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SIR JOHN HAWKINS.
THE improvements in navigation made by the Spaniards toward the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century, and their visible effects in aggrandising that kingdom, excited in other nations a noble ardour to attempt farther discoveries in the unknown parts of the globe. In this design, no people manifested such a genius for hazardous enterprises as the English. But their zeal and industry being checked by domestic troubles during the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Mary, the plans which had been formed for extending the maritime power and commerce of their country could not be carried into execution, with any prospect of success, till the government had acquired a proper degree of strength and stability.
The private adventures of the merchants of Southampton, who had traded to the Brazils as early as 1540, by throwing light upon the nature of the profitable traffic carried on by the Spaniards with the West-Indies and the South-Seas, had laid
Lediard's Naval History; Campbell's Lives of the Admirals ; Baker's Chronicle ; and Hume's History of England.
open the sources of their immense wealth. Their accounts circulated rapidly throughout the west of England, and encouraged numbers to bring up their children to the sea-service, with the hope that some future rupture with Spain might make it the channel to riches and honours. With this view, the study of navigation and cosmography was preferred to all others; and the event justified their expectations: for that district in particular proved an eminent nursery of able mariners, and gave birth to most of those renowned naval officers, whose labours increased the opulence and secured the independence of their country in the reign of Elizabeth. Soon after her accession, the English navy was put upon a respectable footing; not only by building ships in the royal yards, but by encouraging the merchants to speculate in large trading vessels, which could be occasionally employed in the service of the crown. The commanders, in general, were men of bravery, skill, and generosity: as their sailors shared the dangers, so they liberally divided with them the spoils, of war. And the manufactures newly established in England by foreign Protestants, who had fled thither for refuge, furnished valuable commodities for the institution of a beneficial barter with the inhabitants of the new world.
Finally, the bad policy of Spain herself contributed in the highest degree to the establishment of the English in America; for, by her cruelties toward the natives, she had rendered the very name of Spaniard odious in the southern hemisphere. The same bad policy, likewise, plunged her into a war with England; whose merchants and adventurers, combining their private interest with that of the public, undertook expeditions against the enemy to their signal annoyance, and at once enriched themselves and defended their country.
In these important transactions, Sir John Hawkins bore no inconsiderable share. This gentleman, born in 1520, was the second son of William Hawkins, Esq. who with high reputation as a seaman had acquired a competent fortune by trading to the coast of Brazil.* Young Hawkins, in his youth discovering a strong inclination for the sea, applied himself with great assiduity to the study of navigation ; and at a proper age made several voyages to Spain, Portugal, and the Canaries, in the merchants' service. It is likewise supposed, that he visited with his father the coast of Brazil; but this is less certain. In fact, we have no authentic memoirs of his first voyages : but he was undoubtedly employed by Elizabeth in the early part of her reign; and under him most of the admirals, who distinguished themselves during it's sequel, were brought up.
It was customary however, in those days, for naval officers of reputation, when they were not actually employed by the crown, to undertake commercial voyages in conjunction with the merchants, for which they obtained permission from the Queen: and some conditional privileges were, generally, annexed to their special licences upon these occasions. The plan of a voyage of this kind was proposed by Captain Hawkins to a set of gentlemen-adventurers in the
* He was the first Englishıman, who established a friendly in. tercourse with the natives; a people represented by the Portuguese as so savage, that no other Europeans would venture to visit them.
spring of the year 1562,* and a small squadron was soon afterward fitted out at their expense for the purpose of procuring slaves on the coast of Guinea, to
* Elizabeth seems, however, on the very commencement of the trade in slaves, to have questioned it's lawfulness: for when Hawkins “returned from his first voyage to Africa and Hispaniola, whither he had carried slaves, she sent for him, and (as we learn from Hill's • Naval History') expressed her concern lest any of the Africans should be carried off without their free coasent, declaring that it would be detestable, and call down the vengeance of heaven upon the undertakers.' He promised to comply with her injunctions in this respect." (Clarkson's History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the Slave-Trade,ʻI. 40.) We perceive from the text, how he kept his word: and here (says Hill, in his account of Hawkins' second voyage) “ began the horrid practice of forcing the Africans into slavery ; an injustice and barbarity which, so sure as there is vengeance in heaven for the worst of crimes, will some time be the destruction of all who allow or encourage'it.” That it will not, we may trust under Providence, be ours, is referable (to adopt the words of Mr. Clarkson's Dedication) to that wise and virtuous administration, who during their brief possession of office under the auspices of Mr. Fox secured to themselves the unparallelled and eternal glory of annihilating, as far as their power extended, one of the greatest sources of crimes and sufferings ever recorded in the annals of mankind. Nor should the indefatigable and effective labours of Mr. Wilberforce, and perhaps above all, of Mr. Clarkson himself, be forgotten. His • History,' indeed, is one of the most interesting exhibitions of criminal and of virtuous perseverance, as respectively displayed by the abettors and the assailants of the Slave-Trade, which the range of literature has at any time supplied.
Whatever may be now thought of these exploits, however, they appear to have gained Hawkins signal credit in that “ age of heroism;" as he bore their badge in the crest of arms granted to him by patent, 'a demi-noor in his proper colour, bound with a cord'-a worthy symbol of the humane and honourable traffic, which he had opened to his country!
be bartered at the Spanish West-India islands for silver, sugar, hides, &c. Their whole force consisted of two ships of a hundred, and a bark of forty tons, collectively carrying only one hundred men. With these, having by force or purchase acquired three hundred negroes, he exchanged them at Hispaniola upon very advantageous terms, and returned safe from his barbarous enterprise in September 1563.
The following year he undertook a second voyage, but with greater force; and having reached the island of Margaretta, in the West-Indies, with his living cargo, he was hospitably received by the Alcaide, and supplied with provisions. The governor, however, positively refused to permit him to traffic with the inhabitants; despatching likewise intelligence of his arrival to the governor of St. Domingo, who immediately prohibited every species of commerce with the English fleet. Thus disappointed, Hawkins sailed for the continent, and cruising along the coast, sent a deputation on shore at Burboroata, to request the liberty of trading with the inhabitants. But the solicited permission was so clogged by duties, as to render all contracts necessarily unfavourable to the English. Exasperated at this ill usage, he commissioned a hundred men completely armed to demand better terms, which were immediately granted.
He was, next, employed in convoying the English troops sent to the relief of the French Protestants at Rochelle. On his return from France, while he was lying with his squadron at Catwater waiting farther orders, the Spanish fleet of fifty sail passed by, without paying the usual honours to the English squadron.