William Wood.

Elizabethan Sea Dogs online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryWilliam WoodElizabethan Sea Dogs → online text (page 1 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Suzanne Shell, Graeme Mackreth and PG Distributed
Proofreaders





ELIZABETHAN SEA-DOGS

A CHRONICLE OF DRAKE AND HIS COMPANIONS

BY WILLIAM WOOD

_1918, Yale University Press_

Printed in the United States of America




PREFATORY NOTE


Citizen, colonist, pioneer! These three words carry the history of the
United States back to its earliest form in 'the Newe Worlde called
America.' But who prepared the way for the pioneers from the Old World
and what ensured their safety in the New? The title of the present
volume, _Elizabethan Sea-Dogs_, gives the only answer. It was during the
reign of Elizabeth, the last of the Tudor sovereigns of England, that
Englishmen won the command of the sea under the consummate leadership of
Sir Francis Drake, the first of modern admirals. Drake and his
companions are known to fame as Sea-Dogs. They won the English right of
way into Spain's New World. And Anglo-American history begins with that
century of maritime adventure and naval war in which English sailors
blazed and secured the long sea-trail for the men of every other kind
who found or sought their fortunes in America.




CONTENTS


I. ENGLAND'S FIRST LOOK Page 1

II. HENRY VIII, KING OF THE ENGLISH SEA " 18

III. LIFE AFLOAT IN TUDOR TIMES " 33

IV. ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND " 48

V. HAWKINS AND THE FIGHTING TRADERS " 71

VI. DRAKE'S BEGINNING " 95

VII. DRAKE'S 'ENCOMPASSMENT OF ALL THE WORLDE' " 115

VIII. DRAKE CLIPS THE WINGS OF SPAIN " 149

IX. DRAKE AND THE SPANISH ARMADA " 172

X. 'THE ONE AND THE FIFTY-THREE' " 192

XI. RALEIGH AND THE VISION OF THE WEST " 205

XII. DRAKE'S END " 223

NOTE ON TUDOR SHIPPING " 231

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE " 241

INDEX " 247




ELIZABETHAN SEA-DOGS




CHAPTER I

ENGLAND'S FIRST LOOK


In the early spring of 1476 the Italian Giovanni Caboto, who, like
Christopher Columbus, was a seafaring citizen of Genoa, transferred his
allegiance to Venice.

The Roman Empire had fallen a thousand years before. Rome now held
temporal sway only over the States of the Church, which were weak in
armed force, even when compared with the small republics, dukedoms, and
principalities which lay north and south. But Papal Rome, as the head
and heart of a spiritual empire, was still a world-power; and the
disunited Italian states were first in the commercial enterprise of the
age as well as in the glories of the Renaissance. North of the Papal
domain, which cut the peninsula in two parts, stood three renowned
Italian cities: Florence, the capital of Tuscany, leading the world in
arts; Genoa, the home of Caboto and Columbus, teaching the world the
science of navigation; and Venice, mistress of the great trade route
between Europe and Asia, controlling the world's commerce.

Thus, in becoming a citizen of Venice, Giovanni Caboto the Genoese was
leaving the best home of scientific navigation for the best home of
sea-borne trade. His very name was no bad credential. Surnames often
come from nicknames; and for a Genoese to be called _Il Caboto_ was as
much as for an Arab of the Desert to be known to his people as The
Horseman. _Cabottággio_ now means no more than coasting trade. But
before there was any real ocean commerce it referred to the regular
sea-borne trade of the time; and Giovanni Caboto must have either upheld
an exceptional family tradition or struck out an exceptional line for
himself to have been known as John the Skipper among the many other
expert skippers hailing from the port of Genoa.

There was nothing strange in his being naturalized in Venice. Patriotism
of the kind that keeps the citizen under the flag of his own country
was hardly known outside of England, France, and Spain. Though the
Italian states used to fight each other, an individual Italian,
especially when he was a sailor, always felt at liberty to seek his
fortune in any one of them, or wherever he found his chance most
tempting. So the Genoese Giovanni became the Venetian Zuan without any
patriotic wrench. Nor was even the vastly greater change to plain John
Cabot so very startling. Italian experts entered the service of a
foreign monarch as easily as did the 'pay-fighting Swiss' or Hessian
mercenaries. Columbus entered the Spanish service under Ferdinand and
Isabella just as Cabot entered the English service under Henry VII.
Giovanni - Zuan - John: it was all in a good day's work.

