Turkey came into the problems of 1586 in more than name, for there was a vast diplomatic scheme on foot to unite the Turks with such Portuguese as would support Antonio, the pretender to the throne of Portugal, and the rebellious Dutch against Spain, Catholic France, and Mary Stuart's Scotland. Leicester was in the Netherlands with an English army, fighting indecisively, losing Sir Philip Sidney and angering Elizabeth by accepting the governor-generalship without her leave and against her diplomacy, which, now as ever, was opposed to any definite avowal that could possibly be helped.
Meanwhile the Great Armada was working up its strength, and Drake was commissioned to weaken it as much as possible. But, on the 8th of February, 1587, before he could sail, Mary was at last beheaded, and Elizabeth was once more entering on a tricky course of tortuous diplomacy too long by half to follow here. As the great crisis approached, it had become clearer and clearer that it was a case of kill or be killed between Elizabeth and Mary, and that England could not afford to leave Marian enemies in the rear when there might be a vast Catholic alliance in the front. But, as a sovereign, Elizabeth disliked the execution of any crowned head; as a wily woman she wanted to make the most of both sides; and as a diplomatist she would not have open war and direct operations going down to the root of the evil if devious ways would do.
So the peace party of the Council prevailed again, and Drake's orders were changed. He had been going as a lion. The peace party now tried to send him as a fox. But he stretched his instructions to their utmost limits and even defied the custom of the service by holding no council of war when deciding to swoop on Cadiz.
As they entered the harbor, the English saw sixty ships engaged in preparations for the Great Armada. Many had no sails—to keep the crews from deserting. Others were waiting for their guns to come from Italy. Ten galleys rowed out to protect them. The weather and surroundings were perfect for these galleys. But as they came end-on in line-abreast Drake crossed their T in line-ahead with the shattering broadsides of four Queen's ships which soon sent them flying. Each galley was the upright of the T, each English sailing ship the corresponding crosspiece. Then Drake attacked the shipping and wrecked it right and left. Next morning he led the pinnaces and boats into the inner harbor, where they cut out the big galleon belonging to Santa Cruz himself, the Spanish commander-in-chief. Then the galleys got their chance again—an absolutely perfect chance, because Drake's fleet was becalmed at the very worst possible place for sailing ships and the very best possible place for the well-oared galleys. But even under these extraordinary circumstances the ships smashed the galleys up with broadside fire and sent them back to cover. Then the Spaniards towed some fire-ships out. But the English rowed for them, threw grappling irons into them, and gave them a turn that took them clear. Then, for the last time, the galleys came on, as bravely but as uselessly as ever. When Drake sailed away he left the shipping of Cadiz completely out of action for months to come, though fifteen sail escaped destruction in the inner harbor. His own losses were quite insignificant.
The next objective was Cape St. Vincent, so famous through centuries of naval history because it is the great strategic salient thrust out into the Atlantic from the southwest corner of Europe, and thus commands the flank approaches to and from the Mediterranean, to and from the coast of Africa, and, in those days, the route to and from New Spain by way of the Azores. Here Drake had trouble with Borough, his second-in-command, a friend of cautious Burleigh and a man hide-bound in the warfare of the past—a sort of English Don. Borough objected to Drake's taking decisive action without the vote of a council of war. Remembering the terrors of Italian textbooks, he had continued to regard the galleys with much respect in the harbor of Cadiz even after Drake had broken them with ease. Finally, still clinging to the old ways of mere raids and reprisals, he stood aghast at the idea of seizing Cape St. Vincent and making it a base of operations. Drake promptly put him under arrest.
Sagres Castle, commanding the roadstead of Cape St. Vincent, was extraordinarily strong. The cliffs, on which it occupied about a hundred acres, rose sheer two hundred feet all round except at a narrow and well defended neck only two hundred yards across. Drake led the stormers himself. While half his eight hundred men kept up a continuous fire against every Spaniard on the wall the other half rushed piles of faggots in against the oak and iron gate. Drake was foremost in this work, carrying faggots himself and applying the first match. For two hours the fight went on; when suddenly the Spaniards sounded a parley. Their commanding officer had been killed and the woodwork of the gate had taken fire. In those days a garrison that would not surrender was put to the sword when captured; so these Spaniards may well be excused. Drake willingly granted them the honors of war; and so, even to his own surprise, the castle fell without another blow. The minor forts near by at once surrendered and were destroyed, while the guns of Sagres were thrown over the cliffs and picked up by the men below. The whole neighboring coast was then swept clear of the fishing fleet which was the main source of supply used for the Great Armada.
The next objective was Lisbon, the headquarters of the Great Armada, one of the finest harbors in the world, and then the best fortified of all. Taking it was, of course, out of the question without a much larger fleet accompanied by an overwhelming army. But Drake reconnoitred to good effect, learnt wrinkles that saved him from disaster two years later, and retired after assuring himself that an Armada which could not fight him then could never get to England during the same season.
Ship fevers and all the other epidemics that dogged the old sailing fleets and scourged them like the plague never waited long. Drake was soon short-handed. To add to his troubles, Borough sailed away for home; whereupon Drake tried him and his officers by court-martial and condemned them all to death. This penalty was never carried out, for reasons we shall soon understand. Since no reinforcements came from home, Cape St. Vincent could not be held any longer. There was, however, one more stroke to make. The great East-India Spanish treasure ship was coming home; and Drake made up his mind to have her.
Off the Azores he met her coming towards him and dipping her colors again and again to ask him who he was. 'But we would put out no flag till we were within shot of her, when we hanged out flags, streamers, and pendants. Which done, we hailed her with cannon-shot; and having shot her through divers times, she shot at us. Then we began to ply her hotly, our fly boat [lightly armed supply vessel of comparatively small size] and one of our pinnaces lying athwart her hawse [across her bows] at whom she shot and threw fire-works [incendiary missiles] but did them no hurt, in that her ordnance lay so high over them. Then she, seeing us ready to lay her aboard [range up alongside], all of our ships plying her so hotly, and resolutely determined to make short work of her, they yielded to us.' The Spaniards fought bravely, as they generally did. But they were only naval amateurs compared with the trained professional sea-dogs.
The voyage was now 'made' in the old sense of that term; for this prize was 'the greatest ship in all Portugal, richly laden, to our Happy Joy.' The relative values, then and now, are impossible to fix, because not only was one dollar the equivalent in most ways of ten dollars now but, in view of the smaller material scale on which men's lives were lived, these ten dollars might themselves be multiplied by ten, or more, without producing the same effect as the multiplied sum would now produce on international affairs. Suffice it to say that the ship was worth nearly five million dollars of actual cash, and ten, twenty, thirty, or many more millions if present sums of money are to be considered relatively to the national incomes of those poorer days.
But better than spices, jewels, and gold were the secret documents which revealed the dazzling profits of the new East-India trade by sea. From that time on for the next twelve years the London merchants and their friends at court worked steadily for official sanction in this most promising direction. At last, on the 31st of December, 1600, the documents captured by Drake produced their result, and the East-India Company, by far the greatest corporation of its kind the world has ever seen, was granted a royal charter for exclusive trade. Drake may therefore be said not only to have set the course for the United States but to have actually discovered the route leading to the Empire of India, now peopled by three hundred million subjects of the British Crown.
So ended the famous campaign of 1587, popularly known as the singeing of King Philip's beard. Beyond a doubt it was the most consummate work of naval strategy which, up to that time, all history records.
DRAKE AND THE SPANISH ARMADA
With 1588 the final crisis came. Philip—haughty, gloomy, and ambitious Philip, unskilled in arms, but persistent in his plans—sat in his palace at Madrid like a spider forever spinning webs that enemies tore down. Drake and the English had thrown the whole scheme of the Armada's mobilization completely out of gear. Philip's well-intentioned orders and counter-orders had made confusion worse confounded; and though the Spanish empire held half the riches of the world it felt the lack of ready money because English sea power had made it all parts and no whole for several months together. Then, when mobilization was resumed, Philip found himself distracted by expert advice from Santa Cruz, his admiral, and from Parma, Alva's successor in the Netherlands.
