made
familiar to us during the Great War, was already,
as Fitch described it, "a towne of great trade of
spices and drugges, which came from Ormuz," and
was also surrounded with large stores of wheat.

82 The Sea Traders

rice and dates. It was a place of such opportunity,
indeed, that John Eldred, for his part, decided to
remain there, paying, in the end, a visit of six
months before returning to Aleppo. He did not,
however, at once sail for England, but, before
finally doing this, made two or three more east-
ward journeys for commercial purposes. Eventu-
ally he sailed from Tripoli in the Hercules, arriving
in the river Thames on March 26, 1588, with the
richest merchant cargo, as he tells us, that any
single ship had ever before brought to London
from the East.

Master Ralph Fitch and his friends, however,
were for pushing their trade considerably farther
afield, and consequently, leaving John Eldred
behind them at Basra, they took ship down the
Persian Gulf to the Island of Ormuz. This was
then a great trading centre, under the command
of the Portuguese, though nominally under a
native prince, and here they found a busy assem-
blage, including merchants of almost every nation,
together, as they put it, with " many Moores and

The chief articles of commerce were silk, spices,
drugs, tapestries, pearls and Persian horses.
Ormuz seemed to be an ideal theatre for the estab-
lishing of a permanent trading centre, and the three
Englishmen, as a preliminary step, opened a shop
for the display of their wares. They would also,
it seems, have liked to arrange for the presence
there of a permanent resident English agent, but

Foundations of Our Eastern Trade 83

they soon found themselves the objects of a good
deal of jealousy on the part of the other Euro-
peans. These were principally Venetians who had
already been established there for some time, and
were evidently afraid of the competition of these
new-comers. The Englishmen accordingly found
themselves reported to the Portuguese Governor,
as spies as well as heretics, and were ultimately
arrested and thrown into prison. Very fortun-
ately, during his previous visit, John Newberie
had done some service to the Portuguese Captain-
in-Charge, who therefore decided, perhaps as
much for their own sakes as to satisfy their angry
rivals, to ship them to Goa, south of Bombay,
leaving the Portuguese Viceroy to solve the some-
what delicate and difficult problem that their
presence in Ormuz had created.

This became, therefore, their next destination,
whether they would or not, and, deeply as he
resented his treatment and that of his companions.
Fitch did not cease from making very careful notes
of all that he observed during this involuntary
journey. Thus, at the port of Chaul, where the
ship put in, he particularly noticed a tree,
which he described as the "Palmer," which,
according to him was " the profitablest tree in the
world; it doth alwayes beare fruit and doth yield
wine, oyle, sugar, vinegar, cordes, coles; of the
leaves are made thatch for the houses, sayles for
shippes, mats to sit or lie on ; of the branches they
make their houses and broomes to sweepe, of the

84 The Sea Traders

tree, wood for shippes." In Goa the three Eng-
hshmen were treated very harshly by the Viceroy,
but found a most unexpected friend in the person
of a Wiltshireman, a Jesuit priest, named Thomas
Stevens, by whose efforts they w^ere set at hberty,
while their further trial was pending. It was here
at Goa, too, that James Storey, the painter,
decided, probably for reasons not unconnected
with considerations of personal safety, to embrace
Jesuit doctrines, and entered the Brotherhood,
though not for very long, as later he appears to
have renounced his new religion and left the
monastery. He remained in Goa plying his trade
without, as it seems, ever again returning to his
native country.

Ralph Fitch, however, with Newberie and
Leedes, decided to take their fate into their own
hands, and succeeded in escaping, on foot, from
Goa, on April 5, 1585. For two days they
travelled as their instinct led them, without the
help of guides ; and then they struck right across
India to Masulipatam, on the Bay of Bengal, after
which they made their way to Agra and Fatepore,
where the Great Mogor, as they described him,
lived in the most dazzling state. To him they had
been entrusted with a letter from Queen Elizabeth ;
and history can hold few quainter pictures than
that of these two London merchants, mth their
jeweller comrade, travelling through the central
provinces of India to this great native emperor's

Foundations of Our Eastern Trade 85

They arrived in the autumn of 1585, and the
monarch received them with the greatest courtesy.
To the work of Leedes, the jeweller, indeed, he
took such a fancy that he retained him at Fate-
pore. The original little party was thus slowly
breaking up, and John Newberie now decided
to go on alone to the town of Lahore, and
thence overland to Constantinople, proposing to
meet Fitch at Bengala in two years' time with a
ship from England. Fitch, meanwhile, was to go
yet farther east, from Burmah down to the Malay
Peninsula ; and accordingly, on September 28,
these three stout friends and stalwart commercial
travellers parted company.

For the next three years we find Master
Ralph Fitch wandering up and down, in lonely
independence, through Eastern India, exploring
Burmah as far as the Chinese border, noting all
that was to be noted in the way of trade, observing
with a shrewd eye most of the native customs, and
apparently, after his own cheerful fashion, making
friends wherever he went. It was not until early
in the year 1588 that he reached Malacca, where
he found that the Portuguese, of the European
settlers, were again wielding the most powerful
influence in the trade with the still farther East.
Pepper and spices from the Malay Islands, silver
and porcelain from China, were the goods that
these Portuguese merchants chiefly obtained for
shipment to Europe.

Back again at Pegu, in Burmah, Fitch remained

86 The Sea Traders

there till September 15 of the same year, and
then started, with his wide store of knowledge, on
the long journey to England. On his way he
visited Ceylon, rounded Cape Comorin, explored
Cochin, and then ventured into the town of Goa
again, whence he returned by way of Chaul to the
Island of Ormuz, Basra, Babylon, Mosul and
Aleppo to the British Consulate in Tripoli, on the
Syrian coast. Amongst much other information,
he had brought back with him full descriptions of
the nature, uses, and geographical habitat of
pepper, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, sandal-wood,
camphor, aloes, musk and amber, of which little or
nothing was then known in England. He arrived
back in London, after eight years' absence, on
April 29, 1591.

Few men of his generation had made such a
journey, and it is gratifying to find the name of
this shrewd and stalwart Londoner recorded among
the directors in the first charter of incorporation
of the Company of British Merchants trading with
the Levant.



Henry Middleton's Voyages to Java and Sumatra — His
Knighthood and the Formation of tlae East India Com-
pany — Further Adventures in the East and Conflicts with
Turlcs and Portuguese — His Death at Bantam — The
First Ambassador to India — The East India Company's
First Governor — The End of the Tudor Era and the
Beginning of the Stuarts — The Youth of Josiah Child —
Dutcli rivals and his Comments upon them — His Great
Work for tlie East India Company.

TT would perhaps be not strictly true to say that
-*-the travels of Master Ralph Fitch, recorded in
the previous chapter, were the chief factor in the
formation of yet another of our great chartered
companies. But there is no doubt that his report
made a very profound impression on his contem-
poraries, especially when it was considered in rela-
tion to a little incident that had happened during
his long absence. This was the capture by Drake,
in the year 1587, while Fitch was still in Burmah,
of a great Portuguese vessel, the San Philip, off
the coast of Spain, laden wdth those very treasiu*es
of which Fitch was then exploring the source.
This was not only one of the richest prizes ever

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