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This celebrated navigator was the son of Edmund Drake a mariner,! and was born at a village near Tavistock in Devonshire, in the year 1545. He was the eldest of twelve brothers; and the father being encumbered by so large a family, Captain Hawkins, his mother's relation, kindly took him under his patronage, and gave him an education suitable to the sea-service. By his interest Drake was, at the age of eighteen, appointed purser of a ship trading to the Bay of Biscay. At twenty, he made a voyage to Guinea: and at twenty-two, became Captain of the Judith; and in that capacity visited the harbour of St. John de Ulloa, in the gulf of Mexico, where he behaved with great gallantry in the glorious action $
* Authorities. Campbell's Lives of the Admirals; Johnson's Life of Drake; Biographia Britannica; and Rapin's History of England.
f " A clergyman," says Johnson, "who being inclined to the doctrine of the Protestants, at that time much opposed by Henry VIII., was obliged to fly from his place of residence into Kent for refuge from the persecution raised against him, and those of the same opinion, by the law of the Six Articles."
\ The Viceroy of Mexico, contrary to his stipulation with Hawkins, and in violation of the peace between Spain and Engunder Sir John Hawkins; but he, unfortunately, lost in it the little property, which he had acquired in his former station. From the early life of Drake, indeed, two maxims are strikingly deducible; that 'the first step to greatness is to be honest,' and that'diligence in employments of less consequence is the most successful introduction to loftier enterprises.'
Soon afterward, he conceived a design of making reprisals on the King of Spain. This, according to some, was suggested to him by the chaplain of the ship: and, indeed, the case was clear in sea-divinity, says Dr. Campbell, "that the subjects of the King of Spain had undone Mr. Drake, and therefore he was at liberty to take the best satisfaction he could on them in return:" a doctrine which, however roughly preached, was very captivating to English ears; and, therefore, no sooner did he publish his design, than he had numbers of volunteers ready to accompany him, though not justified by similar pretexts. In 1570, he made his first voyage with two ships, the Dragon and the Swan; and, the year following, in the Swan alone. In these two expeditions, he obviously had two points in view: one, to inform himself perfectly of the situation and strength of certain places in the Spanish West-Indies; and the other, to convince his countrymen, that notwithstanding what had happened to Hawkins in his last voyage, it was perfectly
land, attacked that navigator without any declaration of hostilities, and obliged him after an obstinate resistance to retire with the loss of four ships, and a great number of his men, who were either destroyed or carried into slavery." (Johnson.) See also the Life of Hawkins. Nor could Drake, who had adventured almost the whole of his fortune in this expedition, either by his own private interest, or by obtaining letters from Elizabeth, procure any redress.
practicable to visit those parts with safety.* In this he so completely succeeded, that upon his second return he found it no difficult matter to equip an armament adequate to the achievement of what he had long meditated.
Without loss of time therefore, having concerted a more important design, in March, 1572, he sailed from Plymouth, in the Pascha of seventy tons; accompanied by his brother, Johnf Drake, in the Swan of twenty-five tons, and a force in the aggregate not exceeding seventy-three men and boys. With this small armament, in July, 1573, he attacked the town of Nombre de Dios, and took it in a few hours by storm: but he made little advantage of this conquest, from the cowardice of those of his party, who had been ordered to guard his pinnaces, while the rest were taking possession of the immense wealth contained in the royal treasury4 These mistook the flying enemy for large detachments, advancing to overpower them, and to cut off their communication with their ships. Drake, indeed, despatched his brother to undeceive them; but nearly at the same moment he himself fainted with loss of blood from a dangerous wound received in his leg during
* Hawkins and Drake separated in the West-Indies: when the former, finding it impossible to bring all his crew home to England, set part of them, with their own consent, a-shore in the bay of Mexico; and few of these returning, the terror of their captivity disheartened the English seamen.
f Another brother, Joseph, is said also to have partaken in this expedition.
% In one room, they saw bars of silver piled up against the wall; each bar, as nearly as they could guess, weighing from thirty to forty-five pounds, and the pile measuring seventy feet in length, ten in breadth, and twelve in height.
the assault, which he had till then carefully concealed. And though, upon recovering from his swoon, he insisted that they should make themselves masters of the treasure; the major part of his followers, apprehensive for their own safety, partly by entreaties and partly by force carried him off, and immediately set sail for their ships; "abandoning the richest spoil," says Lediard, "that ever raised the expectations of such adventurers, amounting (as they were subsequently informed) to three hundred and sixty tons of silver, beside several iron chests of gold of still greater value."
His next attempt was, under the guidance of the Symerons, or fugitive negroes,* to plunder the mules laden with silver, which passed from Vera Cruz to Nombre de Dios: but in this also, through the impatience of one of his followers, who by prematurely rising up out of the ambuscade gave the alarm to the Spaniards, he failed of success. On rejoining his ships, however, his good or ill success never prevailing over his piety, he celebrated their meeting with thanks to God. In these and his other enterprises upon that coast, Drake was greatly assisted by the Symerons. To a prince or captain of this tribe, whose name was Pedro, he presented a fine cutlass, which he perceived the Indian admired. Pedro, in return, gave him four large wedges of gold; but he threw it into the com
* These, having escaped in great numbers from the tyranny of their masters, had settled themselves under two kings, or leaders, on each side of the way between Nombre de Dios and Panama; and not only asserted their natural right to liberty and independence, but endeavoured to revenge the cruelties, which they had suffered.
mon stock, saying 'he thought it but just, that such as bore the charge of so uncertain a voyage upon his credit, should share all the advantages which that voyage produced.' Equally superior to avarice and to fear, through whatever danger he might go in quest of gold, he thought it not valuable enough to be obtained by artifice or dishonesty. Then embarking his men, with a very considerable booty, he bore away for England, and arrived at Plymouth in August, 1573. His success in this expedition, combined with his generous behaviour to his owners, gained him signal reputation.
In 1575, disliking an inactive life, he fitted out three frigates at his own expense, and sailed with them to Ireland; where, as volunteer under Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex, he conducted himself so highly to that nobleman's approbation, that he recommended him to Sir Christopher Hatton, in a letter written but a short time before his death. This introduced him in 1576 to her Majesty, who thenceforward took him under her own immediate protection. Thus countenanced at court, he was enabled to undertake the expedition, which has consigned his name to immortality.
The first thing which he proposed was a voyage into the South-Seas, hitherto unattempted by any Englishman, through the Streights of Magellan. The small fleet, with which he sailed on this extraordinary enterprise, consisted of the following ships: the Pelican, of 100 tons, commanded by himself; the Elizabeth, vice-admiral, of 80 tons, Captain Winter; the Marygold, a bark of 50 tons, Captain Thomas; the Swan, a fly-boat of 30 tons, Captain Chester; and the Chris