The general idea was to send the Invincible Armada up the English Channel as far as the Netherlands, where Parma would be ready with a magnificent Spanish army waiting aboard troopships for safe conduct into England. The Spanish regulars could then hold London up to ransom or burn it to the ground. So far, so good. But Philip, to whom amphibious warfare remained an unsolved mystery, thought that the Armada and the Spanish army could conquer England without actually destroying the English fleet. He could not see where raids must end and conquest must begin. Most Spaniards agreed with him. Parma and Santa Cruz did not. Parma, as a very able general, wanted to know how his oversea communications could be made quite safe. Santa Cruz, as a very able admiral, knew that no such sea road could possibly be safe while the ubiquitous English navy was undefeated and at large. Some time or other a naval battle must be won, or Parma's troops, cut off from their base of supplies and surrounded like an island by an angry sea of enemies, must surely perish. Win first at sea and then on land, said the expert warriors, Santa Cruz and Parma. Get into hated England with the least possible fighting, risk, or loss, said the mere politician, Philip, and then crush Drake if he annoys you.
Early and late persistent Philip slaved away upon this 'Enterprize of England.' With incredible toil he spun his web anew. The ships were collected into squadrons; the squadrons at last began to wear the semblance of a fleet. But semblance only. There were far too many soldiers and not nearly enough sailors. Instead of sending the fighting fleet to try to clear the way for the troopships coming later on, Philip mixed army and navy together. The men-of-war were not bad of their kind; but the kind was bad. They were floating castles, high out of the water, crammed with soldiers, some other landsmen, and stores, and with only light ordnance, badly distributed so as to fire at rigging and superstructures only, not at the hulls as the English did. Yet this was not the worst. The worst was that the fighting fleet was cumbered with troopships which might have been useful in boarding, but which were perfectly useless in fighting of any other kind—and the English men-of-war were much too handy to be laid aboard by the lubberly Spanish troopships. Santa Cruz worked himself to death. In one of his last dispatches he begged for more and better guns. All Philip could do was to authorize the purchase of whatever guns the foreign merchantmen in Lisbon harbor could be induced to sell. Sixty second-rate pieces were obtained in this way.
Then, worn out by work and worry, Santa Cruz died, and Philip forced the command on a most reluctant landlubber, the Duke of Medina Sidonia, a very great grandee of Spain, but wholly unfitted to lead a fleet. The death of Santa Cruz, in whom the fleet and army had great confidence, nearly upset the whole 'Enterprize of England.' The captains were as unwilling to serve under bandylegged, sea-sick Sidonia as he was unwilling to command them. Volunteering ceased. Compulsion failed to bring in the skilled ratings urgently required. The sailors were now not only fewer than ever—sickness and desertion had been thinning their ranks—but many of these few were unfit for the higher kinds of seamanship, while only the merest handful of them were qualified as seamen gunners. Philip, however, was determined; and so the doomed Armada struggled on, fitting its imperfect parts together into a still more imperfect whole until, in June, it was as ready as it ever could be made.
Meanwhile the English had their troubles too. These were also political. But the English navy was of such overwhelming strength that it could stand them with impunity. The Queen, after thirty years of wonderful, if tortuous, diplomacy, was still disinclined to drop the art in which she was supreme for that in which she counted for so much less and by which she was obliged to spend so very much more. There was still a little peace party also bent on diplomacy instead of war. Negotiations were opened with Parma at Flushing and diplomatic 'feelers' went out towards Philip, who sent back some of his own. But the time had come for war. The stream was now too strong for either Elizabeth or Philip to stem or even divert into minor channels.
Lord Howard of Effingham, as Lord High Admiral of England, was charged with the defence at sea. It was impossible in those days to have any great force without some great nobleman in charge of it, because the people still looked on such men as their natural viceroys and commanders. But just as Sir John Norreys, the most expert professional soldier in England, was made Chief of the Staff to the Earl of Leicester ashore, so Drake was made Chief of the Staff to Howard afloat, which meant that he was the brain of the fleet.
A directing brain was sadly needed—not that brains were lacking, but that some one man of original and creative genius was required to bring the modern naval system into triumphant being. Like all political heads, Elizabeth was sensitive to public opinion; and public opinion was ignorant enough to clamor for protection by something that a man could see; besides which there were all those weaklings who have been described as the old women of both sexes and all ages, and who have always been the nuisance they are still. Adding together the old views of warfare, which nearly everybody held, and the human weaknesses we have always with us, there was a most dangerously strong public opinion in favor of dividing up the navy so as to let enough different places actually see that they had some visible means of divided defence.
The 30th of March, 1588, is the day of days to be remembered in the history of sea power because it was then that Drake, writing from Plymouth to the Queen-in-Council, first formulated the true doctrine of modern naval warfare, especially the cardinal principle that the best of all defence is to attack your enemy's main fleet as it issues from its ports. This marked the birth of the system perfected by Nelson and thence passed on, with many new developments, to the British Grand Fleet in the Great War of to-day. The first step was by far the hardest, for Drake had to convert the Queen and Howard to his own revolutionary views. He at last succeeded; and on the 7th of July sailed for Corunna, where the Armada had rendezvoused after being dispersed by a storm.
Every man afloat knew that the hour had come. Yet Elizabeth, partly on the score of expense, partly not to let Drake snap her apron-strings completely, had kept the supply of food and even of ammunition very short; so much so that Drake knew he would have to starve or else replenish from the Spanish fleet itself. As he drew near Corunna on the 8th, the Spaniards were again reorganizing. Hundreds of perfectly useless landlubbers, shipped at Lisbon to complete the absurdly undermanned ships, were being dismissed at Corunna. On the 9th, when Sidonia assembled a council of war to decide whether to put to sea or not, the English van was almost in sight of the coast. But then the north wind flawed, failed, and at last chopped round. A roaring sou'wester came on; and the great strategic move was over.
On the 12th the fleet was back in Plymouth replenishing as hard as it could. Howard behaved to perfection. Drake worked the strategy and tactics. But Howard had to set the tone, afloat and ashore, to all who came within his sphere of influence; and right well he set it. His dispatches at this juncture are models of what such documents should be; and their undaunted confidence is in marked contrast to what the doomed Spanish officers were writing at the selfsame time.
The southwest wind that turned Drake back brought the Armada out and gave it an advantage which would have been fatal to England had the fleets been really equal, or the Spaniards in superior strength, for a week was a very short time in which to replenish the stores that Elizabeth had purposely kept so low. Drake and Howard, so the story goes, were playing a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe on Friday afternoon the 19th of July when Captain Fleming of the Golden Hind rushed up to say the Spanish fleet was off the Lizard, only sixty miles away! All eyes turned to Drake. Divining the right way to calm the people, he whispered an order and then said out loud: 'There's time to end our game and beat the Spaniards too.' The shortness of food and ammunition that had compelled him to come back instead of waiting to blockade now threatened to get him nicely caught in the very trap he had wished to catch the Great Armada in himself; for the Spaniards, coming up with the wind, might catch him struggling out against the wind and crush his long emerging column, bit by bit, precisely as he had intended crushing their own column as it issued from the Tagus or Corunna.
But it was only the van that Fleming had sighted. Many a Spanish straggler was still hull-down astern; and Sidonia had to wait for all to close and form up properly.
Meanwhile Drake and Howard were straining every nerve to get out of Plymouth. It was not their fault, but the Queen's-in-Council, that Sidonia had unwittingly stolen this march on them. It was their glory that they won the lost advantage back again. All afternoon and evening, all through that summer night, the sea-dog crews were warping out of harbor. Torches, flares, and cressets threw their fitful light on toiling lines of men hauling on ropes that moved the ships apparently like snails. But once in Plymouth Sound the whinnying sheaves and long yo-hoes! told that all the sail the ships could carry was being made for a life-or-death effort to win the weather gage. Thus beat the heart of naval England that momentous night in Plymouth Sound, while beacons blazed from height to height ashore, horsemen spurred off post-haste with orders and dispatches, and every able-bodied landsman stood to arms.
Next morning Drake was in the Channel, near the Eddystone, with fifty-four sail, when he sighted a dim blur to windward through the thickening mist and drizzling rain. This was the Great Armada. Rain came on and killed the wind. All sail was taken in aboard the English fleet, which lay under bare poles, invisible to the Spaniards, who still announced their presence with some show of canvas.
