At last, however, William succeeded in gathering another army that was even larger than the first one, and placing himself at its head he entered the Netherlands. He was, however, in great straits, for his soldiers were only German mercenaries and William lacked money to pay them. The Duke of Alva knew this and refused to fight, but constantly retreated, knowing well that mutiny would soon break out in William's forces and weaken him far more than any battle. And this proved to be the case. Serious trouble broke out among the German soldiers, and William at last had to disband the army and take refuge in France without money, credit or prestige. He had sold all his personal possessions to support the army and all was lost.
Where he had once been one of the richest noblemen in Europe, he was now so poor that he hardly knew where the next day's dinner was to come from. Alva had confiscated all his Netherland estates, and William had gone heavily into debt to raise his armies. Failure and poverty stared him in the face, and other misfortunes followed him. His first wife had died several years before, and his second wife, a German princess, now went insane.
Crushed on land, there was yet the possibility for William to do something for his oppressed country by attacking his enemies on the sea. It was not long before privateers in his name were harrying the Spanish vessels and swooping down upon the ports held by the Spaniards. These daring seamen took their name from the society that had been formed years before called the "Beggars." And William's sailors now called themselves "The Beggars of the Sea."
They found help and protection in the English ports, for Queen Elizabeth hated the Duke of Alva, and while not willing just then to go to war openly with Spain, she did all in her power to give assistance to Spain's enemies. She allowed the Beggars to obtain men and supplies from England, and did not hesitate to give them ammunition when they required it.
Then a first success came to William's cause like a faint ray of sunlight through heavy clouds, for the Beggars of the Sea captured the fortified town of Brill. And almost immediately after, encouraged by this initial success, the whole of the Netherlands which had been groaning under the Spanish rule rose in rebellion and claimed as their rightful ruler the Prince of Orange. Almost in a night the cities rose and cast off their Spanish yoke, and all through the Low Countries the flag of the Prince of Orange was uplifted.
Alva sent his troops to lay siege to the towns and recapture them, and there followed one of the most terrible periods of warfare that the world has ever known—certainly the most terrible that ever engulfed Belgium until the World War of our own day.
And now for the first time since his former defeat, the Prince of Orange was able to raise troops to fight once more against the Spaniards. He sent repeated appeals to the cities of the Low Countries, and prepared an army of some twenty thousand German mercenaries that was to be further strengthened by a French force under the French Admiral Coligny. William counted on Coligny's aid to defeat Alva, for Coligny was an ardent Protestant and had many men at his command.
But there befell another check to William's fortunes, and one that was almost fatal to his plans, for under the wicked Catherine de Medici the French Catholics in two days massacred almost every Protestant in France in a slaughter that was called the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. Admiral Coligny was among the victims, and all hope of support from that quarter was at an end.
Louis, the brother of William, was being besieged by the Duke of Alva in the city of Mons, and William marched to the relief of the town. He did not strike promptly enough, however, and was routed by a strategem on the part of the Spaniards. In the night a considerable force of the Spanish soldiers stole up to William's camp and fell upon his army, taking it completely by surprise. William himself barely escaped with his life, being awakened by a pet dog in the nick of time, and when the Spaniards were almost in his tent. Leaping to his horse, he galloped madly from the burning camp and escaped, but his army was cut to pieces. Then Alva continued the siege of Mons until Louis had to surrender. The Spaniards, however, for some strange reason allowed Louis to evacuate the town without interference and Louis fled to Dillenburg in Germany, the home of the Nassau family. But in spite of this new defeat and disappointment, the Lowland cities continued their resistance, and nowhere was this stronger than in the province of Holland.
The sieges that followed were among the most terrible in history for the beleaguered towns knew well they could expect no mercy if they were conquered, and held out to the last breath. Their inhabitants ate horses, dogs, old shoes—anything to fill their stomachs and stay the inroads of starvation. Plague broke out among them and in the Spanish forces as well. When the Spaniards captured a town they left not one stone upon another, and the burghers who had opposed them were massacred to a man.
But the Duke of Alva was growing old and suffering from ill health. The universal hatred in which he was held weighed on his spirit. He had written several times asking his recall from the Netherlands, and at last King Philip consented to his request and sent out a Governor named Requesens to take his place. All the Netherlands went wild with joy when the news spread that Alva was leaving and bells were rung and bonfires lit as for some national holiday.
In the meantime William had made his headquarters in the province of Holland and was conducting the war against the Spaniards from that point. The Spaniards were besieging the city of Leyden, which it was necessary for them to capture, but the Netherlanders cut the dykes that restrained the ocean and let the sea sweep over the land, for Leyden was reduced to starvation, and every day people were dying by hundreds within its walls. The rescuers sailed up to the town in ships as the Spaniards fled, bringing bread to the famished people.
William was now the ruler of Holland and had triumphed over the Spaniards. The war dragged after these terrible sieges and both sides would gladly have seen it ended; but the Lowlanders were in no temper to accept half measures. And in the Union of Utrecht, in which a number of the Lowland provinces united against Philip, an important step was taken toward throwing off the Spanish yoke.
William's life was in great danger, for King Philip had offered a reward of twenty-five thousand crowns in gold to any assassin who should strike him down. And although he was under fifty, he appeared like an old man, so great were the troubles with which he had been beset in the course of his life. He was the constant target for the bullet or the dagger of the assassin, and many dogged his tracks as a result of the Spanish proclamation against him.
The end that might have been expected came in the spring of 1584. Already William had once been severely wounded by a would-be murderer, and he was now to receive his death blow. A young man, who claimed to be a Protestant orphaned in the religious persecutions, sought aid from William's secretary, and William himself ordered that twelve crowns be given him. With this money the perfidious assassin bought firearms and ammunition, and gaining entrance to William's home fired three shots into his body. A few minutes later the "father of his country" lay dead.
The work that William had done was far reaching and had a permanent effect on the fortunes of his country. And to-day a song that was sung at the time in his honor is still the national anthem of the Kingdom of Holland. He was a man of a great heart and a great character; and his fame has lived and grown more lustrous up to the present day.
QUEEN ELIZABETH OF ENGLAND
We will now tell the story of a young girl who became the most famous Queen that the world has ever known and laid the real foundations for the modern greatness of the English nation. The name of this girl was Elizabeth, and the time in which she lived has since been called the Elizabethan Era. For England at that time was rich in the bravest soldiers, the most daring sailors and the greatest men of genius, and Elizabeth knew well how to surround herself with these men and use their great talents to benefit her country.
Elizabeth was the daughter of King Henry the Eighth, and his wife, Anne Boleyn. Her childhood was far from being a happy one, for Henry was a cruel tyrant and showed harshness to the princess in many ways. When Elizabeth was only three years old her mother was imprisoned in the Tower of London and then beheaded at King Henry's order, and her own right to succeed him on the throne of England was taken away from her. Then she was sent into the country to be brought up by servants and attendants, and seldom was allowed at the Royal Court.
King Henry married a lady named Catherine Parr and Elizabeth became a favorite with her step-mother. For the first time in her life she received a little affection and kindness. Catherine saw that she had the attention she needed and brought her back to Court, but although she was still only a child something she said or did once more awakened her father's anger, and Elizabeth was sent away in disgrace and not permitted to return until after his death.
A son had been born to Henry the Eighth by another wife named Jane Seymour; and this boy, who was christened Edward, succeeded his father on the throne of England. Elizabeth, who was noted for her demure bearing, was then thirteen years old and became a great favorite with her brother, the boy king, who called her "sweet sister Temperance," and gave many signs of his regard for her. But Edward the Sixth did not live very long. He had a serious disease that wasted him away, and Elizabeth's half sister named Mary, became Queen.
Now Mary was an ardent Catholic, and desired that all England should come under the power of the Catholic Church. To bring this about she persecuted the Protestants in her kingdom mercilessly until anybody who professed to the Protestant faith was in danger of being burned at the stake. Mary, moreover, had married the dismal Spanish King, Philip the Second, who tried to have her treat her subjects as he had done with the people of the Low Countries, until through the efforts of William the Silent, they won their freedom. And Mary was surrounded with advisors who were even more fanatical and cruel than the Queen herself.
One of Mary's first acts when she became Queen was to send for her sister Elizabeth and command her to become a Catholic. Elizabeth had been brought up as a Protestant and believed in the Protestant religion, but to save her life she decided to pretend to obey her sister's order and to adopt the outward forms of the Catholic faith. And then more trouble befell Elizabeth, for due to her sister's harsh rule which had won her the name of "Bloody Mary," a revolt broke out among a number of the English people to place Elizabeth upon the throne. For the Protestants had not been deceived by Elizabeth's pretended conversion. They knew that she was Protestant at heart, and that if she were only Queen the cruel persecutions would straightway be ended. And a young man named Wyatt began a rebellion in Elizabeth's name that was only put down after severe rioting.
Wyatt was captured and stated that the Princess Elizabeth had known of the plot; and Elizabeth was summoned to Mary to explain the accusations against her and prove if possible that she had no share in the undertaking. Elizabeth was very much frightened, and in fact she had every reason to be. She dressed herself all in white as a symbol of her innocence and went through the streets of London on her way to the Queen; and the people gazed at her sadly and shook their heads, for they were afraid that she was going to her death. Mary, who was influenced by her advisers, refused to see her sister and would not listen to her assurances of innocence, and finally an armed guard came before Elizabeth and told her that she must go at once to the Tower of London, where she was to be held a prisoner.