Cabot settled in Bristol, where the still existing guild of
Merchant-Venturers was even then two centuries old. Columbus, writing of
his visit to Iceland, says, 'the English, _especially those of Bristol_,
go there with their merchandise.' Iceland was then what Newfoundland
became, the best of distant fishing grounds. It marked one end of the
line of English sea-borne commerce. The Levant marked the other. The
Baltic formed an important branch. Thus English trade already stretched
out over all the main lines. Long before Cabot's arrival a merchant
prince of Bristol, named Canyng, who employed a hundred artificers and
eight hundred seamen, was trading to Iceland, to the Baltic, and, most
of all, to the Mediterranean. The trade with Italian ports stood in high
favor among English merchants and was encouraged by the King; for in
1485, the first year of the Tudor dynasty, an English consul took office
at Pisa and England made a treaty of reciprocity with Tuscany.

Henry VII, first of the energetic Tudors and grandfather of Queen
Elizabeth, was a thrifty and practical man. Some years before the event
about to be recorded in these pages Columbus had sent him a trusted
brother with maps, globes, and quotations from Plato to prove the
existence of lands to the west. Henry had troubles of his own in
England. So he turned a deaf ear and lost a New World. But after
Columbus had found America, and the Pope had divided all heathen
countries between the crowns of Spain and Portugal, Henry decided to see
what he could do.

* * * * *

Anglo-American history begins on the 5th of March, 1496, when the
Cabots, father and three sons, received the following patent from the
King:

_Henrie, by the grace of God, King of England and France, and Lord of
Irelande, to all, to whom these presentes shall come, Greeting - Be it
knowen, that We have given and granted, and by these presentes do give
and grant for Us and Our Heyres, to our well beloved John Gabote,
citizen of Venice, to Lewes, Sebastian, and Santius, sonnes of the sayde
John, and to the heires of them and every of them, and their deputies,
full and free authoritie, leave, and Power, to sayle to all Partes,
Countreys, and Seas, of the East, of the West, and of the North, under
our banners and ensignes, with five shippes, of what burden or quantitie
soever they bee: and as many mariners or men as they will have with them
in the saide shippes, upon their owne proper costes and charges, to
seeke out, discover, and finde, whatsoever Iles, Countreyes, Regions, or
Provinces, of the Heathennes and Infidelles, whatsoever they bee, and in
what part of the worlde soever they bee, whiche before this time have
been unknowen to all Christians. We have granted to them also, and to
every of them, the heires of them, and every of them, and their
deputies, and have given them licence to set up Our banners and ensignes
in every village, towne, castel, yle, or maine lande, of them newly
founde. And that the aforesaide John and his sonnes, or their heires and
assignes, may subdue, occupie, and possesse, all such townes, cities,
castels, and yles, of them founde, which they can subdue, occupie, and
possesse, as our vassailes and lieutenantes, getting unto Us the rule,
title, and jurisdiction of the same villages, townes, castels, and firme
lande so founde._

The patent then goes on to provide for a royalty to His Majesty of
one-fifth of the net profits, to exempt the patentees from custom duty,
to exclude competition, and to exhort good subjects of the Crown to help
the Cabots in every possible way. This first of all English documents
connected with America ends with these words: _Witnesse our Selfe at
Westminster, the Fifth day of March, in the XI yeere of our reigne.
HENRY R._

* * * * *

_To sayle to all Partes of the East, of the West, and of the North_. The
pointed omission of the word South made it clear that Henry had no
intention of infringing Spanish rights of discovery. Spanish claims,
however, were based on the Pope's division of all the heathen world and
were by no means bounded by any rights of discovery already acquired.

