The Elizabethan Sea-dogs
John Hawkins.—Among those interested in the African trade was William Hawkins, who filled the important positions of mayor of Plymouth and member of parliament. He made three voyages to Guiana and Brazil. His son, John Hawkins, became one of the most famous mariners of his time. In 1562 he sailed for Africa to obtain slaves, which he disposed of in Española. In 1564-1565 he engaged in a second voyage which resulted in great profit. A third voyage in 1567-1568 ended disastrously. The Spanish government had sent a fleet to stop the traffic; but in spite of it he forced an entrance to the West Indian ports and disposed of his cargo. Being driven by a storm into the harbor of Vera Cruz, he was attacked by a Spanish fleet and but two of the English vessels escaped.
Drake and Cavendish.—Francis Drake, a nephew of John Hawkins, had accompanied him on his third expedition and had suffered the loss of his investment. He soon began a series of reprisals. In 1572 he made an unsuccessful attack on Nombre de Diós and ascended the Chagres River where he waylaid a train of mules laden with bullion. The example set by him was frequently followed by raids of English mariners in the following decade. In 1577 another fleet sailed under Drake's command. After capturing several Spanish and Portuguese vessels on the African coast, the fleet crossed the Atlantic and attempted to pass through the Straits of Magellan. Only one vessel reached the Pacific. Drake proceeded up the western coast, plundering as he went. In a harbor known as Drake's Bay, north of San Francisco Bay, he refitted, and claimed the California region for the queen, calling it New Albion. He then sailed to the East Indies where a cargo of spice was obtained. From Java, Drake crossed the Indian Ocean, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and proceeded to England, entering the harbor of Plymouth in November, 1580, having completed the first English circumnavigation of the globe. In 1586 Thomas Cavendish followed almost the same course, plundered the Spanish commerce in the Pacific, and in 1588 completed the circumnavigation of the world. Besides Hawkins, Drake, and Cavendish a score of English mariners engaged in raiding the Spanish Main. They were assisted financially by the queen and by many of her councillors who considered the raiding of Spanish commerce good business as well as good state policy.
East Indian trade.—A party of English merchants had also succeeded in penetrating from the Syrian coast to India. The report of their journey and the voyages of Drake and Cavendish stimulated the desire to open trade with the Far East. The result was that in 1591 an expedition was fitted out which rounded the Cape of Good Hope and reached Ceylon, India, and the Malay Peninsula. Reports of the successes of the Dutch in the East Indies increased the interest of the English merchants, and in 1600 the East India Company was formed.
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