The Tower of London, which is standing to-day, is a gloomy fortress that was built in the time of William the Conqueror, and since that time had been the scene of many tragedies and executions, for the most dangerous political prisoners were confined there. Elizabeth's own mother had been put to death within its solid walls, and Elizabeth had every reason to fear that a similar fate was intended for her by her sister Mary. Guarded by soldiers, the Princess was taken on a boat down the Thames River; but instead of stopping at the usual entrance to the Tower, the boat drew towards a portal known as "Traitor's Gate," where many of the worst prisoners entered, only to meet the axe of the executioner.
"I am no traitor," Elizabeth cried out angrily when she saw where she was, "I will not pass in by way of the gate of Traitors."
And when she was sternly told that she must obey, she added:
"Here lands as true an English subject as ever set foot on these stairs!"
That she was near death she knew very well; and whenever she heard any unusual bustle or stir in the prison courtyard, she tried anxiously to see what was going on there, for she feared that they might be building a scaffold for her execution. And her fears were only too well founded, for the Queen's advisors hated Elizabeth and did not think that Catholic rule in England was safe as long as the Princess was alive. This, rather than the charge of treason that had been trumped up against her, was the real reason for her imprisonment.
On one occasion, we are told, Mary fell ill; and her counselors took the opportunity to have Elizabeth put to death. A warrant for her execution was prepared, and an order was sent to the keeper of the Tower to carry out the punishment at once.
"Where is the Queen's signature?" demanded that official.
"The Queen is too ill to sign it, but it is sent in her name," was the reply.
"Then I will wait until she is well enough to send her order in person," said the keeper,—and Elizabeth's life was saved. For Mary was furious when she learned how her counselors had tried to take the law into their own hands, and in spite of their remonstrances Elizabeth was soon afterward taken from the Tower and set at liberty.
Queen Mary died in 1558, when Elizabeth was twenty-five years old, and as it was known that Elizabeth would now come to the throne, there was great rejoicing throughout England. Bonfires blazed and bells were rung; and in joy at the accession of Elizabeth the people forgot to mourn for the dead Queen, whose gloomy reign and religious cruelties had caused her to be feared and hated everywhere.
From the first day of her reign Queen Elizabeth showed that she was a Protestant at heart and she put an immediate end to religious persecution. But Elizabeth was too shrewd to take any steps that would cause the Catholics to hate her. She wanted the love and respect of her entire people, and always shaped her course in such a way that she could gain the good will of the greatest number of her subjects.
Elizabeth hated war and carried on her rule in such a way that she could avoid it as far as possible. She encouraged trade and commerce and learning and the sciences, and had in her possession long lists of her subjects who had shown great ability, either as soldiers or sailors, or in the fields of art and scholarship. As she rewarded such men richly, the ambition of all Englishmen was to make themselves worthy of being placed on one of these lists.
As a result of this policy, which was almost unparalleled in the history of the world, England began steadily to forge ahead in the occupations of peace, and a number of great and illustrious men sprang into fame. The poet Shakespeare commenced to write his immortal plays, and Spenser and Bacon both made deathless contributions to English literature. The great explorers, Martin Frobisher and Sir Francis Drake, brought back from their voyages priceless knowledge of geography, and many treasures and discoveries to enrich England. The English statesmen Cecil and Walsingham followed a shrewd and far-sighted policy, allowing England to grow strong through the wars of other nations without engaging in them herself, and put a stop to the former extravagant proceedings in which the public money had been wasted.
But in spite of her desire to keep out of war, many troubles beset Elizabeth. In Scotland there was a young queen called Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth's cousin, who claimed the throne of England in addition to her own. Mary had always been the center of trouble and turmoil and had frequently been embroiled with England; and being a Catholic there were many among Elizabeth's subjects who would have been rejoiced to see her on the throne in place of Elizabeth. On one occasion, however, when Mary had been engaged in civil war in Scotland, she was compelled to fly across the Scottish border and throw herself on the protection of the English Queen.
Elizabeth did not dare leave Mary at liberty in England, for she feared the plots that might arise as a result, so Mary was promptly put in prison and kept there for eighteen years, with considerable pomp and state as befitted her high birth, but a captive for all that and one that was closely watched.
Holding Mary a prisoner was, however, a very foolish thing for Elizabeth to do, for at once the Scottish Queen became the subject of conspiracies among the English Catholics. Many of these were detected, and Elizabeth's statesmen urged the Queen to sign Mary's death warrant and put an end once and for all to the cause for internal trouble in England that would continue as long as Mary lived. But Elizabeth was most unwilling to take the life of her own cousin, who had come to England of her own accord for safety, and she continued to keep Mary under lock and key.
At last, however, a plot was discovered in which Mary was not only to be rescued, but placed on the throne of England; and the plot went so far as to plan the murder of Queen Elizabeth. And there was evidence that Mary had actually shared in this conspiracy and to some extent had directed it from her prison. The Scottish Queen was taken to Fotheringay Castle, where she was tried for high treason and sentenced to death, and Elizabeth very reluctantly signed the warrant. So Mary was beheaded, going to her death with a dignity and firmness that have added to her fame throughout the centuries.
These internal troubles were not the only ones that Elizabeth had to contend with. Philip of Spain had tried to marry her after the death of her sister, because he wanted to continue to influence English politics. Elizabeth had refused him and the King of Spain had long been her enemy, and was seeking to bring England back under the Catholic rule. Although outwardly professing friendship, Philip was preparing for war with England. And his ships captured English vessels on the high seas and their crews were sent to torture or death because they were Protestants. England did not sit meekly by and watch these depredations on her seamen. English sailors were as good as any, and often captured Spanish ships in their turn; and Spanish gold frequently found its way to the English treasury, instead of into the coffers of Philip.
England was poor, and had not then come to her full power as a great nation, and Elizabeth did not feel able openly to go to war with Spain, much as she desired to do so. But while she would not give orders for her sailors to attack Spanish ships, she was not a little pleased to have her share of the Spanish gold. Chief among her sailors who brought home treasure in this way were Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake. The last of these was a great friend of Elizabeth's on account of his bold deeds and his great discoveries, and much more is told of him in another chapter of this book. For he not only took many rich ships from Spain, but sailed around the world, bringing back with him great knowledge and gold and gems of priceless value. And although Elizabeth had warned Drake to "see that he did no harm to her good friend, Philip of Spain," she rewarded him richly for his deeds.
The death of Mary Queen of Scots had greatly angered Philip, and the deeds of the English buccaneers filled him with rage. He labored for years collecting a great fleet to invade England, and crowded the decks of his vessels with soldiers. This fleet was called The Invincible Armada and set sail for England in 1588.
Elizabeth rallied her countrymen, and with the utmost coolness and bravery made her preparations for defense. Every Englishman who could wield a sword was called to the defense of his country. Boys of eighteen were enlisted and men of sixty once more became men at arms. For Elizabeth knew that if Philip ever gained a foothold in England, the same terrible scenes would be enacted there that had taken place in the Low Countries.
But the Spanish army never landed in England. When its sails appeared, and it seemed as though it must overwhelm the small English fleet that was opposed to it, Queen Elizabeth on horseback rode among her soldiers, encouraging and cheering them, and urging them to fight to their last drop of blood in defense of their country. But the English fleet, under Sir Francis Drake, put the Spanish ships to flight and sunk a great number of them. And a gale of wind did the rest, wrecking the unwieldy Spanish boats and drowning thousands of Spanish soldiers and sailors.
Elizabeth's courage and the loyalty with which she had been served by her brave subjects had saved England, and never since that time, with the exception of a raid by the American sailor, Paul Jones, have British shores been reached by a foreign foeman. The English nation was changing in Elizabeth's reign more than in any former period, and many blessings were being given to the Queen's subjects that they had never hitherto known. Her reign saw the last vestige of bondage and servitude die out; and men were now allowed to practise the Protestant religion without the constant fear of death. They became, moreover, used to a better manner of living and enjoyed luxuries that their fathers had never known. Of course, from our standards their lives would have seemed poor and rough, but none the less they were a distinct advance over all that had gone before.
The brilliant court kept by Elizabeth was surpassed by no other in all Europe, and the magnificence of her dress had never been equaled. In this respect the Queen resembled her father, Henry the Eighth, who always had loved display. She had a thousand gowns of silk and rich materials, all richly decorated with gold and precious stones. Her hair was bright with gold and gems and in her Palace gold and rare jewels were seen on every side.
The Queen was very fond of traveling in state through England, and on her way would arrange to visit different noblemen in their castles, where they had to provide for her entertainment. These trips were called her "Progresses." And the noblemen selected to entertain her considered themselves unlucky enough, for they had to go to enormous expense to satisfy her whims, and were never sure of her gratitude,—while on the other hand, they were always certain to hear from her if anything displeased her. The most costly banquets, the richest wines, the most brilliant pageants, the most extravagant novelties and flatteries were expected, if not demanded, by the Queen in the course of these entertainments.
Among her courtiers Queen Elizabeth had many favorites and perhaps the worthiest of them was Sir Walter Raleigh. This gentleman was famous for his courtly speech and gentle manners—things that delighted the Queen—as well as for the richness of his apparel. On one occasion in the course of a trip the Queen had to cross a muddy place in the road and hesitated before soiling her delicate slippers, but Sir Walter Raleigh slipped off the rich blue velvet cloak that he wore and cast it in the mud in front of the Queen for her to walk upon. He well knew that she would return the value of the cloak twenty times over in the benefits she would confer on him, and this proved to be the case.