In actual size and numbers the Spaniards were superior at first. But as the week-long running fight progressed the English evened up with reinforcements. Spanish vessels looked bigger than their tonnage, being high built; and Spanish official reports likewise exaggerated the size because their system of measurement made their three tons equal to an English four. In armament and seamen-gunners the English were perhaps five times as strong as the Armada—and seamen-gunners won the day. The English seamen greatly outnumbered the Spanish seamen, utterly surpassed them in seamanship, and enjoyed the further advantage of having far handier vessels to work. The Spanish grand total, for all ranks and ratings was thirty thousand men; the English, only fifteen. But the Spaniards were six thousand short on arrival; and their actual seamen, many of whom were only half-trained, then numbered a bare seven thousand. The seventeen thousand soldiers only made the ships so many death-traps; for they were of no use afloat except as boarding parties—and no boarding whatever took place. The English fifteen thousand, on the other hand, were three-quarters seamen and one-quarter soldiers who were mostly trained as marines, and this total was actually present. On the whole, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that the Armada was mostly composed of armed transports while all the English vessels that counted in the fighting were real men-of-war.
In every one of the Armada's hundred and twenty-eight vessels, says an officer of the Spanish flagship, 'our people kneeled down and offered a prayer, beseeching our Lord to give us victory against the enemies of His holy faith.' The crews of the hundred and ninety-seven English vessels which, at one time or another, were present in some capacity on the scene of action also prayed for victory to the Lord of Hosts, but took the proper naval means to win it. 'Trust in the Lord—and keep your powder dry,' said Oliver Cromwell when about to ford a river in the presence of the enemy. And so, in other words, said Drake.
All day long, on that fateful 20th of July, the visible Armada with its swinging canvas was lying-to fifteen miles west of the invisible, bare-masted English fleet. Sidonia held a council of war, which, landsman-like, believed that the English were divided, one-half watching Parma, the other the Armada. The trained soldiers and sailors were for the sound plan of attacking Plymouth first. Some admirals even proposed the only perfect plan of crushing Drake in detail as he issued from the Sound. All were in blissful ignorance of the astounding feat of English seamanship which had already robbed them of the only chance they ever had. But Philip, also landsman-like, had done his best to thwart his own Armada; for Sidonia produced the royal orders forbidding any attack on England till he and Parma had joined hands. Drake, however, might be crushed piecemeal in the offing when still with his aftermost ships in the Sound. So, with this true idea, unworkable because based on false information, the generals and admirals dispersed to their vessels and waited. But then, just as night was closing in, the weather lifted enough to reveal Drake's astonishing position. Immediately pinnaces went scurrying to Sidonia for orders. But he had none to give. At one in the morning he learnt some more dumbfounding news: that the English had nearly caught him at Corunna, that Drake and Howard had joined forces, and that both were now before him.
Nor was even this the worst. For while the distracted Sidonia was getting his fleet into the 'eagle formation,' so suitable for galleys whose only fighting men were soldiers, the English fleet was stealing the weather gage, his one remaining natural advantage. An English squadron of eight sail manoeuvred coast-wise on the Armada's inner flank, while, unperceived by the Spanish lookout, Drake stole away to sea, beat round its outer flank, and then, making the most of a westerly slant in the shifting breeze, edged in to starboard. The Spaniards saw nothing till it was too late, Drake having given them a berth just wide enough to keep them quiet. But when the sun rose, there, only a few miles off to windward, was the whole main body of the English fleet, coming on in faultless line-ahead, heeling nicely over on the port tack before the freshening breeze, and, far from waiting for the Great Armada, boldly bearing down to the attack. With this consummate move the victory was won.
The rest was slaughter, borne by the Spaniards with a resolution that nothing could surpass. With dauntless tenacity they kept their 'eagle formation,' so useful at Lepanto, through seven dire days of most one-sided fighting. Whenever occasion seemed to offer, the Spaniards did their best to close, to grapple, and to board, as had their heroes at Lepanto. But the English merely laughed, ran in, just out of reach, poured in a shattering broadside between wind and water, stood off to reload, fired again, with equal advantage, at longer range, caught the slow galleons end-on, raked them from stem to stern, passed to and fro in one, long, deadly line-ahead, concentrating at will on any given target; and did all this with well-nigh perfect safety to themselves. In quite a different way close-to, but to the same effect at either distance, long or short, the English 'had the range of them,' as sailors say to-day. Close-to, the little Spanish guns fired much too high to hull the English vessels, lying low and trim upon the water, with whose changing humors their lines fell in so much more happily than those of any lumbering Spaniards could. Far-off, the little Spanish guns did correspondingly small damage, even when they managed to hit; while the heavy metal of the English, handled by real seamen-gunners, inflicted crushing damage in return.
But even more important than the Englishmen's superiority in rig, hull, armament, and expert seamanship was their tactical use of the thoroughly modern line-ahead. Any one who will take the letter T as an illustration can easily understand the advantage of 'crossing his T.' The upright represents an enemy caught when in column-ahead, as he would be, for instance, when issuing from a narrow-necked port. In this formation he can only use bow fire, and that only in succession, on a very narrow front. But the fleet represented by the crosspiece, moving across the point of the upright, is in the deadly line-ahead, with all its near broadsides turned in one long converging line of fire against the helplessly narrow-fronted enemy. If the enemy, sticking to medieval tactics, had room to broaden his front by forming column-abreast, as galleys always did, that is, with several uprights side by side, he would still be at the same sort of disadvantage; for this would only mean a series of T's with each nearest broadside crossing each opposing upright as before.
The herded soldiers and non-combatants aboard the Great Armada stood by their useless duties to the last. Thousands fell killed or wounded. Several times the Spanish scuppers actually ran a horrid red, as if the very ships were bleeding. The priests behaved as bravely as the Jesuits of New France—and who could be braver than those undaunted missionaries were? Soldiers and sailors were alike. 'What shall we do now?' asked Sidonia after the slaughter had gone on for a week. 'Order up more powder,' said Oquendo, as dauntless as before. Even then the eagle formation was still kept up. The van ships were the head. The biggest galleons formed the body. Lighter vessels formed the wings. A reserve formed the tail.
As the unflinching Armada stood slowly up the Channel a sail or two would drop out by the way, dead-beat. One night several strange sail passed suddenly by Drake. What should he do? To go about and follow them with all astern of him doing the same in succession was not to be thought of, as his aftermost vessels were merchantmen, wholly untrained to the exact combined manoeuvres required in a fighting fleet, though first-rate individually. There was then no night signal equivalent to the modern 'Disregard the flagship's movements.' So Drake dowsed his stern light, went about, overhauled the strangers, and found they were bewildered German merchantmen. He had just gone about once more to resume his own station when suddenly a Spanish flagship loomed up beside his own flagship the Revenge. Drake immediately had his pinnace lowered away to demand instant surrender. But the Spanish admiral was Don Pedro de Valdes, a very gallant commander and a very proud grandee, who demanded terms; and, though his flagship (which had been in collision with a run-amuck) seemed likely to sink, he was quite ready to go down fighting. Yet the moment he heard that his summoner was Drake he surrendered at discretion, feeling it a personal honor, according to the ideas of the age, to yield his sword to the greatest seaman in the world. With forty officers he saluted Drake, complimenting him on 'valour and felicity so great that Mars and Neptune seemed to attend him, as also on his generosity towards the fallen foe, a quality often experienced by the Spaniards; whereupon,' adds this eyewitness, 'Sir Francis Drake, requiting his Spanish compliments with honest English courtesies, placed him at his own table and lodged him in his own cabin.' Drake's enemies at home accused him of having deserted his fleet to capture a treasure ship—for there was a good deal of gold with Valdes. But the charge was quite unfounded.
A very different charge against Howard had more foundation. The Armada had anchored at Calais to get its breath before running the gauntlet for the last time and joining Parma in the Netherlands. But in the dead of night, when the flood was making and a strong west wind was blowing in the same direction as the swirling tidal stream, nine English fire-ships suddenly burst into flame and made for the Spanish anchorage. There were no boats ready to grapple the fire-ships and tow them clear. There was no time to weigh; for every vessel had two anchors down. Sidonia, enraged that the boats were not out on patrol, gave the order for the whole fleet to cut their cables and make off for their lives. As the great lumbering hulls, which had of course been riding head to wind, swung round in the dark and confusion, several crashing collisions occurred. Next morning the Armada was strung along the Flemish coast in disorderly flight. Seeing the impossibility of bringing the leewardly vessels back against the wind in time to form up, Sidonia ran down with the windward ones and formed farther off. Howard then led in pursuit. But seeing the capitana of the renowned Italian galleasses in distress near Calais, he became a medieval knight again, left his fleet, and took the galleasse. For the moment that one feather in his cap seemed better worth having than a general victory.
