Story of Sir Francis Drake - Mrs. O. Elton

Round the World

So we see that both of Drake's ships, the Pascha  and the Swan, were left behind in the West Indies, and he made a quick voyage home in the well-built Spanish frigate. We hear nothing of Drake for two years after his return to Plymouth. There is a legend that he kept on the seas near Ireland. Elizabeth was still unable and unwilling to go to war with the King of Spain, but she was willing to encourage the sort of warfare that Drake and the other rovers had so successfully carried on against him.

Such companies of adventurers as these that sailed under Drake and Hawkins did a large part of the work of the navy in the time of Elizabeth. The country was saved the expense which private persons were willing to pay to furnish the ships. The Queen herself is known to have shared in the expenses and plunder of some such expeditions, and so she thriftily laid up treasure in England's empty money-chests. But some of her older councillors disliked exceedingly this way of getting rich, and would rather it had been done openly in war, or not at all.

To Drake it seems to have been a very simple affair. He wished, in the first place, as the old book says, "to lick himself whole of the damage he had received from the Spaniards." So he acted in pirate-fashion to the Spaniards, but not to the French or to the natives of the West Indies. And Drake considered his own cause so just that he never made a secret of his doings. He went at his own risk, for should he be taken by the enemy his country had no power to protect him, as she was not openly at war with Spain. But, on the other hand, he was secretly encouraged, and his gains were immense.

In the second place, Drake wished to attack and injure the Roman Catholic faith whenever and wherever he could. Churchmen had told him that this was a lawful aim. How earnestly, he believed it we can see from the story, where he tried to persuade the Maroons to "leave their crosses," which to him were the sign of the hated religion. The terrible tale of the massacre of the Protestants on St. Bartholomew's Day told him by the French captain (who himself fell into the hands of the Spaniards, as we have seen), must have inflamed this feeling in his soul and in those of his men. It made them more eager than ever to fight the enemies of their own faith.

Then, too, the Spaniards founded their rights to own the New World upon a grant from one of the Popes; and the English, now no longer Catholics, denied his power to give it, and claimed the right for themselves to explore and conquer and keep what share they could get.

The King of Spain looked upon Drake as a pirate, but he could not find out how far he had been secretly encouraged by Elizabeth, and Drake was not punished, in spite of Philip's urgent complaints. But he was prevented from sailing away again on a voyage of discovery, though his friends and brothers went, and among them John Oxenham, who was hanged as a pirate by the Spaniards because he had no commission or formal leave from the Queen or the Government to trade in the West Indies.

Sir Francis Drake


During this interval Drake took service in Ireland, under the Earl of Essex, furnishing his own ships, "and doing excellent service both by sea and land at the winning of divers strong forts." The work he took a part in was as harsh and cruel as any that was ever done by fire and sword to make Ireland more desolate. Here he met Thomas Doughty, one of the household of the Earl of Essex, a scholar and a soldier, who became his friend, and sailed with him on his next voyage.

The story of this voyage is told under the name of "The World Encompassed," and in it Drake is said "to have turned up a furrow about the whole world." In 1520 Magellan had discovered the passage south of America from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, since called by his name. Many adventurers had tried to follow him, but all their efforts had ended disaster, and the Straits had an uncanny name among sailors, and "were counted so terrible in those days that the very thoughts of attempting them were dreadful."

Drake's fleet was made up of five ships—the Pelican, which was his flagship, the Elizabeth, the Marigold, the Swan, and the Christopher. They took a hundred and sixty men and plentiful provisions and stores for the long and dangerous voyage. They also took pinnaces which could be set up when wanted. Nor did Drake forget to "make provision for ornament and delight, carrying to this purpose with him expert musicians, rich furniture (all the vessels for his table, yea, many belonging to the cook-room, being of pure silver)."

They started on November 15, 1577, but were forced by a gale to put back into Plymouth for repairs, and started out again on December 13. The sailors were not told the real aim of the voyage, which was to "sail upon those seas greatly longed for." They were too full of fears and fancies. The unknown was haunted in their minds with devils and hurtful spirits, and in those days people still believed in magic.

