VOYAGES OF ADVENTURE AND PRIVATEERING WARFARE
Drake—Cavendish—De Noort—Walter Raleigh.
A very poor cottage at Tavistock in Devonshire was the birthplace in 1540, of Francis Drake, who was destined to gain millions by his indomitable courage, which however, he lost with as much facility as he had obtained them. Edmund Drake his father, was one of those clergy who devote themselves to the education of the people. His poverty was only equalled by the respect which was felt for his character. Burdened with a family as he was, the father of Francis Drake found himself obliged from necessity to allow his son to embrace the maritime profession, for which he had an ardent longing, and to serve as cabin-boy on board a coasting vessel which traded with Holland. Industrious, active, self-reliant, and saving, the young Francis Drake had soon acquired all the theoretical knowledge needed for the direction of a vessel. When he had realized a small sum, which was increased by the sale of a vessel bequeathed to him by his first master, he made more extended voyages; he visited the Bay of Biscay and the Gulf of Guinea, and laid out all his capital in purchasing a cargo which he hoped to sell in the West Indies. But no sooner had he arrived at Rio de la Hacha, than both ship and cargo were confiscated, we know not under what frivolous pretext. All the remonstrances of Drake, who thus saw himself ruined, were useless. He vowed to avenge himself for such a piece of injustice, and he kept his word.
In 1567, two years after this adventure, a small fleet of six vessels, of which the largest was of 700 tons' burden, left Plymouth with the sanction of the Queen, to make an expedition to the Coasts of Mexico. Drake was in command of a ship of fifty tons. At first starting they captured some negroes on the Cape de Verd Islands, a sort of rehearsal of what was destined to take place in Mexico. Then they besieged La Mina, where some more negroes were taken, which they sold at the Antilles. Hawkins, doubtless by the advice of Drake, captured the town of Rio de la Hacha; after which he reached St. Jean d'Ulloa, having encountered a fearful storm. But the harbour contained a numerous fleet, and was defended by formidable artillery. The English fleet was defeated, and Drake had much difficulty in regaining the English coast in January, 1568.
Drake afterwards made two expeditions to the West Indies for the purpose of studying the country. When he considered himself to have acquired the necessary information, he fitted out two vessels at his own expense: the Swan, of twenty-five tons, commanded by his brother John, and the Pasha of Plymouth, of seventy tons. The two vessels had as crew seventy-three jack-tars, who could be thoroughly depended on. From July, 1572, to August, 1573, sometimes alone, sometimes in concert with a certain Captain Rawse, Drake made a lucrative cruise upon the coasts of the Gulf of Darien, attacked the towns of Vera Cruz and of Nombre de Dios, and obtained considerable spoil. Unfortunately these enterprises were not carried out without much cruelty and many acts of violence which would make men of the present day blush. But we will not dwell upon the scenes of piracy and barbarity which are only too frequently met with in the sixteenth century.
After assisting in the suppression of the rebellion in Ireland, Drake, whose name was beginning to be well known, was presented to Queen Elizabeth. He laid before her his project of going to ravage the western coasts of South America, by passing through the Strait of Magellan, and he obtained, with the title of admiral, a fleet of six vessels, on board of which were 160 picked sailors.