Drake forged ahead and led the pursuit in turn. The Spaniards fought with desperate courage, still suffering ghastly losses. But, do what they could to bear up against the English and the wind, they were forced to leeward of Dunkirk, and so out of touch with Parma. This was the result of the Battle of Gravelines, fought on Monday the 29th of July, 1588, just ten days after Captain Fleming had rushed on to the bowling green of Plymouth Hoe where Drake and Howard, their shore work done, were playing a game before embarking. In those ten days the gallant Armada had lost all chance of winning the overlordship of the sea and shaking the sea-dog grip off both Americas. A rising gale now forced it to choose between getting pounded to death on the shoals of Dunkirk or running north, through that North Sea in which the British Grand Fleet of the twentieth century fought against the fourth attempt in modern times to win a world-dominion.
North, and still north, round by the surf-lashed Orkneys, then down the wild west coasts of the Hebrides and Ireland, went the forlorn Armada, losing ships and men at every stage, until at last the remnant straggled into Spanish ports like the mere wreckage of a storm.
'THE ONE AND THE FIFTY-THREE'
The next year, 1589, is famous for the unsuccessful Lisbon Expedition. Drake had the usual troubles with Elizabeth, who wanted him to go about picking leaves and breaking branches before laying the axe to the root of the tree. Though there were in the Narrow Seas defensive squadrons strong enough to ward off any possible blow, yet the nervous landsmen wanted Corunna and other ports attacked and their shipping destroyed, for fear England should be invaded before Drake could strike his blow at Lisbon. Then there were troubles about stores and ammunition. The English fleet had been reduced to the last pound of powder twice during the ten-days' battle with the Armada. Yet Elizabeth was again alarmed at the expense of munitions. She never quite rose to the idea of one supreme and finishing blow, no matter what the cost might be.
This was a joint expedition, the first in which a really modern English fleet and army had ever taken part, with Sir John Norreys in command of the army. There was no trouble about recruits, for all men of spirit flocked in to follow Drake and Norreys. The fleet was perfectly organized into appropriate squadrons and flotillas, such as then corresponded with the battleships, cruisers, and mosquito craft of modern navies. The army was organized into battalions and brigades, with a regular staff and all the proper branches of the service.
The fleet made for Corunna, where Norreys won a brilliant victory. A curious little incident of exact punctilio is worth recording. After the battle, and when the fleet was waiting for a fair wind to get out of the harbor, the ships were much annoyed by a battery on the heights. Norreys undertook to storm the works and sent in the usual summons by a parlementaire accompanied by a drummer. An angry Spaniard fired from the walls and the drummer fell dead. The English had hostages on whom to take reprisals. But the Spaniards were too quick for them. Within ten minutes the guilty man was tried inside the fort by drum-head court-martial, condemned to death, and swung out neatly from the walls, while a polite Spanish officer came over to assure the English troops that such a breach of discipline should not occur again.
Lisbon was a failure. The troops landed and marched over the ground north of Lisbon where Wellington in a later day made works whose fame has caused their memory to become an allusion in English literature for any impregnable base—the Lines of Torres Vedras. The fleet and the army now lost touch with each other; and that was the ruin of them all. Norreys was persuaded by Don Antonio, pretender to the throne of Portugal which Philip had seized, to march farther inland, where Portuguese patriots were said to be ready to rise en masse. This Antonio was a great talker and a first-rate fighter with his tongue. But his Portuguese followers, also great talkers, wanted to see a victory won by arms before they rose.
Before leaving Lisbon Drake had one stroke of good luck. A Spanish convoy brought in a Hanseatic Dutch and German fleet of merchantmen loaded down with contraband of war destined for Philip's new Armada. Drake swooped on it immediately and took sixty well-found ships. Then he went west to the Azores, looking for what he called 'some comfortable little dew of Heaven,' that is, of course, more prizes of a richer kind. But sickness broke out. The men died off like flies. Storms completed the discomfiture. And the expedition got home with a great deal less than half its strength in men and not enough in value to pay for its expenses. It was held to have failed; and Drake lost favor.
* * * * *
With the sun of Drake's glory in eclipse at court and with Spain and England resting from warfare on the grander scale, there were no more big battles the following year. But the year after that, 1591, is rendered famous in the annals of the sea by Sir Richard Grenville's fight in Drake's old flagship, the Revenge. This is the immortal battle of 'the one and the fifty-three' from which Raleigh's prose and Tennyson's verse have made a glory of the pen fit to match the glory of the sword.
Grenville had sat, with Drake and Sir Philip Sidney, on the Parliamentary committee which recommended the royal charter granted to Sir Walter Raleigh for the founding of the first English colony in what is now the United States. Grenville's grandfather, Marshal of Calais to Henry VIII, had the faculty of rhyme, and, in a set of verses very popular in their own day, showed what the Grenville family ambitions were.
Who seeks the way to win renown, Or flies with wings to high desire, Who seeks to wear the laurel crown, Or hath the mind that would aspire— Let him his native soil eschew, Let him go range and seek a new.
Grenville himself was a wild and roving blade, no great commander, but an adventurer of the most daring kind by land or sea. He rather enjoyed the consternation he caused by aping the airs of a pirate king. He had a rough way with him at all times; and Ralph Lane was much set against his being the commander of the 'Virginia Voyage' of which Lane himself was the governor on land. But in action he always was, beyond a doubt, the very beau ideal of a 'first-class fighting man.' A striking instance of his methods was afforded on his return from Virginia, when he found an armed Spanish treasure ship ahead of him at sea. He had no boat to board her with. But he knocked some sort of one together out of the ship's chests and sprang up the Spaniard's side with his boarding party just as this makeshift boat was sinking under them.
The last fight of the Revenge is almost incredible from the odds engaged—fifty-three vessels to one. But it is true; and neither Raleigh's glowing prose nor Tennyson's glowing verse exaggerates it. Lord Thomas Howard, 'almost famished for want of prey,' had been cruising in search of treasure ships when Captain Middleton, one of the gentlemen-adventurers who followed the gallant Earl of Cumberland, came in to warn him that Don Alonzo de Bazan was following with fifty-three sail. The English crews were partly ashore at the Azores; and Howard had barely time to bring them off, cut his cables, and work to windward of the overwhelming Spaniards.
Grenville's men were last. The Revenge had only 'her hundred fighters on deck and her ninety sick below' when the Spanish fleet closed round him. Yet, just as he had sworn to cut down the first man who touched a sail when the master thought there was still a chance to slip through, so now he refused to surrender on any terms at all. Then, running down close-hauled on the starboard tack, decks cleared for action and crew at battle quarters, he steered right between two divisions of the Spanish fleet till 'the mountain-like San Felipe, of fifteen hundred tons,' ranging up on his weather side, blanketed his canvas and left him almost becalmed. Immediately the vessels which the Revenge had weathered hauled their wind and came up on her from to-leeward. Then, at three o'clock in the afternoon of the 1st of September, 1591, that immortal fight began.
The first broadside from the Revenge took the San Felipe on the water-line and forced her to give way and stop her leaks. Then two Spaniards ranged up in her place, while two more kept station on the other side. And so the desperate fight went on all through that afternoon and evening and far on into the night. Meanwhile Howard, still keeping the weather gage, attacked the Spaniards from the rear and thought of trying to cut through them. But his sailing master swore it would be the end of all Her Majesty's ships engaged, as it probably would; so he bore away, wisely or not as critics may judge for themselves. One vessel, the little George Noble of London, a victualler, stood by the Revenge, offering help before the fight began. But Grenville, thanking her gallant skipper, ordered him to save his vessel by following Howard.
With never less than one enemy on each side of her, the Revenge fought furiously on. Boarders away! shouted the Spanish colonels as the vessels closed. Repel boarders! shouted Grenville in reply. And they did repel them, time and again, till the English pikes dripped red with Spanish blood. A few Spaniards gained the deck, only to be shot, stabbed, or slashed to death. Towards midnight Grenville was hit in the body by a musket-shot fired from the tops—the same sort of shot that killed Nelson. The surgeon was killed while dressing the wound, and Grenville was hit in the head. But still the fight went on. The Revenge had already sunk two Spaniards, a third sank afterwards, and a fourth was beached to save her. But Grenville would not hear of surrender. When day broke not ten unwounded Englishmen remained. The pikes were broken. The powder was spent. The whole deck was a wild entanglement of masts, spars, sails, and rigging. The undaunted survivors stood dumb as their silent cannon. But every Spanish hull in the whole encircling ring of death bore marks of the Revenge's rage. Four hundred Spaniards, by their own admission, had been killed, and quite six hundred wounded. One hundred Englishmen had thus accounted for a thousand Spaniards besides all those that sank!