Cabot left Bristol in the spring of 1497, a year after the date of his
patent, not with the 'five shippes' the King had authorized, but in the
little _Matthew_, with a crew of only eighteen men, nearly all
Englishmen accustomed to the North Atlantic. The _Matthew_ made Cape
Breton, the easternmost point of Nova Scotia, on the 24th of June, the
anniversary of St. John the Baptist, now the racial fête-day of the
French Canadians. Not a single human inhabitant was to be seen in this
wild new land, shaggy with forests primeval, fronted with bold, scarped
shores, and beautiful with romantic deep bays leading inland, league
upon league, past rugged forelands and rocky battlements keeping guard
at the frontiers of the continent. Over these mysterious wilds Cabot
raised St. George's Cross for England and the banner of St. Mark in
souvenir of Venice. Had he now reached the fabled islands of the West or
discovered other islands off the eastern coast of Tartary? He did not
know. But he hurried back to Bristol with the news and was welcomed by
the King and people. A Venetian in London wrote home to say that 'this
fellow-citizen of ours, who went from Bristol in quest of new islands,
is Zuan Caboto, whom the English now call a great admiral. He dresses
in silk; they pay him great honour; and everyone runs after him like
mad.' The Spanish ambassador was full of suspicion, in spite of the fact
that Cabot had not gone south. Had not His Holiness divided all
Heathendom between the crowns of Spain and Portugal, to Spain the West
and to Portugal the East; and was not this landfall within what the
modern world would call the Spanish sphere of influence? The ambassador
protested to Henry VII and reported home to Ferdinand and Isabella.

Henry VII meanwhile sent a little present 'To Hym that founde the new
Isle - £10.' It was not very much. But it was about as much as nearly a
thousand dollars now; and it meant full recognition and approval. This
was a good start for a man who couldn't pay the King any royalty of
twenty per cent. because he hadn't made a penny on the way. Besides, it
was followed up by a royal annuity of twice the amount and by renewed
letters-patent for further voyages and discoveries in the west. So Cabot
took good fortune at the flood and went again.

This time there was the full authorized flotilla of five sail, of which
one turned back and four sailed on. Somewhere on the way John Cabot
disappeared from history and his second son, Sebastian, reigned in his
stead. Sebastian, like John, apparently wrote nothing whatever. But he
talked a great deal; and in after years he seems to have remembered a
good many things that never happened at all. Nevertheless he was a very
able man in several capacities and could teach a courtier or a
demagogue, as well as a geographer or exploiter of new claims, the art
of climbing over other people's backs, his father's and his brothers'
backs included. He had his troubles; for King Henry had pressed upon him
recruits from the gaols, which just then were full of rebels. But he had
enough seamen to manage the ships and plenty of cargo for trade with the
undiscovered natives.

Sebastian perhaps left some of his three hundred men to explore
Newfoundland. He knew they couldn't starve because, as he often used to
tell his gaping listeners, the waters thereabouts were so thick with
codfish that he had hard work to force his vessels through. This first
of American fish stories, wildly improbable as it may seem, may yet have
been founded on fact. When acres upon acres of the countless little
capelin swim inshore to feed, and they themselves are preyed on by
leaping acres of voracious cod, whose own rear ranks are being preyed on
by hungry seals, sharks, herring-hogs, or dogfish, then indeed the
troubled surface of a narrowing bay is literally thick with the silvery
flash of capelin, the dark tumultuous backs of cod, and the swirling
rushes of the greater beasts of prey behind. Nor were certain other fish
stories, told by Sebastian and his successors about the land of cod,
without some strange truths to build on. Cod have been caught as long as
a man and weighing over a hundred pounds. A whole hare, a big guillemot
with his beak and claws, a brace of duck so fresh that they must have
been swallowed alive, a rubber wading boot, and a very learned treatise
complete in three volumes - these are a few of the curiosities actually
found in sundry stomachs of the all-devouring cod.

The new-found cod banks were a mine of wealth for western Europe at a
time when everyone ate fish on fast days. They have remained so ever
since because the enormous increase of population has kept up a
constantly increasing demand for natural supplies of food. Basques and
English, Spaniards, French, and Portuguese, were presently fishing for
cod all round the waters of northeastern North America and were even
then beginning to raise questions of national rights that have only been
settled in this twentieth century after four hundred years.

Following the coast of Greenland past Cape Farewell, Sebastian Cabot
turned north to look for the nearest course to India and Cathay, the
lands of silks and spices, diamonds, rubies, pearls, and gold. John
Cabot had once been as far as Mecca or its neighborhood, where he had
seen the caravans that came across the Desert of Arabia from the fabled
East. Believing the proof that the world was round, he, like Columbus
and so many more, thought America was either the eastern limits of the
Old World or an archipelago between the extremest east and west already
known. Thus, in the early days before it was valued for itself, America
was commonly regarded as a mere obstruction to navigation - the more
solid the more exasperating. Now, in 1498, on his second voyage to
America, John Cabot must have been particularly anxious to get through
and show the King some better return for his money. But he simply
disappears; and all we know is what various writers gleaned from his son
Sebastian later on.