Sir Walter Raleigh was an explorer as well as a courtier, and had been interested in the establishing of a colony in the New World, calling the lands there "Virginia" in honor of the virgin Queen—a name that has lasted to the present day. And from Virginia the potato and tobacco were first brought into England—and Sir Walter Raleigh used to smoke tobacco in a silver pipe, sometimes in the Queen's presence.
The Queen had other favorites beside Sir Walter Raleigh, and chief of these was the Earl of Leicester. It was believed for a time that she would marry him—but this did not come to pass. Another of her favorites was the Earl of Essex, a self-willed and spoiled young man, who frequently had difficulties with the Queen. On one occasion he rudely turned his back on her, and Elizabeth retorted by boxing his ears. Almost always after these affairs Essex left or was sent from Court, but ultimately was pardoned and returned. The Earl of Essex was put in command of troops in Ireland, and word of his mismanagement was soon brought to Elizabeth. When he was recalled and punished he believed that a great wrong had been put upon him and engaged in a conspiracy against the Queen. For this he was imprisoned in the Tower and beheaded.
Elizabeth reigned over England until she was seventy years old. As she grew older she was troubled with ill-health, but her indomitable spirit never failed her. She continued to ride until she had to be lifted to her horse, and she ruled with a firm hand long after her health had failed and she had grown ill and feeble.
But the end of her life was not happy. The throngs of courtiers who had offered her the flattery and homage that were so dear to her, found some excuse or other to go elsewhere and to bow themselves before the feet of James of Scotland, the son of the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots, for James was now the recognized heir to the English throne. One after one Elizabeth's followers deserted her and at times she was found alone and in tears by the few faithful attendants that remained. She could, of course, command attendance, but not the love that she had formerly known—for there was now little to be gained from serving her, and she had, moreover, been made unpopular by the execution of the Earl of Essex, who was loved by the common people.
Elizabeth died in her sleep in 1603, passing away without pain. And we are told that when her coffin was borne to Westminster Abbey, where she was buried, that all the former love of her subjects returned and she was mourned as no sovereign has been mourned before or since her time. And this was only fitting, for in spite of her many faults, her like has seldom been seen upon a throne or in the course of history.
SIR FRANCIS DRAKE
Probably the greatest hero in all Great Britain's naval history is Sir Francis Drake, who carried England's flag to the uttermost corners of the earth and made it glorious when Queen Elizabeth was on the English throne.
Drake was the oldest of a family of twelve sons and was born in Devonshire in 1539. He was an active and adventurous boy, fond of all athletic games and early showing a taste for the sea that seemed to run in his family, for his father had served in the navy in the time of Henry the Eighth, and his cousin, Sir John Hawkins, was sailing to the coast of Guinea to bring back slaves.
The talent that Drake had for the sea was soon observed by the keen-eyed Hawkins, and before long Drake became his apprentice, and quickly learned the ins and outs of seamanship. He rapidly made a name for himself as a brave and skilful sailor, and before long accompanied Hawkins on his trips to Guinea after negro slaves—trips in which Drake was always in the fore when any adventure of a particularly dangerous nature was undertaken. The slave trade was a perfectly honorable calling in those days, and Drake succeeded in it beyond his hopes, amassing much money with which he helped his younger brothers and did many kindnesses for his family.
But the slave trade itself soon grew too small to satisfy Hawkins, who sought a field for broader adventures. All the western ocean lay open to him, and mustering a squadron he offered Drake the command of one of the vessels, which were to go to the West Indies and engage in trading or fighting with the Spaniards, who had at that time almost a monopoly of the waters where Columbus had sailed some seventy years before. Spain and England were not openly at war when Hawkins was planning this voyage, but in unknown waters all law stopped; and it was not infrequent for Spanish and English vessels to fall afoul of each other with little or nothing said about it afterward in the Courts or Embassies. Queen Elizabeth hated the Spaniards and was glad to do them all the mischief she could, but she did not dare to go to war with them at that time or to give too open encouragement to her sea captains. They knew, none the less, that the sight of Spanish gold under English hatches was pleasant to good Queen Bess, and likely to result in honor, wealth and preferment for themselves.
It was on Drake's first expedition to the West Indies that he conceived a hatred for the Spaniards that was to last all his life as the result of the black treachery they played on Hawkins. After cruising along the western coast of what is now Florida, and being unable to find a proper harbor there, Hawkins set sail for Mexico and dropped anchor at a Spanish port in that country. While he was riding at anchor a large fleet of Spanish vessels arrived, and finding the English in possession and holding a strong position, agreed to let them sail away unmolested. Later, however, when the English had consented to these terms and after the Spanish Admiral had entertained the English officers in his own cabin, the Spaniards treacherously attacked the English, killing a number that had gone ashore before they could regain their boats and engaging in a sea fight with Hawkins' squadron, in which the English lost all but two of their ships, the Judith, Drake's vessel, and the Minion, on which Hawkins happened to be when the fight commenced. These two ships escaped and made their way back to England separately, Drake vowing vengeance against the Spaniards. And indeed they had made a dangerous enemy in this bold sailor, who very shortly paid them in full for the base treatment they had given him.
As soon as he was in England Drake commenced fitting out two vessels as raiders for the purpose of harrying Spanish ships in the waters of the West Indies, and if possible to capture the Spanish holdings on land and place them beneath the English flag. Particularly did he desire to get his fingers into the rich heaps of gold that were conveyed by great Spanish ships or galleons back from the New World to the treasury of King Philip.
With these ends in view, Drake landed his men secretly on the coast of Central America near the present location of the Panama Canal; and by a bold surprise attack captured the Spanish town named Nombre de Dios. He was finally compelled to abandon the town, because he was greatly outnumbered by the Spaniards, who, through a mishap in his plans, were enabled to collect their forces and advance against him, but Drake made good this check by another daring plan that was skilfully executed, and that caused great discomfiture to the Spanish officials.
This was nothing less than to ambush and attack the Spanish treasure trains that carried gold and jewels across the Isthmus of Panama,—riches wrung from the natives by Spanish greed. Leaving a small number of men in charge of his ships, Drake advanced into the wild and tropical country of Central America along the route that the treasure trains traveled. When the tinkling of the bells on the harnesses of the pack animals warned him of the approach of the Spaniards who guarded the treasure, Drake concealed his men at the side of the road, and rushing forward with a shout, attacked and captured the train almost before the astonished Spaniards knew that there was an enemy in the vicinity. Rich stores of gold and jewels were found in the mule packs,—more, in fact, than the English men could carry back with them, and with cheers and rejoicing, the little band of adventurers made their way back to the harbor where they had left their ships.
When they reached it, however, no ships were to be seen. They feared that the Spaniards had captured or destroyed their vessels and that they were marooned in a hostile and dangerous country. But Drake, with his characteristic boldness, formed a plan that delivered them from their difficulty. From the logs on the shore he ordered his men to build a raft, and with their hatchets they hewed out oars. A sail was contrived from a large biscuit sack, and with a few of his best men Drake put to sea on this strange craft, searching for his ships. The raft had been built so hurriedly that at times he was up to his waist in water, but he was rewarded at last by finding his two vessels safe and sound in a little cove where they had been taken to avoid some Spanish warships that were in the neighborhood.
Returning to his men at the helm of his own vessel, the treasure was soon aboard, and with a large cargo of gold, silver and sparkling jewels Drake headed for England, where a rousing welcome was given him. Elizabeth, however, did not dare openly to approve of an act that secretly brought her the utmost satisfaction. For the time at any rate Drake got little thanks for his exploits—and there was even talk of returning the captured treasure to the Spaniards.
Drake then engaged in a war in Ireland, where he proved himself almost as good a soldier as he was a sailor; but even while enjoying his congenial occupation of fighting he longed to set forth on another great adventure, the idea of which had come to him while in the Central American jungle from which he had first set eyes on the far-off waters of the Pacific Ocean.
This idea was to carry the English flag through the Strait of Magellan and bear the colors of Queen Bess to waters where they had never been seen before. Up to that time only the Spanish had rounded South America and brought their civilization to its northwestern shores, and the new venture, if successful, would mean much to England. But Drake feared that the Queen would not approve of the idea, and for a time cherished it only in his own mind, waiting a more favorable opportunity to lay it before the Queen.
In the meantime he fell in with an English army officer named Thomas Doughty, who became his close friend. Doughty was greatly interested in Drake's idea of sailing the Pacific, and promised to get Sir Christopher Hatton, one of Elizabeth's most influential advisors, to intercede for Drake with the Queen. Hatton talked with Drake and cordially approved the plan; and in a short time, in command of a squadron of five tight little vessels Drake sailed westward, while the trumpets blared and the cannon boomed in his honor.
Drake himself was in command of a little ship which he called the Golden Hind, and Doughty was his second in command over the entire squadron. The ships were admirably fitted out for those times, with every necessity and every comfort and luxury. Drake and his officers dined from silver dishes on the choicest food and wines. His stores included materials for trading with the natives, as well as all the scientific instruments then applied to the art of navigation.
After sinking some unimportant Spanish ships, the English squadron captured a large Portuguese galleon, from which they took a valuable treasure. The Portuguese had been unfriendly to the English on more than one occasion, and this was Drake's way of informing them that such had been the case. And after a long voyage he came to the mouth of the River de la Plata in South America, dropping anchor at the entrance to that great stream. Fires blazed on the shore and weird figures were seen dancing around the flames. They were the savage natives, praying to their heathen gods for the shipwreck of Drake's party, for they believed that by their prayers and fires a host of devils would alight upon the English vessels and destroy them. Drake himself was too eager to continue his voyage to think of landing, and pointed his prows southward, bound for the Strait of Magellan.