Grenville now gave his last order: 'Sink me the ship, Master-Gunner!' But the sailing master and flag-captain, both wounded, protesting that all lives should be saved to avenge the dead, manned the only remaining boat and made good terms with the Spanish admiral. Then Grenville was taken very carefully aboard Don Bazan's flagship, where he was received with every possible mark of admiration and respect. Don Bazan gave him his own cabin. The staff surgeon dressed his many wounds. The Spanish captains and military officers stood hat in hand, 'wondering at his courage and stout heart, for that he showed not any signs of faintness nor changing of his colour.' Grenville spoke Spanish very well and handsomely acknowledged the compliments they paid him. Then, gathering his ebbing strength for one last effort, he addressed them in words they have religiously recorded: '"Here die I, Richard Grenville, with a joyful and quiet mind; for that I have ended my life as a true soldier ought to do, that hath fought for his country, queen, religion, and honour. Wherefore my soul most joyfully departeth out of this body." ... And when he had said these and other suchlike words he gave up the ghost with a great and stout courage.'
Grenville's latest wish was that the Revenge and he should die together; and, though he knew it not, he had this wish fulfilled. For, two weeks later, when Don Bazan had collected nearly a hundred more sail around him for the last stage home from the West Indies, a cyclone such as no living man remembered burst full on the crowded fleet. Not even the Great Armada lost more vessels than Don Bazan did in that wreck-engulfing week. No less than seventy went down. And with them sank the shattered Revenge, beside her own heroic dead.
* * * * *
Drake might be out of favor at court. The Queen might grumble at the sad extravagance of fleets. Diplomats might talk of untying Gordian knots that the sword was made to cut. Courtiers and politicians might wonder with which side to curry favor when it was an issue between two parties—peace or war. The great mass of ordinary landsmen might wonder why the 'sea-affair' was a thing they could not understand. But all this was only the mint and cummin of imperial things compared with the exalting deeds that Drake had done. For, once the English sea-dogs had shown the way to all America by breaking down the barriers of Spain, England had ceased to be merely an island in a northern sea and had become the mother country of such an empire and republic as neither record nor tradition can show the like of elsewhere.
And England felt the triumph. She thrilled with pregnant joy. Poet and proseman both gave voice to her delight. Hear this new note of exultation born of England's victory on the sea:
As God hath combined the sea and land into one globe, so their mutual assistance is necessary to secular happiness and glory. The sea covereth one-half of this patrimony of man. Thus should man at once lose the half of his inheritance if the art of navigation did not enable him to manage this untamed beast; and with the bridle of the winds and the saddle of his shipping make him serviceable. Now for the services of the sea, they are innumerable: it is the great purveyor of the world's commodities; the conveyor of the excess of rivers; uniter, by traffique, of all nations; it presents the eye with divers colors and motions, and is, as it were with rich brooches, adorned with many islands. It is an open field for merchandise in peace; a pitched field for the most dreadful fights in war; yields diversity of fish and fowl for diet, material for wealth; medicine for sickness; pearls and jewels for adornment; the wonders of the Lord in the deep for all instruction; multiplicity of nature for contemplation; to the thirsty Earth fertile moisture; to distant friends pleasant meeting; to weary persons delightful refreshing; to studious minds a map of knowledge, a school of prayer, meditation, devotion, and sobriety; refuge to the distressed, portage to the merchant, customs to the prince, passage to the traveller; springs, lakes, and rivers to the Earth. It hath tempests and calms to chastise sinners and exercise the faith of seamen; manifold affections to stupefy the subtlest philosopher, maintaineth (as in Our Island) a wall of defence and watery garrison to guard the state. It entertains the Sun with vapors, the Stars with a natural looking-glass, the sky with clouds, the air with temperateness, the soil with suppleness, the rivers with tides, the hills with moisture, the valleys with fertility. But why should I longer detain you? The Sea yields action to the body, meditation to the mind, and the World to the World, by this art of arts—Navigation.
Well might this pious Englishman, the Reverend Samuel Purchas, exclaim with David: Thy ways are in the Sea, and Thy paths in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known.
The poets sang of Drake and England, too. Could his 'Encompassment of All the Worlde' be more happily admired than in these four short lines:
The Stars of Heaven would thee proclaim If men here silent were. The Sun himself could not forget His fellow traveller.
What wonder that after Nombre de Dios and the Pacific, the West Indies and the Spanish Main, Cadiz and the Armada, what wonder, after this, that Shakespeare, English to the core, rings out:—
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise; This fortress built by nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war; This happy breed of men, this little world; This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happy lands: This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
* * * * *
This England never did, nor never shall, Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror, But when it first did help to wound itself. Now these her princes are come home again, Come the three corners of the world in arms And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue, If England to herself do rest but true.
RALEIGH AND THE VISION OF THE WEST
Conquerors first, prospectors second, then the pioneers: that is the order of those by whom America was opened up for English-speaking people. No Elizabethan colonies took root. Therefore the age of Elizabethan sea-dogs was one of conquerors and prospectors, not one of pioneering colonists at all.
Spain and Portugal alone founded sixteenth-century colonies that have had a continuous life from those days to our own. Virginia and New England, like New France, only began as permanent settlements after Drake and Queen Elizabeth were dead: Virginia in 1607, New France in 1608, New England in 1620.
It is true that Drake and his sea-dogs were prospectors in their way. So were the soldiers, gentlemen-adventurers, and fighting traders in theirs. On the other hand, some of the prospectors themselves belong to the class of conquerors, while many would have gladly been the pioneers of permanent colonies. Nevertheless the prospectors form a separate class; and Sir Walter Raleigh, though an adventurer in every other way as well, is undoubtedly their chief. His colonies failed. He never found his El Dorado. He died a ruined and neglected man. But still he was the chief of those whom we can only call prospectors, first, because they tried their fortune ashore, one step beyond the conquering sea-dogs, and, secondly, because their fortune failed them just one step short of where the pioneering colonists began.
A man so various that he seemed to be Not one but all mankind's epitome
is a description written about a very different character. But it is really much more appropriate to Sir Walter Raleigh. Courtier and would-be colonizer, soldier and sailor, statesman and scholar, poet and master of prose, Raleigh had one ruling passion greater than all the rest combined. In a letter about America to Sir Robert Cecil, the son of Queen Elizabeth's principal minister of state, Lord Burleigh, he expressed this great determined purpose of his life: I shall yet live to see it an Inglishe nation. He had other interests in abundance, perhaps in superabundance; and he had much more than the usual temptations to live the life of fashion with just enough of public duty to satisfy both the queen and the very least that is implied by the motto Noblesse oblige. He was splendidly handsome and tall, a perfect blend of strength and grace, full of deep, romantic interest in great things far and near: the very man whom women dote on. And yet, through all the seductions of the Court and all the storm and stress of Europe, he steadily pursued the vision of that West which he would make 'an Inglishe nation.'
He left Oxford as an undergraduate to serve the Huguenots in France under Admiral Coligny and the Protestants in Holland under William of Orange. Like Hawkins and Drake, he hated Spain with all his heart and paid off many a score against her by killing Spanish troops at Smerwick during an Irish campaign marked by ruthless slaughter on both sides. On his return to England he soon attracted the charmed attention of the queen. His spreading his cloak for her to tread on, lest she might wet her feet, is one of those stories which ought to be true if it's not. In any case he won the royal favor, was granted monopolies, promotion, and estates, and launched upon the full flood-stream of fortune.
He was not yet thirty when he obtained for his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, then a man of thirty-eight, a royal commission 'to inhabit and possess all remote and Heathen lands not in the possession of any Christian prince.' The draft of Gilbert's original prospectus, dated at London, the 6th of November, 1577, and still kept there in the Record Office, is an appeal to Elizabeth in which he proposed 'to discover and inhabit some strange place.' Gilbert was a soldier and knew what fighting meant; so he likewise proposed 'to set forth certain ships of war to the New Land, which, with your good licence, I will undertake without your Majesty's charge.... The New Land fish is a principal and rich and everywhere vendible merchandise; and by the gain thereof shipping, victual, munition, and the transporting of five or six thousand soldiers may be defrayed.'