Sebastian said he coasted Greenland, through vast quantities of
midsummer ice, until he reached 67° 30' north, where there was hardly
any night. Then he turned back and probably steered a southerly course
for Newfoundland, as he appears to have completely missed what would
have seemed to him the tempting way to Asia offered by Hudson Strait and
Bay. Passing Newfoundland, he stood on south as far as the Virginia
capes, perhaps down as far as Florida. A few natives were caught. But no
real trade was done. And when the explorers had reported progress to the
King the general opinion was that North America was nothing to boast of,
after all.

A generation later the French sent out several expeditions to sail
through North America and make discoveries by the way. Jacques Cartier's
second, made in 1535, was the greatest and most successful. He went up
the St. Lawrence as high as the site of Montreal, the head of ocean
navigation, where, a hundred and forty years later, the local wits
called La Salle's seigneury 'La Chine' in derision of his unquenchable
belief in a transcontinental connection with Cathay.

But that was under the wholly new conditions of the seventeenth century,
when both French and English expected to make something out of what are
now the United States and Canada. The point of the witling joke against
La Salle was a new version of the old adage: Go farther and fare worse.
The point of European opinion about America throughout the wonderful
sixteenth century was that those who did go farther north than Mexico
were certain to fare worse. And - whatever the cause - they generally did.
So there was yet a third reason why the fame of Columbus eclipsed the
fame of the Cabots even among those English-speaking peoples whose
New-World home the Cabots were the first to find. To begin with,
Columbus was the first of moderns to discover any spot in all America.
Secondly, while the Cabots gave no writings to the world, Columbus did.
He wrote for a mighty monarch and his fame was spread abroad by what we
should now call a monster publicity campaign. Thirdly, our present
point: the southern lands associated with Columbus and with Spain
yielded immense and most romantic profits during the most romantic
period of the sixteenth century. The northern lands connected with the
Cabots did nothing of the kind.

Priority, publicity, and romantic wealth all favored Columbus and the
south then as the memory of them does to-day. The four hundredth
anniversary of his discovery of an island in the Bahamas excited the
interest of the whole world and was celebrated with great enthusiasm in
the United States. The four hundredth anniversary of the Cabots'
discovery of North America excited no interest at all outside of Bristol
and Cape Breton and a few learned societies. Even contemporary Spain did
more for the Cabots than that. The Spanish ambassador in London
carefully collected every scrap of information and sent it home to his
king, who turned it over as material for Juan de la Cosa's famous map,
the first dated map of America known. This map, made in 1500 on a
bullock's hide, still occupies a place of honor in the Naval Museum at
Madrid; and there it stands as a contemporary geographic record to show
that St. George's Cross was the first flag ever raised over eastern
North America, at all events north of Cape Hatteras.

The Cabots did great things though they were not great men. John, as we
have seen already, sailed out of the ken of man in 1498 during his
second voyage. Sly Sebastian lived on and almost saw Elizabeth ascend
the throne in 1558. He had made many voyages and served many masters in
the meantime. In 1512 he entered the service of King Ferdinand of Spain
as a 'Captain of the Sea' with a handsome salary attached. Six years
later the Emperor Charles V made him 'Chief Pilot and Examiner of
Pilots.' Another six years and he is sitting as a nautical assessor to
find out the longitude of the Moluccas in order that the Pope may know
whether they fall within the Portuguese or Spanish hemisphere of
exploitation. Presently he goes on a four years' journey to South
America, is hindered by a mutiny, explores the River Plate (La Plata),
and returns in 1530, about the time of the voyage to Brazil of 'Master
William Haukins,' of which we shall hear later on.

In 1544 Sebastian made an excellent and celebrated map of the world
which gives a wonderfully good idea of the coasts of North America from
Labrador to Florida. This map, long given up for lost, and only
discovered three centuries after it had been finished, is now in the
National Library in Paris.[1]

[1: An excellent facsimile reproduction of it, together with a copy of
the marginal text, is in the collections of the American Geographical
Society of New York.]