After a battle with the gigantic and savage Patagonians, in which Drake saved his men from massacre by his usual quick decision and energy, he continued his voyage until trouble that had developed in his crew compelled him to take action against his friend and lieutenant, Doughty. It seems that even before they sailed from England, Doughty had become jealous of Drake and had commenced to work for his undoing. And now proofs were only too evident that he had tried to provoke a mutiny in the crew.
He was called before a court consisting of Drake's officers and was found guilty. And then Drake, in spite of his grief that he had been deceived by his most trusted friend, decided that stern measures were necessary to preserve his authority over the men. He told Doughty that he had but one course to take and that was to punish him for his crime. But he gave him the choice of three fates,—to be executed then and there, or put ashore to fend for himself among the savages, or to be cast in chains into the hold of the ship and tried by his peers on the return to England.
The unhappy Doughty asked time to think over what he should choose, and this was granted. On the following morning he was taken before Drake and with courageous mien declared that he preferred to be executed rather than be left among the savages or taken home as a prisoner. And in a few hours and before the entire company Doughty met his fate, but he did not place his head upon the block until he had sat at dinner with Drake himself and shared communion with him. And after this Drake continued his voyage, until he found himself at the southernmost part of South America.
Beating his way through the dangerous Strait of Magellan, Drake tried to sail northward, but was driven back by severe gales and contrary winds until it seemed as though the spirit of the new ocean had arisen in wrath, forbidding his further progress. He was even driven south of the strait to Cape Horn, where he landed and looked from the southernmost pinnacle of the cape to the mysterious southern sea, declaring triumphantly that he had been farther south than any man in the world and had placed his foot on the extreme of the new continent. Then all at once the weather changed and Drake sailed rapidly up the coast.
By this time only one ship remained to him, for storms had scattered his squadron and he had destroyed one of his own ships, thinking he had too many to hold together. Another basely deserted him in the Strait and sailed back to England. In the Golden Hind, however, he himself met all obstacles and continued his voyage where no English keel had ever cut water before.
Coming to the northern part of South America, Drake was given word by the natives that a Spanish galleon with a cargo of treasure lay near at hand, and swooping down on the great vessel before the Spaniards were aware of his presence he captured it and transferred the treasure to the Golden Hind. He then got news of a second galleon which he pursued, and when he boarded her discovered that she too bore rich bars of gold and silver destined for the treasure house of the King of Spain. He had now accomplished his purpose and sailed in the Pacific. He had beneath his hatches a treasure that would have gladdened the heart of Midas—a harvest of the yellowest gold and whitest silver—of sparkling gems, rich silks and spices, and many costly curios that he had gathered in his voyage. He believed, however, that the Spaniards would be watching the Strait and Cape Horn to intercept him, and planned to try to find a passage around the northern part of the continent. In sailing north he dropped anchor at a harbor not far from the Golden Gate, and here he had his first experience with North American Indians.
He found these savages very different from the treacherous natives of South America. They greeted him with the utmost ceremony, treating him as a god and bringing him a profusion of gifts of various kinds. With Indian guides, the English hunted and slew the deer with which the region abounded and shared the wigwams of the redskins in ceremonial gatherings. When they finally took their departure the savages made bitter lamentation and stood on the hilltops waving their farewells until the sails of Drake's little ship had sunk beneath the horizon.
Drake had now altered his plan of sailing north and had conceived the bolder project of sailing directly across the Pacific Ocean to the Far East, from which he could proceed to the Cape of Good Hope and skirt the Coast of Africa. So he resolutely turned his prow into an unknown sea, and after sixty-eight days sighted land.
Again the savages crowded around his ship in their canoes, but they were far different from the Indians of California. These men were naked with blackened teeth and sullen looks. Finding the ship not to their liking, they loosed a shower of stones, to which Drake responded by firing one of his cannon, which frightened them until they fell out of their canoes into the water, and remained there until the Golden Hind had sailed away.
Drake stopped at many islands and traded with the natives he met there. He visited the Philippines and an island called Terenate, where he received a native king who called on him with the utmost pomp and ceremony. This potentate was surrounded with grave old men with white beards, who believed in the Mohammedan religion, and they welcomed Drake as though he himself were a mighty king.
At the court of the King of Terenate Drake discovered a Chinaman, who professed to be of royal blood, and gave him a courteous invitation to visit the Emperor of China. But Drake was eager to get home and continued his voyage as quickly as possible. He stopped at Java, and then made for the Cape of Good Hope—which his followers declared was the fairest and most goodly cape in all the world, and the most welcome to set eyes on. Rounding the Cape, he directed his course for Sierra Leone and the Coast of Guinea, and, coming into waters that he knew, he continued northward until the shores of England were sighted from his masthead. And at last he dropped anchor triumphantly in Plymouth harbor after a voyage that had lasted three years.
He had suffered from tempest, battle and shipwreck, and on one occasion had run his vessel on the rocks while in Asiatic waters. He had taken a princely fortune from the Spaniards and engaged in fierce combats with them. He had accomplished more as a geographer and navigator than any Englishman up to his time, and had taken the English flag where it had never been seen before. And as a result of these exploits all England rang with his fame, songs were composed in his honor and he was considered to be more than human by many people who held that only by magic could he have accomplished a voyage so miraculous.
Elizabeth did not receive him with open favor at first; but her heart was high within her at Drake's success. At last she informed him that it was her pleasure to dine with him on the Golden Hind, which you may be sure was scoured and garnished for the occasion as never before. In the ship's cabin Elizabeth and her courtiers feasted with Drake and his officers, and at the end of the dinner she asked the Captain for his sword—a sword that she herself had presented to him before his departure for the west, and tapping him with it on the shoulder as he knelt before her, she knighted him, and left his ship, while Drake himself remained on board to rejoice at the honor that had been bestowed on him.
The dauntless skipper had returned in the nick of time to be of further service to his country, for England at last went openly to war with Spain, and Drake was put in command of a fleet to harry Spanish commerce. There were rumors of a great fleet that was being gathered by King Philip to invade England, but Drake met them more than half way and sailing into Spanish harbors inflicted such a blow on King Philip's navy that it took more than a year for him to get his ships again in such a condition that he could sail against English shores. As we have already told you in the last chapter, the King of Spain did at last send a mighty fleet of more than one hundred and fifty great galleons to invade England and conquer the country. It was the proudest array of ships that the world had ever seen up to that time, with Spain's greatest sailors and generals in command and a force of veteran soldiers aboard that was thought to be irresistible.
Drake was at a game of bowls with Sir Walter Raleigh and Martin Frobisher when word was brought to him that the Spanish fleet had been sighted. The others quickly left their sport and were hurrying toward the harbor when Drake called after them and brought them back.
"There's plenty of time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards afterward," he said, laughing.
He was as good as his word, and as one of the chief commanders of the English navy, he did more than any other man to humble Spain's great fleet and weaken her power on the sea. While the great Spanish galleons were huddled in confusion the swift English vessels bore down on them and raked them from stem to stern with musketry and cannon fire, sinking a great many vessels and throwing the entire fleet into hopeless disorder. The English also deftly maneuvered so that the Spaniards would be driven upon dangerous reefs, and shipwreck complete the havoc in the ranks of the hostile Armada. Drake's fire ships, like roaring furnaces, bore down on the Spaniards under full sail, and the light of the flames was reflected against the clouds as the galleons blew up and burned.
A terrible gale completed what the English began and the Spanish ships drove on the rocks by scores, where their crews were dashed to pieces or were killed or captured after making their way to shore. Spain's dream of conquering England was at an end and Spain's supremacy upon the seas was ended also in favor of her younger rival.
This was the crowning point of Drake's career and greatness. He was, most naturally, a national figure, the darling of the people and the court. Later he engaged in further voyages, but did not meet with his earlier success, and in 1596 he died at sea not very far from the scene of his first victories and the location of the modern Panama Canal. He was buried with high honors, and his coffin was lowered into the sea draped in the English flag, while English guns thundered a salute in honor of the great naval hero.
All England mourned when they heard of his fate, and the Golden Hind was ordered by the Queen to be preserved with scrupulous care in memory of the marvelous journey it had made. When it, too, grew old and had to be broken up, a chair was made from its planks and sent to Oxford University, where it can be seen to the present day as a memorial of Drake's mighty achievements,—feats that stand in a class by themselves, and that will be hard to duplicate to the end of time.
When James the First was King of England, and four years after the death of the great Queen Elizabeth, there existed an English and Russian trading company of wealthy merchants which was known as the Muscovy Company—an association of great influence that desired to extend its commerce to far-off China, whose wealth in those days was considered to be fabulous. All the maritime nations of Europe desired to gain the China trade and to bring to their own ports the rich silks and spices of the Orient. All of them were seeking for some quick and easy route for sailing vessels from Europe to China, and fortunate indeed would be that nation whose sailors first discovered such a passage! Therefore, in the year 1607, the Muscovy Company tried to find some sea captain who would undertake a voyage of discovery to find a quicker way to the Far East than around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa.