But Gilbert's associates cared nothing for fish and everything for gold. He went to the West Indies, lost a ship, and returned without a fortune. Next year he was forbidden to repeat the experiment.
The project then languished until the fatal voyage of 1583, when Gilbert set sail with six vessels, intending to occupy Newfoundland as the base from which to colonize southwards until an armed New England should meet and beat New Spain. How vast his scheme! How pitiful its execution! And yet how immeasurably beyond his wildest dreams the actual development to-day! Gilbert was not a sea-dog but a soldier with an uncanny reputation for being a regular Jonah who 'had no good hap at sea.' He was also passionately self-willed, and Elizabeth had doubts about the propriety of backing him. But she sent him a gilt anchor by way of good luck and off he went in June, financed chiefly by Raleigh, whose name was given to the flagship.
Gilbert's adventure never got beyond its base in Newfoundland. His ship the Delight was wrecked. The crew of the Raleigh mutinied and ran her home to England. The other four vessels held on. But the men, for the most part, were neither good soldiers, good sailors, nor yet good colonists, but ne'er-do-wells and desperadoes. By September the expedition was returning broken down. Gilbert, furious at the sailors' hints that he was just a little sea-shy, would persist in sticking to the Lilliputian ten-ton Squirrel, which was woefully top-hampered with guns and stores. Before leaving Newfoundland he was implored to abandon her and bring her crew aboard a bigger craft. But no. 'Do not fear,' he answered; 'we are as near to Heaven by sea as land.' One wild night off the Azores the Squirrel foundered with all hands.
Amadas and Barlow sailed in 1584. Prospecting for Sir Walter Raleigh, they discovered several harbors in North Carolina, then part of the vast 'plantation' of Virginia. Roanoke Island, Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, as well as the intervening waters, were all explored with enthusiastic thoroughness and zeal. Barlow, a skipper who was handy with his pen, described the scent of that fragrant summer land in terms which attracted the attention of Bacon at the time and of Dryden a century later. The royal charter authorizing Raleigh to take what he could find in this strange land had a clause granting his prospective colonists 'all the privileges of free denizens and persons native of England in such ample manner as if they were born and personally resident in our said realm of England.'
Next year Sir Richard Grenville, who was Raleigh's cousin, convoyed out to Roanoke the little colony which Ralph Lane governed and which, as we have seen in an earlier chapter, Drake took home discomfited in 1586. There might have been a story to tell of successful colonization, instead of failure, if Drake had kept away from Roanoke that year or if he had tarried a few days longer. For no sooner had the colony departed in Drake's vessels than a ship sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh, 'freighted with all maner of things in most plentiful maner,' arrived at Roanoke; and 'after some time spent in seeking our Colony up in the countrey, and not finding them, returned with all the aforesayd provision into England.' About a fortnight later Sir Richard Grenville himself arrived with three ships. Not wishing to lose possession of the country where he had planted a colony the year before, he 'landed fifteene men in the Isle of Roanoak, furnished plentifully with all maner of provision for two yeeres, and so departed for England.' Grenville unfortunately had burnt an Indian town and all its standing corn because the Indians had stolen a silver cup. Lane, too, had been severe in dealing with the natives and they had turned from friends to foes. These and other facts were carefully recorded on the spot by the official chronicler, Thomas Harriot, better known as a mathematician.
Among the captains who had come out under Grenville in 1585 was Thomas Cavendish, a young and daring gentleman-adventurer, greatly distinguished as such even in that adventurous age, and the second English leader to circumnavigate the globe. When Drake was taking Lane's men home in June, 1586, Cavendish was making the final preparations for a two-year voyage. He sailed mostly along the route marked out by Drake, and many of his adventures were of much the same kind. His prime object was to make the voyage pay a handsome dividend. But he did notable service in clipping the wings of Spain. He raided the shipping off Chile and Peru, took the Spanish flagship, the famous Santa Anna, off the coast of California, and on his return home in 1588 had the satisfaction of reporting: 'I burned and sank nineteen sail of ships, both small and great; and all the villages and towns that ever I landed at I burned and spoiled.'
While Cavendish was preying on Spanish treasure in America, and Drake was 'singeing the King of Spain's beard' in Europe, Raleigh still pursued his colonizing plans. In 1587 John White and twelve associates received incorporation as the 'Governor and Assistants of the City of Ralegh in Virginia.' The fortunes of this ambitious city were not unlike those of many another 'boomed' and 'busted' city of much more recent date. No time was lost in beginning. Three ships arrived at Roanoke on the 22nd of July, 1587. Every effort was made to find the fifteen men left behind the year before by Grenville to hold possession for the Queen. Mounds of earth, which may even now be traced, so piously have their last remains been cared for, marked the site of the fort. From natives of Croatoan Island the newcomers learned that Grenville's men had been murdered by hostile Indians.
One native friend was found in Manteo, a chief whom Barlow had taken to England and Grenville had brought back. Manteo was now living with his own tribe of sea-coast Indians on Croatoan Island. But the mischief between red and white had been begun; and though Manteo had been baptized and was recognized as 'The Lord of Roanoke' the races were becoming fatally estranged.
After a month Governor White went home for more men and supplies, leaving most of the colonists at Roanoke. He found Elizabeth, Raleigh, and the rest all working to meet the Great Armada. Yet, even during the following year, the momentous year of 1588, Raleigh managed to spare two pinnaces, with fifteen colonists aboard, well provided with all that was most needed. A Spanish squadron, however, forced both pinnaces to run back for their lives. After this frustrated attempt two more years passed before White could again sail for Virginia. In August, 1590, his trumpeter sounded all the old familiar English calls as he approached the little fort. No answer came. The colony was lost for ever. White had arranged that if the colonists should be obliged to move away they should carve the name of the new settlement on the fort or surrounding trees, and that if there was either danger or distress they should cut a cross above. The one word CROATOAN was all White ever found. There was no cross. White's beloved colony, White's favorite daughter and her little girl, were perhaps in hiding. But supplies were running short. White was a mere passenger on board the ship that brought him; and the crew were getting impatient, so impatient for refreshment' and a Spanish prize that they sailed past Croatoan, refusing to stop a single hour.
Perhaps White learnt more than is recorded and was satisfied that all the colonists were dead. Perhaps not. Nobody knows. Only a wandering tradition comes out of that impenetrable mystery and circles round the not impossible romance of young Virginia Dare. Her father was one of White's twelve 'Assistants.' Her mother, Eleanor, was White's daughter. Virginia herself, the first of all true 'native-born' Americans, was born on the 18th of August, 1587. Perhaps Manteo, 'Lord of Roanoke,' saved the whole family whose name has been commemorated by that of the North Carolina county of Dare. Perhaps Virginia Dare alone survived to be an 'Indian Queen' about the time the first permanent Anglo-American colony was founded in 1607, twenty years after her birth. Who knows?
* * * * *
These twenty sundering years, from the end of this abortive colony in 1587 to the beginning of the first permanent colony in 1607, constitute a period that saw the close of one age and the opening of another in every relation of Anglo-American affairs.
Nor was it only in Anglo-American affairs that change was rife. 'The Honourable East India Company' entered upon its wonderful career. Shakespeare began to write his immortal plays. The chosen translators began their work on the Authorized Version of the English Bible. The Puritans were becoming a force within the body politic as well as in religion. Ulster was 'planted' with Englishmen and Lowland Scots. In the midst of all these changes the great Queen, grown old and very lonely, died in 1603; and with her ended the glorious Tudor dynasty of England. James, pusillanimous and pedantic son of Darnley and Mary Queen of Scots, ascended the throne as the first of the sinister Stuarts, and, truckling to vindictive Spain, threw Raleigh into prison under suspended sentence of death.
There was a break of no less than fifteen years in English efforts to colonize America. Nothing was tried between the last attempt at Roanoke in 1587 and the first attempt in Massachusetts in 1602, when thirty-two people sailed from England with Bartholomew Gosnold, formerly a skipper in Raleigh's employ. Gosnold made straight for the coast of Maine, which he sighted in May. He then coasted south to Cape Cod. Continuing south he entered Buzzard's Bay, where he landed on Cuttyhunk Island. Here, on a little island in a lake—an island within an island—he built a fort round which the colony was expected to grow. But supplies began to run out. There was bad blood over the proper division of what remained. The would-be colonists could not agree with those who had no intention of staying behind. The result was that the entire project had to be given up. Gosnold sailed home with the whole disgusted crew and a cargo of sassafras and cedar. Such was the first prospecting ever done for what is now New England.