They picked up several prizes on their way out, notably a large Portuguese ship, whose cargo of wine and food was valuable to the English ships. Drake sent the passengers and crew on shore, but kept the pilot, Numa da Silva; who gives one account of the voyage, and was most useful, as he knew the coasts so well. One of Drake's main cares on this voyage, we are told, was to keep the fleet together as much as possible, to get fresh water, and to refresh the men, "wearied with long toils at sea," as often as possible. He decided to lessen the number of the ships, for "fewer ships keep better company," and he looked for a harbour to anchor in.

"Our General," says the book, "especially in matters of moment, was never one to rely only on other men's care, how trusty or skilful soever they might seem to be. But always scorning danger, and refusing no toil, he was wont himself to be one, whosoever was a second, at every turn, where courage, skill, or industry was to be employed. Neither would he at any time entrust the discovery of these dangers to another's pains, but rather to his own experience in searching out and sounding of them."

So in this case Drake himself went out in the boat and rowed into the bay. The Swan, the Christopher, and the prize were sacrificed, their stores being used for the other ships.

On the 20th of June they anchored in a very good harbour, called by Magellan Fort St. Julian. Here a gibbet stood upon the land, and in this place Magellan is supposed to have executed some disobedient and rebellious men of his company. In this port Drake began to "inquire diligently into the actions of Master Thomas Doughty, and found them not to be such as he looked for."

(Doughty is said to have plotted to kill Drake or desert him, and take his place as commander, or at any rate to force him to go back, to the ruin of the voyage.)

Whereupon the company was called together, and the particulars of the cause made known to them, which were found partly by Master Doughty's own confession, and partly by the evidence of the fact, to be true. Which when our General saw, although his private affection to Master Doughty (as he then in the presence of us all sacredly protested) was great; yet the care he had of the state of the voyage, of the expectation of her Majesty, and of the honour of his country, did more touch him (as indeed it ought) than the private respect of one man. So that the cause being thoroughly heard, and all things done in good order, as near as might be to the course of our laws in England, it was concluded that Master Doughty, should receive punishment according to the quality of the offence. And he, seeing no remedy but patience for himself, desired before his death to receive the Communion, which he did, at the hands of our minister, and our General himself accompanied him in that holy actionů

"And after this holy repast, they dined also at the same table together, as cheerfully, in sobriety, as ever in their lives they had done aforetime, each cheering up the other, and taking their leave, by drinking each to other, as if some journey only had been in hand.

"And the place of execution being ready, he having embraced our General, and taken his leave of all the company, with prayer for the Queen's Majesty and our realm, in quiet sort laid his head to the block, where he ended his life. This being done, our General made various speeches to the whole company, persuading us to unity, obedience, love and regard of our voyage. And to help us to this, he willed every man the next Sunday following to prepare himself to receive the Communion as Christian brethren and friends ought to do, which was done in very reverent sort, and so with good contentment every man went about his business."

On the 11th of August, as quarrelling still continued, Drake ordered the whole ships' companies ashore. They all went into a large tent, and the minister offered to make a sermon. "Nay, soft, Master Fletcher," said Drake, "I must preach this day myself; although I have small skill in preaching. . . . I am a very bad speaker, for my bringing up hath not been in learning."

He then told them that for what he was going to say he would answer in England and before her Majesty. He and his men were far away from their country and friends, and discords and mutiny had grown up among them. "By the life of God," said Drake, "it doth take my wits from me to think on it. Here is such quarrels between the sailors and the gentlemen as it doth make me mad to hear it. But, my masters, I must have it left [off], for I must have the gentleman to haul and draw with the mariner, and the mariner with the gentleman. What, let us show ourselves all to be of a company, and let us not give occasion to the enemy to rejoice at our decay and overthrow. I would know him that would refuse to set his hand to a rope, but I know there is not any such here. . . ."

He then offered to send any home that liked in the Marigold, a well-furnished ship "but let them take heed that they go homeward, for if I find them in my way I will surely sink them, therefore you shall have time to consider here until to-morrow; for by my troth I must needs be plain with you now."

"Yet the voice was that none would return, they would all take such part as he did." And so, after more of such "preaching," they were told to forget the past, and "wishing all men to be friends, he willed them to depart about their business."