Now at that very time there chanced to be living a mariner named Henry Hudson, who commanded a small coasting vessel which was anchored near the mouth of the River Thames. He heard of the offer made by the Muscovy Company and offered his services. And partly because the merchants believed him to be a capable seaman and partly because no other sailor volunteered for this dangerous mission, Henry Hudson was given command of the little ship called the Hopewell, and with a small crew set out to find the way to China by the northeast, hoping to skirt the northern shore of Russia and then sail south into Oriental seas along the Asiatic coast.
Nobody knows to-day who Hudson was or what his life had been up to the time when he entered the service of the Muscovy Company. Over three hundred years ago he suddenly appeared as a brave and capable sailor and explorer, only to disappear in the great bay in northern Canada that now bears his name, when he was deserted and left to certain death by a mutinous and cowardly crew. We do not know what he looked like, for no portrait of him has been preserved; we do not know who were the members of his family, for no records of them have been kept. All we know is that this master mariner sailed farther north than any sailor of his day—farther north, indeed, than any sailor who succeeded him for nearly three hundred years—and what is still more important, that he explored the great river now called the Hudson, on whose shore stands one of the mightiest cities of the world.
The Hopewell was a little ship, about the size of the smallest fishing vessels of to-day; and had been used many years before by another great explorer and a friend of Sir Francis Drake's named Martin Frobisher. That Hudson was able in this tiny craft to penetrate farther into the arctic wilderness than the great square-rigged ships and the strongly built steamers of the nineteenth century, is almost beyond belief. But the fact that he did so is not to be doubted, and the results of his voyages into those icy and deserted seas bore almost as great fruit as though he had discovered the passage to China that he hoped for.
First Hudson sailed north and then east, to the coast of what is now called Spitzbergen, after which he sailed along the shore of Greenland to the north. He tried to round the northern end of Greenland, but the great ice floes blocked his progress. Everywhere were icebergs and cliffs of solid ice, grinding against each other with a wicked roar on the great seas, and always was there fog born of the ice, or heavy gales that tossed the little Hopewell like a feather. After trying for many days to sail where no ship has ever sailed, Hudson finally gave up the attempt, and, bitterly disappointed, turned his prow toward England, where he reported to the Muscovy Company that great numbers of whales sported in the icy waters near Spitzbergen—a report that afterward resulted in the great whale fisheries of that locality and untold wealth for the ships and companies that pursued them. But Hudson had done more than he realized. Not only had he reached a latitude of eighty-one degrees, fifty minutes, north, but he brought back important information that there was no hope of reaching Asia in the direction he had followed.
The merchants of the Muscovy Company were disappointed, but they still believed that the passage to China could be found, and in 1608 Hudson set sail again, determined this time to find the great waterway that would make his name and fortune. But again he was doomed to failure and returned with even less to show than on the previous voyage. He did, however, bring back a curious tale that added to the superstitious sea lore of those times, for two of his sailors one morning when looking over the side of the vessel beheld what they declared was a mermaid—with a white skin and a tail like a mackerel, long, black hair, and a back and breast like a woman's. For a long time, these mendacious mariners insisted, the mermaid (who is believed to have been a seal) swam beside the vessel looking earnestly into their eyes, but at last a sea overturned her and she dove deep and disappeared from view.
When Hudson returned again with nothing to show for his bravery and daring, the Muscovy Company was not willing to fit him out for a third voyage. The fame of his exploits, however, had traveled throughout Europe, and he was summoned to Holland by a group of wealthy merchants who asked him to try once more in any direction he saw fit, and in the interests of the Dutch East India Company.
This time Hudson was to succeed, although in a way that he little dreamed of—and certainly a way that was far removed from the discovery of a sea route to China. In a little vessel called the Half Moon, and with a crew of about a score of Englishmen and Hollanders, he set sail on April 5, 1609, with high hopes that at last he would find the passage he had so long and patiently sought for.
At first it looked as though he was doomed once more to failure. After cruising for a month he found himself in the icy reaches of Barents Sea, and then the Half Moon was caught in the ice and only saved from being crushed to splinters by a favorable breeze that sprang up just as the jaws of the ice floes were closing on the little vessel. So far Hudson had accomplished nothing, and his crew was dissatisfied and rebellious. They were unwilling to continue the voyage in the north and desired a quick return to Holland. But Hudson knew that if he put back with another failure to his credit, his reputation would be lost forever and he would never get another opportunity to engage in exploration; so, to pacify the crew, and at the same time to accomplish something that might meet with favor in the eyes of his patrons, he suggested that they sail for North America and try to discover the passage through a waterway that lay to the north of the British possessions in Virginia.
When the Half Moon was being buffeted by a gale off the coast of Newfoundland the foremast was carried away, and Hudson sailed southwest along the coast of Nova Scotia, anchoring at last in what is now known as the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine.
Here his men landed and sought a mast for the ship in the virgin forest that ran down to the edge of the salt water. Here too they met their first Indians, and treated them with suspicion and distrust. Hudson himself met the natives kindly and always established good relations with them, but his ignorant crew, particularly his mate, whose name was Juet, believed that the natives were only waiting to do them some violence and treachery, and with this in mind the sailors drove the Indians into the forest and plundered their wigwams, taking whatever was valuable back to the Half Moon. Hudson could do little or nothing to prevent them, for at this time the ill feeling of his men had grown to such an extent that he was only nominally in command and had little or no control over his lawless followers.
With a new mast in place the Half Moon set sail from the Penobscot and bore away to the south, passing Cape Cod which had been discovered a short time before by Bartholomew Gosnold, and continuing on a southern course until it reached a point beyond Chesapeake Bay. Then Hudson turned his prow north once more and entered the bay itself, thinking that it might possibly be the entrance to the passage that he sought; but finding it too shallow for convenient navigation he turned north again and sailed up the Jersey coast, coming at last to the mouth of a great harbor, which he thought, for a brief time only, might be on the way to China and the east.
He found himself, however, in one of the most wonderful waterways of the entire world. There were many tribes of Indians around the shores and these paddled out in their canoes with offerings of wampum and green tobacco in return for which they received bits of glass and iron hoes and hatchets. They were filled with amazement at the appearance and clothes of the white men and it was only after overcoming great fear that they dared to approach the Half Moon at all.
But the suspicion and doubt of Hudson's crew, particularly of the surly Juet, again made itself manifest, and after many of the party had landed some outrage must have been committed, for the Indians made an attack on the Half Moon with bows and arrows, killing one of the crew. The sailors built a barricade above the bulwarks to protect the men from further encounters, and Hudson proceeded up the harbor. He landed at the lower point of Manhattan Island and made a ceremonial visit to the Indians, who were doubtless of a different tribe from those that attacked him, for in that day there were many nations in the vicinity of Manhattan, some fierce and warlike and others peace-loving and friendly.
After exchanging gifts with the Indians and plying them with drink whose unaccustomed sensations filled them with fear, amazement and joy, Hudson continued his voyage up the noble river, anchoring at frequent intervals. More trouble soon occurred between his crew and the savages, for Juet the mate shot and killed an Indian who was attempting to steal some trifle from the cabin of the Half Moon. There followed a fight in which no less than twelve Indians were killed by Hudson's men; the redskins were getting their first taste of white man's rule, and coming with gifts they were met with gunfire. What was more natural than for one of the ignorant savages to steal some of the amazing trifles that were displayed in the Half Moon's cabin? Death was certainly an unjust penalty.
Up the river for one hundred and fifty miles Hudson steered his course, trading with the natives as soon as he was removed from the scenes of the recent outrage. His writings show no surprise or delight at the wonderful scenery and the virgin forests and the giant river that he beheld, but is a record of soundings with an occasional remark that the trees would make good timbers for vessels and casks. Rich furs, green tobacco and long strings of gay and polished shells called wampum were gladly exchanged by the Indians for bits of colored glass, beads, hatchets and knives, commencing a trade that was later extensively carried on in the north by the Hudson Bay Trading Company, and at the mouth of the river by the Dutch settlers.
At last the water became too shoal for further exploration and Hudson returned downstream. It was time to conclude his voyage and he consulted his men. They were greatly averse to returning to Holland, fearing without doubt that he would report their open mutiny and rebellious conduct as soon as they arrived. Hudson feared for his life, and indeed his fears were well founded; but with considerable astuteness he proposed that they return not to Holland but Ireland—a suggestion that was eagerly hailed by the crew. They set sail from Manhattan in October, and on November 7 arrived at Dartmouth, England, where Hudson had taken his vessel either through accident or design.
He sent word of his arrival to the Dutch East India Company and received an order to proceed to Holland without delay—but when he was about to set sail the English forbade him to do so and he was ordered henceforth to serve his own country and not to give help to a foreign power.
Already, though he had little idea of it, he had accomplished more than enough to rank him as the foremost explorer of his time, and his name was assured of immortality. He had opened up to the advances of the Dutch settlers a country enormously rich in natural resources and laid the primary foundation of perhaps the world's most wonderful city. He had established a "farthest north" that has only been equaled by modern explorers, and his voyages near Spitzbergen had resulted in profitable fisheries.
But Hudson was not yet satisfied, and indeed his recent voyage had impelled the English to equip him again for further explorations. They gave him a little vessel of some fifty-five tons named the Discovery and a mixed crew of Englishmen and Dutchmen, with whom he put forth once more in 1610 to see if an opening into southern seas could be found by means of the waterways discovered by the explorer, Davis.
Among these sailors, to Hudson's cost, was his former surly mate, Juet, and a young ne'er-do-well named Henry Greene, who had been cast off by his family for his evil ways and his dissolute living. Hudson had befriended this young man and had offered him a refuge in his own house—and now, to keep him out of mischief, took him along as a member of his crew. With the explorer also was a boy, John Hudson, who was undoubtedly his son and who had served under him as cabin boy on previous voyages.