The following year, 1603, just after the death of Queen Elizabeth, some merchant-venturers of Bristol sent out two vessels under Martin Pring. Like Gosnold, Pring first made the coast of Maine and then felt his way south. Unlike Gosnold, however, he 'bore into the great Gulfe' of Massachusetts Bay, where he took in a cargo of sassafras at Plymouth Harbor. But that was all the prospecting done this time. There was no attempt at colonizing.
Two years later another prospector was sent out by a more important company. The Earl of Southampton and Sir Ferdinando Gorges were the chief promoters of this enterprise. Gorges, as 'Lord Proprietary of the Province of Maine,' is a well-known character in the subsequent history of New England. Lord Southampton, as Shakespeare's only patron and greatest personal friend, is forever famous through the world. The chief prospector chosen by the company was George Weymouth, who landed on the coast of Maine, explored a little of the surrounding country, kidnapped five Indians, and returned to England with a glowing account of what he had seen.
The cumulative effect of the three expeditions of Gosnold, Pring, and Weymouth was a revival of interest in colonization. Prominent men soon got together and formed two companies which were formally chartered by King James on the 10th of April, 1606. The 'first' or 'southern colony,' which came to be known as the London Company because most of its members lived there, was authorized to make its 'first plantation at any place upon the coast of Virginia or America between the four-and-thirty and one-and-forty degrees of latitude.' The northern or 'second colony,' afterwards called the Plymouth Company, was authorized to settle any place between 38 deg. and 45 deg. north, thus overlapping both the first company to the south and the French to the north.
In the summer of the same year, 1606, Henry Challons took two ships of the Plymouth Company round by the West Indies, where he was caught in a fog by the Spaniards. Later in the season Pring went out and explored 'North Virginia.' In May, 1607, a hundred and twenty men, under George Popham, started to colonize this 'North Virginia.' In August they landed in Maine at the mouth of the Kennebec, where they built a fort, some houses, and a pinnace. Finding themselves short of provisions, two-thirds of their number returned to England late in the same year. The remaining third passed a terrible winter. Popham died, and Raleigh Gilbert succeeded him as governor. When spring came all the survivors of the colony sailed home in the pinnace they had built and the enterprise was abandoned. The reports of the colonists, after their winter in Maine, were to the effect that the second or northern colony was 'not habitable for Englishmen.'
In the meantime the permanent foundation of the first or southern colony, the real Virginia, was well under way. The same number of intending emigrants went out, a hundred and twenty. On the 26th of April, 1607, 'about four a-clocke in the morning, wee descried the Land of Virginia: the same day wee entered into the Bay of Chesupioc' [Chesapeake]. Thus begins the tale of Captain John Smith, of the founding of Jamestown, and of a permanent Virginia, the first of the future United States.
Now that we have seen one spot in vast America really become the promise of the 'Inglishe nation' which Raleigh had longed for, we must return once more to Raleigh himself as, mocked by his tantalizing vision, he looked out on a changing world from his secular Mount Pisgah in the prison Tower of London.
By this time he had felt both extremes of fortune to the full. During the travesty of justice at his trial the attorney-general, having no sound argument, covered him with slanderous abuse. These are three of the false accusations on which he was condemned to death: 'Viperous traitor,' 'damnable atheist,' and 'spider of hell.' Hawkins, Drake, Frobisher, and Grenville, all were dead. So Raleigh, last of the great Elizabethan lions, was caged and baited for the sport of Spain.
Six of his twelve years of imprisonment were lightened by the companionship of his wife, Elizabeth Throgmorton, most beautiful of all the late Queen's maids of honor. Another solace was the History of the World, the writing of which set his mind free to wander forth at will although his body stayed behind the bars. But the contrast was too poignant not to wring this cry of anguish from his preface: 'Yet when we once come in sight of the Port of death, to which all winds drive us, and when by letting fall that fatal Anchor, which can never be weighed again, the navigation of this life takes end: Then it is, I say, that our own cogitations (those sad and severe cogitations, formerly beaten from us by our health and felicity) return again, and pay us to the uttermost for all the pleasing passages of our life past.'
At length, in the spring of 1616, Raleigh was released, though still unpardoned. He and his devoted wife immediately put all that remained of their fortune into a new venture. Twenty years before this he thought he could make 'Discovery of the mighty, rich, and beautiful Empire of Guiana, and of that great and golden city, which the Spaniards call El Dorado, and the natives call Manoa.' Now he would go back to find the El Dorado of his dreams, somewhere inland, that mysterious Manoa among those southern Mountains of Bright Stones which lay behind the Spanish Main. The king's cupidity was roused; and so, in 1617, Raleigh was commissioned as the admiral of fourteen sail. In November he arrived off the coast that guarded all the fabled wealth still lying undiscovered in the far recesses of the Orinocan wilds. Guiana, Manoa, El Dorado—the inland voices called him on.
But Spaniards barred the way; and Raleigh, defying the instructions of the King, attacked them. The English force was far too weak and disaster followed. Raleigh's son and heir was killed and his lieutenant committed suicide. His men began to mutiny. Spanish troops and ships came closing in; and the forlorn remnant of the expedition on which such hopes were built went straggling home to England. There Raleigh was arrested and sent to the block on the 29th of October, 1618. He had played the great game of life-and-death and lost it. When he mounted the scaffold, he asked to see the axe. Feeling the edge, he smiled and said: 'Tis a sharp medicine, but a cure for all diseases.' Then he bared his neck and died like one who had served the Great Queen as her Captain of the Guard.
Drake in disfavor after 1589 seems a contradiction that nothing can explain. It can, however, be quite easily explained, though never explained away. He had simply failed to make the Lisbon Expedition pay—a heinous offence in days when the navy was as much a revenue department as the customs or excise. He had also failed to take Lisbon itself. The reasons why mattered nothing either to the disappointed government or to the general public.
But, six years later, in 1595, when Drake was fifty and Hawkins sixty-three, England called on them both to strike another blow at Spain. Elizabeth was helping Henry IV of France against the League of French and Spanish Catholics. Henry, astute as he was gallant, had found Paris 'worth a mass' and, to Elizabeth's dismay, had gone straight over to the Church of Rome with terms of toleration for the Huguenots. The war against the Holy League, however, had not yet ended. The effect of Henry's conversion was to make a more united France against the encroaching power of Spain. And every eye in England was soon turned on Drake and Hawkins for a stroke at Spanish power beyond the sea.
Drake and Hawkins formed a most unhappy combination, made worse by the fact that Hawkins, now old beyond his years, soured by misfortune, and staled for the sea by long spells of office work, was put in as a check on Drake, in whom Elizabeth had lost her former confidence. Sir Thomas Baskerville was to command the troops. Here, at least, no better choice could have possibly been made. Baskerville had fought with rare distinction in the Brest campaign and before that in the Netherlands.
There was the usual hesitation about letting the fleet go far from home. The 'purely defensive' school was still strong; Elizabeth in certain moods belonged to it; and an incident which took place about this time seemed to give weight to the arguments of the defensivists. A small Spanish force, obliged to find water and provisions in a hurry, put into Mousehole in Cornwall and, finding no opposition, burnt several villages down to the ground. The moment these Spaniards heard that Drake and Hawkins were at Plymouth they decamped. But this ridiculous raid threw the country into doubt or consternation. Elizabeth was as brave as a lion for herself. But she never grasped the meaning of naval strategy, and she was supersensitive to any strong general opinion, however false. Drake and Hawkins, with Baskerville's troops (all in transports) and many supply vessels for the West India voyage, were ordered to cruise about Ireland and Spain looking for enemies. The admirals at once pointed out that this was the work of the Channel Fleet, not that of a joint expedition bound for America. Then, just as the Queen was penning an angry reply, she received a letter from Drake, saying that the chief Spanish treasure ship from Mexico had been seen in Porto Rico little better than a wreck, and that there was time to take her if they could only sail at once. The expedition was on the usual joint-stock lines and Elizabeth was the principal shareholder. She swallowed the bait whole; and sent sailing orders down to Plymouth by return.
And so, on the 28th of August, 1595, twenty-five hundred men in twenty-seven vessels sailed out, bound for New Spain. Surprise was essential; for New Spain, taught by repeated experience, was well armed; and twenty-five hundred men were less formidable now than five hundred twenty years before. Arrived at the Canaries, Las Palmas was found too strong to carry by immediate assault; and Drake had no time to attack it in form. He was two months late already; so he determined to push on to the West Indies.