Sebastian had passed his threescore years and ten before this famous
map appeared. But he was as active as ever twelve years later again. He
had left Spain for England in 1548, to the rage of Charles V, who
claimed him as a deserter, which he probably was. But the English
boy-king, Edward VI, gave him a pension, which was renewed by Queen
Mary; and his last ten years were spent in England, where he died in the
odor of sanctity as Governor of the Muscovy Company and citizen of
London. Whatever his faults, he was a hearty-good-fellow with his boon
companions; and the following 'personal mention' about his octogenarian
revels at Gravesend is well worth quoting exactly as the admiring
diarist wrote it down on the 27th of April, 1556, when the pinnace
_Serchthrift_ was on the point of sailing to Muscovy and the Directors
were giving it a great send-off.

After Master Cabota and divers gentlemen and gentlewomen had viewed
our pinnace, and tasted of such cheer as we could make them aboard,
they went on shore, giving to our mariners right liberal rewards;
and the good old Gentleman, Master Cabota, gave to the poor most
liberal alms, wishing them to pray for the good fortune and
prosperous success of the _Serchthrift_, our pinnace. And then, at
the sign of the Christopher, he and his friends banqueted, and
made me and them that were in the company great cheer; and for very
joy that he had to see the towardness of our intended discovery he
entered into the dance himself, amongst the rest of the young and
lusty company - which being ended, he and his friends departed, most
gently commending us to the governance of Almighty God.




CHAPTER II

HENRY VIII, KING OF THE ENGLISH SEA


The leading pioneers in the Age of Discovery were sons of Italy, Spain,
and Portugal.[2] Cabot, as we have seen, was an Italian, though he
sailed for the English Crown and had an English crew. Columbus, too, was
an Italian, though in the service of the Spanish Crown. It was the
Portuguese Vasco da Gama who in the very year of John Cabot's second
voyage (1498) found the great sea route to India by way of the Cape of
Good Hope. Two years later the Cortereals, also Portuguese, began
exploring the coasts of America as far northwest as Labrador. Twenty
years later again the Portuguese Magellan, sailing for the King of
Spain, discovered the strait still known by his name, passed through it
into the Pacific, and reached the Philippines. There he was killed. But
one of his ships went on to make the first circumnavigation of the
globe, a feat which redounded to the glory of both Spain and Portugal.
Meanwhile, in 1513, the Spaniard Balboa had crossed the Isthmus of
Panama and waded into the Pacific, sword in hand, to claim it for his
king. Then came the Spanish explorers - Ponce de Leon, De Soto, Coronado,
and many more - and later on the conquerors and founders of New
Spain - Cortes, Pizarro, and their successors.

[2: Basque fishermen and whalers apparently forestalled Jacques
Cartier's discovery of the St. Lawrence in 1535; perhaps they knew the
mainland of America before John Cabot in 1497. But they left no written
records; and neither founded an oversea dominion nor gave rights of
discovery to their own or any other race.]

During all this time neither France nor England made any lodgment in
America, though both sent out a number of expeditions, both fished on
the cod banks of Newfoundland, and each had already marked out her own
'sphere of influence.' The Portuguese were in Brazil; the Spaniards, in
South and Central America. England, by right of the Bristol voyages,
claimed the eastern coasts of the United States and Canada; France, in
virtue of Cartier's discovery, the region of the St. Lawrence. But,
while New Spain and New Portugal flourished in the sixteenth century,
New France and New England were yet to rise.

In the sixteenth century both France and England were occupied with
momentous things at home. France was torn with religious wars. Tudor
England had much work to do before any effective English colonies could
be planted. Oversea dominions are nothing without sufficient sea power,
naval and mercantile, to win, to hold, and foster them. But Tudor
England was gradually forming those naval and merchant services without
which there could have been neither British Empire nor United States.

Henry VIII had faults which have been trumpeted about the world from his
own day to ours. But of all English sovereigns he stands foremost as the
monarch of the sea. Young, handsome, learned, exceedingly accomplished,
gloriously strong in body and in mind, Henry mounted the throne in 1509
with the hearty good will of nearly all his subjects. Before England
could become the mother country of an empire overseas, she had to shake
off her medieval weaknesses, become a strongly unified modern state, and
arm herself against any probable combination of hostile foreign states.
Happily for herself and for her future colonists, Henry was richly
endowed with strength and skill for his task. With one hand he welded
England into political unity, crushing disruptive forces by the way.
With the other he gradually built up a fleet the like of which the world


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryWilliam WoodElizabethan Sea Dogs → online text (page 1 of 13)