That Hudson, for all his great qualities, was not a leader of men like the American Paul Jones, who could make convicts and prisoners of war serve him in battle against his enemies; and that he had always controlled his crew with a loose hand seems amply borne out by the events that took place on this voyage, which was destined to prove his last. Almost before he had quitted the river Thames he commenced to have trouble with his crew, sending one unruly member ashore before he was out of sight of land.
He turned his prow toward Iceland where he caught a great many fish and wild fowl and where he and his followers saw Mount Hecla, the volcano, pouring flame upon the snows. He then set sail for Greenland, rounded Cape Desolation and after a long and wearisome voyage found himself at last in the great body of water in northern Canada that is now called Hudson Bay. This he thought might be at last the long sought passage, for the great waterway ran toward the south. And Hudson, sailing onward, found himself at last in its southernmost part—a pocket now called James Bay. Storms were frequent and heavy fogs rolled upon him incessantly. On one occasion he anchored in a gale and lay buffeting enormous seas for eight long days. When he tried to hoist anchor against the wishes of the crew a great wave broke directly over the bow, breaking upon the deck with such force that all the men were swept from their feet and several were injured. The anchor was lost and only the quickness of the carpenter saved the cable, which he cut with an ax as it was running over the side. Staggering in the heavy sea the Discovery sailed northward, for Hudson had at last become convinced that no passage led to the orient through Hudson Bay.
Ice retarded them and they were compelled to seek winter quarters. Their provisions were nearly gone and all that saved their lives was skill in hunting whereby they secured several hundred white partridges, or ptarmigan. Discontent and mutiny were breaking out among the members of the crew, and the ringleader against Hudson was young Henry Greene whom he had befriended and fed at his own table. A house was built for winter quarters, but it was badly constructed and the biting Arctic blast swept through it, chilling to the bone the bodies that were weakened with hunger. In the spring, when the mariners were able once again to resume the voyage, they were at death's door from starvation.
What little food was left was distributed by Hudson, and, we are told, he wept as he doled it out. Disappointed in his hopes of a successful voyage, weakened with hunger and with a crew in almost open mutiny, it is not to be wondered at if he spoke harshly at times to his men and added to the grudge they harbored against him. The most assiduous of all in their efforts to do him injury was Henry Greene, his former beneficiary.
A plot was conceived to put Hudson and all the sick members of the crew in the shallop or small boat that the Discoverer carried and turn them adrift, and all the details of this were worked out by Greene and some other leading spirits among the mutineers. Hudson was seized and bound; the sick were told to get up from their bunks and take their places in the shallop. Even the boy, John Hudson, was placed there also,—and the carpenter, who preferred to face death with his master rather than remain with the mutineers, was put aboard as well. Then the painter was cut, and without food, clothing or provisions, Hudson and his companions floated away amid the ice fields. They were never seen again.
The mutineers sailed homeward and secured some provisions at islands on the way where they found fish and wild fowl. It is a satisfaction to know that they were attacked by the natives and that Greene and several others were killed. The survivors, after a terrible voyage, reached Ireland and then made their way to England. Although they were questioned closely regarding Hudson's fate, little or no punishment was visited on them and some of them even took part in later expeditions. And so perished by base treachery one of the bravest and most brilliant sailors that the world has ever seen, for Hudson died either in the melancholy reaches of Hudson Bay or on some bleak shore where he was cast away. But though he died miserably he still lives, for his achievements are immortal.
PETER THE GREAT
At a time when the famous House of Romanoff had only recently come into power in Russia, a prince was born in the Kremlin Palace at Moscow who was destined to become the greatest ruler that the Russian people have ever known. The name of this prince was Peter and he was the son of the Czar Alexis.
Alexis was a kind-hearted man, but preferred to leave the arduous duties of governing the Russian State to his advisors. As he was easily influenced by any favorite who happened to gain his ear the Government was badly run and the condition of the people was deplorable indeed. When the Empress, or Czarina, had borne her husband two sons and a daughter she died, and Alexis married a second wife named Natalia Naryshkin, who became the mother of the infant Peter in 1672.
We are told that there were great festivities at Peter's christening. Most of the great nobles of Russia were present and there was feasting and merrymaking. The guests wondered at the great confections of candy and spice that had been made for the celebration—life-size swans all of sugar that looked so natural it seemed as though they could swim in the sea of wine that flowed there, and fortresses of sweetmeats made to resemble the buildings of Moscow.
There are many stories, too, of the pomp and luxury in which the future Czar was brought up. Peter had his own apartments and his own train of attendants, and he was waited on by a band of dwarfs who were selected for this purpose. When he was three years old the Czar gave him a royal carriage of tiny size drawn by four ponies, and sitting therein, driven and accompanied by his dwarfs, the little Prince would appear in the public streets whenever a royal ceremony took place.
His father died when Peter was four years old and was succeeded on the throne by Feodor, who was Peter's half brother. This prince was not fitted to rule. He was sickly in body and weak in intellect, as indeed were both of the Czar's sons by his first marriage. And the new Czar spent a large part of his time in bed while his sister Sophia, who was shrewder than himself, was the actual ruler of Russia.
Sophia had planned to make herself Empress by the cleverest plotting and intrigue. She nursed Feodor in his illnesses and so endeared herself to him that he allowed her to do whatever she desired. Among the nobility she gained a number of friends by gifts, smiles and flattery, and she paid particular attention to winning over a body of soldiers that formed the Imperial Guard, and were called the Streltsi, trying to enlist them in her cause by every means in her power.
Sophia, it may be said, was base-hearted and treacherous. She did not wish her father to marry again for she feared there would be more children, and she desired to come to power after his death by managing the affairs of her two weak brothers. Feodor, as we have seen, was a hopeless invalid; and the other son, Ivan, was weak-minded, almost an idiot, manifestly incapable of ever coming to the throne.
But Peter, the son of the second marriage, was a strong and promising child, handsome in body and powerful in mind. He was the hope of the Russian State, and gave every indication that he would some day become a ruler worthy of his people. And while he was still a young boy the sickly Feodor died and Peter became the Czar much sooner than was expected.
Sophia was most unwilling to have Peter reign. She knew that under such a ruler as he promised to become there would be small chance of her keeping her power. So, when Feodor died, she planned a revolt by spreading falsehoods among the nobles and the Imperial Guard to the effect that Peter's mother had planned to place her son on the throne by any means whatever and had murdered the idiot Prince Ivan so that Peter might rule unquestioned.
At this a mob made its way to the Kremlin, determined to take and slay both Peter and his mother, and foremost among the infuriated people were the soldiers of the Imperial Guard who were influenced by Sophia. The former Czarina with Peter in her arms was compelled to flee for refuge to a monastery where the soldiers followed her as far as the altar itself, but feared to use their swords in the house of God.
So many of the nobles, however, supported Peter and his mother, that Sophia could not work her wicked will upon them, and at last it was agreed that both Peter and Ivan should reign jointly as Czars, while Sophia herself was to be Regent, with all the power in her hands until they should come of age.
Sophia then worked out another plot by which she hoped that Peter would never really rule. She planned to weaken him in body and will until he should be unfit for his high duties. She took away his instructors and surrounded him with a group of boys to whom she gave every luxury and every opportunity for vice and idleness. They did as they liked from morning to night and no restraint of any kind or description was placed upon them. Sophia hoped that they would all become worthless and vicious and that Peter would do the same. Perhaps, she thought, he might even weaken himself by drinking bouts and riotous orgies so that he would not even live to claim the actual power of the throne.
It was in the company of these boys, however, that Peter gave the first signs that he was not only bright and capable but possessed the qualities of real greatness. Instead of doing nothing, as Sophia had wickedly hoped, he soon became a natural leader among his companions. Although he had no instructors he kept up his studies and made his fellows do likewise, and he organized the group of boys into a military company which he drilled with the greatest care, teaching them tactics and the theories of soldiering, which he obtained from the officers of the army, and organizing a military school of such excellence that it continued on a practical basis long after he became Czar.
The constant efforts of the young Prince to improve himself, his zeal, energy and ability soon attracted the attention of the Russian noblemen, who said to themselves that here was a ruler worth having. Many of them had been Sophia's friends, but now they began to turn toward Peter, and Sophia soon saw that the design she had entertained was a two-edged one, and that she had only injured herself.
Peter now was a youth of eighteen, and had a strong party of noblemen ready to support him in his claims to power. His friends and counselors desired that he marry, and soon the Princess Eudoxia Lopukhin became his bride. Sophia, of course, had been unwilling that the marriage take place, but she couldn't prevent it; and from that time onward her power grew less each day.
The young Prince continued to show every indication of his energy and ability. He worked in the shipyards to learn ship building, and he studied military tactics at every opportunity. He had a company of soldiers formed, who dressed in European uniform instead of in the Asiatic garb of Russia. He himself had drilled as a private in this company. He was fond of taking long trips for military purposes as well as for shipbuilding, and continued to do so after his marriage.
At about this time Russia engaged in an unsuccessful war in the Crimea. The Russian General, Golitzyn, claimed that he had accomplished wonders and ought to be decorated, but Peter's knowledge of military matters had made him thoroughly disgusted with the campaign. He refused to sign the order for the General's medals, and showed that he knew the war had been a failure and had failed through faulty strategy and bad leadership.