When Drake reached Porto Rico, he found the Spanish in a measure forewarned and forearmed. Though he astonished the garrison by standing boldly into the harbor and dropping anchor close to a masked battery, the real surprise was now against him. The Spanish gunners got the range to an inch, brought down the flagship's mizzen, knocked Drake's chair from under him, killed two senior officers beside him, and wounded many more. In the meantime Hawkins, worn out by his exertions, had died. This reception, added to the previous failures and the astonishing strength of Porto Rico, produced a most depressing effect. Drake weighed anchor and went out. He was soon back in a new place, cleverly shielded from the Spanish guns by a couple of islands. After some more manoeuvres he attacked the Spanish fleet with fire-balls and by boarding. When a burning frigate lit up the whole wild scene, the Spanish gunners and musketeers poured into the English ships such a concentrated fire that Drake was compelled to retreat. He next tried the daring plan of running straight into the harbor, where there might still be a chance. But the Spaniards sank four of their own valuable vessels in the harbor mouth—guns, stores, and all—just in the nick of time, and thus completely barred the way.
Foiled again, Drake dashed for the mainland, seized La Hacha, burnt it, ravaged the surrounding country, and got away with a successful haul of treasure; then he seized Santa Marta and Nombre de Dios, both of which were found nearly empty. The whole of New Spain was taking the alarm—The Dragon's back again! Meanwhile a fleet of more than twice Drake's strength was coming out from Spain to attack him in the rear. Nor was this all, for Baskerville and his soldiers, who had landed at Nombre de Dios and started overland, were in full retreat along the road from Panama, having found an impregnable Spanish position on the way. It was a sad beginning for 1596, the centennial year of England's first connection with America.
'Since our return from Panama he never carried mirth nor joy in his face,' wrote one of Baskerville's officers who was constantly near Drake. A council of war was called and Drake, making the best of it, asked which they would have, Truxillo, the port of Honduras, or the 'golden towns' round about Lake Nicaragua. 'Both,' answered Baskerville, 'one after the other.' So the course was laid for San Juan on the Nicaragua coast. A head wind forced Drake to anchor under the island of Veragua, a hundred and twenty-five miles west of Nombre de Dios Bay and right in the deadliest part of that fever-stricken coast. The men began to sicken and die off. Drake complained at table that the place had changed for the worse. His earlier memories of New Spain were of a land like a 'pleasant and delicious arbour' very different from the 'vast and desert wilderness' he felt all round him now. The wind held foul. More and more men lay dead or dying. At last Drake himself, the man of iron constitution and steel nerves, fell ill and had to keep his cabin. Then reports were handed in to say the stores were running low and that there would soon be too few hands to man the ships. On this he gave the order to weigh and 'take the wind as God had sent it.'
So they stood out from that pestilential Mosquito Gulf and came to anchor in the fine harbor of Puerto Bello, which the Spaniards had chosen to replace the one at Nombre de Dios, twenty miles east. Here, in the night of the 27th of January, Drake suddenly sprang out of his berth, dressed himself, and raved of battles, fleets, Armadas, Plymouth Hoe, and plots against his own command. The frenzy passed away. He fell exhausted, and was lifted back to bed again. Then 'like a Christian, he yielded up his spirit quietly.'
His funeral rites befitted his renown. The great new Spanish fort of Puerto Bello was given to the flames, as were nearly all the Spanish prizes, and even two of his own English ships; for there were now no sailors left to man them. Thus, amid the thunder of the guns whose voice he knew so well, and surrounded by consuming pyres afloat and on the shore, his body was committed to the deep, while muffled drums rolled out their last salute and trumpets wailed his requiem.
NOTE ON TUDOR SHIPPING
In the sixteenth century there was no hard-and-fast distinction between naval and all other craft. The sovereign had his own fighting vessels; and in the course of the seventeenth century these gradually evolved into a Royal Navy maintained entirely by the country as a whole and devoted solely to the national defence. But in earlier days this modern system was difficult everywhere and impossible in England. The English monarch, for all his power, had no means of keeping up a great army and navy without the help of Parliament and the general consent of the people. The Crown had great estates and revenues; but nothing like enough to make war on a national scale. Consequently king and people went into partnership, sometimes in peace as well as war. When fighting stopped, and no danger seemed to threaten, the king would use his men-of-war in trade himself, or even hire them out to merchants. The merchants, for their part, furnished vessels to the king in time of war. Except as supply ships, however, these auxiliaries were never a great success. The privateers built expressly for fighting were the only ships that could approach the men-of-war.
Yet, strangely enough, King Henry's first modern men-of-war grew out of a merchant-ship model, and a foreign one at that. Throughout ancient and medieval times the 'long ship' was the man-of-war while the 'round ship' was the merchantman. But the long ship was always some sort of galley, which, as we have seen repeatedly, depended on its oars and used sails only occasionally, and then not in action, while the round ship was built to carry cargo and to go under sail. The Italian naval architects, then the most scientific in the world, were trying to evolve two types of vessel: one that could act as light cavalry on the wings of a galley fleet, the other that could carry big cargoes safely through the pirate-haunted seas. In both types sail power and fighting power were essential. Finally a compromise resulted and the galleasse appeared. The galleasse was a hybrid between the galley and the sailing vessel, between the 'long ship' that was several times as long as it was broad and the 'round ship' that was only two or three times as long as its beam. Then, as the oceanic routes gained on those of the inland seas, and as oceanic sea power gained in the same proportion, the galleon appeared. The galleon had no oars at all, as the hybrid galleasses had, and it gained more in sail power than it lost by dropping oars. It was, in fact, the direct progenitor of the old three-decker which some people still alive can well remember.
At the time the Cabots and Columbus were discovering America the Venetians had evolved the merchant-galleasse for their trade with London: they called it, indeed, the galleazza di Londra. Then, by the time Henry VIII was building his new modern navy, the real galleon had been evolved (out of the Italian new war- and older merchant-galleasses) by England, France, and Scotland; but by England best of all. In original ideas of naval architecture England was generally behind, as she continued to be till well within living memory. Nelson's captains competed eagerly for the command of French prizes, which were better built and from superior designs. The American frigates of 1812 were incomparably better than the corresponding classes in the British service were; and so on in many other instances. But, in spite of being rather slow, conservative, and rule-of-thumb, the English were already beginning to develop a national sea-sense far beyond that of any other people. They could not, indeed, do otherwise and live. Henry's policy, England's position, the dawn of oceanic strategy, and the discovery of America, all combined to make her navy by far the most important single factor in England's problems with the world at large. As with the British Empire now, so with England then: the choice lay between her being either first or nowhere.
Henry's reasoning and his people's instinct having led to the same resolve, everyone with any sea-sense, especially shipwrights like Fletcher of Rye, began working towards the best types then obtainable. There were mistakes in plenty. The theory of naval architecture in England was never both sound and strong enough to get its own way against all opposition. But with the issue of life and death always dependent on sea power, and with so many men of every class following the sea, there was at all events the biggest rough-and-tumble school of practical seamanship that any leading country ever had. The two essential steps were quickly taken: first, from oared galleys with very little sail power to the hybrid galleasse with much more sail and much less in the way of oars; secondly, from this to the purely sailing galleon.
With the galleon we enter the age of sailing tactics which decided the fate of the oversea world. This momentous age began with Drake and the English galleon. It ended with Nelson and the first-rate, three-decker, ship-of-the-line. But it was one throughout; for its beginning differed from its end no more than a father differs from his son.
One famous Tudor vessel deserves some special notice, not because of her excellence but because of her defects. The Henry Grace a Dieu, or Great Harry as she was generally called, launched in 1514, was Henry's own flagship on his way to the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. She had a gala suit of sails and pennants, all made of damasked cloth of gold. Her quarters, sides, and tops were emblazoned with heraldic targets. Court artists painted her to show His Majesty on board wearing cloth of gold, edged with the royal ermine; as well as bright crimson jacket, sleeves, and breeches, with a long white feather in his cap. Doubtless, too, His Majesty of France paid her all the proper compliments; while every man who was then what reporters are to-day talked her up to the top of his bent. No single vessel ever had greater publicity till the famous first Dreadnought of our own day appeared in the British navy nearly four hundred years later.