Then there took place another plot to assassinate Peter, and once again Sophia's friends, the Imperial Guard, were in the foreground. Some of the soldiers, however, were faithful to the young Czar and warned him in time to fly for his life, and once again he and his mother took refuge in the monastery that had sheltered him when he was an infant.
Noblemen hastened to the place to assure Peter that they were loyal to him and devoted to his interests. And while still in the monastery Peter accused Sophia of having planned the deed. The Imperial Guard at last went over to him and the ringleaders of the plot were disclosed and executed. General Golitzyn, who had already been in disfavor on account of his operations in the Crimea, was banished to the desolate reaches of Siberia, and the evil-hearted Sophia was placed in a convent for the good of her soul, where she remained until her dying day.
After this Peter took on himself the full power of the Czar and began the great reforms that have made his name famous and were still working in Russia when the World War commenced in 1914. He ordered that mechanics and craftsmen from all parts of Europe be brought into Russia to show the Russian people improved methods of trade, building and manufacture. He made it easy to buy the merchandise of other countries, so the Russians might learn how to make such things themselves, and he traveled widely in his great Empire supervising industry and introducing new methods. He turned his attention to the Army and had it well and efficiently drilled and dressed in the style of the armies of England and France and other great western nations. He took long voyages on the sea to learn the craft of sailoring, and made plans for various ports and shipping centers in his country. And for his own amusement the Czar was passionately fond of working with his own hands and making various things that can be seen to the present day.
When Peter was twenty-two his mother died, and soon after this time he ceased to live with his wife, who entered a convent. He had never cared for her, although she had loved him passionately; and his treatment of her was harsh to say the least. In one way Peter's early training had done its work and Sophia had molded his character for the worse. He was reckless and dissolute, a heavy drinker and fond of wild orgies that lasted long after daybreak. Unusually strong himself these excesses did not injure his health to any great extent, but it was hard for those who had to drink with him, for the Czar expected them to go about their affairs the next day as though they had spent the night in restful sleep instead of some wild revel, and it is said that he had no use for a man who would not join in the revels or who allowed himself to be affected by them on the following day.
When still a young man there was another attempt to murder him, and to place Sophia on the throne, but the plot was discovered and all the conspirators were put to death, some of them with barbarous cruelties.
In 1695 the Russians went to war against the Turks and the wild Tartars. The war is not an important one in its bearing on history, but Peter won fame through all civilized Europe for the skill with which he handled his army and the way in which he conducted the siege of a town called Azov.
He then made up his mind to go to western Europe and visit the great nations he had always admired. He went in great state and pretended that he was bound on a diplomatic mission, but it is thought that the real reason for the trip was his desire to see new forms and methods in the mechanical arts. He visited what is now modern Germany and went to Holland, where for a time he worked in one of the shipyards as a common carpenter, dressed in a workman's clothes. He was keenly interested in everything, and one of his biographers tells us that he even learned dentistry and practiced his skill on the servants that accompanied him.
Peter went to England and was surprised and delighted to see the fine metal coins that were used in that nation, as the Russian money was printed on small bits of leather, and on his return he introduced metal money into Russia. He also visited Vienna and Paris, and traveled in disguise as much as possible.
While away on this trip another revolt broke out against him, and Peter was obliged to hurry home on account of it. The conspirators were treated with the utmost severity and were tortured and killed. There are many ugly stories about the way that Peter behaved in regard to his enemies, although it is true that they had given him ample provocation, and it is said that when he was under the influence of drink he put to death a number of conspirators with his own hand.
Peter, with his great love of shipbuilding, was always planning to establish a Russian navy and build new seaports. To assure himself control of the Russian seacoast of the Baltic sea he went to war with Charles the Tenth of Sweden, and finally built the city of Saint Petersburg that was named in his honor—a name that was changed to Petrograd at the beginning of the World War. The war went against Peter at first, but he trained his soldiers until they could achieve future victory, and when the Swedes invaded Russia they found Peter more than ready for them. With the efficient army that he had built up the Swedes were badly beaten at the battle of Pultowa and were compelled to withdraw from Russia, after sustaining terrible losses.
It is not on account of his wars, however, but his reforms, that the name of Peter the Great is so well known to-day. He was constantly changing and improving the order of things in his country. He went so far as to require that the Russian civilians abandon the Asiatic dress of their forefathers and cut their beards, and he, more than any other man, transformed Russia from an eastern into a western nation.
Peter had divorced his wife after the revolt which took place when he was visiting other nations, as he believed, or wished to believe, that she had a share in the plot, and he now married a beautiful woman of low degree named Catherine who was called Catherine the First. He had one son by his first wife, who was named Alexis, but the Prince had always given him serious trouble and finally tried to hatch a revolt against his own father. For this Alexis was tried and condemned to death, but he fell ill and died before the sentence could be pronounced, asking and receiving forgiveness from Peter on his deathbed.
Peter himself died in 1725 after a sudden illness. His funeral was so elaborate that it was six weeks before the ceremonies were concluded, for he had won a place in the hearts of the Russians that he never lost. He was beyond any doubt the greatest and most famous of the Russian Czars, and he left Russia in a far better position than when he came to the throne. In addition to introducing all kinds of mechanical reform he won a seaboard on the Baltic and Black seas which Russia had never before possessed; he built great cities and established many political reforms which were the beginning of the modern Russian nation. He had trained an efficient army and was the father of the Russian navy. While possessed of many faults and of a savage, ruthless nature, the elements of greatness and of heroism were strong within him.
Ever since the Declaration of Independence George Washington has been the greatest figure in the history of the United States of America, and it is certain that he will continue to be so for hundreds of years to come. In all history there is no parallel to the dignity, the majesty, the mightiness of his achievement, and no other man who has built a monument of greatness so enduring as his.
He was born in Virginia in 1732, on the 22d of February. His father was Augustine Washington and his mother was a second wife named Mary Ball. The Washingtons were prominent and influential people in Virginia and had lived there for many years.
In spite of this not a great deal is known about Augustine Washington, although it is certain that he was an upright and honorable gentleman, but George's mother was famous for her good sense as well as her beauty. Her family was a large one; there had been children by the first wife also, and as Augustine Washington died when George was a little boy, she was forced to rear this family without a husband's help.
Perhaps the responsibility that fell on George after his father's death may have helped to develop his character. At all events there are many stories about his boyhood in which he seems far older than his years. Letters and history both tell us of his thoughtfulness, his methodical habits and his great physical strength. Before he was in his teens he had become the acknowledged leader of the boys in his neighborhood, and he was fond of engaging with them in various athletic games. He also formed a military company of the little negroes on the family estate, and drilled them keenly, actually making something like a military show with the barefooted, ragged pickaninnies, with their rolling eyes and woolly heads. Like all other young Virginians he was accustomed to riding from his infancy, and before he was ten years old there were few horses that he could not bridle and master.
But we cannot go into stories of George's boyhood, of the time when he cut down the cherry tree and faced his father's wrath rather than tell a lie, or the time when he accidentally killed a high spirited horse when breaking it to the bridle. He finished his schooling when he was sixteen years old, and would have gone into the British navy if his mother had consented. She did not, however, so George studied surveying; and was soon earning considerable sums from this occupation.
He made an excellent surveyor, and his skilful work and unusual character soon attracted general attention. He was well versed in military tactics also, and was made a Major in the Virginia militia before he was twenty. This gave added zest for his military studies and he set to work to learn strategy under a fierce old Dutch army officer named Jacob Van Braam. Together they studied maps and fought out battles with pins and bits of wood until far into the night. George was also busied with the care of the Washington estate at Mount Vernon, which was left to him on the death of his half brother, Lawrence Washington in 1752. Mount Vernon carried with it about five hundred slaves and dependents, and the young man had his time fully occupied in riding over its broad acres and managing its affairs.
When George was twenty-one years old a difficult task was assigned to him that not only proved that he had really entered the estate of manhood, but also that he was trusted beyond his years. Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia sent him on a dangerous trip into the wilderness to warn off the French from English ground and to gain the friendship of the wild Indians that lived there. The race for land between the French and English settlers was growing keener and more bitter every day, and both countries claimed the land that lay between the Allegheny and the Mississippi rivers. Finally the Governor of Virginia picked young Washington to go to Venango and warn the French that they were trespassing,—and also to make ceremonial visits to the Indians to ensure their friendship to the English in case of war with the French.
To succeed would require shrewdness, good sense, courage and physical strength—for a long journey through virgin forests would have to be made and many dangers encountered. Washington took with him a guide and pioneer named Christopher Gist, and Jacob Van Braam went also to act as interpreter.
The journey over six hundred miles of desolate wilderness, across swollen streams, through forest, swamp and over rugged mountain, was performed so speedily that it would be hard for strong men to duplicate it to-day, traveling over good roads. Washington sat beside the council fires of the Indians, and delivered the Governor's message to the French. He also noted the best points for fortifications against the encroaching French, and reported them on his return. The journey had been a complete success and since others had tried it and failed, Washington's fame was established throughout Virginia.
The French had received him with sly courtesy and sought to ply his company with wine and brandy rather than to come to any agreement with him. It was plain that they meant mischief, and Governor Dinwiddie decided to send a force of soldiers to build a fort at the juncture between the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers, one of the places that Washington had noted down for its good strategic qualities. Colonel Joshua Fry was placed in command of about three hundred troops, and Washington was sent with him as his lieutenant.
On the march Colonel Fry died, and Washington was left in sole command of the troops. Spies and Indian scouts in the employ of the French had reported the expedition and the French had promptly marched against the Virginian soldiers with greatly superior numbers. Washington got news of this act on their part, and hastily threw up fortifications on a plain called Great Meadows. He called this stronghold Fort Necessity. The French soon came up and surrounded the fort, and the bark of the rifles reechoed through the woods and from the hills.
Washington and his men fought with the utmost bravery, but when he saw that the struggle was hopeless and that they would all be killed or captured if the fight continued, he made terms with the French, allowing his men to retire with all their arms and equipment, on condition that they did not make any further attempt to occupy the country for a stipulated time. The French success was not the fault of Washington who displayed great coolness and secured the maximum advantage for himself and his men. He was warmly commended by the Governor for his action in this fight and had a higher reputation than ever among all who knew the circumstances.
Soon after this Washington engaged in another expedition that was far more disastrous. The English Government put Major General Edward Braddock in command of a force of English regular soldiers to gain control of the disputed Ohio Valley, and Washington was appointed as aide on General Braddock's staff.
Braddock in his way was a good soldier, a hard bitten, dyed in the wool, regular army officer with a great contempt for the Virginia militia, and an over confident belief that the British soldier was invincible. He believed absolutely that the methods of war that were used on European battlefields would overwhelm anything in America, and he liked to see his redcoats with their boots polished and their buttons furbished, marching in solid platoon formation, turning and wheeling with the mathematical regularity of a machine. His men were drilled and disciplined until they were automatons, for Braddock was a martinet. Their ranks ran true, their equipment was in the pink of soldierly condition; the sunlight glittered from their bayonets, you could see your face in their leather accouterments, and Braddock proudly marched them into the American woods as though they were parading on the Strand in London. When Washington warned him of the dangers of ambush, urging that an advance guard and scouts be thrown out, Braddock turned scornfully away, believing that a volley or two from his brave regulars would soon drive off any foes that might fall upon him, and he said bluntly that when he desired advice from his subordinates he would ask for it.
As his men were marching in close formation, their red coats blazing against the dark green of the forest, shifting figures were seen in the trees ahead, a French officer suddenly appeared cheering them on to the attack, and with shouts and yells an unseen enemy shot down the Britishers from the protection of fallen trees, from behind rocks and stumps, and from the concealment of forest branches.
The redcoats fell by scores and were thrown into hopeless confusion. They were not used to fighting a hidden foe, and were appalled by the death in their midst as well as by the wild cries and war whoops that echoed from the forest. Braddock, waving his sword, ordered his platoons to wheel and advance in solid formation into the woods—and the platoons were wiped out like sheep in a slaughter pit as they tried to obey the hopeless order. But the despised Virginia militia, experienced in Indian fighting, spread out in open order at the head of the column and kept the enemy in check, while Braddock with hopeless bravery attempted to rally his men. It was in vain. The dismal cries and yells continued. The bullets sang overhead like a swarm of wasps, British officers dropped at the shots of invisible sharpshooters, who picked them off easily on account of their conspicuous uniforms. Braddock himself, as brave a man as ever lived, had four horses killed under him and then received a mortal wound. Washington, whose advice had been laughed at, took command of the Virginians and covered the headlong rout of the British regulars, who threw away their rifles and ran blindly into the woods. How Washington escaped alive is nothing less than a miracle. Like Braddock, he had several horses killed under him, and four bullets pierced his uniform. He seemed everywhere at once and showed the most conspicuous bravery, but all he could do was to save the lives of the flying Britishers. With whoops of victory the Indians scalped the wounded, dressed themselves in the red coats of the slain and showed their hideous painted faces beneath the cocked hats of British officers. And the French, who held the fort that Braddock had intended to capture, fired their cannon in rejoicing at a victory that forever killed the prestige of British arms in the New World. For hitherto the British soldier had been thought invincible, and this exhibition of crass stupidity and bungling gave the colonials a different opinion of British arms. The British were brave it is true, but they could not adjust themselves to meet the enemy on their own ground,—and in all history the Briton has shown himself clumsy in the guerilla warfare of the type that won the Revolution for the Americans.
A few years after this tragic affair Washington married Martha Parke Custis, a young widow with two children. Washington's love affair with Martha Custis was not the first in his life. He had paid attention to other young beauties and had shown himself a true Virginian in his hearty appreciation of the ladies.
With his marriage there commenced the home life at Mount Vernon that has become so famous in history, and the hospitality for which George and Martha Washington have ever been famous. Washington was fond of the good things of life, and his great house at Mount Vernon was filled with visitors, with whom he hunted and passed his leisure hours in many delightful ways. But his eye for business was no less keen on account of his pleasures, and eventually he came to be looked on as the leading man in the affairs of the colony. His commanding appearance, his wonderful self-control and his military prestige, coupled with the dignity and gravity of his manner, made him as prominent among men as he had been among boys.
The attitude toward "provincials" that brought about Braddock's fatal error because he could not listen to advice, was destined now to bring to England the loss of her valuable colonies in America. The English looked down on the Americans and patronized them because they did not understand them. They regarded the American Colonies too much in the light of a supply house to enrich the Crown and the Mother Country, and too little as the home of a brave and self-reliant people who came of the most sterling English stock themselves. The colonists bitterly resented the unjust laws that compelled them to ship their produce to British ports and to engage in no form of industry that might cripple British enterprise. And when the British Government imposed taxes on the colonists that were not imposed on British subjects in England, indignation rose to white heat, and riots and hot speeches broke out everywhere, particularly in New England.
The "stamp act," which compelled the colonists to transact all their legal business on paper bearing the stamp of the British Government, and sold only by British agents, awoke the wrath of Virginia as well as of New England. The cry of "no taxation without representation" rang from Georgia to Massachusetts. The oratory of Patrick Henry added fuel to the righteous indignation in every American's breast, and when the British in response to public feeling removed all unwarranted taxes except one—the tax on tea, a party of young men dressed as Indians sacked the cargo of a British vessel in Boston, and poured the chests of tea into the harbor.
Parliament retaliated. Penalties were imposed on Massachusetts. The Virginian House of Burgesses was forbidden to meet by the King's order, and meeting in spite of this order it called for a General Congress of all the Colonies to decide what measures were to be taken to defend the rights of the American provinces.
Washington, as one of Virginia's leading men, naturally was among those who represented the colony at this congress, which met in Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia. He was listened to with respect and attention, and was considered to have the sanest viewpoint and the widest fund of information of any delegate there. The question of armed revolt against England was still in the background, but Washington was in favor of a resort to arms only after all other measures had failed and as a last resort. He was ready and willing to fight if fighting must come, however, and we have his statement when he heard of how the people of Boston were laboring under unjust British measures, "I will raise a thousand men," said Washington, "subsist them at my own expense and march with them, at their head, for the relief of Boston."
At last it was seen that no other way to escape slavery existed than to fight. And Washington was one of the first to devote his life and fortune to the Revolutionary cause.
When the American Congress met on June 15, 1775, Washington was chosen as Commander in Chief of the new continental army. The flame of revolution had run through the colonies. The British had killed and been killed by militiamen at Lexington, and had fallen back before the hail of lead from the squirrel rifles of angry farmers at the bridge at Concord. From stonewalls, fences, trees and haylofts, the Americans had picked off the British redcoats as they retreated back to Boston, and had proved themselves to be foemen that could not be despised. The battles of Bunker Hill and Dorchester Heights followed. Bloody war was begun.
No better man for command of the American army could possibly have been chosen than Washington, and very probably no other could have brought the revolution to a successful end. His firm and great nature were known to all, and with this he possessed great military skill and a thorough knowledge of the country where he would have to fight.
But his heart may well have sunk when he took command, for no worse scene of confusion and inefficiency can be imagined than that of the American army when it was first mustered together. Washington, on July 3rd, 1775, took command at Cambridge, Massachusetts, of about sixteen thousand raw recruits, badly fed, badly quartered, with no uniforms to speak of, little equipment and a rebellious disregard of all discipline that was increased by the fact that they were fighting against the unjust discipline of the British Government. The American forces had no organization, and the work fell upon Washington, as Commander in Chief, not only of fighting an enemy far superior in numbers and composed of well-disciplined and well-equipped veterans, but of organizing his own army almost in the course of battle, and manufacturing the material for victory after the gage had been cast and the conflict entered.
But the resolute will and the firm hand brought order out of chaos, and the British were astonished to see the effectiveness of the rough and ready troops that opposed them. The city of Boston was besieged so firmly that the British at last decided to evacuate the town, sailing away in their warships, headed for New York. Washington by forced marches attempted to reach that city first and foil their attempt to land there, but the American army was not large enough for this design, and American and British forces faced each other on Long Island where a battle was fought near the present site of Brooklyn on August 27th, 1776. The country was now prepared for a grim struggle and the temper of the revolutionists was shown by the glorious Declaration of Independence which was made on July 4th of that year.
But spirit and determination are not proof against cold steel and solid ranks of veteran soldiers, and Washington's little army was beaten by the British in the Battle of Long Island, sustaining heavy losses in dead and wounded. The Americans retreated and then halted and when night fell only a short distance separated the two armies. The situation of the Americans was critical in the extreme, and it was absolutely necessary to cross the East River before the sadly harried and beaten ranks of the patriot army were attacked again by the victorious Britishers. Almost within the sound of the voices of the enemy Washington succeeded in drawing away his army and carrying them in boats to New York City, without a single foe suspecting his design.